Home

The Excuses I’m Not Excusing

Comments Off on The Excuses I’m Not Excusing

Department of War Is Hell
(And Also Entertaining, In A Masterpiece Theatre Production)

MH and I watched season 1 of World on Fire, “an adrenalized, emotionally gripping and resonant World War II drama that follows the intertwining fates of ordinary people in five countries as they grapple with the effects of the war on their everyday lives.” Which is * exactly * how I was going to describe it to y’all, until  Masterpiece Theatre’s website did it first and saved me the trouble of using terms like resonant.

The seven part series, which follows the first year of (the European experience of) WWII, left us looking forward to the second season (not yet available, but in the works).  Moiself  of course wants to see how the *intertwining fates of ordinary people*  plays out; also, I’m curious to see if something moiself  noticed, about the presentation of the series’ male and female characters’ personalities, continues into season two.  

With the exception of an endearingly awkward, ethically decent RAF pilot and a shell-shocked WWI vet-turned-pacifist-activist, the male characters seemed rather and  variously “weak” when it came to overall content of character, from their decision-making, treatment of others, and ability to act on – and modify, as circumstances dictated – their principles.  In contrast, the majority of the female characters, no matter their economic, personal, and cultural backgrounds, displayed a certain ethical, temperamental and intellectual strength, despite the chaos and amorality of the war around them.  I wanted to ask the writers and producers, was this gender character discrepancy intentional?

I’m thinking, yes…or at least, maybe…and that it is,at least in part meant to ironically highlight the strength of the women of that time and in those countries, wherein they were viewed as the “weaker” sex.  In so many, many ways (ways that still are in place, around the world), women, indeed, were “weaker” than their male counterparts:

* Women were “weaker” in that being born female automatically assigned them to a lower status in their country, their religion, their own family;

* Women were “weaker” in that they had fewer (if any, in some cases) civil rights or personal, professional, educational opportunities as compared to men, yet they were subject to life-altering decisions imposed upon them by (male) politicians, religious and cultural leaders, as well as that of their own and husbands, fathers, and male kin;

* Women were “weaker” in that their opportunities for self-determination were limited, and if somehow they were able to take direct action they had to do so at the sacrifice of what was considered a normal life and risk incurring societal shaming and ostracizing;

* Women were “weaker” in that the personal life choices both men and woman made had very different consequences for women than for men (e.g. extramarital sex; bearing vs. fathering a child out of wedlock).

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Talking Back To Someone Who Can’t Hear Me

Dateline: last week, circa 7:45 am on a rainy morning.  Moiself  is listening to a Fresh Air podcast during my morning walk. I’m at the end of the podcast, a slot typically reserved for a book, film or other artistic review.  As book critic Maureen Corrigan begins her segment on “Need A Mental Escape? These Books Offer Solace In Troubled Times,” my mind begins to drift. I’m snapped back to the present when I hear Corrigan, speaking about who she thinks of when she thinks about her favorite food writers, say that she always thinks of:

“…the immortal Laurie Colwin, who died in 1992.

With only the raindrops splashing up from the street to hear me, I blurt out:

“Well then, she wasn’t exactly immortal, was she?”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes I Don’t Even Ask, “What?” (Or, “Why?”)

Sight of the week, spotted at the entrance to our cul-de-sac, while moiself is driving to the grocery store: An Older Gentleman (late 70s, I’d guess), is standing on our street corner, talking to a neighbor (they are a bit closer to each other than social distancing norms would recommend, and neither is wearing a mask).

 

 

As I round approach and then round the corner I see that the OG is holding a…gas dispenser nozzle?  Yep, that’s what it is…in each hand.  OG (consciously or otherwise) uses the nozzles to gesture as he speaks.  Neither nozzle is attached to a hose, or anything else –  they are just nozzles, no gas tank or gas station in sight.

 

“For the last time, Regular or premium, and do you want your receipt?!”

*   *   *

 

Department Of Excuses In The Coronavirus Age

My late mother  [1]  was born and raised in the small northern Minnesota town of Cass Lake.  A reserved, studious, compliant child, she was never what I would (nor she did) describe as introspective or particularly perceptive. Still, every now and then she’d share with me an anecdote from her childhood which demonstrated, even when it was not the point of the story, that she was paying attention to the world of grown-ups around her, and not always liking or respecting what she saw.

Mom was in her early teens during the WWII era. One time when I asked her to recount some of her wartime memories, the first thing she told me was how she’d noticed that so many of the townsfolk, from merchants to private citizens, used The War ® as an all-purpose excuse or evasion for their mistakes, oversights, and outright incompetencies.

Cass Lake was far off the national defense radar; the town was not a hub or conduit for anything of vital importance  [2]  for The War Effort. ®   Of course, there was rationing of certain goods (e.g., gasoline, butter, sugar, canned milk) and shortages of others (e.g., automobile tires; shoe soles, and other rubber items), like in all towns across the country. Everyone knew this and adjusted their habits and expectations accordingly.  But when your mother asked you to stop on your way home from school at the five and dime store and get a spool of (non-rationed) black thread and the shopkeeper told you he was out of black thread but would put in an order and he’d have it next Tuesday…then when you went to the store on Tuesday and there was still no black thread and you timidly inquired as to when your mother could expect it to be in, the shopkeeper would glare at you and dismissively whine,

“Don’t your folks know there’s a war on?”

 

 

War on- schmoron.  You found out later (from a classmate who had an after-school job in the store’s stockroom) that the shopkeeper had written up his re-supply invoices just before closing time, that very day of your first visit – after he’d taken a late lunch (read: three whiskeys) at the tavern. He’d simply forgotten to include your order, as well as the orders of several other customers, who also found out on Tuesday that the ______ (shoelaces/spatula/salt mill/cornhusker’s lotion) they’d requested were not in because,

“There’s a war on.”

The town’s lone barber station was closed for four hours one Friday afternoon, during your father’s regularly scheduled 2 pm appointment.  It was a sunny day; business was slow, and the barber wanted to go fishing during lunch and stayed at the pond later than he’d planned.  The next day, when your father complained to the barber about leaving work and showing up for his appointment only to find that there was no one there to trim his hair, guess what he heard:

“Don’t you know there’s a war on?”

The one movie theater in town oversold their Saturday matinee.  You and your friend bought tickets to the show but could find not one empty seat in the theater, and when you returned your tickets and asked for your money back, or at least tickets to a later showing:

“Don’t you girls know there’s a war on?”

Y’all get the picture.

 

 

Nowadays, we (allegedly) peacetime Consumers ® get the you-know-what excuses, most frequently encountered when we are put on hold during telephone calls (and we’re making more calls then we used to, what with  sheltering-at-home and not taking our concerns directly to the businesses and organizations) to customer service lines.

First, there are the two customary/introductory lies which accompany our journey to the call waiting queue:

* “We’re experiencing a higher volume of calls than usual…”
(WTF, customer service voice dude!?  This is your default/standard message, no matter what day/time of day I call – which means that since you are *always* experiencing a “higher” volume of calls, by definition you are experiencing just a normal volume of calls…which you can’t admit and so you feed me this bullshit line, trying to get me to imagine 500 people calling at the same time as moiself instead of admitting you don’t have the staff to handle a normal amount of customer calls.)

* “We thank you for your patience.”
(Ahem. I do *not* thank you for your presumption.  We’ve never met; you haven’t even spoken with me, yet you are thanking me for my temperament, when I am not in fact experiencing anything resembling patience.)

Now we move on the Situation Specific Mendacity:

* “Due to the coronavirus, we are ______________

* “…taking extra precautions with your newspaper production and delivery…”

* “…dealing with customers who have extra concerns about our services, and we are doing our utmost to ensure that…”

 

 

Attention, companies:  unless you are a health care business, you can’t use the virus as an excuse for putting us in the same holding pattern you’ve been using FOR YEARS.

No, no, and no – the coronavirus has nothing to do with ourcellphone family plan you altered with neither my request nor permission…. And people are not calling your newspaper’s customer service subscription info line to ask about COVID-19 symptoms…nor are they waiting to speak with a Target customer returns representative about how best to administer the Presidentially-recommended COVID-killing bleach enema….  The timeliness and accuracy, or lack thereof, of your responses to our concerns have to nothing to do with COVID-19, and your call centers/customer service department employees are perfectly capable of lying to us/not listening to our complaints working from home, so don’t be using this as yet another excuse for your ineptitude.

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
The Weird Al Yankovic Edition

Moiself  has listed some of Weird Al’s song titles which are IMHO, applicable to our social-isolating, transmission–paranoid, COVID-19 times, and which, in small groupings, imply a related story. If I were making a movie of these times, Weird Al might just be the person I’d tap to do the soundtrack.

Germs
Cable Tv
I Can’t Watch This
Callin’ In Sick
The Saga Begins

Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White
Amish Paradise
Laundry Day
I’m So Sick Of You
I Was Only Kidding

Livin’ In The Fridge
Free Delivery
Girls Just Want To Have Lunch
Fast Food

I Love Rocky Road
Rice, Rice Baby
Snack All Night
Fat
Fatter
You Don’t Love Me Anymore
Won’t Eat Prunes Again

Everything You Know Is Wrong
Dare To Be Stupid
I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead
Mr. Frump In The Iron Lung

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job
because she couldn’t control her pupils?

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion Evolution  [3]

 

And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week.

Featuring this week’s Theme Day and recipe…Never mind.
It was my and MH’s wedding anniversary. We got takeout veggie burgers and tots.  [4]

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [5]

*   *   *

May you enjoy the petty pleasure of talking back to those who can’t hear you;
May you not accept “coronavirus” excuses for non-coronavirus issues;
May you remember to be mellow when you’re dead;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Late as in deceased, not as in chronically tardy.

[2] Except of course for the young men (and women) who joined the Armed Forces – thank you for your service (oh…yeah…they’re all dead now…it’s just a reflex, ya know?).

[3] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.

[4] Cajun spiced, okay?

[5]

* Abject Failure:  I’ll make a canned wieners & SpaghettiOs gelatin mold before I make this recipe again.

* Tolerable:  if you have the proper…attitude.

* Yep: why, sure, I’d share this with my cat.

* Now you’re talkin’: Abby the support Avocado ® approves.

* Yummers: So good, it merits The Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation ® !

 

The Debates I’m Not Moderating

Comments Off on The Debates I’m Not Moderating

 

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.

 

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..

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.

 

*   *   *

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.

 

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?

 

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]….

 

 

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?).

 

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.

*   *   *

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?