Thursday, April 30, 2009
His final post made me stop and ponder this process. He admitted keeping it up had become a chore, not the pleasure it was when he started. And he felt he placed too much emphasis on the volume of visitors to his site, taking pleasure when the numbers ticked up and frustrated when they went down. (I am paraphrasing here a little I think. I hope my understanding of his position is correct.)
The Liar is in it's infancy compared to the departing blog. And yet, I already understood and empathized with much of what he said. When I realized that I too had some of those feelings, I went back to my first couple of posts, tried to remember what drew me to the process and compared that to where I sit today.
In my first post I said that I didn't really expect others to read my little efforts at written cohesive thought. That I was doing this for me, not for them. I forced myself to rethink those statements and decide if they were true when I said them and if they are true now.
I needed to reevaluate for two reasons. First because while I said I didn't expect others to read my writings, I find I do pay attention to any post that garners comments. I periodically check how many times my profile has been viewed, feeling a slight thrill when the number jumps up. And I have taken to posting any Liar updates on Twitter to announce to my, albeit quite small Twitter universe that there is a new update they might want to go read.
The other reason I questioned my initial statement was I have about 10 unpublished posts in various states of editing. I open them up periodically, try and work on them, then get distracted, save the edit again then do something else. I have finally come to the conclusion that I haven't finished any of them, because they are about topics I don't really care about, or they have been edited in such a way that they have lost the important kernel that means so much to me.
Finally, it dawned on me that I was trying to write posts that I thought others might want to see, rather than writing posts that said what I wanted to say. Big difference.
So, where does this leave me?
I started this for myself. I did it because I thought it would make me a more disciplined writer. I needed a routine, a responsibility that compelled me to write on a somewhat regular schedule. I did it to help me improve my writing skills. To learn editing brevity and hopefully stop using 15 words when 1 will do. I did it so I would write honestly about issues I care about, because I know that I am more honest if I am in a venue that offers at least the remote possibility someone else might see it, than I will ever be with myself, in my head. And I did it because I love to write, regardless of whether I have any skill or ability. How good I am with connecting words into readable and enjoyable sentences is not nearly as important to me as just writing.
I understand that if I am going to keep writing in this venue for any length of time, I must write about what I want to write about and I must say it the way I want to say it. If I don't I will quickly lose interest and start looking for another option to meet my needs. If someone happens across it and finds it interesting, that is wonderful. If they don't that is OK too.
I realize that I will continue to be happy when I have evidence that someone read what I wrote. I will continue to do the limited amount of self-promotion I do now. But the words and the topics and the voice will be genuinely mine.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I must admit I am not familiar with Virginia Foxx, the Congresswoman from North Carolina. No longer. She has repulsed me enough by this insensitive lie that serves no purpose that she will now move up to the top of my list of Republican Congressional Jack-Asses, right after the always wacky Michele Bachmann.
There was absolutely no reason to repeat the lies about a murder victim. Matthew Shepard never did anything to deserve this vitriolic spew. Ms. Virginia Foxx should be ashamed of herself. She certainly disgusts me.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I started to ask one more time, what the hell were we thinking? However, that answer is now painfully clear to me. We weren't thinking. Or, more accurately, those in charge were incapable of thought.
Irony doesn't begin to describe the potential result hinted at in this article. If the former Polish Prime Minister is indicted for abuse of power for accommodating the US and its secret prison, and the Bush administration doesn't even get their hand slapped, what does that say about the moral values of this country?
Disgusting in the extreme.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Just finished an article about Nan and Gay Talese's marriage in New York magazine. Entitled A Nonfiction Marriage it seems to be an honest portrayal of a 50 year marriage, warts and all.
It focuses on the late 1970's when Mr. Talese was researching his book Thy Neighbor's Wife, about the sexual revolution. To say he got 'into' the research is something of an understatement. He managed a massage parlor and lived in a nudist colony. Needless to say his marriage to Ms Talese, a well-respected editor, suffered. Yet they remained together despite infidelities, two high profile careers and a great deal of negative press aimed at Gay.
What I found most interesting about the article were the twists and turns of this long term marriage. In their late 70s today, their 50 year marriage survived, and survived in the public eye. A real accomplishment. The two are able to discuss the role sex and infidelity played in the marriage, although admittedly he is more willing to discuss those aspects than she is.
This article highlighted what is lacking in both traditional and online media today - a discussion regarding mature marriages or long term partnerships and what makes them work. Regardless of the press outlet, no one talks about this subject. So rarely is it discussed one might believe that there is no such thing as a successful 30, 40 or 50 year-long marriage. We know this is not the case. Because of baby boomers, even with divorce rates, the percentage of long term marriages today is higher than it has ever been.
I believe the lack of discussion is rooted in our societal belief that people old enough to be married for 30, 40 or 50 years are not considered desirable, sexual, romantic or sadly, relevant.
This mind set could be excused when considering the generations prior to our parents. The odds of a 40 or 50 year marriage weren't that great. The average life expectancy, especially for men, insured that long term marriages were the exception rather than the rule. However, the baby boom generation and those that follow guarantee that, if marriage as an institution survives, people will routinely have 50, 60 or even 70 year-long marriages. If those involved in a marriage of this duration truly can't be desirable, sexual, romantic or relevant, then the institution of marriage is in jeopardy.
My husband and I married young by today's standards. I was barely out of my teens. He was only slightly older. Conceivably, we may be married 60 or even 65 years, before one of us dies. That's a long time to spend with one person and a critical factor that people approaching marriage should seriously contemplate. But it will feel even longer if maturing couples are isolated, out of touch or unimportant in their society. If the issues that matter to them are not explored. If frank discussions regarding fidelity, sexuality, physical changes and long-term contentment have no outlet, it may lead to isolation, misunderstanding and missed opportunity.
As children we all tend to think our parents had sex the exact number of times required to produce us and our siblings. I sometimes wonder if we ever outgrow that misconception. We look at people married for 20 or 30 years and make equally simplistic assumptions about their relationship. The one thing I am certain of is the longer you are married or in a committed relationship, the more experiences you live through as a couple, the richer, more complex and more rewarding your relationship becomes.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
ll in all a great Sunday. My daughter and I spent several hours together without coming to blows. It was downright enjoyable. Of course knowing that she is leaving soon made it easier for both of us. I love her dearly, she is amazing and brilliant and hysterically funny. We know each other too well, are way too alike. We will miss each other terribly, but she is grown, needs to be on her own, needs to try and fail and try and succeed. And, she freely admits she is as ready to be away from us and back on her own as we are to have her gone. The next couple of weeks will be bittersweet, this parting will have a finality that her comings and goings from college never had. But it is time.
On another note, after shopping with my daughter, I came home to a husband bearing gifts, and insisting on a Sunday afternoon 'nap'. I feel somewhat uncomfortable discussing my youngest child and my husband's gifts in the same post. So, I will let someone else express my gratitude and delight in the man I married.
I first read this poem in high school, well before I understood at least some of it's meaning. I shared it with my husband way before he was my husband when we were "quite a new thing." (I do not mean to imply that I expect him to have any memory of any poem shared with him in our early days, unless it was in Penthouse penned by Miss July and printed on her stomach with a staple in the middle, or possibly in Mad Magazine. I am not that naive.) It still fits so well today.
i like my body when it is with your
i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite a new thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh . . . . And eyes big love-crumbs,
and possibly i like the thrill
of under me you quite so new.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
As difficult as it is to admit, I am not a particularly moral person in many ways. I believe morality exists for the greater good. It helps keep people’s baser instincts at bay, insuring the survival of the species. Along with laws and regulations, morals kept us from killing each other and dying off thousands of years ago, acting as cues to remind us to “not go there” unless we want to invite calamity.
I have the intelligence and ability to avoid calamity without cues constantly reminding me to take care. I operate on the assumption that if I skate on some of those cues, I still won’t cause the collapse of the society. Hence, I don’t experience the moral outrage others feel regularly when someone behaves in a ‘socially’ immoral fashion. A person’s proclivities and any deviation from the norm are their business and I won’t judge. Only if their behavior negatively impacts another living creature’s life, do I believe society has a responsibility to step in to stop the behavior and restore those damaged by it. Even then, my concern is for those hurt, not for the state of the perpetrator’s moral soul.
I admit this about myself to show that I am neither an idealist or one who goes through life in a state of continual moral outrage.
However, some issues raise my moral hackles. When a wrong perpetrated damages humanity as a whole, it is morally reprehensible and must come to an immediate halt. Whomever is responsible needs to either understand the error of their ways and beg forgiveness or be forced to bear retribution for their actions.
I have listened to the recent ebb and flow of opinion surrounding the fact that the US government not only sanctioned but actively carried out acts of torture against human beings. I have read the documents released to date, although the reading wasn’t necessary to resolve the issue to my mental satisfaction.
I am now tired of the debate, tired of the discussion. The mere fact that anyone attempts to debate that torture is not always unacceptable demeans us all. I demand the debate end immediately.
If only I had that power. I don’t, but the facts do. And here are the facts, or rather the single fact that matters:
Torturing is wrong. Specifically, torturing an enemy to gain advantage in conflict is wrong.
There is no ambiguity to this statement. It is wrong. It was wrong long before the Geneva Convention declared it so. It will always be wrong.
This is not a debatable point. It is not a topic for discussion. It is fact.
We need to quickly and collectively agree on this fact, take steps necessary to show the world we realize this. If we do not, we risk damaging humanity to the point that the next absolute wrong which humankind has collectively agreed upon, will start sounding less and less absolute.
We must take this discussion out of politics and patriotism. Torture has nothing to do with politics. This is not an issue like universal health care or changes to the tax code. It is not a topic that one group of people can be “for” and another group “against”. It is wrong. Always wrong. Always.
Likewise it is not OK for the US to say it is acceptable for us to torture you but still unacceptable for you to torture us. Again, let me repeat myself. It is wrong. Always wrong. Always.
I will not discuss the issue of torture leading to valuable intelligence. It has been shown repeatedly that it does not. But that is not the point. Even if torture led to valuable intelligence, it doesn’t matter. The act is still wrong. There is no greater good that can ever be served by torture.
Why is it not painfully obvious to every human being that torture doesn’t just damage the person it is inflicted upon? It damages all of us.
A CIA operative participates in water-boarding an inmate 80+ times in a month. Let’s think about who is impacted by this:
1. Obviously the inmate. The physical and psychological damage is permanent. They don’t “get over” this. Their chance of ever assuming a normal place in society is gone. They are scarred for life. “So what,” you might say, “they are terrorists, they killed innocent people, they attacked the US.” First, that has no bearing on the key fact. Torture is wrong. And second, evidently many were not terrorists, at least not then, they had not killed innocent people, and they certainly did not attack the US. Among those tortured were the innocent.
2. The operatives performing the torture. They face two potential outcomes. They may become totally devoid of concern for humanity, because they’ve participated in the most base and evil actions against humanity and faced no repercussions. Or, like the actual victim, they are mentally and psychologically scarred for life. This is not something a person participates in and then walks away unscathed.
3. The community or society of the inmate. Knowing that another country doesn’t hesitate to pick up people in their community, sometimes with no cause other than mistaken identity or poor intelligence and tortures them, is never going to endear the torturing country or it’s citizens to that community. Torture understandably breeds hatred. Hatred breeds violence. While I am not a religious person, the whole “eye for an eye” argument is not lost on me. The fact that we tortured any citizen of another country means that our citizens, including soldiers, are not safe from torture in that country again. How can we blame Pakistanis or Iraqis for torturing our citizens, when we have done the same to theirs?
4. Citizens of other countries, especially allies that have a stake in the continued strength and support of the US. Their estimation of us is lessened.
They lose confidence that we will react and respond as we have in the past. They cease to trust us and may look to other alliances. Partners that they hold in higher esteem. Or partners that react consistently, so at least they know what to expect and where they stand.
5. The citizens of the country that tortures. We’ve belittled and demeaned ourselves in the eyes of the world. The US has always been sanctimonious, but we had a reason to be that way. We believed in the dignity of man and did not treat even our worst enemies in such a way that ran counter to that belief. Now we have. People who represent us, the citizens of this country have tortured others. We assume the guilt of our representatives. We cannot be surprised or shocked when the esteem or at least reluctant respect we used to take for granted is gone. By behaving so deplorably, our value as humans is lessened.
By the actions instigated by a few, the value of the entire human race is lessened.
During the eight years George Bush was my President I thought about the demise and ultimate fall of the great empires through out history. Did Roman citizens realize that their empire was slowly crumbling, or were they blind to the fact until it was too late to act? Were there signs or hints that the empire was in trouble, cracks in the foundation that pointed to what lay ahead? Did anyone see these cracks, point them out to others even if they were repeatedly ignored or ridiculed? Did the Roman government truly believe it was invincible and no matter how heinous of act they might commit their rule was absolute and for always?
Watching what has happened in the US during this debate over an undebatable topic, I think I found my answer.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Pallavi Agarwal (On Facebook)
Next week’s Writing Adventure:
“WAG #9: Warning!” Last week the topic was to make something ugly sound beautiful, so this time let’s do the opposite! Choose an unfamiliar object (in other words, one you have no history with) that strikes you as beautiful, appealing, or somehow desirable etc… some ideas might be: a child, a sunset, an attractive shop window, a scenic view, a piece of art, an appetising meal in a restaurant… and write about it in such as way as to make it unappealing or even disgusting, frightening or repulsive to your reader. If you did last week’s topic as well (Rose Colored Glasses) I’d be very interested to know which of these was harder for you!
Post the results on your blog, and read this post about the group for information on how to notify me so your post will be properly included in next week’s list. (Note, please include WAG #8 in the subject heading and tell me how you want your name to appear please!) Deadline: next Tuesday, April 28th.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
“WAG #8: Rose Colored Glasses” Go out and choose an unfamiliar object (in other words, one you have no history with) that strikes you as ugly, repulsive, annoying, etc… some ideas might be: a wad of squashed gum on the pavement, a dead squirrel on the side of the road, an ugly sign, a loud construction site, a tacky sculpture in a charity shop… and write about it in such as way as to make it appealing to your reader. Really sell it! Use whatever words you want and cheat as much as you want, but do your best! Unfortunately I have difficulty following instructions, but I tried. It is a lot more fun to describe something repulsive than it is to describe something appealing. Thanks again to Nixy Valentine for putting this together.
It started with a smell. A noxious, rancid smell. The scent of rot was so strong, I began pulling everything out of my pantry closet and sticking it under my nose. While I rationally realized a can of tomato paste and a metal colander could not be the source of such a stench, even they weren't excused from my sniff.
Finally, the closet was empty but the stench was still there. I'd just about decided to take the shelves out, smell each one of them and then step into the closet to breath in lungfuls of the walls hoping they would point me towards the source of the odor.
Instead I got down on me knees and peered into the dark cavity under the lowest shelf. I was certain I'd pulled everything out that was on the floor, but as I bent down for one more look, the smell was overwhelming.
The closet is deep, my arms are not long and I was fairly certain I didn't want to actually touch whatever smelled so horrible. I retrieved a pair of kitchen tongs, got back down on the ground and swept the tongs across the closet floor, until they thunked into something soft and squishy.
Imagining all of the terrible things it could be, I screwed up my courage, grasped it in the tongs and slowly pulled it out.
At first, the blob was so misshapen, other than realizing it wasn't a dead mouse, or something worse, I wasn't able to identify its original nature. And the stench was now so overwhelming I knew I couldn't keep it in the house a minute longer.
Stepping out into the back yard, I gulped a couple of breaths of clean air, then examined at arms and tongs length whatever it was I'd found.
It had at one time been bulbous I could tell. It was so soft I could have squished it in two with the tongs, but I could guess that at one time it had been firm. It was a deep reddish-brown, yet translucent. As I realized it was composed of several translucent layers I finally identified the culprit. I'd unearthed a rotten onion. God knows how long it had festered, alone in the dark, in the farthest corner of my pantry floor.
Now that the mystery was solved, I was ready to dispose of the offending onion, and reluctantly start deciding what I should use to clean the pantry floor.
As I was walking towards the compost heap, with the onion still in the tongs and as far away from my nose as I could carry it, I absently turned my arm exposing the other side of the rotted root. There, peaking out was a small flag of bright green, partially folded within the tongs, so I hadn't noticed it immediately. Clear as day though, was a sign of new life, reaching out of it's fetid core and looking for the light.
Of course I didn't think of it quite so poetically as I was tossing it into the compost pile. That metaphor didn't enter my head until I started writing this. At the time I was literally blinded by the stink.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I say I find it difficult to believe not because I knew him so well that I know suicide was not in his nature. That is not true. I did not know him that well. I worked with him for about 10 years, spoke to him on the phone several times a year and usually met for lunch or drinks each fall at an industry symposium we both attended. Our primary commonality was our small niche of an extremely large industry. Most of our knowledge about each other revolved around that niche and our careers.
I had lunch with him last fall. It was a beautiful San Francisco day. A little chilly but the sky was a brilliant blue, showing the city off at its best. His long-term girlfriend had traveled with him, as she did almost every year, and they were staying for the weekend. My husband was due in the next day and we had a long weekend planned as well. Our lunch conversation was both work and personal-related. He told me about how his new corporate owner was working out, what had changed and what seemed to be staying the same. He also offered up critical comments about certain competitors of mine, something I am always eager to hear. I suggested people and markets he should contact on business that I could not handle. Primarily though, we talked about the weekend ahead and what each couple planned to do. It was relaxing lunch, not between two old friends, but certainly between two old acquaintances.
My impression of this gentleman was just that. He was a gentleman and a gentle spirit, coming across as soft-spoken, well mannered and almost courtly. He seemed, if not ecstatically happy with his life, at least content. He appeared to have strong personal relationships and seemed rooted in his community.
I am having a great deal of difficulty connecting the impression of the man I knew to a person who could commit suicide. I am not close enough that I will likely ever fully know or understand why he did this. I don’t really want to know the details. It would feel like I was intruding on others private pain. While I am surprised and saddened, I realize by the end of this week the news will have receded from my active thoughts. There will be others though, his girlfriend, his family and his close friends who will mourn their loss for a very long time.
Even though my acquaintance was casual, superficial, I never imagined this man in pain. His death reminds me that we never know another person as well as we think we do. We never know ourselves as well as we think we do.
I can honestly say that thoughts of killing myself have never crossed my mind. Even through the roughest times of my life, I never considered this even a remotely potential possibility. The concept is beyond my comprehension. Or, is it?
Do all humans have a switch in their brain, one they are not even aware of until they find themselves reaching out and contemplating pulling that switch? Is there a specific line for all of us, hard-coded in our DNA perhaps? A line that once crossed suddenly makes the idea of taking your own life move from the fantastic and impossible to the feasible and possible. Am I just not aware of my switch because I have never come close to crossing that line? Can I continue to exist, smug in the knowledge that I will never consider this option? Or, is a little humility in order? Is this a case of “there but for the grace of god go I?”
I am not really looking for answers to my questions. Some self-knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I just know I feel terrible sorrow for my acquaintance and for all those who loved him that he left behind.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
A frightening event that I knew was inevitable, but hoped could be postponed, can not. I now have 9 draft posts all in various stages of dress. Every time I click the "Edit post" tab, there they sit with their smugly challenging Draft label in bold orange letters.
This is a problem for me. It means I am not focused. And when I am not focused I accomplish absolutely nothing.
When I have too many tasty bits floating around in my brain or on a screen I become incapable of turning any of them into full fledged meals. At the same time, I have difficulty concentrating on anything but those bits. Little, unimportant parts of my life like my job, kids, spouse, eating and breathing tend to be back burnered, while I try and figure out how to round up all these bits, arrange them in some manageable configuration and deal with them in an orderly fashion, one piece of tasty goodness at a time.
I've suffered through this before. Each time I seem to work my way out of the situation, but have yet to come up with a consistent remedy. Probably my favorite trick is to combine every random topic floating in my brain into one essay or story. Needless to say, unless there is a common factor shared by all of the partial ideas rolling in my head, this becomes quite difficult. Actually, it is pretty easy for me. I just take each thought and connect them with an "and" or "also", making one long run-on sentence. Unfortunately, it makes absolutely no sense to any one attempting to read it.
So, I will forge on and hopefully over the next couple of days I will achieve clarity regarding at least some of my pending posts and finish them up. I am bound and determined to contribute to the Writing Adventure Group this week, since I missed last week, but am drawing a complete blank on that topic, so we will see. In the meantime if anyone can come up with a meaningful way to combine into one comprehend-able piece the following topics, I am all ears:
1. Vacuum tube stereo systems;
2. Daughter striking out on her own (finally!);
3. My compassionate nature, or the lack thereof;
4. My ruminations on the issue of government sanctioned torture;
5. An exploration of how a close friendship can survive a business deal gone bad;
6. The complexities of uncomplicated sex (short story);
7. My attempt to make my small yard put the Chelsea Flower Show to shame;
8. The dearth of women related websites that are aimed at women over the age of 35, that are still meaningful and relevant - (aka why I hate the new WOWoWOW website so god damn much);
9. The Australian who came to Easter dinner;
10. A tale of two commitment-phobes (short story);
11. Plastic surgery for cats;
12. The WAG assignment, find something ugly and describe it beautifully (greatly abbreviated);
13. The basement that ate my family; and
14. The use of Thorazine to induce lactation and why this made me a terrible mother.
Just listing this has overwhelmed me. Off to bed.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Thinking a lot about compassion lately. What makes me feel compassionate, what draws my caring forth is one of those areas where I am quickly discovering I don't know myself quite as well as I thought.
My thoughts were garbled enough but then I read the released Bush/Justice Dept memos yesterday and they went from garbled to chaotic. There is something I need to say. Say it at least to me. But the words are not forming into any meaningful order in my head right now.
I will continue to ponder the subject of compassion through the weekend. Working in the garden is where I am most likely to clear my head and focus. So this weekend I dig.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
I won't go into the apparent decision not to punish those that engaged in torture. If I think to much about what this failure to own up to our own worst faults says about this country, I will likely start crying and I can't do that right now.
I feel so personally appalled by our behavior as a nation, the need to apologize to the world is almost overwhelming.
As I have said before, I still don't understand why the rest of the world doesn't shun us, much like many fundamental religious sects shun their members who have left their faith. It would not surprise me if other countries simply turned their backs on us and acted as though we no longer exist.
There is absolutely no circumstance whatsoever when two wrongs can make a right. We have sunk to the level of all that we say we detest and identify as evil.
I rarely feel shame. But I feel it tonight.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I wish I had the time to read everything that catches my attention on the web. Unfortunately, if I spent 24/7 reading, I still would not be able to read my fill. One of the ways I keep up with at least a small portion of what I want to read is to rely on several aggregators and bloggers who seem to instinctively know exactly what I want to read.
Bernie Latham at Brittle Hum of the Republic most consistently meets my taste. I generally agree with him on political issues but more importantly, his sense of the absurd and his concept of beauty tend to correlate with mine. He is always a must read. I told Bernie lately he had become my version of Internet Cliff Notes.
Bernie directs readers to Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish (The Atlantic Magazine online). I have no idea how Andrew pulls together all the information he is able to compile. I just know I am sure to find several posts of interest every day.
Bob Cesca's Goddamn Awesome Blog! Go! is another favorite blog. It has several great writers and is almost always hysterically funny as well.
Alas, A Blog is interesting. They spend too much time discussing the TV series The Dollhouse and can take the whole "inherent worth of all people" /political correctness a little too far. But still an interesting read. It has multiple regular bloggers and a couple of them are great.
Like so many millions of people, my first stop every time I go online is Huffington Post. I read the blogs and I also get quick access to the best articles from every newspaper, magazine or website.
I'm still not sure how I feel about The Daily Beast. I like some of their columnists, especially Christopher Buckley and Ana Marie Cox. (I can't believe I just said I liked a Buckley.) Their Cheat Sheet section is great if you just have a couple of minutes and want to know the headlines in quick order.
A new site I'm exploring is True/Slant. I haven't had a lot of time to spend perusing yet, but I might be in love. I will read about anything Matt Taibbi writes.
Finally a few articles I personally recommend. A couple are over a week old, I just haven't had a chance to post them yet. From the New York Times - A City of Strangers and Kindness. My Father has Parkinson's. I'm not ashamed to admit this story made me cry.
Also from the Times - How to End a War, Eisenhower's Way. Thanks to Bernie or I would have missed this. I am rethinking Eisenhower's presidency in a more positive light.
From the Guardian - Age Shall Not Wither Them and the piece on Jezebel that led me to it - What if Women Weren't Afraid to Grow Old? Included a surprisingly telling quote from Madonna "Once you reach a certain age you're not allowed to be adventurous, you're not allowed to be sexual. I mean, is there a rule? Are you supposed to just die?"
Finally, last week's Newsweek Cover Story - The End of Christian America. The topic has been in the news continually lately. This article gives a great overview.
I noticed a headline today that asked if the Internet was making us "dumber". I am sure it probably can. I've spent a fair amount of time on websites that do nothing but present silliness. However, it can also make us more intelligent, of that I have no doubt. Its just trying to find enough hours in the day to cram all this knowledge into my head that trips me up.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I look for undercurrents churning below the surface of each sentence. At once the hidden context becomes clear. This sudden clarity, overwhelming in its intensity, makes the darkness surrounding me shift in nature from discomforted to depraved.
I sit transfixed, as your demands settle suffocatingly upon my chest. Slowing my now shallow breath I steady myself and reread the words. Surely I will find the intent, if not the actual language, more benign than comprehended at first glance. But your thoughts, your demands remain constant. There is no re-interpretation to be had.
Suddenly my dark and enclosed space is claustrophobic. A force is pressing in. Squeezing out the last of my resistance.
I cannot see the danger yet, cannot feel the damage. Pray I still have one more chance to close the door between us and walk away.
Too late I realize the power of the words marching across the screen. The danger is the words. The words already control my mind. What remains of me will surely follow. The damage has been done.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
I swear to god if there is a disease or physical ailment my husband does not pine for, it’s only because he’s never heard of it. As we watch new drug commercials on TV, I’m noticing they never actually name the disease. Then I’m wondering how bad the disease must be if the man in the commercial will risk the possibility of lactation, anal leakage and premature death in order to partake of this medication. On the other hand, my husband’s thoughts run to, “Damn, I always like orange pills and the name sounds kind of like a sports car. And his girlfriend is hot so that means women think the pill’s sexy. What the hell, I think I’ll give the doctor a call and tell him I need it. Maybe he’ll write me a script.”
I don’t believe a doctor has actually prescribed a drug for my husband that he doesn’t really need. Yet he has amassed a collection of bottles and brightly colored pills that would make Walgreen’s envious. As best I can tell, he doesn’t actually take all of them. Rather he sorts and ponders, reliving memories of a specific ailment long resolved. And new prescriptions are introduced to the collection much like a philatelist lovingly placing the postage stamp that completes a prized collection.
My husband and I are well-suited in so many ways, partially because we’ve known each other forever, so had the opportunity to compromise and barter until we’ve arrived at a generally compatible condition. But history aside, we see eye-to-eye on most subjects. We agree on politics (left, thank you), organized religion (no, thank you) and children (if they are behaving brilliantly we both agree they were my idea, but if they are being jackasses, we both agree they were his.)
Regarding our personalities, while he might disagree just a smidgen, I think we both know that he speaks for both of us, but I think for both of us. Actually, we both agree on who does the speaking since I am often non-communicative and talking is his favorite pastime, but we divvy up the ‘thinking’ thing. He has an abundance of common sense, I have absolutely none. I provide the theory, he provides the real world application, which I then dissect, analyze and critique endlessly.
Likewise our approach to health and well being is compatible. We do as we please with our diet and sedentary life style, then periodically the urge kicks in and we get serious about our appetites and exercise. Eventually we slip back into our bad habits, until the next time we are roused to action. This erratic health and fitness plan has served so far, although we realize we can’t go on in this fashion indefinitely.
However, there is a marked difference in how we deal with one aspect of our health. Illness reveals a yawning gap in our rapport.
First, what I consider sick, others consider dead. Aches and pains that come with age and lifestyle exist for me as much as the next person. I just absolutely refuse to acknowledge or discuss them, because I think anything I can ignore is manageable. (Unfortunately, I feel this way about many things.) If I feel so poorly I can no longer ignore the discomfort, my usual approach is to will infirmity to leave my body immediately. Surprisingly this sometimes works. When it doesn’t and I must accept my illness, I lock myself in our bedroom and countenance no visitors, no matter how caring (annoying) or compassionate (obnoxious).
When in actual pain, my preferred method of treatment is to buck up until I hit my maximum tolerance level, which is quite high. Once I hit that point I want drugs. Big honking, pain killing drugs. I want them injected directly into my blood stream and I want the dosage to be high enough that I pass out and stay that way until the pain subsides. No pansy-ass extra strength Tylenol. I want morphine, straight up please.
My better half, however, has a different story. Some people start their day with a to-do list, writing down the twenty tasks they absolutely must accomplish that day. My husband starts his day similarly. Except his to-do list is a my-aches list. Not content to commit each tremor and twinge to paper, he shares his list with me, out loud, in detail.
I understand this compelling need to review the litany of insults to his physical well being. He truly enjoys basking in every leg cramp, touch of indigestion, back ache, dry sinus, watery eye, suspicious rash … I could go on, but will spare you the gorier details. Evaluating each malady, comparing how it feels or looks today versus yesterday, noticing any new ailment and thinking wistfully of those that have exited his body is his reassurance that he still lives. If he wasn’t alive he reasons, he wouldn’t hurt so damn much.
I believe my husband shares his aches and pains with me for two reasons. First because my physical response to his litany, whether it be a distracted “yes dear”, an eye roll, an exaggerated sigh or rolling over in the bed and putting a pillow over my head is proof to him that I too am still alive.
Plus, he truly can’t conceive that others don’t revel in their afflictions as he does. He actually pities me. I’m not certain if his pity stems from his belief that I don’t have my own afflictions to revel in, or he believes that I have my own aches and pains, but they seem paltry compared to his obviously impressive list, so I am embarrassed to share. He definitely feels generous when sharing his with me.
And so we sit. Me, adamantly denying there is absolutely anything wrong with me, even after my arm falls off, my jaw is permanently locked and I’ve lost all sensation from the waist down. My husband, continually chronicling his daily aches and pains, hoarding his pills so he is prepared for the oncoming plague that is lurking just around the corner, but in reality, healthy as a horse. We were obviously made for each other.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
“WAG #7: Imaginings” This one is people-watching with a twist. Observe a stranger and sketch a brief background for them, including a secret. Then describe why they are in that particular place at that particular time (where you ran into them) and how it will affect their future. Feel free to be creative, but don’t forget to describe the concrete reality that made you pick them in the first place! (Thank you to Christine Kirchoff for this week’s WAG topic!)
Post the results on your blog, and read this post about the group for information on how to notify me so your post will be properly included in next week’s list. (Note, please include WAG #7 in the subject heading and tell me how you want your name to appear please!) Deadline: next Tuesday, April 14th.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
My overheard conversation (in a bar as you might guess). I've thought of adding to it, but I think it is complete unto itself.
"I thought you gave up drinking for Lent?"
"Then what are you doing here and why are you drunk?"
"I gave up drinking. I didn't give up bars."
"And if you gave up drinking why are you drunk?"
Long pause ...
"You know, I really don't know. Ask me later, when I'm sober."
Also a brief plug. If you write you probably love words. If you do and you haven't gone to http://www.savethewords.org/ go now, before it is too late. Save a word, while you still can.
Monday, April 6, 2009
A blog I follow with an eloquent author admitted to feeling momentarily tapped** lately. He was temporarily experiencing difficulty coming up with additional topics in the general area of his specialty and invited his readers to respond with questions they would like him to answer.
I thought about his invitation and while there are several things about him and his life I am mildly curious about, those questions seemed intrusive, inappropriate. I have yet to see a Blogging Etiquette for Dummies book, but my own internal Emily Post, who sounds suspiciously like my mother, would have slapped my hand with a ruler if I’d been so impertinent as to type those questions out.
But I’ve felt a strange affinity for this blog ever since I came across it. Something about the voice of the author and the way he reveals his thoughts and his thought process in written words captures the imagination. So I took a couple of days and thought about issues we might have in common. Something I am grappling with that he might have some insight into. And I thought of one.
I have been pondering boundaries. To be specific, my particular, personal boundaries. Where they lie? Do I push them? Would I recognize a boundary if I saw it? What does it feel like to cross one? Will I know I've crossed it if I do? Do they even exist? I am not talking exclusively of moral or sexual or physical or mental or emotional boundaries. Rather, I am talking about them all, en masse. To me, they are interwoven and cannot be separated.
When my mind turned to this subject I was initially surprised. I assumed the delineations of my personal boundaries were marked years ago. Isn’t that what your teenage years and your 20s are for? Pushing the envelope and learning from the results? If I recall I did quite a bit, some might say an extreme amount, of pushing at that time, so the issue of my borderlines should have been resolved to my mind's satisfaction many years ago.
Evidently that is not the case. Something made me realize that if my boundaries were set in stone, then surely I would hit them periodically as I go through my day, recognize the wall for what it is, and step away. But try as I might, I can’t recall that ever happening.
This leads me with two distressing conclusions. Either I lead such a staid and predictable life that I have never come close to hitting the boundaries I established at a much younger age, or conversely I have no set boundaries or they are set so far out in the boonies that I will never bump against them. If the correct conclusion is the first, then I have wasted a lot of time being safe. If it is the second, the possibilities are overwhelming.
This is a mystery I have to solve. I have some conflicting clues to start with. I know that when I decide to do something, it is useless to try and talk me out of it, no matter how unwise my decision. I will be ruthlessly driven to go after it, regardless of the consequences. Fortunately this isn’t a common occurrence for me, or I would be divorced, unemployed or dead by now.
I can and often do become comfortable with the status quo, even if I believe the status quo could be improved upon. This tends to happen not when I don’t care about something. More often it happens when I don’t care enough.
I can’t recall that I’ve done anything I’ve felt ashamed of in a very, very long time. Which I’m afraid means I’m either frightfully dull or I have no sense of what is shame worthy.
I tend to make decisions quickly and move on. I very rarely second guess myself, often to my detriment. Nor do I get that feeling I have heard others speak of where the hair stands up on the back of your neck and you decide to rethink your plan.
I think these issues are all tied to how I perceive the boundaries of my life. I just don’t know what they all mean.
Meanwhile, the blogger whose inquiry I responded to has replied to my questions about how he defines his boundaries. I will incorporate his perspective into my clues and continue investigating. If any one else is grappling with this issue, I would love feedback from you as well.
To be continued ...
** This is an adult only site. If you are under 18, please don't.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Another gray day. Spring is taking its own sweet time getting here and I am ready to explode. No point in going outside. Even I am not masochistic enough to try and enjoy the outdoors in this weather.
I cheered myself up with one of my favorite Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies The Barkleys of Broadway, followed by Astaire and Audrey Hepburn at her most luminous in Funny Face. I love Funny Face, even though Astaire is way too old for Hepburn, primarily because of Hepburn's amazing wardrobe. As the face of a magazine, her couture clothes are timeless, elegant and look as though they were meant to be worn exclusively by her, which I'm sure they were. Kate Moss and Claudia Schiffer can only dream of looking half as amazing as Hepburn looks in this movie.
When I was a little girl it seemed to be on TV every Saturday afternoon. I was absolutely adamant that when I married I would wear the wedding dress Hepburn wore in Funny Face.
The Barkleys of Broadway was Fred and Ginger's last movie together. They were great, but what makes this movie a favorite of mine is it costarred Oscar Levant. A brilliant composer, pianist, actor and wit whose life was far more tragic than it should have been. He died when I was still a kid and hadn't appeared in public for years before that. But I was exposed to him through several musicals he appeared in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Even as a child watching a movie two generations old, I thought he was hysterically funny with his very dry, very deadpan, very cutting wit. He is truly timeless.
It wasn't until many years later that I learned much about his life, and how sadly he declined. But his wit lives on.
"I am no more humble than my talents require."
"I envy people who drink. At least they have something to blame everything on."
"I find that girl completely resistible."
My personal favorite and still apropos today:
Saturday, April 4, 2009
ne of the mandatory requirements of my career is a general understanding of technology systems, software and networks and the Internet. I don't need a detailed, technical understanding. I'm not a programmer, a developer or an engineer. Rather, I need to understand the basic components and how they fit together, how people use technology and how they use the Internet. As I discussed here, I especially need to know what happens when their use goes horribly wrong.
An example of this was the over-hyped potential disaster of Y2K. I spent the 3 years prior to 1-1-2000 alternately worrying about planes falling out of the sky, ATMs going dark, security systems shutting down, the potential of murder and mayhem , while at the same time pushing out reports reassuring the higher ups it would be fine. As cold as it sounds, I was actually disappointed when nothing terrible happened. I felt as if I had wasted several years of my life.
Overall though, I feel lucky to have the opportunity to spend a great deal of my time exploring the technology that runs our lives and the Internet that increasingly seems hardwired into our minds. My exploration and interaction on the web has progressed through the years from university library bulletin boards to the dial-in networks of Prodigy and CompuServe, from Lycos and Infoseek to Google, from The Well to Facebook.
Usually I learn just enough about each new trend, site or technology to understand its purpose, its allure and its weakness. Some have interested me far more than others and I have become a serious user and proponent. Others don't hold my interest to the same degree. I often dive into something new, then go silent, popping back in periodically to see what has changed.
I can't tell you exactly why but certain technological innovations and web destinations have captured my attention and affection - Audible, Wikipedia, Ask (although they should never have dropped Jeeves), Mozilla, Internet Archive, IMDB, too many blogs to name and the logic and ease of use of ASPs and SaaS. And I must mention my infatuation with all things Apple.
Others, such as AOL, ebay, Craigslist, MySpace, youTube, digg, MSN and most anything Microsoft related have not really rocked my boat. The jury is still out on Twitter for me.
I learned the hard way to be objective and keep a certain distance between myself and the latest Internet candy. In early 1999 I needed to understand the appeal and the process of downloading music. I started out exploring RealNetworks, Listen.com and eMusic. Then I moved on to the mother of all music download sites - Napster. I hate to admit this, since I am someone who believes in the sanctity of copyrights, but many, many, many, many pirated downloads later I understood Napster and it's allure. (I now gladly fork over my 99 cents a song at iTunes.)
I think one of the most democratic aspects of the internet, especially for someone that did not grow up wired, is the individual user's ability to pick and choose what they like and what they don't. What works for them and doesn't. Don't 'get' Twitter? Fine don't do it. Still love the quirkiness of The Well? Have at it.
One of the downsides with the rapid evolution of technology is I find something I love, but it eventually changes or disappears. I still can't talk about my decade long infatuation with the original Lotus 123. The best personal, money management software ever was Andrew Tobias' Managing Your Money. A DOS based application, it died years ago, but I still think of the cheesy graphics and smile. I resent the loss of the previous version of my 'My Yahoo' home page and while I am much better behaved now, I still get wistful for the instant gratification that was Napster.
Sometimes, things cannot be re-said to any advantage. Paraphrasing, redacting or abridging often do considerable harm to the intent and understanding of the original document. This week I read several articles, columns, etc. that are worth sharing. And sharing in their original form.
The story of an intriguing Civil War mystery, its amazing solution based on pure synchronicity and several questions that have yet to be answered in the New York Times piece: Whose Father Was He? by Errol Morris. It's a five parter, but worth every minute spent.
In the New Yorker, a couple of articles I've been meaning to mention for several days. Both, the original and a follow up deal with the apparent resurgence of Populism in this country and it's relationship to the evident paranoia currently gripping the right. Read both of George Packer's articles. Very insightful. Populism and Paranoia and the followup More Paranoia Both are fascinating reads. And thanks to Bernie Lantham at Brittle Hum of the Republic for pointing me towards these. His blog has basically become my reading and viewing list. He seems to be able to slog through all of the flotsam and jetsam and point me in the right direction towards the things I absolutely must see.
An absolutely heartbreaking article in Salon by Ann Bauer, The Monster Inside My Son One of the saddest stories I've read in a long time. It made my heart and my soul ache for her, her son and her entire family.
Finally, and on a much lighter note - the story of how our collective fascination with nonsensical branding, our unquenchable appetite to consume ever increasing amounts of ephemera and useless tchotchkes can spiral horribly out of control - if you have never visited the blog Hello Kitty Hell, you absolutely must.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
I have a filthy mouth. I have since I was a teenager. If my mother were still alive, I would suggest you just ask her about it. Of course, she might still confirm this, even though she is dead. In fact she would probably tell you my love of the profane is one of the trials she was forced to endure that eventually led to her premature death.
I love words in general and have, I believe, a larger than average vocabulary. I try to use that vocabulary regularly. Not to show off, but because I believe that in some way words are sacred and we can't afford to lose them. So I do my best to keep words from falling out of use.
In spite of the fact that I have an abundant supply of expressive words at my fingertips, words that clearly make my point without offending anyone, I still like to curse. Through the years, I have tried to break the habit, but with little success. I thought I would quit cussing when I had children. But when your first child is deaf, there seems to be little point to reining in your expletives. And by the time the second one came along, the habit was too ingrained. I have learned to regulate my use of profanity in certain situations, but with varying degrees of success.
I like to cuss for several reasons. First, sometimes nothing but a cuss word will do. There are certain situations that can only be summed up by the liberal use of "Fuck!" (To me, the most multifarious word in the English language. It is applicable to almost any occasion or situation.) Sometimes a man behaves in such a way that the only moniker that applies is "Prick". Sometimes a woman is just a plain and simple "Bitch". You can use words that might not cause offense, but the appropriate cuss word, allows you to express your opinion in a pithy and succinct manner and there is no confusion about how you really feel about the subject.
I also like cuss words, because I think talking dirty in bed is sexy. I always have. Nothing is more of a turn off than anatomically and politically correct language between the sheets. The two least sexy words in the English language are penis and vagina. I'm sorry, but it is the truth. I want to be called names in bed that, if I were called them outside of bed, would be a justifiable reason for pistols at dawn. And I like to call the anatomy of the person in bed with me (alright, my husband) by the most profane labels I can come up with. And then I often giggle, which defeats the purpose, or so he tells me.
I also recently discovered a third reason I like curse words. Historically, profanity has been seen as a tool of the young or the uneducated. I am neither. And while I don't necessarily aspire to anything that makes me appear less educated, I do aspire to anything that makes me feel younger than I am. This revelation came to me in a discussion with my grown daughter, who has, unfortunately, inherited my love of profanity, although I don't think she has attained my level of expertise. How we got into this discussion, I don't recall. But at some point I admitted to her that "Having a potty mouth makes me feel younger, edgier, more cool." At that she started laughing hysterically. When I pressed her to tell me what was so funny, as she was wiping the tears from her eyes, she told me that I was defeating the purpose of using profanity to appear edgier or cool if I was going to refer to cussing as "having a potty mouth". Then she pointed out the dichotomy of many of my language choices.
So,now I am once again, trying to clean up my language. I have decreed that I am striking certain words from my vocabulary from here on. Words I have used all my whole life. Words like "potty", "tinkle", "booby", "popo" and "weewee". After all, it is never my intent to offend.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
It is an early photograph, made well before 1900, of a man who looks like he is in his late 20s. If you saw this picture and if you knew my son, you would be absolutely certain the photo was one of those campy pictures taken at Disney World. The ones where you dress up in old fashioned clothes and with a new digital camera they take a picture of you that looks like it was made in the 1880s.
It isn’t. It really is an old picture and it is a picture of a predecessor of mine. It was in a great aunt's photo album I inherited. The picture was taken in Springfield, Illinois by a Dexter Studio. But that is all I know. I have no clue who he is and what his relationship is to me and more interestingly, to my son.
I’ve stared at this picture many times. I suppose I hope if I look closely enough all will be made clear. So far, no luck.
But I am endlessly fascinated. Was my son's doppelgänger like him in more ways than just appearance? Did he have his gentle and loving heart? His incessant and annoying habit of asking the same question over and over again, just to make sure you understood him? Was he emotional? Quick to anger, quick to diffuse and quick to show boundless affection? Did he love to endlessly discuss his varied interests, everything from Calvinism to college basketball, from politics to the true significance of the fact that Darth Vader was Luke Skywaker’s father? Did he wear his spiritual beliefs on his sleeve? Did his mother shake her head too, wondering how a child born out of her decidedly non-religious body, developed such a deep and abiding Christian faith, thankfully tempered by a strong underpinning of liberal values?
My scientific training is limited to a high school biology class and a fascination with, though not an understanding of, the physicist Richard Feynman. As an adult I get my science from writers who speak English, not science. Probably my favorite non-scientific book about science is Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.
One of my favorite sections is his discussion of the atom. In it, experts tell me through him that every atom I possess has passed through several stars and millions of organisms before joining my other atoms and arranging themselves into me. And when I die, they will disassemble and move off to create other organisms - an oak leaf, a trout, an aphid or maybe another human. (If I have butchered his explanation, I sincerely apologize.)
I find this concept comforting. It is, for me, about as close to a statement of faith as I will ever come. As I look at the picture of the young man who is not my son, I think about this explanation of atoms. And I wonder if the group of atoms that arranged themselves to form this man perhaps enjoyed the experience so much, they decided to get back together at some point in the future and do it again. Voila, my son.
A silly fantasy, I realize, but this exercise brings me back around to my concept of time. I may exist right here, at this time, right now. But my atoms transcend time, existing before me, and surviving long after my death. If I am the sum of my parts, and my most elemental parts are the atoms that compose me, then as long as they exist in any fashion, don't I as well?
How to Join the Writing Adventure Group
Nancy J Parra
Next week’s Writing Adventure:
“WAG #6: Overheard” Another people-watching exercise this week! This time, let’s listen! Choose a stranger and do your best to overhear what they say, and then write it down. It can be on the phone, to someone else, or even them talking to themselves. What does their voice, word choice, or tone tell you about them? Feel free to write their exact words OR write it as you would for fictional dialogue. By now you guys know the rules aren’t what’s important, but the experience!
Post the results on your blog, and read this post about the group for information on how to notify me so your post will be properly included in next week’s list. (Note, please include WAG #6 in the subject heading and tell me how you want your name to appear please!) Deadline: next Tuesday, April 7th.