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March 2011

Music For Dad on the Anniversary of His Birth

I just learned I've entered the August of my years if you work numbers with a 78 year life span. My dad didn't make it quite through December 28, as he was 77.5 when he died. But I'd really like to. 

Death is funny; if someone who drank and smoked like he did can make it all the way through, it sucks how many people who live much more supposedly healthful lives are cut short by the caprice of nature. My mom, for example, made only to 53. 

Anyway. This isn't meant to be a downer. Today marks the 79th anniversary of my dad's birth. And pretty much the beginning of August for me, which in those number terms, lasts until age 52. 

Naturally, this brings me to Frank Sinatra, who recorded a pretty decent album in 1965, the year I was born, called The September of My Years, in honor of his turning 50 in December of that year. This would be accurate number-wise as well, if the typical life span then was 75. Maybe it was.

Anyway, again.

I don't think my dad loved Sinatra the way I love Sinatra. I know he liked him all right, while my mom did not, mostly thinking of him mainly as the sort of embittered blowhard he became for awhile. And I can understand that, as I do mostly just enjoy Frank through 1965. The whole world was a different place after that, to understate things. Frank didn't fit into it so well. 

Lately this song reminds me of Dad, though I don't even know if he knew it. If he did, I know he'd have loved it. I hope you're listening through stereo speakers or headphones. 

Nothing But The Best

I believe the song was recorded in 1962 during an early recording session for Sinatra and Swingin' Brass, though it can be found on only one CD reissue of that album. Also, it's on The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings, which is where I discovered it.

Dad would love the meaning, the style, and the brassiness of it. As do I. 

It's about loving life, which is something he always tried to do. I'm glad he got to have so many years to appreciate, though I do regret I wasn't able to share in enough of them.

Dad liked tender music, and groovy music, and music with a sense of humor. 

This is groovy Lionel Hampton and his Jazz Inner Circle, from 1966: 

Fantanique

And here's Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra; humor from 1963:

One Mint Julep (Cha-Cha Twist)

Here's to late summer and beyond, with lots of laughter and the sheer joy of living.


The Females in Classic Film

It's not that I didn't or don't like women. I will admit that as a child I trusted only a few of them. Women always seemed to be plotting against each other or someone else. They weren't all sweet and kind and giving like my mother. 

I'm speaking of women in movies, of course. It took until high school for me to love any woman in a movie besides Sophia Loren in Houseboat. Then I began to really enjoy Myrna Loy, Irene Dunne, and Katharine Hepburn, except not with Tracy. I didn't like how she was with him until I saw them together in The Desk Set. Which I loved, and love.

My 10 favorite leading ladies, roughly in order:

Irene Dunne
Myrna Loy
Katharine Hepburn
Judy Garland
Greer Garson
Audrey Hepburn
Jean Arthur
Claudette Colbert
Rita Hayworth
Rosalind Russell

11 more actresses I always enjoy, in no particular order:

Ingrid Bergman
Marjorie Main
Doris Day
Ethel Barrymore
Spring Byington
Ruth Hussey
Butterfly McQueen
Carole Lombard
Mary Nash
Judy Holliday
Debbie Reynolds

You can see this is largely informed by the genres of movies I prefer. I don't go very deep or very heavy most of the time.

I've grown to like two or three Bette Davis things, though I wish Claudette Colbert had been able to play the part originally written for her, in All About Eve. I like Barbara Stanwyck in a couple things, but it's more that I like a couple movies she's in and again, might have liked them more if cast differently. Ball of Fire was always one of my favorite movies, but I can't want her in it for Gary Cooper.  She's good, of course, just—not quite right, to me. I like her better with Cooper in Meet John Doe, same thing only different.

And I love the movie The Women, but not specifically because I love many of the women in it. It's just a great film overall. My favorites in that movie, though, are Paulette Goddard, Marjorie Main, and Mary Boland. And as I grow older, I more fully appreciate Rosalind Russell's portrayal of her wonderfully awful character.

I know some people who don't like Jean Arthur or Judy Holliday as much as I do because they used such shrill voices sometimes. Last night I was watching Born Yesterday and thinking about how carefully Holliday used hers. There are a lot of nuances to her pitch that she crafted for that character. It's really quite brilliant and incredibly endearing. But even though it's her movie, and she's simply wonderful in it, I'll admit I'm always drawn to watch it to see William Holden wearing glasses and reciting literature. 


My Little Men

We're all crowded into my bedroom. 12 year-old on left side of gigantic bed, coughing, occasionally running to the bathroom to hack up something vile. 14 year-old on the floor in a sleeping bag, also coughing, not even trying to expectorate cause he's too busy talking. 16 year-old in desk chair, eating nachos, perfecting the fine art of sarcasm, which he has honed to a science.

Currently they're arguing over mayonnaise. I dunno. Anyway, this is what they do. There's no actual conflict; it's just arguing for something to do, or to be right, or maybe it's just how they enjoy talking. Which coating is better on the very occasional KFC they've been allowed to enjoy. How much rain there will be this year during baseball season. Whether minutiae detail A or B is correct—hey, Mom, which is it? 

"Er, here's the thing. Your arguments are endlessly adorable to me except I hope you're not having them ten years from now while living in my basement. But I'm not male. It isn't within me to be able to muster an opinion on this subject or most of the others you enjoy arguing over."

They continue on. The Phillies and Rays are on the TV, occasionally interrupted by MLB.TV news, and 877-CASH-NOW ads. I'm trying to rest my fluish head over on the right side of gigantic bed, concentrating on picturing that dance with Gene Kelly and Mitzi Gaynor, in which he's wearing a motorcycle jacket. It's an absurd scene, yet sexy as hell, and an oddly soothing thing on which to focus as they blather on about a contract they've written in which one of them will pay the other one a theoretical 50 dollars if he hits a home run over the wall, to the wall, on a specific field or should it be any field on which he plays...

"I think the Nationals signed Oliver Perez because he sucks on purpose so etc and so forth..."

"That's completely ridiculous."

"Hitler made..."

"No!"

Apparently there is an actual meme among them and their friends regarding a koi pond in an episode of The Office that one of their friends saw. 

Coughcoughcough

"How come nobody ever says President Obama, only Obama?"

"Because he's like a celebrity instead of a president."

Something or other about Donald Trump. 

Apparently we all sing the words to "I Am the Walrus" to the tune of "Aqualung." I really thought that was just me, but I'm not surprised. 

"Also, who cares about the freaking Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."

"The Bee Gees!"

"The band that made that song about Scooby-Doo."

A lot of blather about Josh Beckett who was good when he was on the Marlins. 

"Did you know Jim and Pam gave birth to a shark?"

I collapse with laughter as 

"Was it really ugly?"

"That's not the joke."

Then, I swear to Bob, the 16 year-old begins explaining the Fonz on waterskis to the 12 year-old, and this is where I tune out again. 

 

(Personally, I'd edit out the first 30 seconds. Well, that's what I did when I saved it to my hard drive the other day...)


On the death of film stars

I remember seeing certain deaths in the newspaper at breakfast when I was a child, and hearing the adults comment on them. Harry Chapin comes to mind, and Jim Croce. I was 8 when he died. That affected me because I knew a couple of his songs and I knew he wasn't old. He just up and died, accidentally, shockingly. 

Then there was Groucho Marx. I'd just finished reading his hilarious autobiography around the time he died, and I was kinda crushed. I felt like I knew him a little bit, you know? That was the first one that hit me hard, at age 12, and I've never forgotten it. (Elvis had just died three days earlier, and that barely affected me at all.) I can picture the column in the newspaper, below the fold—maybe there was something important going on in the world that day—just as I saw it that morning at the table. I cut it out and saved it in my scrapbook, actually. Wish I still had that.

I was very into old movies by around the age of 10. We'd always watched old stuff at our house, anyway, and all my fondest TV memories are in black and white. Well, plus we didn't have color TV until 1981. Since most of what I loved wasn't even in color, that never bothered me much. People were crap at adjusting their greens and oranges, anyway. 

I had early crushes on James Garner, Robert Stack, and Raymond Burr. But then I had a lot of time to myself starting in 1975 because of family illnesses and other difficulties, and I became infatuated with Cary Grant (pretty much been over that for a long time, but I do love him like an old boyfriend I outgrew,) Gary Cooper, and Gregory Peck. I was sad to learn Gary Cooper was dead, and that launched me into a decade of reading biographies and obsessing over which film stars were alive and dead. Every time I'd see one I hadn't noticed before, I'd ask Mom if he was alive. Most of the time she knew, sometimes we had to go to the library to look it up. 

Things weren't at all like they are now, of course. Old movies were 20, 30, 40 years old, not 50, 60, 70. That's real history now! 

In high school, I added Jimmy Stewart, Joseph Cotten, Gene Kelly, Rossano Brazzi and a few others to my growing list of loves. They were all still alive. I also developed mad passions for Jack Lemmon, Rex Harrison, and William Powell. Among a number of others, of course and sigh

Two actors I've always enjoyed but was never enamored by, Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart, were long dead. Then Bill Holden died, and Steve McQueen. My love for Holden has grown immensely over the past 10-15 years, never so much into McQueen. 

But then, starting with William Powell when I was 19, my true classic loves all started to depart. One by one by one since then, all my childhood loves have died, except for James Garner. 

I'd only just rediscovered Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra around the time they died, and it was a gripping realization to have; these guys were in their prime before I was born, and now I was in that time of life myself. But they lived long rich lives, as did Grant, Stewart, Kelly, Peck, and Lemmon. So mourning them was more like mourning a bygone era than anything else. Also, I was an adult, mourning something lost from my childhood.

When Jim Garner, who is nearly 83, passes from this world, I don't know if I'll be overcome with sadness. It's a confusing thought. I mean, I love 1957-1985 Jim Garner of film and TV. He is, by all accounts, a very fine man for his family and friends to know and love, but to me he is mostly a collection of screen memories. Well, let's be honest. In considering all my oddly intense feelings for a handful of famous men, living and dead, he is the one about whom I've composed the most and most deeply, intricately detailed sexual fantasies. But also, he was so honest as a man on screen; a real man. A Jim Garner character is always a person we'd wish to know and we do know that extends to reality as well. There aren't that many big stars about whom we are certain this is true. 

I cannot remember a time in my life I wasn't basically in love with him, from very early childhood. Of course I don't really know him, but he always made you believe you could, right? And the point is, he was my first love, beginning over 40 years ago. Before I knew what sex was and before I wanted it, I wanted him. Don't take that wrong because it isn't. And I've never stopped wanting him. But when he dies, I'll still have everything of him I was ever going to have, anyway. His family will mourn the real person they knew and loved, and, as is generally the way, celebrate their lives with him. 

I think I'll be mourning an ideal that seems impossible to ever conjure again. But I guess I'm mourning that already. 

 


audio blog: open mic night

So, maybe you'll listen to this because you like me or like the sound of my voice or are actually interested in what I might wish to share. One of those. I hope you like it. It's sort of serious? But not really. And it's still just a quick unedited thing, hopefully not too noisy from kids slamming doors out in the hall or me fussing with the computer. 

(5 minutes)

blather about dead film stars and a cocktail

I'm tickled remembering the summer of 2005 when I was making fake blog titles that mimicked bad ad slogans. Clearly I've stopped trying. Anyway.

I've been taking inventory of my personal DVDs. I don't have lots, and have bought many more for the family and/or individual kids than for myself over the years. But it's a semi-solid collection for how little money and effort I've put into it. There needs to be Nero Wolfe. And more movies starring my favorite old loves. I'd like to have Anchors Aweigh. I know everyone likes On the Town more, and I'd like that, too, but the other would come first for me. And then a couple other movies featuring Frank Sinatra. (As much as I love Guys and Dolls, I can never watch it without remembering Gene Kelly should be in there instead. Same with Pal Joey of which I have the vinyl soundtrack but not the film itself. But Sinatra acquitted himself well in those roles and a number of others.)

I would like to have the latest special edition of Singin' in the Rain. It was at Costco last year but so was An American in Paris that day and I had money for only one of them. Then Singin' in the Rain sold out so I never got it. It was my second choice and I lost the gamble on it. But I have it on the DVR right now. There are a few movies I record each year and keep around for months until the need for space bumps them off the list for awhile. The current crop is marked with a K here:

James Garner, Gene Kelly, Jimmy Stewart, what could be better? Well, the addition of Jack Lemmon, mainly. But I watch those three particular movies over and over again. Now, of course I love Singin' in the Rain? It has a couple of incredible musical numbers. But I honestly do love An American in Paris slightly more. It's a different kind of art, more what I'm into, is all. I like its contemporary time period and music, love love love the Gershwin, and how each frame was composed as a work of art. Love Minnelli. I liked it less when I was younger because it made me impatient. Now I think I could watch it go on for another hour if it liked to.

I love the Singin' in the Rain time period as well, but it's not one of the ones I'd like to quietly slip into for awhile. It's a different sort of treat for me. The movie also has more stress and anxiety than the other,  for which I have less patience than when I was younger. And I think the talky fashion show scene is pretty, but really no longer interesting to me. So they've switched positions in my heart, but not by all that much.

I watched An American in Paris twice yesterday, second time with the commentary on, and Singin' in the Rain today, and each fit its respective day beautifully. I painted a sort of modern jazz thing during the former, did some cooking and cleaning during the latter, pausing the TV to head into the kitchen for a new task from time to time. 

One task was to make simple syrup and squeeze lots of little key limes for the first gimlet of the season. It's a bit cold out, but was sunny all day, and the first buds are appearing on the dogwoods and other early bloomers in the neighborhood. In my backyard, the oregano has started to grow, and some of the mints. So it's nearly summer gimlet time, and I even had cucumber for garnish, but you can't see it in this photo. 

The thing to do is drink the gimlet, then eat the cucumber, made delicious by soaking in lime-enhanced gin. 


Saint—Stewart? Or Dempsey?

One of my favorite aspects of being American is how most of us have ancestors from several different regions of the world. We love who we are, but are proud of our bits and pieces from elsewhere. 

Irish-Americans are somewhat like Italian-Americans in that they built up their own heritage here which is sustained far beyond the legacy of our grandparents reminiscing about "oldcountry."

So I think St. Patrick's Day is cool. But I have no affinity for it. I was that little beast who wore the red, green and white Kiss Me, I'm Italian button to school on March 17 so I wouldn't be pinched for not wearing green. Today's hipsters have nothing on my irony-loving 9 year-old self in 1975.

Anyway. No Irish in me, but there is a bit of Scots, tucked in under all the obvious Italianate features. 

And this song keeps cropping up in the ol' consciousness lately. So today seemed like a good day to share. I relate to it, though sometimes in one way and sometimes in another.

(JUST on the odd off chance some boorish individual is all, way to play the one American radio hit by these guys, let me point out a few things:

I have five Big Country albums.

On vinyl.

This is a very cool and apt song.

Still enjoyable to hear 20sldkfjsd years later.

I always dig a Scottish rock sound.

RIP, gorgeous sad Stuart Adamson.)

the crossing

dream lover, part two

For a week or more, a couple months ago, I made a nightly effort before sleep to imagine a romantic scenario which could appear in a dream for me to enjoy, though not usually with a specific person, even from my giant catalog of dead actor loves and the dozen or so living ones I'd meet at the jazz club in the holodeck if only our paths ever crossed. But I kept getting distracted. I have so little focus lately, and so my thoughts would turn toward simply shutting my mind down for rest. Yet I always feel that if I could put myself in the right frame of mind, I could have many more such dreams, as I used to quite often. This morning's dream took me by surprise and now I feel rather unsettled and curious.

There aren't, by the way, certain defining characteristics possessed by every dream man except that he's fit, knows how to talk...well, that's about it, really. They've come in a variety of ages, heights, levels of confidence, etc., otherwise. This one was in that indistinct time of life one thinks of as 40, and was, shockingly, someone I recognized.

It's too late, you know, to remember more than impressions and sensations. I had to get up and get moving a little earlier than usual, and my focus was instantly removed. Our brains immediately put away all the unnecessary elements and then, too, reshape and define what we can't recall but wish to retain. 

So I remember this: he took me down, on a bed in the middle of a room, and made love to me. I remember the feel of his hands on my skin, light and firm and serious. I remember how his skin felt beneath my hands; taut, that is to say, perhaps slightly younger than my mind tends to conjure when I picture him (if you happen to be my age or older, you may know what I mean by that) muscular, but in a strong or sinewy sense, not overly large or overly developed. I don't remember some of the things you remember about a real man, like how the hair on his legs feels when they are intertwined with your own, or running my hand down the length of his spine to rest my fingertips in the hollow at the back of his waist. I wish I could remember that. I remember his scent. I remember my hands at the back of his neck, and recognizing the tenor of his voice, not fully polished, but soft, confident, and retaining that unique resonance which is so charming on screen. I remember my hand on his chest, just below the hollow of his throat, and I remember the way his eyes looked as he bent forward to kiss me, with one hand on my shoulder. 

When we stood, he was just perceptibly taller than me, his nose above my own, but he was speaking then, and I kept thinking about the way he sounded; I was really focused on it, and I felt completely drawn in and taken over. That sensation hasn't left me. Also, I hadn't before considered how dark his hair really was, but I kept touching it as he spoke, and then we would fall together, connected all over again. That happened two or three times. 

We talked a lot, like people who really know each other and have spent solid time together. But the only topic I remember is the lake nearby, and him telling me we'd spend a lot of time there. He was playful when he spoke, but when he touched me he became very serious. 

Well, the dream went bats, and there was a baby, and I was feeding it a bottle attached to my breast with some kind of Nuk nipple, and an old female celebrity whose identity I can't recall was talking about the silliness of Playtex bottles and when they were invented and we commiserated over that, which is strange, since my six kids were mostly all breastfed, with two short-term exceptions. And I remember thinking back then that those Playtex ones were a good idea.

And I kept drifting in and out of sleep, realizing in half-waking state what I'd just conjured and wanting desperately to go back to the more precious moments of it. 

Why did my semi-conscious brain choose this man as an object of desire? He wasn't on my mind last night. As I said, I've had many romantic and/or sexy dreams, and it's not usually anyone recognizable, which at the moment I'm thinking is a good thing, because in this case, I won't be able to look at him now without wondering if I know something of what it would have felt like to have his arms around me, but that doesn't, after all, make him any more real or corporeal, does it? 

Gene


twitter pensées (long read so I added pictures of stuff)

I love Twitter. This is a love letter to Twitter. But I'm aware it may not read like one, so...fair warning given.

Twitter used to have two groups of people. The ones who wanted to "network" about web 2.0, emerging social media, etc., and people who wanted to let their friends know what they were up to through the day. 

Then the celebrities came along, and that was cool; it got more people interested in Twitter. People are Twitter fuel; it can't run without them. 

It grew so fast at first it was always busting apart and it could get really frustrating. Then the businesses came along, and more spammers, and things changed really fast because people all started tweeting about "how to" use Twitter, and there was like this entire year of "experts" telling (oh my god I hate this word) "newbies" what they were doing wrong.

DalekHansen
And signal-to-noise ratio blah, yes, you must RT this ratio of times, yes, blah, etc. They were making so many rules out of something that used to just be organic. They were doing it because they remembered simple early Twitter, and this thing was growing swiftly and crazily, but they were still annoying know-it-alls who didn't get it that other people don't all want a fascist control stick waved in their faces. 

And then, of course, there were all the people who said Twitter was nothing but people saying what they had for lunch and that it would go away swiftly. But celebrities were still helping to grow it. 

Here's the thing about tweeting lunch, by the way. Back when Twitter was so small and before the @ thing became official and some other things, you could just follow the entire feed if you wanted to (yes, it was like that, kinda weird but cool,) your friends actually were tickled if you said "I had a pizza dog for lunch" or whatever in the middle of the stream. You likely knew each other from somewhere else to begin with.

I don't remember when I realized I had more friends on Twitter that I met there than I'd met somewhere else. At first I loved that. Then there started being this whole thing where you owed people so much more exchange than you could possibly have time for. 

Yankeecandle
And then came the endless Follow Fridays. Those were fun when they began. They're just monotonous now, because the people who do it use them because a website told them it was a good way to gain new followers, and they post endless indistinguishable lists of names to click on.

One change I hated was whenever @ tweets became exclusively between you, @whoever, and your mutual friends. I made fewer actual friends after that; harder to meet friends of friends. I can see it was Twitter taking control of how you made friends in order to use that for business purposes down the line. I have mixed feelings about it now. They didn't even invent @ but they wanted to manage it. Same with RT—that was just something invented by a user to easily offer attribution and also it became a useful method for getting around the private @ situation, but then Twitter tried to manage that, as well. When I have to RT at the actual Twitter page, I still often paste it in so I can control how I post it myself. 

Then it was all about how many mentions you'd get, and pages and pages on how to increase followers, and people pleading with you to follow any and everyone who followed you. All I wanted was to read interesting links and thoughts, and exchange ideas and humor with like-minded people. I still wish you had to look a little harder for your followers number; it goes up and down every day as people follow and unfollow you if you don't instantly a) follow them back and/or b) instantly amuse them with wit, sagacity, and praise. It can be sort of disheartening if you allow yourself to think about it or just be a regular person.

Sometimes I follow a real person to be polite and think maybe I'll get to know them, only to learn they unfollowed me after I said something or didn't say something or other...hard to say. It happens to everyone. But then I'll politely say something to them and discover they didn't even remember they'd ever put me on their list. That feels like being dissed in the school lunchroom!

Hojo2
So I rarely follow back unless the person is just mad interesting in some way, or we obviously like many of the same things. If you look at the numbers, maybe 50% of my followees/followers are the same people. I also follow a lot of news and information tweeters, some funny celebrities but not the kind who are using it as stand-up practice, and some good blogs/bloggers. I don't mind they're not following me back. There are, I dunno, 100-200 "people" following me I don't follow. Maybe they think I'm interesting, maybe they're just bots, and I know some of them are hoping I'll mention their product. But I don't "owe" anyone a followback; none of us does. 

At times, Twitter creates too much intimacy too swiftly. I think I have a knack of appearing just as intimate as I choose; enough to make people feel they know a real person, not enough to worry about overstepping and wishing I could take back something I shared. But that's me, doling out measures is just what I do. You know me so well because part of who I am is offering myself to people in this fashion. I was doing that before Twitter, anyway. However, this can lead to people thinking they are inside my private life. Now and then I'm okay with that; we get to know each other more by exchanging longer notes, etc. Mostly, though, Twitter isn't my life; it's my playground or a clubhouse I visit. I owe it nothing except the pleasure of my company, on my own terms.

Hullabaloogirl
Oh, hey! Remember when Twitter was kinda mostly older people and younger ones weren't interested because they just wanted to text each other? (Or s-ext, which apparently cheesy news media sites think is a "new" thing to do.)

One person I follow on Twitter has taken to tweeting "sexy" come-ons, and in the middle of the night she retweets really puerile, and, I hate to use this word, pointlessly vulgar stuff from people she follows, so they all appear in my stream if I'm up late. (Because talking about fucking=funny!) I'm not sure why I haven't unfollowed her. She thinks she's shocking and interesting, I guess. I'm definitely old enough to find overt statements like hers mostly just really boring. But I loathe unfollowing people. On Brizzly I can mute her and still keep her on the list. 

I like when people flirt with each other on Twitter or with me on Twitter. Except when it seems too personal or proprietary. Then I'm sort of grossed out. (Young people; we said grossed out back when we said barf and stuff. It means unpleasantness.)

A reason people sometimes follow and unfollow me, specifically, is that I'm just a person, not a theme. So if they find me on a movie list, they're bummed to discover I talk about things on 18 other types of lists. Whatever, right? But the Rules of Twitter People were all on about establishing your personal brand for awhile, and so since my brand is actually serendipity, that doesn't play well in their directories. 

Most people are like this, of course. You can't turn us all into folders in a labeled drawer. 

Probably I'll be talking of Gene Kelly later today. A movie of his I haven't seen in eons is on TV in awhile. But tomorrow I may be talking about baseball, or baking biscotti. I miss posting music, which I used to do fairly regularly. 

(I won't be talking about public unions. Apparently, the latest hand-holding/singing about rainbows thing to do is support government unions. To me, that feels like the world gone upside down and crazy. But I'm used to disagreeing with people, particularly about the 9th and 10th Amendments and what they are and are not about, and various other systemic matters. What I find hard to take is that it is all incredibly, unbearably, sometimes ignorantly, smug. Whenever people think we all, us sensible caring people, must necessarily agree on whatever they're wringing their hands about, the air fills with so much smug I feel like I need a new inhaler.) 

(I will offer you this one statistic, though, as you march merrily toward your online sit-ins or whatever: 1 in 3 government workers belongs to a union. 1 in 15 of the private sector does. You go on and decry corporations and what you think of as the elite and whatnot; America is still full of small business owners and people who want to be one. Maybe don't piss off *all* of them at once by defining everyone who isn't on your side as Mr. Burns or Mr. Potter.)

Kidsanddadsm
I know someone on Twitter who occasionally dumps his account and starts all over. But not really; his friends find him, their friends find him, and he ends up back nearly where he was within a couple weeks. But in the meantime he was able to unload some of what started to seem like a burdensome obligation toward people he's never even met. 

We all like ourselves pretty well, and that's a good thing. We dislike ourselves enough, too, to keep trying to improve. But because we have a personal sense of "hey, I'm valid," we (I mean generally, and will be snobbish enough to say I'm not much including myself, but I do get it,) assume that if we like someone else or if they seem like a good person, they must think the same way we do about various things we find important. 

Well, some of us are so down on life we assume everyone is at odds with us in every way, but it's actually the exact same phenomenon, if you think about it. 

Here's a thing, though. I like a couple people who will probably be reading this and think they're pretty good people even though we agree on probably no issue anyone thinks is very important, except basic stuff like don't hurt babies and animals. 

You do, too, of course. Let's take a moment for self-congratulations. Pat, pat. Aren't we just splendid? 

Eatmyfriends
On Twitter, though, you'll find people full of outrage that someone doesn't feel exactly as they do about whatever issue they're clacking about at any given moment. They find themselves splendid for Truly Understanding Life and Politics In a Way You Do Not Seem to Get. You are a stupid evil conservative/whiny elitist liberal/mindless untraveled American/fill in the blank. You have no nuances to your character whatsoever; you suck.

However, Twitter is still all about you. You go on and clack however you wish. And read whatever clacks you like. People who can be bothered to get outraged by your disagreement with their clacks probably need to go feed their chickens now, or else stomp on the people they pay to feed their chickens for them. 

Everything is black or white. Life is a "like" button.

I read that on Twitter, and it was RTed endlessly, so it must be true. 

I'm just going to say one officially, possibly unbearably smug thing now.

So.

Hey, remember way back last month when everyone in Egypt was holding hands and singing songs and swaying back and forth in a Brotherhood of Spiritual Disagreement and Love because they were trying to dump their corrupt old leader? It was a new dawn! Whee! We all witnessed it together. 

And now they're killing each other again.

Aw. It's so sad and disappointing, isn't it? 

But look at this cute puppy! If only everyone Libya and Wisconsin had a cute puppy, everything would be better! I_Has_A_Sad

 

 

 

 

 

 


Where baby voles go to die

We can go for a walk where it's quiet and dry
And talk about precious things
Like love and law and poverty
Oh, these are the things that kill me

In high school I wrote a book report in which I used the word perspicuity. The teacher circled it and put a question mark by it. 

When I asked her about it, she said perhaps I meant the word perspicacity instead, because she wasn't sure perspicuity was a word. 

I have to admit I was curious as to why she hadn't simply looked up the word herself. In fact, the paragraph began with a reference from the American Heritage Dictionary. She could have used one of those.

Those two words are similar, but not precisely the same. I chose carefully, and then found myself explaining that choice. It felt peculiar. And, I might add, was a true case of irony.  Picture 3

The following year, I submitted a letter to the editor at the Kansas City Star. Wow, remember when the right to see your opinion in print was subject to an editor's discretion? For the most part, that wasn't such a bad thing. I was so delighted to see mine in print a few days later until I learned my use of the word "compunction" had been replaced by the phrase, "lack of compunction," effectively reversing the meaning of what I said. I called to complain, but of course, there was little use in that. 

And it was embarrassing to see a clipping of it on my favorite teacher's bulletin board. 

In both cases, someone made a decision based on what they thought they knew, rather than what was actually correct. 

At 16 and 17, these incidences were a little frustrating and bewildering. Adults were supposed to know better than me. Now, nearly 30 years later, I'm completely exhausted, and still wondering about it all. They'd be no more than tiny footnotes in a long biography if I hadn't witnessed the same phenomenon over and over again, not just with the use of specific terms, and, of course, not just to me, personally. 

There's a knack, in communication both written and spoken, to know when to be literal, concrete, linear, and when to allow expressions to form poetical meaning or to form framework for open thought processes. Some people speak or write so abstractly, we're required to think about what they really mean nearly all the time. Maybe they're being colorful and interesting, or struggling to put expression to complex thoughts,* maybe they're just talking garble. Others are so literal, there's never any underlying meaning at all. They can be informative and they can be dreary. As with many human traits, most of us are capable of both patterns, but muddle along somewhere between the two extremes most of the time. 

But we should take care not to interpret or reinterpret someone else's words according to our own dim light. We can think outside ourselves to better understand others. However, that requires a willingness to let go of a certain amount of perceived control. I'm not speaking of sighing over someone's hopes, dreams and aspirations. I'm talking of everyday conversation, transactions, business discussion, news reports; areas in which open-minded objectivity is required and yet is so often found wanting. 

The need to define, label, and package everything outside oneself is largely to blame. For many people, that need supercedes the need for accuracy or to understand what's really there. There are other people who are so bound up by their need to fill and stamp a box that they are continually searching for more meaning than actually exists, in order to nail it down for all time. 

I know a couple of people who sometimes manage to be both these things at once. They gnash their teeth occasionally and then blame others for their aching jaws. They cause the very situation they believe they are working to avoid; chaos instead of control; heightened emotion instead of objectivity. Then they lash out at others for finding it all upsetting. It's very frustrating. 

Of course, sometimes reports or conversations are interpreted incorrectly because of the person's inability to understand the material offered. In those situations, they can still take care to note the difference between subjective and objective language, look for physical cues, and slow down before making assumptions and then responding or taking actions based on those assumptions. They can take the time to ask questions and learn more. This is a skill set that can be taught to everyone. We can all use occasional reminders, as well.

Ripples
How do you communicate objectively with someone who hasn't fully grasped that skill set and seemingly hears only emotional or personal intent in most every statement, or has an obsessive need to find deeper meaning behind every phrase? I haven't developed that particular knack yet. Avoidance seems to be the only way for me.

*I don't expect you to read all that. But actually, it's pretty interesting if you pretend lots of the commas aren't there.

 


soothing the savage breast

I'm in a righteously bad mood. Never mind why. But if I didn't give birth to you, I maybe don't have a lot of patience with you right now if you say or do illogical things near or at me or are a bank or a pet, etc. 

So I took some pictures of things that make me happy. And since they're food pictures, there will be a semi-crossover post to my sadly neglected (for good reason but not much longer) food blog later on. 

Foodforstock

Soupstock

Stuffofkings

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
'Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
The silent Tomb receiv'd the good Old King;
He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg'd
Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
Why am not I at Peace? —William Congreve, The Mourning Bride, 1697

I don't know why, William. But it is true. And so does cooking, so I'm gonna go bake something now, while listening to something pleasant. 

Old-Fashioned—Xaviar Cugat