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The Second Act I’m Not Staying For

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Department of Duh

The opening, thumping drums and guitar riff to The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army is mesmerizing, to say the least. It is also an unfortunate earworm to wake up with at three a.m., if your intention is to return to sleep. And mine was.

 

As soothing as a Brahms lullaby, trust us.

As soothing as a Brahms lullaby, trust us.

*   *   *

 

MH and I saw the second play of the Portland Center Stage season last Sunday. A part of me was hoping I would find the play boring or just unappealing; thus, when asked for my review, I could justifiably opine, Sex With Strangers is so overrated.” 

 

CAMEL

 

I had no idea.

No idea, that is, as to the reasons I indeed find the play unappealing. It wasn’t a “bad” play. But it wasn’t the play for me, at least at this point in my life.

In general, if I intend to see a movie or play I don’t read reviews about it – or even brief plot summaries – in advance.  A major theme of the SWS play was the intersection/conflict between art and commerce, as played out between the cast, which consisted of two writers. Had I known Sex With Strangers was going to be about writers arguing about writing I would have gone bowling instead.

Not to say it wasn’t done well, and I’m sure most of the audience enjoyed the battle of wits, sexes, and literary mores and intentions between the older, female, more-literary-(read: talented) and-commercially-unknown-but-with-integrity writer, vs. the younger, male, more-financially-successful-and-famous-or-infamous-and-cool-but-once-you-look-past-the-braddadocio-obviously-not-proud-of-what-he-does writer. Older writer was rightly aghast at the mountain of muck that exists due to the advent of self publishing…and how relatively quickly younger writer was able to get her to shelve her integrity and let him construct a false, more hip author’s profile for re-releasing her earlier, neglected novel on his new self-publishing application…

Ick, and ick again. It just sooooooooooo wasn’t for me.

By the play’s intermission I had a nasty headache from clenching my jaw. MH stayed to watch the second half of the play while I took a de-clenching walk around the neighborhood and was temporarily (but rewardingly) sucked into a retail vortex. Thank the FSM for Sur La Table – I found that soy sauce dispenser I’d been so desperately needing.

 

soy

*   *   *

The Return I’m Not Applauding

 

That would be the return of Bloom County.

 

whatswrongpng

 

I know, I know. I seem to be one of the few FB denizen who isn’t performing the social media version of the Happy Dance, now that the much-beloved comic strip has returned.

 

"Bloom County is baaaaaack!"

“Bloom County is baaaaaack!”

 

I did read the comic strip on a semi-regular basis, during its initial publication period, but was never one of its most devoted fans. I couldn’t put my finger on my lack of enthusiasm, until the day I made a list, to confirm my suspicions.

BC major characters:

* Bill the Cat
* Cutter John
* Hodge-Podge (rabbit)
* Michael Binkley
* Milo Bloom
* Oliver Wendell Jones
* Opus (penguin)
* Portnoy (groundhog)
* Steve Dallas

Minor characters include [1]

* Bobbi Harlow
* Frank Jones (Oliver’s father)
* Lola Granola
* Milquetoast the Cockroach
* Mrs. Jones (Oliver’s mother) [2]
* Quiche Lorraine

* Tom Binkley

 

The major characters (including the talking animals) are all male.

 

mansworld

 

I’m not saying Bloom County was a misogynistic, backasswater Islamic burg; however, to my curious mind at least, there is a connection. Bear with me.

When you see pictures, from still shots to newsreels, of life-out-side-the-home in a conservative Muslim nation, you might wonder how, in a land seemingly devoid of women, all those men were produced. Whether at a political demonstration or just going about the tasks everyday life – walking to and from work, at the marketplace or having coffee with a friend – the lack of females, shrouded or otherwise, is notable…if you pay attention.

Pay attention to contemporary American art and entertainment forms – from plays to movies to TV shows to comic strip. Now, imagine being an alien (or an anthropologist) looking to such forms to try and understand the culture that produced them:  you’d have no idea that females comprise more than half of the US population. [3]

I am woman, hear me roar/in numbers too big to ignore…
I am Woman, written and performed by Helen Reddy)

I love that song, and wish its opening sentiments were correct. But it seems the numbers aren’t too big to ignore when it comes to…sadly…just about any field.

I get that art and entertainment have no responsibility, inherent or otherwise, to be socially or demographically representative. But damnity damn, how it frosts my butt, and makes me feel old and tired, to have to “get that” excuse rationale, over and over and over….

Unlike Islamic state artists, [4]  American screenwriters and playwrights and directors and comic strip authors have the freedom to draw, create, and cast female characters in all kinds of roles. They can also depict them as scantily or as fully clad as they choose…and yet they still – unintentionally perhaps, but effectively – shroud women and girls with the burka of scarcity.

Not being seen is a form of being covered up.

 

Are these women, men, mannequins, corpses, lampposts, bundles of rebar? Who can tell?

Are these women, men, mannequins, corpses, lampposts, bundles of rebar? Who can tell?

 

Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad BC existed. I derived pleasure from many of its story lines, and sincerely believe the comic strip gave us an incalculable, lasting contribution to contemporary culture: an opportunity to appreciate the uncanny resemblance between Bill the Cat and actor Nick Nolte.

 

Noltemug

 

Cartoonist Berkeley Breathed was – and is – widely lauded [5] for creating Bloom County’s whimsical/imaginary world in Middle America, with storylines that lampooned big and small town culture and politics. I did enjoy (most of) BC’s take on the political ambiance of the 1980s, [6]  and hope that Breathed will do as well or better with the strip’s present day incarnation. [7]

Still, what I didn’t need then and do not desire now is for yet another artist to create yet another world, real or imaginary, wherein females are peripheral.

Yeah. Hear me fuckin’ roar.

 

roar

*   *   *

Department of While I’m On The Subject

Listening to a recent Fresh Air podcast of the October 9 show, Steve Jobs: The Man, the Book, The Film produced two aha moments – one of which I’ve had before, both of which explain my almost visceral aversion to those who worship at the altar of Apple.

At one point in the interview, Walter Isaacson, author and Steve jobs’ biographer, addresses the issue of Jobs’ legendary volatility.

It’s one of the dichotomies about Jobs is he could be demanding and tough – at times, you know, really berating people and being irate. On the other hand, he got all A-players, and they became fanatically loyal to him…an artist who was a perfectionist and frankly wasn’t always the kindest person when they failed “

That is the near-perfect description of a cult leader.

 

jobs

 

Isaacson also compares the styles of Steve Jobs vs. Jobs’ rival and collaborator, Bill Gates:

Steve Jobs was more intuitive, operated in a much more volatile manner…. the biggest difference is that Jobs was very much a genius when it came to aesthetics, design, consumer desire. And Bill Gates…was much more of a focused businessperson than Jobs was.

Jobs’ intuition and artistic sensibilities are described several times in the interview, and those qualities are presented as strengths which enabled Jobs to envision and produce Apple’s “revolutionary” products and marketing. If Jobs had been a woman trying to make it in that field, those same qualities – intuition, volatility, focus on aesthetics – would have been seen as weaknesses. No one would have listened to her.

 

*   *   *

Department of Family In-Jokes

"You're out of croutons!"

“You’re out of croutons!”

*   *   *

Department Of The Customer Is Always Right…
And Sometimes Rightly Pissed Off

Dear Surly Checkout Clerk at a Major Pet Supplies [8] chain store,

I’m so sorry for interrupting your important slouching time last week, when I annoyed you by causing you to have to do your job. How persnickety of me to notice that you rang up my purchases without asking me for your store’s frequent buyer number – the number that gives me discounts on future purchases; the number your store’s clerks are supposed to ask for at the beginning of the transaction. I regret the pain I caused you when I meekly pointed out your oversight; the number of muscles employed to roll your eyes appeared to have been agony-inducing, as was the effort you put in to pointing your finger toward the payment screen and verbalizing your thinly-disguised disgust with what you mistakenly thought was my concern: “It doesn’t change the price.”

When I smiled at you with the patience your attitude did not merit and replied, “That’s not the point,” I selfishly caused you to grimace with the five seconds’ worth of effort it took to void and then reenter my purchase – a grimace which implied a colossal waste of your valuable slacker time (I’m sure you had better things to do with those seconds, despite the fact that there was no one else in line behind me, nor at any other register in the store) and which used facial muscles that clearly caused you discomfort, being as they were in such close proximity to your festering, so-hip-so-five-years-ago ear gauges.

Forgive me for entertaining, even for a nanosecond, my totally ungracious impulse to jam a feline hairball chew supplement down your throat when you once again took the effort to point out a factor which was not my concern – “It didn’t change the price” – but which, in your infinite, churlish wisdom, should have been my top priority.

I offer one more mea culpa for the small-minded thoughts I had while leaving the store – thoughts having to do about the importance of a brick-and-mortar store’s customer service [9]– especially these days, when we can often find the products we seek online, at a lower cost. Consumers rarely have the incentive to think about courteous customer service– how kind of you to go out of your way to inspire me to consider the concept.

Sincerely and contritely yours,
Another enlightened customer

assist

*   *   *

May your customer service exceed all expectations,
may your second acts be tolerable if not inspirational,
may your earworms be lullaby-worthy,
may you never run out of croutons,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] “Minor” = having appeared in the strip in “sideline” stories that were not central to the strip’s development and overall story arc (e.g., Bobbie, Quiche and Lola were love interests of the major characters).

[2] That’s her identification –Oliver’s mother and Frank’s wife. Oliver’s father at least gets a first name.

[3] Forbes magazine, hardly a bastion journal of feminist thought, even addressed the discrepancy by publishing  Women Still Ridiculously Underrepresented in Movies.

[4] If such exist, they are, sadly, well-hidden.

[5] Much to the chagrin of actual editorial cartoonists, Breathed’s Bloom County won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1987.

[6] Can you believe that Donald Trump has provided fodder for cartoonists for 30+ years? Of course you can.

[7] I also hope he will continue to be patient with those of us who continue to mispronounce his surname.

[8] Hint: not Petco.

[9] In all fairness to the chain itself, their customer service dept.  was promptly responsive to the complaint I filed on line.

The Pirate I’m Not Talking Like

Comments Off on The Pirate I’m Not Talking Like

If you’re looking for an excuse to bellow, Avast, ye scurvy scum! [1] without having to suffer through a Comcast service call, this be your lucky day, matey.

You do know that September 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day, aye?  Silly moiself to even ask – you probably plan your year around this event.

Are you sure it's talk like a pirate day?

You sure it’s talk like a pirate day?

For those of you unfamiliar with the holiday, I suggest visiting the TLAP site, for a thrilling historical overview of how two Oregonian buccaneer-wannabees came up with the idea, and how humorist Dave Barry had a hook hand in creating what, I see, now that I have checked the site, is now referred to as International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

It used to be just TLAP day.  I’m not sure what makes it International,[2] but that is neither here nor there tharrrrrrr. I have enjoyed the spirit behind this whimsical, happenstance-of-a-celebration for many years. I even have a pirate costume that has made more than one embarrass-your-offspring ®  appearance over the years.  (Hint: show up for the orthodontist appointment festively attired in your pirate gear – your child’s mouthful of pointy objects will quell their objections).

Even a brief search online will get you all kinds of TLAP silliness.  There are talk like a pirate apps, pirate name generators, suggestions for costumes, parties and other events, and talk-like-a-pirate translators. You can even change your Facebook language to Pirate. [3] You can find bad pirate jokes [4] and worse pirate jokes [5] and even existential pirate jokes, [6] and possibly the best pirate joke ever, if only because it doesn’t end with an Arrrrrrrrrrrrrr:

A pirate walks into bar and sits down. The bartender notices that he has a peg leg, a hook for a hand, and a patch over one eye. The pirate orders a beer, and while he’s pouring it the bartender asks “So what’s the story with the leg?”

“It were many a year ago,” says the pirate, “when I were on the deck a me ship and a rogue wave swept me overboard, and a shark swum up and bit me leg clean off! I swum ashore and were fitted fer a peg leg that very night.”

“That’s terrible,” says the bartender. “What about the hand?”

“Well it were the very next day,” says the pirate. “I were walkin on the deck a me ship and a rogue wave swept me overboard again, and a whale came up and bit me hand clean off! I swum ashore and were fitted fer a hook that very night.”

“Wow,” says the bartender. “So what about the eye?”

“Well it were the very next day,” says the pirate. “I were walkin on the deck a me ship, and I were lookin out fer rogue waves, and a seagull flew over and shit right in me eye!”

“Oh man,” says the bartender. “And that blinded you?”

“Well no,” says the pirate. “But it were me first day with the hook.”

Arrr

Or celebrate your ultimate geekiness with a shirt that acknowledges both and Pi day and Talk Like a Pirate Day.

pirate

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Department of Apropos of Nothing

If you ever happen to catch a glimpse of me when I’m doing my Nordic walking, [7] and you notice [8] that my stride suddenly changes – gets a bit more resolute and strutty, even badass, dare I say –you’ve caught me at that wonderful moment when whatever podcast I was listening to ended and I clicked to my music and The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army began to play.

Of course, sometimes the next song in the queue is The Archies‘ one and only hit.  Livin’ on the edge, what can I say.

*   *   *

Thomas Wolfe was wrong:
You Can Go Home again
(as long as you bring your friends)

Belle telephoned on the 8th, to share some good news. She was quite proud that her Oregon Zoo connections still allowed her to get breaking animal news before the general public, and she knew a “secret” that wasn’t to be announced until the following day: one of the female lions, Kya, had given birth to four cubs.

"Mum's the word, Belle, or the hippo gets it."

“Mum’s the word, Belle, or the hippo gets it.”

Her call was also to share the news that next weekend she is coming home for a visit…long with seven college/dorm friends that apparently and collectively refer to themselves as The Family. Once I got over my kneejerk, Mafia-Charles Manson associations, [9] I was delighted to hear about the plans.

Belle and her college family are taking the train from Tacoma to Portland, then the light rail to our neck of the woods. They plan on staying at our house (“if it’s okay with you”) and returning to Tacoma Sunday morning.  Her “family” consists of roommate JS and six (yikes) other shiny happy young women and men, who, as I informed her, must

(1) not be allergic to cats, or afraid of snakes, and
(2) be comfortable sleeping on the floor
(3) there is no #3
(4) and cool about sharing 3 toilets and one functioning shower with 10 people

As per conditions (2) & (4), Belle snorted with duh-ness and said, “Mom, I live in a dorm.”

dormbath

*   *   *

Department of TMI

This week’s Golden Turd award goes to…well…me.

Thursday morning, while scooping the downstairs litter box,[10]  I noticed a deficiency of, shall I say, the usual volume of deposit. This made me fear that one of our cats, a certain one which is prone to do such things, had produced what MH and I – okay; mostly I – call “a runner; ” i.e., she had finished her job somewhere outside the box.  I made haste to the family room and began scanning the carpet (the usual runner place of asylum), with a look of determination that made MH to ask me what was up.

“Keep your eyes peeled for escapees,” I advised him.  “I just scooped the litter, and there was a disturbing lack of turd volume…. Oh, no.  No no no no.  Did you hear what I just said? Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d grow up to use terms like turd volume.”

turd trophy

*   *   *

Public Service Announcement, also Apropos of Nothing

But, still….

I am not a National Anthem kind of person, and can’t remember the last time I sang along to the USA’s whoop of praise.  There is no maniacal loathing involved; I’m just not keen on it.  I do loathe its mystifying and annoying (to me) use as an opener to sporting events, where it is mangled warbled by celebrities great and small. [11]

Unsolicited anthem singing advice: Yo, all of you Star Spangled vocalists who apparently feel the need to show off your chops by essentially ululating every other syllable – knock it off.  Or, to take a more charitable tack, I’ll grant that perhaps you’re fiddling with the arrangement as a way to compensate (I’ve heard many a Music Person say that it’s a difficult song to sing) for your inability to stay in tune and on key.

Whatever the reason, y’all know what I’m talking about:

Oh-wo-wo-wo say can you-U-uUUou SeEeEeE
Byyyyyyy the dawn’s early li-I-I-iii-i-iIte
What so prowwwwwwww-dly we hay-HAY-hay-Hay-elllll-d…

Please, I beg of you, just find the right note – one per syllable, it’s there in the sheet music – and hit it, okay?

Kids, don’t try this at home:

 *   *   *

Happy Talk Like A You-Know-What Day!  Have fun no matter if/how you celebrate, and if you’ve received any pirate party invitations, be sure to ARRRRRR. S. V. P.

…and the hijinks will ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] And who isn’t?

[2] Some dude in Canada says “Arrr” instead of “Eh?”

[3] In the account settings, go to language and select English (Pirate).

[4] What be a pirate’s favorite vegetable?  Arrrrtichokes.

[5] What is a pirate’s favorite fast food franchise?  Arrrrrrrrrrrby’s.

[6] How do pirates know they exist?  They think, therefore, they Arrrrrre.

[7] And if so, what are you, some kind of Nordic walking stalker?

[8] What else did you notice – that I tried to adjust my underwear without breaking step?  Keep it to yourself, ok?

[9] I’m from a different era; Belle had no idea what I was talking about, when I teased her about the references.

[10] Yes, there is also an upstairs litter box.  Two, in fact. Upstairs, Downstairs – we’re not talkin’ a Masterpiece Theatre arrangement: we have three indoor cats.

[11] I will stand when the announcement Please rise for the singing of our national anthem is made, as the request for standing means everyone is seated, and I take every opportunity to stand up when I’ve been sitting for more than five minutes.