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The Phrase I’m Not Saving

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RESCUE 911
 We’re lost in the woods, and need an extra large with mushrooms and double cheese…and a helicopter, please.

Join our thrilling, reality-based series, during which MH and I discover our son’s true concerns should we ever end up lost or injured in the wilderness.

Dateline:  Sunday, July 7.  MH and I planned on driving up to Vancouver, WA to go hiking on a new (to us) trail. We invited son K, who declined. [1]

As I was lacing up my boots I informed K of our destination, and told him I was leaving a map of the trail on my computer.  I decided to test his hiking/outdoor recreation, “Buddy system” safety awareness [2] by asking him, “So, what would you do if we did not return by a certain time?”

“What time?” K asked.

“Absolutely, by dinner time,” I clarified. “But we should be back way before that.”

“Well…” K steepled his fingers in front of his face in a Mr. Spock-like pose of thoughtfulness.  “I haven’t been to Pizza Schmizza in a while….

chopper

                              *   *   *

As already noted on this week’s The Mighty Quinn FB page, my calendar said that July 8 was Toot Your Own Horn day.  (It also said that July 2 was Eat Nothing But Dark Chocolate For Every Meal and Your Teeth Will Be Bright and Your Breath Minty Fresh day.  Don’t you wish you had my calendar?) Thus, I excerpted one of my favorite reviews of The Mighty Quinn, which is on Goodreads, courtesy of fellow writer, SCM:

I should start by saying what THE MIGHTY QUINN is not. It’s not for every middle grade reader, nor is it a book for a bright younger kid whose parents read MG books out loud before bed. (I tried.)

THE MIGHTY QUINN is a smart book, and it’s going to appeal to brighter MG readers. It’s a clever and funny book about the Borgia-like scheming simmering below the surface of elementary school social life.

It’s about what it’s like to be raised progressively when peers are, well, not.

 It’s about what it’s like to be raised in a free-thinking and non-religious home, when peers are, well, not.

It’s about what it’s like to be a clever and funny kid when peers are, well, not.

What’s more, it’s the rare book for smart MG readers and their parents to read together. A smart MG reader is doing most reading without parents. This is, in some ways, a last hurrah for those bedtime reading rituals that parents miss more than kids—although it never seems to feel like that when you’re reading Mike Mulligan for the hundredth time.

Bonus: there’s plenty that will make parents laugh.

SCM gave the book a 5 star rating, and states that it is not for every middle grade reader [3].  I liked that. I for one am turned off by reviews which proclaim, Everyone will/must like this book! Because, that’s never the case, is it?  Also, the same, I-like-these qualities the reviewer lists about TMQ would be red flags for those people (certain adults, I think, more than certain children) who, sadly but frankly, are predisposed to not like a book that presents a sympathetic portrayal of kids who “…are raised progressively.”

And so it goes.

Oh, and now that I don’t have to do it every night, I do miss reading Mike Mulligan. MikeMulligan

*   *   *

This week I attended my first professional baseball game in…I truly do not remember how long it has been. [4] Growing up in So Cal, my summers were filled with trips to Chavez Ravine for Dodger games and Anaheim Stadium for Angel games (and if you climbed to the top of our backyard’s big pine tree you could see the stadium’s halo light up when an Angel hit a home run).

I forget what year it happened, but after one player/owner strike too many – when I asked myself, hmmm, which group of millionaires do I feel sorry for? – I lost interest.  I went from a high schooler who subscribed to Sports Illustrated, someone who could quote lengthy passages from Ball Four, someone who, much to MH’s befuddlement, could whip anyone’s ass in a 1970s Dodger’s baseball trivia contest, [5] to someone who just didn’t give a flying festering fartbag about professional sports.

Except, of course, when Kirk Gibson hit his gimp, game-winning home run during the 1988 World Series, which cause my younger sister (whose husband was rooting for the Oakland A’s) and I to exchange, gloating phone calls: YEEESSSS!

Once again, I digress.

So, on Monday I dragged MH, son K and his friend and moiself to Hillsboro’s new baseball stadium, home of the Hillsboro Hops, Hillsboro’s new new minor league team .  I really, really, could have done without the inane announcer’s patter and the kiddie tire races and kiddie hoop shooting contests and kiddie bunny hops and the other “amusements” between innings (Hades forbid we should be content to merely sit with our thoughts or converse with other attendees – we must be ENTERTAINED at all moments).

That irritation aside, hearing the distinctive slap of a 94 mph pitch hitting the catcher’s mitt, watching fit young men in fit uniforms [6] loping around a field on a hot summer evening, savoring a bag of peanuts roasted in the shell – the night brought back primal memories for me.  The night also provided a reminder of a most epic parental fail, when my 20 year old son made a comment which indicated he did not know how many innings are in a baseball game.

Ball Four

*   *   *

“It has never been easier to be a writer, and it has never been harder to be a professional writer.”
(Adam Gopnick, The New Yorker, as quoted in the Spring 2013 Authors Guild Bulletin)

sadwriter

Because the Authors Guild takes their mandate seriously (“…the nation’s leading advocate for writers’ interests in effective copyright protection, fair contracts and free expression….”), their bulletin is full of the news that matters to writers; i.e., reports on how AG attorneys and advocates are fighting the good [7] fight against the erosion of authors’  income streams and copyright and royalty protection and trends in e-publishing….  Almost all of it is really, really, really depressing:

E-books are way less expensive for publishers to produce, but instead of being more generous to authors, the major publishing houses all rigidly insist on clauses limiting e-book royalties to (that which gives authors ) roughly half the traditional royalty on hardcover books….Five of six major publishing houses were sued by the DOJ’s anti-trust division for fixing e-book prices…numerous pirate sites (supported by advertising on Yahoo and Google) offer new and old e-books for free (and too many Americans, especially younger ones, seem to believe that if it’s on the internet it belongs to everybody – even while they pay for cable)…Amazon acquired a patent to re-sell e-books… [8]

I think when the next issue of the Authors Guild Bulletin arrives I’ll save time and, before turning the first page, assume my custom-designed, Author’s Yoga Pose ®.

YOGA

 Whattheasana
(aka Author’s Pose)

Whattheasana is a pose of realization.  It transfers tension from your neck, shoulders and back to your brain bucket, where tension belongs.

(1) Begin in a kneeling position, on the hardest surface you can find.

(2) Drop your buttocks to your heels. Exhale and stretch your torso down and forward, lengthening your tailbone from the pelvis as you rest your abdomen atop your thighs, your forehead on the floor. Inhale one long breath of futility.

(3) Exhale. Place your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up in the universal gesture of surrender. Visualize your most recent royalty statement and/or the Ten Must-Have Marketing Strategies for Writers! conference come-ons in your email inbox. Let the weight of the world rest on your shoulders, broadening your scapulae across your back and further grinding your forehead into the floor.

(4) Inhale, extend your cervical vertebrae and raise your forehead several inches above the floor. Exhale, release your forehead to gravity and chant your author’s mantra (“d-uh”) as your forehead hits the floor with a chakra-satisfying thud.  Repeat this sequence, staying in the pose for one to five minutes, or until the half-hearted urge to even consider enrolling in any Social Media Web-inar/Tutorials subsides.

*   *   *

Pacas and Toucans and Turtles, Oh My!

a baby leatherback turtle heads for the ocean at Pacuare

a baby leatherback turtle heads for the ocean at Pacuare

Belle returned late Tuesday evening from a nine day trip to Costa Rica.  She and 17 other Oregon Zoo Teen leaders were participating in an Ecology International Field Service Project.  The kids and their adult guides helped biologists at La Suerte [9] Biological Field Station and the Pacuare Nature Reserve gather data on sea turtles, and the Costa Rican mosquitoes helped themselves to fresh American teenage blood.

The pangs of missing my daughter didn’t hit me until July 4, when I was out running errands/having lunch with MH.  I passed the time at the local animal shelter while MH roamed the aisles of Lowe’s, and at the shelter I saw The Cutest Kitten In the World ® which, fortunately, had a sign on its kennel indicating it had already been adopted.  Belle would have adored the kitten, I thought…and it’s a good thing she’s in Costa Rica, because she just possibly would have found a way to talk MH and I out of our Crazy Cat People  Limit. [10]

After home improvement errands MH & I had lunch at Red Robin, where I was reminded of something I do not miss about my daughter, or my son, now that both of them have been housebroken for some time.  When I used the RR’s restroom I overheard the distinctive dialogue which indicated the presence of a Six Legged Monster [11] occupying the handicapped stall.

“Mommy, I did a stinker!”

“Yes, honey, you did a stinker.”

“No, YOU did a stinker!”

“Okay, I did a stinker – no, wait, don’t open the door, your sister isn’t done yet….”

sequential

Two minutes later, in the parking lot, there was yet another parent/child/potty story unfolding: a young mother was changing her infant son’s messy diaper, using the rear of her SUV as a changing table. With the car’s hatchback door up, passersby (including yours truly) had quite the view.

I’m not going to tell the story in all of its Technicolor glory.  I’d like to save the phrase poop-encrusted scrotum for 2014.

Happy Independence Day, indeed.  And the hijinks ensued.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] There were, as always, aliens to be battled in cyberspace.

[2] Always inform friends and family about your trip itinerary, ideally include a map and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return….

[3] I like her subtle nudge re how TMQ appeals to the “brighter” reader. Ahem.

[4] Remembered during the edit! It was in October ’92, at Baltimore’s beautiful Oriole Park: MH & I with my groovy friend and fellow Ball Four lover Ernie Kyger, with a special guest appearance by Baltimore Sun sportswriter (and high school friend) Peter Schmuck .

[5] Name the Dodgers infield that played together for more than eight seasons — a major league record! (Cey, Lopes, Russell & Garvey)

[6] I’m married, not dead.

[7] If ultimately futile, in my humble yet realistic opinion.

[8] These feel-good excerpts are from the From the President article by AG President Scott Turow.

[9] Idiomatic translation: good luck with the heron-sized mosquitoes.

[10] I say it’s four (naturally, we have four cats).  Belle insists you’re not truly in Crazy Cat People territory until six.

[11] A mother and her two young children.

The Ides I’m Not Bewaring

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March 15.  The Ides of March.  Beware them.

The main reason my elderly mother should have internet access.

Forget all the practical reasons: the mental stimulation provided by keeping up with technology, promotion of intellectual vigor and independence, facilitation of communication, including keep up on the family news and receiving the pictures of grandkid that, these days, we tend to take (and send) digitally…. None of these factors have convinced her.  Perhaps if she knew, if she really understood, that she’s missing out on the viral video memes, including my favorite:  singing goats.  There’s even a French version.

pi

Happy belated Pi day, y’all

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Mighty Quinn got a review in Kirkus Reviews, [1] The review is live now for Kirkus subscribers, and will be available for anyone to see two weeks before the book’s scheduled publication date (so ~ May 1). Here are the quotes Scarletta Press  is pulling from it:

“For her first middle-grade novel, set in Hillsboro, Ore, Parnell creates interesting child and adult characters and confronts them with serious issues, including child abuse, care for the environment, ethics and even skin color.” — Kirkus Reviews 

“…it will certainly provide food for thought.” — Kirkus Reviews 

“…one of the few books for the audience that discusses the possibility of not practicing a religion. (Fiction. 9-12)” — Kirkus Reviews

Further on in the review there is a mention of the action being “often humorously interrupted by the realities of family and school life,” but, golly gee, nothing about belching the Pledge of Allegiance or cultivating the friendship of dead mice or the applesauce-diarrhea art project (it’s not all serious stuff, folks)….

‘Tis a good thing – the review itself, and even getting a review, especially considering the chances any book has of getting reviewed by a legitimate book reviewing outlet.  The stats, from Publishers Weekly via the Authors Guild Bulletin, vary only slightly year to year:

“Three thousand books are published daily (1,095,000 per year) in the U.S.  Six thousand are reviewed, less than one percent of the total published.”

For someone who close-to-never reads book reviews,[2] my own or anyone else’s, this whole getting-a-review thing [3] is going to be an interesting experience for me.  Interesting as in the actual meaning of interesting, rather than as how some people employ it as a passive negation of all things exciting or note-worthy.  When my mother an older relative of mine remarks, as per the exotic [4](to her) dish I’ve cooked, “Isn’t that interesting?” she really means, “I don’t like the way that smells.”

My first book, This Here and Now, a collection of short fiction, was statistically consistent in that it was one of the 99+ percent that didn’t get reviews [5]My Closet Threw a Party managed to get a couple,[6] although my editor didn’t bother to alert me to them.

About that pesky legitimate adjective, as per reviews.  What with self-publishing and e-publishing, the reviewing game [7] has changed.   There are services now that, for a price, will give your work a flattering review.  The most recent Authors Guild Bulletin alerted me to an article in the New York Times, “The Best Reviews Money Can Buy“, which focused on one such service:

 “Todd Rutherford offers a service that provides glowing “reviews” of self-published books.  He charges $99 for one review, $499 for 20…. All of them will say your book is terrific.  His reviews will say your novel is “shattering.” Or your book is a “classic memoir.  Will change your life.  Lyrical and gripping. Studding and compelling. Or words to that effect.”

 Have the reviews in publishers weekly and the few newspapers and magazines that still review books become irrelevant?

The Times article said: “Consumer reviews are powerful because, unlike old-style advertising and marketing, they offer the illusion[8] of truth.  The Federal Trade Commission has stated that all online endorsements need to make clear when there is a financial relationship, but enforcement has been minimal.  So forget about the old-fashioned, serious reviews. They are barely clinging to life.  From now on, selling a book will be just like selling perfume or breakfast cereal.”

A coda, of sorts:  The guy in the article, the composer of for-hire rave reviews?  He says that he is now suspicious of all online reviews — whether of books or of anything else.  As my mother might say, isn’t that interesting?

bad smell

*   *   *

Smarter People Than Us Said This

* If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: “Thou shalt not ration justice.” ~ Sophocles, Greek playwright

* It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have. ~ James A. Baldwin, American Novelist, poet, social critic

* Corn can’t expect justice from a court composed of chickens. ~ anonymous African woman

*   *   *

Justice, schmustice.  And by the way, what spirits were consumed by our spirited forefathers [9] that led to them to think ’twas a good idea to allow Supreme Court Justices to serve until they die or retire?

Nine of the most powerful people in the country are not elected by the people.  Rather, they ascend to their position of power via political appointment.  Supreme Court Judge is the only position in the federal government appointed for life.  Once they’re there, there are no competency tests, no opportunity of voter recall.

Which brings me to SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia, aka the Rush Limbaugh of the Supreme Court.  When it comes to being the poster boy for arrogant, white male privilege blindness Scalia has a litany of the-rules-don’t-apply-to-me incidents and statements, including his refusal to recues himself from a case involving his good friend and duck hunting buddy, Vice President Dick Cheney.  More recently, Scalia criticized and quoted parts of the “Obamacare” law that weren’t actually in the law, admitted he hadn’t even read the law he’d criticized and was about to rule on, and laughed at the notion that he should actually attempt to read the Affordable Care Act before ruling on its legality.

facepalm

Scalia’s most recent face-palming pronouncement came during the SCOTUS hearing on the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, one of the most successful pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history.  Scalia said “This is not the kind of question you can leave to Congress,” [10] and labeled the continued existence of the Voting Rights Act a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.

Emergency call for all budding inventors:  please, ASAP, devise an intellectual equivalent of Depends for the mouth of Justice Scalia.

The only way Supreme Court Justices can be removed from office is via impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction in a Senate trial, but only for the types of offenses that would trigger impeachment for any government official under Articles I and II of the Constitution.  Such offenses have been interpreted by the courts to equate to “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Really, shouldn’t embarrassing themselves be somewhere in the criteria?

scalia hat

I don’t know which is more indicative of Scalia’s declining mental fitness, his (most recent) racial entitlement blather, or the fact that he thought a miniature pillow sham was fitting head ware for the Presidential Inauguration.

*   *   *

crocus

The sighting of the first purple crocus breaking through the topsoil – ah, the harbinger of spring!  For one brief shining moment there is the reminder of the season to come…and then there is the reminder of the season to come.  In my nose.

I used to love Spring, until my beloved Oregon [11] decided that the tax for residency for this ex-pat Californian would be levied in the form of fucking fauna sperm pollen allergies.  I feel like a kind of seasonal Scrooge when I find myself reacting to the first series of sunny days with a Bah humbug! attitude toward the imminent nasal mucosal assault.

sneeze

*   *   *

Take me now, Flying Spaghetti Monster
Aka Department of Does it Get Any Better Than This?

Last Saturday MH and I were treated to have a behind-the-scenes tour of the Oregon Zoo‘s updated Humboldt penguin habitat and facilities.  Through our Conversation Circle membership and K’s and Belle’s involvement with Zoo Teens we’ve had many opportunities to go where no zoo guest has gone before, but this one was my favorite.  I finally got to meet Mochica!  Mochica is a penguin who imprinted on and was hand raised by humans – he seems to think he is human.  I’d heard so much about him over the years, particularly from K, who’d done an internship with the penguin keeper.   Mochica was just as described:  observant, friendly, curious, intelligent, and with just enough eau d’herring to give one’s nasal passages a good workout.  I got to scratch his favorite ahhh spot (the back of his neck…so soft), and Mochica gave me the high honor/vote of penguin confidence by grooming me, which in his case consisted of gently nibbling my forearm.

groomed by mochica

As you might imagine, much penguin hijinks ensued.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] One of the oldest book review magazines, Kirkus, reviews ~ 5000 titles per year.

[2] The two times a year times I read book reviews, I am reminded of why I don’t do it more often.

[3] Translation: reading reviews TMQ may get, and, frankly, convincing myself to care about them. Yep, I’m cranky that way.

[4] To her, cooking with spices other than Morton table salt and black pepper = exotic.

[5] Other than by its editor (which doesn’t count as objective, does it?) and consumer reviews on book sites.

[6] School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly.

[7] Given the statistics, I have always considered it a game.

[8] My emphasis, ad my comment:  all reviews offer the illusion of truth. It’s all they can offer; it’s all an illusion.

[9] Adams enjoyed a tankard of hard cider before breakfast; Madison drained a pint of whiskey each day; Jefferson made his own wine; they all enjoyed (and often brewed their own) beer and whiskey.

[10] Uh, actually, it’s exactly the kind of legislation appropriate to Congress.

[11] Grass seed-growing capital of the world, hip hip achoo hooray!