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End of Year Gifting and Giving Ideas

It's that time of year again...time to buy co-workers you don't know very well mugs with cheerful sayings on them or bland lotions or candles for the Holiday Work Party/White Elephant Gifting Season.

Sure, other more optimistic or generally less grinchy people than your friendly neighborhood Citizen Reader might call this the "holiday" or "Christmas" season. I just call 'em like I see 'em, folks, and a lot of what goes on at this time of year looks like sending holiday cards and pictures to relatives you don't know (my favorite is my annual one from a random friend of my mother-in-law's with whom we once shared an awkward Christmas Eve meal in an Applebee's, when we had to add a bit more to the tip to make up for our Baby Boomer parents' Scrooge-like frugality) and buying stocking stuffers for work get-togethers.

But I'm a capitalist born in a capitalistic system, so of course I have something to sell you too. Know anybody who enjoys British TV? Not only would I like to meet them so we could discuss all my favorite Brit shows and actors and gossip (like why is Matt Lucas co-hosting The Great British Baking Show holiday specials rather than Alison Hammond?), but if you need to buy a gift for them, might you consider either of my books on the subject?

Word searchFirst there is Bingeworthy British Television, a guide I co-wrote with my British friend Jackie Bailey to give you synopses and the entire run times of more than 100 popular British dramas, historical dramas, miniseries, police procedurals, and sitcoms, which Amazon currently has priced at $15.49 (the cover says $19.99, so you will look like you splashed out even more!). Also included are recommendations for hundreds more programs. Make 2024 your Year of British TV!

This past year I also published a new book of word searches and crossword puzzles based on British TV and slang. That book is titled The Best of British Television: Word Searches, Crossword Puzzles, and Fun Facts, and is currently priced at $8.95 (perfect for Secret Santa gifting when you don't want to go over $10 per gift).

Likewise, if you are looking for excellent charitable causes, I have a few favorites to suggest. 2023 was the year I pledged never again to give to institutions, but rather to give directly to indviduals. In that vein, here's some ideas I had. They all go through GoFundMe, which I realize is not perfect as a fundraising platform, but the individuals in these appeals are all worthy of your consideration (I believe).

Shannon Nelson Go Fund Me

Shannon is a writer at Medium and Substack who I have followed for a long time. She has had a lifetime struggle with undiagnosed Lipedema and Lymphedema and has more stories to tell than I can bear about unsympathetic and clueless and unhelpful medical personnel who don't know anything about her complex and debilitating diseases and who basically just keep telling her to lose weight. I have donated to her before and she is always very transparent about the very important health and activities of living items she uses such donations for. Mostly I just like her and I have a lot of sympathy for others who have been ignored and belittled by health care professionals. That's happened to me too, on a much tinier scale, and it makes me very angry.

UW-Madison Assault Survivor

In the fall of 2023 some poor woman was just trying to live her life in Madison, Wisconsin, and somebody horrifically assaulted her in a way that will impact her the rest of her life. This could have been any one of us, because even when we try to be safe, sometimes we women have to walk around by ourselves in the world. (I know. The fucking NERVE of us.) Please donate to this woman; her fight to survive this attack is far from over.

Cristina Balan Go Fund Me

I have written twice now about Tesla whistleblower Cristina Balan and her brave struggle against Tesla and Elon Musk for nearly a DECADE now. As if fighting to restore her work reputation and be compensated for numerous years when she has been unable to work in her chosen field (because nobody hires whistleblowers) wasn't enough, she was also diagnosed with cancer last year.

Cher Scarlett Go Fund Me

Cher Scarlett is another whistleblower I've written about who went up against Apple (for trying to discuss wages at the company with other workers) and who, of course, is now finding it hard to find another job in tech (because, as noted above, nobody hires whistleblowers). She has legal fees to pay and is having difficulty working in her field, simply because she dared question her Tech Company Overlords.

After all that, let me just say, whatever you celebrate this season, if anything at all, I hope it is a very peaceful and healthy and happy one for you. As always, thank you for reading. Here we come, 2024.


Do you know who has top secret clearance?

Sometimes when I am writing for The Progressive I find I am learning more than I really wanted to know.

Over the last few months, a story has been developing about a twenty-one-year-old Massachusetts man named Jack Teixeira, who, it has been found, has been leaking classified documents online for some time. Teixeira is now in jail and is being charged under the Espionage Act for revealing top-secret documents that he first accessed in his work as an Air National Guard member.

This is another one of those news stories that will come and go and which won't even register with many people. Let's face it, a lot of the news is that way lately. Complicated, deals with wars far away, includes vocabulary we don't understand (in the Teixeira story, I keep getting hung up on the phrase "Discord server," which I guess is something a lot of gamers know about, but it makes me feel old to think about and not really understand or care what that is), and, oh yes, most of us are kept busy in America trying to stay employed and retain access to our health insurance (even though interacting with our health insurance companies and doctors' offices takes so long and is often so unsuccessful that it actually makes it difficult for us to focus on our jobs).

I'm not really here today to tell you why you should care about the Teixeira story. I totally get it if you don't. However, I recently did have the chance to write an op/ed on this subject, titled "For Whistleblowers, Motives Matter," that was published at The Progressive (and elsewhere; The Progressive does this really neat thing where they help train you to write op/eds and then they share them around, called "Progressive Perspectives"). This was a new experience for me; I've got lots of opinions and my partner could tell you I love to editorialize, but I had never written an op/ed. Nor had I ever co-written anything, and for this piece I had the honor of working with Lisa Ling, a military veteran and whistleblower (she was featured in the excellent Sonia Kennebeck movie National Bird, which you should watch, if you haven't yet).

It was a new experience and I learned rather more than I wanted to know, from Lisa, about today's military and what it all does and where it all is (and I was grateful to her for writing this one with me). While you're still alive, you have to learn, right?


A word about The Progressive magazine.

Kissinger1My career, such as it is, has not been filled with many highs, but I had one last month when I got an article published in a national print magazine for the very first time: "Kissinger's Culpability."

This is the first line in that article, and I stand by it:

"Henry Kissinger is still alive and still in possession of the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in 1973. Time will eventually address the former issue; as to the latter, the Nobel Foundation has declared that 'none of the prize awarding committees in Stockholm and Oslo has ever considered [revoking] a prize once awarded."

The article was published in the April/May 2023 issue of The Progressivewhich had an antiwar theme and included a lot of great pieces on the lasting impacts of the Iraq War and the expensive boondoggle that has been the F-35 fighter jet program (among many others). 

I learned a lot about Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, a lot of atrocities I'd never really known much about, and how the Nobel Prize Foundation surrounds itself with a shocking amount of secrecy. But I also learned, thanks to Martin Edwin Andersen (himself a whistleblower) about an ambassador and State Department employee named Robert C. Hill.

Hill started and ended his career as a Republican, but while he started it as one of Nixon's cronies who helped to derail the 1968 peace talks that might have shortened the Vietnam War, he ended it as an ambassador to Argentina who was more than a little disturbed at the "green light" that Kissinger gave the leaders of the military junta there during their "dirty war" in the 1970s. I won't give you all the details of Hill's story, but overall he appears to have been a person who was ideologically motivated, but who could still look around the many places to which he was posted as an ambassador (El Salvador, Mexico, Spain, and Argentina) and at least NOTICE when something was going murderously awry.

The world needs more people like that. People will always have ideological leanings, and opinions, and experiences...but if those same people can actually look at what is happening around them--and strive to understand it--well, that would make the world just a little bit better. At least that's what I choose to believe.

Now, I am of course biased. I have written online articles for The Progressive, and I have been published in their magazine, so you may have to take my words with a grain of salt. But I just wanted to take a moment here and tell you how much I have enjoyed working for them. In a world where most journalism outlets seem to be publishing everything as fast and with as little fact-checking as possible, I have found writing for The Progressive to be refreshingly rigorous. Every online article I submit to them seems to be read and edited by four to six people, up to and including their publisher. They expect rigorous fact-checking and research, and they also do a stupendous job of cleaning up my writing (which can get wordy, so I am grateful for their help).

In addition to good strong editorial work, the magazine also clearly appeals to a group of people with whom I feel an affinity. A while back the magazine put out a call for donations (they are a nonprofit organization), and when a friend of mine asked about sending a check rather than giving a donation site her credit card information, I asked the publisher if that was possible (and where to send the check). He not only answered my friend's questions promptly, he noted that many people who subscribe or donate to The Progressive are not over-comfortable with sharing their information online. Those are my people, friends.

The April/May issue of the magazine in which my article appears can be purchased in bookstores or online; but if you are at all open to a progressive take on the news stories of the day, I can promise you that The Progressive will give you a lot of good, actually fact-checked bang for your buck


The kids are all right.

I recently had the pleasure of being contacted by a teacher who let me know that he works with a group of students in a history club, in which said students did research and presentations about different aspects and types of history. One of his groups focused on historical fiction, and they wanted to let me know that they had found a certain page here at Citizen Reader useful for their research:

https://www.citizenreader.com/citizen/links/ 

Now, that's a little embarrassing for me, because if you click on that link, the first paragraph is all about the historical fiction series Poldark (by Winston Graham) and how much I love Poldark and how, really, if I could, I would spend most of my time doing nothing but re-reading the Poldark series and watching all the British TV programs based on it. I do, in fact, have a little Poldark addiction.

But still, if that page was helpful to anyone, anywhere, I am very glad about that!

This charming teacher went on to say that his equally-charming-sounding students wondered if I would also share a helpful page about researching and writing your own historical fiction, and of course my answer to that is YES, because I love well-written historical fiction and want people to write more of it. And of course, if someone comes along and decides to write fan fiction or sequels to the Poldark series, well, I won't complain about that at all. Here is the link (which I will also add to the sidebar, over in "Fabo Book Blogs").

https://www.jomashop.com/blog/articles/a-writers-guide-to-historical-fiction

Philip, Megan, thank you so much for your email, and for reading, and for doing research work to learn more about what you love. Research is awesome. You don't know how much it cheered me up to hear from you.


Wherever You Go, Just Take Enough Books.

Last weekend I spent a night at my mom's house, as she is getting older and sometimes needs a little additional help.

It actually turned out to be kind of a nice night without the Internet (she doesn't have it at her house) and TV (which I didn't want to watch because I didn't want to be too noisy). Luckily I had planned accordingly and taken enough books. What was in my travel bag?

Edward Snowden's memoir Permanent Record, which I have read before but wanted to read again because, hello, Edward Snowden, I could read about Edward Snowden for a thousand hours and still not get bored.

Terry Brooks's The Elfstones of Shannara, because even us nonfiction kids need a little fantasy every now and then, and it's a good nostalgia read, since I haven't read any Terry Brooks since I was about twelve.

Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities, because I'm reading it for background info for a novel project I'm working on, and might I just say, goddamn, Jane Jacobs even makes sociological writing interesting.

Kathy Aarons's Truffled to Death: A Chocolate Covered Mystery, because sometimes lately I just need a cozy mystery.

The essay collection Table Talk from The Threepenny Review, because I just subscribed to The Threepenny Review in print and have really been enjoying the short essays I find there. (And, let's face it, I am trying to learn how to write essays because I had a lot of essay rejections this year and I'm desperate to know what I'm doing wrong.)

Daniel Berrigan's Essential Writings, because the actor John Cusack responded to me at Twitter and suggested I read Berrigan and also Noam Chomsky. And when Lloyd Dobler talks, friends, I LISTEN.

Last but not least: Robert Jackall's Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers, because I want to live blog reading this bad boy next year. I'm ten pages in and it has basically explained America to me.

I also wrote in my journal and did some other work and a few hours after she first went to bed my mom woke up and had kind of a surreal conversation with me, in which I learned a few details about my own birth.

Wild times in CR Land. My hope for you this holiday season is that, wherever you are, you have enough books.*

*In other news, title links now go to my affiliate store at Bookshop.org; anything you buy there after entering the site through these links sends a small percentage of the purchase price my way. Thank you!


Bingeworthy British Television, now part of the Willow and Thatch holiday giveaway!

Willow and thatchMorning all, and happy St. Nick's feast day to you. When I was little, St. Nick's was one of my favorite days of the holiday season. On the eve of the day, December 5, my siblings and I got a bag of candies and little treats, always left out on the lawn or a snowbank, and we never, ever saw St. Nick leave it there. Our bag always included a big stick, that then stood in the corner of the living room for a while, just to scare us (although I don't remember anyone ever actually getting hit with it). Mercifully my parents were very nonviolent but they weren't above governing through fear, that's for sure.

Stick notwithstanding, I loved St. Nick's day, and we've continued the tradition with the CRjrs (minus the stick, but with the addition of notes from St. Nick, suggesting "areas for improvement" over the coming year). This year the elder CRjr said to us, "How does St. Nick keep getting that bag on the steps without us ever hearing or seeing him? Does he hide under the hedge?" We laughed and gave thanks for the eldest, who is adorable and also extremely gullible, and we also laughed and gave thanks for our youngest CRjr, who has started to watch us very closely around St. Nick/Santa times and who we think is going to figure out the whole game before his older brother does.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

SPEAKING OF GIFTS! Have you visited the fantastic period drama site Willow and Thatch lately? If not, head over there. They are doing their annual holiday giveaway, and they are offering a copy of my book, Bingeworthy British Television: The Best Brit TV You Can't Stop Watching, as one of the prizes (along with some awesome British telly mugs, all of which I want). Entering the contest for any of the prizes is very easy, please do go check it out!!

Thanks for entering and good luck--I hope St. Nick brings you one of the prizes!


Buying books as presents this holiday season?

I am very, very excited about a new development here at Citizen Reader even though, yes, it is a mercenary development.

I am now a Bookshop.org affiliate, meaning that if you want to buy books from Bookshop.org (and you should--they are NOT Amazon, which is my favorite thing about them), if you buy them through my affiliate link, I will get a percentage of the sale (as will independent bookstores--that's one of the things that makes Bookshop.org so great*).

I haven't made any yet, but Bookshop.org also lets me organize booklists that you can shop from if you're looking for reading ideas, and that I've got to admit that my geeky book soul is very excited about compiling some new booklists there.

So, just in case you are buying any books for anyone (or yourself!) this holiday season, might I humbly request you visit here first and click on the link over in the right sidebar? If you click that, you'll go to Bookshop.org, but you will also see the name "Citizen Reader" at the upper left. That means I will get a percentage of any books you buy while you see my name there.

Thank you so much for considering doing that. And do let me know what books you're thinking of getting for people this year, I love talking books as gifts.

*FULL DISCLOSURE: I enjoy Bookshop.org and have been shopping there for my books for a year now. I have to admit, you will pay more there than you will pay at Amazon. It's true. And I know every little bit counts, and little bits can add up to big bits, so I wanted to be honest with you about that.


Discretionary Spending, CR-style.

Disclaimer: I have probably never done enough charitable giving.*

Disclaimer Explainer: This is largely for two reasons: 1. We don't have a lot of spare cash. Mr. CR and I are united in our desire to cover our own bills and to help the CRjrs cover theirs, and that pretty much takes what we earn. 2. When we go out to eat or do anything a service worker helps us with, I am such a ridiculously good tipper (like Mr. CR used to see what I was giving and ask things like, do you know what percentage that is? Yes, I do, that's the idea.) that for a long time I viewed that as part of my annual charitable giving.

I am also addicted to sending fruit and treat baskets to people who might need a bit of a boost. In short, my charitable giving is a lot like the rest of my personality: I favor individuals over the organization. (And I am too dumb to try and maximize any charitable giving tax deductions.) I laugh when my alma mater sends me letters asking for money. (Pro tip, UW-Madison: Don't bother asking people who majored in journalism and library science for money...WE DON'T HAVE ANY.) Ditto with my church, although I will give money and goods to religious organizations like the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Just recently my church hit up its members for $3 million to add some sort of fancy gathering space on to its church, and I proudly marked the "I do not plan to donate at this time" on my form. If they had asked me to kick in to put money toward their workers' salaries and health insurance premiums, on the other hand, I would have done that. 

This gets around to nonfiction, I promise. Periodically I email with my favorite nonfiction author, Stacy Horn, and I know that she has told me in the past that the passing of the Affordable Care Act enabled her to afford health insurance for the first time. I was appalled to hear that. (I wasn't surprised, having been self-employed for the majority of my life, but I was still appalled.) Then this year I interviewed another great author, Brian Alexander, with the hopes of maybe writing some kind of article about how nonfiction authors work. And he also told me he went without health insurance for his entire working life until the Affordable Care Act passed.**

Something about hearing this from two of the most talented and hard-working nonfiction authors I've ever read really, REALLY bothered me. I mean, these are people at the top of the "working nonfiction author" heap. Horn has published numerous well-reviewed and popular titles, and Alexander has done the same, while also working as a writer for The Atlantic and other extremely-hard-to-get-into publications. If these people at the top of their writing field can barely afford health insurance, even with legislation designed to make it easier to get, well, holy shit. It is hard to make a living writing.

This led me to rethink my own spending habits. Yes, I should give some more money to worthy causes. And you know what's worthy to me? Authors. People who write books. People who do good journalism that contributes to my understanding of the world.

I'm still going to tip well. But I have also started buying more books (from bookshop.org--fuck you, Amazon) either to read and to keep, or to read and pass along. I am also starting to subscribe to more magazines. Kids, the print word is dying. People like Horn and Alexander, who are willing to spend years researching and fact-checking their actual books, are struggling with poor sales. THIS IS NOT RIGHT.

So this is my ask for you for this holiday season and beyond: Turn off the Internet. Influencers don't need your cash and all that time you spend on Twitter (and Jesus it's addicting, I'm on it more just lately and it takes time) is taking away from the time you read actual books. Buy a new book for yourself. Buy new books for friends. Subscribe to magazines for any young nieces or nephews or friends you might have, or subscribe to some for yourself (just recently I have subscribed to both the Threepenny Review and Orion magazine and I have been pleasantly surprised with how exciting it is to get them and how reassuring it is to read quality writing after reading a lot of so-so writing on the Internet). When possible, shop through bookshop.org or go directly to the author's website if they sell their own books. Last week I bought a book of essays from Michael Perry's site, and it arrived signed and has been a wonderfully calming read.

Need suggestions for any readers you love? Comment or shoot me an email (see "Contact," above) and I'll talk through some gift options with you based on what sort of reader you're shopping for. Also, I've updated the "Favorite Authors" list over at the right--buying books from any of those authors will be money well spent.

None of the world makes sense to me anymore, except actual physical books. If I can help it they won't completely disappear on my watch. Join me in this quest, won't you?***

*My original title for this post was "Charitable Giving." I changed it, because buying books for myself and friends is not really giving to charity, and my support for great authors is not done out of charity, but rather because they provide a great product for the money. I didn't mean to be insulting. It's just that me and Mr. CR tend to be very cheap, so I tend to look on any "fun" spending we do as money I'm spending as much to help the seller as to help myself. How cheap are we? Here's a little story: Once Mr. CR looked at me and said, "Are you not wearing a bra?" And I said, "Not right now, it's in the wash." He suggested I treat myself and buy that second bra someday. I'll get around to it one of these days.

**Brian Alexander dedicated his new book The Hospital to his brother, who kept putting off going to the doctor until he could get on Medicare and get covered. And do you know what happened to his brother? He died of a heart attack months before he got on Medicare. And you're telling me we live in a civilized country? What the actual fuck is going on.

***Also please consider tipping your service providers--waitstaff, Uber drivers, food delivery drivers, anyone who works in the "gig economy"--very, very well. Thank you.


Changes Coming to Citizen Reader.

Hello, dearest Citizen Reader readers and lovers of all things nonfiction and books!

It's been a summer of change after a year of change and I'm looking forward to some more change this fall and winter. I hope that change does not involve the CRjrs picking up Covid now that they're back in school, and perhaps developing MIS-C or Long Covid, and I'm sure all of you are hoping for a similarly healthy winter.

What are the changes?

Well, for the first time in about eighteen months I am not with the CRjrs every single moment. I miss homeschooling them and I'm in the middle of quite the midlife crisis (which I thought I had passed through years ago; evidently we're not done yet), so I'm a bit discombobulated right now. But I'm trying to get over it. And here is the plan:

  1. Take care of my family, including my Mom, who is struggling (please note: getting old is not for weenies), and
  2. Make some money without leaving this house.

To some extent, this has always been the plan. But it is time for me to take both items up a notch, because I'm kind of an anxiety-ridden mess and not terribly good at number 1, and also if number 2 continues to fail I am going to have to leave this house and work some kind of hourly job. And I am terrible at leaving this house.

I've been doing all sorts of writing online this year, with varying degrees of success. For a while I played around at Medium, trying to make a little supplementary income, but I'm done with that now. I'm still trying to write some journalism, and I'm exploring writing "content" for cash, and I have a few other projects in mind. I want to write. So it's time to get serious.

On that note, I'm going to try and make Citizen Reader my online home for book reviews, as well as for news about writing projects I'm doing. This means I need to fix it up a bit and clean up the sidebar links and do some other things that I haven't done for years now.

This has already gone on too long. Mainly what I wanted to share with you today is that I am exploring ways to let readers sign up for email updates that will send when I publish a new post. I think I've found a way--see the "Get New Posts by Email" box over at the right side? If you'd like to get an email when I publish new posts, please sign up there.

Also, if anyone has already signed up using the "Subscribe" button that used to be in the top navigation bar, could I trouble you to subscribe again using the box over at the right side? I'm so sorry to have to ask that. I've been trying out a couple of email-sending services, and I'm going to go with Follow.It (rather than with another service that I had tried a couple of weeks ago). Thank you for your patience with me while I work on this site.


My summer of cheerful reading commences.

Mr. CR frequently tells me that periodically I should, perhaps, just maybe, consider reading nonfiction or fiction that isn't "as depressing as hell."

It's a fair point, and I want to work with Mr. CR, but the only book on my shelf I want to read right now is titled Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, by Anne Case and Angus Deaton. Evidently it's about rising death rates among middle-aged (mostly male) individuals who don't hold college degrees, and what about our current American system might be encouraging those rising rates. Or, as the authors say:

"Along the way, we had discovered that suicide rates among middle-aged white Americans were rising rapidly. We found something else that puzzled us. Middle-aged white Americans were hurting in other ways. They were reporting more pain and poorer overall health, not as much as older Americans--health worse with age, after all--but the gap was closing. Health among the elderly was improving while health among the middle-aged was worsening...

To our surprise, 'accidental poisonings' were a big part of the story. How could this be? Were people somehow accidentally drinking Drano or weed killer? In our (then) innocence, we did not know that 'accidental poisonings' was the category that contained drug overdoses, or that there was an epidemic of deaths from opioids, already well established and still rapidly spreading. Deaths from alcoholic liver disease were rising rapidly too, so that the fastest-rising death rates were from three causes: suicides, drug overdoses, and alcoholic liver disease...We came to call them 'deaths of despair,' mostly as a convenient label for the three causes taken together." (pp. 1-2.)

So there's that. And when that's too depressing I have, on deck, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx, which I will actually be re-reading because it blew my mind the first time:

"Jessica was good at attracting boys, but less good at holding on to them. She fell in love hard and fast. She desperately wanted to be somebody's real girlfriend, but she always ended up the other girl, the mistress, the one they saw on the down-low, the girl nobody claimed. Boys called up to her window after they'd dropped off their main girls, the steady ones they referred to as wives. Jessica still had her fun, but her fun was somebody else's trouble, and for a wild girl at the dangerous age, the trouble could get big." (p. 3.)

Ahhhh. Summer beach reading, the Citizen Reader way. What's on your TBR pile for the summer?

 


Happy Memorial Day: Now Go Watch the Movie "National Bird."

Happy Memorial Day.

Now please go watch the 2016 documentary National Bird, about America's policy of drone warfare.

Today I am supporting our military personnel by asking that the United States change its drone warfare policy of dropping bombs on people who are maybe the target (and maybe not). As you will learn from National Bird, this policy is causing not only misery to many innocent citizens worldwide, it is also causing a lot of PTSD in our own soldiers.

Thank you.


Everything you ever wanted to know about running for local political office.

Back in 2019, when I was young and still had energy for such things, I ran for local political office, also known as a spot on my city's governing Council.

Spoiler alert: I lost.

But that turned out to be an okay thing, considering the fact that in 2019 my mom had a stroke and my husband had a heart attack, and in 2020 the whole world went down the shitter and I became a full-time homeschooler. I've really had enough to do without keeping on top of what the powers that be in my municipality are doing.

Okay, I lied. I still watch a little bit what my city powers that be are doing. As far as I can tell, they're continuing to subsidize already wealthy developers to build luxury apartment buildings (except they call it "workforce housing" to act like there's an altruistic method to their madness) and talking a good game about "sustainability" while spending a lot of money on amenities for rich people, which seems like an unsustainable system to me, but that's okay. It's just the way of the world.

But in a weird sort of way I really enjoyed running for local office, not least because I did a lot of walking around my neighborhood in the company of the youngest CRjr, who wasn't yet in school then. Those are good memories and will always be so.

But! I'm writing today to share the very exciting news that I wrote an article about HOW to run for local office, and it's been published by something called Better Humans at the Medium platform.* Here it is, if you'd like to peruse it: How and Why You Should Run for Local Political Office.

*Medium is a writing platform that will let you read some stories for free, but if you want to read more than just a sampling, you have to subscribe for $5 a month. I subscribed because I was finding some good stuff to read there, and it turns out you can also write stuff there and sometimes get paid for it, which is nice also. Anyone out there a subscriber or writer on Medium? Let me know in the comments and I would love to follow you on that platform.


What a very strange year.

I gotta be honest with you--2019 wore me out, and I was SO HOPEFUL that 2020 would be easier and more peaceful.

Or not.

Let's be clear: the virus is awful and I feel very badly for anyone who has had it, because a. feeling sick is terrible, and b. interacting with our health "care" system is a nightmare even if you have time and health insurance. I also know it is a nightmare for the service industry and as a former waitress, I feel deep-body sympathy for anyone caught in that shitstorm of a sector this year. On the other hand? If you could work at home and homeschool your kids, as we are lucky enough to be able to do in ChezCitizenReader?

Well, then, I'm not proud to admit it, but it's been my least anxious year ever. Mainly because it has removed interactions with other people and (mostly) with systems with which I don't agree and hate being a part of. If you think I missed social functions at the school of the CRjrs, you are way, way wrong.

If you think I missed any social functions at all, you are way, way wrong.

Are other anxious introverts feeling this way? I hesitate to even admit it because I know how tough and how ugly 2020 has been for many, many people worldwide.

No year-end round-up, because, truthfully, I hate those things. But I WOULD very much like to hear what you read and loved this year and why. Or just pop in and say hi and tell me how you're doing. Either way, and whatever havoc COVID-19 has wreaked in your life, I wish you and yours all the very best in 2021.


Citizen Reader at The Progressive.

As previously noted: I love whistleblowers.

I have now taken my fan girl behavior up a notch, and moved from reading about whistleblowers, to writing about whistleblowers, with this article I just got published at The Progressive magazine:

"How a U.S. Army Whistleblower Revealed 'The Apparatus of a Police State.'"

Earlier this year I was able to interview Christopher Pyle, the whistleblower in question, who was a longtime professor at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. He's a fascinating guy, just fascinating. I know this is going to be a hard sell, but really, consider watching this half-hour talk with him and another author about surveillance and privacy issues. Or you can read his defense of Edward Snowden.

Have a good Monday, everyone.


Book Giveaway: Contours

Hi everyone!

So I really need to get reading some new nonfiction, but I've taken to re-reading Anne Tyler novels instead, and being horrified anew with each title I re-read. Characters who once seemed so OLD to me (when I was in my twenties) are now YOUNGER than me.

Ye Gods.

But that is all neither here nor there. What we have today is a Book Giveaway! I've got an extra copy of Contours: A Literary Landscape, New Work Collected by the Driftless Writing Center (which includes an essay by yours truly, but which also includes a ton of great essays, stories, and poems by writers who life in the "Driftless Area").

First person to email me at [email protected] gets it!

And yes. I know we're all trying to pretend autumn and winter and Continuing Coronavirus are not happening. All the same: Happy September.


Watch out for rich people on the roads.

So for years, as I have been trying to teach the CRjrs how to safely cross roads, I have often told them to watch out for BMWs and Lexuses because the rich jerks driving those cars don't stop for children or pedestrians. Mr. CR has suggested that this is perhaps an unfair blanket assertion.*

But yesterday I was happily reading an article titled "Why Are Rich People So Mean?" and I came across this little tidbit:

"Psychologists Dacher Keltner and Paul Piff monitored intersections with four-way stop signs and found that people in expensive cars were four times more likely to cut in front of other drivers, compared to folks in more modest vehicles. When the researchers posed as pedestrians waiting to cross a street, all the drivers in cheap cars respected their right of way, while those in expensive cars drove right on by 46.2 percent of the time, even when they’d made eye contact with the pedestrians waiting to cross."

HA! Vindicated! But wow, that is sad, to see it proven. Explains a lot, though.

Now go enjoy summer and if you're walking, for the love of all that's holy watch out for rich people on the roads.

*To be fair, I make a lot of those. Like the time the eldest CRjr asked why bike-riders often wear special clothing while biking, and I told him it was because they were usually wealthy people with a lot of money and time to blow on shopping**. I didn't think much about it until I heard him telling that little "fact" to his dad the next day, which got me in trouble, because Mr. CR is a much nicer and better person than I am, who doesn't want the boys to grow up to be bitter pills like their mother.

**Apologies if you ride a bike with the special biking clothes, or drive a BMW or Lexus. I'm a jerk.


Citizen Reader in the New York Times!

I wouldn't say that Mr. CR and I are living in a romance novel, but sometimes we have the same thought, and that's always nice. So I wrote about it for the "Tiny Love Stories" feature in The New York Times (it's the last story on the page*):

Tiny Love Stories

Hope you are doing well, and that your life involves some golden raisins today, if you enjoy that sort of thing.

*I also really enjoyed the first story, about siblings, one of whom is a transit worker, because transit workers are getting a raw deal.

 


All I really know.

Well, the world is having quite a time of it, isn't it?

This is emphatically not a current events blog, but it occurs to me that I would like to be helpful in some way. The other day I read that many stores in our area had their windows broken, and merchandise stolen, except for a small used bookstore. The story about that stated that the bookstore had their windows smashed, but no inventory was taken. I emitted what can only be described as a "chuckle cry" (or "sob guffaw," whichever you prefer) at that news, because it was both so sad and yet so strangely funny. And then decided I only know a couple of things in this world fer sure. Here they are:

  1. I want more people to read.
  2. Bookstores are one of the few things on God's green Earth that I love unreservedly and I want to support them as long as they are still here to support.

So this is my ask for, and my pledge to, you. Here's the ask: Share this blog with as many friends as you can. (I've even got a snazzy new design that shows up a lot better on mobile devices! Lookit me, catching up with the 21st century!) And this is my pledge: my new small charitable mission in life is to send people books from independent bookstores.* The catch is that I get to choose the books, and they will mostly be nonfiction. The rules are simple: the first person each giveaway to send me an email at [email protected] will get the book.

This week's book? Geoffrey Canada's memoir Fist Stick Knife Gun, which I have read twice. Geoffrey Canada is super interesting. Who wants this book? Let me know at [email protected]t. Please note: if you don't hear back, you haven't won. I'll email the winner to get their address info and I promise I'll never use your email addresses for any marketing purposes or anything barfy like that.

Now. Thank you for sharing. Go read and take care of yourselves.

*Amazon can go fuck itself. I will be buying the books through bookshop.org.


Show the Post Office Some Love!

Today I saw this article:

UPS to Raise Delivery Costs.

And this reminded me that, although this post is not about a book, I would like to ask you to consider showing the United States Postal Service some love.

Now, I'm totally down with UPS charging more, especially if they soak Amazon, which would make me very happy indeed. (I know we all have to shop on Amazon sometimes but do try to keep it down if you can, Jeff Bezos is one of the worst people in the world.) On the other hand, I still remember an occasion about ten years ago when I had to ship some book proofs back to a publisher, and they demanded that I use UPS rather than the post office. So I took my package in, a package that at that time would have cost about four bucks to ship two-day priority, and was told that it would cost $35 to ship it within a similar delivery window by UPS.

I never went back to UPS again.

John Oliver actually covered this very well in one of his recent shows, and I would totally recommend watching it (below). He also has set up a fundraiser for the post office through Stamps.com; if you want to help the post office, consider buying these stamps there. I think it runs through May 31, which is Sunday.

That's all. Keep on keeping on and stay healthy, my lovelies.