Home

The First Lady I’m Not Tweeting

Comments Off on The First Lady I’m Not Tweeting

Get Mighty!

Nice way to start the week.  Really!  This (part of the) post is sarcasm-free!  And full of exclamation marks!  Because, why not?!

On Monday Scarletta Press’s publicist forwarded the following email from the Children’s Book Council.  As for the CBC’s Tweet suggestions, the mere thought of that particular networking service gets me all twitter-pated, but any of you readers are also tweeters, feel free to pass along the news. [1]  Especially if you have Michelle Obama’s ear. [2]

Congratulations, The Mighty Quinn was selected for the CBC’s Hot Off The Press and is featured on our homepage! Here are some sample Tweets to help you promote your title’s feature. We’ll be spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter

Get mighty! ‘The Mighty Quinn’ by Robyn Parnell is on @CBCBook Hot Off The Press! http://bit.ly/14JshQB #HOTP

This book is hot! ‘The Mighty Quinn’ was chosen for @CBCBook Hot Off The Pess! http://bit.ly/14JshQB

*   *   *

Rewind to Saturday, which had served as a more humbling reminder of the realities of publicity events.  My press’s publicist had arranged for me to do a reading at an elementary school’s Earth Day project, to tie-in with one of The Mighty Quinn’s subplots. [3].  The school’s students and parents would be working with coordinators of an environmental stewardship group (which I’ll refer to as Greengood. Sorry.) to plant trees and otherwise “beautify” their schoolyard.

We (MH, daughter Belle and moiself) showed up at the time suggested by the school’s Greengood coordinator.  It took several minutes to find the Person In Charge; the event was, uh, disorganized, to say the least…which I’d expected as per past experience. [4]

The event organizer and her comrades were Bright, Perky and Chirpy.  And young.  Very young.  Nothing wrong with that, but did I mention that they were young?

Although the BPCs had placed signs up all over the school (“12: 30 p special event: Robyn Parnell, Storyteller”), they hadn’t given any thought as to where I would do the reading.

The Storyteller spot they decided on at the last minute was in front of a bunch of picnic tables outside the school gym, from which recorded music was blaring.  Horrible, as in, really awful acoustics (I did get them to turn off the music).

Adults and kids were taking a break from tree planting, and some twenty boxes of pizza had arrived.  Two BPCs said they’d organize the adults to do cleanup/lunch prep and call in the kids from the playground for the reading.  That didn’t go exactly as planned.

The adults (and many kids) kept wandering in and out of the picnic table area, before and during my reading, and the noise level was quite high.  It became obvious to me that most of the kids had their eyes and attention spans focused on the pizza to come.  Fortunately, the excerpts I’d picked were short…and I made them even shorter when I realized that some of the adults (who had not listened to the BPC instructions, imagine that) had begun to pass out the pizza.

Life Lesson, #367 in a series:  Prose is no competition for pepperoni.

georege

My reading began and ended with excerpts of a chapter in the book where students are doing a community service project and one of the characters asks, “Is it time for lunch?”  That segue seemed to be appreciated by the, oh, six kids who were actually paying attention at that point.

The highlight:  one kid, as I was setting up, asked if I would be doing a puppet show.  S/he [5] seemed disappointed when I explained that I would be reading a passage from my (puppet-free) book, and s/he asked if it would be okay for to leave “if it gets boring.”

Yeah, sure, kid.  Don’t let the seesaw hit you in the *&# on your way to the playground.

I did not say that.  I did let the kid play with the frog clicker I’d brought along (no puppets, but a prop!), and s/he stayed for the reading.

During the reading MH & Belle distributed flyers about community service ideas (the flyers were provided by Scarletta Press, quite beautifully done…with a couple of mentions of the book, of course).  After the pizza break MH, Belle and I helped mulch the newly planted trees.  The reading break may have been disorganized but the adults and students had done a lot of work: over 70 trees planted on the school yards and perimeter!

Highlight, the sequel:  the kids who planted the trees got to name the trees, which I thought was a delightful way to have students make a connection to the tree, and thus be more likely to care for them.  A Douglas Fir was named…wait for it… “Dougie,” and a red maple was named “Elena,” and so on.  One tree was named “Bob,” a cause for an apology of sorts from one of the parents, when she saw me reading the tree’s name tag.

“It’s, uh, not a very distinctive name, is it?” she stammered.

“What’s wrong with Bob?” MH (son of Robert, aka “Bob”) wanted to know.

*   *   *

Gracefully segueing to another school-related topic (and, as it happens, another Bob).  Bob Davis, this Asshat’s for you:

AHat

 Minnesota radio host Bob Davis said he would like to tell the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims to “go to hell” for infringing on his gun rights.  Yep, Bob Davis’s message for the bereaved parents is that having to submit to a background check is a greater tragedy than them burying their children.

There are no words for this.  Although a few enthusiastic hand gestures come to mind.

*  *  *

As per enthusiastic gestures, I’d like to ask a certain group of public servants to run their priorities up their flagpole and salute ’em.

Calling all Oregon State Legislators:
the Capitol House janitorial staff has found your cojones, concealed behind the sawdust-filled barf bucket in the Capitol Rotunda’s broom closet. 

The great and groovy state of Oregon faces many contentious challenges, including updating our aging infrastructure, grappling with the dilemma of underfunded and underperforming public schools, and fixing a dysfunctional Public Employees Retirement System.  Thus, our intrepid legislators, forging new pathways in the spirit of the Oregon Trail, decided to devote time, energy and $$ during the recently convened 2013 Legislative Session to a bill to require all Oregon school districts to display the US flag in each classroom and have students salute it once daily during school hours.

Really.  House Bill 3014 passed the Oregon House of Representatives and is now headed for the State Senate.

Photo showing the old salute, taken in May 1942 in Southington, CT

Photo showing the old salute, taken in May 1942 in Southington, CT

Caption: Photo showing the old salute, taken in May 1942 in Southington, CT, just one month before the new salute became official.

Rep. Sal Esquivel, (R – Medford) is the bill’s chief knuckle-dragger in charge of do-nothingism masking as patriotism sponsor.  Esquivel believes the Pledge of Allegiance teaches students about the nation’s legacy.  “We need to teach kids the symbolism of that flag,” Esquivel said. “That flag stands for America. That flag stands for your freedoms. That flag stands for everything this country’s ever done, has been or will be in the future.”

It might behoove Esquivel to teach himself the literal meaning behind that flag symbolism.  Is he unaware of our country’s history of civil and constitutional rights? Does he understand that the right to free speech includes the freedom from  making loyalty oaths to the king government, particularly when those oaths violate that very government’s constitution by promoting religion?  Are Esquivel and the bill’s supporters going to mandate that schoolchildren be taught the history of The Pledge to That Flag, including:

*  that somehow the country survived for over 100 years without a pledge[6]
*  that the “under God” reference was not added until over 60 years after the pledge was written [7]
*  that the original pledge salute was one stiff arm outstretched toward the flag, [8] a posture later used by a certain German dictatorship?

“We’re dealing with schoolchildren and with role models in schools who are required to lead it. The circumstances are inherently fraught with compulsion or coercion and we feel that’s a violation of church-state separation.”  (Anti-Defamation League, Nov. 14, 2003)

My own OR State Representative, whose energy and idealism I respect – and whose pragmatism I grudgingly understand – voted for the bill.  Ick ick ick, I sez, even  I realize that once such a piece of festering crap legislation is introduced  it’s a no-win situation for any representative – particularly a newbie to the game [9] – to oppose it, or point out why such provisions are unnecessary, wasteful, silly and even sinister distractions from the real, pressing issues at hand.  Any politician doing so would be subject to knee-jerk disloyalty accusations from the why-do-you-hate-America, drool bucket for brains crowd, and political rivals would relish the chance to use a “He voted against the flag! And the Pledge!” sound bite during the next election.

I can’t help but wonder what the legislature’s next efficient use of taxpayer monies might be.  Perhaps they’ll form a committee to find and replace all the currency we frisky Freethinkers have been desecrating correcting; i.e., the dollar bills with “In God We Trust’ scratched out on the back.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Break out the Sharpies

*   *   *

I can only be pissed off at politicians for so long — this weekend is the Oregon Potters Association convention!  The annual Ceramic Showcase, the nation’s largest exhibit and sale of pottery items ranging from sculpture to garden art to home accessories, is  at the Oregon Convention Center, Friday through Sunday.  Pottery-loving friends and I have made it a yearly tradition to mark our calendars and attend on the opening day.  After years of showcases I’ve no room in the house for pottery, be it decorative or functional…ah, but what do I see outside my office window?  An artless yard? [10]  And there always seems to be room for just one more visage on the Wall of Faces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

Wishing y’all a weekend of friendly faces.  Let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] This is as close as I’ll get to groveling.  Until next week.

[2] Or whatever part of the body one uses when tweeting.

[3] Environmental protection/community service.  Silly do-gooder stuff.

[4] I’d given a mild warning to my publicist; still, it had been years since I’d had anything to do with a Greengood event, and I hoped for the best.

[5] Not to get all Gender Police, but really, I couldn’t tell.  Nor could MH and Belle, when I later (and discretely) consulted with them.

[6] The pledge of allegiance was originally written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a socialist magazine writer.

[7] In 1954, amid the anti-commie hysteria, by Pres. Eisenhower and Congress, at the urging of a minister.

[8] Someone in the 1940s noticed  that it resembled that, uh,  other salute, and it was formally replaced by Congress with the now-customary, hand-on-heart.,

[9] Ben Unger ( D- Dist. 29) is a first-time representative, elected last November.

[10] Garden gnome free!

The Car I’m Not Decorating

Comments Off on The Car I’m Not Decorating

Indeed, the season is upon us. If you need further evidence, let The Dropkick Murphys explain it to you.

Ah, but the season unfortunately includes you-know-what. I’ll get this rant out of the way. 

Ban assault weapons! No, ban violent video games! No, it’s the combination of mental illness and access to weapons! At least have the discussion about gun violence! Discussion, schmussion – arm every sixth grader in America!

The enormity of the Sandy Hook tragedy is almost beyond comprehension. Our society, for a slopbucket-load of historical and social reasons (that moiself shall not address at this time), is increasingly called to make even a few baby steps toward comprehension…and consistently fails to do so. Instead, we end up lobbing verbal grenades at one another, occasionally pausing for a moment of silence at yet another memorial service for “the ____ victims” (insert latest shooting locale).

And then of course, there’s Mike Huckabee[1], former Arkansas guv, part-time Republican presidential candidate, ordained Baptist minister and Fox News (surprise!) blowhole. Huckabee is highly regarded in scholarly circles for…well, for nothing. Nothing, that is, that has ever leaked from his lips, although he does get credit for jettisoning something like 300 lbs several years ago. Recent pictorial evidence shows that much of his bulk is returning to the mothership, and his recent rhetoric evinces that most of it is settling between his ears.

In his latest self-serving spewfest exploiting a national catastrophe pronouncement, MH attributes the “violence in our schools” to what he describes as the systematic removal of religion from our schools. Oh, Mike, Mikey Mike, you Hucka-hucka burning…something. The gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the brain train isn’t coming.

I suppose it’s just a matter of time before the Huckster and other religious righties brainstorm knock their empty coconut noggins with the NRA and come up with a plan to place AR15-packin’ preachers in every classroom.gunpriest

There has been much religious speechifying about the Sandy Hook shootings, to which my reaction is: ick, and ick again.  But, it’s more than just ick-worthy.  Many of us who are mythology-free find the public prayers/religious invocations that typically accompany such incidents to be almost as galling, and ultimately more perplexing, than the incidents themselves.  The rhetoric and rituals are so ubiquitous, oft times it just seems like background noise or white sound, like the distant rat-a-tat-tatting of automatic weapons fire.

Okay.  Perhaps another analogy might be more…appropriate? Perhaps not.

Of all the mumbo jumbo about “keeping the victims in our prayers,” “pray for the families of Sandy Hook,” “our prayers were answered when we found out ___ had survived the shooting…” most mind-bogglingly ridiculous to me is when the political talking heads called upon to Respond To This Tragedy ® end their statements with the seemingly obligatory[2] – what is it, invocation? plea? command? suggestion? – “God bless America.”

I do think God Bless America, ala Keep me in your prayers/I’ll pray for you, is one of those phrases that, like much public god-talk, is almost always employed without the benefit of reasoned contemplation. It is used as a reactive response to certain situations – the intellectual/rhetorical equivalent of Gezundheit.  But to those who would claim to employ GBA etc., in all sincerity, what are you thinking?  I don’t expect an answer, but, really: What particular, magical word combination or incantation do you believe will appeal to your celestial, imaginary friend, whom you apparently believe “is watching over us” and has the ability to intervene in human affairs (to “bless” you) and who may, somehow, someday, do that, despite the fact that if said celestial being exists, on December 14 it was watching over a madman entering a grade school and then twiddling its divine thumbs while six year old children[3] were being slaughtered?

Human beings – in the form of a sad/lonely/alienated/angry/deeply disturbed young man, with – God bless America! – access to high-powered firearms, carried out this vile act. Human beings in many forms – including the principal who died trying to thwart the gunman as he forced his way into the school, the teacher who hid her students in cabinets and cloakrooms but stayed visible to deter the gunman and told him her class had gone to the gym (after which he shot her, and moved on to another location), the teachers who risked their own lives guiding their students to safety, the emergency responders, the community who reached out to friends and strangers alike with generosity and compassion – human beings rushed in to help in whatever way they could.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *

Writing this week’s post from Southern California, I’m as close as I get to being a Foreign Correspondent.

Trust me, you do not want to spend several hours of your holiday-season birthday online, trying to book the last seat on a flight that leaves in less than 24 hours. But this is what you’ll find yourself doing if, after making a pre-birthday phone call to your elderly mother, you decide to do A Good Thing ® and surprise her [4] with a visit.

All together now: “What a gooooooood daughter.”

On second thought, hold your applause. I am hardly worthy of such magnanimous regard.

I had a (mostly) enjoyable childhood, growing up[5] in Southern California, to which my increasingly furrowed, sun-blotched skin now attests.[6] Still, I headed north as soon as I could. Although ’tis good to visit with the kinfolk, I get in somewhat of a funk when I travel to the Land O’ My Birth. There are a variety of reasons for this, some of which I may mention in a much later, much less sober post. For now, suffice to say I find the area to be crowded, grimy, desiccated.[7]

As per the latter, considerate Oregonian that I am, I brought some precipitation with me. The mere hint of a light shower elicits the obligatory, “Oh, we need the rain!” from the locals.[8]  Out for a walk on Tuesday morning, I experienced a mild epiphany of sorts: I find SoCal almost tolerable in the rain. Even a moderate drizzle functions ala Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak – it serves as a mask or shield, temporarily veiling the area’s aridity, and…well…dirtiness.  This place looks, feels and smells different (better) when it’s wet.

THE APOCALYSE IS NIGH, AND IT’S WEARING AN ELF HAT.

Oh, oh oh oh oh, before I forget – another story! Pick me, pick me!

As I returned to my mother’s house after my walk, I spied with my little eye a Hummer parked in her neighbor’s driveway.  My self-righteous, what kind of person still has that gas-guzzlin’, manhood-mocking[9] behemoth snort was diverted when I saw something that made me approach the vehicle for closer inspection.  The Hummer’s armor was fortified by what appear to be an oversized pair of Mr. Spock ears…no, they’re…elf ears?  Plus, an elf hat was wired to the Hummer’s grill.

Soooooooooooooo, I sez to moiself.  Last night was not a fluke.

rudolph car

I’d notified older sister NLM (who lives ~ 15 miles from our mother) about my spur-of-the-moment visit, and she’d graciously offered to act as my airport shuttle transport. As was pre-arranged, I called her when my flight touched down Monday evening. “Look for the car with the antlers,” she said, as I was headed for the passenger loading zone.  I stood outside the airport terminal, in the dark, repeating “What?” into my cell phone as she in turn repeated her auto antler identification spiel. Sure enough, a red Lexus with antlers attached to the passenger door windows and a red fuzzy nose wired to the front grill pulled over to the curbside in front of me.

“The grandkids love it,” she explained to me. “It’s Grandma’s Rudolph the Red Nosed….”

Well, of course it is.

*   *   *

But I digress.  I was walking.

Walking around my mother’s neighborhood, I crossed the bridge over Santiago Creek (as usual, the “creek” bed was totally dry, even after the rain), to do The Loop.  The Loop is a secluded residential circle, composed of two of the nicer (read: most expensive houses) streets in the city. It’s been several years since I’d walked the Loop, but little seemed to have changed. The house’s front yards were, as always, buzz-cut short and impeccably manicured (do lawns have cuticles?).  Leaving the loop via the bridge, I walked up and down a series of streets which had apparently been visited by one of those Neighborhood Holiday Beautification Czars, who had intimidated threatened extorted convinced each household to participate en bloc.  Every one of the curbside sycamore trees on Ladidah Lane had green plastic wreaths wired to their trunks. I rounded the corner to Decorous Drive, where every curbside pepper tree had oversized, red felt gift bows wired to their trunks.  The next street over had multi-faceted, red and green, mini disco glitter ball-style jingle bells affixed to red, green and white ribbons which were…wait for it…wired around the trunks of every house’s curbside Icky[10] tree.

Just as I was starting to get creeped out by the uniformity of the arboreal embellishment I received a text from Belle: Goooood morning!! And by the way – it’s snowing!!

Snow is a rare and generally appreciated weather wonder in the Portland metro area. I phoned my daughter, anticipating the delight I would bring to an old woman when I returned to my mother’s house with the news that it was snowing in Hillsboro and Belle had a day off from school…except that a somewhat disappointed Belle told me that it was a light dusting of snow and school had not been cancelled.

pdxelk

My mother, who spent the first 18 winters in Northern Minnesota, has a kneejerk response whenever I share news of what typically happens after a snowfall in Hillsboro. She trots out a litany of scornful clichés concerning the wimposity of those who let half an inch of snow close the schools and paralyze the freeways and major roads of a major metropolitan area.  Every time she launches into her spiel my knee jerks in response, and I trot out my Litany of Justification (LOJ):

a. Unlike Minnesota, snow is not a regular/seasonal occurrence in the major metro areas west of the Cascades Range (Portland & Seattle).

b. Because of (a), the cities and towns of said NW metro areas cannot justify the expense of having and maintaining fleets of snow removal equipment.

c. Due to the geography/altitude and other climatological conditions that make (a) our default winter weather, it is not consistently cold enough in the Portland Metro Area to maintain snow, as snow, on those rare times when it indeed does fall. It will typically either rain a bit after a snowfall, or warm up enough to cause a brief melt, the temps drop overnight…

d. and we wake up to ice. Not fluffy powdery, stomp-worthy snow, but a slick, traction-resistant, accident-causing, coating of ice. Over everything.

And every time I do this my mother reacts to my LOFJ as if hearing it for the first time, and concedes the points I make in our area’s defense. The next time we participate in this ritual I should mention the upside to (d), which is that the phenomena of a thin but determined coating of ice makes for jolly entertainment for so many of us wimpy Pacific NWers.  We cup our hands around a warm, foo-foo beverage of choice, huddle by our TVs, and enjoy the petty, smug pleasure that can only be found by watching the local news channels air footage of the idiot hapless drivers whose vehicles are spinning out and sliding down the hills on The Sunset Highway and other major roads leading in and out of Portland.

*   *   *

Dateline: just about now.  Back up in Oregon.  I counted at least seven more variations of the Rudolph/Santa’s elf – decorated vehicles while I was in So Cal.  I’ve yet to see one up here.  Maybe I just need to get out more?

Hilarity ensues.

Happy Holidays nd Thanks for stopping by.

Au Vendredi!


[1] Rhymes with Fuckatree; how portentous is that? Must be a sign from a god.

[2] For American politicians, lest they be perceived as commie/atheist/homo-loving/socialist/Kenyanappeasers.

[3] Many of whom, if they came from religious families, were likely calling out to their god(s) to save them even as they were being gunned down.

[4] and your husband, and children, and Mastercard balance

[5] Or just living. The “growing up” part is still up for debate.

[6]  Waaay too much time spent at the beach. Before the concept of SPF.

[7] A years-ago trip to see my folks, our plane descends toward the Orange County airport, K and Belle have their noses pressed against the windows, their eyes widening in alarm: “What’s that brown stuff we’re flying through?” K asks. “Down here, they call it ‘air,'” I explain.

[8] Although it’s obvious they resent the need, or any interruption to their cloud-free, brown/blue skies.

[9] Nothing says overcompensation (read:  I have a small penis) like an oversized vehicle. ..or firing guns at a group of children — make that firing guns at anyone, any thing.  Except a block of wood.

[10] Mea culpa, botanists –  no fauna is in fact “icky.” Since I can’t remember the name/genus of these trees whose prolific, tiny, elliptical leaves are shed year-round, I resort to the moniker bestowed upon them by my Aunt Erva  (“they make such an icky mess all over the sidewalks.”)