Can We Tolerate Clean Reads?

I’ve been an active member of Goodreads for several years now. I find it helpful for tracking books and finding more books and talking books and meeting book reading book lovers. Recently as I indulged my love of book reviews (both there and on Amazon), I have begun to sense a trend which I hope gets swallowed up in some other better trend. Not a worse trend, oh dear heavens, we don’t need anymore of those! It’s as if these days some sort of Bulk Discount Bin of Worse Trends had been upended over the continental United States!

The scenario is this: a new book comes out, or people rediscover an older book. The author may be heavily involved promoting it. Readers are enjoying discussing it. Then someone asks, quite innocently, “Is the book clean?” The author herself, and several other people who suddenly revert to their Mr. Edward Hyde personas, jump all over the very idea. They make fun of the questioner’s ‘purity’, calling such questions sheer vanity, useless, censorship, outdated, outrageous, not worthy of a response, that entire family deserves horrible Medieval ends, and much, much worse.

What is the word for the overreaction of a system to an otherwise perfectly normal and harmless irritant? An allergy attack? Antihistamine overdrive? Anaphylactic shock? Aren’t we trying to cure that sort of thing?

Because the question, while vague, has its purposes. There are growing numbers of people who acknowledge that much of our mainstream culture is slithering happily into the sewers of the world, and they don’t want to go with it. They may want to shield children. They may have sensitive history that makes them want to avoid sexual assault scenes in their reading. They may want to read about real problem solving and hopeful perspectives rather than gratuitous violence and nihilism. And why not? If a history museum fan wants to read about history, why not? I could even argue, with a bad taste in my mouth, that if a reader of gore and mayhem wants that, they need to be able to make their choice. But I ask this: if the history fan starts talking history, that’s not nearly the issue of a gore fan wanting to talk gore. And believe me, they often do. It works into every conversation. Ever have someone who wouldn’t shut up about the ‘Saw’ movies while at a picnic? Yeah. So why interfere with someone who is looking for ‘clean reads’? What’s this about choice? What did you just say about tolerance? Ok then.

The term ‘clean reads’ is vague, yes. It means various levels of clean to various people. It might mean absolutely no reference to sexual scenes, or it may mean a fade-to-black kind of approach to sex scenes. It may allow for a few of the milder swear words, or it may not. It may want to avoid the everything-is-the-same-so-nothing-really-matters philosophy that infuses so much literature with a kind of pre-soviet psychological grooming that leads to State control of culture and thought. But is it so hard to just ask: “What do you mean by ‘clean’?”

Can we suspend rash judgement anymore? Can we ask for clarification? Can we discuss?

The defensive maneuvers of those who cry- or shriek- censorship reminds me of Shakespeare: “Methinks he doth protest too much”. Censorship? Where were the cries of censorship when the publishers demanded changes? Where were the cries of outdated when the book refers to older literature forms? Why this pretense at moral superiority while trying to skewer the morality of another? Hypocrite much?

Thankfully, when I see these attacks, I am also seeing more and more responses of other bystanders who step forward and defend the simple question. Most simply see clean choices as that- choices. We all must discriminate or we would be required by circumstances to read all books in the world. Really! Just think about it: you have no choice. You can not pick one book over another. You must read them ALL.

Or: you must read the ones we demand you read. You are especially not allowed to read those ones over there.

Both are pretty ridiculous. One has been attempted at various times throughout the history of the world. (Hint: it’s the second one)

Why does this mean anything to me? because I have my own set of standards (LIKE EVERY OTHER READER) and mine happen to lean towards ‘clean’. How I define it can shift as I change as a person, because no one is still reading the books they read in first grade, or college, and only those. We all change. Nevertheless, my tendency towards ‘clean’ has stayed roughly about the same. Why do I choose that? Here’s why:

  1. I’m so tired of the sex scenes. They feel like this: the author is getting off on their own writing, and making me a voyeur; the spread of pornography with its attendant addiction, abuse, and cultural decline means we should be preventing it, not spreading it like verbal plague; and after avearge sex scenes become inadequate for an author, their readers, or their publishers, just how far are we going to go into the mire for that next fleeting jaded arousal? Or is that just a repeat of the addiction argument?
  2. I’m tired of the gore. So much of it feels, well, canned. Like extra juicy spam. You open it, it slops out, and you say, “Oh, cool! Gimme more!” Like movies that have jettisoned story for CGI gimmicks, many books have lost story for the sake of look-at-my-anatomy-research. It falls in a camp very close to just plain look-at-my-anatomy.
  3. The despair and intensity have become comical. Intense story telling that grabs you with the first paragraph and then demands your attention is an insecure kind of verbal assault. Not only does it get far too manipulative, but it’s like the guy who grabs your shirt as you try to end a conversation and he gets so in your face that you feel his spit on your cheek. He’s like “You see?? You know what I mean? Anyone who thinks differently is an idiot!!” And you just want to go have a life with not-this-man in it. Or at least, let-him-keep-some-distance.
  4. I think we’ve lost something when we lose the setting and descriptive abilities of past generations of writers. Plot heavy is more an aesthetic taste, but it often comes entangled in gore and explicit scenes of all types because so many of our generation have grown up with TV…or less than TV…I’m looking at you, video games. What if I find your ability to describe a woman’s anatomy a misplaced description when I have vague ideas of your setting?

Admittedly, that last point is not so much a moral point but it is affected by the others. So while I avoid certain kinds of books, I know everyone else avoid other kinds. I know there are books I think everyone should read, but I’m not going to get their cooperation with social pressure that involves humiliation, threats, and grotesqueries of verbal outrage. That’s not how I operate, anyway.

When people yell “JUST READ THE %^&$ BOOK!!” I wonder if they would also scream at me to “Just eat the cowpie we pried up out of this farmyard tire rut!” Because not all reading is the same, not all books have the same value, and actually, yes, what I read really needs to be as clean as the food that goes into my body. It needs to be good and clean, as wholesome as possible, and something my mind can use to build good thinking skills, healthy mind sets, and a hopefully long life of happiness and appreciation of beauty.

That doesn’t mean we never use our writing skills to address dark issues within our human experience, no, of course not. We can write about anything and still retain our humanity. Otherwise we risk descending to the level of predators or pushers who demand government support for their attempts to groom others into their hideous world. No thanks.

Not all books are the same. I repeat that. We’re not talking binary data streams here, we are talking the thoughts that influence actions which shape the character that builds or destroys civilizations. Yeah, many of those thoughts come from books. Read a book and just try not to think about it. I dare ya!

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Released Again

I looked back and saw that it’s only been a little over a year since my last blog post. It’s probably the wildest excuse in the world, but like last time, things have been a blur and I can only surmise that the aliens have taken me yet again. I seem to have lost some weight, so yeah.

Image result for free clip art aliens

The fact is, I’ve been caught up in other parts of life. The parts that are just for me, like this blog, or sleep, or a chocolate bar, tend to get shuffled aside. It’s often necessary, and other times it’s often just wrong. Most of the time there is something I could have done to prevent it. In other matters, well, sometimes you just have to swallow yourself and take care of the needs around you. It’s the right thing to do.

So, wow, to catch up: among the many dramas of the last wearying year I have picked up work writing as a ghost. I can’t help it, I’ve always wanted to say that. “I’m a ghost!” Which means two things: 1- I am making money, and 2- I am less able to do other writing. Fortunately, I have found a little bit of balance and am now trying to do both.

That balance is difficult. It’s not so much that I am standing in the center of a see saw keeping it from swaying down on either side. It’s more like I am juggling and all the balls are actually staying in the air at the moment, while the ones in my hands are still going upwards rather than downwards. There’s a sense of motion, and perhaps a fear that things may change at any minute. Also the determination to recognize the good in what I do rather than focus like an electron microscope on the fact that one ball has a slight deformity to it or that the arc those balls follow does not represent a truly wonderous and beauteous circle.

Image result for free clip woman juggling

So much has changed in the world in one year. President Trump is turning things upside down yet again because hey, that’s apparently what presidents do. I take some comfort in the possible fact that some of what he does seems to support me rather than tear me down, and the sense of relief is a very strange and long lost sensation to experience.

The culturally intolerant are turning their flying monkeys loose as well, demanding acceptance and coerced celebration of their choices while trying to grind all other choices into the muck they have left behind after their shout-a-thons.

I became a caregiver to my elderly mother-in-law for a few months while she recovered from an accident. Still absorbing those lessons, though I can say this much: it was a blessing. Maybe it was a blessing I resented sometimes, and maybe I’m still recovering from such a blessing. But something ran deep through the experience for all of us in the family. Many times I found myself reflecting on the Children of Israel in the Old Testament, and learning more and more just how deeply and amazingly human they really were. They probably didn’t know whether to laugh or cry sometimes, just like me.

Finally, I look forward to my blog, a place where I can talk to myself and if people want to drop by and say something constructive, then hey, welcome and come again! I love having a good gab.

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Sources of image: http://www.classroomclipart.com

Imhotep Beauty Wraps

Grab Yourself Some Death

Wrap yourself in the same cursed death shrouds worn by unlucky evil for time immemorial!

We now have in stock the death shrouds of the infamous Egyptian priest who had his tongue cut out and was embalmed alive to accompany his king to the netherworld. You got it: Imhotep! He came back, and he just keeps coming back! Now you can too…! Amaze your friends and make a fashion statement! Come back from the dead in the worst way possible! The biggest Hollywood celebrities do it ALL the time!

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Be The First On Your Block

—Or at least the first at Little League Practice!

—Or the first in your book club!

—Or the first in your office!

Just Be The First. That’s what really matters! Contact us and we’ll reward you with unendurable suffering that you can force on everyone around you! So if you actually do manage to contact us, well, you may have it coming. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Side effects may include becoming a walking dead mummy, mumbling wordless imprecations, falling into preserving bogs, smelling odd, being chased by torch bearing villagers, never truly finding eternal rest, smelling odd, stiffness in the joints, lack of internal organs, tendency to go up in flames, smelling odd, and clumsy shuffling.

Multitasking

The Ups and Downs of Juggling Several Things At Once, and the Key to Success

I remember, years ago, the first time I heard the word ‘multitasking’. I thought something along these lines: “Wow, those corporate types will think up anything!” If memory serves me (and it doesn’t), I was carrying a baby in a sling while folding laundry, listening for the washer to end so I could switch wet clothes to the dryer, letting the dog out, soaking dishes, letting dough rise, letting the dog in, and avoiding the phone. Multitasking sounded like a new corporate thang, shiny, vague, but obviously evolved for efficiency in a serious boardroom environment. It took me an hour to realize that all that these suits were actually doing was being a Mom.
Multitasking is nothing more than doing several tasks at once to improve output and results. People have been doing it for as long as there have been people…especially little people: the wee one who calls you from one room while another clings to your shirt and another sulks in a loud cloud of silence because he wants your help but he’s too hurt to ask for it.
Now, this practice has its place. It can be very handy to get a bunch of things done within a two hour window so that your afternoon is freed up. However, I have discovered the downside to this and so I consider carefully before implementing Multitask Attainment Zone. It is this: I am sometimes so tired from running around like a chicken with its head cut off that I can’t possibly enjoy those free hours that come later. My back hurts, my arms ache, my head is tired of thinking about so many things at once, and all I want is a nap that I don’t want. So now I implement Multitask Aggregate Assessment Incentive with caution.
It is entirely useful and possible to have eight things going at once. Some of those might be things that can run themselves for a while, like a computer security scan and a clothes dryer. Others need closer attention, like serving a customer face-to-face or knowing what you just agreed to over the phone. Some can be interrupted, like a chapter in a book; some things can never be interrupted, like certain chapters in certain other books. There is probably a formula for how many things the average person can juggle at a time without making mistakes. I would expect that the number of mistakes would rise in proportion to the number of items being multitasked, but that never takes into account the amount of sleep a person had the night before, or the distraction of someone’s smothering perfume. Needless to say, it would become more difficult to juggle more things under greater stress loads. I suppose that means that when you think you are multitasking, say, six assignments, tasks, or chores, you are more likely also juggling the stress and pressure associated with the items as well as the juggling itself. Then there’s all the other stuff going on around you and inside your own head. It becomes ugly quickly. At least it does in that sometimes frenetic place just above my shoulders.
So when I have a to-do list, which is often, I sometimes plan part of my day to actively juggle several tasks at once. I don’t usually plan on multitasking throughout the entire day. I am a low key person. I only get up early in the mornings because I am cursed with Morning Person Personality. Don’t judge my day by how quickly it seems to get underway. That would be like judging the design of the Titanic by the way that champagne bottle broke against its hull.
I multitask, knowing that at any moment my efforts might get derailed by more important things. No matter how important my plans are, there is usually something more important than that. It might be the sudden need of a child or a friend. It might be a bizarre utility letter in the morning mail that requires an immediate follow up phone call while I still care about the travesty of their New Policy Implementation. At any rate, I multitask with an open mind: it may be interrupted, and it may not work even if everything goes smoothly. Then I make sure to schedule, as much as possible, a single-task series of activities. Because single tasking has its perks, as well.
It can be stimulating to take on several tasks at once, set them in motion, supervise their progress, and feel the satisfaction when they all end pretty well after all that effort. I have a love/hate relationship with to-do lists: I make them, then I hate when something stays on the list all week, into next week, demanding my attention. Sometimes I give up and cross it off. Sometimes I make a new list and the (de)pressing issue goes to the top of the list for me to deal with when I am at the height of my curse of Morning Person Personality. It is really cool to cross off several items at once because I multitasked. So cool! Less to do! More book to read!
But as far as I am concerned this does nothing compared to the deep joy of a single task, fallen into, made blind because of, and deafened thereby. Sometimes, during single tasking, time stops and quite possibly ceases to exist. My mind is quiet; my body stilled; my spirit alive with concentration upon the experience I am given. These are precious times in life: a mother sits in no hurry with a child in her lap, reading with utmost relish to the child whose face lights up with imagination and the satisfaction of feeling loved. An artist spends a few pure, solid hours in sketching or writing or stitching. A book lover has fallen so deeply into a story that they can hear the fictional characters and not their own real world. This is what we cannot do when we multitask: we cannot be thoroughly lost in the immense concentration upon one thing that is only possible when we focus upon only one thing. Ask any Buddhist.
So I tend to save the afternoon, if possible, for the single task activities that take as much, if not more, effort than multitasking. This is because when I multitask, I am trying to use my morning energy as efficiently as possible to get as many things done as early in the day as I can because honestly, we never can know exactly what will happen in the next hour. A desperate phone call, smoke pouring from the dish washer, or a bout of sickness can derail a day. On the other hand, I hope that we can also set aside our plans when we see a sun dappled maple tree or notice the elderly neighbor struggling with their garbage can. These could be considered distractions, especially to the goal acquisitive mind frame, a.k.a. The Multitask Blunt Goal Trauma Committee. These moments might be saving graces, which we cannot afford to pass by in our ignorance. They may be reminders of beauty and impulse and serendipity and kindness in the moment. A single moment can carry the weight of a dozen goals achieved if we are in the right place at the right time and we recognize it for what it’s worth. A single moment can carry thousands of consequences that ripple through hours and years and individuals and communities.
Businesses (and homes) need clocks and spread sheets and goals. They have their place. They help maintain civilization, make money, save lives, and reduce chaos. Multitasking is not, by itself, a good thing in any situation. It is only a tool. It is used in situations that are entirely appropriate to save time and effort. It is also used in situations where it is inhumane and contributes only to the suffering in the world. Use multitasking (and single tasking) wisely.
Awareness is the key. To multitask a person needs to keep track of what tasks they are actually doing. To single task a person needs to recognize what is most important at the moment they are given, plunge in, and use their full focus. Each of us needs to develop a sense of when each skill is best applied, and how, as well as what the results might be. There is no guilt in awareness, but there is understanding. There is no fluster in awareness, only calmness in the moment. There is no pressure in awareness, only the sense of growth. With an awakening of awareness, any action we take carries better health within it in general. So when we multitask we can use it for best effectiveness rather than always for efficiency. When we single task, we can do it freely and enjoy what we are doing.
As a stay at home mom, I am grateful for the ability to be flexible, because family life is organic, fluid, and can turn instantaneously messy. I enjoy living in the moment I have, and I enjoy finding new ways to grow. I enjoy living in such a way that I am not a detriment to those around me, and I enjoy thinking about these things. I am a mom, and I don’t just multitask, I momercize. I recommend it for everyone, though they may want to change the name of it to Magnate Task Efficiency Correlation Paradigm Accrual. And no, I can’t make a pithy acronym to save my life.

Back Again

I don’t know what keeps happening. Perhaps I am repeatedly suffering from alien abduction and will one day realize the missing threads of time in my blog are evidence of extraterrestrial mind tampering. Perhaps I am simply juggling children, life, school, and now work, and so my blog suffers. These lapses in my blogging are, in fact, more probably a sign of a woman neglecting those things that matter ‘only to herself’ in favor of the many demands of others around her. This has to be done, sometimes. And sometimes I can turn my attention to such things as matter only to me, but which matter rather a great deal.

And so I am returned, mind less tampered with than initially suspected, and with a deeper sense of what I want- for myself- in this life. Clothing that fits, a good cup of herbal tea, playing my music out loud, a big fat biography about a favorite author…a place to write some of my thoughts. I have most of those. That’s pretty good.

Recipe: Simple Granola

Since this is something of a mommy blog, it’s time for another recipe. I chose this one because I have used it so much. It also works for me because while I love the ritual stirring and philosophical shaping of foods, details like long ingredient lists, or, say, timing the thing in the oven, often elude my attention span. Or perhaps my attention span eludes kitchen detail.

Simple Granola

ingredients:
3C oats (any type)
3/4 C honey (or less)
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C vegetable oil (any type- I believe in flexibility in my recipes)
dash salt
dash nutmeg
dash cinnamon

instructions:
Mix everything in a big bowl in whatever order you want. Spread it over a pan with at least some sides to it. Bake at 300 degrees for 40 minutes, but every ten minutes go stir it around. Otherwise, the mix on the sides will bake much crunchier than the stuff in the middle, if you really must know right now. Also, having the timer ding every ten minutes reminds me that I am cooking something. After four stirs I take it out and let it cool.

alternative methods:
I have substituted vanilla for the dashes of spices. I used x amount of vanilla, that being equal to the way in which I always overuse vanilla because I can never get enough of it. So, roughly, some capfuls from the bottle. I have also switched out some honey for brown sugar (this recipe can really blow through the honey!), but the more I did that the more the mix stuck to the pans. I regularly triple the recipe nowadays, spread it over three pans, and when it’s cooled, I store it in a plastic cereal box. I also refrigerate it. This stuff has no preservatives, so if you think it’s going to last longer than a few days (HA!) then you might want to do the same. And of course, you can add dried fruit or nuts to it. I haven’t got around to that yet. And if you need better detail to your instructions, well heck, just make it up so it suits you. This stuff will not blow up if you get it-somehow- wrong. It will probably even still be edible. And if, by some outlying chance that you do something really awful to it, don’t fret; don’t place your value as a human being on the altar of your cooking. Just use chocolate milk instead of regular when you pour it in a bowl in the morning. You might even try the liquid sensuality of dark chocolate almond milk.
And that’s it. A recipe that does not take a lot of time, money, or focus, and which lasts a good length of time (4-5 days) for a family of four. Even my picky eater likes it…sometimes.

UPDATE: I have stirred this every twenty minutes instead of every ten minutes and it has cooked very well. Recipes that accommodate my disinterest in what I am cooking always have a strong appeal for me.

Classified Ad: Gratitude

Classified:

Married White Female shouts out to her kids how great they are. Wants them to know how proud she is of them and how much she enjoys each day with them. I am honored to have them in my life.The individual good they each bring into the family amazes me. Am looking for a bit more help with the dishes, but the back scratches do make up for that. Willing to negotiate music tastes. Please, no knock- knock jokes. Earning your allowance outside of the family is always an asset. Love of books is guaranteed. Gratitude is unending. Blessings upon all.