Interspersed with relief photos of Tom Hiddleston modeling suits for GQ, etc. here is some of what I've got in my miscellaneous file on this potentially auspicious day. Credits go variously to: me, people whose names are on the image, random members of Fark, and a few people who got to Google Images without ongoing citation. Thank you, whoever you are.
From Katharine Hepburn's monologue near the end of Keeper of the Flame, a George Cukor film released at the beginning of 1943. (If you watch it, you might be disappointed by the turn it takes; apparently there were script disagreements and it feels like the best side lost.)
A couple notes on the Watergate proceedings I've been watching following on a rewatch of All the President's Men, and some links. I started with contemporary CBS news coverage, then watched documentaries from various outlets. If you can watch only only, I'd go for the PBS program; it's the most self-contained, with many of the main players still alive; one of the interesting parts about watching several over time is getting multiple points of view. But the news reports are pretty interesting, and so is the 2014 revisit. And the 1992 doc is from a VHS recording and includes commercials.
Currently I'm working through a four part BBC series that is very in-depth. But that's for the obsessed or the completionist among us.
From Samuel Dash (chief counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee:) “There was a false sense, I say false, from any objective point of view, of patriotism, of being the true Americans, they wore the little American flag in their lapels. They had no sense of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, they believed the dissent, people who might march and say things against the administration were subversive, were people who were unAmerican, rather than this is the very thing America’s all about, which is the right of the people to dissent.”
“We decided as a committee to sue the president for the tapes and we appeared before Judge Sirica, who was a very courageous judge during that time. John Sirica. And I remember that when the president’s lawyer, a very distinguished constitutional lawyer, began his argument, he said to the court, ‘The president, my client, wants me to argue that he is as absolute a monarch as Louis XIV, only four years at a time, and is not subject to the processes of any court in the land, quote unquote.’”
Um...if you're one of these tiresome linear thinkers, this pile of semi-cheery nonsense I just wrote is not for you. Maybe just turn around and go back to wherever you like to employ your Dunning-Kruger Defense, instead. Everyone admires the irony of that.
Links go to actual news pages that I liked on this subject.
And so, resquiat in pace, President Bush the Elder. I’m not here to talk of my love and high degree of admiration for this guy. But his “legacy,” if he ends up with one, won’t be whatever he did with Reagan’s administrative leavings, or even, probably, the taxes on wealthy people he promised they wouldn’t have, though if you read about the math on that, it might interest you in our current context.
His legacy will be largely that he served as the last Republican president before the era that we are currently in during which most of the country moved a fraction of a degree left while the GOP wagon train launched itself to the right, partly in the name of a tiny God and partly because they paid with their souls financially for the chance to spread their tiny views like a pox blanket over the rest of us, and we are paying for that now.
Don’t you love a good mixed metaphor?
GHW Bush was certainly no more conservative than was his White House successor, Bill Clinton, someone about whom I won’t be writing a gentle substanceless eulogy. Ideology in those terms was so different 30 years ago, it’s nearly surreal to look back on.
Lately when I read comments from people going on about libs and their President Clinton, I know we’ve descended into reactionary territory. That guy was no more liberal than was, well, George H.W. Bush. But what can you expect from people who think that there is no middle ground between Godless Socialist Communism and The Wonderful Wild American West in which we all battle on an even playing field for all the gold that’s just lying at our feet should we care to pick it up? Why do they think that? Well, people believe whatever makes them feel better about themselves, and that includes you, too, you smug “progressive.” Stop pretending it doesn’t, right now, or we won’t get anything done. But also there might have been lead paint involved.
Bush became president during a time when it was extra important for the U.S. to look like it had its act together. The post world war order in Europe was beginning to break apart, and here at home all the game-playing with middle east politics was exposed, and smart people began to wonder why Chinese landholdings in Montana and other western states was on a sharp rise. And there were already signs President Reagan was losing his grip on a focused reality.
President Bush tried to be an old-fashioned peace time president in appearance, and I like that in a leader. Behind the scenes, sure there was another story. There always is. If you think this isn't true about all of them, pull your skirt down; your naive is showing.
Maybe it’s when I was born and grew up, but I don’t remember ever expecting much from a president other than the ability to do well at the international state dinners and to not let Congress run riot over the rest of us.
I have a very dim memory of President Johnson; mostly what I remember of the evening news from that era is fighting scenes in Vietnam. I remember the moon landing a little while after that, and I remember the different President Nixon speaking about it. But unlike so many of my friends who were at that age reading edifiying works of literature, I spend most of my preschool time riding around on my dog and digging in dirt, so all that distant grownup stuff was on some other plain.
I began reading when I was six. I didn’t exactly learn how, though I did love my phonics workbook at school. I loved the science of it. No, it was just that I didn’t read anything and then I read everything. That is to say, I could read everything, but didn’t; when my current friends who read at two or three go on about reading Jane Eyre at eight, well, I had way too many Nancy Drews, Bobbsey Twins, and world mythology, and biographies about explorers and 19th century businessmen to be bothering with what turned out to be “literature.” But I did love the newspaper. They had a kid’s section sometimes, and there were comic strips, which confused me because I thought comic was supposed to mean funny, but I did read them, and the advice columns; you got Ann in the morning Times and Abby in the evening Star, and I read the grocery ads, and sometimes a famous person died and if he was famous but not world-shakingly so, the news item would generally be found in the bottom right corner of the front page.
And so I am pretty sure, though my recall is not perfect, that the death of Jim Croce is what caused me to start reading about Watergate. Jim Croce's headline was beneath one about Nixon's tapes, or what-have-you. That was in September, 1973, and I’d just started third grade. It was a hard year for me, maybe sometime I’ll try to piece some of it together, but what I remember about it are these items: learning the multiplication tables, having an Indian Unit, we got to have a substitute teacher for a long time which was nice because the regular teacher didn’t like me and Mrs. Richardson did, but, I think because of her and perhaps an overly optimistic view of his training, having to visit the school counselor for a few Mondays while he failed to figure out what was wrong with me, and Watergate.
I read about Watergate every day in the newspaper. I didn’t understand quite a lot of it, but it fascinated me all the same. I knew the players like you might know a baseball team.
And so that informed my view of the presidency pretty much. I remember when Nixon resigned and we got Ford, instead, who was rather more together than a kid might know from Chevy Chase impersonations, but mostly just hanging in there til he could be Electoral Colleged out, and then there was Carter, and Congress resented him, and that was something to learn about and try to understand, and later I tried to learn political science as a college course but didn’t get to take it very far because of this whole thing, never mind about that now.
Reagan was certainly unlike presidents before him in many ways, and partly that was because of the shrinking of the global stage, and partly because he was an entertainer, and of course a lot of things all collided together to create that era we look back on like it was a TV series we all watched, with greedy people and secrets and cliffhangers and everything. Plus, his administration planted the seeds for the 1994 Republican Revolution, and cannot be forgiven for that, but in between, we got President George Herbert Walker Bush, and I will “confess” to you now that I voted for him in 1992 against Clinton because I believed that whatever was going on behind the scenes, the things he said about the surface we lived on were largely true and just the sort of middle of the road state we ought to remain in for just a little while longer*, and I wouldn’t have trusted Clinton as far as I could throw him.
I think Clinton being elected accelerated those wacko reactionary Republicans’ path to the fore, while a second Bush term would have held them off, because the nature of Congress changed just enough to keep fighting for that whole tax bugaboo the Rs were so angry about, but at the same time, we had other things to focus on that were much more in Bush’s wheelhouse than Clinton’s, and boy, did that become apparent pretty swiftly.
I’m tired of typing now. I love my six year-old MacBook Air, but the i key doesn’t stay in place well, and the e and n now need more of a touch than I’m used to needing to give a keyboard after all these years.
Also, if I write much more, it’ll turn into how much I disliked the Clinton presidency rather than a particular liking for the Bush one. In the 90s, Hillary would have been a better president in domestic terms than Bill, and that’s all I’m going to say about that, but people have this strange idea she’s some kind of liberal, so that would never have flown then, plus I don’t think her foreign policy ideas at that time would have worked any better than his. I could be wrong about that.
So anyway, President Bush. If you set aside the nature of the office in terms of dealing with a bloated and diverse 50 state economy, and all the other trappings of it, and the squirrely legacy he inherited from Reagan, that was a guy who knew what was going on in the world and could probably have done a bit more work that ended in our favor, given a little more time. And that’s my whole point here; I’m eulogizing the second term he didn’t have, because that’s the thing I think will matter most in future history. He'd have made us mad sometimes and gotten some things wrong, but a different Congress would have formed through the rest of the decade. And we just might not have ended up with the subprime mortgage disaster.
But I suppose you could say nearly all of them, up to that point, could have achieved more and better stuff given an honest opportunity. And I think President Obama tried to turn the ship around to get back on that course, but of course, here we are, and who knows what happens next? I guess what I mourn for is a couple particular aspects of the world we inhabited back then; the pre-1994 world before all the definitions were turned on their heads, and the Benetton Future still looked shiny and optimistic. We sensed we were headed for a kind of futuristic dystopia, but I don’t think we expected to be living in it quite so soon.
*No. Don't make that phrase about not needing social change or more equality. That must always be on a forward trajectory. I'm so irritated realizing this needs to be said that I'm not even going to explain to you what I meant by staying on that course for a little while. Be smart and figure it out yourself.
This week I’ve found myself confused and unnerved by the liberal tongue bathing given to the corpse of John McCain. I certainly do understand thinking about how to speak well of the dead, and apparently there were plenty of good things for his actual friends and colleagues to say. And yes, surviving a POW camp at that time and for so long is something to be remarked upon.
But the rest of us who didn’t know him personally? Why do so many people seem to be falling over themselves to say “he was a hero I disagreed with?” What is their need? This isn’t only because to me, those disagreements aren’t separate from who a person is—if someone sees life so fundamentally different from you, why chalk it up after death to whether or not you hold the anchovies on the pizza? It also just feels artificial and kind of self-serving to go around making sure everyone knows you think this, though I haven’t got that all worked out.
I realized yesterday it’s probably partly because of how I see my dad, who died nine years ago…yesterday. My dad was a great guy and kind of a cruddy guy. He was a terrible husband to his various wives, three or four of them there were, not precisely sure. He was with Mom the longest, in name only a good amount of the time. Mom, one of those 1950s teen brides, was absolutely unprepared in every way for a marriage to, okay, probably most anybody, but in particular a guy like my dad. It was sad. if you could say there is a “meant for,” they were both meant for very different things, even though they had some common tastes, similar intellects, and a willingness to be curious about the world, which was not a given when and where they were from. I guess their “meant for better things” is just what they had most in common.
I’m not going into further details. I loved my dad a whole lot, and he taught me a lot, and we had so much more in common, and in some of the better or at least more amusing ways, I grow more like him every day, though also, I suspect, like Mom’s mom, my Italian grandma. We had some great conversations; he would talk with me about absolutely anything, and I didn’t realize til much later on how unusual that was, and I would change that if I could go back, so that we could have more of them. What a deep thinker he sometimes was. People of his generation didn’t take that kind of thing seriously, though, and he knew it, so not everybody saw that side of him.
But he was no hero, and he hurt some people, deeply, and nothing he did either 50 years in the past or in the recent years before his death renders his life something to hold up like a shining beacon of Americanism. Only the people who knew him pretty well could understand that he was merely a fairly complicated person who had a tough and strange childhood, and who could have been successful at a completely different life than the one into which he was launched and expected to stay. That's about it. If anyone who knew him only on paper or through a job he did came along and started waxing rhapsodic about how wonderful he was despite his inherent flaws and questionable decision-making, I expect he’d be rolling his eyes from the grave. He knew who and what he was, whether or not he always admitted it aloud. I don’t know if John McCain was as self-aware as Dad became in the short time before his death. If so, good for him. That should be enough without us reinventing what went on before.
I expect Dad should have been born in Southern California. He really liked this band and their groovy “maybe it makes sense/maybe it makes no sense” lyrics. I know I’ve talked before about the jazz and big band I got from him, but also he was a sucker for a well-crafted sappy or semi-esoteric pop song. We can, after all, find meaning in just about anything if we care to look for it.
Click on the image for a nice live recording of the song.
I bet a few people reading this think I don’t mean them, only the ones they disagree with. That’d be wrong. We’re in the mess we’re in after that wholly fear-based presidential election a couple years ago not just because of the people who didn’t bother to show up or because of the ignorant stigginit crowd. Too many people couldn’t handle a candidate who did not pass their individual purity test, though I can’t see how they could have managed life up to now if it depended on seeing the American president as personal Messiah.
But it isn’t just about what happened then; it’s ongoing and it’s growing, and I see it in my friends who call themselves liberal and/or progressive as well as those who say they’re independent. The people who refuse to see what’s happening right in front of them as our president tweets away our democracy are not really much different from the people who believe everyone outside their ingroup is capable of great evils they themselves are certain they’d never perform. It’s a natural defense mechanism to huddle together in fear of "the enemy."
Argumentum ad populum
A small amount of knowledge leads people to think they are more expert on a subject than they can rightly or honestly claim. The web and social media have created a populace filled with certainty about every topic they come across. If someone they like says things are a certain way, that person is automatically credited with authority they haven’t necessarily earned. As a result, some people think that enemy is everyone they don’t know, as well as everyone who doesn’t agree with their current outrage of the month.
Panem et circenses
That’s at best immature and distracting. It’s creating false divides between us; moats flooded with suspicion, arrogance, bad science, and petty, energy-sucking arguments that go nowhere. And so here we are, one side cannibalizing each other while the other side looks on with sordid glee as though they’re at the monster truck rally of their dreams. When you provide the bread and circuses, the emperor doesn’t have to.
Memores acti prudentes futuri
The name-calling saddens me. The seething tribal behavior from people who claim they’re on the correct side of history frightens me. The petulant demands for unquestioning conformity to every loudly voiced opinion are intellectually dishonest, and that angers me. If you think these behaviors are not complicit in creating a hoi polloi willing to believe that you and your ideals are the true enemy rather than the greedy, grasping administration that has hugged their prideful pretensions while stealing their wallets, (or, conversely, that there is a limited amount of resources and freedom to be had and someone getting a fuller measure means you getting less,) there is nothing more I can say.
Alea iacta est.
PS: here's a cheat sheet.
Quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur anything said in Latin sounds profound (it’s a joke, see)
Ad nauseum “i’ve said it all before but it bears repeating now”
Qui totum vult totum perdit he who wants everything, loses everything
Memores acti prudentes futuri mindful of what has been done, aware of what will be
Alea iacta est the die is cast (interesting history note; this is an incorrect translation of a Greek phrase meaning “let the die be cast—let the games begin, which is less determinate than the Latin expression.)
Driving back from dropping the young man at his job at 4 am, which was supposed to not be a thing anymore as a condition of his return to that place, the rock stations grow dreary, I switch to classic rock and hear “Take the Money and Run,” which I’ve never been able to like, though I got the album it was on for Christmas when I was 11, but it does no good to turn on NPR at that hour; makes a person start thinking about things and then sleep is hard to reach, and I decide for the umpteenth time it isn’t just because he rhymes “what the facts is” with “the people’s taxes,” but that I don’t care about Billy Joe and Bobby Sue at all, or anyone who makes a man sing “Hoo, hoo, lord,” as a matter of course, even from back in the 70s when people had the misguided idea that was okay to do in a song.
And it’s followed up with “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits, so now I’m about to slip into an existential fog, something I’m always poised on the edge of anyway, when I turn onto our street to find the young rabbits just sitting in the middle of the road, and one of them swiftly exits stage left, but the other nervously bounces back and forth directly in front of me for a hundred yards, and I have to crawl behind it, even turning into the driveway in front of me in confused panic before finally heading back off to the yard and what I can only assume will be relative safety.
So now I’m awake anyway, but it isn’t a good thing for me to be, with that idiotic song rolling through my brain, the ceiling fan ticking lightly in constant rhythm against the motor casing, birds beginning to chirp outside my front windows, and if I’m not careful, thoughts about things will start creeping into my head. I don’t know how you insomniacs survive these nights with all the gloom and road kill and bad rhymes which accompany them.
Unlike those women in 70s and 80s TV dramas who were crushed when they learned they were entering their crone years, I’m growing impatient to get there. My daughter says it’s taking awhile because I’m ridiculously fertile and Nature won’t let go of such a prize, but you know, I have the front yard and the garden areas and things grow like mad even when I don’t wish them to; this being the yang side of a green thumb, still, now and then when it’s been a few weeks I grow hopeful, only to realize it’s been about two weeks since I started contemplating how cyborgs share physical intimacy, and then I got a pimple, and this morning I spent half an hour lining up my sewing things with great precision, and this afternoon I baked six dozen chocolate chip cookies, and now I have cramps. But I have a mild, completely illogical fear about it all, and I’ve been wondering if there is any possible way to psychologically prevent yourself from getting to menopause. I remember reading a girl will usually continue growing in height for two years after her cycle begins, and that’s how it was for me, and then you see, my mother got sick and then died two years after reaching menopause, and somehow it seems rather like a parallel; end of physical growth to end of new life growth. On the other hand, it’s now been a little over forty years since I started having these cycles, and I’ve had perimenopause symptoms for nearly seven, so I am still quite ready to let it all go, even if some odd internal segment of my brain fears what might come next.
Same people who were sure 15 years ago that everyone (except themselves) on the web was a raving psycho pedophile with a fake identity joined right up at Facebook shortly after that using their real name and town and school and place of employment and now they're mad because they never bothered with privacy settings and it turns out they should have. Oh, let me footnote this right here not in a footnote and say, yes, I agree, of course they should be mad. Be very mad!
However. They gave away the keys to their car and then got upset when it wasn't in the driveway the next day.
As my IT-type friends online would say over and over again, if these companies are giving you the service for free, you are the product, or at least the advertising. There’s only a limited amount of trust you can put in that relationship. Are we all giving more than we get? Sometimes it's a tough call.
I joined Twitter in 2007, Facebook in 2009, Google Plus in 2011. I turned my one word name into two for Facebook, and then altered my email address preferences so Google would recognize that name as me, because at first it was strict about making sure you were really you. Well, this is the me you get, love it or leave it.
I would tell people at the Plus about the page settings and user preferences over and over again, how to find them, how to use them. Every time there was an update, I’d go check mine again and remind other people to do the same.
Facebook privacy settings were awkward at first, but they got better over the years. You can tweak the preferences for 30 minutes if you bother to go look at them. And they are continually reminding you of them unless you do everything completely public 100% of the time, I guess.
They knew most people wouldn't check, I expect. Caveat emptor, whoop-te-doo.
MOST IMPORTANTLY TO ME, I became so angry when news and blog sites switched to Facebook login for comments and shopping and etc. I wrote emails to every one of them that I used, telling them I would no longer use them if I had to use my Facebook log-in. It did no good. Few other people seemed to care, and I was a weirdo for refusing to play along. Later, people rolled their eyes when I protested over and over again that I didn’t want to give Facebook my phone number. Well, they still don’t have it and when I downloaded my data from them, they had not been able to mine my texts and calls.
I use a separate browser for Facebook. My only other log-in with this browser is this blog. There’s only so much you can do, and in the end we'll all be drinking Victory gin, but, at least for now, why not do what you can? Why hasn't that been obvious all along?
I have one single friend on Facebook who’d remind people that those quizzes which log into your Facebook stream are just mining your info. I don’t know if anyone else paid attention to him, but his occasional warnings were reminders to me to double check what I’d shared lately.
I’ll tell you who knows a lot about me. Amazon. Hah! But the one difference that is worth it for me, for now, is what I get in return. What do I get from social media in exchange for what they give me? I get to know a few people a little better, and that’s a fine thing. But it wouldn’t be worth giving up all my privacy for it. I don’t know why anyone else ever thought it was. At least with Amazon, I get a good deal on spray starch alternative and vitamins. It’s a devil I willingly bargain with. For now. In this era, we must choose our devils wisely. Control is more and more just an illusion, but if you never even bothered to retain any to begin with, you are definitely partly to blame for the mess “we’re” all in. You went from EVERYONE IS EVIL to TAKE ME I’M YOURS in the time it took to fill out a brief form, and now you’re unhappy about that. I repeat myself over and over again to a crowd of nearly none, but context and moderation are always good partners, and trust is something that should be earned by degrees. Did you put on your own blindfold?
I'm still using Facebook, which I signed up at purely to keep in touch with my sweet younger older brother, who never quite got the rest of the internet. (not to make my older older brother feel left out. different case, is all.) But my time and energy belong to me and I say who gets to share some of it. I don't have a good answer for people who feel molested by their Facebook experience—despite the fact that it might seem I'm being cold-blooded about it, I really do care about you and agree this is all dreadful—except to say that you don't have to throw the baby out with the bathwater, just clean the tub and be sure to use a thermometer next time you fill it.
Each year I condense my twelve hours of Christmas/winter music into a playlist of two, for cooking time, etc. If I had to listen only to a few artists for Christmas, I’d choose Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Vince Guaraldi. Probably. But fortunately, that is not required.
This year I decided to do a sort of theme: “definitive” versions of most famous songs. It’s not concrete. I can’t do concrete. But semi-solid, anyway.
I would wish for a really good vocal recording of “Carol of the Bells,” if I were to change one thing. Otherwise, this is a fine compendium of what I’ve got on the ol’ iPod. I chose three different versions of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” though, because I am very in the mood for that, and because I can’t decide on only one. Usually one voice gets it better than the other. My newest version with Lee Ann Womack and Harry Connick, Jr. is not my favorite arrangement, but it sure is nicely balanced vocally and other ways...
Willie Nelson and Lady Gaga both do it so well, they really ought to record one together. She’s worked with his son, but it isn’t the same sort of thing.
So next, I have to put these in the correct listening order! And if I had infinite energy, I’d make a YouTube playlist of them to share, but I do not. Here I have shown both the album the song is on, and the original recording year for the older ones in case you want to look up a few.
And then forgot about it until I saw this tweet from James Hamblin
I dreamed I was walking with a friend in a large park on a warm autumn afternoon, and we saw Bill Holden, who looked a bit worse for wear, but not bad, and I was saying to her, "no, don’t ever get involved with a man who has a drinking problem," but I ended up talking with him, of course, and by the way, I think my brain scrambled some stuff from this movie I watched last night called Battle Circus with June Allyson and Humphrey Bogart; a Korean war story which should have been good but wasn’t,
then later, I was sitting in a big crowd of people, and I saw him appear again a short distance away, looking like a wrung-out mess, but he went into the shower tent run by an old Chinese lady, and came out clean and sharp and wearing a crisp white button-down shirt.
You might know how I feel about a handsome man in a crisp white button-down shirt (and also correctly-tailored trousers and suitable shoes,) but still I tried to ignore him when he caught my eye and grinned that dreamy grin.
So of course I did not actually ignore him; I followed him through the park as he strode past the crowd, only at one point he disappeared on the other side of a little copse and I thought I lost him, but when I'd made my way through the trees, he was lying face down in a pool! I started to freak out, as one would, when he raised his head and laughed, saying he thought it would be a good joke.
In real life this would not endear me to someone, but in my dream, I carried on as though that was part of the plan, and helped him find something to dry off with. I wish I could remember more of the scenery, because then there was a large bed, not as large as my fabulous Hollywood king, but pretty large, and he asked what my sleep number was (THANKS, BOB AND TOM SHOW,) to which I replied, “no idea, firm, I guess,” and explained how I have a firm waterbed because there's a heater in it, and he told me you can get heaters for beds like this, and then we lay down side by side, but a big lump rose in the middle, as it had turned into a waterbed which needed burping. I lay quiet and still for a moment, wondering what to do next, when he said something like, "This bed shouldn't be so uncomfortable."
So I pulled back the covers and showed him where and how you burp a waterbed. This needs to be done once or twice a year, and then you add a special chemical to it, but anyway, we did that in the dream, and then a friend showed up and asked what was going on, and then I woke up.
My dreams with men in them usually end up like this, and the world is a strange place right now, so I don't blame that lady with her ghost.