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The Very Specific Felony I’m Not Committing

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Department Of Weekend Updates

Inquiring minds want to know  [1] –  and several have asked me about – the situation with the ‘hood.

 

 

 

 

No, no no no –inquiring minds. Not the other kind.

Yet again, I digress.

I refer to my neighborhood’s dilemma, mentioned in the September 15 edition of this space, wherein moiself detailed how, without warning or notification,  [2]  a drug and alcohol treatment business moved into our residential cul-de-sac.  [3]  Here’s where things stand, as of this week.  [4]

We the Neighbors ® participated in a mass emailing and phone contact campaign, from each concerned household and individual, to the head of our city’s planning Department, who is supposedly in charge of Such Things ®.  The responses (as per those of us who have received and compared them) seem to be identical [5]:  a form email – from the City’s Public Affairs Manager (not the Planner, to whom we addressed our concerns). The message used 518 words to thank us for our concern, regurgitate arcane zoning info, and inform us that

“… recovering addicts are considered a protected class
pursuant to federal housing law.”

My seven word summation of the communiqué:  Hey neighborhood, it sucks to be you.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Taking An Ahhh Break Before Beginning Another Rant

I almost stepped on this petite creature on Wednesday afternoon, when I went to our CSA farm to pick up the weekly produce share. She was sitting on the barn floor, quiet as a…barn kitty?…and then became MOST INSISTENT about being petted.

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

Department of Consequences

“No one raindrop considers itself responsible for the flood.”
(Chinese proverb)

 

In my near-future dreams, I meet a very nice, personable, intelligent, levelheaded-seeming person who is running for some local (as opposed to Federal) office – let’s say a State Representative – as a member of the Republican party. We commence to talking about Things, and this person, like other Republicans I’ve read about, sincerely claims that they were horrified and disgusted by their party’s nomination of that-which-became-our-country’s #45,  and that they are frustrated and embarrassed by #45‘s petty petulance, blatant ignorance, narcissistic and racist and sexist rants and antics, and his evident lack of self-control,mental stability, gravitas, discernment, and intelligence – his lack of just about any admirable quality that befits a world leader…

As I engage this person in dialogue I discover that I could, and in fact would like to, vote for this person, as we share similar opinions on the issues at hand.  But I have a hard truth to convey, and segue into that by telling them about my voting history. I tell them about how, ever since voting in my first election at age 18, I have scorned anything resembling party loyalty (and in fact I think the concept, along with one-issue litmus tests, is harmful to democracy).  Depending on the candidates/issues, I have voted for – in the past, and had expected to do so in the future – Democrats, Republicans, Green Party members, Independents, even a Libertarian or two ( or six) and a couple of socialists.  [6]

I myself belong to no political party.  Sometimes I register one way or another for the primary election, in order to vote for (or against) a certain candidate, but immediately post-primary switch back to no party affiliation.  Were I to have kept tabs on such things, ’tis a sure bet that more commonly (but not always) the candidate on the “liberal” or “left” side of the spectrum who has received my vote.

That said, here is what I would like this Nice Reasonable Republican For Whom I Would Like To Vote to know. Sadly but sincerely, I cannot support you as long as you are registered Republican and your party allows #45 to remain in office.

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I am holding you, and your fellow Republicans, personally accountable.  If Republicans continue to act as if they have lost both their scruples and their cojones and do not, from the lowest city commissioner to the senior members of the US Senate, rise up and with (or without) joining with the Democrats and others, work to impeach the Cheetos Hitler and/or invoke the 25th Amendment to remove that most unfit “president” from office, you will not have my vote.

Even if as a nation we somehow manage to survive the next 3 ¼ years with that maniacally treacherous, treasonous buffoon and his minions in office, I still will not vote for someone, for anyone, who is registered with the Republican party. I will never ever again vote for a Republican candidate, and will do my best to convince others to do likewise.

That’s it.

You may protest that you didn’t vote for him, that you are nothing close to being a party bigwig and are only a lowly local office holder and have no sway with the federal wing of your party, etc….   Excuses, schmuses. You are (all) responsible. He ran as a Republican for a reason; he became one of yours, and you let him. You did not do what was necessary to put your country, your fellow Americans, above your spineless, head-in-the-sand, political expediency…or whatever. Yes, you were responsible – you are responsible – and I’m holding you to it. For. Ever.

 

 

Who you lookin’ at – it’s not my fault!

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Abrupt Segue To Shinier, Happier Subjects

Daughter Belle is very much enjoying her Marine Biology class labs, where in the class and the professor head out on a boat in the Puget Sound and…explore.

I am almost as thrilled as she is – and I look forward to today’s vicarious enjoyment, when, like every Friday this semester, I receive pictures like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

Department of Unexpected Stylings

 

 

“So you want a little off the top – I’ll show you a little off the top….”

 

 

 

 

Dateline: last Thursday afternoon, sitting at the chair in my hair stylist’s salon. While stylist KL fastened the hairdressing cape around my neck, I noticed an item on her station’s stand that was new to me. Next to the familiar containers of gels and sprays, and holders for combs and brushes and other styling utensils, I espied a bright orange spray can of something called Clippercide.

 

 

 

 

 

Although KL swore to me that Clippercide was merely a spray used to sterilized shears and other haircutting gear, I was suspicious. The product’s name was poorly chosen, I insisted. It sounds like a very specific felony charge filed against a haircutter who scissors someone to death.  

 

 

 

“First degree Clippercide – book ’em, Danno.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you never be on the receiving end of “Book ’em, Danno;”
May you never step on a barn kitty;
May you always hold the raindrop responsible for the flood;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Or don’t give a tinker’s fart. It’s a tossup.

[2] and with deceit and subterfuge from the business’ Executive Director.

[3] In the case of MH and I, right next door.

[4] Using the Very Much Long Story Made Short ® format.

[5] Save for the salutation, in which our first names are used. Ya gotta love the personal touch.

[6] And once even a member of the Communist party, because I wanted to see if by doing so I would get on some FBI or governmental watch list. How idealistic foolish was that? (Yep, I was in college.)

The Work I’m Not Imitating

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As I’ve occasionally carped about mentioned in this space (here, and here and here, to list just a few spaces), I often find writers guidelines [1] to be obtuse, pretentious, long-winded bunk.

 

 

However, I sometimes have the good fortune to stumble across a gem like the following, discovered while checking a clearing-house type website for literary journals seeking material (my emphases):

The James Franco Review Call for Submission

The James Franco Review is seeking fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. (snip snip)….
We aren’t looking for work that imitates James Franco’s work or satirizes—writers need not be so cruel.

I did not send them anything, but I did take the time to savor the metaphorical breath of fresh (and not hot) air.

*   *   *

Speaking of clearing the air….

Which I wasn’t. Not to get all technical, but I was writing, not speaking. I was also trying for a segue. Bear with me.

 

That’s not me on the right. If it were, then the picture would be Bear with me.

 

Last week BBC News Hour reported on a story about researchers in Germany and Saudi Arabia who found that “….pollution levels over several major cities in the Middle East are dropping and have concluded that it is due to economic and political unrest and war.” It seems that the chaos of war and instability leads to a lowering of economic standards in many cities, which means that less fuel is burned by cars or used in electricity production.

What a wonderful if totally unintended byproduct of madness, I thought, in that making-lemonade-from-lemons way of mine. People with respiratory diseases suffer and die due to air pollution. People with weakened immune systems and other health disorders, as well as all of us Average Citizens ® , experience diminished quality of life due to pollution. As per the EPA:

“Scientific evidence indicates that ground-level ozone not only affects people with impaired respiratory systems (such as asthmatics), but healthy adults and children as well. Exposure to ozone for 6 to 7 hours, even at relatively low concentrations, significantly reduces lung function and induces respiratory inflammation in normal, healthy people.”

And from the World Health Organization:

“Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma… Ambient (outdoor air pollution) in both cities and rural areas was estimated to cause 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012. Some 88% of those premature deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, and the greatest number in the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions.”

However.

After reading the story’s provocative premise and before continuing with his report, the BBC announcer made some toss-off remark about how he hated to highlight such a “trivial” point (as reduction in pollution), given the effects of war and instability.

A reduction in pollution – read: air poison – is trivial?

I wanted to reach through my car radio and slap him.

 

 

 

Sorry to bother you with something so trivial….

*   *   *

Department of More People I Want To Slap

 

Late last week much of Oregon west of the Cascades Range was blanketed by smoke from fires burning in Oregon and Washington east of the Cascades.

I’ve lived here for almost twenty-five years. My brain can’t remember ever seeing (or smelling or tasting) pollution that bad, in this area, but my lungs and bronchial tubes did provide me with a sensory memory: the tightness under my sternum was a flashback to being a child of So Cal in the 60s and 70s.

I remember well (and would like to forget) the days of Smog Alerts, when PE classes and athletic practices were cancelled and/or held indoors and some parents kept their kids home from school and all citizens were advised to restrict physical activity and refrain from driving if possible. [2]  Hospital ERS and doctors offices reported being clogged with the most vulnerable patients (the elderly, and young children) who experienced shortness of breath and headaches, and I felt a distinctive “catch” in my chest when I tried to take a deep breath.

I also remember that it got better. The air quality, that is.

 

Surf’s up…down there, somewhere.

 

Many years ago, during a daytime flight to visit my So Cal family, K and Belle expressed alarm as our airplane made its descent toward the Orange County Airport. [3] “What’s that?” K asked, as he pressed his nose against the airplane’s window. “Yeah,” Belle chimed in. “What’s that brown stuff we’re flying through?”

“It’s the air,” I replied. “Or, at least, what passes for it, here.”

I proceeded to inform my offspring that, believe it or not, it had been worse when I was their age. [4] Although there are twice the amount of people and vehicles in So Cal now then when I was living there, the air, while not clean, is cleaner, thanks to the enactment of strict emission standards.

Here’s where the slapping part comes in: ere’s where the I remembered how furious I was when certain redneck relatives of mine bragged about how they’d removed the catalytic converters from their emissions-belching vehicles, because no gummint agency (cough, rasp, hack) was gonna tell them (wheeze, pant, snort) to sissify their muscle cars.

*   *   *

Yet Another Way To Clear the Air

Or at least, your sinuses.

I mean of course, by consuming roasted peppers. This is the season where you may be fortunate enough to acquire Padrón peppers from your farmer’s market, your CSA or even your local grocery store.

 

The pretty, “before” picture.

 

Padrón peppers are sometimes sold alongside shishito peppers.  How to tell the difference? The two varieties look almost identical. A Produce Dude ® told me that the two are often confused, even among farmers. The shishitos may seem to have a shinier surface and are a bit longer and twistier and “ridgier” than Padróns.

Both peppers are generally milder than jalapenos. No matter; they’re both tasty, with slight differences in flavor. [5] After discovering and then playing around with them, I don’t make ’em any other way than by using the following the skillet dry-roasting method.

Dry skillet roasting requires just three ingredients

(1) Padrón (or shishito) peppers, intact [6]
(2) your best/most flavorful sea salt

(3) your best olive oil
(optional – the oil’s not for cooking the peppers, but for seasoning them afterward)

and five pieces of equipment

(1) a large cast iron skillet (or comal)
(2) tongs
(3) an oven mitt (that pan is gonna get hot)
(4) a shallow (but not callow) serving bowl
(5) okay, it requires only four pieces of equipment

Get your skillet good and hot (a drop of water should wiggle and dance on its surface and evaporate almost immediately). Add the peppers, in batches if you have a lot – don’t crowd ’em, they should be in a single layer. Sear peppers ~ 1m on all sides. They may wiggle-dance just like the water droplets, which is just too cute.

 

Actually, this is just too cute. But not edible.

 

Use the tongs to turn the peppers as they roast – you want the skin to blister. [7]  When they are roasted to your liking, tong-transfer them to the serving bowl, drizzle ’em with the oil (if using), [8] sprinkle with sea salt, and serve: hold by the stem and eat the rest of the pepper. You may want to take a test bite first. (Padróns vary in hotness; some folks say the larger peppers are hotter. [9] )

 

The yummers “after” picture.

 

*   *   *

Department of That’s What He Said

MH and I usually do the NY Times Sunday crossword together during lunch. This past Sunday MH decided to get an early start. As I was cleaning up my breakfast dishes he read aloud one of the clues that, he said, was stumping him, even though the answer was only four letters long.

Clue:  “When repeated, an aerobics class cry.”

I did not spew an immediate solution, and so MH wrote in what was, to him, the only logical answer:

“Stop.”  [10]

Please, please make it stop.

*   *   *

May your personal and professional guidelines be down-to-earth,
May your air be breathable,
May your peppers be wiggly and tasty,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1]  a set of guidelines from a literary journal or publisher that specify their requirements for material from writers, including the length, categories, format and styles of articles they seek, rights purchased and compensation rates, appropriate editors or other contact persons, how to submit work (query first or send full ms.), etc.

[2] Which, for a Southern Californian of that day, would only be possible if they’d lost both arms in a pesky meat grinder accident.

[3] Aka The John Wayne Airport. The name change in 1979 still frosts my butt. Airports should be named for their location, not for a wealthy movie star whose only connection to the airport was grousing about the airplanes flying over his Newport Beach mansion.

[4] And we had to walk to school with barbed wired wrapped around our feet to get through the six foot snow drifts in winter…or was that my mother’s story?

[5] After roasting, Padróns have a light smoky taste, while shishitos may seem slightly sweet/herbal/floral.

[6] Intact as in whole peppers with their stems, not intact as in, with all their boy parts still in one piece.

[7] the padrón’s skin, hopefully not yours, because you’re using the mitts to handle the hot pan, right?

[8] This is optional. They are delicious just dry-fried and tossed w/salt.

[9] Some folks have been known to be wrong.

[10] The answer was, “step.”

The Seat Change I’m Not Accommodating

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A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste

The dream I had Wednesday night was, perhaps, a plausible consequence of having teased my brain with two very different reading materials earlier in the evening.  The first was Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys, the memoir of Viv Albertine, former guitarist of the seminal punk band, The Slits. The second was a foo-foo foodie blurb about varying key ingredients for a difference in thickness of vinaigrettes.  Hours later, I dreamed I was a musician in a punk tribute band, who did mostly Ramones and Sex Pistols covers. I was the bassist, and took the stage name Cyd Viscous.

Bitchin’ gob name, but you spell it like a wanker.

*   *   *

Return of the CSA [1]

The produce is here! The produce is here! Yesterday was first weekly pickup of our CSA’s season, which, depending on weather and other farmy  [2] factors, runs ~ mid-to-late April through October.

I loooooooooooooooove going out to La Finquita del Bujo (“The little farm of the owl”), in the scenic Helvetia farmland just north of where I live.

Physician-farmer Lynn (Left) and farmer Juvencio (right)

I get a feeling of indescribable…tranquility comes closest, when I visit the farm, to load my basket with fresh/seasonal/local produce (I’ve missed having access to Chinese broccoli, which is rarely found in stores), count the farm goats’ kids and try to spot the swallow’s nests in the barn rafters.

Yummers – lots of green for dinner tonight.

*   *   *

Enough with the waxing bucolic. This is my blog, after all. Must be time to complain about something.

Department of Hormonal Ranting

You may have stepped in this pile of festering oral turd spew run across the story in several news venues. It seems that Texas businesswoman Cheryl Rios, CEO of a Dallas PR firm – the aptly named Go Ape Marketing –  said that although she supports “equal rights,” a woman “shouldn’t be president” because of “different hormones” and “biblical sound reasoning.”

BBBRRRRRRRAAAAAAAA. I’m sorry, Tex-Ass CEO, but that buzzer means you’ve forfeited your chance to play in the Double Jeopardy round.

Women and men do *not* have different hormones – although the ones affecting this particular woman’s neuromodulators need some tweaking, as her asshat statements indicate. On the other hand, you have different fingers, in the case of most of the blather involving the word hormones, it is likely that she is simply ignorant, rather than willfully sexist.

Hormone, schmormone. Let’s all take The Hormone Pledge ®  and stop using the term as a catch-all, mysterious gender chemical label – because it isn’t. People who say “hormones” affect behavior are likely referring to (what they think are the) “sex” hormones, and totally forgetting the incredible assortment of the body’s most powerful behavior regulating hormones (e.g., leptin, one of the key regulators of appetite) – that, like the majority hormones, have nothing to do with gender.

A hormone is, in simple terms, a chemical messenger produced by human organs and tissues that is used for sending signals to other organs and tissues, to coordinate the body’s activities. The vast majority of hormones (and there almost one hundred) are involved in regulating digestion, metabolism, respiration, tissue function, sensory perception, sleep, stress, growth and development, ambulation….you know, * everything.* All hormones are found in both men and women, in amounts that vary only slightly between genders in the case of estrogens (mistakenly referred to as “female” hormones – men also have estrogen) and androgens (mistakenly called “male” hormones – females also have androgens).

Back to the story, hormonally balanced boys and girls.  As per the Huffington Post‘s account, Ms. Rios the Texas CEO (which in her case must stand for Christian Empty-headed Organism)  made a Facebook post in which she “…stressed that ‘there’s an old biblical sound reasoning why a woman shouldn’t be president.’ ” But, golly gee whizzing snakes in a garden, she didn’t cite any biblical verses to support her view.

As for her – or anyone – citing “biblical reasoning” to justify anything – by now y’all are aware on my opinions on that matter.  Ain’t enough hormones on the planet to explain that Go Ape Shit.

t

*   *   *

Preview of Coming Attractions

Mark your calendars, local book lovers: A week from this Saturday, on April 25, the Beaverton City Library will hold a book fair featuring local (Washington & Multnomah county) authors.

The event, ingeniously titled Author! Author!, is free, open to the unwashed lit-loving public who, from 10a – 1p may browse and (hopefully) purchase selected titles of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and children’s literature penned by local authors, as well as rub shoulders [3] with authors and fellow bookworms.

Yours truly will be there, with copies of The Mighty Quinn, and also my short fiction collection, This Here and Now . [4]  Do stop by, if you can, to say howdy, browse the titles, and maybe bring me some celery sticks.

*   *   *

Department of Are We (Still) Having Fun Yet?

Recently there have been several articles, in the New York Times and other news outlets, about how flights to and from the Tel Aviv airport [5] have experienced delays and disruptions when ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refuse to be seated next to women.

Andrew Roffe, 31, a writer based in Los Angeles, said he and a friend wound up debating the ethics of the situation after Mr. Roffe described his experience on a flight….. When passengers started to board, an ultra-Orthodox man stood in the aisle, refusing to move and delaying the departure for 15 to 20 minutes until another passenger volunteered to switch seats.
“My buddy who is Orthodox was saying this is a traditional thing — he doesn’t want to be tempted when his wife wasn’t there. And I said, ‘Are you kidding?’ This was just some woman flying to work or home and minding her own business.”
(When a Plane Seat Next to a Woman Is Against Orthodox Faith, NY Times, 4-9-15)

In many of these incidences, airlines and/or passengers have tried to accommodate the Orthodox ortho-assholes’ men’s demands, a fact that is almost as infuriating to me as the idiocy of the demands themselves. Such “tolerance” is in fact abetting ignorance, discrimination and bigotry – don’t do it, folks. Would you accommodate a demand from a member of Christian Identity, or one of the other religious groups that believe in the separation of “the races,” if he refused to be seated next to an African or Latino or Asian man?

A flight from New York to Tel Aviv was delayed by half an hour last week after a group of male ultra-Orthodox Jewish passengers refused to sit next to women, the third such incident in recent months….The cabin crew tried to find seats for the men, but were met with refusal by other passengers, some of whom who took a dim view of the reasoning behind the request.
(“Groups of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men keep delaying flights by refusing to sit next to women,” The Independent, 4-16-15 my emphases)

A dim view, ahem.  Once again, I ponder the dimmest of views that the backward thinking which produces the shrouding of women, both literally and metaphorically begets. Religions and cultures which preach restrictions for women, and for men’s contact with women, almost always cloak (yuk yuk) or justify such restrictions about women as being a protection for women; specifically, to preserve women’s modesty and/or privacy, to prevent them from being considered sex objects, to shield them from the less than gracious gaze of the menfolk, yada yada yucka.

Aside from the fact that religions which forbid or severely restrict intra-gender contact outside of marriage [6] are JUST PLAIN MYSOGYNIST and severely fucked up, the restrictions (for both men and women) end up doing the opposite of what the proponents of them say they do. Restrictions and proscriptions for women deeply and relentlessly sexualize women.

Limiting women’s physical presence in/access to public society and limiting inter-gender contact combined with shrouding the female form – these practices practically scream to men, LOOK, IT’S A WOMAN !!  Males raised in societies where they have little or no contact with unrelated females learn a warped, circular, paradoxical social dynamic – ’tis a  Catch-22 situation that reinforces the dangerous nonsense they are taught. They don’t get to know girls and women as people, but as The Other. This mysterious, dangerous, Other’s mere presence will tempt them to stray from whatever path they’ve been taught they must follow…and yet, they must desire this Other, as per Allah’s/Yahweh’s plan for family and procreation. Since the men in such societies don’t get to know women as friends, mere acquaintances or co-workers, women are either relatives or potential mates – potential seductresses! – who therefore must be cloistered and….round and round and round again.

Although there is nothing arguably or intrinsically private or provocative about a human being’s elbow, human nature being what it is, if you are indoctrinated with the idea that catching even a glimpse of a woman’s uncovered  ____ (hair, feet, elbows, nostrils) is provocative, then it will become that forbidden fruit.  I saw her suggestively wrinkled arm joint and  felt a pang of lust – it must be true — praise Yahweh/Allah/Fox News and get that hussy away from me! [7]

I keep thinking about the Orthodox man on the airplane, who said he didn’t want to be “tempted” by sitting next to a woman. [8] Poor schmuck. The average American man boarding a crowded plane is not thinking about avoiding temptation when he is seated next to the average American woman. Yo, Ortho dude, here is what normal, rational people think about on airplanes: they wonder how long/late the flight will be and what will happen to their luggage, and will their rental car reservations be messed up like the last time they flew to Cleveland. They are hoping the human beings seated on either side of them are not Amway distributors looking for new recruits or the type of people who chow down three garlic sauerkraut chili dogs from the airport’s Baby Got Brat kiosk before boarding a six-hour nonstop flight.

♫ I like big brats & I cannot lie…♫

 

*   *   *

 

May all of your fellow travelers in life be healthfully-hormoned, and superstition- and sauerkraut–free, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] You knew that was Community Supported Agriculture and not Confederate States of America, didn’t you?

[2] Sorry to get all agricultural-technical on you, and in only the second paragraph.

[3] And elbows or other non-sexual body parts, which still may be threatening to Ultra-Orthodox Jews (story to follow).

[4] Which is out of print – RIP, Scrivenery Press – and may only be obtained from the author herself, ahem.

[5] And, more and more, other destinations, as the high-birthrate Orthodox population increases, and encounters the rational – i.e. non-Orthodox – world.

[6] e.g. most strains of Islam, Hasidic and other varieties of Ultra-Orthodox Judaism.

[7] Although I’m singling out conservative Jews and Muslims here, I hold the same contempt for conservative Christians’ Purity Movement and similar organizations, which over-emphasize and warp human sexuality via their obsessive teachings on “sexual purity” (shudder).

[8] Time to tempt SCM with another footnote to nowhere. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

The Ides I’m Not Bewaring

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Beware the Ideas of August.

That was an honest typo.  I’d intended it to read, Beware the Ides of August.  My Train O’ Thought ® was knocked off its track…hmmm…might as well hop on the next one.

What are, for me, the ideas of August?  There is one, and it keeps repeating itself:

 

*   *   *

What’s for dinner, you ask?

Why, it’s bibimbap, you lucky diners, you.

Wouldn’t you opt for something called bibimbap?  Even if you could choose from:

☼  Cedar planked grilled Chinook salmon with huckleberry sauce
☼ San Francisco cioppino seafood stew
☼ Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi
☼  Lemon garlic roasted whole Dungeness crab

The next time I make cedar planked salmon I’ll say it’s bibimbap.  It won’t actually be bibimbap, of course.  Nomenclature, schmomenclature – I call the right of nouvelle-fusion cuisine, which means I can give it whatever appellation I want.

Here’s what bibimbap (bee- beem- bahp) actually is, when it is not doing a cedar planked salmon imitation.  Bibimbap means “mixed rice” in Korean.  Bibimbap is a classic Korean dish, and there are as many bibimbap variations as there are Kim Jong Il [1] and Kim Jong Un jokes.

The dolsto bibimbap variation uses cooked rice, crisped in sesame or other oil in a heavy-bottomed pan in the oven or on the stove, as a base for a variety of toppings: steamed or roasted vegetables, plus tofu (plain or steamed or sautéed) and/or a meat or seafood item or fried eggs.  Veggies are arranged so that adjacent colors are complementary…or in whatever pattern that suits the cook’s mood…to form a visually pleasing presentation.

 

All ingredients are mixed together just before doling out the individual servings.  Or, everyone can sing a chorus of “We Are the World” and eat from the same pot.

On second thought, skip the singing part.

It’s summertime, and bibimbap seems like the perfect dinner dish to incorporate the abundance of fresh veggies we’re getting from La Finquita del Bujo, our CSA.  Besides, I like saying bibimbap.  I like thinking it, too (bibimbap!).

Family and future dinner guests, you have been warned.

*   *   *

Calling the Dream Interpretation Squad

Dream dateline: my high school reunion dinner.  I was seated at a table with three former classmates, with whom I’d had a passing knowledge/acquaintance-type relationship (i.e., I didn’t know them well at all, and vicey-versace).

I had been receiving treatment for cancer of some kind, and had shaved my head before the reunion, as I didn’t want to be shedding hair into our bibimbap  lovely reunion dinner.

 

The electric razor I’d used was defective; thus, I did a really crappy shave job, especially near the nape of my neck, which was covered with blotches of hair.  I explained the reasons behind my unique grooming to my tablemates, and was unnerved by their reactions.  They seemed (1) very happy to see me, (2) very happy to hear that I had cancer, (3) even happier that my scalp looked like it was the  don’t try this at home warning photo for a depilatory fail.

 

Like this, only much, much worse.

*   *   *

Excuse me.

It’s like a nervous tic.

bibimbap!

*   *   *

In last week’s post I mentioned my morning walk/listen to podcast routine. These walks sometimes put me into a contemplative or ruminative state of mind – I find myself chewing the mental cud, so to speak.

 

Ego ruminant, ergo sum [2]

One day last week I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast which wandered around the topic of whether tithing to one’s church makes the tithers happy. This particular topic had sprung from a question submitted to Freakonomics by a listener, “J. ”  On the show’s website, the Freakonomics hosts described their treatment of the topic:

J is in effect asking two questions, related but separate. One is whether giving away money – in this case, to a religious institution – makes you happier. The other is whether religion itself makes you happier. Neither question is easy to answer, but we’ll do our best.

Excuse my momentary digression of a critical nature: that particular Freakonomics show did a piss-poor job of “answering” either question, IMHO.  Yo, Freak dudes – don’t go throwing around a self-descriptive like “best” with regards to that show.

Anyway…distracted as I was by the Freaks wandering around the topic, I began to wander around it moiself.  Here is a bit of  my meandering, on that Marianas Trench of a topic: what religious institutions are and what people “get” out of them.

Churches are bibimbap.

 

DAMN !!!  This has got to stop.

Churches are habituaries. [3]  As in, churches are places wherein one becomes habituated to churchy ideas. Churches are places where one becomes habituated – wherein one adapts to and even becomes comfortable with – intellectual and communal ignorance.

Beliefs which you’d consider absurd at face value [4]  (and do consider absurd, if they are coming from a different habituary [5] )  or if you encountered them in any other venue – it is your church’s job to make you get used to them…so used to them, you often forget they are even there.  You sing the songs, repeat the liturgies, without thinking about what you are saying and without considering, is this plausible?  Is it true? And, if your church is successful at this most important of churchy tasks, you accept what is taught or said within the church without applying the kind of reasoning you would to any other statements that purport to explain reality.

Whether or not you take your religion’s teachings, rites and practices “literally,” your church (temple/mosque/ashram/Celebrity Center/Chrystal Vibration Shakra Retreat Lodge) is a place where you become inured to recitation of falsehoods about, and absurd explanations for, the natural world.

I think this is especially true for habituaries filled with liberal and/or nominal believers, [6] many of whom join a church so that their children may attend the church’s private school (e.g., if the local public schools have a bad rep), and/or because they want some kind of churchy experience so their children can be “exposed to religion,” and/or because they enjoy the social club aspect of church attendance (churchy term: fellowship).  These parishioners aren’t primarily church-going for the theology; thus, they tend not to pay much attention to it, past mouthing or acknowledging certain religiously correct platitudes (“god is love; we are all god’s children.”).

And churches and the people inside of them can get away with this, because religious teachings, rites and theologies are protected by a bizarre kind of social and political immunity – under the umbrella of “religious faith” –  from having to offer rational, objective proof  [7]  (“here are the reasons we do/believe this”) for their beliefs and proclamations.

Of course, many folks eventually figure out that it’s all a bucket o’ hoo-haw, but continue to show up for the potlucks.

 

“Another fucking egg salad casserole – they promised there’d be bibimbap!”

*   *   *

May your weekend be habituary-free and ideas-laden, and may the bibimbap  hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Good news: Kim’s dead. Bad news: it’s not one of the Kardashians.

[2] I chew, therefore I am. All due apologies – me pardoner,  M. Descartes.

[3] Yes, I’m inventing that word, but necessity being mothers and all, it needs to exist.

[4] Christian habituary: all-powerful sky god sends his unborn son on a suicide mission to Earth, via impregnating a human female in some supernatural way, and Earth female births a baby who is both Sky God’s kid and Sky God himself, and Sky God junior is born on Earth ordained to be killed (even though he is Sky God, and therefore immortal)….

[5] Mormon habituary: Joseph Smith found golden plates containing divine revelation written in a strange language, which Smith translated by placing a seer stone in his hat and looking through his hat, at the plates; Muslim habituary: Muhammed ascended into heaven on some kind of mule or donkey-like creature, where he and other prophets chatted about prayer rituals; Scientology habituary: Zenu, dictator of the Galactic Confederacy, brought billions of his people to Earth 75 million years ago, stacked them around volcanoes and killed them with H- bombs, which caused the immortal spirits of those aliens to stick to present-day humans and cause mental and physical harm ( even going so far as to force them to watch Battlefield Earth).

[6] Fundies, is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

[7] “Because our magic/holy book sez so” is not proof.

The Expression Lines I’m Not Forming

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The Good Life ®

La Finquita del Bujo,  our CSA, put on their annual Harvest Festival last Sunday.  And such a day for it – clear skies with that certain, crisp autumn sun.  The farm was open to all subscribers, friends, neighbors, for a potluck feast and four hour festival.  The farm’s outdoor, hand-built brick pizza oven was fired up: Lyn and Juvencio, the farm’s owners, provided homemade dough, sauce and cheese and attendees brought toppings to share, and everyone provided encouragement to those whose dough-rolling skills were less than professional. [1] A friend of the family was making fresh pupusas on an outdoor griddle next to the oven, and the farm dogs and cats wandered from lawn chair to lawn chair, having a grand old time feasting on everyone’s food offerings.

Entertainment included performances by Hillsboro’s Baile Folklorico Mexico en la Piel , a local bluegrass group, and The Helvetia Alphorn musicians.  I’d never seen alphorns up close, or “live” (Ricola commercials don’t count).  They looked just like this.  Exactly. Well, minus the alpine background.  And the lederhosen.  And the featherduster hats.

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

Have I Got an Expression (Line) For This

I found this blast from the past while searching my files for…I forget.  For something else:

1-7-09, doing post-exercise cooldown.  I ejected the workout DVD and caught the tail end of a local noon news program.  As I moved into downward facing dog pose, the news gave way to a paid programming/extended infomercials, hosted by an aging TV actress (Victoria Principal?) who was shilling her line of anti- wrinkle/anti-aging skin care products (“Reclaim”)Reclaim, the grotesquely preserved still-beautiful performer declared, will “reverse the signs of aging,” smooth  away “visible forehead wrinkles” ( yeah, we’re not too worried about the invisible ones) and even get rid of those pesky “expression lines.”

Hitch up your loincloth, Mahatma Gandhi, and Melinda and Bill Gates, quit your whining about malaria—there’s a new humanitarian in town, and she’s out to rid the world of expression lines.  You know, the lines that come from using the muscles in your face to do something other than to don a mannequin’s smooth-checked, slit-eyed, I-wish-I-could-crack-a-smile-but-I’m-too-busy-reversing-the-signs-of-aging mask.

Expression lines – the ones evince your years of loving your children and laughing at their elephant jokes; the ones that accentuate your reaction to your spouses’ latest pun or your sports team’s heartbreaking loss in the playoffs; the ones that form when you can’t believe your brother-in-law told that story in front of your grandmother, or when you hear yet another Republican elected official make yet another ignorant remark about human biology.  The ones that let the world know you are alive.

I’ll sell you a no-cost, sure-fire way to stop the signs of aging: die young.

What pesky expression lines?

*   *   *

Why I am Postponing Reading the Latest Issue of P & W

The November/December Poets & Writers magazine arrived earlier in the week.  This issue’s cover shot is of an extremely self-satisfied looking [2] author Elizabeth Gilbert.  I somehow managed not to read Gilbert’s bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, despite having been chased in airports during the past seven years any time I had a flight booked, by security personnel who screamed, “If you board the plane without a copy of this book in your hands, the terrorists have won!”

So.  We return to our magazine, and to Gilbert’s beaming visage, below which is the title of the article (The Eat, Pray, Love Phenomenon), and then a question: What Happens After an Author Sells More Than 8 Million Copies?

Assuming the question is not rhetorical, WHO FUCKING CARES?

*   *   *

More Reasons to Go On Living:
Two Thumbs up for one Finger Up

You gotta love the intersection of art and political dissent.  This week I loved Czech artist David Cerney’s salute to Czech President President Milos Zeman, in the form of a giant purple [3] hand, middle finger prominently extended, floating on a barge in the River Vltava, facing Zeman’s presidential headquarters in the Prague Castle.

Cerney is – surprise! – not a fan of President Zeman.  Zeman is a self-proclaimed ex-Communist who accepts the likelihood of the Communist party regaining political power, thus enraging Cerney and other Czechs who hated and openly defied the Communist rule of Czechloslovakia (1948-1989).

My Pretty Purple Toe Award ® has got nothing on Cerney (“I just enjoy pissing people off”) and his Purple Finger of political Defiance.

*   *   *

Wishing y’all a finger-friendly, thumbs-up weekend, and may your own particular brand of purple hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] We make pizza often at home, and I proudly claim that my amoeba-shaped pies are deliberate, as well as artistic. And MH set out to make a calzone, not a pizza.  That was his intention; the fold-over was not to fix the holes.  Yep.

[2] Instead of “Say Cheese!” or “Smile!” the photographer’s prompt was, “Royalties and residuals!”

[3] Purple!

The Keys I’m Not Losing

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Lettuce and Taters and Beets, oh my!

Okay, no potatoes this week, but there be lettuce and beets, and an extra share of beet greens (hands down and earlobes up, my favorite greens), plus “dinosaur” kale, [1] broccoli, green beans, spaghetti squash, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, garlic, hot kung pao peppers and sweet red and yellow sweet peppers and basil….

All in our weekly CSA share.  La Finquita del Buho was bountiful this week. Fresh hot peppers will lead the way for tonight’s dinner…whatever it shall be.  All I know is that it will be tahini-free.  I usually love the stuff, but I happen to be holding a grudge.

*   *   *

That’s the last time I help an old man find tahini

I have one of those faces, or attitudes, or combination of attributes – oh, fine, surrender to the woo-woo:  I apparently project an aura that leads some people to think I know Where Things Are.  In general, no problem.  Today, ’twas the impetus for the panic experienced by Mature Individuals [2] that can only come from fearing you’ve lost something vital (today it’s the car keys, tomorrow it’s my offsprings’ names… how many kids do I have, anyway?).

Perhaps it was the fact that I was staring at packages of dried chilies with a look of smug disappointment (what kind of Hispanic Foods section doesn’t carry dried ancho chili peppers?!). There were other people wandering the aisles of the grocery store, store employees, included, but FOG (Friendly Older Gentleman) thought I was the one to help him find something “exotic.

FOG approached me, and asked if I happened to know where he could find…he paused and looked down at his shopping list…tahini? I led him to where I thought that item should be shelved [3], Et voilà !   We chatted amiably about his dinner plans, FOG showing me the shopping list his wife had written for him and both of us chuckling at his admission that he had no idea what tahini was and had wondered, Did she mean I’m supposed to find a condiment from Tahiti?  He gently squeezed my forearm, patted me on the shoulder and thanked me several times for my assistance.  I wished him a happy and tasty dinner, and took my bag to the checkout counter.

As I was unloading my bag at the counter I answered the clerk’s customary query, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” honestly:  Well,everything but Mexican oregano and dried ancho chili peppers.  With a look of confusion that morphed into concern, the clerk scanned my items and returned them to my bag and asked, “Did you try looking in the Mexican Foods section?” I smiled and nodded, keeping my Whaddya think, considering that four of the eight items in my bag came from the Mexican Foods section? to myself.

And then, no car keys.  Could not find them.  Maybe they fell into my grocery bag?  Nope.  I returned to the checkout counter and alerted the clerk. I retraced my steps throughout the store (asking every store employee along the way if they’ve found any car keys), exited the store to the parking lot and retraced my route into the store.   checked everywhere, checked every item on my person, giving myself a pat down worthy of a horny/ethically challenged TSA agent.  Nada.

I girded my loins and told myself to calm down, things could be worse…

 …and made the Phone Call of Panic and Shame to MH, who said he’d leave work as soon as he could, get the extra set of keys to the Zoom Zoom[4] and come to the store.  I returned to the checkout counter and asked the clerk where I could leave my contact info in case anyone found my car keys.  A smiling young woman who stood by the clerk looked at me and said that she had found some car keys and, she pointed toward the Customer Service desk.  I thanked her profusely and I asked her where she had found them.  She indicated what shall forevermore be (by moiself) referred to as That Damned Tahini Aisle.

*   *   *

Happy Writing Stuff

While I’m not happy about waking up several times the past few nights with the buzzing-in-my-head-that-needs-to-be-written-down-or-I-won’t-get-back-to-sleep, I am happy that in the mornings I have been able to decipher (well, uh, mostly) my in-the-dark scribblings.

Oh yea? You try it

I am going through my The Mighty Quinn Book #2 file. Picture an actual file folder, filled to bulging with notes on dialog, setting, plot points, character descriptions….  I’m not sure if a computer file can be said to bulge, but that’s what I’ve got, and it is both exciting and intimidating to start the virtual paw-through.  I’ve enough ideas and material for two more books, and now have to start the outline process and determine what ideas go where.

I already have the title for the second Quinn-and-Neally-and-company book, a rare pleasure for me to know what it will be (and good omen, the non-superstitious moiself hopes), as coming up with a title for a story is one of my least favorite aspects of  writing.

And I have to choose the characters’ names as soon as I think of the character.  I use baby naming books and other resources, to identify characters with names that hold special meaning, even if only to myself.  Hmmm, how can I denote this character’s total prick-osity without actually calling him a dick?

*  *  *

Speaking of dicks (and thanking moiself for that segue)….

Dateline:  last Sunday (9-8-13), MH and I in bed,[5] listening to NPR’s Weekend Edition.  My attention was caught and hackles were raised during Rachael Martin’s interview with author Norman Rush re his new novel:

On the surface, Norman Rush’s new novel is about a middle-aged man, Ned, who reunites with a group of college friends after one member of the group dies unexpectedly. But what transpires over the next few days ahead of the memorial service is less about Ned’s relationship with these men and the heady, self-absorbed days of yore, and more about how Ned sees himself. 

In his third, much anticipated novel, Rush takes the reader inside the most intimate parts of relationships — between Ned and his wife, between Ned and his deceased friend, and between Ned and his own expectations. 

Imagine that!, the cynical author part of moiself snickered to moiself while MH breathed deeply [6] beside me.  A novel written by a middle-aged author that purports to take a reader “…inside the most intimate parts of relationships;” a novel that is, the author says (further into the interview), “about friendship.”  Ah, that relationship-y thing again.  And the novel is “much anticipated” and taken seriously, and is also described merely as what it is:  a novel. There is no limiting modifier.

Now, change the gender (for both author and characters) in Martin’s commentary:

On the surface, Nora Rush’s new novel is about a middle-aged woman, Nell, who reunites with a group of college friends after one member of the group dies unexpectedly. But what transpires over the next few days ahead of the memorial service is less about Nell’s relationship with these women and the heady, self-absorbed days of yore, and more about how Nell sees herself. 

In her third, much anticipated novel, Rush takes the reader inside the most intimate parts of relationships — between Nell and her husband, between Nell and her deceased friend, and between Nell and her own expectations.

It’s strange, having a flashback on a Sunday morning in bed, when I’ve never taken an acid trip (in or out of bed).  But that’s what happened as I listened to the interview – I was back to a conversation with friend and fellow fiction author SCM  about an unfortunate, ongoing, literary dirty laundry issue which, thanks to uppity female authors with more clout than moiself, has received some airing in the past few years:

-Novels dealing with (what literary critics perceive to be) ” relationships” are often critically acclaimed when the author is male, and when the author is female such books are dismissed as “domestic/family dramas”…if they are reviewed at all.

Not germane to the rant, but a cute picture, oiu?

Warning: domestic drama ranting [7] ensues, via excerpts from an email, sent approx.  two years ago re this topic, to SCM):

“I think it’s a very old and deep-seated double standard that holds that when a man writes about family and feelings, it’s literature with a capital L, but when a woman considers the same topics, it’s romance, or a beach book – in short, it’s something unworthy of serious critic’s attention.”  [8]

On my way back from an errand this afternoon I caught the tail end of a rerun of NPR’s Fresh Air 2010 interview with author Jonathan Franzen, recorded not long after the release of his latest novel Freedom.  I felt an almost overwhelming urge to pull the car over to the side of the road, get out and find somebody’s yippie dog and give it a good kick.

The ways Franzen’s novels have been presented and marketed by publishers, and reviewed by the critics, have had me (and many other writers, almost all – surprise! – women) reflecting on the sexism and even misogyny that still pervades the wacky world o’ contemporary literature (well, the world in general).  What sent me into Pomeranian-punting mode were several of Franzen’s ruminations, including [9] :

“I wanted in this book to write about my parents’ marriage and their parental experiences as I observed them … but I…wanted to set it in times contemporaneous with my own. So in that way, too, I turned my parents into people my age; into people I might be or I might know. And that was the real engine. It was something that came from inside.”

“…much of the work on a novel for me consists in the kind of work you might do in a paid professional’s office of trying to walk back from your stuck, conflicted, miserable place to a point of a little bit more distance, from which you can begin to fashion some meaningful narrative of how you got to the stuck place.”

What frosted my butt was not Franzen himself – don’t know him, personally – but the fact that when he, a male author, chooses to fictionalize the subject matter of family, feelings and relationships, the resulting work is touted as a “masterpiece of American fiction” (Time Magazine) and “an indelible portrait of our times” (The New York Times).

The Fresh Air site acknowledged the controversy:  “So many terrific contemporary female novelists cover the same terrain, yet their work receives a fraction of the highbrow fanfare that greets Franzen. It’s like how men still get praised for doing housework and taking care of their own kids: Any male involvement in the domestic realm still merits applause.”

In the interview Franzen spoke extensively about how his own feelings, experiences, family relationships and background influenced his writing.  I was reminded of an excerpt I read many months ago, from article in New York magazine, in which a novelist noted that if a woman writes about herself or acknowledges using material from her own life in her writing, she’s a narcissist, and has no wider interest in or focus outside of [10] the domestic sphere.  If a male novelist does the same, he’s describing universal truths or chronicling the human condition.

Of course, such inequities almost always sound better when put into the mouths of fictional characters.  I love this observation, from the novel, Commencement:

“When a woman writes a book that has anything to do with feelings or relationships, it’s either called chick lit or women’s fiction, right?” one of the characters asks.  “But look at Updike or Irving.  Imagine if they’d been women.  Just imagine.  Someone would have slapped a pink cover onto ‘Rabbit at Rest,’ and poof, there goes the Pulitzer.” 

Here is something the non-fictional character moiself wrote over a year ago, right around the time of the release of Freedom (it’s from one of the documents in my Things I Hate About The Publishing World file.  Oy vey, it’s less expensive than therapy):

Freedom is being hailed as “a domestic drama about marriage and family.”  Effusive, serious praise…for a domestic drama.  Since it is a Jonathan and not a Joanna Franzen who wrote it, the book isn’t being consigned to the “women’s fiction” bin of commentary.  When a female novelist writes about herself, or her protagonists’ ethnicity, age, social and economic circumstances are thinly disguised versions of herself or her peers, she’s a neurotic narcissist.  When a female novelist tackles subjects related to family, feelings or relationships, her work risks being labeled “Chick Lit” (or the faintly more reputable, “women’s fiction”).

A (usually white) male author (e.g. Franzen, Updike, Irving, Cheever, Roth….) does the same thing, writes about the same “territory.”  Do the literary critics – whose  ranks are still overwhelmingly white and male – review his book in the category of…what?  “Dick lit?”  Noooooooo.   He’s illustrating and critiquing the human condition!  He’s doing some serious Li’t-ra-chure!

*   *   *

By the way, if you want to borrow the Dick Lit descriptor, feel free to do so.  Attribution would be nice (or, failing that, cash).  And may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Lacinto

[2] Make that, people age fifty and above.  I’m still waiting for the mature part to kick in.

[3], in my experience, that particular grocery store does not always follow my food-grouping logic (nor logic of any kind when it comes to shelving their stock)

[4] Mazda’s promotional nickname for the Mazda 3. MH & I refer to it as “the fun car” (a nickname we bestowed to distinguish it from our Honda Odyssey minivan, the Utilitarian Parent Vehicle).

[5] Shame on (or, good for) you, but sorry, not that kind of dick reference segue.

[6] Notice I did not type, “snored.”

[7] Still awaiting its critical acclamation. Yes, I’ve mentioned this topic before, and will doubtless do so again.

[8] author unremembered – at least, by me.

[9] (I checked the program’s website transcript to make sure I was recalling them correctly)

[10] No, there is no footnote in the middle of my email. How silly would that be?

The Power Within I’m Not Unleashing

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Remember the old station wagons, with the reverse rear seat?  Raise your hand if you were a way way back sitter.  Moiself, too.

The Way Way Back. You must see this film, although you may have to wait until it comes out on DVD.  The life of an independent film during the What’s Left For Bruce Willis To Blow Up?, Boom-Boom summer season blockbusters is a brief one.

The Way Way Back got me to thinking about another independent gem of a film, [1] 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine, which got me to re-watching LMS, which got me thinking about the pivotal scene in which Richard, who is trying to make it as a motivational speaker/life coach via his “Nine Steps to Success” program, confronts the agent who has been avoiding his phone calls, the aptly named Stan Grossman.

Richard:
You said it would sell…!

Stan:
That’s what I thought. At the Time.

Richard:
But it’s a great program! You said yourself!   I don’t understand…

Stan
It’s not the program, Richard, it’s you, okay?  No one’s heard of you.  Nobody cares.

…which got me to thinking about the strange phenomenon that is the circular, bastard stepchild of a pyramid-scheming-evangelical-preacher-snake-oil-huckster, Motivation/Success Seminar empire, of which infomercial giant Tony Robbins is the (self-crowned) king.

TR and his imitators are hawking nothing new – it’s all a repackaging and spinning of the positive-thinking, How To Win Friends and Influence People shtick.  There are and always have been legions of people who will listen to anyone with charismatic oratory skills who dresses and sounds and looks “successful” and talks about how successful he is and how he is therefore The One who can help you obtain the magic success formula (paging PT Barnum, please pick up your residuals check in the lobby).

I can’t help but wonder.  What with the “millions” of people attending TR’s Unleash the Power Within  seminars and rallies and Master University sessions and studying The Ultimate Edge tapes (described on his website as “The World’s #1 Personal Achievement System)”  [2]  – including, as per TR’s unsubstantiated mouth fart claim, “leaders around the world” – why isn’t the world a different, more successful place?

Golly gee, if TR’s [3] ultimate edge formula was even marginally effective I’d expect to be ultimately edged out on a simple trip to the grocery store, what with all those power unleashers and fire walkers (after their second and third-degree burns were treated) successfully congregating in the produce aisle.  They’d be everywhere, right?

Other than convincing less successful and/or minimally edged people to give him lots of $$, making him wealthy and adding to his I know the secret to wealth credentials (in the minds of the kind of people who consider purchasing lottery tickets to be a reasonable financial investment strategy), what has TR actually accomplished?  I mean, other than surviving the first and only Clydesdale-to-human head transplant:

*   *   *

Consumer Alert
The consequences of online shopping:

After ordering a festive housewarming gift for a friend, you may receive the following email from the seller’s customer service department:

Are you satisfied with Hawaiian Aloha Hula Girl Yellow Skirt Desk Home Office Computer Duster?  Dear Robyn Parnell, we want to ensure you’re satisfied with Hawaiian Hawaii Aloha Hula Girl Yellow Skirt Desk Home Office Computer Duster! If you’re dissatisfied in any way, give us a chance to make things right….    

That’s thoughtful, but, totally unnecessary.  How could I – how could anyone – be dissatisfied in any way with a Hawaiian Hawaii Aloha Hula Girl Yellow Skirt Desk Home Office Computer Duster?

*   *   *

“Why is it that when people die, we make such an effort to turn them into saints?
Especially when the entire reason we loved them so much in the first place is because they weren’t.”

That is just one of many passages I highlighted from a book in which I least expected to find highlight-worthy passages.  (It’s okay; read that sentence several times, sober or otherwise, and it’ll eventually make sense).

The book is by actor and standup comedian Alison Arngrim, best known for playing the love-to-hate-her character Nellie Oleson in TV’s long-running Little House on the Prairie. While looking for a picture to accompany a posting on The Mighty Quinn Facebook page (topic: memorable book villains and/or bullies), I came the name of the memoir Arngrim penned.  Who am I to resist a title like, “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated

I was initially surprised at my enjoyment of both the book and the author’s style, until I considered her years on the stand-up circuit, where she had time to develop her “voice.” Arngrim’s conversational, droll ironic narrative deftly serves her recounting life with her unconventional parents [4] and then was like an anvil to my head when she matter-of-factly recounts her years of physical and sexual abuse by her older brother.

I love this passage, from a chapter wherein she describes her friendship and early encounters with the man who would become her husband.  No wonder she married him.

I called his home number one day and got his answering machine. I was greeted with a terrible, high-pitched grinding sound, a screaming roar from the pit of hell. I later asked him what on earth it was.

“Oh, that’s my guitar solo,” he replied.

“A guitar solo?” I asked incredulously. I didn’t even know he played guitar.

“Yes. It’s from a song I’ve been working on. It’s called ‘Gozdilla Christmas.'”

*   *   *

As part of our CSA membership we are required to help with the harvest at least twice during the farm’s  29-week growing season.  Son K and I did a harvest help shift on Wednesday, picking herbs, 3 varieties of green beans, and finally tomatoes.  While gathering bushels of the latter crop, I came upon a special specimen. “This one is mine,” I gloated, for obvious reasons.

May all your produce be as photogenic, and let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] With an incestuous relationship to TWWB, as per shared cast members, studio and production staff.

[2] The #2 “personal achievement system” is some kind of battery operated marital aid.  Or so I’m told.

[3] Or Jim Rohn or Jack Canfield and his “Chicken Soup” or any of the stars on the Self Motivation tour.

[4] Her father was a closeted (if only is his mind; it was obvious to every around him) gay who was Liberace’s personal manager and her stardom-seeking mother provided the voices of, among many cartoon favorites,   Gumby and Casper the friendly Ghost.

The Match I’m Not Lighting

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The Random Acts of What the? edition

Don’t be humble, you’re not that great
(Golda Meir)

“Bullying, competition, hot and cold friendships, male and female peer role models, and comic relief are just a few of the 10 year old issues presented in the fun and fast moving plot pages for this humorous chapter book. Comic black and white illustrations decorate chapter beginnings and endings, and a comic portrait gallery of the cast of characters aids in fast comprehension. Who would believe the healing power of an ability to belch the alphabet? A suspenseful plot and precise sleuthing sells the story and teaches that Turner Creek School rocks and so does The Mighty Quinn!” — Midwest Book Review

Reading the latest review for The Mighty Quinn more than compensated for the non event at last week’s Beaverton’s First Friday street fair.  Five local authors were asked to participate, and shared three tables on the sidewalk outside of a sandwich shop (and yes, the connection still baffles me).  In summary: a yoga instructor left some flyers featuring a picture of a limber, lithe & lovely young yogi [1] on one of the tables, and, to sum it up, those flyers got more attention than the books and their friendly authors.

It was difficult for said Friendly Authors to strike up a conversation with passersby for several reasons, including (1) there wasn’t much in the way of sidewalk traffic, (2) the oldies band playing across the street made up in volume for what they lacked in vocal proficiency, and (3) the few passersby lived up to their moniker – they were passing by, and looked to be single-mindedly on their way to see something else.[2]

I did the right thing [3] – participated when asked – despite my experiences with such events which makes me deem them ill-suited (read: a waste of time) for writers.  Fine arts & craft, wine & food celebrations lend themselves to…well…fine arts and crafts and wine and food.  When I attend such events, it is to partake of/ browse/sample and maybe even purchase fine arts and craft and wine and food.  I don’t think, “Oh, and what a great place to find a good novel.”  The rare times I seen people selling books at such events I don’t even stop to take a peek anymore.[4]

The Book Table can’t compete with (nor even complement) the Free Samples of Ragin’ Cajun  Chocolate Salsa Sauce table.  The arts & crafts are on total display: you can see them for what they are, and you either like the painting or the macramé plant hanger or you don’t.  You can sample the wares from the various homemade gourmet merchants before buying – there is no preamble or teaser quotes or first chapter to the bottle of salsa or tub of hummus or glass of craft beer – a couple of sample tastes and you know what you’ll be getting, the whole way through.  You can hear the band or the lone musician playing, and on that basis decide to purchase their CD.  A book is a different animal, especially at a street fair or similar event.  You can’t just take one or two sips and be confident in what you’re getting; the decision to purchase one is more akin to taking a gamble.

At least I picked up one good tip for the next time I grit my teeth and Do The Right Thing:  Forget your standard book promo materials, and get a flyer with eye-catching graphics.

*   *   *

Department of Will Someone Please Explain to Me…

As a kid, I didn’t understand the light a match reference, nor the presence of a pack of matches in the bathrooms of most people of my parents’ generation.  Even after it was explained to me by an adult [5], it still seemed rather silly.  Was it a last resort, an act of religious penance (Forgive me, Father, for I have blown Satan’s bugle[6]) or some kind of ritual atonement (setting oneself on fire rather than face the shame of emerging from the host’s bathroom after you’ve stunk it up)?

Matches eventually gave way to the Bathroom Air Fresheners industry – including the aptly if not discretely named Poo-pouri [7].  This was a great loss to the budding pyromaniac that lurks in most six year olds, and also provided yet another variation on things that don’t make much sense.

Yeah, I get the point of, or rather I understand the supposed need for, commercial bathroom air fresheners.  But other than serving as an effective irritant to asthmatics and people with fragrance allergies I think it is arguable that they “work.” In my experience in other people’s houses and in restaurants, businesses and other “out” venues, it’s a tossup as to whether air fresheners eliminate [8] or enhance the odors they are designed to combat.

And the varieties of masking perfumes, ay yi yi.  Here are just some of the olfactory auras available to you, Discerning Consumer, thanks to the scentmeisters of Glade, Renuzit, et al:

Frosted Pine
Clean linen
Creamy Custard® & Apple Cinnamon
Angel Whispers [9]

But really, who’s kidding whom?  Here are your choices.

Bathroom usage sans air freshener:  it smells like someone took a dump in here.

Bathroom usage with air freshener:  it smells like it whispering angels stood by as someone took a dump on a pine tree/in your clean linen/on your apple custard dessert.

Not to get all Bathroom Buddhist ® , but it is what it is.  Embrace the stone age, y’all: light a match.

A day of Firsts

Son K took his first all-by-himself road trip on Tuesday.  He drove up to Tacoma to deliver his first batch of borrowed furniture to his first off-campus rental home, and the next day, on his way back home, had his first encounter with An Officer of The Law and received his first speeding ticket.

*   *   *

My father, who grew up on a farm in Tennessee, once told me that one of the worst insults you could fling was to call someone that so-and-so pea picker.  I wish I could ask him why, because after spending three hours picking peas (and kale) at my CSA [10] on Wednesday, I think the pea-pickers of the world deserve a whole lotta respect.  Do you know how many pea pods you have to pick to get 78 pounds of pea pods?

I must now pause for a moment to appreciate That Which Made It  Possible for me to spend three hours outdoors, in mid-June, surrounded by pollen-spewing organisms, in relative respiratory relief (no machine gun sneezes!):  drugs.

All hail, ye mighty pharmaceutical industries.[11]  I (almost) forgive you for coming up with scents named angel whispers and Creamy Custard® & Apple Cinnamon.

*   *   *

Whatever the wind may carry this weekend, from angel whispers to Satan’s bugles, may it blow gently over you and yours this weekend, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] A yogi is a person who practices yoga.  Got that, Boo-Boo?

[2] My guess is the belly dancing exhibition that was taking place across from the bbq put on by the Masonic Temple (I am not making any of this up).

[3] Authors are never supposed to turn down an invitation to a public event and/or publicity. Unless they do.

[4] I used to, then found myself in the awkward situation of trying to get away from the table ASAP, as a glance at the covers and back pages of the books revealed that they were amateurish, obviously, self-published efforts…as in, really poorly written and in need of serious, competent editing.

[5] By my uncle Joe, accomplished match lighter, may he rest in peace.

[6] a high-pitched, keening wail of a fart, as if summoning Satan’s minions from one’s nether regions.

[7] I am not making this up, and you have to read the product reviews.

[8] Sorry.  Potty-pun unintentional. No shit really.

[9]  Because we all know what angel whispers smell like.

[11] In my case, the makers of generic Zyrtec.

The Nose Hairs I’m Not Weed Whacking

Comments Off on The Nose Hairs I’m Not Weed Whacking

Tuesday May 14 was the Official Release Date ® for The Mighty Quinn. May I have some trumpets, please?

Ah, shucks.  Thank you.

The book’s ORD coincided with a Children’s Book Week excerpt reading/book signing event at Powell’s Books on Tuesday evening.

The event went well, despite the fact that I would rather trim my nose hairs with a weed whacker than do anything resembling public speaking.  Seeing all the beautiful, friendly faces in attendance, including RB, LAH, SCM, JG & TG, CC & SC, helped calm my cotton mouth jitters.[1]

I was totally surprised by an intended: the presence of two cherished, Bay Arean [2] friends.  MH and Belle managed to keep a secret, that the lovely and talented  LH & DA were flying up from the Bay Area for the evening.  They honored me not only with their fabulous presence but also by bearing the favorite victuals of acclaimed authors everywhere a token of their appreciation, [3] a four pack of orange Jell-O. 

*   *   *

We shall return to Great Moments in Self-Promotion Literary History  after this word from our Feminist Free-Thinking sponsors.

Sometimes, someone else says it better.  And sometimes they said it better some time ago.  (in this case, over 140 years ago).

Reason & Science lead to atheism. Reason & Science lead to feminism. The National Women Suffrage Association was formed this date in 1869 in New York city. Elizabeth Cady Stanton said, “You may go over the world and you will find that every form of religion which has breathed upon this earth has degraded woman… I have been traveling over the old world during the last few years and have found new food for thought. What power is it that makes the Hindoo woman burn herself upon the funeral pyre of her husband? Her religion. What holds the Turkish woman in the harem? Her religion. By what power do the Mormons perpetuate their system of polygamy? By their religion/ Man, of himself, could not do this; but when he declares, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ of course he can do it. So long as ministers stand up and tell us Christ is the head of the church, so is man the head of woman, how are we to break the chains which have held women down through the ages? You Christian women look at the Hindoo, the Turkish, the Mormon women, and wonder how they can be held in such bondage.”
·         The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (Official)

*   *   *

Consider yourself a recipient of the Pretty Purple Toe award if you can guess which two of the following five are legitimate reviews of The Mighty Quinn.

An easy-to-use guide for bird owners looking to train their pets to perform simple tricks such as flapping wings, to more advanced tricks such as playing dead in the owner’s hands or ringing a bell, The Mighty Quinn walks the reader through a step-by-step process with explicit instructions and full-color photographs.
(Midwest Book Review)

 A new classmate helps fifth-grader Quinn Andrews-Lee re-evaluate longtime friendships and stand up to a bully….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… humorously interrupted by the realities of family and school life.
(Kirkus Reviews)

Every surgeon who carries out rhinoplasty procedures will benefit from The Mighty Quinn. The beginner is guided through the performance of a standard rhinoplasty…with the latest breakthroughs in the management of difficult cases, such as saddle nose, skin sleeve problems, and dorsal grafting.
(Aesthetic Surgery Journal)

 “An absolutely delightful read and such memorable characters! Tweens will identify with both Quinn and Neally and will still be thinking about them long after they close the book.”
(Sandra McLeod Humphrey, Clinical Psychologist and children’s author).

It is curious how incest, impotence, nymphomania, religious mania and real estate speculation can be so dull.
(Richard Findlater, Time and Tide) [4]

This toe’s for you!

*   *   *

Thursdays are our pickup days for our weekly CSA share.  We’ve been CSA patrons for five years; this is our first year with La Finquita del Bujo (“The little farm of the owl”).  We get an email on Sundays which lists the likely contents of the coming week’s harvest. This week’s share will include (lots of) lettuce, plus beets and greens, carrots, kohlrabi, Chinese broccoli, dill or cilantro and chard or kale.

Daughter Belle’s AP Environmental Science class had a class project/party at the farm on Thursday.  They made and baked pizzas, topped with veggies from the farm, in an outdoor brick oven. I told Belle I’d try to time my share-picking-arrival so as not to require any M4 [5]awkwardness for her.

In anticipation of the wine and broth braised root veggies I planned on making for dinner, I started a batch of mushroom stock on Thursday after breakfast.  It made for a sensory-sensational morning.  The savory, umami (or as I like to think of it, yo-mommy) aroma of  mushroom broth wafted into the office as I performed what would otherwise have been the mundane tasks of checking manuscript submission status and fiction market listings.

No-Fuss (or a little, if you’re prone to botheration) Mushroom Stock

Hint: Keep a bag in the freezer for stockpiling the mushroom stems that are often not used in recipes.  Shitake, porcini, button, crimini – no need for varietal separatism.  A United Nations of Shrooms is best. Throw ’em all in there. [6]

1.  take a pound (~ 4-5 cups) of stems, along with a handful of dried mushrooms and perhaps some frozen whole ones, too.  Heat a medium-sized stockpot over medium-low heat, add a small amount of EVOO and brown the stems a bit (no need to thaw first), along with a small peeled & roughly diced carrot.  That’s all you need: shrooms and a carrot.  If you’re a Stock Fundamentalist who believes that the only true path to Broth must involve the trinity of carrot/onion/celery, you can add small diced portions of the latter two veggies.

From the Book of Aromatics: in the name of the Carrot, the Onion, and the Holy Celery

2. Add ~ 8 cups of water, or enough to cover the shroom bits by at least two inches.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer until stock is reduced by one half (or more, if you want a really rich flavor).  This will take at least 30-40 m.

3. Strain the stock through a very fine sieve (or colander lined with cheesecloth), pressing on the veggie solids to extract every last bit of shroomy liquid.  You now have ~ 3 – 4 cups of stock.  Use immediately, or frig and use within a few days, or let cool and freeze.

*   *   *

Several years ago our all-white cat, Nova, discovered the cache of Lego pieces in the upstairs bonus room.  We in turn discovered Nova’s proclivity for a certain kind of Lego piece, when MH put on his shoes and yelped as his instep pressed down on a hard piece of plastic.  Somehow, a Lego helmet had gotten into his shoe.

We are a barefoot-in-the-house family, and so there is always a motley assortment of shoes and sandals on our front door rug.  I was the next to step on a helmet while putting on my shoes.  A subsequent stakeout revealed that Nova, when she thought the coast was clear, would come downstairs, little white helmet in her mouth, and most definitely and deliberately drop it into a shoe.  We began to remind each other to shake out our shoes before putting them on.  We were not always consistent in passing on this reminder to guests.  I’d like to think we just forgot about it, but must admit to the possibility that our omission was intentional, as we enjoyed the delightful (well, to us) expression on a visitor’s face – the mild eyebrow elevation of surprise morphing into confusion – when they went to put on their shoes and discovered they had been honored with Nova’s footwear  enhancement.

Nova eventually tired of the shoe-game, and discovered the joys of Human-aided Helmet retrieval.  We’d be sitting at the breakfast table and she’d bring a Lego helmet [7] and drop it by one of our chairs.  A Lego helmet makes a distinctive clicking noise when dropped onto tile or wood flooring.  She’d drop the helmet, we’d pick it up and lob it into the kitchen or down the hall.  Its distinctive shape caused the helmet to skitter and bounce in an erratic manner Nova found irresistible, and she’d chase it, bat it around, and eventually pick it up and return it to us for another round.

She has done this, off and on and with variations in the game, for years.  And with no other Lego pieces; only helmets. [8]  We’ve found stashes of helmets under various pieces of furniture, and have rescued many from the central vacuum dirt canister in the garage.

Her latest variation is to find a helmet and bring it to the office.  The office carpet muffles the helmet-dropping announcement, so she has devised another routine to get my attention.  Helmet in mouth, she enters the downstairs covered litterbox, which is under the “kid’s” computer desk.  She pees in the litterbox, or sometimes just pretends to – either way, the sound of her pawing about in it alerts me to her presence.  She emerges from the box, drops the helmet in front of it, then dashes into the hallway, looking back at me with an I’m-helping-you-keep-your-promise-to-yourself-to-be-ergonomically-smart-and-take-frequent-breaks-from-the-computer expression. [9] I, of course, dutifully pick up the helmet and throw it for her.  It will be at least six rounds of fetching until she decides I need to get back to work.

Or sometimes, I come into the office and see a helmet outside the litterbox, with no kitty in sight.  Her calling card, I assume.

*   *   *

Remember to check your shoes before you put them on, and let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Along with the zen-like calm that can only come from knowing that I carry a whoopee cushion in my props bag.

[2] Not Aryan, but Arean, as in, “of the Bay Area.”  They flew in from San Francisco, not Berchtesgaden.

[3] A “souvenir” of sorts, from the shenanigans at MH’s & my wedding reception…which is a story best told in person, over something stronger than orange Jell-O shots.

[4] This was critic Findlater’s actual review for Lillian Hellman’s Toys in the Attic.

[5] Meet My Mother Moments

[6] Except morels.  Oregon foodies are supposed to adore morels, but moiself thinks they taste like what muddy socks smell like.

[7] It seems we had an endless supply, from years of buying Lego Classic Space sets.

[8] She will play fetch with wads of paper, but only on the staircase.

[9] Really, that’s exactly what her kitty facial expression means.  We’ve had it translated.