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The Sushi Roll I’m Not Ordering

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Department Of Sophomoric Observations

A Japanese restaurant where I have become a weekly lunch regular recently installed a video screen which plays a continuous loop of some truly gorgeous pictures of their various sushi and rolls, combination platters, bento boxes and other menu items. Last week I was enjoying the show as I ate my bowl of edamame, until I almost choked when the picture of a long, brown, slightly curved, specialty roll flashed by on the screen – a roll that someone had unfortunately decided to dub, “The Johnson Roll.”

Slang terms and idioms don’t always travel graciously across cultures. My server gave me a curious look when she caught my mirthful reaction, and I wondered if I should say anything – just pose an innocent question, to see if she “got it.” [1]   I mean, I’d feel like a pervert ordering the thing.

 

If I order the Johnson roll will you be happy to see me?

*   *   *

The Electorate I’m Not Analyzing

Because simple ad hominem attacks, the usage of which I am usually (or at least philosophically) opposed to, will suffice:

Are people bloody bonkers?

I refer of course to the great mystery of our time.

 

 

 

 

No, not that one. The mystery is that the Trumpster is not in the dumpster at this point in the primaries. My theory: there are many short-sighted people who, the more they feel ineffective, unappreciated and threatened, the more they gravitate towards that which they perceive as powerful. And these people apparently equate bombasity with power, and there are enough of them to keep That Man at the top of the festering turd of a heap that is the Republican presidential primary contest.

And yes, bombasity (the condition or quality of being bombastic to the nth power) needed to be a word. [2] Now it is. So let it be written; so let it be done.

 

 

*   *   *

The Constraints I’m Not Protesting

Content warning: Yet another plug for Star Talk, Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s podcast.

This time I’m touting the Science Of Creativity episode, with host NGT interviewing his guest, musician, Talking Heads founder and AARP men’s hair fashion correspondent, David Byrne, about…see the show’s title.

Which (drum roll, please) got me to thinking .

I love it when Someone Smarter Than Moiself ® articulates a concept with which I am in total agreement. [3]  As per the referenced podcast, that concept is this:  constraints, both in art and science, can be liberating, and are in fact what lead to creativity.

Many wannabe (IMHO) artists chafe at the mere mention of restraints or controls or guidelines when it comes to that nebulous concepts creativity. On the other hand [4], mature/experienced artists realize that when there are no boundaries you can just do anything…which often seems like – and sometimes leads to – doing nothing in particular.

Witness the creativity called up by the NASA engineers – the astounding, seat-of-their-pants, imagination and resourcefulness that enabled them to create solutions for the Apollo 13 crew to bring their severely damaged spacecraft home safely. These solutions were arrived at not by using anything/everything at the engineers’ disposal; rather, they had to work within the constraints of what the astronauts actually had within their capsule.

Constraints, even those which might be called “censorship,” can be liberating, in that you can focus on what you can do with the materials/talents/themes/venues at hand, and not ramble within a world of seemingly no limits. The beauty of haiku is in its structure. The insipidness with much of so-called free form or free verse poetry…tennis without a net, anyone?

We’ve all had the experience of listening to/reading/watching/observing a less than magnificent (or not even marginally competent) book/painting/play/movie/recital/concert. Some of us have also been witness to (read: somehow forced to attend a showing of) the “art” of someone who evinces little or no actual artistic talent – someone who lacks the discipline to put in the years and hard work to develop the talent but who is so enamored of the concept of being an artist that they have to come up with another name for…for whatever it is they can do.  [5]

 

I’m artist, dammit, and who are you to limit or define what that is?

 

 

Nowadays it seems you can show/describe/sing about just about anything, including people performing personal hygiene rituals, people fucking, people being disemboweled and tortured….  The proponents of this show-it-all-ness call it realism, and fling the censorship! pejorative at those who suggest subtlety or moderation in presentation.

Excuse me, but your story might be more enjoyable if it had complex, three dimensional characters and a more intricate plot, or one which might encourage viewers to imagine and  anticipate and….

(Gasp!)  This is intentional – you would censor/constrain my art?!

The Realism Rah-Rahs seem clueless when it comes to understanding how their in-your-face approach loses the poetry of subterfuge, the beauty of obfuscation, the creativity of concealment.

Without constraints, there is no thrill of sneaking a song like The Kinks’ Lola past the censors. [6]  And the snappy, now-classic cinematic dialogue, the clever artistry of cinematography and staging necessary to impart certain concepts (e.g. a sexual rendezvous) was enabled, and made necessary, by the movie production codes of the day. [7]  The saucy double entendres of Mae West

When I’m good I’m very, very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

Too much of a good thing can be taxing.

When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.

Why don’t you come up and… see me some time?

­– why write those lines today [8] when you can have your actors openly proposition one another (and then follow through) on camera?

 

*   *   *

The Certificate I’m Not Showing You [9]

Perhaps you remember (or are desperately trying to forget) my blog post from two weeks ago, wherein profanely ranted about I articulately lamented what I saw as the lack of respect MH received for his 25th anniversary with his company (all together now: Twenty-five years and they gave you a fucking $8.99 Safeway cake?!?!?”)

 

 

That’s not all the recognition he received. Tuesday eve MH came home from work bearing a Certificate of Accomplishment, in the form of a white 8 ½ x 11 inch piece of paper that had his name, a Congratulations, 25 years, yay you! message and a couple of color graphics printed on it. The cheap piece of paper certificate had been laminated, and was slightly bent/curled in the middle, as if someone had tried to roll it up or had sat on it.

Perhaps the yeah-isn’t-this-great twinkle in MH’s eyes as he showed the paper to me should’ve reassured me that I didn’t need to suppress my reaction. Still, I waited until the next morning, to see if I felt the same about it. I asked to see the certificate again, and summoned all the enthusiasm such an honor merited:

Moiself: “I’m sorry for snickering at this. I mean, it’s obvious someone went to the trouble to go all the way to Kinko’s to have it laminated.”

MH: “I’m pretty sure it was in-house job. If they’d gone to Kinko’s it wouldn’t be bent.”

I could not let that stand. I made a rare (for me) trip to a local crafts store, got a shiny purple frame and what son K refers to as “bedazzlers,” and I pimped that certificate.

 

*   *   *

May your accomplishments be bedazzled;
May your constraints be creative;
May The Martian win this year’s Best Picture Oscar;
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] I did: “So, what is a Johnson roll made of?” Her straightforward description of the ingredients indicated to me that she’d no idea of the…possible interpretations of the roll’s name.

[2] You’re welcome.

[3] Aka the Yeah, what she said, phenomenon.

[4] …you have other fingers.

[5] Performance Art, anyone?

[6] Certainly, it would have been a different song – or perhaps, not even written – had there been no radio content censorship back then.

[7] Hays Code and Breen code, e.g. 

[8] And, sadly, few screenwriters do.

[9] Because MH refused to let me photograph it.

 

 

The Generation I’m Not Talkin’ ’bout

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The PG (Parental Guidance) Post 

Dateline: Monday evening, doing my own sous chef preparation before sautéing shallots and Swiss chard.  As I strip the ruby red chard leaves from their stalks, I remember how much my father loved Swiss chard.

*   *   *

 Band of Memories

Chester Bryan Parnell, “These are the good times,” 8-8-1924 to 2-11-2009

I think of my father every day, and mention him often (an easy thing to do, as he was a special character), in part to keep his memory alive for K and Belle.  But when my family sees that I’ve brought out the Band of Brothers DVD box set, they know something extra is in the air.

Today would have been Chester “Chet-the-Jet” Parnell’s 90th birthday.  It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around that number.  I’ll let my heart do the binding.

When Chet wanted to relax he would haul out his old Martin guitar. He loved to serenade his kids.  Beautiful, Beautiful Brown Eyes, a traditional country tune covered by singers from Roy Acuff to Rosemary Clooney, was one of the songs Chet used to sing to me at night.

 *   *   *

 My mother is frail;
“I am winding down,” she says.
She is eighty-six.

Widowed five years now;
Her eldest child lives nearby.
I am second-born.

My two other sibs
Live in the Bay Area;
Mom is in So Cal.

Mom loathed to travel,
even when she was healthy.
And, now she cannot.

Twenty-three years plus
I’ve lived one thousand miles north
with my family.

Mom doesn’t do much;
there’s little to talk about.
Calls can be awkward

She always refused
to learn to use computers.
Her children conspired

We got a gadget:
“technically un-inclined”
is its user base.

A “one-way device,”
it receives and prints email
From select sources.

Pro: she gets no spam;
Con: she gets but can’t send mail
(which is fine by her).

I send her brief notes –
a small something for the day
In her morning mail

Mondays are for jokes.
Who wouldn’t like a giggle
To begin the week?

Tuesdays I phone her.
Her moods and health are falling.
Tuesdays make me sad.

Each Wednesday I send
a Word of the Day feature.
(I choose cheerful words).

Thoughts For the Day
from minds famous and obscure,
are Thursday’s items.

Fridays are for Quotes:
adages and citations
to spark mind and heart.

Saturday, poems:
I send different verse styles,
From Browning to Lear.

Every Sunday
I send my mother haiku,
Two verses, or more.

I write them moiself;
thus, they are not quote-worthy.
Silly, but heartfelt.

*   *   *

 A Brief Meditation on Ways to Fail Your Children

Is that a buzz kill subject heading, or what?  If you’re looking for the feel-good post of the week, I suggest returning to the picture of the Swiss chard and using it for a gratitude meditation focal point.

I’m thinking about the many ways my father and mother succeeded, as parents…also, about those ways in which they, and parents in general, failed.

This digression is courtesy of one of my recent morning walk podcast sessions.[1] I was listening to the Freethought Radio interview with the president of a N.O.W. chapter, re activism resulting from the SCOTUS [2] Hobby Lobby decision. This topic was antithetical to the purpose of my morning walks, which are supposed to be somewhat meditative as well as invigorating.  The former purpose took a back seat to ruminative rage as I considered the seemingly unending, fact-free, conservative political and social balloon juice about a woman’s right to right to personal jurisdiction, and other issues that should have been settled so, so, long ago….

And I find myself thinking,

We failed.

We, as in, talkin’ ’bout my generation.

We have failed in so many ways, including imagination.

Thirty years ago, I couldn’t imagine we’d be fighting the same fights. [3]  Sure, a few dinosaur fossils would remain, but I’d hoped that the battle for equality and against sexism and misogyny (at least, in this country) would be history, as in, my son and daughter would learn about it the same way they learned about women’s suffrage (There was a time when women couldn’t vote?!  And it was less than one hundred years ago?!)

I realize that historical milestones are almost never confined to a single day or week…or even era. The campaign for women’s suffrage was not waged and won on August 18, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified.  Nor was the amendment a one-time antidote to the festering, cyclic, boil-on-the-ass-of-human rights that is the tendency for groups of people to oppress those they view as The Other.

 

*   *   *

Power shared = power diminished.

According to one Wise Old White Guy © I had the pleasure of knowing, [4] there is a widely held but false axiom behind bigotry and discrimination. That was the gist of what he tried to explain, one day in our Tuesday morning book group of yore. The group stumbled onto the continuing struggle for civil and women’s rights vis-à-vis religious institutions – a provocative topic for anyone who hasn’t downed their first cup of coffee by 7 am.  I brought up what I saw as the ultimate butt-frosting, teeth-grinding, bloomer-bunching irony: in order to acquire the rights and opportunities that you, say, a woman or African-American, are denied, you have to convince a majority of those in power – the very people who have been denying you those rights – to grant them. [5]

This prompted WOWG to share his “unfortunate observation” regarding human nature:

Few people anywhere have ever easily agreed to share power.

I knew what WOWG meant, but asked him to elaborate.  What follows is my (paraphrased) recollection of his simple but profound Walter Cronkite-ism [6] :

 Power shared = power diminished – this is what people in power believe. But power does not diminish when shared, it multiplies.  Small, stingy, fearful minds don’t understand that – they think power is finite, or is in limited supply, and therefore sharing power with you means there is less of it for them.  This is especially true for those who are (or who see themselves as being) on the lower rungs of the power and status ladders; e.g., some of the fiercest, most vicious criticism of the civil rights movement came from poor white southern men.

He ended with: We failed. Our generation didn’t fix that. Maybe it can’t be fixed; but now, it’s your turn.

 *   *   *

And now, a segue to make us all feel better.

I Am A Bad Person
#359 is a never-ending series

Making travel arrangements for an upcoming family wedding, my brain did that thing it does, and conjured up a memory from a friend’s wedding, several years ago.  I was talking to a teenager at the wedding reception. When I asked her about the rather sour look on her face, she complained to me about how “old people at weddings always poke me in the ribs and say, ‘You’re next!’ “

I told her she could get revenge by saying the same to them at funerals.

 

“I’m sure she means, next in line for the buffet.”

*   *   *

Spam subject line of the week:
IF  YOU  DON’T  READ  THIS  NOW  YOU’LL  HATE  YOURSELF  LATER !!!

I didn’t read it “now” (or at all).

It is later.

I don’t hate myself.

Ergo, it must be my turn for an all-caps-three-exclam-attack:


VICTORY IS MINE !!!

Mmmmmwwwwahahahahahaha !!!

*   *   *

 

 

May you always be next in line for life’s buffet, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] During my morning walks I listen to podcasts of some of my favorite radio shows, including Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Freakonomics, RadioLab, This American Life, TED Talks, Fresh Air, and Freethought Radio.

[2] Which, yes, oft times seems as if it should be the acronym for Sexist Codgers (and not Supreme Court) of the United States.

[3] Only with different, and often troll-enabling – technologies.

[4] WOWG lost a brief but fierce battle with leukemia ~ 10 years ago.

[5] I remember, a long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, trying to explain to my kids, who were dealing with fledgling democracy concepts in school, how women couldn’t vote to give themselves the vote.

[6] “And that’s the way it is.”

[7] Wait a minute…there is no seventh footnote.

The Dispensers I’m Not Activating

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Dateline: Wednesday, Tuality Hospital, taking MH to get a colonoscopy an amazing procedure we are so grateful to have in this golden age of preventative medical care. In his dressing/waiting/prep room there was a sink and, of course, a motion-activated soap and paper towel dispensers. Which got me to thinking. [1]

I’m all in favor of motion-activated dispensers (and wish they were all this cute):

But I long for a more impressive, ground-breaking innovation in substance allotment.  I want an emotion-activated dispenser.  I want a device that intuits when my hands aren’t feeling their freshest; I want a dispenser that senses when I’m too sad or embarrassed or enervated to wave my arms in front of it…and because it cares, so will I.

I have big dreams.  I am not ashamed.

*   *   *

Only 10 Days and I’ll Stop Mentioning It

The Indies are coming!  The Indies are coming!  Actually, they’re already here: Independent bookstores.  And the Saturday after Thanksgiving, traditionally an important day for businesses of all kinds, is especially vital to independent bookstores, including Vintage Books in Vancouver (WA).  Vintage Books, along with independent bookstores nationwide, will be celebrating Indies First Day on Saturday November 30.  Indies First is the brain child of author Sherman Alexie, who urged all “book nerds” (read: authors) to be booksellers for a day and help support independent book stores. [2]

I’ll be at Vintage Books, sharing shifts with other authors, (hopefully) selling and signing copies of The Mighty Quinn and recommending other favorite reads.  My shift is from 12 – 1 pm. Vintage books specializes in hard-to-find/out-of-print and rare books, so stop by and browse for that copy of Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan[3] you’ve been dying to find for your Russophile uncle.

Another holiday shopping opportunity comes courtesy of Scarletta Press.  Scarletta, the publisher of The Mighty Quinn and a slew of other entertaining and provocative, vampire-less and Fifty-shades-of-any-color-free, fiction and nonfiction books, encourages one and all to give the gift of books this holiday season – and if you order through Scarletta’s website and you’ll receive 20% off your purchases.

*   *   *

Coming Attractions 

One day I shall blog
exclusively in haiku
Wait for it; you’ll see. 

Or, I’ll use tanka
A Japanese verse form: five
lines: the first and third
composed of five syllables,
the other lines of seven

*   *   *

Was Is This a Stupid World, or What?
(Another Chapter in the continuing saga)

A few weeks ago my friend received an email from her daughter P’s 1st grade teacher, about an “incident” wherein three older (2nd grade) boys pulled up their shirts in front of P, in class, [4] then asked her to reciprocate.  P allegedly declined to do so but showed them her superhero underpants instead.

I’m fairly certain my parents did not receive a phone call or note from my 4th grade teacher regarding the isolated incident wherein many times I and my uppity female comrades purposefully showed the boys our underwear.  I was old enough to “know better,” but was organizing a feminist protest (years before I understood the f-word) to prove that the sight of JC Penny cotton underpants would not cause the boys to go blooey.

That such silliness could even be an issue was due to such pathetic facts as:

*  a long long time ago in a grammar school far far away, pants and/or shorts were verboten for girls, who were required to wear dresses or skirts to school.
*  thus, when girls climbed up on the jungle gym or did twirls and stunts on the gymnastic bars, their undies were sometimes in view.
*  thus and thus again, there were five possible ways to solve the Appalling Undie Viewing Predicament:

(1) ban girls from certain playground equipment
(2) ban boys from certain playground equipment
(3) designate separate playground equipment for boys and girls
(4) there was no fourth way
(5) yes, the most sane and/or logical solution is always the last one listed:

let girls wear play-appropriate clothing for fuck’s sake.

My protests and the resulting disciplinary actions (getting “benched” – having to sit out lunch and recess play times as punishment) were not for naught. [5]  In the latter half of my fourth grade year the school administration released a Playground Procedures/Dress Code announcement: girls would be allowed to wear shorts, over their underpants and under their skirts or dresses, IF the shorts were worn because the girls intended to play on the jungle gym, monkey bars, etc.

I always wondered how, or if ever, the IF provision was enforced:

“Heads up, Jenny – here comes the playground supervisor and you’re wearing shorts under your skirt but you’re only playing foursquare.  QUICK! Get your girly parts to the uneven parallel bars and hang upside down!” 

*   *   *

Thanksgiving approaches, which means that all across This Great Nation of Ours ® people will soon be flipping the bird with family and friends.

This year MH has been assigned eagerly volunteered to be our Turkeymeister.  He’s unsure as to how he will prepare his gourmet gobbler, and has turned to the cyber cooking world for suggestions. Internet search wise, you can’t spit [6] without hitting a elaborately illustrated food blog, resplendent with elegantly styled phtographs of the preparation and presentation of the ultimate holiday meal.  But I quickly tire of looking at the picturesque perfection – I wonder about the castoffs, the flotsam of meals prepared.  Are not the scraps and scrapings of plants sacrificed for our gustatory gratification (e.g. my simple yet most beloved autumn “side dish” – roast delicata squash) worthy of documentation?

May you and yours celebrate Thanksgiving with a delicious feast, the visual presentation of which is paparazzi-worthy, [7] and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] An admittedly dodgy activity, but not much else to do while waiting for them to take my man to The Procedure.

[2] You can read Alexie’s wonderful letter here .

[3] An illustrated book on the vanishing art of the tattoos found on women in the Islamic Russian Republic.

[4] Where was the teacher during all of this, you may ask? As did P’s parents, and the non-answer to that and many other questions they had about the school is why it is now P’s former school.

[5] Hot damn, that was fun to type.

[6] And I have tried.

[7] Placing life-size cutouts of George Clooney and Beyoncé at your dining table may also guarantee attention.