It may boggle your mind to know that that letter was NOT a response to the question, In what way are you the most irritating person residing in New Jersey, the entire Eastern seaboard and/or United States, and please be specific. Rather, an alert friend found this abominable if brief torture primer disguised as an answer to a question posed in Real Simple magazine. The Question: What’s the Best Tip for Getting the Day off to a Good Start!
And! You just know you’re in for one wacky answer! From the kind of people! Who will answer “questions” that end in exclamation points!!
“Afterward, everyone goes out the door with a skip in their step.”
A skip in their step. Yeah, right. Woman, your husband and kids and are leaping and running like bats out of hell, tumbling over one another in their haste to flee the nightmare that can only come from inhabiting the same house as a vulgarly vivacious, psychotically cheerful person who assaults them with tickles and “ditties”  when all they really want at 7 am is a soft-spoken, “Good morning.” And maybe a caffeinated beverage.
Unbounded Effluvia is seeking submissions of fiction and poetry. We value diversity. If you’re a white, straight, able male—your stories are welcome. But if you’re not, we would love to see your stories as well. We’d love to see stories from diverse backgrounds, and strongly encourage submissions of stories featuring characters of all colors, belief systems, sexual orientation, etc. And of course, the same goes for the author.
Well, wrap my Irish-Norwegian-Welsh-French-Cherokee-American, straight (but not narrow), middle-aged, female, able-bodies, Freethinking Humanist ass in a rainbow flag and set it on fire.
I deplore the celebritization of authors (even to the point of wishing away the requirement for the author’s photo on the book jacket or in the journal credits) for many reasons, including that the author’s name is as much of an identifier as I care to know. I don’t need to know what authors looks like; I don’t need to know their gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political or supernatural beliefs. I don’t want to judge their writing by any of those factors. I want the writing to reveal itself.
I can understand a publisher’s or editor’s request for variety as to what comes from the keyboard. What’s behind the keyboard should not matter, and thinking that it does is the bastard child of the write what you know bullshit, possibly the worst, self-censorial, small-minded advice ever given to writers, for a quajillion reasons, including that it gets translated, in many minds, as, write (only what) what you are. 
As a writer, my interest in and/or ability to create diverse characters and narratives should be immaterial to the moiself that is behind the keyboard.
Many years ago I had a story that, I thought, would be perfect for a certain (now defunct) literary journal that was devoted to portraying the zeitgeist of a certain generation . According to their guidelines, the journal wanted the poems and prose submitted to them to not only to be about that generation, but to be to be authored by those whose birthdates would “qualify” them as belonging to that generation. Moiself was about 15 years past their qualification in that regard. I usually boycott publications with such blinkered, partisan guidelines, but for some reason I felt like puttin’ my sneaky hat on. I just wanted to show them.
Unfortunately, this is not my sneaky hat.
In the acceptance letter the editor write that my story was perfect for the upcoming issue and “masterfully captured” the atmosphere they were seeking. Imagine that. Imagine a writer of fiction using her imagination  to create characters that reflect anything other than thinly veiled versions of her (age/ethnicity/gender/generation/bra size….).
That journal did not use author photos (nor requested birth certificates or driver’s licenses or other forms of id proving the authors fit into their age criteria); thus, I assumed that they’d assumed I had obeyed their niggling guidelines, and that I was…one of them. I never told the editors about my subterfuge. I simply savored my admittedly petty  but nonetheless triumphant gotcha! moment, all by myself.
* * *
Wishing you a weekend filled with petty yet satisfying delights. Here’s one more of mine.
May the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 Apparently the magazine has a regular feature, “This Month’s Question,” and readers’ annoying braindumps thoughtful responses to the question are posted the following month.
I like things made from felt. Colored balls of felt strung together make the best necklace. When I’m really playing dress-up I prefer neckties, but although there are a quajillion felt crafters in this world (try doing a “felt” search on etsy), none of them made felt neckties. And then I found her: LeBrie Rich.
LeBrie Rich is the proprietor and felt artist (feltrist?) of Penfelt. Once I saw the variety of hand-crafted felt items on her website, from wearables to objects d’art, I said to myself, “Self,” I said, “this crafty craftsperson may be up to a custom order.” And indeed, HRH Ms. Rich, the self-titled (and deservedly so) Duchess of Felt, was game for a challenge. As per my input she designed for me a skinny, pumpkin-orange felt necktie. Adorned with little orange felt balls. My happiness knows no bounds.
♫Peace on earth and mercy mild/goddamned sinners reconciled♫
Ahem…that would be, Peace on earth and mercy mild/god and sinners reconciled. (Hark the Herald Angels)
While scanning radio channels a couple of weeks ago, I caught the tail end of a program that had apparently featured a Holiday version of Mondegreens. You know what a Mondegreen is, even if you’ve never heard that particular term. A Mondegreen is a malapropism of your ears. Instead of mis-saying the wrong word or phrase, you mis-hear it. The neologism is attributed to writer Sylvia Wright, who in a 1954 Harper’s column wrote about her chagrin at discovering that as a young girl she had misheard the last stanza of one of her favorite Scottish poems, “The Bonny Earl O’Moray.”
What Wright heard: They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray, And Lady Mondegreen.
The actual line was: They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray/And laid him on the green.
Love the experience, hate the name. Mondegreen? Such a delightful oops phenomenon, the kind that makes us certain we heard John Fogerty giving an antsy concertgoer helpful directions on where to recycle his beer:
“There’s a bathroom on the right”
when he was actually singing, There’s a bad moon on the rise, is deserving of a more interesting appellation. Suggestions, anyone?
My all-time, personal favorite Mondegreen in personal to me in that I might be the only person alive who swears she heard the song this way. A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I thought rocker Billy Squire was singing an ode to the love that dare not speak its name – that of Liberace for his favorite lighting fixture.
Turns out Billy Boy was not crooning, “My Candelabra,” but rather, My Kind of Lover. Yeah, suuuuuuure. Take a listen for yourself , and then tell me I was mistaken.
I’d love to hear your favorite aural mishaps. Here are some of mine, listed by “Mondegreen,” accurate line (song/recording artist)
♫ “Midnight after you’re wasted.” Midnight at the oasis. (Midnight at the Oasis/Maria Muldaur)
♫ “The girl with colitis goes by.” The girl with kaleidoscope eyes. (Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds/The Beatles)
♫ “I got no towel, I hung it up again.” I get knocked down, but I get up again. (Tubthumping/ Chumbawumba)
♫ “Excuse me, while I kiss this guy.” ‘Scuse me, while I kiss the sky. (Purple Haze/Jimi Hendrix)
♫ “Let’s pee in the corner/Let’s pee in the spotlight.” That’s me in the corner/That’s me in the spotlight. (“Losing My Religion”/R.E.M.)
♫ “She’s got electric boobs/her mama, too…” She’s got electric boots/a mohair suit… (Bennie and the Jets/Elton John)
♫ “Are you going to starve an old friend?” Are you going to Scarborough Fair? (Scarborough Fair/Simon & Garfunkel)
♫ “Baking carrot biscuits.” Takin’ care of business. (Takin’ Care Of Business/Bachman-Turner Overdrive )
♫ “Four-headed woman.” More than a woman. (More Than a Woman/The Bee Gees)
♫ “Ham on rye.” I’m alright. (I’m Alright/Kenny Loggins)
♫ “I’ll never leave your pizza burning.” I’ll never be your beast of burden. (Beast of Burden/The Rolling Stones)
♫ “I’m the god of Velveeta.” In the garden of Eden. (In-a-gadda-da-vita/Iron Butterfly)
♫ “Pretty Woman, won’t you lick my leg.” Pretty Woman, won’t you look my way. (Pretty Woman/Roy Orbison)
♫ “Since she put me down there’ve been owls pukin’ in my bed.” Since she put me down I’ve been out doin’ in my head. (Help Me Rhonda/Beach Boys)
* * *
Holiday detritus: The sequel
Despite having abdicated my presidency of the National Sarcasm Society, I have sometimes been accused of viewing the world through jaundice-colored glasses. But my inherent skepticism re sentimentality goes on hiatus for Misty River‘s poignant, Don’t Take Down the Mistletoe. Even a reputed cynic like me can become teary-eyed when I hear this song, with its beautiful harmonies and the theme of appreciating that which so often seems unnoteworthy – the simple joys of what is (and who are) right in front of you. It gives hope to Old Married Farts® like moi.
* * *
That’s enough for a heart-warming interlude. Leave the mistletoe up, sure, but it’s time to get re-pissed about something.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, former astronaut Mark Kelly phoned his wife, the former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who as we all know was gravely wounded in the 2011 Tucson shooting. As per an interview with the Washington Post, Kelly said to her, “Gabby, we can’t just put out a statement anymore….If we just talk about it, things won’t change. We need to try and help.”
I applaud Giffords’ and Kelly’s launching of an anti-gun violence organization to take on the NRA and pro-assault weapons lobbyists and push for legislative changes in America’s gun laws. This is a pathetically long-delayed baby step in addressing an incredibly complicated issue…but all the legislation in the world won’t make a difference until there is a critical mass of attitude adjustment. This country needs a movement to change awareness and perception re firearms, ala MADD.
I’ve heard it said that the slack jawed and simple-minded good-hearted denizens of Droptrou, Alabama will never understand the benefits of regulating civilian ownership of military weaponry, and will cling to their guns like cheap, zero-ply, recycled environmentally-friendly toilet paper to a dingleberry. But there are reasons for hope.
Can you picture today, in 2013, someone bragging about how he consumed three six-packs at ____ (Thanksgiving dinner; Joe’s Bar; his mother’s bat mitzvah), then drove home and took out his neighbor’s lawn jockey when he tried to park in his own garage but ended up on their front porch?
Uh…you can imagine that? Yeah, me, too.
Okay, there are still yahoos like that, and probably always will be. But the number of fatalities related to DUI has been declining in the past 30 years and continues to fall. This is due in large part to a radical change in societal attitudes towards DUI since Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was founded in 1980.
It may be hard to remember that prosecuting attorneys used to defend themselves for not pursuing drunk drivers because they could rarely get a conviction. The P.A.s (and the drunk’s defense attorney) could count on at least a couple of jurors thinking to themselves, “Gee,I’ve driven ‘under the influence’ and I’m not a bad person – besides, the defendant didn’t mean to crash into the station wagon and kill that woman and her daughter and injure her husband and two sons….”
Society needs a MADD-style movement applied to guns. We’ll never be fully able to reason with a truly deranged person; I got that. But I think that the alteration of the association of machismo and even patriotism with civilians having and using guns for anything other than sport shooting and subsistence hunting is possible.
Many hunters hold nothing but scorn for their so-called peers who use semi-automatic or other assault style guns. They consider it ungallant, unsportsmanlike to say the least, and note that no “true hunter” should need – or want – an Uzi to bag a deer.
The drunk driver, once an inspiration for comedy and boys-will-be-boys type excuses, is now an object of revulsion. In addition to the criminal penalties and civil liabilities resulting from a DUI conviction, I think the vast majority of Americans would be horrified, ashamed and humiliated to be known as someone who drinks and drives. Imagine the change, if the same could be said about guns.
Dude, you bought an AR15? What’s the matter – the Viagra not working for ya?
(I loathe the “age range” rankings common to the (American) book selling biz, and although both Amazon and Barnes & Noble put this book in their 9-12 readers category I recommend this book for adventurous readers aged 9 to 90.)
It doesn’t seem right to be at a loss for words when describing a book with “Lexicon” in the title, but that’s where I find myself after reading Noyce’s unique tale. Nevertheless (however; even so; all the same; as Emily the llama might suggest) I’ll give it a try.
Cousins Daphne and Ivan get more than they bargained for when, attempting to relieve their boredom on a rainy day, they embark on a treasure hunt that takes them from a magical cupola in their Great Aunt Adelaide’s barn to and through the enchanting, mind-boggling and sometimes frustrating Land of Lexicon. As with all remarkable treasure hunts, a quest is involved: all of the children are missing from the various bordering, bickering villages of Lexicon, and their disappearance has something to do with the extraordinary, shimmering lights in the sky. The cousins must keep their wits (and nouns and adjectives and verbs…) about them as they traverse the peculiar, charming worlds of Lexicon, where they must solve a succession of puzzles involving imaginative syntax and math mysteries …
Gotcha, you sneak! – you might say at this point – this is a book adults want kids to read. As in, give ’em an alleged adventure story to stealth-bomb them into absorbing some grammar and algebra lessons? Yes, it’s fantasy with “educational elements,” but the learnin’ stuff is expertly woven into the story (it is the story), and there’s nothing sneaky about it. Occasionally the narrative is too clever for its own good (if that can be considered a criticism) and the cast of village characters can be hard to keep track of, but it is refreshing to find a book that entices, rather than insults, the intelligence of both its characters and its intended audience. Plus, you gotta (okay, I gotta) love a cast that includes Emily the loyal, thesaurus-ical llama, the verb-loathing Noun Man, the Mistress of Metaphor, bee-keeping witches, Mr. Prosaic, and other quirky characters prone to spouting lines like, “These lands exist as theoretical constructs, not tourist attractions!”
Oh, and the kids save the day and survive getting stung by grammar-sensitive bees. Hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 Because I say so, that’s why. Also, whenever I wear a felt ball necklace someone always asks if they may touch it, which gives me the opportunity to graciously reply, “Yes, you may fondle my balls”.
 And for me, it is playing. Anything other than my workout clothes or tie-dye t-shirts is dress-up.
 There needs to be a special award for this one, because a four-headed woman would be more than (just) a woman…wouldn’t she?
 The band themselves, drunk during a rehearsal in 1968, botched the lyrics, and decided to keep them this way. That is, the in-a-gadda way, not the Mondegreen, cheese-product way.
 official fundraising motto: “Like we need your support.”
 Paging Congress: report to Giffords and Kelly to be fitted for your testicular implants.
The gentle, good-natured voice on the phone identified himself as the Opinion Editor of our city newspaper. He’d recently returned from vacation and had only now seen the letter to the editor I’d submitted two weeks earlier. The letter was re the paper’s feature article on how three of Hillsboro’s public high school four football coaches regularly meet with a religious evangelist, whom the coaches allow to meet with the football players in pregame “chapel/prayer/meditation sessions.”
Gentle Opinion Editor said he liked the tone of my letter, and that I’d taken the time to thoughtfully address an issue other than which candidate for state treasurer was in fact an accountant for Satan the various and ubiquitous electioneering rants.
GOE said he wanted to publish the letter. Okey-dokey, I said…but…from one writer to another, how you intend to edit it? GOE said there would be no editing – it would be run in its entirety as a Guest Opinion column, and not a mere letter to the editor. And since I would be a columnist for one shining guest moment, he also wanted to run a photo of me.
“A photo of the author,” hmmm-ed the notoriously camera-averse moiself. “Ah, yes, so when the I-am-so-offended readers want to hurl the rotten tomatoes they’ll have some idea of which face to aim at. Good thinking.”
As per his request I emailed him a photo, which he kindly acknowledged: Thank you for the photo and for submitting your guest opinion in the first place. As I said, it was a nice change of pace from the flood of political endorsement (or partisan attack) letters we receive at this time of year.
Later that day, as MH, Belle and I scrounged for substitutes for The Dinner I was Not Cooking, we exchanged how-was-your-day stories and I told them about my upcoming Guest Columnist gig.
“When will it be published?” asked Belle.
“The editor said it would go ‘live’ Thursday morning, online.”
“The paper’s online edition?” MH gave me a reassuring, the-tomatoes-will-never-find-you grin. “No one but the trolls will read it.”
* * *
Blogging, it seems to me, is going to be a lot like having your own school newspaper column. Which I had, when I was in high school. The column’s name was suggested by the newspaper’s editor-in chief, who was also a friend of mine. Her nickname for me, Parnal (rhymes with carnal), was a dis-utterance of my last name, Parnell. “Parnal Knowledge” appeared on the Op-ed page of every issue of the Santa Ana High School’s “The Generator” during my senior year.
In a radio interview this past Wednesday, Tagg Romney said that during the most recent debate he wanted to rush the stage and “take a swing at” President Obama for telling the truth calling Mitt Romney a liar. “But you know you can’t do that,” said Tagg (who chortled with all the sincerity of a Stephen King-penned whackadoodle trying to reassure the authorities that he’s a-joshin’ kind of macho man and didn’t really threaten the POTUS), “…first because there’s a lot of Secret Service between you and him…”
Yeah. Bring it on, duuuuude. Because nothing says call Special Ops—this is one tough M-F, badass daddy-defender like a like a war-supporting/military service-avoiding, 40-year-old whiny trust fund baby who hauls his man parts around in magic tighty-whities..
Thus and without further ado, the Asshat of the Week award goes to the eldest Romney male clone. Tagg, you’re it!
* * *
Let us now pause to remember this stupid day in history.
October 19, 1739: England goes to war with Spain over disputed border lines in Florida. The War is known as the War of Jenkins’ Ear because the Spanish coast guards cut off the ear of British sailor Robert Jenkins.
* * *
The Guest Columnist interlude provided a short but sweet distraction from the week’s pressing task at hand: proof-reading the ARC copy of my middle grade novel, “The Mighty Quinn.” I need to get the edits back to the publisher by the end of this week, and good-naturedly carped about the chore to a witty and wise attorney, blogging mentor and fellow writer friend, SCM:
“Have you ever been sick, sick, sick of reading your own writing?”
SCM recently did some free-lance work for an e-publisher, copyediting some really, really, atrociously composed genre fiction. She shrewdly pointed out that, indeed, although there were times she hated reading her own writing, it is better to be sick, sick, sick of reading your own writing than to be truly nauseated by reading someone else’s.
* * *
The afore-mentioned Dinner I was Not Cooking
Most Americans, likely and sadly, associate the name Aleppo with news of the ongoing bloody battles between the Syrian Arab Army and armed factions of the Free Syrian Army for control of the historic Syrian city. From my privileged perch of safety, I continue to think in culinary terms when I hear “Aleppo.” Aleppo peppers, grown in the Middle East, are named for one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. When dried and crushed the peppers look like a slightly smaller, more burgundy-colored version of dried red chili pepper flakes, packets of which are required by law (or so it seems) to accompany pizza take-out orders. In “hotness” rankings Aleppos are milder than other dried chilis, and have a unique, fruity, cumin-raisin like flavor…with a kick. You can find Aleppo pepper in specialty groceries or spice stores. I got my stash at the Portland’s Pezney’s, a great place to wander around and wonder how you ended up at the checkout counter with 15 varieties of mustard seeds in your grocery basket.
Sole with Aleppo Pepper (serves ~ 3-4) – 2T EVOO
– 1/4 c finely chopped yellow onion
– 1t Aleppo pepper (more or less to taste)
– 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
– 1 lb Dover sole filets, cut into chunks
– 1/2 c finely diced cherry, pear or plum tomatoes
– 1/4 c + 2T crumbled feta cheese
– 1/3 c evap. skim milk (or cream, if you’ve a yeah, so? relationship with your arteries)
For finishing: some chopped fresh Italian parsley and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
2. Heat the EVOO in a cast iron skillet and sauté onion until it softens (~ 4-5 m).
3. Add Aleppo and garlic; sauté 30 seconds.
4. Add sole, tomato, evap milk; cook, stirring constantly, for 2 m, or until sauce thickens.
5. Transfer skillet to oven or, if you prefer a fancier serving dish, pour skillet contents into an oven-proof baking dish (But really, who are you trying to impress? The kids and/or your spouse won’t care, your friends don’t need impressing, and there’s no casserole dish nice enough to distract your in-laws and/or parents from thinking , Yep, she’s going to serve us yet another one of her foo-foo concoctions that smell like foreign food – organic, schmanic, why not just broil a hunk of meat and open a can of peas?)
6. Either way, bake the dish uncovered for ~6-8 m, until sauce is bubbly. Remove pan from oven, sprinkle with the feta, return pan to the oven for another 2 m.
7. There is no step #7
8. Sprinkle the dish with the parsley and lemon juice and serve.
* * *
Whaddya mean, there’s nothing special to celebrate this weekend?
October 19, 1945, is the birthday of Harris Glenn Milstead. Better known as his stage name, “Divine,” the flamboyant transvestite starred in ten John Waters films, and would have been 67 today had he not died 25 years ago from an enlarged heart.
Divine holds a special place in my normal-sized heart ever since we shared an elevator ride in our nation’s capital. I was in town on a business trip, installing a computer system at WWDC. The groundbreaking radio station was located in a high-rise office building in downtown D.C. One morning after returning from our daily get-away-from-these-crazy-radio-people fresh air break, my installation partner R and I boarded an empty elevator in the building’s lobby. The elevator stopped at the next floor, and Divine and his PR agent (or so I guessed, from what I heard of their conversation) got on.
Although he lacked his customary stage attire and fright wig, the bald, 300 lb, self-proclaimed “Drag Queen of the Century” was (for me, at least) immediately recognizable. He was in full, eyebrow-elevating makeup, and looked petty much like the above picture, despite his oddly conservative attire of a Hawaiian shirt, khaki pants and brown loafers.
R and I observed proper Elevator Etiquette and rode in silence, me using the elevator doors as a focal point as I tried to suppress my shit-eating grin. R stole several furtive/suspicious OMG glances at Divine, who chatted with his agent about an upcoming promo appearance.
The men exited the elevator two floors before our stop. As soon as the elevator doors closed I turned to R and gushed, “That was Divine!
R’s cheeks nearly exploded with the force of her sputtered retort: “That was disgusting!”
Turns out R had no idea who Divine was.
I explained. It didn’t help.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 Communiqué, for any of you keep-prayer-in-schools fans, is Communist for “letter”
 “THAT’S the femnazi atheist witch who wants to dropkick our Lord out of the end zone!”
 Devout Mormons believe their “temple garments” are sacred and provide protection from the world’s evils, which apparently include the ability to form distinctive personalities and choose outer garments other than those pictured in a 15-year-old JC Penny catalog.
 A grateful Yee-Haw! to MH for graphics/logistical support way beyond the call of duty
 Advanced Reader Copies, aka, “galleys,” are copies of a book distributed 3-6 months before the book is officially released, to give reviewers, libraries, etc., as promo tools and to give an idea of what the final book will look like.
 No footnote needed. Move along, folks, there’s nothing here to see.
 Yes, as in ˚Farenheit. What else would it possibly mean?
 You don’t have a cast iron skillet? You’re not still using that toxic, Teflon/nonstick jive, are you?
 Most notably in “Pink Flamingoes,” as Babs Johnson, the film’s “Filthiest person alive,” dog-excrement eating heroine (just imagine what the film’s villains had to do).
 A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for a company that designed computerized “traffic” systems for radio and television stations.
 “DC-101” was the first American radio station to play a Beatles song: “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” in December 1963. DC-101 was where DJ Howard Stern was paired with news anchor Robin Quivers and honed his “shock jock” persona.
Active, reliable, sarcastic, affectionate, bipedal, cynical optimist, writer, freethinker, parent, spouse and friend, I am generous with my handy supply of ADA-approved spearmint gum and sometimes refrain from humming in public.