dual vision

Two people I respect and care about and whose taste I appreciate, only partly because it is similar to my own, have again simultaneously expressed their belief that I should work at making the writing thing pay. And so I will honor their encouragement by making a full and earnest effort at that. 

Now I'm rereading things I've saved over the past 15 years or so, and I ran across this brief essay from 2008—no idea why I wrote it, but it seemed apt for these our times. 

There is nothing new under the sun. Solomon wrote that several thousand years ago, according to Bible traditionalists. Actually, the passage reads, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” And it might have been written only about 2300 years ago, well after Solomon’s lifetime, but the point is that people have been saying this throughout mankind’s journey. In one sense it has always been true, but not in every sense. 

Reality may always remain more or less the same, but our perceptions of it have always been in a state of change. And what we do with those perceptions does sometimes create newness. Monet was the first artist to become famous for painting just exactly what he saw, rather than filling in details with what he knew to be there. His paintings are best viewed from a distance of at least several feet, as closing in on them enhances the lack of detail and makes the subject unclear. His large landscapes allow us to see exactly what he saw, if we look at them from a proportional distance to his own distance from the actual view. As Monet aged, his eyesight deteriorated, yet he still painted only what he could see, which gives us a wonderful opportunity to appreciate his changing perspective. 

He’d have made a great eyewitness to a crime in that he would neither have added or subtracted information based on something other than sensory cues. Most people aren’t capable, it seems, of describing only what they saw and heard; no more and no less. Police investigators work hard to distill all the viewpoints they are offered into factual, objective evidence. 

Our ideas about how the world works changes as we become more scientifically advanced and adept. But what we do with those ideas is pretty much the same as what we’ve always done: we argue over them, start fights and even wars over them, or ignore them all together and continue on blithely in a state of general ambivalence. 

Computer technology has created rapid changes in the art and media industries, but the subjects most important to those industries are the same as always; what people desire, what they believe they need, what they believe is right or wrong with the world surrounding them and inside their own heads. Artists, marketing firms, and advertising agencies still attempt to influence these desires and beliefs in much the same way they always have; through our physical senses and our emotions. An artist’s motivation is said to be more pure because his or her work is not created in order to take advantage of those who view it, however, the line separating artistic integrity from marketing strategy has been the subject of concern since, well, probably since the days of Solomon. 

So sometimes our changing perceptions lead to newness in thought and idea. Sometimes the new ideas create chaos, other times they founder, still other times they lead to positive action. Sometimes they are received in a spirit of enlightenment, and at other times we view them with a jaded eye. This has always been true for mankind, and so, in that respect, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Our patterns remain in place, rotating through cycles the way the earth rotates through seasons. It’s all in how you look at the thing.


1200 Light-Hearted and Colorful Words On the Use of Apostrophes, Divided Into Easy-To-Digest Chunks

Valentine's Day paragraph breaks brought to you by screenshots I took from a Buzzfeed page the other day; they don’t link to anything because, honestly, you'd just get distracted. 

A. Specific Person For Whom This is Written, But Likely Also Others: you should know that if you stop using apostrophes entirely, except when forming contractions, you’ll be correct more often than you are now, sprinkling them in whenever it takes your fancy or you’re worried you aren’t being fancy enough. 

I used three in the sentence above. They were for contractions: two words squeezed into one. This just requires understanding how our speaking habits translate into written ones. You will = you’ll, you are = you’re, are not = aren’t. The apostrophe takes the place of the letters that are removed when the squeezing takes place.
Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 3.52.49 PMTwo contractions people tend to get wrong more commonly since the internet came along are would’ve and could’ve. If you read those aloud, you hear the problem from the standpoint of someone who doesn’t read or write much, or at least didn’t until the driving need emerged to share an uninformed and/or emotionally-wrought opinion on every gotdamned thing in existence. (More on that, again, another time, perhaps after drinks.) So anyway, those stand for would have and could have, not would of and could of, which are meaningless phrases. 

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 3.53.08 PMB. The other apostrophe uses are strictly for possessives, and they are trickier, but wholly logical, if you just think it over carefully. First, assume that if you are adding s or es to suggest more than one item, you do not also need an apostrophe. Plural does not mean “possessive.” It just means more than one. There are some slight exceptions to this, but you won’t use them very often. Hang tight and I will explain.

Possessive means ownership, plural means more than one. Apostrophes are for ownership. You might need a mnemonic device to help with that. I’m not the best at those, but possessive has an o, as does apostrophe. Plural contains no o, so it doesn’t have an apostrophe (nearly always.) Um, an apostrophe is a trophy, and you can’t possess a trophy without an O. Maybe that will work for you. 

Here are some examples.

“I bought some sweet pajamas with cats on them.” Pajamas, of course, refer to two pieces of sleepwear. The cats are not actual cats, just images of some.

“These cats pajamas are the cat’s pajamas.” These pajamas have multiple cats on them. They are so cool, it’s like if a cat possessed them. I have no idea why, but it is a fun old expression. 

Bob’s bed: a bed which belongs to Bob. Bob’s friends are Carol, Ted and Alice. He possesses more than one of them. 

Bobs I have known: a list of Roberts, including my brother, my uncle, Bob Crane, and the lead singer of The Cure, the best band in the world except for maybe Earth, Wind & Fire.

Uncle Bob’s unlabeled jar of powdered “creamer” that he brought with him everywhere he went back in the 70s: a plastic jar he possessed which contained mysterious off-white powder for his coffee.

 Bob Crane of Hogan’s Heroes: eponymous member of the funny heroic group portrayed on TV when we were little. Incidentally, Hogan’s first name (the name he possessed) was Robert. 

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 3.51.38 PMAs to hers, well, do you ever add an apostrophe to his? Of course not. So you never would with hers, either, unless Her is the last name of someone owning something you wish to mention. But I think that’s generally spelled Herr. So you might see Herr’s Fine Meats or some such thing, suggesting the meats possessed by Herr. 

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 3.50.55 PMC. Now, Specific Person, where you get hung up is in thinking that words already ending in S are more complicated than they actually are. First, again, if it’s just friends or pajamas or Roberts, no apostrophe.**  (Note: one of the rules I’m about to cover is slightly different in British English. Sorry, if that’s you.)

The Brown Hotel in Louisville is famous for Hot Browns, a plain name for a fairly plain food. No need for apostrophe there. 

The Browns ran this hotel before we were born. Their name was Brown and there were more than one of them. 

White’s Club in London was frequented by elite male members of society. It was started by one man called White; he possessed the club, at least initially. 

In the possessive instance, no preceding “The” was needed; that might be a clue for you. If you said “The Whites” you’d be talking about two or more people named White, not about something one of them owned. 

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 3.54.20 PMWhat if someone’s last name ends in S? Let’s use Don Simmons as our example. First, leave his name alone; don’t go sticking an apostrophe before the S; that makes his name Simmon, which is rude of you to do. Next, if you are talking about his lack of soul, you might write it either, “Don Simmons has no soul,” or “Don Simmons’ soul is missing.” 

In the sentence above, I used soul as an object and then as a subject. When someone possesses a subject, they usually have an apostrophe attached to their name. And if their name ends in S, the apostrophe follows it. If their name does not end in S, you’ll add one after the apostrophe. 

Let’s pause so you can think that over. Possessive apostrophes are for ownership of subjects. Add an S to the name if one isn’t present, leave the person’s name alone if it already has one, and just stick that apostrophe on the end. 

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 3.53.18 PMDo you understand the difference between these two sentences?

Over there is the Simmons house. 
This is the Simmons’ house.
 

The first one is a little old-fashioned, but we still use it sometimes. We’re naming the house for the people who live there. The second sentence is like, “Yes, this is where we turn in, the Simmons own this place.” Never add an apostrophe to their name unless you are referring to a subject they possess (it can be a conditional subject, like their collective anger or something,) even if you are talking about more than one Simmons. 

Don’s office is upstairs. 
Simmons’ office is upstairs.
 

Did you see Don Simmons’ gloriously soulless performance of that old Carpenters tune at Karaoke night? It was once Richard Carpenter’s favorite composition.

Oh, the Carpenters. Their name is just Carpenter. If one of them wrote the song, it was Carpenter’s song. If both of them did, it was the Carpenters’ song. 

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 3.53.26 PMA few more instances:

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

It’s a Girl’s World

Girls’ names

The Boys Are Back in Town

A Boy’s Life

Boys’ Town

The Kids Are All Right

One Kid’s Mission To Travel the Universe

The Kids’ Choir

The Children’s Choir (S added because children was already a plural term.)

Hottie**It’s in the starred sentence stood for “it is.” At no other time do you ever use an apostrophe with its, unless you're referring to Cousin It’s hair; the hair possessed by Cousin It. Generally, things can’t possess nouns, only people can.


Hard Drive (LCARS) Revue 1: trust, truth, logic, and a bit of nonsense

Here is the first in a series of blog posts that will be partly serious and partly crazy, culled from my hard drive (LCARS) as I attempt to put it in some better order, and also just get rid of some of it. There will be no theme, no order, and little to no sense to the imagery. There will be photos and materials extending back at least to 2003.

The text here is from February 16, 2017.  Little has changed in two years. The photos and images were taken or collected in 2011. The photos of me are from February, so just about eight years ago, shortly before I would leave my east coast home for...this place, and also shortly before peri-menopause began. All indications point toward that being over after exactly eight years, in June. A lot of me has changed since then, but I plan to at least get my 2011 figure back by the end of summer. Reflection
"Last night when I pointed out one small but important distinction between our former president’s immigration policy in 2011 and the one employed this weekend, the reply, from a complete stranger with whom I’d had no previous discourse, was “you hate trump so you want to believe wrong things!” That’s nearly an exact quotation. Probably you said a different word than things, which is a habit word of mine.

"To my way of thinking, this is akin to me saying, “Well, some ketchup doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup in it,” and you replying with, “you just hate hot dogs!” Funandgames
"At first I dismissed the idea that we could have any sort of rational conversation, you being a little keyed up and unwilling to consider some middle ground or examine motivations objectively.

"But what if we could do that? Here are some ideas and points I’d like you to think about and consider. Kellyprofile
 "Suppose you learn of an important event in world news and you want to learn more about it, so you Google it and see a list of links to read. If you are an objective curious person, you’ll choose several of them, and not just the one at the top, as someone likely paid for it to be there. But you won’t just launch into reading the page. First you’ll see who wrote it, and who sponsored that writing. What do you know about them? What is their background in policy education or journalism? And then as you read the material, you’ll think about whether they are citing what we call “primary sources,” with links to those sources, or whether they are repeating words written by someone else who got them from someone else. EgyQJ
"You’ll also think about whether the language in the piece is objective, or whether emotional or inflammatory words and phrases are used. Is the writer attempting to make you believe something, or is he or she stating facts backed by primary data? Has the writer also drawn from more than one source of information? Are conclusions drawn at the end of the piece, or has the writer concluded only with a summation of what he or she presented? If there are conclusions, do they logically reflect the information offered? Do they insist that you draw the same conclusion, or do they leave it for you to decide on your own? HQKIa
"In reading the several pieces you’ve chosen, do you find yourself searching for a point of view you’d like to see represented? Do you automatically dismiss writing which indicates either a different point of view, or facts that would negate the one you wish to be correct? 

"How do you decide who to trust? Are you generally a trusting sort of person, or do you tend toward suspicion of others, particularly others with a different point of view from your own? Wasabibaconmartini
"There are two very general reasons people mistrust others. First, because the others make them uncomfortable. This might be due to previous experiences that ended badly; we’ve all had our share of those. The brain employs a defense mechanism when it perceives a threat, warning us against it, and that is a good thing. But sometimes our brains are kinda superficial excitable organs, picking up inessential details and forming a picture with them that isn’t really very accurate or that doesn’t leave room for variables we don’t yet know. It’s being overprotective, and that isn’t a good thing. When that happens, we have to slow down our words or actions and make sure we’re not letting confused feelings get in the way of critical thinking. But how do we recognize when that’s happening? Back to that in a minute. Funny_wonder-woman
"The other general reason people might be mistrusting of others is because they have a habit of being untrustworthy themselves. It’s not nice to say, but it is a reality. If you steal things or tell lies, you will decide other people do, too, because you want to not be the only person who does these things, and also because you spend a lot of time covering for your words and actions, and you are always looking to see if anyone else is suspicious of you. You become suspicious of them, as a result. You might even end up seeking out other people who do lie or steal, because you’re more comfortable with them. Then as a group, you might collectively decide that’s just how most people are. We prefer to think most people are like us, because we want to like ourselves as we are. Merbelle
"I would prefer to think most mistrustful people are like the first group, instead. I like to think well of people. I don’t think poorly of people because they look different than me, as a simple example, and I wouldn’t want them to think poorly of me for looking different from them. I can understand that if someone who looks different hurt you, the scared overprotective part of your brain might wish to assume others with a similar appearance are also dangerous, but you have a rational side, too, which should tell you that different appearance wasn’t the reason you were harmed.

"Knowing that, rationally, would you choose to harm someone merely because they look different from you? We know the sad truth is that people sometimes do. It is an irrational behavior. Allkindsofwrong
"So how do you recognize when you’re letting emotion or your brain’s overprotective prejudices override critical thinking? I’m not an expert in these matters, but I’ve thought about it a lot as my kids grew up. We have likes and dislikes, formed from what we’re exposed to, what appeals to our senses, and our natural inclinations, of course. We don’t think about why we love a certain food; we just do. If it’s a “treat food,” which is how I’d describe it to a child, we know as adults we should have only a certain amount of it, or at certain times. We negotiate with ourselves; I will have a piece of cheesecake because I ate a great kale salad and a hearty but lowfat soup for lunch. Most of us don’t always get it right. We’re impulsive, and easily enticed by the sight and/or smell of something rich-tasting, but nutritionally unsound. Longing
 "If you are biased, as we generally all are, you will, just like the liars and thieves, seek out others who share your bias. Do your biases lean toward negativity or positivity? Then so will the mood of the group you’re sharing them with. But if you are also committed to objectivity, you will seek out others who try to be that way, as well. And those are the people who can and maybe should influence your biases the most. You must be honest with yourself for this to work. You must be prepared for the point of view you prefer to be sometimes wrong or even harmful to others, and you should be willing to change your mind when that occurs. It requires a degree of humility."

So here you go, this is what you're going to get from me for the next little while, though mostly on not at all serious topics. I just had that one sitting nearby and wanted to attach it to something. Maybe it'll help you talk to someone or idk, anyway. Atpeace
 


Quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur

Ad nauseum

The thing I didn't count on was how many people believe stuff that is objectively false as well as illogical. I mean, I know people aren't logical, and they lead with their hearts, and make grand assumptions based on tiny bits of unverified information or hearsay. It’s a tiresome world we live in. But I didn't think if you presented them with original sources and carefully worded explanations they'd still just rather believe whatever they started with.

Qui totum vult totum perdit

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. 

Omnia vanitas

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

Omnia vanitas
all is vanity

Argumentum ad populum
argument to the people 

Panem et circenses
bread and circuses

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 castlet the games begin, which is less determinate than the Latin expression.)


I'm gonna vent here a little bit and maybe lose a "friend" or two.

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. Fark_8N1eG3ZhW4nW7xJ34l8Ewem1Pbg

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.Photo on 1-24-18 at 6.03 PM #2

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.

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 9.02.25 PM

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?Fark_62S-dmXSGaLs_nJrnPNaTDsf-Yc

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. DXJtXFMWAAE5M5G

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? Eyeball

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. Cagespectre


Perspective, ritual, and the "plus ça change" of life, baby, when it's cold outside

We're sort of holding our collective breath right now, aren't we?

Before women were seen as independent souls who could live on their own, before reliable birth control for women, before shame-free access to it (you might not know this, but many doctors asked the woman if her husband gave her permission for it, and if she wasn’t even married? Well.) and before this society admitted in my lifetime that even good women desire sex and have climaxes, there was a ritual that had to be followed. Bobandjoan

People were so naive in the previous century. He was taught he had to seduce her. She was taught to say no (but actually also to allow him to think he sometimes won what she also sought, and yes, that’s as messy as it sounds,) and plenty of people, both men and women, knew so little about sex, it boggles the 21st century mind. She had a lot to lose, though, and had to be so careful with whose apartment she might end up in. Yes, there was a whole lot of pretense, but it felt necessary. Montgomery-gaynor-franchot
Of course, there are still people filled with startling levels of ignorance about sex and relationships, and also of course, people willing to believe every new thing they read without critical reasoning or a healthful amount of skepticism.

Anyway. If you had to talk in code, why not enjoy it? It was a dance, a game, and both sides knew that the woman was still in control of how it played out. That is, both sides with most people, because most people are not awful. And so we have 1940s romantic comedies to sigh over. They show us what ordinary people hoped to be, what they hoped life would be.  Junebride
(Film noir offered a bleaker view, though.)

We’re hearing so much every day these days about the men who got away with being awful to some degree or another for far too long. They didn’t understand or didn’t/don't even care that the dance has changed or that the music was sometimes only in their own head.

In 2017, we still want to dance, because it makes the walk home more exciting, but we get to set the terms out loud, not through code. If a man thinks her no is a tentative “not yet” or "yeah, keep going," he is hearing a language that hasn’t existed for a long time, but the truth is, it never did quite in the way these creepers think it did.

Even “back then,” the men who are in trouble now for treating women badly were the men Mother warned you about. It wasn’t actually about “nice girls,” at all, but about nice people. A nice mature adult male still knew when no meant no, or at least, “let’s get to know each other better first,” “let me make sure I can trust you with the risk I’ll be taking,” because he would read her body language, her expressions, the tone of her voice. He was also a human who didn’t want to hurt someone he might care about, and he knew she was taking a risk he didn’t fully share. He might push a little, but knew how to recognize a push back. These guys we’re hearing about now never were nice guys, never did care about whether they were being pushy; taking something not freely given, and then tossing it aside when they were done with it.

They were taught, particularly in the era of movie westerns, that men are all head, women are all heart, that men can take what women must give, and that “sensitive men” are weak men. And of course, they are wrong, all wrong. (A sad fact about that is how some of the "sensitive men" thought they had to play a tough or sexist cowboy role that didn't suit them, and it led to a few misunderstandings about who we all are. We are working on fixing that, because it wasn't any good for anybody, and it was bad, bad social science.)

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 9.51.18 PM

 

Sadly, though, there are probably always going to be creepers. It’s high time and good that society is starting to root them out; the ones with a little charm or a lot of power were allowed to get away with it for far too long. But they're not going to be exterminated for awhile yet, if ever. There's a lot more education and head smackings to be done. Cornfield

But, and this is where my thoughts are leading, historical context demands that we don’t confuse them with ordinary hopefulness at the end of a 1949 or 2017 date, which is why I once railed about the misguided ignorant rants over “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Life is complicated, but it has a far, far longer history than you or I, our country, or what we call “modern” civilization. We should keep improving our wheels, but it’s important to remember we didn’t invent them, and the surfaces they run on have changed in every era. Guinan

And, we should be so, so glad many of your grandmother's (my mother's) daily struggles are history now, but it's okay to see the good and great in her time, as well; to see it through her eyes, and not only our own. This makes us smarter and better at creating a strong framework for our lives. Then we can exhale again.
Wave


Living in Zenith

“Being a man given to oratory and high principles, he enjoyed the sound of his own vocabulary and the warmth of his own virtue.”
 
Half an hour spent with “social media” this morning was enough to renew the simmering and dismissive rage of three or four Sinclair Lewis novels, but it does no good. I have neither the talent nor the tenacity to do what he did 80 and 90 years ago, and what if I did? People rarely recognize their own folly; preferring to focus on that of others. I railed for months last year about Buzz Windrip, but I have a tiny voice and this is a real big world.
 
Along a more pleasant train track of thought, it’s symphony season, so I have a reason to be at interesting restaurants once a month for the next few. First up was Zula, my personal favorite, a rare treat, and just diagonally across Washington Park from the reopened Music Hall. I took pictures of our shared dinner, not to impress anyone, but to reenjoy later as I like. He goes out to eat as a matter of course and told me I should order whatever I like since I don’t, so I chose the yellowfin tuna crudo, haricots vert with escarole and this and that, romaine hearts with a very nice dressing, beef tartare, and duck breast with sweet potatoes and French lentils. LdfkgjLdfkgjLdfkgj
 And I had two Corpse Revivers #2, as well. A sumptuous treat.  Ldfkgj
Over at Music Hall, the symphony played Pelléas et Mélisande, with a dreamy minimalist setting for the singers.
 
We both needed a touch more from that set and the singers’ movement, to be honest, to make a point or two more clear. But the music was lovely, the reconstruction of the building is lovely, and it was just a lovely evening all around. I sigh with pleasure at the memory of my beef tartare, breaking the lovely golden yolk on top, and the giddy sensation of swallowing a perfect food. Here is a filtered photo I took in honor of my old cookbooks with their creepy attempts at elegance. 20171021_191744_Film4
Back to the real world online, this month’s particular demand for social justice is taking a new ugly turn. And the people who don’t take it seriously will never take you seriously if you employ tactics you decry in others.
 
All of them perceived that American Democracy did not imply any equality of wealth, but did demand a wholesome sameness of thought, dress, painting, morals, and vocabulary.
 
Oh, but you think the pressure to conform to society comes only from people who can’t see things your way? The new stereotyping is driving me mad, personally. It’s more rigid than ever through the machinations of people who purport to be freeing us from it all. For one example among several: we don’t need sixteen more labels than we had before. We just need people to stop narrowly defining the ones we already have. That includes both you and the people you think are wrong. History and anthropology would teach you that a few other cultures worked this out a long time ago, if you’d take the time to learn some of it.
 
The demand for equality for everybody and the recognition that we are not all the same, but that’s really okay, will not be met as long as Smugness and Ignorance battle each other on top of messy straw heaps. “She did her work with the thoroughness of a mind which reveres details and never quite understands them.”
 
And that’s all I have to say about that except here's something personal. I have a neighbor with a 40 foot flag pole atop of which waves a fading American flag. He never lowers it, but never mind about that for now. Beneath it for months last year waved a big black Trump flag. I shuddered every time I went outside.
 
He also had a beautiful maple tree in the front corner of his lawn, which he maintains to a heightened perfection the likes of which only a Toro ad man could conceive of, and earlier this summer during a storm, a limb broke off that tree and it was cut up and removed. A week later, the entire tree was gone. I was so sad, wondering whether euthanization was truly necessary or if he just couldn’t bear the imperfection of it.
 
Or maybe he just liked the excuse that he wouldn’t have to vacuum leaves as often. I don’t know. I haven’t asked him.
 
He’s got a whole life story, you know. He isn’t just a Trumper, and we are all made up of much more than our individual parts can ever suggest. Maybe his ideas about society are all rotten, but he always waves if we’re both out getting the mail at the same time, so he’s also a person, like I am, who likes to acknowledge other persons around him, and maybe someday we’ll exchange something more than pretty politenesses. These days, a black POW/MIA flag that we used to see pretty commonly sits beneath the weather-worn American flag. 
 
This final quotation is from Walt Kelly instead of Sinclair Lewis. I can imagine my neighbor, as a young man back from performing his Service to Our Country, reading Pogo and wondering how to get back to the halcyon world of his childhood.
 
Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly…Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.

the politics of shopping

I’ve been feeling overloaded with media choices lately. I want to enjoy so many different things, I can’t choose between anything, and end up choosing nearly nothing. But that’s not very satisfying.

Anyway, as now isn’t quite working out in terms of “time to deal with that,” I decided to work on the kitchen, instead. I was telling my brother the other day I’ve gotten a lot of kitchen items from thrift shops, and it occurred to me today that those are most of my favorite things.

Long past are the days when I needed enough of everything for eight people and then some. And it’s good to have a wide variety of baking dishes and pans, but there’s plenty else I have that seems a little redundant now, so I'm going to streamline the collection, and keep only what I love and use often or regularly.

Here are pictures of purchases from thrift shops, mostly over the past six years. It’s not all inclusive; there’s a set of Pfaltzgraff stoneware mugs and saucers, and lots of books and records, and some other things.

In the “liquor cabinet,” all the glassware on the top inside shelf and the blue cocktail glasses above it are from thrift shops, mostly St. Vincent de Paul, though the nice wine glasses are from Salvation Army.

The baking dishes are from St. Vincent de Paul and Goodwill. The stereo components, also. The couch is from Goodwill and the loveseat from Salvation Army. They were perfect when I bought them, but a cat hurt them, annoyingly. They sanitize these things, by the way, by law.

As you look at these few pictures, you will see I have launched into an adjacent personal concern in the midst of them. Bakeware

Some years ago I was discussing this with a friend, and I said, “I buy plenty of things used; why encourage them to make more?” And he said that was very non-conservative of me; the idea of reducing production. Teacupsthere are two more saucers in use elsewhere; also a few crystal bowls I keep perfume and makeup samples in, and things like that.

I’m kind of literal about language, though. If I say I’m “conservative,” I mean it. I’m conserving here, and I do also mean I am personally slow to change. But it is only sensible to understand when old ways and means and things are best, and when it’s better to make some changes or embrace new technology. I conserve, and embrace conservation, at home and in nature, in whichever ways I am able to. I am conservative about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater in terms of new patterns of life, but at the same time, there’s no reason to keep the river polluted just to serve people unwilling to sacrifice a little profit in exchange for the betterment of us all. Mostly I’m driven by logic, rather than by heightened emotion, which always gets people gnashing their teeth at each other, and usually gets nothing done. Antiquedishesjapanese dishes produced in 1912

Thinking other stuff like “all the people matter,” “let’s pool our resources specifically where it can work well to do so,” and “let people decide for themselves the life they are best fitted to live,” I know that’s all been politicized into awkward sports teams that spend all their time arguing with each other. But team sports are not my thing, and dogma is dreary, at best. Glasses

My views are kind of like how our country was set up. When the large group working together can do the best job, okay. When a smaller group works better for some of the jobs, okay. When new is safer and cleaner, okay. When old is still good and serviceable and frugal, okay. What my neighbors do inside their house doesn’t harm me; what they spray on their lawn might. Messyroom

Social justice demands personal context, and that’s so often missing; it’s no wonder people think they disagree even more often than they actually do. It also demands that people stop looking at everything as though we’re in a stadium cheering or booing the other side. We have to live life on the playing fields, not shouting across them from the stands.

For example, I dislike the term "privilege" and how it's tossed out all over the place, but lately I've been noticing that many people who use it completely ignore their own levels of it, and would be surprised if you pointed it out. They are so certain of the issues they tweet about or make “memes” for, they sometimes disregard other concerns right in front of their faces.

Yesterday, this "ironic" Goodwill date thing popped into my Facebook stream again. Maybe you've heard of it. The couple gives each other a $10 limit to buy ugly clothes at Goodwill that they then wear on their date. This particular couple wore late 80s-looking attire and gave each other fake names to maximize their amusement.

I don't exactly think it's such a terrible idea. But I go into Goodwill now and then to look for books or old dishes, and I'll poke through the clothes, also St. Vincent de Paul, where all my household/clothing offerings go, and I watch many women spending a long time going through all the clothes, and I know that they are not doing it to be hilarious, but because they need to spend as little as possible.

Thus, I cannot be amused at the idea of people entertaining themselves with poor people clothing. I feel maybe we have a different idea about liberal hearts and minds. Very many of us have had financial troubles. Fewer of us have desperately hoped to find something to fit for a job interview that won't cost the kids' supper tonight, which wasn't going to be all that great anyway. There is a grim anxiety to poverty that clings to a person like air pollution on a humid day. It should hurt you to witness it or even think of it, if you are as liberal as you say.


analogy wrapped in analogy, the I in me, maybe in you, too

I started writing this for a Google Plus collection and it grew too long and too personal, and I dunno. I excised some of the personal bits and left others and decided to add it here. I'm agitated this season, and also reminiscent. I'd rather get back to the superficial and trivial, and probably will soon. Snake

People thought I was an arrogant kid at times, and maybe I was. It wasn't intentional. People sometimes think that now, but they're just mistaking confidence and self-possession for something outer-directed. I am meek at times, but I can't fake it when I don't feel it. And how I feel about me says nothing about what I think about you.

When I was a little girl, I used to confuse the names of two songs, and found it confusing to hear one when I thought I would be hearing the other. They are “Louie, Louie,” by The Kingsmen, and “Brother Louie” by Stories. It’s possible you know of it primarily as a Hot Chocolate song, but I knew only the US version, which, honestly, has way better vocals. (but the lyrics are slightly changed in this performance, so here they are for the recording.)


My biggest brother had the “Brother Louie” record, with Adam and Eve at the top of the label, and I remember him explaining it to me. This was at the beginning of my interest in what was going on in the world, what with Watergate and all. But I’d already spent my earliest years being conditioned by songs that taught me we’re all the same and should learn to live together and love together, so I was suitably horrified at parents who would reject their children if they loved someone of another color, or as I learned a little later, if they had matching parts. I lived in such a bubble.  Reed
Outside my bubble people were unnecessarily competitive and tediously combative, and they agitated me. But I suppose I also never wanted to believe people were as terrible as they sometimes seemed. Why should they be? It just causes problems.

I used to cry, as they say, at the drop of a hat. This annoyed people. But if they’d looked into things carefully, and they didn’t, bless all their sharp minds, the parents and brothers at my house would have realized that as I was rarely particularly greedy or attention-seeking, I was mainly just upset when things seemed to make no goddam sense, and no one was straightening them out. I have never been able to tolerate, by way of analogy, TV show episodes in which people spoke at cross-purposes and seemed to willfully misunderstand each other, leading to horribly stressful “hijinks” and possibly wrongful accusations. The characters would laugh over the confusion in the end, and I’d feel like punching the wall, and everyone else acted like it was just a piece of silly fiction, which it was, but it also happened in real life, and I knew that. And in real life, the problems didn’t go away after 25-26 minutes. (Currently, TV misunderstandings are resolved in 20-21 minutes.)

I hurt for everyone I knew of, real and occasional fictional, who seemed victimized by the illogical and sometimes ignorant notions of others, to a disproportionate degree if you asked the people around me. I still have those sensibilities, though I don’t cry over it very often anymore. I do what I can for the world, but am better at driving off house sparrows than curing bigotry.

I think it’s okay to be both driven by logic and tender in spirit. Sometimes it’s a little rough on your offspring, but hopefully they look back and understand. Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 10.45.41 AM
Because I tend to seek logic in everything, I appear even now fairly naive and insular to more "worldly" types. I am mostly confused by people who’d rather hate than love, which honestly, sucks up so much energy, doesn’t it? I’m confused by people who think how things are in one place at one time should dictate how things ought to be in another place and another time, with a whole different set of other conditions, as well. I’m confused a whole lot lately in particular by people who assign concrete characteristics to huge groups of people based on a few of the more irritating or senseless types who get attention because they’re loud and obnoxious. Like all the kids who annoyed everyone in their individual 5th grade classes grew up and got louder and suddenly we’re accused of being a party to their incivilities, because we still can’t shut them up. But maybe I’m digressing too far. I've lost sight of my thesis.

The better angel of my nature reminds me that people are all worth more than the sum of their individual parts, and this includes people who don’t think so of others. Ray Stevens says it here, also as part of my inimitably sappy 70s childhood.

 


We Traced the Skyline

There's a theory I have about having been tertiary to this event, this day in history. You got your primary experiencers who are part of a group and among that group they know what they know, either staying quiet or protesting something, depending, all the rest of their lives. They are part of a terrible invisible club no one should want to belong to. I can’t speak as one of them, and would never try to. I honor their forbearance toward the rest of us as we tried to figure out how we fit into the picture.



You got your secondaries, in this case, people like me who were external witnesses in some way, and it affected us immediately in a number of areas, but not quite painfully, and we wouldn't think of laying claim to more than our share, because we could see the pain in and for others, right there in front of us. We stood on the beach in little groups and stared across the harbor at the blackened skyline, looking for flames. We rode the train to the city for the first time afterwards in some trepidation, not sure what we'd find. We watched planes circle overhead for weeks, and we attended memorials for the dead in our townships; "bedroom communities" for people with Manhattan offices. But as I said, we did all this just as external witnesses, nothing more. All we experienced during that day and those months afterwards was sometimes scary, sometimes frustrating, sometimes touching. We have stories. Yet we could always go home and scrub it from our skin and move on with our typically mundane lives.



If you were tertiary, you read about it, bumped into aspects of it, and wanted to embrace it because it was really, really big, but you didn't know how to fully connect. You simply weren’t there. So you flew your little car flags til they were raggedy, played Six Degrees of Separation from Tragedy, and cried “Never Forget" ensuring you’d always have something to remember and nod your head over. You discussed it online, compared Degrees, theories, solutions. All of this is completely understandable. We didn’t know back then what might happen next, you didn’t know if it could happen to you. But of course, it didn’t. Instead of still trying to lay claim to part of a huge tragedy after all this time, you get to be glad you didn’t have to.



I miss New York. It literally (literally) throbs with life. Something I will never forget is the first time I walked up the steps out of Penn Station onto 7th Avenue, and felt the air breathe around me. It was palpable, and it has stayed with me for fifteen years. I catch my breath as I write about it. It’s chaotic and it smells bad at night when they put the garbage out, and the public restrooms, if you can find them, are really lousy. But it is a living, breathing city like no other, and I will always be glad for the time I have spent there, even if I am never to go back. It’s been four years since I was an 80 minute train ride away. Yet my time there helped shape who I am now. New York taught me to embrace texture, pattern, and the juxtaposition between, oh, just anything and everything. You should go, if ever you can. Not so you can touch a part of history, but so you can experience everywhere on the planet drawn together into one neat crowded rectangle of humanity. It’ll be something awe-inspiring for you to embrace.

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