Friday, January 28, 2011

Anthropological Optimism: It's Getting Better All of the (Archaeological) Time

Pessimism is all the rage these days. It seems that everywhere you turn, one talking head or another is shouting about how bad we have it. Make no mistake. Things could be decidedly better, but they could also be a whole lot worse.

As we argue over things like education and healthcare, it's important to remember how fortunate we are to have healthcare and education worth arguing over. There was a time when both of those assets were available only to the very wealthy and even then were suspect, at best. (Think “flat earth” maps and bloodlettings.) Even that was an improvement over the time before education and healthcare even came into existence. (Think “Grandpa adrift on the ice flow” rather than playing shuffleboard over at the assisted living home.)

The simple truth is that things are getting better. It just takes time – many, many generations sometimes – for the whole, or even a significant portion, of humanity, to progress along the same social path.

For some, this pace of change seems maddeningly slow. In the parlance of US politics, these people are usually dubbed “Progressive” or “Liberal.” For others, change feels like a whirlwind, tearing down established foundations in a flash. These people are generally considered “Conservatives.” The perception of this same progression can even alter over the course of an individual's lifetime, depending on their experiences and influences. This seemingly awkward situation exists for a good reason, though – to keep humanity moving forward together at a rate that is comfortable, or at least tolerable, for the greatest number of people.

So, be wary of sly foxes who would have you believe the sky is falling. It's true that we have many important decisions to make, as a nation and, more importantly, as a species. Strongly differing opinions don't signal the end of days, though, so much as the slow, certain march toward our shared future.

Today's exercise: Read any book written 150 or more years ago and note the many ways human life has improved.*

Next: Why February is, in fact, the Yummiest month of the year.
(Never let it be said that we don't enjoy a challenge... Who comes up with these topics, anyway?)

*Films of reasonable historical accuracy may be substituted by parents of children under 10 years of age. We are not without mercy. (We are, however, without titles to suggest. If you find anything good, do let us know. Our taste is not limited to bad movies alone.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Playing on a rope swing.
No matter who you are or how you get through this thing we call life, it is fair to say that the act of “living” is no mean feat. Whether you are a jaguar hunting its dinner through the rainforest or a guy named Hunter who sells Jaguars on commission, just getting through a day can take a lot out of a person.

Sometimes you may feel as though your job/spouse/children/parents/house/bills/etc. are sucking the life out of you, wearing you down, grinding away at your person-hood.

They are.

Most people love their children. Many love their spouses and are fond of their homes and lifestyles. Some twisted individuals even enjoy their professions.** Even so, each of these demands at least a little, if not a great deal, from you, every day – your time, your energy, your effort, your attention. At the end of the day it's easy to find that you've given it all away – all of your self.

It is for this reason that the Yummish feel that the occasional seemingly selfish indulgence is actually an act of great generosity.

Rest, relaxation, vacation, holiday and unapologetic screwing off give us time away from the barrage of need and allow our own Yum to regenerate. In these moments, we heal and re-create ourselves. As we have noted before, it is a basic tenet of the Yummish Faith that you are the gift you give the world. Reserving some time and energy allows you to renew and refresh that precious gift, allowing you to give more of yourself in the future.  

And, yes, thank you... We did have a nice week off.

Today's exercise:  Do something nice for yourself.

Next:  Anthropological Optimism: It's Getting Better All of the (Archaeological) Time

*For matters relating to pro-creation, please visit the gestatingly fabulous Mom In High Heels.

**To clarify, this generally applies to those employed as “professional yachtsmen” or “international hockey scouts” and not those who sweat and toil down on the cube farm.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The First 400 Words: A Note From the Author

There are all sorts of nasty things I could say about my home town. I know because I've practiced. You might say it was my major course of study in high school. Then I graduated, largely because no one could stand the continued sight of me, and I finally had the whole world in front of me with no family or obligations to hold me back.

So, of course, I immediately married a hometown boy with family ties deep enough to be genetically suspect. It was not at all unusual to be at the Piggly Wiggly with Gary only to find that everyone in the store was his relative, of some sort or another. I have no living family to speak of and only one half of one generation residing below ground, so you can imagine how thrilled his family was to add me to their tree. When we got married I was told that their old family bible had been lost in hurricane Frederick, but I suspect Gary's mother, Irene, – an aggressively thin woman with hard gray eyes -- had hidden it rather than add my name to that most sacred of genealogies. That was actually fine with me, since I have terrible handwriting and never have developed a satisfactory trademark signature.

Everyone suspected that I was pregnant when we made the announcement (complete with short engagement period) about a week after my graduation ceremony and my size did little to dispel that rumor. It was Mrs. Harris, my friend Tanya's mama, who convinced me to lose weight before the big day, saying my wedding photos were the most important pictures I would ever have taken and it was vital to look as much like the movie stars in the magazines as possible. She's a hairdresser and has been married three times, so has a lot of experience with weddings. For the six weeks before the wedding I worked my ass literally off and, on the day, I managed to close the zipper of that size 12 dress. It was the smallest I had ever been. I thought my mother-in-law-to-be would be pleased with my improved appearance, but instead she grew more and more horrified with each dropped pound. My decreasing waistline could only mean that I was not, as she suspected, knocked up, and it was not a sense of duty that was compelling her son to marry me. He had, in truth, simply settled.

The above quotation is the first 407 words of my current work-in-progress. Unfortunately, recently, I've had more work, so there's been less progress than I would have liked. Therefore, I am going to take a one week hiatus from updating The Yummish Faith blog, in order to concentrate on this new novel.

Should you find that you just can't take an entire 7 days without reading my nonsense, may I suggest you consider obtaining my first book, “Homecoming,” now available from

Today's exercise: Please don't forget your Yummish Faith over the next week.

The necessity of rest and relaxation.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On Becoming Old and Ugly

We used to be young. When we were young, we were cute.
That was then...

It is a great deal of fun to be young and cute. Strangers pay you compliments. People do favors for you, unasked. They give you things. They flatter you and humor you. They make allowances for you.

We are no longer young and cute... and it couldn't have happened a moment too soon. Stripped of the twin weapons of youth and beauty, we've become better people.

When we were younger, we could afford to be cold. When others continually make the effort to reach out to you, you don't learn how to reach out to others. We could also afford to be cruel, believing the extraordinary attention and favor we received made us in some way superior. We were vain, mistakenly thinking that our transient beauty made us, in some way, more deserving than others. We doted on our own appearance, intelligence, talent and wit, oblivious to those same gifts in others.

It can be difficult, sometimes, to reconcile the face we see in the mirror with the face we still expect to see. Letting go of our “mirror time,” though, has given us more time to spend face to face with others.

Today's exercise: Pity the young. Envy the aged. Embrace your better self.

Next: The threat of a preview of my next book still looms large, unless I get a better idea. Suggestions?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Yum of Bad Movies

To put our love of bad films into perspective, we'll begin by admitting that the first movie we purchased on blu-ray was “Wild Things.”

For those of you who are not familiar with it, “Wild Things” is possibly the worst movie ever made. Bill Murray*, however, is brilliant.

We are also the proud owners of another of the world's most spectacularly lousy films, “Waterworld” and feel that Dennis Hopper's performance is not to be missed. 

Though we can't bring ourselves to actually shell out the cash to purchase it, we have seen “Showgirls” probably half a dozen times.    

We do, however, own “Tank Girl” and “Johnny Mnemonic,” both of which showcase the character stylings of one Mr. Ice-T.

We won't even begin on our love for bad Euro films, mostly because we're feeling too lazy to pull up the character map and chase down all of those accents, tildes and other diacritical markings. Suffice it to say, we are acquainted with the oeuvre of one Tinto Brass.

These films, while universally awful, have at least one thing in common. They are wildly imaginative. Each represents someone's outrageous personal vision, no matter how tasteless this vision or flawed the execution. That is what we, ultimately, find endearing about these nearly unwatchable films. There is a mad passion behind them, willing these doomed Frankenstein's monster-films into being. As with parents of pug-ugly children, these films are smart, beautiful and important in the eyes of their creators.

There is something personal and touching about watching a failing film. For us, it shows the humanity of the auteur, far more than expertly doctored scripts and slick production values could. They remind us that, behind every title sequence, is a person trying to tell a story that is important to them. 

It is also reassuring to know that other people suffer professional failures and humiliations as well... and at least ours aren't available from Netflix.

Today's exercise: Indulge in your favorite bad movie.

Next: Maybe a preview of the book we're working on... unless we think of something better...

*We should go on record as saying we are also fans of the extremely underrated film “The Razor's Edge” and do not understand why it was not better received. Really. Good stuff...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mr. Attenborough's Neighborhood

The Yummish Council is guilty of a great many sins, the worst of which may be extreme self-involvement. The number of hours we can spend staring at various workstation screens, entirely consumed by worlds of our own making, is truly astounding. (Not to mention, rough on the eyesight and not really great for one's posture.) While we are immensely grateful for these gifts of creativity, it is  also easy to find ourselves becoming a little too insular. We need, on occasion, to be reminded to go outside and play.

Too often these days, the only time we think about the world outside of ourselves is when we read distressing, depressing news stories online about the “destruction of the environment.” It is a terrifying and overwhelming problem that can't be solved quickly or easily. Thus, we find ourselves avoiding the discomfort of the topic by avoiding thoughts of “nature” all together.

That is the signal that it's time for a trip to Mr. Attenborough's neighborhood.

Known in the United States as “that funny British man from those nature documentaries that PBS runs during the pledge drive” our fourth Yummish Saint, David Attenborough has more honorariums, let alone accomplishments, than we have the space or inclination to list here. (Again, our thanks to the good nerds of Wikipedia.)

Mr. Attenborough's nature documentaries, such as “Life” or “Blue Planet” are more than edu-tainment. They are joyful celebrations of the beauty, diversity and horror of what it means to be alive in our world. Infused with the man's own sense of genuine curiosity and endless wonder, these shows inspire the same in the viewer. Painstakingly filmed and, occasionally painfully unflinching, they are beautifully graphic reminders of the world-wide daily struggle we know as “living.” These documentaries have the power to bring not just the world, but your individual place within it, into sharp focus.

For his many decades of dedication to exploring, explaining and helping to preserve the precious environment we call home, it is our pleasure to confer upon David Attenborough, the title of Yummish Saint.

Today's exercise: Explore Mr. Attenborough's neighborhood.

Next: No clue. Really. Not a one. The well is dry.

(In the meantime, check out Mom in High Heels, a very fertile blog these days...)