On misogyny

I participated in a Facebook conversation today about Hillary Clinton and the possibility that she might run for president in 2016.

Some people loved the idea. Some hated it.

Some of Clinton’s detractors voiced legitimate concerns; a few offered bizarre conspiracy theories; and a couple revealed themselves to be practitioners of a particularly noxious species of misogyny that seems to be all the rage in some circles.

Criticizing Clinton’s performance in Benghazi or her voting record on the Iraq War is legitimate. Criticizing her for her husband’s behavior is questionable but possibly legitimate, depending on the behavior under discussion. (“I didn’t like the administration’s position on X or Y and am afraid she would bring that back” is legitimate; “She couldn’t control her husband” is sexist nonsense.)

Criticizing Clinton because you consider her physically unattractive is — pardon my blunt language — inexcusable, misogynistic bullshit. We are not talking about whether she is qualified to be a Hooters waitress. We are talking about whether she is qualified to be the leader of the free world.

When you take cheap shots at a powerful, accomplished woman based on your opinion of her appearance, what you are really saying is that you are an immature, small-minded buffoon who views all women as sex objects, and if you do not regard a woman as a potential sex partner, she has no value to you — regardless of her talent, intelligence, education, experience or professional skills.

That doesn’t tell me anything about Clinton, but it tells me everything I could ever need or want to know about you.


Folk Thursday: Springsteen

Monday night, I went to bed early, feeling a little icky. I woke up sometime around 3 a.m. in excruciating pain and spent the next twelve hours feeling like the result of some unholy union between Linda Blair’s character from The Exorcist and John Hurt’s character from Alien.

I mention this not because I want to talk about sickness, but because I want to talk about love.

No matter what Madison Avenue tries to tell you, love is not a box of chocolates wrapped in red foil, a diamond ring, or any other shiny object. Shiny objects are pretty, but they are also incredibly distracting, and they tend to pull our attention away from what they’re supposed to represent.

Love isn’t flowers or candy or cliches. Love is taking care of someone who is so disgustingly ill that she could pass for something out of an H.P. Lovecraft novel, escorting her back to bed when she’s too weak to walk on her own, pulling her close to quiet her chills, and whispering, “You are loved” until she stops sobbing and falls into a fitful sleep. Love is a cup of ice chips and a warm blanket and a thousand other little kindnesses that make the rough, scary times just a little more bearable.

Tonight’s Folk Thursday offering was Ron’s only request for our wedding. All the other music was either ’60s folk revival (“Since You’ve Asked,” “There Is Love”) or Broadway (“Love Changes Everything”).

Somehow it all fit together and worked, as our lives have done for the better end of 15 years.

I love you, Ron. Thank you for taking care of me … in sickness and in health.



OK … I’ve been slacking this week. I had great intentions about blogging, but I was scrambling hell-for-leather to make a deadline at the office this week, and then I had a creative outburst that had to be indulged with canvas and acrylics Friday night, and Riggy had a vet appointment Saturday morning, and there were errands to run, and church this morning, and photos to shoot for work this afternoon, and a trip to the dog park, and in between, I’ve been playing and playing and playing and playing my guitar.

I’m still not very good, but I’m getting better, and I have finally almost gotten the hang of “Diamonds and Rust” and “Love Song to a Stranger.” Today I learned “One Tin Soldier,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “The Marvelous Toy,” and a new arrangement of “Deportee” that sounds better than the other one I’d been dinking around with. I’m also getting pretty good at “Helplessly Hoping.”

I didn’t realize how much I needed this. No wonder I’ve been so tense for so long: My church doesn’t have a choir, I haven’t done karaoke in years, and I gave away my piano before we moved, so I haven’t really had a musical outlet in ages.

Learning to play acoustic guitar is easily the best New Year’s resolution I’ve ever made. Even if I suck forever — which is unlikely given the speed at which I have been improving lately — it’s way cheaper than therapy.


Hippie Writing Coach Vol. 1, Issue 4: TMI

Creative writing instructors say it over and over: “Show; don’t tell.”

What they mean is that good writers use words to paint a mental picture of something, as opposed to simply stating facts or opinions. Show-don’t-tell is especially useful in establishing character and setting. Rather than saying, “John was a slob,” show me. Describe his greasy hair, the sweat stains on his dingy white wifebeater, or the tobacco stains on his teeth. Give me some details and trust me to draw my own conclusions.

At the same time, don’t give me too much information. I don’t need a list of everything you know about John; I just need a couple of really specific details that give me some insight into who he is.

The trick is to know the purpose behind every word you write, then choose words that will accomplish that purpose as efficiently as possible.

For instance, let’s say my character is sitting in front of an old motel in a small town in New Mexico, and I want the reader to know the following:

1. The wind blows a lot in New Mexico.
2. It’s cold outside.
3. The town is kind of run-down.
4. The motel is kind of run-down.
5. The character isn’t from New Mexico.
6. The town is pretty rural.

I could write something like this:

Sierra was sitting on an old metal lawn chair with a red back and seat and a white base with alligatored paint and rust spots all over it. The wind was blowing, which happened all the time. It was cold out. She was sitting in front of an old motel with stucco walls, brown trim, a green roof, and peeling paint. The stop sign, ornamental windmill, clotheslines, chair, and the neighbor’s porch swing were all creaking. Coyotes sang, prairie dogs called to each other, and road runners scurried across a field at the edge of town, which seemed very exotic to her, because she was from St. Louis.

That passage contains a lot of detail, but it feels clumsy and kind of boring, because it’s basically just a bunch of lists.

Instead of including everything I know about the setting, what if I just pick a few critical details and weave them together into sentences?

Sierra shivered in the ever-present New Mexico wind. Her chair protested the sudden movement, its faded back groaning against its rust-ravaged frame. The chair seemed to go well with the paint peeling from the motel’s cracked stucco walls and the brittle asphalt shingles on the roof, she thought. A coyote yipped somewhere in the darkness just beyond the property, and Sierra nearly jumped out of her skin.¬†

See the difference? In both paragraphs, I’ve established basic facts about the setting and the character. But while the first paragraph includes a larger quantity of detail, it ends up using more words to provide less information. The second paragraph gives just enough detail to let your imagination fill in the rest.

Try this: Write a paragraph describing a tired mother trying to get two young children out of the grocery store before the little one throws a temper tantrum. Establish the setting, the characters, and the situation as clearly as possible, using as few words as possible.


“Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise.”
— Mary Baker Eddy

I don’t pay attention to birthdays or discuss my age much, because I’m generally inclined to take Mrs. Eddy’s advice and maintain my “vigor, freshness, and promise” without regard to dates on a calendar.

Last night, I ran across one of those Facebook memes where you click “Like” on somebody’s post, and they give you a number, and you have to answer a series of questions about where you were at that age, then answer the same questions as they apply to you at your current age. I don’t usually click on age-based memes, but this one appealed to me as an opportunity to reflect on growth and experience.

I have always understood age in strictly experiential terms. I’m only interested in people’s age to the extent that it helps me extrapolate whether they were around for a particular historical event. If you’re a Baby Boomer, I want to know your thoughts on Vietnam, Watergate, and Dylan’s decision to go electric. If you’re older than the Boomers, I want you to tell me what it was like to watch Jackie Robinson on the basepaths. I need to know these things.

Left to my own devices, I’d establish a new system for expressing age. Instead of basing it on the amount of time that has elapsed since someone’s birth — which has a tendency to “measure and limit” — I’d base it on cultural experience, which prompts conversations about shared experiences.

How old am I?

I have a near-Pavlovian response to the Cheers theme song.
I conjure up images of British ice skaters when I hear Ravel’s “Bolero.”
I watched the Sandberg Game.
I think Sesame Street was better before Elmo moved in.
I feel warm and fuzzy inside when I hear the sound of an Apple IIe computer firing up.

Try measuring your age in terms of pop culture rather than years. How does your pop-culture age influence who you are today?



It’s a chilly, quiet evening in Red Fork. I’ve got the Mamas and the Papas on Spotify and visions of art projects dancing in my head. I feel a creative outburst lurking around the corner, but I think I can keep it at bay long enough to get some much-needed sleep tonight.

Phillies pitchers and catchers report to spring training in nine days.

Life is good.


Folk Thursday: Joan Baez, ca. 1973

I’ve had “Love Song to a Stranger” stuck in my head all day and wound up playing it during my guitar lesson. (Score another one for the hippie: Zaphod had never heard it before. I think I am slowly but surely turning him into a folkie….)

I really like this version. Very simple, very sad, and very pretty — and could Joan Baez be any more gorgeous here? She makes that line about “dark eyes that melted your soul” seem very convincing.

I wish she’d come to Oklahoma. I haven’t had a chance to see her in concert in almost 20 years, which is way too long.