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The Debates I’m Not Moderating

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Department of Let’s Get this Out Of The Way:
Tuesday’s Democratic Debate

Although I didn’t have a stopwatch handy, it seemed to me that Hillary Clinton was given more time than the other candidates for answers and rebuttals. That, combined with her center position on stage and being able to speak last for both the opening and closing remarks, gave her a front runner glow. Was that all just happenstance, or was CNN’s subliminal bias betrayed by those logistics?

Upfront: I am a Bernie Sanders supporter (changed my party registration – I am typically listed as Independent – so I can vote for him in the primary). I thought all of the candidates comported themselves well, including the three no chance in hell lesser-knowns…although not for one moment did I find Clinton’s I-changed-my-mind-due-to-facts-not-polls-I-didn’t-flip-flop Pacific Rim trade pact switcherroo defense convincing.

As for the post-event question everyone seems to pose – Who, in your opinion, won the debate? I’d say, moderator Anderson Cooper.

Really. Cooper was cool, confident, and in control of a situation where all of the participants are looking for any opening to skew things their way.

* He opened by (essentially) challenging each candidate to defend or rebut what is seen as their biggest weak spot;
* He was incredibly well-prepared re the candidate’s backgrounds and political positions;
* He paid attention to the answers and asked relevant follow-up questions;
* He asked no softball or flippant questions;
* He pointed out when candidates dodged questions or answered with non-answers.

Future moderators, take note. All debates should be refereed thusly. Come to think of it, why can’t Cooper do all the debates?  Hell, I’d even watch the next Republican Clown Cavalcade if he’d moderate it.

 

Oh, stop it. I bet you say that to all the boys.

Oh, stop it. I bet you say that to all the boys.

 

I was somewhat bemused with the lesser-known candidate my brain labeled Goofy Smiling Guy, aka former RI Governor Lincoln Chafee. This was because Chafee…do I really need to say it?…had this perpetual, goofy smile, as if he couldn’t quite believe he was standing on an actual presidential debate stage, podium and everything, wheee!

Also, in both his opening and closing remarks, Chafee stressed what he apparently thought was a two-for-one bonus (i.e, both a plus for him and a jab at Clinton): that he was the rare political bird with “no scandals” – nope, not one [1] – in his many years of public service.

 

 

No scandal here...except for that lame necktie..

No scandal here…except for that lame necktie..

Well, okay. However, related to Cooper’s final question – “Which enemy are you most proud of?” – having acquired “no scandals” in a long political career isn’t necessarily something to brag about, IMHO. Instead of being indicative of your unimpeachable ethical standards, being scandal-free could simply signify that you never took a political risk, or that no one whose positions you opposed found you powerful, effective or threatening enough to try to bribe you, set you up or otherwise tarnish your reputation.

*   *   *

Department of Just Because

Lady Marmalade break. Gitchi gitchi ya ya da da, y'all.

Lady Marmalade break.                      Gitchi gitchi ya ya da da, y’all.

 

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The Book I’m Not Reviewing

“People write on Huffington Post, they write for Goodreads…valuable sites owned by big tech companies that make a lot of money for those companies. Writers choose to write there for nothing and to provide content for nothing. That’s another issue…something that writers are doing deliberately.”
(Roxanna Robinson, President of the Authors Guild, in her article for The Bookseller, “Authors Guild Warns Authors Over Contributing Online Articles For Free.”

 

I use Goodreads, mostly as a reading log for moiself. That’s about as far as it goes (ahem, along with this blog) for me providing free content. In rating something like 437 books I think I have twice made a one or two sentence comment. I give books a star rating, even as I cringe while doing so at the oversimplification of such a system. [2].  I do not write actual reviews, FAVOR [3], including my refusal to participate in yet-another-way-writers-do-work-without-getting-paid.

However (you didn’t see that coming, right?)….

Here is something resembling a review, for a recent book I rated.

It was a book I wanted to like, because it revolved around stories of certain ruminant of which I am fond.

 

Coulda had a three star rating, but not enough goat screaming.

Coulda had a three star rating, but not enough goat screaming.

 

I liked the brief excerpt the book’s author read during one of those local/community arts “literary events” in which I overdosed on Valium and forced myself to attend was invited to participate.

For those of you unfamiliar with such events, they are sometimes called Book readings or Literary fairs, are oftentimes sponsored by a local independent bookstore, and are almost at all times attended by only the local authors themselves, a smattering of the author’s friends and family, plus a few wannabe authors who wannabe picking the brains of Actual Published Authors ®  for free advice as to how they can go from wannabe to Actual Published Authors ® .

(Translation: few or no books are actually sold. [4] )

The wannabes hang around afterward to tell you how much they enjoyed your reading, and gosh golly they really want to get a copy of your book (which is usually right in front of them, or twenty steps away, at the booksellers’ table), and will try to find a used copy online or check out a copy at the library. They say this as they flash their wide-eyed, isn’t that great? grin, ostensibly expecting you to be overjoyed at their “interest” in your work, despite the fact that none of the book acquiring venues they mention provide any remuneration to either the book’s author or the event’s sponsor. [5]

My favorite comments from book fair attendee/writer wannabees – comments I have heard too-much-more-than-once – come from those who’ve wonder in awe to me about how I managed to have more than one book published by “real publishers” –

I think I should start by self-publishing. It’s easier, right?

yeahright

 

About my few or no books are actually sold observation: sometimes the event authors buy each other’s books…which in my book doesn’t count…and which is how I came to obtain a copy about the Book That Shall Be Reviewed But Not Named.

Once again, I digress – this time, in getting on with my non-review.

Due to hearing the afore-mentioned enjoyable excerpt, I violated my oft-mentioned, principle-from-experience (which is: in general, I do not buy self-published books).  I bought the book, which has been in my enough-to-read-until-the-nuclear-holocaust pile for almost a year. I hadn’t gotten to cracking the covers, but as per the Sad Events mentioned in an earlier post, I was looking for “light” bedtime reading. But, by light I was referring to emotional impact, not basic, compositional competency.

Yep, the book was self-published, but not exactly in the Literary Lone Wolf manner. Many euphemisms have arisen to disguise self-publishing ventures. This book, as per a blurb in the book’s back pages, was the product of a “too tiny to be considered a micro-press.”

Micro press. In my petty imagination – aided by anecdotes participants in such ventures have shared – I picture the micro press members gathering coffee-klatch style to trade woe-is-me-bitches stories about the nasty mainstream publishers who reject their work [6]….

 

nymphpng

 

I’m trying not to be mean. Really. But no matter now micro or macro your press may be, please oh please, if you have a book in print, make it print-worthy.

Of course, with CreateSpace and Kobo and the ever-increasing number of self-publishing platforms (the term, before the e-book debacle revolution, was subsidy or Vanity Press), everyone from the pontificating drunk at the corner bar to my late Aunt Erva’s Rottadoodle can now have a book in print. [7]

So: you no longer have to go down to the copy shop to construct your spiral bound “book” for friends and family – you can have something that looks like a real book. And maybe you don’t care to be taken seriously as an Actual Published Author.  But whether you consider yourself a “real writer” or hobby publisher, for FFS, structure, plotting, grammar and punctuation matter.

And if perchance you want to be taken seriously as an author, don’t have your spouse (or any member of your family, or someone who owes you money) write your author bio/intro. Also, have your copy professionally edited, and by professionally I mean someone who knows what they’re doing, not your best buddy in your sewing circle/Tupperware party/retired fisherman’s club  micro-mini-press group. Find a truth teller, not a cheerleader/ego massager. Find someone outside your circle, someone who isn’t afraid of hurting your feelings, someone whom you will reimburse for their work. Isn’t the point to improve, to learn to be a better writer?

Here’s a bit of advice, for which I am once again violating my High Professional Standards ® (i.e., giving it away for free): a clever descriptive phrase used once is…well…clever. Used repeatedly, it becomes annoying and embarrassing – the literary equivalent of a sitcom character’s catchphrase (Dy-no-mite, anyone?).

 

grits

Instead of writing we couldn’t afford a certain purchase the author used something ala my bank account groaned.  Yep, that’s a nice variant, and a chuckle-worthy image comes to mind. Now, be honest with yourself: that phrase isn’t destined to become a classic, no matter how many times you repeat it. Don’t use it a second time (and certainly not a third) in the same chapter.  As per my earlier advice, a good editor would have fixed that.

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It’s Good to Dream

Earlier this week, during one of my morning walks, I was thinking about how I’d like to hear musical genre variants of classic TV show theme songs. [8] Disclosure:  you could inscribe the sum total of my musical talent on the tip of my index finger and still have room for the Declaration of independence; thus, this is not a project I moiself can undertake.  But for all you musical geniuses who follow this blog [9], I would be eternally grateful if you could come up with the following:

 

* a mariachi version of the Star Trek (original series, or Next Gen) theme
* The Ramones telling me how to get to Sesame Street
* A hard rock version – I’m thinking AC/DC – of the theme to The Love Boat
* a polka-flavored rendition of  that bad-ass, eight note riff from Mission: Impossible
* The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme as interpreted by Run DMC
* Weird Al Yankovic’s take on the ticking stopwatch intro to Sixty Minutes
* an all-tuba performance of the theme to Bonanza

 

And of course, Luciano Pavarotti singing the theme to The Brady Bunch. The gripping story of “the lovely lady/who was bringing up three very lovely girls” is one that lends itself to operatic treatment, Nest-ce-pas?

 

 

 

*   *   *

May your dreams be good and filled with melodic variety,
May you be proud of your enemies and patient with your literary critics,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] And if that isn’t a call for people to try to dig up some dirt on him, I don’t know what is. Anyone remember Gary Hart?

[2] Yo, Goodreads, how’s about at least a half and quarter star options?

[3] All together now, ye acronym amnesiacs:  FAVOR = For A Variety Of Reasons.

[4] Your friends and family already have your books, right?

[5] Really. They fucking say this to your fucking face.

[6] Heartless bastards who insist on basic grammatical proficiency, coherent narratives and other nit-picking shit.

[7] My late Aunt Erva – who was in fact quite punctual – never owned a Rottadoodle (a breed which to my knowledge doesn’t actually exist, but should).  But if Erva were alive today and had a dog, I’m sure her pooch would have a self-published memoir in print.

[8] Because, why not?

[9] Not to get all zen on y’all, but what is the sound of one mouth chortling?

The Best -Of Lists I’m Not Making

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My annual Ladies Lefse Party was this past Wednesday.  I’ve been hosting the LLPs on the second Wednesday in December for…a long time.  LAH, SCM and daughter P, Belle, JWW and I had a grand time, and SCM graciously left behind her homemade pumpkin whole wheat soy milk cranberry biscotti [1] to torture me the following morning.  Stalwart attendees SS, RB and JR were not able to attend this year, due to pressing other engagements, respectively, a son’s band concert, jury duty, and a husband’s laparoscopic cholecystectomy . [2]  Besides her joi de vivre and take-no-prisoners wit, JR is known for her festive, self-made millinery, which was much missed – my Bieber Meets Santa Pez creation of a few years back was a poor stand-in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While cleaning up after the party I was reminded of the late [3] great, dear friend and neighbor Glenda Jones.  Seventeen years ago, back in The Old Neighborhood (Jackson School Neighborhood of Hillsboro), Glenda had been tickled pickled beet pink when I brought lefse to one of her parties.  Being of Norski stock herself Glenda expressed something akin to shame at never having made lefse, and asked me for detailed written instructions, which I gladly provided.  A few weeks later, I received a frantic/embarrassed phone call from Glenda one Saturday night:

“I’m following your instructions exactly….and…uh…
there’s flour ALL OVER the kitchen.”

I assured Glenda she must be doing it right.

Here is a copy of the party invitation, just so y’all won’t feel left out.  Even though you were.

*   *   *

Mark your calendars and set your e-minders:
Here comes the second Wednesday in December…. 

Which this year, 2013, falls on December 11.  Yes, there are only 20 days remaining
ntil 2014 rears its nagging head

and demands you account for the past 365 days. 

Notable events on past December 11s include:

*1688:  James II of England abdicated the throne by throwing the Great Seal of the Realm into the River Thames (my guess is the great seal smelled like lutefisk.).
* 1941: Germany and Italy declare war on the United States, following the U.S.A.’s declaration of war on Japan (the Ladies’ Lefse Lovers Society’s “Make Lefse, not War” slogan was for naught in those troubled times.)
* 1962: Convicted murderer Arthur Lucas is the last person to be executed in Canada (in an unusual punitive snit, prison officials denied Lucas’ last meal request for lefse).

 Royal peeves; war, execution…let’s redeem December 11.
Hold on to your fruitcakes; it’s time for the annual 

Ladies Lefse Party
Wednesday December 11, 2012, 6:30 pm 

As always, your high-minded hosts will provide lefse preparing accoutrements and serve lefse and Norwegian meatcakes for supper, in a festive, Gangnam style-free environment. 

Ladies hosting:
-Robyn Parnell & Belle 

Ladies Likely to make an appearance:
– why, you, of course 

Ladies Unlikely to make an appearance (but we can dream, can’t we?):
Lady Marmalade 

♫ Gitchi Gitchi ya ya lefse…♫

♫ Gitchi Gitchi ya ya lefse…♫

*   *   *

In an interview with Parade magazine, producer-writer-comic-actor Mindy Kaling made a brilliant point about the assumptions we make about women. “I always get asked, ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ I think people are well meaning, but it’s pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, ‘You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You’re not skinny, you’re not white, you’re a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you’re worth anything?'”
(The 28 Most Iconic Feminist Moments of 2013, Moment #8) [4]

 Favorite albums; best song parody; the year’s tops in food, art, journalism, political boners, drone strikes – it’s that time of the year, when pundits both significant and who-the-F-is-that –worthy trot out their Best of The Year ® lists.

 I already know my best of the Best of Lists—it’s going to be difficult to top The 28 Most Iconic Feminist Moments of 2013 .  They’re all kick-ass, and I love that the Heavy Issues Moments (Malala Yousafzai Speaks at United Nations, Wendy Davis’s Tex-ass fililbuster) are balanced by more light-hearted but nonetheless significant moments, such  as Tina Fey’s and Amy Poehler’s hosting the Golden Globe Awards.

AMY

 Be sure to check out # 17: the Awesome Rape Prevention Video Parody From India that Traveled ‘Round the World.

*   *   *

Here’s my vote for Best Shortest Best of List:  Best Holiday Rap Song, of any year:

Along with Run D.M.C., I wish that you may be chilling and coolin’ just like a snowman, and thus the hijinks will surely ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Recipe, please?

[2] If I had a dime for every time I heard that excuse….

[3] Glenda died in a motorcycle accident in August 1997.

[4] Best of 2013 footnotes: this did not make the list.