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Recommended Reading: The Last Conception September 13, 2014

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews.
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Gabriel Constans. The Last Conception. Melange Books, LLC. White Bear Lake, Minnesota. 2014.

***

51OayA6JBeL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_To my mother. To my wife. To my husband. Authors commonly dedicate their books this way. Nice, but boooring. (To everyone, that is, except the mother, wife, or husband.)

Gabriel Constans dedicates his book The Last Conception

To Love, in all its manifestations.

We here at Onely are interested in all aspects of the single experience and particularly like to learn about single people from different backgrounds than ourselves (Lisa and I self-identify as white, upper-middle-class, agnostic, heterosexual women). The beginning of Constans’ novel allows us into the world of single scientist and first-generation Indian-American lesbian Savarna, whose parents–still unaware of her sexuality–have been pressuring her for years to marry and give them a grandchild. Any unmarried, child-free reader whose parents have pressured them in this way will wince along with Savarna as her parents become increasingly fervent in their matchmaking–all while Savarna is trying to figure out her relationships with two different women. (I refer to her as “single” because initially she is not part of an “official” couple.)

Appropriately, as an embryologist Savarna spends her working hours manipulating eggs and sperm to help women conceive. She herself, however, doesn’t feel the tick-tock of her biological clock. If she did, this book wouldn’t exist. (Or it would be very boring.)

The Last Conception teaches that Indian culture places even more importance on marriage and childbearing than U.S. culture. So we have several layers of tension going on throughout the story:

–Savarna the happily childfree woman vs. her grandchild-wanting parents

–Savarna the American vs. her Indian parents

–Savarna is not religious, but her parents who travel to India once a year for some ceremonious gathering that Savarna has never attended and vaguely considers cultish

–Then there is lesbian Savarna vs. the heterosexual world her parents inhabit (though from habit as opposed to bigotry)

–Even Savarna and her closest girlfriend have differing opinions on commitment and children

–Savarna is torn between loyalty to herself and to her parents–whose constant nagging about reproduction, we soon discover, stems not from desires to pinch bubble cheeks or see if their grandchild has their eyes, but something far more weighty.

Through the course of the book these subtle battles wage, peak, resolve and eventually weave together into an ending so satisfying I really wish I could share it here. I’m afraid to say much more because I don’t want to put out any Spoilers. Let’s just say that ultra right-wing conservatives would hate this book, especially the conclusion. (All the more reason to read it!) One of our favorite words here at Onely is amatonormative, which means the normalizing of a few specific kinds of love relationships while marginalizing all others. The Last Conception kicks amatonormativity in the a$$.

Which is why it gets one thumb up from our blog. The other thumb is busy turning the pages for a second read-through.

–Christina

Book Release: A Voice For Singles With Chronic Illness August 27, 2014

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews, Single with chronic illness, We like. . ..
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2 comments

indexA while ago we here at Onely.org gave our dear Copious Readers a heads-up and review about Nika C. Beamon’s book MISDIAGNOSED: THE SEARCH FOR DR. HOUSE.

Now we wanted to announce that it’s available on Amazon.com as a paperback and Kindle book.  It’s also available on Smashwords and as a Nook Book.  Look for the paperback version on Barnes and Noble.com. Congratulations, Nika!

She also wrote a guest post on Psychology Today that ties into the book and talks about how to deal with being sick and single.

Copious Readers, I hope you’re not sick and that no one you love has a serious illness. But even if you are so lucky, check out Nika’s book anyway, just for educational value. You might find a whole new world of weirdness as you enter the seamy, stupid underbelly of the U.S. healthcare system.

–Christina

 

Single, Sick, and Shy About Asking For Help? Do a Worksheet. May 19, 2014

Posted by Onely in blog reviews, Everyday Happenings, Food for Thought, Just Saying., Reviews, Single with chronic illness.
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4 comments

Copious Readers, as you can see from recent posts, Onely’s new Thing is writing about singles with chronic illness. Our goal is to encourage a wider dialog on this topic. This is especially important in light of the fact that unmarried people are already legally discriminated against in many ways. And then a chronic illness necessitates dealing with additional heartless bureaucracy, especially the parts that already favor married people–most notably health and disability insurance and Social Security. Single and sick: potentially a double downer, at least as far as life logistics go. (Although sometimes it’s easier to be single and sick, or at least to live alone and be sick–we will write about this in a later post).


helpOnely has been in touch with a number of bloggers and writers who are also interested in what happens to unmarried sufferers of chronic illness (and we hope that more interested parties will contact us, please!). Today, though, I wanted to flag one particular interesting resource for any socially or legally single folks out there who are constantly sick.

It’s sometimes hard to ask for help from people who are not in your immediate/nuclear family, because our society tends to teach that it’s ok to ask parents, children, or a spouse--especially a spouse–for all sorts of care and assistance–even the ongoing care and assistance often required by a chronic illness.  So single people without that specific support system may feel odd or uneasy about asking their own, unique support systems and loved ones for help, even though those people would probably be happy to assist.

Beth O’Donnell at Single and the Sweet Side of 40 has created some workbook charts, called HELP THEM TO HELP YOU, that assist you with wrapping your mind around certain important issues and decisions in your life. The Chronic Illness workbook is not out yet (we’ll let you know as soon as it is!), but two of the other workbooks actually provide guidance and insight that could very relevant to a single person dealing with an unrelentingly irritable body.
In order to get the workbooks, visit SSS40’s support page and opt in to the email list, or contact O’Donnell via her site. The two Help Them Help You guides most relevant to chronic illness are: The Broken Heart Edition and The Heavy Lifting Edition.

First, The Broken Heart Edition: The phrase “broken heart” usually appears in the context of a separation from or loss of a loved one. But the loss of your body as you once knew it can also break your heart. You might need as much moral support as if you had gone through a terrible breakup. And as helpful as hugs and phone calls are, O’Donnell points out that “Moral support is great, but if you really want to help, clean my house.” (Or, in my case, “If you really want to help, go to my office and. . . well, do my work.”)
Don’t worry about sounding demanding–remember, people want to help, and the housecleaning and other suggestions are couched in the form of a whimsical “TLC for Me” letter. It’s a tongue-in-cheek, but effective, guide for writing a letter about how someone could care for you. Sort of the way you’d leave a note for your petsitter. Except funnier.

As a cat owner, my personal favorite is:

The vacuum is _____________________on the___________________floor.

As someone whose body seems to hate her, my personal favorites are:

The odor in the house is most likely:
a) dead food
b) dead mouse
c) me
d) ___________

I’ll take a shower when:
a) water doesn’t hurt
b) my hair is so dirty it can be sculpted
c) I get out of bed
d) ___________

I’ll get out of bed:
a) when I wake up
b) for five minutes, to walk the dog
c) tomorrow
d) __________

 

Second, The Heavy Lifting Edition:

Frustratingly, if you have a chronic illness, common household chores like changing a high lightbulb or hanging a mirror or patching the hole you’ve kicked in the drywall may seem as elaborate and energetic as setting up base camp. O’Donnell describes “any seemingly simple household task requiring another set of hands, legs, or eyes” as “heavy lifting”.  She points out that if you need help, all you have to do is Ask–but sometimes, Asking isn’t simple. We can be shy about asking for help. We might exhaust (pun accidental) all other options, and sometimes drop the mirror on our head, before asking for help.
How to feel better about requesting assistance with some task that you can’t accomplish on your own? Remember that people *do* like to help. Most notable for those of us who hesitate to ask for help, the worksheet contains a list of suggestions for “Helping the Impromptu Helper” which might help you feel less uneasy about “imposing” on him or her. For example: If the helper seems to want to leave, make sure they leave, even if the job isn’t finished; provide assistance within reason; offer drinks and snacks; etc.
There are also guidelines/options to make an “Enlisted Helper” more comfortable and, by extension, make you more comfortable. For example: work within their schedule; defer to their expertise (except in matters of taste); pay them with money or wine or food or a review on Yelp or whatever; provide supplies and have the work area prepared as possible; etc.
Much of this is self-evident, but it helps to have everything written down in worksheets, especially if your mind is muddled from pain or exhaustion or too many mochas.
–Christina

Photo credit: saiyanzrepublik

The Humor Code: A Book Review April 9, 2014

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews.
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Copious Readers, welcome to the second installment in our new series Things That Don’t Have Much To Do With Being Single. Marketing managers at Simon and Schuster kindly provided us with a review copy of The Humor Code–A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny and asked that we write about it on Onely. At first glance, we thought, “Hey, this has nothing to do with singles’ rights!” But we really, really wanted a free book. So we said sure, we’d review it. Plus, we rationalized, single people like to laugh, right?

McGraw, Peter and Joel Warner. The Humor Code–A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny. Simon and Schuster. New York. 2014.

Two guys. 19 experiments. Five continents. 91,000 miles. And a book that will forever change the way you think about humor.

That’s the publisher’s summary. Here’s mine:

An intrepid sweater-vest-wearing university professor (Pete) looking for the grand unified theory of humor and a jaded journalist looking for a fluff story (Joel) quickly find themselves, if not over their heads, at least frighteningly up to their nostrils in a flood of humor, as they try to observe what makes people in different cultures laugh and why. A lot of the laughter they encounter is fun, some is dirty, some is mean, some is unintelligible, some is even dangerous.  They make some assessments based on science, such as when they look at various gender bias studies (verdict: no, Adam Corrolla, men are not funnier than women). The authors also form theories based on interpersonal interaction, such as when they compare penis sizes with Japanese actors-slash-game show participants.

The Humor Code has not one, but two, storylines. First, there’s the travelogue, intertwined with expository prose analyzing the results of their adventures. Second, there’s Pete’s struggle to become a standup comic–or at least to develop a standup routine that, based on what he’s learned about humor, cannot fail to entertain.  He appears on stage several times, each instance in a sweater vest. I won’t give away the end result, except to say that he gets better with practice.

The Humor Code is, appropriately and necessarily, funny. But the whole time I was reading I kept thinking, A book about what makes me laugh is making me laugh. A book about what makes me laugh is making me laugh. It was a very fractal feeling–not unpleasant, but rather like little meta fingers massaging my brain.

Our heroes go in search of Tanzanians who remember the contagious laughter outbreak, omuneepo. They examine headlines in the satirical newspaper The Onion published right after 9/11 to learn how laughter offsets tragedy (for example, “September 11 Hijackers Surprised to Find Themselves in Hell”). They meet with some of the Danish cartoonists who drew the famous and infamous cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that caused so much uproar around the world.

Speaking of which, here’s one for your next cocktail party: many of the cartoons didn’t even feature the prophet Muhammad; the vast majority of people protesting or defending them hadn’t even seen the drawings; and–this tidbit should be brought out after the canapes when people are well into their martinis and mojitos–the one cartoonist who did draw an actual prophet Muhammad with an actually offensive bomb in his turban was later in his home with a five-year-old daughter of a friend, when presumably a non-fan of his cartoon beat down the door with an ax and chased the cartoonist into his panic room–leaving the ax man alone with the little girl. She may or may not have drawn cartoons of Muhammad at some point in her Crayon career, but fortunately, the ax man hadn’t seen any and left her alone.

This book is full of cocktail party fodder, but it dives deeper than that too. Essentially, when it comes to humor, we humans are more united than divided.

–Christina

 

 

Disney Attempts to Become Less Singlist: FROZEN, a Review April 1, 2014

Posted by Onely in film review, Heteronormativity, Pop Culture: Scourge of the Onelys.
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FROZEN is mostly just another stupid Disney Princess movie, with one tiny difference. As the film progresses it becomes apparent that our main heroine (a princess) can only be saved from her horrid fate (slowly turning to ice) by an act of True Love. We’re led to believe that this will come in the form of True Love’s Kiss by the bumbling but good-hearted sledgedriver named–something, forget. I’ll call him Burt.

However, in the climactic penultimate action scene, the True Love occurs when–SPOILER ALERT, FOR ALL OUR COPIOUS READERS WHO ARE ALSO DISNEY PRINCESS FANS–the princess selflessly saves her sister’s life. They hug and say “I love you!” Moreover, our princess heroine never even marries Burt. There are no couples riding–or sledging–off into the sunset. Instead, everybody in the kingdom gets together and ice skates. The last “couple” we see up close are the two sisters, skating together.

I grudgingly say “Good for Disney.” Grudgingly, because I loathe Disney, not only for their singlism and marriage mania, but for their sexism and racism. Just some random examples: All the princesses look the same–skinny, with ginormous eyes and tiny or nonexistent ears. They vary only according to hair color or style and–if we’re lucky–skin color. I barely need mention that their fates revolve around men. And in Aladdin, all the Arabs except for Aladdan have accents–meaning that all the bad guys sound like they are actually from the region where the story takes place, whereas Aladdin sounds like he grew up tipping cows in Indiana.

So I look at FROZEN as one small step in a journey of about ten million miles that Disney needs to walk in order to undo all the damage they’ve done to little minds over the years.

Just saying.

–Christina

Sillybacy: The Funnier Side of The No-Sex Oath January 10, 2014

Posted by Onely in blog reviews, Everyday Happenings, We like. . ..
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1 comment so far

4754863837_97f5417ffe_oAs our Copious Readers at Onely know, some single people have lots of sex, some have (ahem) rather middling amounts, and some have no sex at all. What? None?

For unmarried or uncoupled people who want sex but aren’t having any, this seems like quite the problem. But many people actually choose or swear to be celibate–maybe for a pre-determined period, maybe permanently, or maybe for an indeterminate amount of time after (ahem) a particularly bad first date, involving an argument about ice cream in a public parking lot and also (don’t ask) beansprouts.

But despite all these different kinds of celibacy, when most people hear “celibacy”, our knee-jerk reaction is,

Difficult. Extreme. Embarrassing to discuss, especially with the perpetrator.

So I am pleased to flag for you this tongue-in-cheek list on the blog of a Catholic priest friend of mine, which explains why being celibate isn’t so celibad* after all. (more…)

Seeking Happily Ever After, Ever After! December 8, 2013

Posted by Onely in film review, Great Onely Activities, Honorary Onely Awards, Reviews, Some Like It Single.
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2 comments

Copious Readers, several months ago Onely was excited to view and review the independent pro-single-women film Seeking Happily Ever After.  Now it’s more widely available on DISTRIFY, where anyone in an English-speaking country (for now) can rent it from their own computer. (Distribution in non-English-speaking countries has not been implemented yet due to the cost of subtitling.)
Producer Michelle Cove provides some statistics that drive home the need–or rather, the market–for pro-singles films such as Seeking Happily Ever After:

• The number of single women has more than doubled over the past three decades. –2011 General Lifestyle Survey Overview from the Office for National Statistics
• In England, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States, approximately one in five women in their late 40s remaining childless. –Yale Global Online, 2012
• In Australia, almost 1/3 women aged 30 to 34 do not have a partner.–Census statistics
• 62% of U.S. residents 18 and older have never been married. –U.S. Census, 2011
• In Scandinavia, the majority of mothers in all social classes are unmarried.—Sociologist and leading researcher on men and masculinity
• In Spain, 92% of women do not censure the fact that they have had a child without a partner.—NSI (National Statistics Institute)

Buoyed by the success of Happily Ever After, we at Onely hope that one day someone will make a film about single men. Granted, women are more immersed in the White Dress Marriage Myth and hence the greater need for a film such as SHEA. But a positive film about unmarried men would be interesting too. Any takers?
–Christina

Talking Back to Dr. Phil: Part 1 of the David Bedrick Interview July 27, 2013

Posted by Onely in book review, Interviews.
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A love-based psychology promotes social justice, whereas mainstream psychology treats the difficulties of individuals in a vacuum –David Bedrick, J.D.

Copious Readers, Onely has been unhappy with Dr. Phil for a very long time, because he has counseled single people to embrace themselves and their hobbies and be happy, so that they can find a partner. Instead of just being happy, period.

So we were glad to have the opportunity to interview David Bedrick, author of Talking Back to Dr. Phil: Alternatives to Mainstream Psychology. (Belly Song Press, 2013). He proposes a “love-based psychology” that goes beyond the normative (restrictive) ideals that our society (as evidenced by Dr. Phil) puts upon people.

Bedrick’s approach parallels Onely’s efforts to dismantle normative prejudices against unmarried people. We disagree with the idea that couples (whether socially coupled or married) are “better” than single people, or more deserving of government protection.

We came up with some questions for Bedrick that we hope will flesh out the similarities in our missions. In a series of posts, we will tackle one or two questions at a time.

Today’s Topic:

Are people trying to “Normalize” your way of living to their (more common) way of living?

Don’t React to their behavior–Act Out their behaviour!

Onely: Dr. Bedrick, you say in your introduction to Talking Back to Dr. Phil (xvii):

The norms inherent in mainstream psychology’s diagnoses essentially reflect the majority’s beliefs, values, and viewpoints regarding psychological health. As such, it is a psychology often in service of normalizing people, seeking to help them act more reasonably and get along better with others even when the accomodation is contrary to their natures and life paths.

Do you agree that the normalization performed by mainstream psychology parallels the normalization of romantic relationships that occurs in our culture on a daily basis? If so, how do you think this impacts people who are “single at heart” and have no desire to seek a committed-romantic partner (which would be a life path contrary to the norm)?


Bedrick: Absolutely! Most blatantly in the way mainstream psychology promotes stereotypic gender roles that not only marginalize GLBT relationships but all relationships.

Mainstream culture encourages, celebrates, and bestows privileges on people who partner, especially those who partner in a traditional marriage. People who use their energy to focus on their own creativity, ambitions, healing, happiness, or non-traditional paths are looked at as if something is wrong with them. The internalization of this experience, a kind of shame, can leave people feeling depressed, angry, or both. This shaming can pressure people to look for a partner even if that is not truly their way.

Onely: How would you apply a love-based-psychology to someone who fears being single because of family pressure, or (Western) cultural pressure? (more…)

Operation Singles Saturation: Blogfest2 Celebrates In(ter)dependence July 3, 2013

Posted by Onely in blog reviews, Guest Bloggers, Marital Status Discrimination, single and happy, Take action, Your Responses Requested!.
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5172185224_d6e0aae10a_oThis July 4th, as the U.S. celebrates its Independence Day, Onely is joining other pro-singles’ bloggers in a Media Saturation Event to celebrate the independence – and interdependence – of the single life (you might remember our participation in this blogfest about the cost of single life, back in April).

This time, we’re asking you to write, vent, question, and tweet just what In(ter)dependence means to you.

And by “you”, we mean LOTS of you. We at C.L.U.E. (Communications League for Unmarried Equality, consisting of Onely; Bella dePaulo, PhD; Spinsterlicious; and Cindy Butler of the group Unmarried Equality) have worked hard to assemble the BEST and the BRIGHTEST and LOUDEST voices in the progressive singles’ community. So if we haven’t just found you, then join us! If you don’t have the time to compose reams of masterful text about what In(ter)dependence means to you, then get on the Tweet train with these tags:  #unmarriedequality and/or  #singlesblogfest and/or #endmaritalstatusdiscrimination. Sprinkle them like fairy dust into your tweets about singleness and in(ter)dependence. (Extra credit if you can combine your hashtags with Haikus!) And if you *do* write a post, make sure to send the link to contact.clue@gmail.com so that we can give you credit.

And now, here are Onely’s deep thoughts about In(ter)dependence:

There are plenty of stereotypes about what it means to be single, and one of the most common is that we “have it easy” because we aren’t responsible for, or to, anyone else. If only! You might even say that the category “single” is an oxymoron – for it’s impossible (or at least unpleasant) to live in this world without relationships of some kinds.

This interdependence, we believe, is something to be celebrated. But when we’re single, we are often (sometimes. . . occasionally. . .) expected to celebrate our independence. Songs have been written about this phenomenon (think Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson). Never mind that this independence is, more often than not, portrayed as a response to previous romantic relationships! Indeed, here at Onely, we’ve made it a point to emphasize – and celebrate – the strength and resilience required of single people in the face of heteronormativity, amatonormativity, and matrimania.

The truth is, though, no matter how strong a single person is – no matter how truly independent any one of us might be – we are supported and strengthened by our relationships with others. Life would be pretty lonely without these relationships. But there’s little space in our culture to celebrate relationships that aren’t SEEPie (Sex and Everything Else Person) relationships, and so it’s easy to lose sight of the many “other” significant relationships that help us feel human.

This blind celebration of independence – oftentimes at the expense of recognizing the value of interdependence – trickles down to our identities as single people. If we have anything to be proud of, Western culture suggests, it should be our so-called “freedom,” our “lack of responsibility” to others, and our apparent “mobility.” We should be. . . Movie Cowboys!

But this attitude devalues the many kinds of relationships that nourish us, and it ignores the reality of our daily lives (income issues, sick family members, roof rot, and, perhaps most challenging, raising a child as a single parent). When we lose sight of the significance of the many different kinds of relationships we enjoy (financial advisor, aunt who cares for her sick niece, the kind coworker who also does insulation and tile work, the neighbor who loves to babysit) it becomes easy to define ourselves, as single people, as somehow weak or lonely.

And that’s a shame. Because there’s something special about being single – and we like to call it Being Onely.

Copious Readers

How does in(ter)dependence

Influence your life?

Remember:  #unmarriedequality and/or  #singlesblogfest and/or #endmaritalstatusdiscrimination.

– Lisa and Christina

Photo credit: Listen Missy!

Book Review: “Unbridled” — Like “Eat, Pray, Love,” But Not Annoying May 21, 2013

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews, solo travel.
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6 comments

McNally, Barbara. Unbridled. A Memoir. Balboa Press, 2013.

I totally want to go to Ireland. I totally want to make sandwiches for underprivileged girls. I totally do not want to take burlesque dancing lessons. I totally want to re-read Unbridled.

What it’s about:

Essentially, the book is about a woman, our narrator, who tries in self-destructive ways to get out of her suburban marriage-with-kids life. No offense to the suburbs, or marriage, or kids, but she feels that somewhere in the whole combo, she lost herself. So she rips herself free into singledom (I won’t tell you how), leaving behind a tangled mess of family and feelings that she regrets but cannot repair, at least not at that time. She embarks on a journey of self-seeking to Ireland and Jamaica which (spoiler alert?) ultimately allows her to return home and reconnect with her daughters.  Then she gets semi-naked and dances at a hospital.

Why It’s Less Annoying than Eat, Pray, Love:

Does story of a quest for personal fulfillment via travel sound familiar? Unless you’ve been living under a literary rock for the past few years, you’ll recognize this book as possibly capitalizing on the whole Eat Pray Love phenomenon.  Now, I happen to hate very much on Eat Pray Love, so I was worried that I would be equally annoyed with this book.  But no. I read it in three sittings (or lie-ings, if you count the bathtub).

First, McNally isn’t spoiled. She doesn’t have a zillion-dollar book contract to fund her journey. She pays and budgets like one does on a real trip. Second, she isn’t vain. Not once do we hear a man gushing about how beautiful she is (although don’t think that means we don’t see a good deal of carefully wrought sex in the book). Third, she acknowledges that she is leaving behind some serious responsibilities, especially her daughters, and this weighs on her. Her love affair–with a falconer on the grounds of an Irish castle nonetheless–isn’t claustrophobic and the culmination of her journey, as if single is ok as long as in the end you couple up. Rather, McNally leaves her lovely falconer after one day and moves on, not without regrets but also happy to be continuing her journey as a free, single woman. All this is totally opposite of EPL. So we can thank the EPL phenomenon for opening up the market to books that are actually–in my opinion–better in many ways than EPL.

“I held the meat gingerly and stretched my arm out like a branch. A very nervous branch.” (88, on feeding a falcon)

Caution:

(more…)

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