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The Platform I’m Not Building

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

On to the essay at hand.

*   *   *

WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT ME

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

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

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

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

 

Is this platform enough for y’all?

 

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

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

Content Provider. Yikes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

I have written and/or published:

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

The End

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

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*   *   *

 

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week   [5]

 

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

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

[5] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.   No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org

The Awards I’m Not Winning

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

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

Sub- Department explanation: the next three blogs will deal with various aspects of The Writing Life As Moiself  Sees It ®)  …

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

“Submissions currently excepted only through our contests.”

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

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

 

 

And so, on with the show.  [5]

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

The End

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

 

 

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week   [6]

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

[6] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.   No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, http://www.ffrf.org 

The Sign I’m Not Following

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Department Of What A Difference A Letter Makes

Dateline: Saturday; mid-afternoon; on my way to drop off donations to Goodwill.  Driving south on a throughway street which bisects residential areas to its east and west, I pass a blue sign on the left side of the road  [1] . This sign directs you to find:

ARISE
CHURCH →

The sign is bent in the middle, which causes moiself, at first glance, to miss the in the top word.

All those headed to the church of the Holy ARSE, turn right.

 

I like big butts and I cannot lie….

 

*   *   *

Department Of, Oh, Ya Think?

Dateline: 6:45am last Saturday.  A dear friend is in the hospital, recovering from life-altering  [2]  surgery.  I found a respected medical clinic’s website and looked up information on radical cystectomy, the surgery he has undergone. From the site:

“The procedure to remove the entire bladder is called a radical cystectomy. In men, this typically includes removal of the prostate and seminal vesicles….
“After removing your bladder, your surgeon also needs to create a new way to store urine and have it leave your body. This is called urinary diversion.”

Under risks associated with urinary diversion  there is the following bullet point. Which I had to read several times to assure  moiselfyep, that’s what it says.  Apparently, one of the risks following removal of your bladder is:

* Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence)

 

 

Really. 

Yeah; kinda difficult to control an organ you no longer have in your body.

 

 

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Dateline: last week, Valley Art Gallery

Department Of Gawddammit It’s Like They Know I’m Coming In…

And so they put this right where I’ll see it.  Because a sculpture like this, displaying both the talent and whimsy which moiself  so admires in art…and which the artist oh-so-appropriately-not-to-mention-appealingly named, “Speckled Twerp”…they know who’s going to take it home.

 

 

 

At first I tried to divert moiself  by falling for this charming piece, called…wait for it…Yellow Chicken.

 

 

 

 

But the twerp in me would not be denied.

 

 

“Are we all clear on the new installation?  Have the twerp piece where she’ll see it, and maybe distract her first with the chicken….”

*   *   *

Department Of Things You Talk About With Good Friends After A Good Lunch

Cattywampus
Hornswoggled
Bumfuzzle
Taradiddle
Withershins
Collywobbles
Gardyloo
Flummadiddle

The Miriam Webster online dictionary has a special link for those and other “funny-sounding words,” but that’s not enough, sez moiself  (and friends agree).  There needs to be a special day set aside, or declared, to encourage the usage of these words.

 

 

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Department Of Why Has It Taken Me So Long To Realize This?

I don’t use marjoram.  As of last Wednesday, there is no longer a jar of marjoram in my Wall O’ Spices ®.  You know how it is, when you redo your kitchen’s spice holding system and buy those pre-printed spice jar labels which of course include one for marjoram and you think, “Ah yes, a classic spice,” and so you give it jar space but then forget that you never use it because…you never use it.

 

 

Nor is there a marjoram jar or tin on the cabinet shelves filled with refills for spices I commonly use, and less-commonly-but-still-occasionally-used ones, from amchur and  asafetida to celery powder to gochugaru.

 

 

When I last encountered a recipe calling for marjoram  [3]  I used up the pitiful amount I had left.  And when looking for more, I found none in the bulk sections of several markets, and I wasn’t about to pay $8.99 for a small jar which would go stale before I would use even 10% of it.

Thus, for perhaps the first time in my adult life, I am marjoram-free.

 

 

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Department Of Getting To Play The Game

Check this out, for an interesting listen: the recent Clear + Vivid podcast Alison Gopnik: Making AI more childlike.

Gopnik is a professor of psychology and researcher into cognitive and language development. She spoke with C+V podcast host Alan Alda about her (and other people’s) research which shows how children are generally curious about their world; thus, children are interested in science and have innate abilities for experimentation and theory formation…then tend to lose interest in the subject itself as they age.  Gopnik, along with many other scientists, argue that this is, in great part, because of the way science is taught:

“Suppose we taught baseball the way we teach science.  So for the first five years you’d be reading about baseball games, and maybe you’d be reading about some of the rules. And then in high school you’d get to reproduce famous baseball plays…and you would never get to play the game until you were in graduate school….
That’s kind of the way we teach science – you don’t really play the game, you don’t really *do* science, until you’re in graduate school.”

 

 

*   *   *

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

( Sub- Department explanation: my next three blogs will deal with various aspects of The Writing Life As Moiself  Sees It ®  ).

 

 

Dateline: Earlier this month, researching and updating guidelines for literary journals and publishers.    [4]  What I find in my research confirms one of many reasons moiself  rarely submits my work anymore. For example, I come across this, from the guidelines of a self-proclaimed “international” journal:

“Submissions are open to all, but we particularly welcome work from….
First Nations and POC writers, the LGBTQI+ community, and writers with a disability.”

Should I decide to send my work to this journal I, like any writer submitting work to any journal, would not be doing so in person.  I’d submit material as per their guidelines: either online via their submissions portal (the default nowadays) or via mail (much less common, but still used). Either way, the journal’s editors can neither see nor hear nor speak with me.

 

 

My first name may or may not indicate my gender; my surname might convey an impression (which could be a false impression either way) as to whether I am or am not a First Nations and POC writer.  How will the editors know if I am a LGBTQI+ community, or a  writer with a disability, unless I declare this in my cover letter?  And if I do so, will the journal’s editors then “particularly welcome” my story due to my personal particulars that they have particularly decided to find particularly welcoming?

 

 

Moiself  can’t help but suspect that the content of my work will be read and judged differently under such circumstances.  Which moiself  finds both ethically odious and disturbing.  Speaking  [5]   both as a writer and *especially* as a reader, I don’t give a flying buttress’s butthole…

 

“Excusez-moi?!?!!”

 

 …about writers’ “identities” or “qualities.”  I’m interested in the quality of the *stories* they write, not in who or what they *are.*

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week   [6]

 

*   *   *

May you remember to make someone a sandwich;
May you support the reform of how we teach science in schools;
May you not be hornswaggled into giving a tarradiddle’s colleywobbles
about doing things widdershins;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] You’ve seen those signs, with names of churches or other businesses located in an otherwise residential area.

[2] And ultimatly, lifesaving, fingers crossed!

[3] In itself a rare thing, and I have found that the recipe either won’t miss it or that oregano will do just fine – or even better – instead.

[4] (I’ve addressed complained about this issue previously, in this space.

[5] There should be at least five footnotes in this post.

[6] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.   No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, http://www.ffrf.org  

The Advice Columnist I’m Not Blaming

Comments Off on The Advice Columnist I’m Not Blaming

Department Of Blame It On Carolyn

Carolyn Hax, that is, my all-time favorite advice columnist.  [1]   I read her column every morning; a query in her January 7 column took me back to an issue of great interest to moiself  …although, it was one of her reader’s responses to the column, rather than the column itself, which is responsible for this tangent.

The CH letter writer sought advice for this dilemma: her fiancé wants a big family, as in, six kids (he’d “settle” for four). But she wants two…maybe…at most. Is it possible to compromise on kids?

After giving her advice to the LW, CH posted a few responses from her readers to the LW.  Here was the one that caught my attention:

Re: Kids:have big talks about how said family will work. Does he expect to be a true 50/50 partner, as in baths/feeding/rule-making/following up with teachers/bringing to doctor appointments/helping with homework? Or does he just think a big family will be “fun,” not thinking of logistics?
We know from studies that women still, unfortunately, take on the bulk of emotional and household labor for families. I know plenty of men personally who want more kids but do far less than 50 percent. Of course they want more! They get the fun parts!

 

 

Ah, yes.  Partnership; family logistics; division of labor.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away   [2]   moiself  began taking notes on the Stay-Home Parent debate.  Because, apparently (sorry) there was one, and someone was making comments and/or assumption about child-rearing and household-running which I found…debatable.

Moiself  does not remember in detail the instigating incidents; I *do* very well remember commiserating about the incidents with a woman who was also a SHP/trying to work from home.  I took copious notes about our conversations and then tried to organize them into an essay/advice document for the next time some poor fool hopeful naïf solicited my opinion on the matter. I searched my computer files and found the document.    [3]    Lucky y’all – grab a tranquilizer of choice, here it is.   [4]

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

SHP

So, you want to be, or it has been decided that you will be, the SHP – “stay-home parent?”  Good luck with that.

There is a tendency to refer to this as a “privilege”….

 

 

…. when, in fact, it is a sacrifice.

In the following rant reasonable and thoughtful essay, I will use female as the default for the stay-home parent’s gender, as (sadly) it is still, overwhelmingly, the mother who assumes the pre- and post-weaning tasks of child and household care.

However, I must note that the stay-home dads I have either known personally or whose concerns I’ve read about (books, magazine articles, letters to editors…) list the *very same-exact-identical-equivalent* concerns and complaints.  Gender has little to do with it; the sacrifices made and frustrations encountered by the SHP are part of the SHP “job description”  – that which a parent of any gender will encounter when taking on the non-paying responsibilities of stay-home parent.

BTW, the issue of non-payment is a crucial one.   Wake up and smell the Starbucks:   [5]  the person who earns the “real” money wields the ultimate power (whether functional, or veto) in the household.

Speaking of $$, the WAFHP (works-away-from-home-parent) may claim that because his entire paycheck goes into the family budget, everything of “his” is being shared.  Thus, he may say he envies his SHP the “privilege” of staying home…

 (1) even if he never volunteered for the job;

 (2) even if both parents desired at least one stay-home parent and there was no other viable financial option for the family;

 (3) even if he’s been heard to whine, “Gee, I’d love to stay home and take it easy.

Except that if he does (3) he’s lying, to her and/or himself.  He doesn’t envy her; not sincerely.  Most men never *seriously* consider ditching their wage-earner credibility to assume the endless responsibilities and low social and economic status of homemaker.

This kind of a husband may begrudge any additional monies his wife may make from a home business or “projects” produced from the home, which she may keep “for herself” (the Olden Days ®  term was egg money; e.g., the monies farm women earned from selling eggs, butter, etc., which they kept out of the general budget and hid away for household emergencies).  He may think that since he contributes all of “his” money, his wife must give all of hers.

 

 

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

Can you see that thing that’s right in your face?  That’s called the surface. Look past it, and you’ll see that you are* not* sharing so much more than money.   So much more includes

 -job experience
-job continuity
-workforce connections and networking
-up-to-date technological skills
-income toward Social Security
-credits toward a pension
-and whatever else he’s accruing that I’m leaving out, equally or otherwise. 

That and more is “his” “money.”   The wife, in return for taking on an essential yet unpaid “career,”

 -loses her place in her workplace hierarchy
-watches her skills erode or fall out of date or both
-lowers her Social Security income
-cuts her ties to benefits
-and, if and when she is able to return to the paying workforce, faces competition from candidates who didn’t take several years off, as well as the documented “mommy” prejudice and penalty (there has been no equivalent, documented “daddy penalty”)

Yes, perhaps she gets more opportunities to “bond” with the kids. But what if you leave her, or die?

And I didn’t get into self-worth, or that her “projects” could be construed as a second job. In practical terms alone, her pocketing a few bucks is a small hedge against total dependence on you, and no substitute for the workplace credibility you’ve stockpiled while she’s been home.

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

 

 

In addition to the above sacrifices that CH noted, there is the matter of the SHP job itself, and its Dirty Not-So-Little Secrets ®:

 * Caring for children and running a household, tasks which are unremitting and indispensable to family and society, are considered to be low-skilled labor.

* Managing a household, however essential to familial and societal stability, is repetitive work, and involves a number of self-defeating tasks.  As in, almost everything you do will need to be done again, and sometimes almost immediately.  Imagine a ditch digger who returned to work every morning to find that the ditch he had dug the previous day had been filled in.

* SHP is a “career” with a limited lifespan, and no possibility for advancement.

Perhaps the dirtiest (open) secret of all:  Children – yep, even your little darling sweetum oookie scnookums fruit-of-your-loins – are not fascinating and enjoyable at all times.  They have moments of sweetness, and watching/helping them meet their developmental milestones can bring its own special joy. But telling the following truth in no way diminishes the love you have for your children:

Children are not adults.

 

 

No; really.  Meditate upon these four words, the understanding of which is key to the emotional stability of (and the resulting cabin fever often experienced by) SHPs.

Children are not adults.

Their brains are developing; their interests and intellects and reference points are shallow, and (of course) childish and self-involved.  Thus, they are not reliably appealing, or intellectually and emotionally stimulating and fulfilling, companionship for adults.  The WAFHP parent will have at least some semblance of adult relationships and conversation at his workplace.  The SHP will not, and will need to seek it elsewhere…yet another item on her to-do list.

This is the core of the dirty, not-so-secret secret:  unless you are a Fascinating Womanhood ® devotee or possessed of an IQ smaller than your bra size, taking care of children is tiresome.  It doesn’t matter that you love them – supervising and entertaining a young child for hours is mind-numbing as well as exhausting.

Now, most fathers find young children boring (another dirty secret, but one that some men will openly admit to).  Husbands will often get more involved in (what just barely qualifies as) childcare when the kids become more “fun” to be around; i.e., taking the kids to their scout meetings and soccer practices.  But few fathers voluntarily do the day-to-day, routine maintenance care, or offer to be the stay-home parent (even if their wife’s job is the one which brings in more money, and thus the logical financial solution for the couple, if they desire at at-home parent in the family, would be to have the husband stay home).  Monotonous work with little or no monetary reward or social status – men avoid it, if possible. How many men do you know who are nannies or day care workers?

Also, there’s the complaining issue (read: telling the truth).  Much of parenthood, especially being the primary care parent, is repetitive (which is why this bears repeating) and tedious, as is managing a household. Sure, you say, but lots of things are tedious.  Mowing lawns for a living can be tedious.  But if a lawnmower landscape maintenance technician admits that he finds his job unfulfilling, he’s simply telling the truth.  Women who speak the truth about the boredom, frustration, and ultimate lack of job security in being the primary child/household care parent are often labeled as whiners who are unappreciative of their “privilege,” or, if they have the misfortune to come from a religious background, they can be diagnosed as dangers to The Divinely Mandated Family Structure®, or neurotics incapable of appreciating their “true” or “biologically based” calling and/or natures.

 

 

Okay.  The task at hand:  job description for a SHP.  I am leaving out so, so much – and many tasks could be filed under several or separate categories, and I just had to stop at one, remembering, oh yeah, and there’s this, and then this…

Keep in mind that “manage” listed as a task is an all-purpose, all-encompassing term.  It may refer to doing a particular task yourself, as well as involving, organizing and/or supervising family members in the task.

Transportation
Let’s start with this one and get it out of the way:  the term “Stay-home” mom (or parent) is a joke.  You will be ferrying everyone, and everything.  The last minute, emergency/unexpected trips will seem to consume as much time (and more emotional energy) as the planned errands.

Family events management

– manage family calendar, including scheduling/keeping track of
– social and school events;
– holidays, regular and school;
– conferences and appointments; following up with teachers;
– regular and one-time events, including visits from friends/family;

Food
It is impossible to overestimate the amount of time this responsibility involves.  It is daily, and unlike many other tasks, cannot be deferred.  Unless it involves a really, really, stinky item (never underestimate the reek potential of any cloth you used to wipe up spilled milk or cat barf, no matter how thoroughly you rinsed it out), you can put off laundry until tomorrow, or the day and sometimes even the week after.  But everyone needs to eat three times a day – or more, for infants.

– meal planning:
            – consulting family calendar for dinner planning purposes, noting special days, events, exceptions;
            – grocery list preparation and maintenance;
– staple items
                        – infrequent or one-items for particular meals, or that can only be purchased at certain times/seasons or at particular venues
                        – items for school lunch preparation

 – grocery shopping:
                        -maintain knowledge of what stores carry what ingredients, best pricing for bulk, organic, staples, and any special items;
-maintain awareness of family staples specials, so as to be able to stock up when good prices appear

– meal preparation:
            – includes acquisition, maintenance, and upkeep of cooking utensils, cookware and appliances;
– additional/unplanned/last minute trips to the store, when family members have used up crucial items and have neglected to add those items to the grocery list (this will be a constant thorn in your side);
– when you discover someone has consumed ingredients critical to the meal you are about to prepare;
– when you discover ingredients crucial to the meal you are about to prepare are spoiled or have otherwise gone bad;
– when guests are invited/just appear at the last minute

– clean/maintain school lunch bags and supplies/manage school lunch schedule

 

 

finances

-pay bills;
– mortgages & utilities;
– maintain (or memorize) schedule of what gets paid when;
– make special payment arrangements for vacations and misc. off/away times;
– keep track of and pay infrequent/interval bills, such as property tax and insurance premiums;
– check online accounts daily to check balances (and guard against ID theft possibility);
– transfer funds between accounts as/when necessary;
– balance checking/savings statements;
– balance credit statements, pay when due, and note payment schedule on calendars;
– manage on-hand cash supply, from which:
– regular or seasonal or one time cleaning services are paid;
– allowances are paid;
 carpool drivers are reimbursed for mileage/gas;
– children’s activities (e.g. snack or movies with friends, bus or other public transportation costs) are paid/reimbursed

Misc. household

– arrange/manage cleaning services (from housecleaning to window-washing, regular or sporadic);
– arrange/manage family cleaning when regular cleaning service is on vacation, or cancels, or you must cancel due to upcoming vacation, schedule change or illness;
– perform said cleaning when family does not help/is not available;
– arrange/manage special items cleaning (e.g. furniture, drapes);
– gather and do regular laundry items on an as-needed basis (3-4 days/week);
– gather and do special laundry;
-bedding and linens on a regular/weekly basis;
-clothing/household articles that need periodic cleaning (e.g. cleaning towels, sleeping bags, blankets/comforters and other awkward sized bedding);
– arrange/manage other household care services (e.g. lawn care);
– arrange/manage perform periodic household cleaning:
            – shampoo/steam clean carpets;
            – clean wood and tile floors;
            – furniture dust/vacuum
            – doors and windows

– maintain supply of essential non-food items:

– toilet paper, paper towels, and other tissues;
– household personal (soap, shampoo, lotions, deodorants, toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss);
– first aid supplies
– cleaning supplies
– emergency kit: (water, cash, other ER supplies)

pet care

– maintain supply of food and litter;
– manage feeding and other care chores;
– scoop litter as needed during day;
– change water ” ” “;
– manage cleaning of food and water bowls;
– schedule and take to regular vet appointments;
– schedule and take to emergency vet appts.;
– arrange for care during out of town/vacation days

 

 

Misc. child care

– regular transportation (providing and arranging for transportation);
– to and from regular school;
– for special school events;
– medical, dental and orthodontic appointments;
– lessons and other post school activities;
– kids’ friends “play dates,” etc.;

– on call transportation: pick up children from school and/or friend’s houses due to

– sickness/injury;
– braces repaired or other orthodontic or medical mishap;
– lost/forgotten homework and/or lunches;
– wardrobe malfunctions;
– school emergency closures (e.g. sewage spills);
– last minute cancellations from other member(s) of carpool or previously arranged transportation

– allowances

            – provide on weekly basis, keep track of amounts;
            – reminders to budget for charity;
            – provide opportunities for charitable donation, which almost always includes  transportation to said opportunities

– clothing

            – keep track of sizes (clothing, shoe and underwear, jackets and other outerwear);
            – shop for all items when needed;
– specialty items (needed for sports, school camps, outings/events) 

– schedule regular Medical and health-related appointments, including

– doctor;
– dentist;
– orthodontist;
– ophthalmologist;
– dermatologists and other specialists when needed
– schedule/transport to unanticipated/emergency Medical appointments;
– provide care when child home from school with illness or injury;
– misc. other appointments (e.g. haircuts);
– manage and maintain supply of medications, prescriptions (e.g. fluoride and allergy meds) and OTC vitamins;
– confirm the above gets taken as needed;

– school

            – maintain school schedule, including conferences, holidays, vacations;
            – acquire/replace and maintain school supplies

– social life.  This is way too complicated, but includes

– managing social calendars;
– managing birthday preparation for child, as well as birthday party of friends preparation (reminding/shopping for gifts);
– keep track of special needs of friends (e.g. food/pet allergies) when planning meals, play dates, etc.

General house management
– being the manager of all of this, which means that even as the children and spouse are able and willing to “help,” the extra job of being the one who keeps track of what needs to be done when, to teach and supervise (when necessary) said tasks.   [6] 

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

Reading it over…yikes.

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

 

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

 

 

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week   [8]

One of my favorite fantasies is that next Sunday not one single woman, in any country of the world, will go to church. If women simply stop giving our time and energy to the institutions that oppress, they could cease to be.
( Sonia Johnson    [9]  )

*   *   *

May you ensure that, when it comes to home and family, you also get “the fun parts”;
May you reconsider your participation in institutions that oppress;
May you be cognizant of the “mental labor” you leave for others;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

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

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

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

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

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

[6] This is what psychologist Joshua Ziesel refers to as the “mental labor” of running a household.  His essay, dealing with the iniquities of household labor where both spouses are employed, is a must read:  “I wanted to be a better husband. So I planned my kid’s birthday party. As a psychologist, I knew men did less “mental labor,” but I didn’t see my own shortcomings.” The Washington Post, 6-18-21 )

[7] Actually, you don’t need to use your imagination.  Economists and other labor scientists have studied this for years, and estimates range from $96k in 2012 dollars to 178K on 2019 as median salaries to have a person or persons be on 24 hr call – as are homemakers – to perform the services of a tutor, negotiator, nurse, chauffer, party planner, chef, nanny, housecleaner….

[8] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.   No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, www.ffrf.org  

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

The Christian Left I’m Not Shaming

Comments Off on The Christian Left I’m Not Shaming

Happy New Year, y’all.

Department Of The Partridge Of The Week
It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself  is hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [1]
Can you identify this week’s guest Partridge?

Goodbye to Shirley (Mama P), Keith, Laurie, Danny, Tracy – to all the Partridges until next season.

 

Wait – she can’t just box us up like those friggin’ elves…can she?

 

*   *   *

Department Of Putting It All Away

The holiday decorations, that is.

 

Even Cablefish gets a Santa hat in my house.

 

 

The Mantle of Red Pointy Things. ®

 

 

This one tried to hide, but I found him anyway.

 

Farewell, Holiday feasting.

 

 

It’s a wistful day.  Moiself  plays seasonal music, from Misty River’s Midwinter  album to Run DMC’s Christmas In Hollis, on repeat, while I pack away the adornments.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Here, But Not There, And Why

Dateline: Tuesday morning 7:45 AM.  It’s high tide; thus, I’m walking on a road which parallels the beach, and not on the beach itself.

About 100 yards ahead of me a man and his big shaggy dog cross the road and start ambling in the direction I’m going. Out for the morning poop walk, moiself  assumes. The dog is sniffing and sniffing and sniff sniff sniff sniffing clumps of grass, driftwood, and bushes along the road. It stops several times for a longer sniff, almost assuming the classic squat position, then continues until it finally reaches the magic point. By then I have caught up to man and beast, as the latter prepares to do his business and the man prepares his picking-up-dog-business bag.

As I pass them by I am wondering about the dog, So, why *that* spot?  It looks identical to the one you sniffed fifty feet back. Was it particularly aromatic with…familiarity?

“Oh, I remember! I pooped here yesterday, and it was grand. I’ll poop here again!”

 

 

Or, perhaps the pup’s motivation is more sinister than celebratory:

“Aha!  This is the poop-place of that poodle I despise. I’ll show him…”

I’m sure many dog owners   [2]  have their theories (or even certitudes) about the phenomenon of what makes the Perfect Poop Place. ®  But the thing is, only the dogs know. And they do not volunteer this information. I’ve tried asking discretely and quietly, when their owners cannot hear me.  The doggies have yet to reveal their secrets.

 

And someone is always watching.

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Not Too Late To Make A Resolution To Treat People Like People
Sub-Department Of The Problems With Cherry-Picking Quotations

I saw this, posted via the Facebook book group, The Christian Left, last week:

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
– Leviticus 19:33-34 (ESV)” 

 

 

 TCL is, as far as moiself  can tell, a group of Christians who advocate what they see as the more humane/liberal side of Christianity.  Thus, I assume this posting was meant as a wake up (read: shaming) tactic, or reminder to their conservative/borderline-racist Christian cousins, with regards as to how the latter treat migrants and asylum seekers.

Fine; okay.  Shame such folks whenever and however you can.  However….

How do those on “The Christian Left” react when their conservative cousins do the Bible-thumping in reverse?  That is, when conservative Christians share other quotes from their Bible, which they deem equally valid guidelines for modern day living? Such as….

* “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
Leviticus 18:22 (ESV)

“Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother,
heir blood will be on their own head.”
Leviticus 20:9 (NIV)

* If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you.”
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (NIV)

* “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.”
Leviticus 25:44 (NIV)

* “For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a day of sabbath rest to the Lord.
Whoever does any work on it is to be put to death.”
Exodus 35:2 (NIV)

 

image from Pinterest “conversative Christian quotes.”

 

Far better to do the right thing, to treat other people as what they are, members of your own species, because it is the right thing to do and because of just that – that they are your fellow human beings- rather than to have one’s morality based on conflicting interpretations of pre-scientific, Iron age “scriptures” written by people who thought the earth had four corners and floats on water  [3] and that their god wanted them to ban handicapped people from making temple offerings or even approaching the altar   [4]  and that leprosy, aka Hansen’s disease, could be cured by following their god’s detailed instructions, which are, in a nutshell,   [5]

Get two birds. Kill one. Dip the live bird in the blood of the dead one.
Sprinkle the blood on the leper seven times, and then let the blood-soaked bird fly away.

Next find a lamb and kill it. Wipe some of its blood on the patient’s right ear, thumb, and big toe. Sprinkle seven times with oil and wipe some of the oil on his right ear,
thumb and big toe. Repeat. Finally find another pair of birds. Kill one and dip the live bird in the dead bird’s blood.
Wipe some blood on the patient’s right ear, thumb, and big toe. Sprinkle the house with blood seven times….
(Leviticus 14)

 

 

 

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week     [6]

I go into a laboratory and create a unicellular organism that will kill millions of people.  I infect flying/biting insects to serve as the delivery system for that organism.
If I release those insects, am I evil?
Without exception every theist I have asked says, “Yes.”
I then ask them to explain malaria.
(anonymous)

 

 

*   *   *

May you be amused by considering the whys/wheres of dog-poop-depositing;
May you treat your fellow human beings as fellow human beings;
May you put away your holiday to the sound of some excellent tunes;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] Which moiself  has not been for decades.

[3](Isa 11:12, Ps 24:2, 136:6, Rev 7:1.,

[4] Levi. 21¨16-20

[5] A most appropriate container, as medical scientists have discovered that Hansen’s disease can be cured with antimicrobial MDT (multi drug therapy).

[6] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.   No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org

The Elves I’m Not Shelving

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

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

Can you identify this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Happy Little Christmas Eve

Whaddya mean, what’s Little Christmas Eve?  It’s tonight, December 23, as in, the eve before Christmas Eve.

LCE is an obscure – to everyone but my family – holiday supposedly celebrated in my maternal grandfather’s ancestral, tiny Norwegian village.  It was one of my favorite special days, when I was a child.  It still is . [2]   Moiself  has continued that tradition with MH’s and my family.  We have a special LCE dinner, but unlike Christmas Eve dinner, which always features lefse, the LCE menu varies year to year.  After dinner, each child gets to open one of their Christmas presents. The most memorable aspect about my childhood LCEs was the “rule” that our house was lit only by candlelight, during the dinner meal and thereafter, until bedtime.

I was fascinated by candles; thus, it was a magical night for moiself.  Candles everywhere; no electric lights allowed!  If you went to the bathroom, you carried a candle.

How we never managed to burn the house down, I don’t know.  Guess those elves were watching over us.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of About Those Elves….

“Oh, yeah, so you all liked that Elf on a Shelf thing?”
(Misinformed persons who feel compelled to ask about all the elves
in our house during this time of year)

Much of moiself’s house’s holiday décor, in all its tacky seasonal glory, is in homage to my mother, who died six years ago on Christmas Eve.

Marion Parnell loved Christmas and especially her Christmas decorations, which included the tradition (which her family started and mine continues) of placing certain kind of elves – the kind with small plastic, doll-like faces and bendable, felt costume-clothed bodies,   [3]  all around the house.  Like the one above, a rare yellow-green costumed variant.

The idea was that from any vantage point, whether you are sitting in the living room or getting a drink from the kitchen sink, an elf is casting a friendly eye upon you.  Some of our elves indeed are on a shelf, but most perch atop curtains, peek out from bookcases, lurk behind candlesticks, nestle behind dishes and clocks and art and….

But, this “Elf on a Shelf” thing? Never heard of it, until recently.  EOAS is, apparently, a picture book about…honestly, I don’t know or care what it’s about. I looked it up:  the book has a 2005 publication date.  Neither I nor MH knew about it, nor had our two children (DOBs 1993 and 1996) grown up with EOAS as part of their kiddie lit repertoire.  My extended family on my mother’s side has been putting up elves since the early 1920s, so none of these #!*&#?! EOAS references applies to elves on MY shelves, okay?

Y’all must excuse moiself  if (read: when) I respond with a yuletide-inappropriate profanity should you mention that book to me. Actually, moiself  finds it funny how much it irritates me when someone, after seeing or hearing about our houses elves, makes a reference to the book – such as the antique store owner who, when I asked if her store had any elves and began to describe what I was looking for, said, “Oh, you mean, like that book?”   My customary cheerful/holiday visage darkened, and I answered her with utmost solemnity.

No.
Nothing.
Like. That. Book.

Which might not be entirely accurate, seeing as how I’ve never read nor even seen the book…which may indeed be about something akin to *our* family tradition.  I just want…oh, I don’t know…attribution, I suppose.  WE THOUGHT OF IT FIRST, OKAY?  So, stick that Elf-on-a-shelf in your Santa Hat and….

 

*   *   *

Christmas with a big deal in my childhood.  My parents didn’t have as much $$ as many of my friends’ parents did; still, they made sure there were always very-much-appreciated presents awaiting my siblings and I under the tree Christmas morning.    [4]    Later, when my parents’ children grew up and had children of their own, something…happened.

I don’t remember getting (from my parents) gifts that I thought were inappropriate or that I didn’t want.   I made a wish list before the holidays, at my parent’s request, and they usually chose from that. Fast forward to their gifts to MH and my children, their grandchildren.  Excuse my yuletide jargon, but what the fuck?

The following reflection was inspired by a Hidden Brain podcast on gift giving.  When a guest on the show mentioned inappropriate, “message” gifts, I remembered trying (unsuccessfully, I think) to talk my parents out of a gift they were planning on giving to an extended family member. Alarmed by his weight gain and his family history of heart disease, they told me they were planning on giving him a gym membership.

 

 

This got my mind going to my parents’ Christmas gift fail with my kids.  Which I expounded upon a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (okay; from my March 2016 post, The Gifts I’m Not Authenticating):

When K and Belle were kidlets, there were many, many, many – and did I mention many? – years where it took us up to four weeks (or more!) post-Christmas to find enough room in the garbage can for all of the non-recyclable packaging materials which were indigenous to gifts that came from A Certain Side of The Family.

Read: my side. Specifically, my mother.   [5]  Mom was abetted in her trashing of the planet abundantly swathed present-bestowing by the good folks at Lillian Vernon.  Are you familiar with that catalog company? If so, you have my sympathy. 

 

 

My mother discovered the Lillian Vernon catalog (too) many years ago. Once she did, there was no turning back. The catalog became her go-to source for gifts for her grandchildren, and a more wasteful source I’ve yet to encounter. Why a four-inch tin-plated Model T replica needs to be encased in enough Styrofoam insulate an entire Uzbekistan village is a mystery to me…but that, apparently, is the shipping policy at Lillian Vernon.

The excessive packaging was one thing; the gifts themselves, ay yi yi. All made in China, of substandard construction   [6]  –– and accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity.

 

This crap is authentic, guaranteed.

 

Most bewildering of all was how inappropriate the gifts were. Not inappropriate as in giving a life-size Uzi replica to a five-year-old; rather, inappropriate in that the gifts had no relation to what K and Belle actually wanted.

I’ll never forget K’s reaction the year he opened his present from Grandma M, dug through the layers of packaging and…oh, um….yeah…a set of miniature antique automobile replicas? Perhaps for some child, somewhere, that would have been a welcome present. K had no interest in “antique replicas” (even those that came with certificates of authenticity).  Thus K, along with his sister, got an early introduction to practicing the art of Present Face.

 

 

It was (kinda sorta) terrible to laugh at the gifts, but we did – after I gave K & Belle the usual parental reassuring (“Grandma means well”). Year after year, my mom gave her grandchildren stuff they neither wanted nor needed.  I tried to figure it out, thinking aloud to MH one Christmas, after K & Belle had opened their respective/bewildering (but authentically certified!) LV boxes: It’s as if my mom is using suggestions based on someone’s idea of gender and age:

Here are gifts for Boy Child, ages 9-11, and for Girl Child, Ages 5-8….

Which, I would discover, was exactly what my mother did.

In year three or four of the They Sooooo Do Not Want These Things (the year of the antique replica cars) phenomenon, I resolved to find out what was going on. I tried to be gentle during my Christmas Day phone call to my parents – I tried to tease out what made them think K would be interested in a set of Ford Model A and T cars? I could have used a verbal sledgehammer, for all of my mother’s obliviousness.   [7]

I do all my Christmas and birthday shopping from the catalog, my mother explained. (actually, it was more like bragging than explaining). I have all the categories covered – they list them for girls and boys, of any age. When it’s time for a Christmas or birthday I go to the boxes in the garage or under my bed and pick one out!

Hmmm…yeah. Say, Mom, for next year, how about if you ask K and Belle what *they’d* like? Or they could send you a gift list, like you used to have me write up for my birthday and Christmas. K really likes to draw – there’s an artist’s pencil set he’s interested in, and Belle loves Legos, and….

That’s okay, I already have next year’s Christmas presents picked out!
Birthdays, too! I keep them all in a big stash under the bed.
K’s and Belle’s birthday presents are ready to go – it’s so convenient.
Oh, here’s Dad….

I was more direct with my father: “This is difficult to say…I want my kids to be grateful for any gift, but Dad, it’s like the presents are from a stranger who doesn’t know them. It’s nothing they are interested in. Why doesn’t Mom ask them what they’d like? They’d love to tell her.” He just didn’t hear me (“Well, that’s how she likes to do it.), and changed the subject.

Later that day I sought email counsel from my older and younger sisters. It wasn’t just my family’s dilemma – they’d both dealt with the LV catalog gift-gifting issue, and had tried everything from dropping hints to being directly confrontational.  Their advice: Sorry, but that’s the way it is. Learn to live with it.

  

 

MH and I raised K and Belle to look at gifts as just that – gifts, not entitlements. We encouraged them to find something about which to feel grateful for any present they received; we advised them to never expect nor request presents, but to be gracious and specific when asked by someone what you’d like for your birthday, or Christmas.

My parents never asked.   [8]

K and Belle dutifully wrote thank you notes to Grandpa Chet and Grandma M.  After years of getting presents they didn’t want, it became somewhat of a family joke ritual:  on Christmas morning, along with our gift-opening accouterments we also set out a direct-to-Goodwill bag for the Lillian Vernon haul, and there was a special ceremonial flourish when a Certificate of Authenticity assumed its rightful place in the paper recycling bin.

Along with the droll (okay; snarky) comments and laughter which became a part of our gift-opening, there were genuine hurt feelings, for both me and my children. It sliced at my heart, the first time K and Belle looked at me with sad-round eyes and said, Why don’t they ask me what I want?

It was so effin’ impersonal; it showed no interest in them as individuals. My mother took pride in being done with her present shopping months (even years) in advance…and took no interest in finding out what her grandchildren actually wanted. You can learn a lot about children by asking them what they’d like for a present – it can be a segue into finding out about their hobbies and interests and talents, about finding out who they are and what they like to do.

Instead, it was This Christmas Belle gets something from the “Girl Toys Ages 6-9” bag under Grandma M’s bed.  My mother even mixed up the presents one year: K got a gift that was meant for his cousin. The gift tag read, “To X, Love Grandma M” (cousin X, my younger sister’s second son, was the same age as K)!

 

 

At my suggestion (and with my father’s encouragement), my parents switched to giving checks to their grandchildren a few years back, a practice my mother continued after my father died. Now, the LV catalog present years are the stuff of family lore. Back then, it was Yet Another Life Lesson ® for my children (and their parents) in tolerance, acceptance, and loving people as they are, warts/quirks and all. Looking back, a part of me is even grateful for the experience, which provided us with one of our favorite family code phrases:

Belle:
What do you know about that new cafe downtown?

Moiself:
I haven’t heard much about them, only that each menu item comes with a

Certificate of Authenticity.
Belle:
Whoa, thanks for the warning.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Food (and beverage?) For Thought

In 2020 (the last year for which there is complete information) there were 11,654 “alcohol-impaired”-related auto accident deaths.

That accounts for 30% of the 38,824 total auto accident deaths for 2020.

Which means that the remaining 70% of auto accident deaths were caused by ijiots who drink bottled water, coffee, soda, juice, energy drinks, et al, and/or talked or texted on their phones and/or were otherwise impaired by their own stupidity, incompetence, and inattentiveness.

 

 

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week     [9]

“At this season of the winter solstice, let reason prevail.
There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell;
there is only our natural world.
Religion is but myth and superstition which hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

(Anne Nichol Gaylor, principal founder, Freedom From Religion Foundation )

*   *   *

May all of your gift-giving be authentic;
May you have a Happy Christmas Eve;
May you have open hearts and free minds;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] And arguably, I still am somewhat child-like (or, ish).

[3] Many of the oldest ones have a tiny Made in Japan sticker on them, and date from the 1950s or earlier, or so I was told by one antique shop dealer.

[4] Which, BTW, is the only proper day to open your Christmas gifts.  If MH’s family had been a, “We-open-our-gifts-on-Christmas-Eve!” kind of family, we would not have married.

[5] (my mother has since died, but at the time I included this “Content reassurance”): my mother is alive, albeit in poor physical and mental health. We speak at least once a week; she doesn’t remember our phone conversation from the previous week (nor often what I said five minutes ago). She is a shut in, in her own home, with 24/7 care by patient and loving attendants. She has no access to the internet, doesn’t read my blog, doesn’t know I write a blog, doesn’t know what a blog is….

[6] I was going to write shoddily manufactured…there’s just no nice way to put it. That shit was cheaply made.

[7] And it was my mother’s doing. As was common to many men of his generation, my father gladly ceded the birthday and holiday gift-choosing tasks to his wife.

[8] MH’s usually did.

[9] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org

The Fight I’m Not Ending

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

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

Can you identify this week’s guest Partridge?

 

*   *   *

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

OB:
“Uh hum – yes.”

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Yes, really.

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

As I wrote in my reply letter,  [8]

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Taking A Break

 

There; that’s better.

 

 

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

 

 

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week     [12]

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

*   *   *

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

*   *   *

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

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

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

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

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

*   *

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

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

*   *

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

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

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

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

*   *

(Finally!) Footnotes

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[12] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. 

No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org

The Rings I’m Not Wearing

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

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

Can you identify this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

 

 

Well, *listen* and weep….

 

Y’all may remember the scandal, which broke in October and which moiself  wrote about in my November 4 post.  Bare bones summary of a very complicated story:  someone(s)   [2] secretly recorded a behind-closed doors meeting of three Los Angeles City Council members and a local labor leader, wherein Council President Nury Martinez and other attendees slammed some of her fellow council members, gleefully made racist remarks, and spoke openly about how the city’s political districts should be carved up to advantage certain constituencies.

The council was thrown into turmoil, Martinez resigned, and some long-overdue rumination re revising and reckoning our “tribalism” in politics has been aired, including in a thoughtful op-ed by  LAT columnist Sandy Banks.

Banks opens her essay with the story of a hurtful incident which happened to her many years ago.  Riding a crowded bus and exhausted from a long day at a new job, Banks was  touched when a young Latina woman gesture to Banks to take the seat next to her.  The Latina woman had just herself been beckoned by an elderly Asian woman to take the seat beside her, but that same elderly woman reacted with visible disgust when the Latina in turn invited the Black woman to join them…and the Asian woman stood up and moved to another part of the bus.

…It has been several years since that episode, but the hurt, anger and shame it roused in me resurfaced last month when I listened to three of our city’s elected Latino leaders gleefully mocking and insulting Black people.
Their tirade made international news, because of the crude and racist language they used to describe Black, gay, Armenian, Jewish and Oaxacan people in a private meeting, secretly recorded, about increasing the political power of Latinos at the expense of other struggling groups.
Then, adding insult to injury in the days that followed, the politicians larded their pseudo apologies with references to serving “communities of color” — when the only color they really seem to care about is light brown. Their own.
And that got me thinking about whether the label has outlived its utility….
Maybe now is the time to scrap the “people of color” label and its “communities of color” twin — along with the pretense that all nonwhite groups can be seamlessly yoked together in the fight for equality by the color of our skin.

 

 

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the bonds between racial and ethnic groups in multicultural Los Angeles are weak. We may share economic stressors and even neighborhoods, but we have different priorities, challenges and needs — and apparently little regard for solidarity, given that the leaders of our city’s largest ethnic group were trying to hoard power by chopping other groups off at the knees.
The “people of color” frame began to take shape decades ago…. But research by UCLA political science professor Efrén Pérez has found that “the unity behind ‘people of color’ crumbles” when individual racial groups feel their unique challenges are being ignored.
“There is nothing natural about camaraderie among people of color,” Pérez wrote in a 2020 opinion piece for the Washington Post. “For every commonality, a point of difference intrudes on unity.”
Dropping the label wouldn’t mean giving up on the idea that there’s power in our collective energy. But it would allow us to scrap the fantasy that Black, Latino, Asian American and Indigenous people are the sum of our similarities, and should be willing to sublimate our own priorities to advance others’ needs.
And while “people of color” is part of the zeitgeist today, debate over the concept has long been robust in academic and political arenas….
“We have talked about this a lot over the years,” said USC law professor Jody Armour, who specializes in the intersection of race and justice. “I’ve always been skeptical of the ‘people of color’ category.’…. The POC category has replicated this country’s reductive colorism, which strands dark-skinned people at the bottom of its ‘people of color’ hierarchy. It’s become a way ‘of camouflaging anti-Blackness,” Armour says.
( excerpts from “Lessons of the audio leak: Solidarity is dead.
Let’s ditch the label ‘people of color,’ “
By Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times, 11-21-22 )

 

*   *   *

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Bored Of The Rings

Moiself  recently read an advice column wherein a man sought counsel on what, to him, seemed a vexing dilemma, and what to me was a “problem” worthy of wanting to give him and like-minded others face-palming so cosmic as to launch them into orbit.

 

“Incoming!”

 

The man wanted to propose marriage to his sweetie.  His dilemma, as he saw it, was that his partner makes so much more money than he does that any ring he would buy or pick out would not be as fancy or somehow as “deserving” as that which she could get for herself.  He did acknowledge in his letter that “she’s just not a fancy jewelry type person,”  and that they had already been discussing marriage, and she’d indicated she wouldn’t necessarily want an engagement ring at all.

 

 

Oh my… That took me back. But first, this public service announcement.

Men, women – we’ve all have been lied to. Diamonds are not a rare treasure, despite the fact that the jewelry industry in general and diamond pushers in specific want you to think so, and have worked damn hard to equate the color, carat, cut, clarity the of rock to the quality of your loooooooooove.  And no one works that scam angle quite like the Debeers company.

 

 

“The perfect diamond is a promise of the perfect relationship, because love is supposedly rare and so is this stone. We want the story that tells us our relationship is special. And we don’t want to accept that rarity isn’t all that meaningful.”
(“Diamonds Aren’t Special and Neither is Your Love,”
The Atlantic, 1-29-21)

Ahhh, the rings.  Wedding rings; sure, whatever.  But the whole engagement ring thing, where one person in the couple wears one but the other does not, reeks of sexism and the history of marriage as property transfer of a woman, from her birth family (read: father) to her husband. I suppose a ring is a more genteel way than pissing a circle around the woman to declare territorial rights, but it is still a pronouncement of ownership, and not any less creepy to me just because our culture has been injured to it.

Answer me this, moiself  asks rhetorically (because no one has been able to give a cogent reason when I’ve asked seriously):  Why is it the woman who wears an outward signal of “I’m ‘taken’ ”  [3]  and the man does not, when the couple are both engaged to be married?

Why are engagement rings still even a thing? It’s just…stupid.

Menfolk, the marketing that is aimed toward you with regard to this “tradition” is truly mind-numbing.  It is meant to get men to internalize the idea that the engagement rings they pick out are signifiers of their commitment and worth.  Also, let’s face it, the not-so-subliminal attachment message is that the bigger/more expensive the ring he can afford, the bigger the man’s…uh, manliness.

 

Are you man enough to give her this?

 

Interesting anecdote:  despite the stereotype of women being interested in such things, my “congratulations” to couples who announce their engagement is never followed with “Ooooh, lemme see the ring.”  Because I don’t give a flying fuck about such foolishness and wish we’d all move beyond that.  I do give a flying fuck about this very-interesting-fact-of-my-experience:  the only time an engagement ring has been proudly and insistently displayed to me in those announcement circumstances has been via the engaged dudes.  For example: on at least three different occasions – a work or holiday party, or other social gathering – when a couple’s engagement was announced, as I started to say something congratulatory to the couple, the man grabbed his fiancé’s left hand, shoved it in front of my face, and all but demanded that I praise the ring he’d given her.

I suppose that’s a more socially acceptable way to brag than for him to drop trou at the party and display his 14 karat manliness, but….

 

 

MH and I have been married for 30 something years now.   [4]    It should come as no surprise that I did not wear an engagement ring, nor was I given one by MH, because he knew my opinions on the matter.  When we were Getting Serious ® and discussing our future together, MH said, just to check, that he assumed I would not want an engagement ring?  I told him that I’d never worn rings of any kind, with the exception of my The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ® spy ring and my high school class ring, only one of which I treasured and both of which I lost after just a few weeks of wearing.  [5]

 

 

Also, I’d never worn much jewelry of any kind– rings, bracelets, necklaces – except for earrings.  I had my ears pierced when I was a junior in college, at the behest of one of my roommates who declared one holiday season that I was a difficult person to shop for and “Could you just please get your gawddamn ears pierced so I can always know what to get you for Christmas?”    [6]

MH and I laughed when I told him this story, and I joked, “Yeah, so, engagement earrings….”

Not long after that (what I assumed was a) throwaway remark, MH presented me with a pair of diamond “engagement earrings.”  [7]    I almost convinced him to get one of his ears pierced so we both could each wear one.  But he was still young enough and concerned enough with what his parents would think,   [8]   and respectfully declined my request.  Somehow, we both managed to survive our engagement without me wearing the traditional visible marker of such.  We chose matching wedding rings: simple gold bands engraved with a weave pattern.

Fast forward thirty years.  One evening at dinner MH said something along the lines of, “BTW, in case you’re wondering why I’m not wearing my wedding ring….” which caused me to look at his left hand and see that yep, his fourth finger was ringless. No, I hadn’t noticed.  He told me that in the past few weeks at work his fingers had started to ache and swell.  He’d visited his workplace’s occupational nurse, who couldn’t tell if the puffiness was the beginnings of arthritis or simply the results of too much clickety-clack time on keyboard, but advised that MH remove the ring now in case the swelling got so bad he had to have it cut off.    [9]

 

Yeah, don’t let it get to this point.

 

“Oh, that makes sense,” I replied. Then I immediately took off my wedding band and put it in a safe place. I assured MH that I did not do so out of spite or anything negative; rather, for parallel conformity. We are either both wearing wedding rings, or we aren’t.

 

 

In the weeks to come MH investigated ring alternatives, while I actually/kinda/sorta felt like I didn’t need it.  Sure, I’d worn one for almost 30 years at that point, but a part of me had never gotten used to wearing a ring, and I was always twisting it and found it cumbersome for handwashing.  I recalled to him, from my previous life of working in the medical profession, how over the years I’d met and talked with several patients and couples who did not wear wedding rings, typically for one of two reasons:

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

(2) a dermatologic allergy to the metals used in the ring bands.

Some of the couples fashioned their own bands out of various other materials; one couple chose not to wear rings; at least two couples I met had their wedding rings tattooed around their ring fingers.    [10]

MH did some online searching and found silicone bands he liked.  They are flexible, come in a variety of sizes, widths, colors and patterns– even camo, for the romantic military fanatic outdoorsman.  Bonus: they usually cost less than $30, so you don’t feel bad (and by you of course I mean moiself ) if you lose them.  It’s fun, to occasionally change the color and pattern.  After all, the only thing that separates us from our fellow primates is our ability to accessorize.  Anyway, that is what we have both worn ever since.

 

My current one is a dark purple.

*   *   *

Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week     [11]

“Instead of wondering why I don’t need god to be good, ask yourself why others do. Consider that true morality lies in doing what’s right without expectation of divine retribution or recompense for our actions.”
 ( Freethought Today, 11-22 excerpt from “Letter to a Mormon mother,” by Oliver Brown,
5th place winner of FFRF’s 2022 high school essay contest,    [12] )

*   *   *

May you reconsider your usage of POC and other group-signifying terms;
May you discover the cheap thrills of wearing colorful silicon rings;
May you get your gawddamm ears pierced as an easy gift receiving solution;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

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

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

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

[5] My parents insisted I get my high school class ring, because I might regret *not* having one later…why they thought I would regret such a thing, I have no idea.  I lost the ring in a bodysurfing wipeout at Newport Beach.

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

[7] When the horrible news about diamond mining and the “blood” diamonds began emerging years later, I stopped wearing them, first “warning” MH of my intent.  I did not fault him, and neither did he:  he’d bought them in good faith and had no idea about how dirty the diamond industry was.

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

[9] The ring, not the finger.

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

[11] “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists.  

No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”  Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org

[12] The William Schulx High School Essay Contest for college-bound seniors had this prompt for 2022 contest entrants:  “Please write a letter to a religious friend, relative, classmate, teacher, etc., who buys the myth that one can’t be moral without believing in a god.”

The Pulitzer Prize I’m Not Sharing

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

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

Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

Caution as in, perhaps a trigger warning?

 

 

I was literally shaking as I left the theater.

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

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

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Cinematic Edition

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

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

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

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

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

The Planet I’m Not Worshipping

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

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

Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Blast From The Past

Seeing as how MH and I are hosting Thanksgiving/harvest day festivities at our Humble Abode ®, moiself  will not be sober enough able to do my usual Thursday night blog editing. 

 

 

Thus, a rerun.

Apropos of…something I’ve already forgotten, I was recently given cause to look up what I had, previously in this space, written about ancestor worship (from 2-17-17):

 

 

As regular readers of this blog know (and new or sporadic readers will likely surmise), I am not a religious person. I was raised by church-going, Christian parents;  [2]   flirted with/researched a variety of denominations during/post college; was a member (even served as a deacon, holy shit!) of a UCC church  [3]  for many years; happily (read: finally) came out over 15 years ago as a lifelong skeptic-atheist-Freethinker-Bright.

While I hold a modicum of respect for some of the ideals and practices of, say, contemporary non-theistic Buddhism and Unitarianism and Jainism, I find all religions to be more-or less silly/offensive/just plain fallacious. There is one “spiritual” practice, however, which I can somewhat understand, if only in that it makes a teesny-tiny, infinitesimally wee bit o’ sense:

Ancestor worship.

 

 

Yes, really.

Make that, ancestor *veneration,* not worship. For the love of the FSM,   [4]   get off your knees, open your eyes, and stop bowing your head – nobody should “worship” anything.

Worship: VERB
[with object] Show reverence and adoration for (a deity)
1.1  [no object] Take part in a religious ceremony.
(English Oxford Living Dictionary)

Unlike the claims of religions which have one or more deities, you don’t have to take your ancestors’ existence on “faith”  [5]  – you know they have lived (you yourself are evidence of that); you’ve likely met them one, or two or sometimes even three, generations back. From the photo albums and other heirlooms to the birth certificates, school and county records, family businesses, homes, farmsteads, and kinfolk near and far, you’ve an idea of what they have “given” you, materially, intellectually and emotionally – you’ve some idea what you might be grateful for.

Best of all, you’ve little incentive to argue or go to war with other people over whose interpretation of what their Imaginary Friend wants is correct. Your neighbor’s ancestors are their business, and yours are yours.

Of course, the option of ancestor veneration leaves out a small subset of people: those who have little or no knowledge of their forebears, such as certain kinds of adoptees,   [6]  as well as those who have just enough information (e.g., children in the foster care system) to…well, I’ll put it this way: if you come from two generations of meth addicts, ancestor veneration might not be the spiritual practice to float your boat.

Now then.  By ancestor veneration I’m not talking any kind of belief system wherein the dead are beseeched to intercede on behalf of the living – that’s just as silly as all the others. I do not believe that my deceased grandparents and parents have a continued existence in a spirit world, or that their spirits look after moiself  and my family in particular or the world in general, or that they somehow can influence the fate of the living. I’m talking about a practice of honor and appreciation, in which a person might use the roads paved and trails blazed by previous generations as a focal point for remembrance and gratitude.

 

Thanks for the dimples, Dad.

 

I’m not sure what brought the previous topic to mind.  A likely suspect is the recent death of my mother. Anyway, y’all have my permission to honor your ancestors…as well as my fervent wish that that is as far as your theology goes. However, as I look at the state of the world, it appears that the old superstitions have some staying power. As long as people will continue to proclaim and dispute over whose invisible leader is the best-est, I’d like someone to come up with another dog in the fight.

As the Bay Area’s own Huey Lewis, the Bard Of The Bammies, once sang, I Want A New Drug.

Putting it yet another way, y’all have my encouragement (if you are religiously inclined) to come up with a new religion, within the following parameters: in this belief system, it is the men who are required, in one form or another, to cover themselves.

That’s it. Yep. That’s the entire theology in a nutshell.   [7]

From a light veil or hijab – make, that, he-jab –  to a full-body, Bro-burqa, your theology must include all the usual nonsense reasons (modesty; an easily offended deity; protection from your fellow believers who will beat the holy crap out of you if you show any evidence of human form) as to why certain people –  in this case, those with boy parts – must be covered in public.

Duuuuude – put a scarf on it.

 

We swear on Her Holy name, it doesn’t make your butt look big, no, not at all.

 

*   *   *

That was then; this is now.  Last week, reveling in an awesome autumn day, I found moiself  thinking about Wicca and/or the contemporary pagan/nature spiritualities – those which mark the passing of the seasons – as another category of spiritual practices which make more sense to me.  This doesn’t mean I am or would consider being a sun or “goddess” worshiper; it’s just that, unlike the tenants of the so-called “revealed” religions,   [8]   with those nature-centered ideologies we can see and directly experience what is being venerated.

Humans living in extreme regions –  i.e., at the poles or the equator (or Southern California) –  [9]   don’t have the dramatic difference of the four season changes that we who inhabit the middle latitudes experience.  Still, the earth has seasons and cycles; we live here; they affect us.   But again, this form of spirituality gets my Nod Of Approval® for *acknowledgement,* not worship.  As in, after a period of torrential downpour I appreciate the sun; after an unremittingly unrelenting bout of summer heat moiself  appreciates the rain.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Planet Earth Edition

How can you tell the ocean is friendly?
It waves.

I love the way the Earth rotates – it makes my day.

How can you tell Mother Nature watches a lot of Oprah from June – November?
Because it looks like everybody gets a hurricane.

 

*   *   *

May you take care of your Mother;
May you appreciate the seasons;
May you enjoy those leftovers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] Lutheran, specifically: what was once called the ALC and now ELCA, for those obsessives interested in denominational nitpicking. It wasn’t one of the “synod” denominations (Missouri & Wisconsin), which are closer to Catholicism in their conservative doctrines (e.g. women cannot be ordained as ministers; liking to snipe about other denominations as being the “not true” faiths) .

[3] Which I have, since leaving, recommended to people who, for whatever reasons, are looking for a liberal Christian church experience and/or community.

[4] The Flying Spaghetti Monster.   “All praise to his noodly appendage.”

[5] Although, especially at Thanksgiving when someone brings up politics, you may have to take them with a helluva big grain of salt.

[6] If you’re counting “blood” kin as the only kind of ancestors which matter. Which I hope you are not.

[7] Which is the proper receptacle for all theologies.

[8] Revealed religions are religions based on the supposed revelations of god(s) to humans, particularly as described in the scriptures of those religions. Thus, the existence of these gods depends on revelation by said gods, to humans, of ideas that would not have been arrived at by natural reason alone. Examples of revealed religions are the primary monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’ism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Sikhism.

[9] Growing up in So Cal we used to joke we had two seasons:  brown and tan.

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