Sunday, June 16, 2024

Jimmy Mender: the denouement.

Back in February, I wrote a post about a friend and fellow indie author, Leland Dirks, who had died shortly before. Leland was a special guy. He lived in southeastern Colorado, way out in the sticks, with an assortment of dogs in a house he built himself. He was also gay. And he made no secret of it -- not in his public persona and not in his writings. Everyone who knew him, loved him.

But there's a dark undercurrent running through Leland's work. He talked about growing up in a fundamendalist Christian family where he was not accepted for who he was. During Pride Month 2017, he wrote this on his Facebook page. I'm not going to include a link to his page, for reasons that I'll address below.

What I am proud of first is that I have survived. I did not kill myself, as far too many young people have. Which is not to say that I did not try.... 

I am proud that in the face of hatred and purposeful misunderstanding, even by close family members, I did not deny or lie about a part of who I am.

I am proud that I, like many young boys and girls, survived sexual abuse. I am proud that I sought help in overcoming the damage that left behind. 

Not long after Leland died, I ran across a Facebook post by one of his nephews, announcing his death. On that post, his brother commented with a hateful screed laced with biblical references, condemning Leland's "lifestyle". I don't think he explicitly said that he believed Leland would go to hell, but for sure that was the implication. The nephew claimed the brother's comments were made "out of love." 

I kept my mouth shut. But what I wanted to say was, "If that's what passes for love in your family, no wonder your uncle moved to the back of beyond."

Shortly after that, the brother got into Leland's Kindle Direct Publishing account and rewrote his About section. Here's a link. You can read it yourself, if you have the stomach for it. 

All of Leland's Kindle titles have been unpublished. His paperbacks are still listed, but most are "currently unavailable". His YouTube channel is void of content. His Facebook and Twitter accounts are gone. Someone else is using his Tumblr account. The only place online where I could still find his writing is his author page on Facebook, which I am not going to link to because I don't want his family to be aware of its existence.

I try really, really, really hard to avoid trashing other people's religions. But I cannot understand how followers of a religion that preaches love and forgiveness can sit in righteous judgment of their fellow humans. Isn't that the job of their god? And if Jehovah made everyone in his image, as they claim to believe, then how can they condemn any part of his creation? "Hate the sin but love the sinner" just doesn't cut it for me; it strikes me as mental gymnastics to justify the treatment of other people as less than human.

In that 2017 post, Leland also wrote:

I am proud that I read the book that people used to tell me that I was going to hell and found instead the story of David and Jonathan, the story of the Centurion who asked Jesus to heal the young man he loved, the story of Ruth and Naomi, whose words are often used in many weddings of all sorts.

He got it. I'm sad that his brother hasn't. 

To that man, the brother who is intent on trashing Leland's legacy to "save souls", I say this: I hope that when you get to the afterlife and see Leland again, you will realize the error of your ways. May he be kinder to you than you have been to him. 

Netrun78 | Deposit Photos

Several years ago, Leland messaged a few of his indie author friends, including me, and suggested that we promise each other to be the protectors of each other's writings. We all agreed. But as far as I know, when Leland knew he was dying, he never followed up with any of us. 

Creative friends, consider this a cautionary tale. If you have an inkling that your heirs will not respect and protect your work after you're gone, please, please make provisions to hand over the reins to someone who will. Do it today.


These moments of sad and angry blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Happy Pride Month, y'all, and remember: LOVE WINS.


Sunday, June 9, 2024

All the sides of Trump's felony convictions.


Tribaliumivanka | Deposit Photos
In last week's post, I made note of the fact that the 45th president of the United States is now a convicted felon. 

Imagine my consternation on Thursday, when the Washington Post ran an op-ed by Carroll Bogert, president of the Marshall Project, asking the media not to use the term in referring to Donald Trump.

According to Bogert's short bio that accompanied the column, the Marshall Project is a nonprofit online news organization dedicated to covering criminal justice. Bogert believes that "journalism can make our legal system more fair, effective, transparent and humane", and the way to begin to do that is to watch our language. 

"Felon", Bogert says, is pejorative. She writes, "Surely part of the impetus behind the sudden widespread use of the word 'felon' is to take Trump down a peg, to label him as no better than a common criminal. And that is the problem." She notes that people convicted of felonies are often from the margins of society. Calling them "felons" dehumanizes them -- it reduces them to nothing but their crime -- and, among other things, it makes it more difficult for them to pick up the pieces of their lives when they have served their time.

She acknowledges that Trump does not inhabit the margins of society. He is wealthy, privileged, and powerful. And "felon" is a wonderfully clear word -- the kind that journalists usually love to use. Besides, it's the truth: if you're convicted of committing a felony, you're a felon. 

But, she maintains, people convicted of felonies are people first. She compares "felon" to the term "person with a disability", which has been slowly gaining ground on "disabled person"; the idea is that the person needs to be front and center, not the disability. In emphasizing Trump's convictions by calling him a felon, she says, we run the risk of losing the humanity that other people convicted of felonies have begun to regain.

I am of two minds about this.

It should be a no-brainer for me. I'm the person who decreed, as the managing editor at Zapnews thirty-odd years ago, that we would not use the terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice" in news copy because they were political positions, not really descriptive of the two sides' stances. (I'm pretty sure I said we should use "anti-abortion" instead of "pro-life". I don't remember what I said to use instead of "pro-choice", and I'm really hoping it wasn't "pro-abortion"; if I did, I hereby apologize.)

Moreover, as alert hearth/myth readers know, I'm an animist. I've explained how I believe it's not just human people who have personhood and deserve respect. Animals and plants have ways of communicating with us and with one another, and even physical features of our world such as mountains, rivers, and rocks may have ways of thinking and feeling that we can't understand. Just because we can't perceive their language, it doesn't mean they don't have one.

I've also talked here about how it's wrong for humans to dehumanize one another; for centuries, that's how we justified slavery and genocide.

And yet. 

And yet, it feels so delicious to dehumanize Trump. I do want to knock him down a peg. I do want to see him treated as any other criminal would be treated.* And "felon" is a clear word. A truthful word.

And given the way his first presidency degraded the nation, and given what he and those close to him intend to do if he's elected again, I could make a strong case for using almost any language to emphasize the clear and present danger he presents to the nation.

And yet.

Is it right to hurt people just to score points against Trump?

I'm feeling a little like Tevye here: "On the other hand...."

I can't promise that I'll never refer to Trump as a convicted felon again. But I promise that I'll pause and think about it. 

Even if only for a nanosecond.


*His pre-sentencing conference is tomorrow. But just like the perp walk we never got to see, he's not going to get the full treatment this time, either. He'll be answering the probation officer's questions by video conference from Mar-a-Lago, with his attorney at his side. The official line is that having him report to the probation office, with his usual entourage of Secret Service agents and members of the media in tow, would be disruptive to the whole office and would complicate the lives of other people who are there to meet with their own probation officers.

Sentencing is set for July 11th. The Republican National Convention starts just four days later.


These moments of indecisive blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Rich person, poor person, convicted person.

I have an iPhone (go ahead, say it: "OK, Boomer!"). One nice thing about it is that for ten bucks a month, I get access to stories from a whole lot of publications that I'd otherwise have to pay big money for.

Take, for instance, the Wall Street Journal. I had an introductory subscription for a while, but when that ran its course, the price jumped to the usual $36.99 a month -- which didn't work for me, but totally makes sense for the kinds of readers they're trying to attract (i.e., bankers, stock traders, hedge fund operators, and other finance types).

The WSJ's news coverage reflects who they see as their ideal audience. Take, for example, this story from this week. I've included the link in case you have a WSJ subscription, which I realize is pretty unlikely, so here's the gist of the story: A couple of Nobel laureates decided in 2010 that $75,000 a year ($110,000 a year in 2024 dollars) was the peak salary for happiness; after that, if your salary went up, you'd be no happier. Researchers today are having a hard time replicating their work. From the story: "More recent research suggests that there may be no household income at which happiness peaks, and that our money might influence our emotions well beyond that threshold." As a general rule, though, people who make higher incomes tend to be happier. 

ra2studio | Deposit Photos

To paraphrase something that a fellow I once worked with used to say: Every obvious fact will someday be confirmed by an academic study. 

One obvious fact is mostly left out of the story, although one of the researchers does mention it obliquely: "It isn't what the money buys, but the choices it affords." Or in other words, the less money you make, the fewer options you have. 

And of course poor people have the fewest options of all. Oh, the government has programs to help the poor, but this article in The Atlantic this week paints a less-than-rosy view of that assistance. (You should be able to get to the article from that link -- I got a come-on to subscribe, but I wasn't blocked me outright.) Here's a summary, from the article:

Beginning in the 1980s, the U.S. government aggressively pursued the privatization of many government functions under the theory that businesses would compete to deliver these services more cheaply and effectively than a bunch of lazy bureaucrats. The result is a lucrative and politically powerful set of industries that are fueled by government anti-poverty programs and thus depend on poverty for their business model. These entities often take advantage of the very people they ostensibly serve.

From Medicaid programs to state welfare systems to job-training programs, management of government programs to help the poor climb out of poverty has been turned over to private enterprise -- which of course has a vested interest in perpetuating the cycle, so these private companies can keep as much government money as possible for themselves. 

Note the date in the quote, by the way. Who was president during the 1980s? Why, it was Ronald Reagan, whose "Morning in America" brought us trickle-down economics, weakened labor unions, and more -- ideas that, in the 40 years since, have gutted the American middle class and sent nearly all of the country's economic growth to the top. To the kind of people the Wall Street Journal would love to have as subscribers.


Speaking of (supposedly) rich people: We've all heard the news by now that as of Thursday, former president Donald Trump is a convicted felon. A grand jury in New York City brought 34 felony counts against him for fraud in furtherance of another crime, and this week, a jury of twelve ordinary New Yorkers convicted him on every count.

Yes, it's likely he will never see the inside of a prison cell -- at least, not for long. And yes, the Republican Party is unlikely to nominate somebody (anybody!) else for president later this summer. But even if all he gets is probation, he'll have to check in with a probation officer on a regular basis. His travel schedule will have to be okayed by his probation officer in advance. And if he violates his probation, he could still be sent to jail. Quite a comedown for the guy with a gilded toilet.

Plus there's a whole list of countries that won't allow in a convicted felon, which could make diplomatic travel dicey for him if he's elected again.

Although it doesn't mean he won't be. The one thing we can all do to prevent that is to make sure we get out and vote in November.


These moments of happy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Monday, May 27, 2024

Kitchen progress.

Last week, I promised y'all a look at the kitchen redo. It's not 100 percent done (more on that below), but I did finish the grout. So here are a few photos.

First, the before and after (in reverse order): 

After! Lynne Cantwell 2024

Before! Lynne Cantwell 2024
I discovered when the installers took the old microwave down that the kitchen originally didn't have a microwave above the stove. Instead, it had one of those old-fashioned range hoods, as evidenced by the backsplash tile pattern -- there are two more rows of those flower tiles, one behind the stove and one behind the microwave. Once they put the old microwave up, you couldn't see the whole backsplash design. After weighing various layouts for my new tile, and realizing that the Day of the Dead tiles were 4.25" by 4.25" instead of the 4"x4" of the solid blue, I decided to just do the whole area behind the stove in the Day of the Dead tiles. I did not, however, try to pull down the microwave by myself. So someday when somebody decides they'd rather not have a microwave over the stove -- surprise!

I decided on the spur of the moment to tile the whole backsplash on the stove side of the kitchen, hence the addition of the white tiles. I also went down an extra row of tile behind the stove, because eventually I want to get an induction stove (mainly because induction is safer for old farts) and most of them are slide-in models without the panel of controls along the back.

I bought the swirly knobs and cup pulls with the antique copper finish on clearance quite some time ago. Then sometime last year, I spotted the swirly switchplate covers, also in antique copper. I was so excited that I ordered them immediately. They have been sitting in a box because the old backsplash came up about a quarter inch too high for the copper covers to fit. When I put up the new tile on the sink side, you bet I made sure the new backsplash was low enough to accommodate those switchplate covers. (Interestingly, or maybe just interesting to me, when I pulled off the plain plastic covers, I realized the bottom edge of one had been trimmed off. Something tells me the tile guy wasn't communicating with the finish guy...)
Lynne Cantwell 2024
There's an additional issue for the plug on the stove side. I need to turn off power to the plug and raise it up to be flush with the tile, using spacers called caterpillars.

All the weeks I've spent watching old episodes of Ask This Old House have paid off. I learned how to: pop old tiles off a wall, patch a wall damaged by the countertop installers when they took down my old tile, install tile, and use a table saw. I sprung for a small wet tile saw after seeing the pros use them on the show (and after the nice lady at Artesano's here in Santa Fe told me that it's about the same price to buy a little one than to rent one), and used it successfully on this project -- which is to say that the tiles that needed to be cut were cut, and I still have all my fingers.

I still have to caulk the edges along the countertop, the tops, and the sides. I also need to seal the grout lines. And at some point, I need to paint (I'm 98 percent sure that I'm going with this color). But it's close enough to done that I unfurled the runner that I got from Ruggable. 
This is the way. 
Lynne Cantwell 2024
The details -- skip this part if you're already bored: Countertops are solid surface from Lowe's in Terrazzo Sea Glass; 50-50 split undermount sink was free with the countertops; faucet is the Ophelia by Delta; cabinet pulls and knobs were on clearance at Westwoods Cabinet Hardware; switchplate covers came from Switch Hits; Day of the Dead tiles are from La Fuente Imports. The grout is Polyblend Plus in (heh) Bone; the caulk is going to be the same color. This is the wet tile saw I bought; I'll use it again if/when I redo the bathroom. Total cost, not counting the appliances, was less than $6,500, $5,000 of which was for the countertops and plumber.

Funny story about the grout: The nice lady at Artesano's said not to get a goofy color, but to match it to the countertop. So I dutifully took my countertop sample to the big box hardware store -- and then I had to laugh. The countertop is white with terrazzo-style flecks of light brown and light gray. It goes with everything. I finally just picked a grout color at random. Didn't even occur to me that I'd grabbed "Bone" to go with the Day of the Dead tiles 'til later.

These moments of renovational blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!