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The Baby Sloth Pix I’m Not Posting

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I warned you about this last week.

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

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

 

 

 

pajamasloth

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

slothbox

I am so sorry for this.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

slothpeekaboo

Really, this is the last one.

 

 

 

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

 

 

belugas

See? No baby sloths here.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

rare bird

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

 

 

 

Really – this is it for now.

 

 

 

 

 

facepalm

But wait – there’s more….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by. 

Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] No footnotes yet. Move along.

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

The Sabbatical I’m Not Taking

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

mourners

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

martha

 

 

 

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

 

 

yeahright

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

eggplant

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

buttocks

Then again….

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Wait Wait I Found One!  [3]

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*   *   *   [4]

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

[3] An eggplant joke, that is.

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

The Neighbors I’m Not Entertaining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

bitchplease

Apologies for the femme-specific/binary snark.

 

 

 

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

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

 

makeitstop

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

 

I Love Dick. 

 

martha

 

 

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

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

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

Liberty Cross Country Loves Dick

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

 

 

 

myworkhere

*   *   *

The Astoundingly Negligent SoCal Escrow Company I’m Not Naming

 aka

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

lawyer

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

incompetence

*   *   *

 

 

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Phone Call I’m Not Returning

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But first: The phone calls I am making…and you?

Regular readers (and by regular I mean your habitual viewing of this blog, and not your digestive frequencies) know I’ve been avoiding posting many political blurbs for the past several months, a situation that is likely to continue.

However, I will gird my online loins re the latest outrage by the (soon-to-be ex-) #45: the firing of the FBI Director. You know where this is leading. The Cheetos Hitler fires people who look too closely at his dealings.

Folks, the next step is to call [1] your representatives and demand the appointment of an independent special prosecutor if you’re concerned about a thorough and accurate investigation (then keep those numbers on speed dial; you’re gonna need ’em). Easiest way to get your rep’s phone numbers: Text your zip code to 520-200-2223.

It took all of 30 seconds for me to either leave a message, on my Rep’s answering machine or with the Very Nice Staff Person ®, that went something like this:

Good morning; my name is _____ ; I’m a constituent of ______(rep’s name), and I’m calling to demand the appointment of an independent special prosecutor to do a thorough and accurate investigation of the firing of the FBI Director and the #45 administration’s ties to Russia. Thank you for your time. Is there any other information you need from me?”   [2]

Next step: Text the word RESIST to 504-09. When prompted, demand a congressional joint select committee to investigate Trump/Russia NOW. If we don’t demand this now, it may not happen. This action takes less than one minute. Our complacency/inaction may have a lifetime of repercussions.

 

 

 

putin

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

About that other phone call….

 

Hello; I’m calling for Robyn Parnell. My name is….

The name was garbled on the answering machine message. The message went on to identify Mr. Garbled Name as a reporter for a local community newspaper.  [3]  Mr. Garbled Name  wanted to interview me because, he said, I am a published writer who lives in the community, and “I know there are a lot of people in the community who are interested in your books.”  Mr. Garbled said he wanted to do a feature story on me, and could I call him back before five?

I received the message in the early afternoon. Later that day when I told MH about the message, I indulged in a moment of self-righteous huffiness about the call-before-five request, which reminded me of one of those As Seen On TV ads (Wait – there’s more! You get the entire set of Ginzu steak knives AND the weed whacker, but only if you contact our operators before 9 pm!!)

MH came to Mr. Garbled’s defense by pointing out the obvious: the reporter was on deadline.  True, I conceded, but other people also have schedules/deadlines…oh wait a sec, what am I thinking? Writers are supposed to grovel in swamp water/skip their grandmother’s funeral jump at any opportunity for publicity.

Thirty years doing this, and I still suck at self-promotion. It’s like I didn’t get the memo.

For a moment I considered looking up the newspaper’s website, trying to figure out who the reporter might be. Just for a moment, I considered sending him an email. The email I did not send might have read something like the following:

(there would be an opening line or two, thanking him for his interest and respectfully declining his request).

I know about these feature stories on local ______ artists; writer).  I’ve read them; I’ve been the subject of them. I’ve gritted my teeth while being interviewed (by perfectly nice reporters) for them, feeling like a fraud because I know what I’m supposed to say [4] to make the story a pleasant and safe read suitable for a community audience. And I don’t want to play that dull/safe game that anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know what you and your editors (think you) need: a Shiny Happy People, 500 – 700 word, feel-good story, wherein at some point the writer encourages other would-be writers, especially children, to follow their dream. [5]  That’s the story you want me to tell so that it can be the story you write. And in the nicest of ways and using just the right amount of flattery, you dangle the promise of publicity.  [6]

Thank you for your interest, but I must let you know that you will not make this particular deadline if the feature is dependent on me being the focus.  I have no doubt that you will find another local writer who will be thrilled to be the subject of your feature story – that’s a no brainer. But, trust me, you don’t want my story.

My story is not for a feel-good feature in a community newspaper. It’s not necessarily a mo-better story (nor a mo-bitter story), but it is quite different from what you seek. It is the story of a writer, who wanted to write fiction and did, despite having no rose-colored delusions about the realities of getting published. It is the story about a writer who knew the statistics, did the work anyway, and got published in “real” established/legitimate markets by “real” publishers.  [7]

It is the story about a published writer who came to despise the business end of writing – a writer who had not anticipated the extent of self-promotion and fame-seeking which would, increasingly be demanded by those same “real” publishers but who herself had zero interest in that kind of life. It is a story about a published author who, at her own and other authors’ book release parties/book readings/book signings/book fairs and other literary events, had seen other authors who were comfortable with being in the spotlight – to the point of actively seeking and obviously reveling in it. And she didn’t like what she saw and what she felt when she observed those other authors.  [8]

 

It is a story at once simple and complicated; it’s about a writer who wanted to write, and who didn’t give two shakes of a spasmodic kangaroo rat’s ass about “being a writer” other than by actually writing – a writer who abhorred the dangled carrot of the limelight, who preferred anonymity amongst strangers, even in this Look at Me/Everyone Can Be A Celebrity/Selfie-obsessed society.

In other words, this is the story of a literary misfit (read; lunatic).

 

To do it justice, this story (or the many ones like it which could be written) could not even begin to be outlined in a community newspaper feature article. [9]  Ideally, this story would be the journalistic equivalent of a mini-series, with a narrative tone reminiscent of an investigative documentary. The tale would be a tapestry: threads of the reasons why one particular fiction writer lost the love for and motivation to do the work skillfully interwoven with those strands spun from the dreary state of publishing fiction today,  [10] the latter of which includes the theoretical expanding of “markets and opportunities” (e.g. online book sales, e- publishing, e-mags) leading to the virtual expanding of theft/e-piracy/copyright violations/rights grabs by publishers  [11]  …in a nutshell, more “opportunities” for writers to work without getting paid.  [12]

Given the right narrative structure, it is a tale I might be interested in reading…someday. But it won’t be this week, and it won’t be about me.

 

 

 

 

 

With all that has been going on in my life, this – the phone message re the interview – is the first time in several months where I have been “confronted’ with the reality of my sabbatical. I’ve no reason to assume the reporter was anything other than a Nice Guy ® who was just doing his job. Still, I was (almost) surprised by my complete lack of interest in doing the interview, as well as in the effort it took for moiself to summon up even a twinge of regret for not calling him back.

Okay. Getting into Way Too Serious Territory ©. There must be a way to segue into a literary fart joke.

 

 

 

humerusjpg

*   *   *

 

Department Of Silver Linings

The previously-mentioned Phone Call I Did Not Return © did end up providing me with my best belly laugh of the week.

 

 

 

martha

 

 

 

When I first played back the message and couldn’t understand the person’s name, I didn’t listen to the entire message – I hit the replay button and turned up the volume, hoping to get the name. Volume, schmolume – I still couldn’t make out his name, but heard loud and clear his assertion that he knew there are a lot of people in the community who are interested in your books, which caused me to guffaw, “Not according to my royalty statements.”

 

 

 

piggy

*   *   *

 

 

Department Of Things That Frost My Butt
Installment 621 in a series

(Pre-rant background information: I volunteer for a feline-specific animal adoption organization, at one of their offsite locations. The majority of the cats and kittens are housed at the mother ship, aka the main shelter in south Washington County city. Kittys are also housed at several offsite adoption centers – generally, pet supplies stores which have special cat kennel section which they lease to the shelter.)

To the Guy (and it’s always a guy) who walks his dog (it can be any breed, from the 5 lb yippies to the 80 lb Dobermans) up and down the aisles of the PetOpia store:  Dude, you hold your dog up to the glass wall of an animal’s kennel/habitat and encourage your canine to bark/growl/otherwise harass the animal (usually a cat, but I’ve seen it happen to rabbits, gerbils and other rodents, reptiles, birds, other/smaller dogs) housed on the other side of the glass.  Anyway, you know who you are…

On second thought, you probably don’t. Your actions indicate that there is nary an introspective bone in your body, only a thick mass of bone-like tissue where your brain should be housed.

Every time it happens, a part of me is surprised as well as disgusted. Apparently, because you have an animal with you and you are in a pet supplies store, I hold the (obviously mistaken) assumption that you are fond of animals. And yet you engage in this behavior as if it were playful, and persist in encouraging your dog to bark at the other animal despite  [13] seeing obvious signs of distress in that animal.

And I, a volunteer for an organization which depends upon the goodwill of the pet supplies store in order to have that adoption space at the store, have been explicitly instructed that I am forbidden from confronting you. I can only “redirect” your behavior and attempt to educate you; I can’t kick your sorry sadistic ass to the curb.

If only for a taser gun with a heat-seeking, genital-specific probe….

 

 

 

stupidpeople

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you never be One Of Those People other people want to kick to the curb;
May your story be one that can fit into a 500 word feature (…or…not);
May you continue La Résistance and contact your elected officials;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Second choice: fax (last choice: email). According to Congressional representatives’ staff, fax & phone calls are the most effective ways to get attention.

[2] They have your phone number once you call; they may want your zip code & address.

[3] Yes, they still exist.

[4] And I know, even if I don’t say what I’m supposed to say, you will spin my quotes in such a way as to make me say what I’m supposed to say.

[5] Except that dream where you show up naked for the SAT test.

[6] Aka an audience; a platform; exposure….

[7] Read; no self-publishing, vanity or subsidy or hybrid publishing.

[8]  As per my professional writer personality, ® I have the limelight-averse temperament of a Harper Lee or J.D. Salinger without having written their bestsellers. Not exactly a publisher’s dream.  😉

[9] Yep, accusations of elitism are likely to be flung at this assertion.

[10] The Author’s Guild  is America’s oldest and largest professional and advocacy organization for writers; if interested search for their and others’ lawsuits, such as AG v. Google, independent publishers v. Amazon,  even universities sued for engaging in unauthorized digitization of copyrighted works… and I do love that you can google lawsuits against Google.

[11] The AG article The Wages of Writing summarized the results of the most comprehensive author survey since 2009: authors’ income is down significantly across all categories (full-time and part-time authors, and that full-time authors with 15+ years experience saw the most declines); authors spend more time on marketing and (thus) less on writing ….. Click here for more detailed and depressing survey results.

[12] Including…ahem…blogs!

[13] Or because of…bullies apparently do not limit their torments to their own species.

The Beer I’m Not Buying

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Department Of Except That It Was

Another week, another celebrity demise, another chance for everyone to get it wrong. But not in the way most people think.

I refer to friends and former coworkers of Erin Moran (best known for playing Joanie on Happy Days), who received a bit o’ splash back for their comments after her death. Some of the comments either directly mentioned or alluded to the actor’s well-known struggles with substance abuse as the likely cause of her death.

Indeed, the rush to remark upon and speculate about a famous person’s death is worthy of a modicum of scorn. It seems celebs often Twitter-trip over themselves to see who can be the first to express condolences and…opinions.  If, for whatever reasons, you feel the world needs your commentary within hours of the death notice, can you just say to her family and friends that you’re sorry for their loss, and leave it at that?

There’s more to the story. In my mind, at least. When it was revealed that Moran had been diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer, the self-righteous gotcha! critics took aim at the self-righteous she-died-from-substance-abuse speculators:  Aha! Shame on you! It was cancer, it wasn’t drugs!

Except that it was.

There’s more ways to die from substance abuse or drug overdose or to have a drug-related death than by choking on your own vomit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As of this writing, it appears that Moran died from throat cancer. Throat cancer is one of many cancers caused by cigarette smoking. Moran was a longtime cigarette smoker.

Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, DeeDee Ramone, Philip Michael Hoffman, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley – we’ve all heard or seen the list of hundreds if not thousands of musicians and actors, politicians and reporters and others in the public eye who’ve died of drug overdose/substance abuse.

George Harrison‘s name never appears on those lists, and that frosts my butt.

The Beatles’ lead guitarist and far too many of his comrades died from their chronic use of arguably the most powerful addictive substance – nicotine – known to humanity. However, their names do not appear in the annual toll of drug/substance abuse deaths.

Also not appearing on those lists: Yul Brynner, Spencer Tracey, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Peter Jennings, Desi Arnaz, Humphrey Bogart, Rosemary Clooney, Bob Fosse, Warren Zevon, Sarah Vaughn, and the other musicians, actors and artists who died from lung cancer and other cigarette-related diseases.  Is it because their deaths were due to their addiction to a toxin which happens to be legal?  [1]

 

 

cig

*   *   *

Department of Prom Dress Rugby

Because how much fun is that?

 

 

 

Last weekend  MH and I made a road trip up to Tacoma, to visit daughter Belle,  [2]  who lives in a rental house off-campus. As always during our visits with her  [3]  we found an excuse to go onto the college campus, such as:

(1)  it is a beautiful campus, so who needs an excuse?

(2)  to view and/or participate in Some Interesting Event ®

(3)  see reason (1)

(4)  there is no reason (4)

In the case of (2), Some Interesting Event ® turned out to be Belle’s (former) rugby teammates suiting up for their annual Prom Dress Rugby match. A tradition amongst many college women’s – and some men’s – rugby teams, a PDR match is pretty much what it sounds like. The women get decked out in formal finery (worn over their usual game uniforms) and play serious rugby…or as serious as you can be while charging up the pitch with your feather boa dangling behind you or trying not to grind your tiara in your teammate’s ass during a scrum.

Referees of any gender – and often the men’s rugby team members, in solidarity – also don the festive attire (I imagine thrift shop owners local to colleges with PDR events are pleased at the spike in used formal wear sales).  Sometimes PDR events are mixed gender: not quite the Battle of the Sexes, more like The Battle Of Tuxes And Dresses, wherein the men’s team wear prom dresses and the women’s tuxedos, and the teams play an exhibition match against one another, usually to raise money for charity.

While Belle remains an active supporter of her school’s rugby teams, her class and work schedules have not allowed her to be a member of the women’s rugby team this year. I have mixed feelings about that. I love the fact that she has taken advantage of the opportunities around her, to try/learn new skills and activities (that’s what you do in college, right?), from lumberjack axe-throwing to rugby to kick boxing to being a disc jockey at her school’s radio station. I also and decidedly do not miss the weekly (no exaggeration  [4] ) bills MH and I  received, during her sophomore year, from various doctors, hospital, physical therapy, urgent care and other medical facilities – bills which resulted from an enthusiastic and but relatively petite young woman participating in so physical an activity.

 

 

rugbygirl

Image not to scale.

Department Of How Can I Make This About Moiself

Via Belle’s participation in the sport, the more I learned about the forthright and festive and playful “culture” of college rugby, the more I wish I had further pursued an invitation to join the UC Davis women’s rugby team.

 

 

 

 

tellmemore

 

 

 

I was involved in athletics throughout high school. During my senior year, after I had been accepted at The University of My Choice ® (aka UC Davis), I received a letter from the UCD Athletic department. The letter was both brief and fawning – a note saying they’d heard of my athletic “accomplishments” and were thus extending me the honor of an invitation to try out for their field hockey team.  [5]  I had a good laugh showing the letter to my family, and then responded with a letter of my own, in which I briefly and non-fawningly declined the invitation.

I’d enjoyed my various school sport adventures, from field hockey to volleyball to track & field to badminton, but I’d had enough of schedules and practices. While I intended to try out the occasional intramural sport while in college – and is there any game more fun than inner tube water polo[6] – I viewed my continuing participation in team sports as…well, as so high school. College was going to be a new thing, much more intense academically than high school, I assumed (and hoped), and I didn’t want to tie myself down to any other time-consuming extracurricular schedule.

I can’t exactly recall how she found me, but early in my first quarter of my college freshman year a short but strapping young woman knocked on my dorm room door one afternoon.  She said she was on the women’s rugby team, and asked if I’d be interested in attending a rugby scrimmage, as an observer. She’d gotten my name from the UCD field hockey coach, and while she was aware that I wasn’t interested in being on the UCD field hockey team, she figured that my having been a hockey player meant I must like sports requiring running and endurance, and the rugby team was seeking new players….

What the heck; I had a free afternoon. Like most Americans then (or now, I’d wager), I knew next to nothing about rugby, and thought it might be a jolly good show to watch something that required an effort of concentration for moiself, as a spectator, to try and figure out what the heck was going on.

 

 

       

rugbydance

Watched it; still didn’t know what the heck was going on.

 

 

 

 

While not vain about my appearance, [7]  I was fond of (most of) my body parts and in particular my teeth; thus, after observing two scrums, I thought, I’m outta here.

A minute after coming to that conclusion I chided moiself for making such a snap judgment – or for, as The Young People Of Today ® say, for getting’ all judgy.

I stayed for the rest of the practice. In an attempt to be cordial and to also learn more about the sport, I made conversation with She Who Had Invited Me. It turns out SWHIM didn’t know much more about the rules than what I, a newbie observer, was deducing moment by moment. Still, SWHIM was filled with enthusiasm for her new sport. She told me she’d participated in everything from field hockey to basketball to softball to swimming in high school, and had decided that rugby was the best game, ever.

I stopped prodding her about regulations and strategy, and asked what she personally found so enjoyable about rugby. The skills required? The workouts? The strategy? The…?

“Oh, it’s just the best!” she gushed. “After every game, we party with the men’s team. AND THEY BUY ALL THE BEER !!”

 

promrugby

 

*   *   *

May you be cognizant of which drugs you use or abuse;
May you realize that the best use for a prom dress has nothing to do with the prom;
May the other team always buy all the beer;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] But alcohol is legal, and alcohol poisoning and related deaths are included on those lists.

[2] A junior at the University of Puget  Sound.

[3] And prior to that, with her brother, K, who graduated from the same school three years ago.

[4] I thought we check into running a tab at the Tacoma Urgent care clinics.

[5] The honor did not include mention of a scholarship or any $$$.

[6] Which was invented at UC Davis, ahem and hurrah!

[7] Then, as now, I walked around looking like…well…looking like moiself.

The Secrets I’m Not Publishing

Comments Off on The Secrets I’m Not Publishing

 

Department of IF ONLY

Dateline: Tuesday, April 25, 8:31 am. I turn to the last page of the New York Times Arts section, only to have my eyeballs unexpectedly and viciously assaulted [1] by an enormous, surgically-stiffened nightmare of a visage – it is an advertisement for a “book.” The “face” to which I referred currently belongs to a particular offshoot from a particular celebrity-mongering hominid tribe. The ad takes up the entire page

The entire fucking page.

A really big headline –  FINALLY, THE WHOLE STORY – menacingly looms above a really big picture of the product being flogged: the ironically and erroneously entitled, The Secrets Of My Life. Caitlyn Jenner.

 

 

 

KHAN

No. No.  No. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

 

 

 

If only such would truly be kept confidential – which is in fact what a secret is.  That title; that book; those people…. So wrong, on so many levels. Including that of basic word usage and definitions. How can there be any “secrets” about any member of that conniving clan of celebrity seekers whose only talent is self-promotion – a tribe who seemed determined to convince The Rest Of Us ®  that a colonoscope’s view into their every moment is warranted?

 

 

policetape

Back off, folks. Move along; there’s nothing here to see.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Correspondence Re Dead Friends

Bay Area friends LH and DH, who are very much alive, were up for a visit last weekend. LH, a fellow UCD alum, had expressed her condolences re the death of my friend since college, Jim, the One Of The Nicest People You’ll Ever Meet ® (mentioned in last week’s blog).  LH has also experienced the recent passing of several loved ones, and we email wondered (e-wondered?) back and forth about the situations. Are we getting to that stage in our lives, or are these deaths just a wobble in the Circle Of Life’s orbit?

Here is what moiself mused:

 One of the things I’ve long admired about some of the Buddhist perspectives on life is that there is an admission, right up front, that life is tough! No one gets out alive (well, then there is that silly reincarnation crap….).

I wish I could remember the phrasing; I know it’s not the 4 Noble Truths or the 8 Fold Path (Buddhism is big on numbering things), but a few years back I came across a list of Buddhist observations that were as profound as they were simple. I kept the list in my office, and now I can’t find it (a cat probably barfed on it, and it got thrown out).

It forthright, yet somehow not depressing, and goes something like this:

It is in my nature to grow old;

– It is in my nature to contract illness;

– It is in my nature to have the cat barf on things that are important to me.

And so on. As you may have guessed, that third observation isn’t really attributed to the Buddha (but if he’d had a cat I know he would have been enlightened on the matter).

So, I guess it is in our nature to, as the years go by, be adding to our list of loss. That doesn’t mean I have to like it…

I guess it keeps me humble, how even the things I *know* are inevitable (like my mother’s and Jim’s deaths) and think I have prepared for still sneak up and kick me in the spleen. And I want to kick back SO HARD but there’s nothing to aim at. At least the MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) course I recently completed is helping.

WAIT  WAIT – I FOUND IT! It is called The Five Remembrances (see, I told you about the numbers thing). The idea behind the Five Remembrances is this: when we deny the reality of life, we appreciate it less. There are several versions/phrasings; the following is attributed to Thich Nhat Hanh.

* I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

* I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.

* I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

* All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

* My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

 

 

buddha cat

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I’ve Always Thought My Dinner With Andre Was Overrated,
But Dinner With A Dung Beetle Is Spectacular

The lowly dung beetles – where would we be without them?   [2]  Dung beetles are some of the most unappreciated creatures on this planet, so I was thrilled to run across a short-but-sweet video clip about them, via the NY Times. Dinner With a Dung Beetle is a presentation about – a tribute to, really – these vital creatures.

Naturally, the dung beetle video got me to thinking about potluck dinner parties.

 

 

siriusly

 

 

Yes, seriously.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (read: when our now young adult offspring were still living at home), we used to host potluck dinner parties for ~ 20 – 30 people on a regular basis. The parties always had a theme, and guests were encouraged to bring food to share that they could justifiably claim was appropriate to the theme.

Past dinner party themes included

Cusina Obscura  [3]

*  White Trash Potluck   [4]

*  The PuPu Palace   [5]

*  Better Red Than Dead  [6]

One of our most memorable parties was held in the autumn of 2005, when MH, son K, daughter Belle and moiself transformed our humble abode into The Dung Beetle Café. The guests were encouraged to bring round or “roll-able” culinary creations, in honor of dung beetles but also to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox. Or, at least that’s how we convinced our guests to attend.

The real story behind what sparked the party theme was an evening several weeks prior to the party, when my ungrateful wretches darling offspring complained yet again about the exotic (to their middle school palates) meal I had once again served for dinner…which lead to them being treated to the following harangue serene clarification from moiself.

Do you know how lucky you are? You should be thankful we’re not…uh…a family of wolves. What if your father and I were wolves? Each night, after a long day of hunting, we’d return to the den, greet our pups – that’s YOU – with howls of, “We’re home – gather ’round, time to eat!” And then we’d serve you dinner by regurgitating the elk we’d eaten and partially digested.

Or what if we were…dung beetles, yeah! What if we were a family of dung beetles?  “Hey Mom, what are you making for dinner tonight?”  The answer would be the same, Every. Single. Time. “Good news, kids, it’s DUNG for dinner!”

 

While my kids counted their blessings I left the dinner table, scurried to my office and wrote myself a note about what would be the theme for our next dinner party. The rest is potluck party history.

 

 

 

dung

Is this a great party or what?!

 

 

 

About a year or so ago MH heard someone tell a dung beetle joke – the first dung beetle joke MH had ever heard. Romantic fool that he is, he couldn’t wait to tell me about it. I was smiling the rest of the day, in awe of the joke’s masterful sublimity. I’m smiling right now, just to have this chance to share it with lucky y’all.

A dung beetle walks into a bar and asks the bartender, “Is this stool taken?”

 

 

 

duck

The chicken doesn’t talk, either.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you have many great remembrances of many friends;
May you appreciate culinary diversity in all forms;
May you tell me every dung beetle joke you hear, the moment after you hear them;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1]  I feel as if my retinas have been scarred. And it’s not like I was standing in line at the supermarket and caught a glimpse of a tabloid headline, and could then look away. I turned the page of a (formerly) respectable newspaper, and was ambushed.

[2] Answer: covered in manure.

[3] Foods of the “minor” cuisines, as defined by people’s familiarity with the cuisine and/or its availability in restaurants.  In other words, none of the usual suspects — French, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, German, Moroccan….  How about Gourmet Guyanan?  Savory Samoan?  Nouvelle Netherlands or Norwegian Noshes? Tasty Tibetan? Yummy Yemeni…?  

[4] White Trash Food was defined for the party as embarrassing comfort food. From the party invitation:  That is, food you (at one time) ate and even liked, but would hesitate to share with others. Are you ashamed to admit you loved your school cafeteria’s “Salmon Surprise?” Do you secretly crave your Aunt Erva’s liver/lima bean/cream cheese casserole, or have fond flashbacks re surviving college on Kraft Mac and/or Stouffer’s chicken pot pies?  This is your chance to share these goodies with others, in an atmosphere of mutual confession, acceptance, and acid reflux.

[5] Pupus, as in appetizers and “finger foods.” From the Hawaiian-derived term  pū-pū, which indicates a relish, appetizer, or hors d’oeuvre.

[6] Guests were asked to bring a Red Food dish to share.  There are the classics — Cajun red beans & rice; beet juice risotto; Red Hot Chili Pepper layer cake…. An imaginative interpretation of the theme was strongly encouraged, as we feared dining on nothing but cabernet and ketchup.

The Subject I’m Not Avoiding

1 Comment

 

…except that I almost sorta kinda am. It’s later in this post.

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Work Here Is Done

…is what I could be saying, if I only I had written that one certain…thing.

But, I didn’t.

I wrote other stuff, and am currently on a fiction writing hiatus, after having published sixty-one short stories, one theatrical play, three books, various essays and anthology works and poems and children’s verse  [1] (and one Country/Western-type song, which mercifully remains unrecorded  [2]  ).

And then, there’s that thing I didn’t write. Listening to the local ham operated radio station that has recently caught my attention, I heard a Dead Teen Song ® parody with which I was hitherto unfamiliar.

 

 

teen tragedy2

 

 

 

Y’all are familiar with the genre Dead Teen Songs ®, even if you might not instantaneously recognize the label. Also known as teenage tragedy songs, death discs, splatter platters and the like, these ditties had their radio play heyday in the late 50s and early 60s. DTS are defined by shared literary clichés, including doomed/star-crossed and eternally devoted teenaged lovers kept apart by disapproving parents or peers, and tragic accidents  (usually involving motorcycles and cars) befalling those same reckless teens….  Think Teen Angel, Leader of the Pack, Tell Laura I Love Her.

Some of the best songs to come from the DTS craze were those that satirized the genre. Including, the send-up to which I refer.

I would feel artistically and culturally fulfilled, I could leave this world with my head held high, had I only composed this tender ballad, the mind-numbing heart-wrenching lyrics of which include:

My Johnny, oh how I love him
but he is caught in a teen age trap
he couldn’t turn down any drag race through town
and now all I have left is his hubcap

Chorus:
Please Johnny please, stay in my tender embrace
Please Johnny please, I don’t want you to drag race

My Johnny, oh I can see him
coming ’round the last lap
handsome and brave, if only he didn’t wave
I’d have more of him left than his hubcap

My Johnny, oh how I’ll miss him
and although he and my dreams lay in scrap
I’ll do what he’d expect and wear it around my neck
My Johnny’s, my Johnny’s hubcap

(All I Have Left Is) My Johnny’s Hubcap, performed by The Dellwoods

 

 

 

teen tragedy

*   *   *

Department Of Why It’s A Good Thing I’m Not The Surgeon General
Nor Capable In Any Way Of Influencing National Health Care Decisions

Content warning: TMI

Las

t Thursday, after my routine annual physical exam, because I am Of A Certain Age ® my doctor suggested a screening colonoscopy. I bargained her down to letting me start with something less invasive, and thus I was sent home with the equipment to gather a sample for a Fecal Immunochemical Test[3] The next day, while out for my morning walk, I strode past a chunk of a dog’s bm, which an irresponsible dog owner had neglected to scoop.  My first thought   [4]  was, What if I pick that up, take it home and send it in – would the test be able to distinguish between canine and human fecal matter?

 

 

REALLY

*   *   *

 

I met Jim Olwell during my sophomore year at UC Davis. Jim was a freshman; we lived on the same dorm floor (the legendary 3rd floor Bixby), and he became my adored and admired friend even before I saw him in the Herbivorous Man costume he concocted for a Halloween party. We kept in touch through the years; his emails and letters  [5]  were always a combination of heartfelt and hilarious, even – and especially – during the last ten years, when he was beset with multiple cancers.  His “ride to beat Multiple Myleoma” ended early last Saturday morning, April 15.

Anyone who knew and loved Jim (and if you knew him, you loved him) realized that this was coming; still, the news of his death was a boot to the gut.  Dearly loved husband to his wife and devoted father to his three young adult sons; loyal friend and brother; much-admired community charity activist; motivating math teacher to thousands of high school students…he’d lived and done so much. He was only 58.  Some people leave a big hole to fill when they’re gone.  Or big shoes to fill. Jim would have preferred the latter metaphor, especially coming from moiself, as I used to tease him about his really big feet.

Another UCD alum, Robin E., wrote a tribute to him Jim on FB that is so eloquent and touching I have forgiven her (yet again) for spelling her name wrong. I found this excerpt of RE’s tribute particularly affecting, in that years ago I had also used the George Bailey character as a comparison when describing Jim to my children:

Have you met anyone in your life that you would genuinely, authentically, say was kind of like the George Bailey character in “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Someone who made a difference in SO many people’s lives, cherished by everyone, loved deeply by his wife and children, who would do anything for him, humble, hard working, always sacrificing and doing for others, always a smile on his face, even through the worst of it? I haven’t either. Except for Jim.

People have offered sincere and kind words to me, for my loss of Jim as a friend, and also for what yet another loss represents. Even as I cherish these sentiments I realize that my loss is so little in comparison to Jim’s wife and sons and brothers….  I know it’s not a contest; nevertheless; Jim’s loss is anything but representational to his family.

I want to share more stories of him in this space, and I hope that I will have the energy to do so in the coming weeks, but right now, thinking about it makes me feel tired in ways I can’t quite express. Which is too bad, because Jim so loved to hear anyone’s and everyone’s stories. He was the best audience, ever.

 

*   *   *

May you find pleasure in novelty songs and their parodies;
May you never for one moment think of switching medical samples;
May you cherish the stories and memories of friends and family;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Ah, but who’s counting? Oh yeah….

[2] “If you Can’t Live Without me Then Why Aren’t you Dead?”

[3] Which consists of collecting a sample of just what it sounds like.

[4] Immediately followed by my second thought, Why do I think such things?

[5] Jim was a great letter writer, and, unlike so many others, did not eschew that form of communication once he discovered email.

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