Posts Tagged ‘Family’

From the Editor’s Perch…

July 21, 2014

Jennifer Woodworth How I Kiss Her Turning Head

Maternal Horror


Jennifer Woodworth’s newest book, How I Kiss Her Turning Head, which is just out by Monkey Puzzle Press, is a most gentle jaunt into the genre of Maternal Horror.  ‘Maternal Horror’ is a term I have had to coin myself.  But this is not Rosemary’s Baby.  This is the Brahms Lullaby of Xtreme Mothering.  The baby and child in these stories and sketches comprise a wonderful blessing – so wonderful, that we follow our first person hero as if pushing off down the pipe of some Xtreme Sport …  Right down the rabbit hole of maternal instinct, without time to say, “Hello!  Goodbye!” into a sort of mental ward where the ordinary and quotidian prerogatives of life conflict to our first person narrator’s charming wonderment.  And off we go, as the book paints a gentle rebellion for two.

“I have never wanted anything more than I want babies.”  The narrator tells us at the beginning of the first and best story, “Mother of One”.  And shortly she adds:

“I want another baby,” I say to my husband.”

“I know you do,” he says.  He means he does not want another child, not now, not ever.”


How charged and compact that exchange is!

Our author knows a subtext, and next to that, a rebellious flight of words.  All of this makes for a good read.  Her stories churn in the updraft of a contained conflagration.  Her words and flights of fancy are cloaked like actors to carry more romantic weight.  But all of the ducks here are rubber ducks.  Her first person narrator “contains multitudes” of insight, but all from an idea fixee.  Her first person narrator is entirely rational aside from being mostly fixated.  Imagine an Asperger of mothering, with the soft voice, and gentle nudging of the genuinely aware – and you’ll be getting close to the voice of this narrator.

The interest of the first story, “Mother of One” – which is a lovely jolt of maternal compulsion – is deciding partly where the horror lies.  Is the Surrogate Mother, or is the Outsourcing Birth Mother the monster of this tale.  Is it the narrator’s world which is a bit off kilter – or is it the narrator?  The ending tale finds our heroine legally confined but still rebellious.   Though it wouldn’t surprise me to hear our narrator reply from her ward – in an attractive way and with an appealing tone, (or perhaps she would just ‘suggest’), if asked, ‘how it could be “rebelling” when the world is backaswards?’.

Jennifer Woodworth has a playful dramatic sense, writes a fine narrative, composes a lovely tune with her words, and is smart enough to say things worth reading.  This is a small book to purchase and enjoy, and possibly to start your collection with.


From the Editor’s Perch…

March 1, 2014


Sing along!

Sing along!

Anarchism: Give it a Look


            Most people, myself included, have glided right past the Anarchists when searching for a group of like-minded political minds.  Anarchists are represented in history and the media by bombings, assassinations, societal disruption and chaos.  Ironically, anarchists themselves – including founders such as the Frenchman, Proudhon – almost embrace this misperception, though it’s hard to imagine how the tenets of anarchism would support such behavior.  Anarchism itself is about establishing society through voluntary, personal arrangements, and flattened – as opposed to hierarchical – organizational structures.  Anarchism is not about chaos, but rather it is about organization through organic growth, personal connection, local rather than global activity, civic rather than state involvement, all with an accent on the adjective “voluntary”.  The roots of the word anarchism mean “against government”.  Governments are coercive.  Governments have definite structure.  Anarchistic arrangements are voluntary; they have mutable structure.  People change what they want.

Most strange of all, anarchic communities function well all around us.  In fact, we are probably part of several.  Anarchism has already been shown to work.  So, it is strange that we act as if the movement were something we couldn’t associate with.   Because we do.  Successfully.  Already.

There are already established threads of anarchism which are very strong, such as the free market, where a voluntary exchange of goods between individuals has created an incredible amount of wealth and efficient distribution of goods.   The family might also be considered a very successful anarchist structure which creates extremely tight bonds between members of what begins as a voluntary arrangement.  Neighborhood activities, bowling leagues, associations, clubs, theater and sports groups, etc… these are all voluntary activities which create a rich civic structure.  The moral basis of anarchism stems from the legal concept of natural law: that the best laws we can enact are outgrowths of what comes to be accepted behavior between two or more reasonable adults: ‘rules of order’ they might be called.  Anarchism is a wholly ‘grass-roots’ phenomena which creates its community as it grows.  It claims no territory, but can inhabit a vast area.

Probably the first question usually asked, once people have decided to consider the question is: How would an anarchist form of government work?  Well, unlike other governmental arrangements, an anarchist government cannot be described until it has evolved and matured to the state where we might refer to it as ‘something which could perform the tasks of a government’.  An anarchist government, because it is not coercive, cannot be initially conceived.  It must grow.  We might as well ask, “What can water do?”

Better to just pour it on the ground and see what happens.

Here are some books which have begun to address what ‘water might do’:

“The Art of NOT Being Governed” by James C. Scott

“The Vountary City / Choice, Community, and Civil Society” a series of essays edited by Paul Johnson

Pictures from Google Images

From the Editor’s Perch…

February 13, 2014


Pouring the Mold / Part Two


It’s rare that the average Joe can change society by doing something.  But he will most likely learn something. 


Illegitimum Non Carborundum!

And quite to the contrary, most often ‘the bastards’ will ‘grind you down’.  But, at least – if you forge on – you will discover how they did it.

So come with me, ‘Gentle Reader’, as we find from whence these fascistic forces, I have come to talk of, have manifested.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  If you want to find the source of where some aspect of society has gone to hell, you will more than likely find that what has grown to become so awful – began as a simple human urge, often to solve a problem or just to make things a little better.  Someone somewhere felt the need to scratch their ass, and now we are all butt to the skies receiving our ‘voluntary’ government treatment.

Prior to writing “Pouring the Mold / Part One”, ( I e mailed my son’s teacher.  And this is a portion of what I said: “…my reason for e mailing you this is that I can’t see how doing community service has any bearing on his understanding of Arch/Engineering.  And I can’t see why whether or not he does community service should have any bearing on his grade.  But most importantly, it doesn’t seem right to me that by donating $75.00 to a specified cause, he should be able to raise his grade by what would amount to two letter grades in Arch/Engineering.  I would like an explanation of this.”

And this is the first portion of the explanation I got: “Leadership is an important part of all Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes.  So much so that we are required to have at least 20% of our curriculum dedicated to that end.  (Note: Another teacher’s handout says the State Law requires 5%.)  Part of what I do is have the list of activities that the students may have done (since July 1, 2013) or do during the school year.  I explain to the students that being involved in the community and being in leadership roles is important to employers.  It can especially be important when two candidates are equal in technical respects.  I try to explain that it is much easier for a company to invest in a person when that company believes the employee will be around for a while.  Being involved in the community shows commitment.”

So.  My son – and every student who goes to his school – is required to train to be a ‘leader’, in every Career and Technical Education class, because this ‘leadership’ experience is important to future employers.  He ‘trains’ to become this ‘leader’ by doing (Mandatory) ‘Volunteer’ Service for the Community.  A ‘leader’ in this context, serves the school or town or county or state or country in which you live.  And ‘leadership’ in this context means doing what you are told; meeting your requirements, fulfilling your quota.  And, if we peer a little further down this path, the ‘community’ also means his future boss – which is the company.  And so, in bringing in my son’s future employment prospects, the Left Wing-caring-community-oriented crowd, deftly passes its charge off to the Right Wing-all-business-stop-whining-and-be-a-winner crowd.  And here my son goes, as he is passed figuratively from ‘Mother’ to ‘Father’ – off into the world.

Fascist thinking seems to transcend politics.  The Hitler/Stalin Nonaggression Pact of WWII would be a case of this.  Like animals of the same species, they respect their own.  Their thinking dovetails.

When my son graduates from high school, the school goal is that he already be accustomed to and be well acculturated to the corporate environment.  For example, take this sales company in which people I know have experience:

And just as my son is being told now, they are being told that the company needs leaders; ‘leaders’ who ‘buy in’ to the program, ‘leaders’ who are ‘team’ players.  In weekly meetings the employees are told not to resist the system; that the system has been created to make them become the most successful salespeople in the industry.  They are also told not to let their wives or their families destroy their focus, or to limit their achievement.  They are told to get their family to respect this.  The employees of this sales firm were first required to meet certain sales quotas.  As the years passed increased hours were added.  First it was 8 to 5; then 8 to 6; then 7:30 to 6; then 7:30 to 7, then 7:30 – 7 plus coming in on weekends.  And by coming in on weekends they didn’t mean just a “drive by”, they noted after some resistence.  They wanted a real presence.  Furthermore, to create team esprit, employees are pressured to go out drinking after work hours with the boss and their co-workers.  (Oftentimes to the point of getting little or no sleep, and acquiring DUIs.)  The employees who thrive at this are the ‘leaders’.  And the company, in this respect, is right.  A high percentage of the sales people who ‘buy in’, ‘lead’ in the production stats.  They also lead in drinking, divorcing, philandering, gambling, and partying – and it’s virtually unheard of for anyone to make it there until retirement.  Which is fine, because aging is frowned upon also.

Fascist thought is immensely seductive.  And when looking out at the world through the fascist lens, it is all eminently logical.  Getting others to do what the state wants, or the company wants, by being on board, on the team, and an achieving example does look like leadership.  And a company is always hungry for these sorts of leaders.  And by teaching a young person to absorb these values, a teacher is preparing them for a solid future in a fascist society.  And like most grand schemes, fascism works very well, actually extremely well – until it doesn’t.





Child Care Center

Child Care Center

Inevitably people become older!  They are going to want to use words honestly.  They will want institutions which have the individual’s best interest at heart – instead of the institutions’.  They will want leaders who have accumulated some wisdom along with their successes and know how to achieve a happy, balanced life.  But most importantly, they will want to control their own lives.  And when they sign their children up to study Architectural Engineering at their child’s school, they will want their children to be taught Architectural Engineering – rather than be manipulated to serve some grander scheme.

The Anarchist in me would point out that the instant where this whole story has gotten off the tracks is where something noble, virtuous and voluntary – has been made compulsory, and fashionable.


That’s one scenario.  Here’s the other:  Being part of a group working towards a goal is a big part of modern life.  It’s how nearly every contemporary achievement is created.  And it’s something that has to be taught, just as do math and science and reading and writing.  In this scenario, our student finds a job because he fits in well.  He/she knows how to contribute within a group endeavor.   And through her/his good works he also becomes more than another self-supporting taxpayer but a credit to his community.  He/she believes living in a community comes with social responsibilities and he raises his children to think likewise.  Volunteering is a family tradition.  And this is a very easy school requirement for her/his children to meet.  Moreover, these exemplary citizens might point out to you that children don’t just grow up wild having these traits.  Altruism is exhibited by children who have been disciplined to value it and to exhibit it.  And discipline means coercion.

So.  What’s the difference between raising our children well, and fascism?

I would submit that it is the difference between the family and the state.  And that when we allow support for the family to collapse all around us, we are inviting the state to step in.  And as history has shown us time and again, fascism can look very good…  until it doesn’t.


Concentration Camp

A person cares whether the lives they’ve touched have been made better.  The state doesn’t really care if you do your ‘community service’ or pay the $75.00 – or whether you’ve earned your grade in Architectural Engineering or purchased it.  The state only cares that you and they have done as directed.

Photos from Google Images

From the Editor’s Perch…

December 23, 2013



(1917 – 2013)


There are a lot of things which come to mind when I think about dad.  I remember way back to farm days.  He taught me how to milk a cow.  He let me ride on the seeder during planting.  He gave me a little plot of land to farm which was a triangle-shaped area created by the bifurcation of one dirt tractor path into another.  I planted cantaloupes.  I didn’t think there were enough cantaloupes in the world.  I loved them.   I can remember only reaping one or two quite small ones.  But they tasted great.

Dad also taught me how to ‘set a siphon’.   As memory serves, he was reaching through an electric fence to do so while milking the cow.  Inadvertently touching the fence with the metal siphon while demonstrating, the shocked cow bellowed loudly and sprang, leaving my dad tumbling.  I also remember the huge tumbleweeds that used to roll across the sage land.  Getting anywhere when the wind blew could be like a punt return.  We built a huge kite out of newspapers and glue and thin strips of wood which dad created with his table saw.  We needed a rope to hold the kite in the wind, and then it carried me off the ground.

Dad also let us use fence posts to make rafts with which we fought ‘wars’ in the waste water pond.  And he let us build forts in the baled hay.  This followed our digging a fort which dad inadvertently drove his tractor into.  When we first arrived, I can remember dad building our farmhouse with hand tools and eating cherry pie from a lunch packed in the trunk of the car.  I used to step out the back of the house when we were first there and listen to the coyotes howl.  To my small ears it seemed like there was a million of them.  Dad explained that one coyote could sound like a dozen.  So… maybe only a hundred thousand.

After we moved to Spokane, dad left with mom each day, to where he worked in the downtown Federal Building.  I visited once and saw his fellow workers.  There were lots of metal filing cabinets, rolled drawings, and drawing tables where a lot of his work was done.  He used interesting plastic rulers and triangles.  And he always carried a pen or mechanical pencil in his pocket.  Whenever I asked him for help with a homework problem, out would come his pencil.  Then he would find a piece of paper to use, before he began to speak.  I never asked him about Tolstoy or Hemingway or Shakespeare, but if I had, no doubt the pencil would have come out again.

Dad always wore leather dress shoes, even when he was doing carpentry or shoveling the drive – and very thin socks, it seemed to me.  It made me cold just to look at them.  He also wore khakis, which I guessed he started wearing during the war, and just continued.  And, as I’ve said, he always had a shirt pocket with a pen in it.  And he always kept track of the gas he put into the car or truck, the price, and the mileage at the time.  I continued to do this long after I left home, diligently scribbling down each item as I gassed up, until one day I asked myself.  ‘Why am I doing this?’  I didn’t know.  But it was hard to stop.   And he always wore pajama bottoms, but a jersey top.  Where did all the tops go?  I guess they stayed in the drawer, starchy new.

These memories start to go on and on.  Dad was mostly a nice guy.  I wouldn’t say that dad was an especially empathetic person, but he was basically mild and so endured a lot of arrogance and foolishness.  Dad had a fine smile and a pleasant demeanor.  In a conversation dad would always encourage me to be optimistic.  But I can’t say this was because dad was an optimist himself.  I think much of Dad’s good humor and agreeableness stemmed from the fact that he didn’t expect too much.   It’s been said that one of the reasons lots of people have trouble with marriage is that they try to get more out of it than there is in it.  Dad didn’t try to get more out of life than was there.  This used to bother mother.  She would complain that he never had a “great time”, it just went “fairly well”.  He never “loved” a meal.  He felt it was usually “pretty good” though.  I can’t remember him ever turning up his nose, or criticizing anything mom cooked.  He used to wake us in the morning by shouting, “Daylight in the swamp!”   He told me once that the way he got through flying all those missions in World War II was by figuring he was already dead.  Some people are offended by dark humor.  I love it.  I probably get that from dad.

Dad used to say that he let mom handle all of the little decisions, and he just handled the big ones.  After I had some experience, one day I argued, that usually after all the ‘little’ decisions had been made, there weren’t any big ones left!  He acknowledged that that was often true.  But then, being dad, I doubt he had ever expected it to be otherwise.

Dad was a pretty good racquetball player.  His forte was to place a shot right into the corner where it would roll out.  He had great placement.  He got me running all over, and I can’t recall ever beating him.  Now and then he would play this loud, hefty, gum snapping, arrogant, ‘phallus-head’ down at the club who I just wanted to smack.  That guy loved to really put himself into it, and would rocket the ball around several walls.  You could hear the impact way down the courts.  Then Dad would place those shots into the corners where the ball would roll out down the floor until it bumped a shoe.

Dad’s very acute sense of humor never left him.  Even when he couldn’t remember his last bite of food, he could follow a sophisticated turn of thought – and it would bring him a smile.  It seemed odd that dad’s recall got so addled while his humor remained.  I think it was because humor was dad thinking.  Some people might say that dad would joke too much, or was temperamentally a bit contrary, but to my mind, mostly he was just thinking.  And the best thinking often curls back on itself.  Every idea intends to produce “that which is seen”, to quote the French economic essayist Frederic Bastiat , but also produces “that which is unseen”.  Dad’s thinking would curl around to anticipate “that which is unseen”.  A few might recognize his comment’s wisdom.  But, “what is unseen” when expressed is often likely to be taken as ‘inappropriate’, ‘impertinent’, ‘contrary’, or just ‘off the point’ to downright ‘puzzling’.  So dad tended to stress the humorous nature of the unanticipated – or he chose category ‘G’: “Keep your mouth shut.”   Dad was fairly silent on many matters, and left Mom to hold forth.  Mom had a pretty big grip on “what was seen.”

Dad’s favorite portion of the newspaper was the funnies.  He would collect e mails full of funny stories and events.  But I can’t remember him telling a joke.  He did with his humor, what he did with his racquetball placement.  He worked the corners.  Someone would fire a verbal shot that blistered past, and dad’s funny would reduce it to something which rolled out and gently bumped their shoe.  It’s a peculiar form of power, but it’s the kind dad was given.

I don’t have to go very far to remember dad.  All I have to do is to be me.  We were very alike.  And I don’t think he was very pleased with his nature, and so he wasn’t very pleased to see me reproduce it.  But as he was apt to say, “That’s the way it goes.”  And, “Don’t make more of things than they are.”  And we got along fine once I learned that relations with dad were like a marriage: don’t try to get more out of it, than there is in it.  “Don’t make more of things than they are.”  It’s good, hard advice.  We’ll miss him.

Photo by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch

March 22, 2013



“We’re a couple of characters,” the bearded fellow said.

I was visiting my father over lunch the other day, in an intermediate care facility.  My father wasn’t feeling so good and wasn’t very communicative, so the bearded fellow pretty much had my ear.

“We’re both adopted,” he said, nodding towards the other guy.  Which I found a bit extraordinary, as it was both of them, and then our son is adopted.  Also, their adoption isn’t usually the first thing a couple fellows in their eighties bring up.

“He’s suffering from dementia.”  The bearded fellow nodded to the other fellow with the Albert Einstein hairdo, who smiled genially.

“He’s a banker.  But he can’t remember where the money is.  Can’t remember where the bank is, actually.”

The fellow nodded.

“Oh, well.”  We all laughed.

I told them my son was adopted.

The fellow said, “I came from a family which was dirt poor.  There were eight or nine of us, all adopted, in a small town outside of Las Vegas.  My father was Japanese and my mother was Irish.  And my wife and I have eight daughters, all adopted.”

He lived on a boat now.  “I’m hiding from the world.”

I said that I thought that sounded reasonable.

He nodded.

“My wife is a neurologist who went on missions.  And each time she went, she’d bring back another baby.  Until finally I said, ‘Honey, you’ve got to stop going on these missions.”  Back then in the late 50s and early 60s, it was very easy to adopt.  You basically just picked them up.  “In Burma, at the brothels, they had the babies stacked in the corner.  If someone wanted one, they just took it.”

It took us three years and a lot of paperwork and education and travel to adopt our son.  Things change, I guess.

“Back then, it was a lot easier to adopt children from Ethiopia.  So a lot of babies got transported north and were adopted through Ethiopia.  Everyone thinks they’ve adopted an Ethiopian.  We thought we had.  But then she grew, and grew and grew, until she was 7 feet tall!   We had adopted a Zulu.”

“She earned her way through the University of Washington playing basketball and then went on to medical school.”

Photo by Google Images

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