NEA Funding Cut is DEFEATED

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The face of satisfaction

I was away when this became news, but received this email from Mary E. Rasenberger, Executive Director of the The Authors Guild:

Thanks to the outcry of our members, artists, and supporters of the arts around the country, the Grothman Amendment to slash NEA and NEH funding was soundly defeated in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday by a vote of 297 to 114. Representative Grothman (R-WI) introduced the amendment Tuesday night, saying “I thought I would take just one little bit of this spending and kind of come down a little more on Donald Trump’s side.” He voiced support for Trump’s plan to completely defund the organizations, arguing that it isn’t the federal government’s responsibility to provide arts funding; rather, the arts should be supported by private organizations or local government. During the floor debate, Representatives on both sides of the aisle spoke out in support of the NEA. Representative Calvert (R-CA), who chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, argued for the importance of NEA funding, describing an art therapy program for military veterans that has helped them recover from PTSD.

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Fiscal Year 2019 Interior Appropriations Bill, and in it approved $155 million for the NEA, an increase of $2.2 million over the current funding level. While artists can breathe a (temporary) sigh of relief, the fact that this amendment was brought to the House floor after the organizations’ funding had been approved is a sign that we must all remain vigilant to ensure that these important cultural institutions, and the arts in general, continue to be supported by our government.

 

I Quit Facebook

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Photo by Ivan Lojko

So, yeah, that. It may not seem radical to most of you, but it was a big decision for me.

I came to Facebook late compared to most of my friends. I just wasn’t certain I wanted to spend time with it. At first, I didn’t. I’d check in once a day, smile at a few posts, maybe laugh, screw up on how I was working with it because I was flying by those proverbial pant-seats, and then sign off and get on with my day.

But then, oh, then.

My time on FB increased. I enjoyed being able to connect with so many friends in such an easy way. Writing can be a lonely business, and we writers sometimes don’t have a wide social circle, so this interaction I was experiencing filled a gap in my life, so to speak. Not that it did; not really. Emails and texts and written words on a screen are all well and good, but they’re no substitute for actual face-to-face time, hearing a person’s words, seeing their facial expressions.

Over time, a funny thing happened. I began to derive less and less pleasure from my time on FB. I grew frustrated because their algorithms wouldn’t let me automatically see posts from certain friends that they decided in their Ultimate Wisdom weren’t worth my time. I hated the political rants (particularly after this last election), the hatred, the finger-pointing, and I was astonished by some of the poison being spewed by people I thought I knew. I also hated being forced to look at pictures I’d never have sought out in a million years merely because they came up on my feed and I couldn’t avoid them. (Sure, keep me from seeing posts from an old, dear friend, but go ahead and show me images of abused children and animals. Yeah, I love that.)

I’d get off FB feeling worse than when I got on. I felt depressed. I liked myself less. And I finally decided, ENOUGH.

So this past weekend, I went through my friends list and contacted many of them (those I know personally or hear from regularly) and told them I was leaving. I provided my email address and let them know that I hoped they would stay in touch, accepting that it’s now out of my hands. can do my part to keep our relationship alive, but if there’s no response then there’s no response, and I’m surprisingly okay with that. You can’t make someone hang with you. (Or can you? Hmmm….isn’t that what FB and its ilk are all about?)

Yesterday I wrote a short farewell post and I pulled the plug. And felt such relief and release. No pressure. No compulsion. I feel lighter, happier, and more energetic. I should have done this years ago.

I’m not saying everyone should leave FB. That’s between you and you. All I recount here is my own experience. But I feel that I’ve taken back a portion of my life, minutes (hours) stolen by aimless drifting. I’ll write more, read more, talk more with those I love, walk the dog more.

It’s like that scene at the end of the movie “Chocolat” where Anouk talks about her imaginary kangaroo friend Pontoufle, how his bad leg miraculously healed and he hopped off in search of new adventures. “I didn’t miss him.”

Harlan Ellison, 1934 – 2018

HarlanWe had some fierce thunderstorms today and now I know why. It was Harlan, making his presence known to the cosmos, kicking ass in Heaven.

He’s been my favorite writer since I first encountered him via his collection I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream. I was a teenager, angst-ridden and isolated, a nerdy island in a sea of the cool when I happened upon the book. I picked it up because I thought it was written by Theodore Sturgeon. (It was an understandable mistake, as Sturgeon’s name was emblazoned on the cover in HUGE LETTERS–he’d written the introduction–while Harlan’s was not.)

From that moment, I was hooked. His books were difficult to find at the time. Ferreting them out was laborious, but a labor of … I don’t want to say ‘love,’ as that sounds too fannish, but it’s certainly been a lifelong labor of appreciation.

It was my good fortune to meet Harlan several times. He made me laugh. He made me cry. He could be rude, abrupt, caustic, and in the next moment display kindness and empathy. He was eminently human.

And, God damn it, I’ll miss him.

Sexism Pisses Me Off

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“We are not amused.”

Okay, so it’s no secret that I have a problem with blogging. I don’t mind it as a means of communication, but the idea of doing it regularly when I really don’t have anything worthwhile to say just seems like a waste of not only my time, but my readers’ time as well. So I don’t do it, and I’ll likely never have a slew of followers because of it, but I’d rather go for content than quantity.

This article from The Authors Guild makes me angry. The gist is that if a woman wants to earn more at her writing, she should publish under a male name. This nonsense has been going on for years, and I’m horrified (but not surprised) that it still stands.

Okay, so we all want to make money. But my sister-writers, if you give in to this, you are part of the problem. We need to help women writers be recognized on their own merits, not hidden behind a male name.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know.

Article Published in JEMA

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I’m very pleased to announce that my article “Return of the Elephant Man,” appears in the most recent JEMA,  Journal of the Elephant Managers Association, Volume 29, Number 1. The article is based on a portion of my book The Man Who Loved Elephantswhich tells the story of Roger Henneous and his 30 years working with elephants at Oregon’s Washington Park Zoo (now the Oregon Zoo).