The Neutering of Jane Austen

I was going to wait until Masterpiece Theater’s version of Sanditon (Jane Austen’s final novel) finally ended before completing my review (begun here) but they’re stretching out the plot like one of those Netflix shows that go on season after season until you realize you’ve been sucked into a damned soap opera. One that will go forever and ever, long after the original stars have died and been reborn and now fight twins who swap brains, obsessive orangutan nurses, and dolls that come to life.

Vampire actors are perfect for Soaps as they never die! They can go on and on and on. But Jane Austen heroines?

Jane Austen only finished eleven chapters of Sanditon before she died and so all of the characters and plot twists had to fleshed out by other authors, based on what she “laid out for them.” After eleven chapters, you can often guess where an author is headed.  But, by the end of the eleventh chapter of Pride and Prejudice (Austen’s most revered work)  we hadn’t even met Mr. Collins. 

For those you who’ve never seen a production of Pride and Prejudice, of which there have been many, he’s the distant cousin who, by reason of an archaic system of patriarchy,  will eventually kick the heroine (Elizabeth Bennett), all of her sisters, and their widowed mother to the curb, leaving them homeless.  Unless, of course, they marry.  Marriage in Austen’s time was the only way for respectable women to leave their parents and take their place in society and what better way to illustrate that injustice than by creating Mr. Collins, a man in whom “the deficiency of nature had been little assisted by education or society …’’ 

Yup, in jolly ole England even a man who was a pompous nitwit was worth more than a sensible woman and you gotta bet Austen wasn’t too happy about that!  So how did the writers who took on the task of completing her last, unfinished novel deal with that anger?  Well, they neutered it. Charlotte Heyward isn’t looking for a husband nor does she seem too worried about a future without one.  Heh? 

I had not read Sanditon in decades so I couldn’t really claim that  the screen writers were taking obscene liberties with her work. Luckily the story is only 66 pages long and so I reread it last night.  I won’t bore those of you who could give a figgy pudding about Sanditon or Austen or even Masterpeeve Theatre any further but, I wasn’t wrong.

Anyway, today’s Valentine’s Day and here in Northern California we’re seeing the first glimpse of green which to me is a romantic sight.

The Galloping Gerties

Last week a friend of mine shared this video from Saturday Night Live.

If you don’t have time to watch, it’s about elderly people who like to argue with voice automation. The final solution to the problem is an Uh-huh feature that allows Grandpa to have the last word every, single time.  It’s brilliant.

If only my GPS had been equipped with that feature when I tried to drive my ninety year-old mother to her new lawyer’s … I probably wouldn’t have gotten that three day migraine.

GPS: Turn right on McCarran.
Mother to the GPS: I don’t think so!  I’ve lived here for fifty years and …
GPS: Uh-huh.
Me: I can’t hear the directions Mother. Please…
Mother angrily:  Suit yourself.  But don’t ask me for help when we get lost.   I’ll just sit back and shut up. I’m just warning you and this will be the last time.  Yes sirree. Don’t expect me to say anything because I won’t and then we’ll be lost and we’ll be late and I’ll never go anywhere with you again!  You can depend on that. Yes, sirree.
GPS: Uh-huh

I wish I could say my days of technological bewilderment are far in the future, but alas, that would be a slight exaggeration.  Well, perhaps not slight. A few days ago I found myself at the Apple Store with a problem I hoped could be solved by a new battery. I was too early to be “checked in” for the appointment I’d made with one of their “genius squad” and so decided to take a look at some of the hundreds of new machines on display.

Alas, my inability to adapt to rapidly evolving technology didn’t manifest until I reached the iPads. Thinking they were just like my iPhone I began randomly poking the screen and something called Galloping Gertie’s All Star Girlie Flicks opened.  Yikes!  I thought, where the devil is the home button or the X to close the damn thing?  I tried the back icon, the forward icon and anything in between and yet all I got were page after page of porno flicks for rent.  “Let me out, you damn Gerties!” I shouted, which got the attention of the intern geniuses tasked with protecting iPads from stubborn old farts who think they know what they’re doing.

“How do I close Galloping Gerties?”
“You swish.”
“I swish?  Sort of like a magic wand?”  I attempted swishing and a bright flash went off, temporarily blinding me. When vision returned, there on the screen was an ungodly close up of my shriveled visage. “Get that horrid thing off the screen!” I screamed.   

“You have swished too much.  You must practice your swishing.” 

Finally my swishing skills are adequate (although I can’t imagine using an iPad after  a couple of glasses of wine!) and the geniuses inform me it’s time for my appointment with my special genius. They then text my description to the genius and tell me to sit on a box.  A few minutes later I hear my name called.  (I don’t think they sent my physical description, do you?  Otherwise why would my special genius also call my name?  I bet they sent a warning.  Your next appointment is with a neurotic old bat named Jan. Good luck.

Unfortunately the news is not good.  Apple isn’t allowed by state law (??) to fix seven year old machines.  They don’t tell you this when you make the appointment and I think the answer is obvious. Buy, buy, buy. 

I hate to tell them but access to Galloping Gertie’s isn’t going to convince me to buy another Apple!  


Being a single mother is a brutal plot twist

Over the weekend I watched the movie American Woman.  The heroine (Deb) is a single woman in her early thirties who lives with her teenage daughter across the street from what’s left of her family in a working class town in Pennsylvania.  Deb has a job in some kind of big box store, smokes, drinks and has affairs with married men. She is a mess and her daughter, who’s just had a baby boy out of wedlock, seems to be following in her footsteps.

Deb is not a bad mother.  She’s just a pretty girl who got pregnant at sixteen and now grabs whatever fun she can regardless of consequences. Are there opportunities available to her that she’s not taking advantage of?  We really don’t know.  We only see her family becoming increasingly aggravated with her behavior.  Until … enter the cruel plot twist. 

The movie skips over a period of years to show Deb’s painful crawl toward a more socially acceptable lifestyle.  Finally, another cruel plot twist (this one expected) and she has enough self-confidence to leave town with her then teenage grandson.

I grew up in a gambling town. Many of my friends had single, working class mothers. Those with good legs worked as cocktail waitresses (better tips), those who were good at math were dealers, and those with no particular skills worked as maids or waitresses.  The casinos were open twenty-four hours, seven days a week, and holidays which gave them more flexibility in their working hours.  Men were generally bad news and the smart women preferred to go it alone depending on neighbors, who also worked at the clubs, for childcare help.

Mapes Hotel/Casino where my mom worked.

I guess there is a plus side to living in a gambling town.  But don’t make me say it twice. 

Here’s what bothered me about American Woman.  Being a single mother at any age is a brutal plot twist but being a teenage single mother is especially brutal. You don’t need to throw in the loss of a child to make their transformation acceptable to your audiences. 

Here’s the point that should have been made and wasn’t: American women who find themselves in Deb’s situation (for whatever reason) get no help from the government and are often blamed for the situation they are in.  I didn’t become a single mother until I was in my late thirties and had a college education.  Unless you have strong family support, it’s a brutal plot twist.


Gads – sounds like a stumping speech for Elizabeth Warren, doesn’t it?  It isn’t.  I’m still undecided.  But she does have a point. 

Emaciated Horses


tin hats

It comes to me and it comes again … like leaves circling in the wind, higher and higher away from the mud and blood upon my hands

A blank face, a lost bet, and let us consider the dead, let them awaken upon the river rocks, let them lift you upward

Look where the green blade sprouts through the eye socket and how there is advantage to everything if one can read the invisible signs

Take my hand little one and let us traverse in reverse to where you have come from, let us cut our bodies and go two by two into the genes of your blood, sit astride the lightning of who you are

Let me show you how it comes to me and then comes again and you can do it too

It comes to me in the blindness of shadows when the sun goes down and…

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Favorite Doors of 2019

For me, one of the bright spots of this year has been Thursday Doors, a  challenge by blogger Norm Frampton that encourages photographers (and those of us who point and click) to share entrances, arches, doors, and even sometimes windows from around the world, both the grand and the not so grand.  Sometimes those entrances have a backstory and sometimes they’re just whatever catches the eye.

My favorite doors from this year were actually garage doors.  I found them in a neighborhood of San Francisco known for its extremely diverse culture:  The Mission District.  Before the 1970s this area was heavily hispanic and not on any tourist’s map.  Then artists and hipsters, attracted by the low rents, began to move in.  They convinced home owners, restaurants and shop keepers to let them brighten otherwise dark and suspicious alleyways with their artwork.

Many of the murals (like the above) have political messages.  Others are whimsical.


A few had cultural overtones. I don’t know what Che is doing in the above mural but there he is.
Because the Mission District is named after 1776 Mission Dolores, it’s not uncommon to see religious murals. Some are inexplicable.

To see other Mission doors click on any of these links

Finally, this door caught my eye down in San Diego.

Name Dropper

I’ve known Duke since 2014 and this is the first time I’ve understood the dog and pony shows that people would rather see than the greed that will destroy us.

tin hats

I’m a name dropper.  We’re all name droppers … barking on all fours at the feet of the well-know, people just like us except they’re better looking, luckier, richer, probably more fucked up.

Cheryl Tiegs, the model, you remember her, right?  I asked her if she’d mind if I took my pants off in order to get a shot of penicillin.  I told her to just sit there, but she said, no I’ll wait in the hall.  That was a real missed opportunity.

Just back from the genocide and the phone rings.  I don’t answer.  Later I find out it’s Julia Roberts calling, she wants to come over to discuss what I saw.  A few days went by and a friend told me she had called, but by then she and Lyle had already left town.

Tipper Gore will be there and you have to show her around.  I said…

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Alarmingly honest and beautifully written.

tin hats

I thought I ate that bleeding peach
enough times for my chin to stain
a sour shade of pink.

I can’t recall, the moments fell like towers-
but did I grind the pit into a powder?

Pressed beneath the skin like all the hours
you never spoke to me.

And every grain of it is like a silt of iron filings,
that’s settled in the center where
you said there was a furnace
burning hotter than the sea.

I always want to tell you that
it felt more like a cage that held
the eyeballs of a voyeur.

Either way the poles rip holes
with every waking hour.

When all your love for me was spent in
sordid miliseconds-
was it frail just like a springtime flower?

Or was it more like fingertips in winter-
a livid numb that in time feels like power?

Or was it more a nihilistic…

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