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Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

I would say that blogs are the new confessionals: anonymous tale-tellers offloading their thoughts to an anonymous listener. I would say that suggestions offered in blog Comments are the new Penance for Sins committed.

I would say these things if I still believed in the concept of Sin, but I do not.

I do believe in the idea of misguided choices; in the concepts of kindnesses withheld, dysfunctional adaptations, poor coping skills, cognitive biases, and overwhelming frustration. But sin, no, not any more.

Life is complex, and relativity reigns. If an overarching and judgmental construct such as sin even existed in any tangible way, what constituted a sin would be enormously subjective! Perspective on this could probably vary by generation, religion, gender, and culture, and in reviewing history it seems those in power at the given moment get to choose who is sinning, and how.

Even a simple directive such as the Christian commandment to Honor your Father and Mother becomes a messy gray area if your father or mother is ordering you to break a different commandment, yes?

What content creator was naive enough to believe there could be 10 such rules that would never intersect? For instance, could a fib never help you better honor a parent? Is it not possible that stealing, a la Jean Valjean, could keep a child in your care from starving to death and thus you would then not be in any way responsible for the child’s “murder”?

I think we all yearn sometimes to live in a world that is certain, one as black and white as we believed it was when we were children. But that is not the world we occupy, and tightly gripping that ideal past its point of usefulness will help no-one.

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You Better Not Pout

While driving in to work this morning I was realizing I’ve experienced several different phases of close surveillance.

As a youngster, it was Santa: he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, yadda yadda.  Earn valuable prizes yearly for obedience and self-control.

After that was busted open, I believed it was a Judeo-Christian God spying on me: watching me half-ass practicing piano; shaking his head as I talked back; possibly snorting at my lame church confessions (I couldn’t really keep track so I guessed based on what I figured most kids my age were doing wrong).  But then I grew into an agnostic who has a sense that it’s unlikely anyone is keeping such a close tally and if they are, I find I don’t much care what their opinion is.

But now….now,  it’s the scariest viewer of all.  My kid.  She doesn’t see everything, of course.  But she sees plenty and she’s watching closely.  For hypocrisy and discrepancy.  For lessons.  The biggest difference, and the scary bit, is that I didnt have to be held responsible for influencing Santa’s and God’s paths.  They would not potentially base poor decisions or family negotiations on my actions.

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When it comes down to it, I’m a bit of of a rube.  Online articles keep reeling me in and then disappointing me.  Damp squibs, if you will.

They will say things like, “The Real Key to Happiness (Spoiler: it’s not more stuff!)” or “A Simple Way to Dial Your Anxiety Down”.  And the answer is always (drum roll please) . . . mindfulness and/or meditation.

Look.  I’m not saying mindfulness and meditation aren’t effective.  I might even be able to corroborate these claims if I could stick to a practice with the same diligence as seeking out Clefairies in Pokémon Go.  I’m just saying it would be refreshing if we could all hear a bit more about the OTHER things that help to make humans happy and let off steam.

I want to see the article whose answer is:  “Limoncello!”  Or, “Punching stuff!”  Or, “Exploring Awkward Family Photos!”

Or maybe I don’t need to see it.  Because maybe I just wrote it.

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Everyday Complications

Folks, when did things like lunch and haircuts get so complicated?

Lunch

I had some chowder and a bagel at the eco-friendly bagel shop in the college town. I was finished with lunch, although had not exactly licked everything clean. With trepidation I approached the waste station. I’ve been to this rodeo before, I thought with a sigh.

If any of the millennials had looked up from their devices, they’d have seen a confused middle aged lady muttering and slowly moving fistfuls of detritus first above this trash hole, then that one. Each hole had what appears to be synonymous labels. Is my soup-covered fork Compostable? (Is this the place that uses the utensils made from corn or is that the other place?) Does the bagel paper go in Recyclable, Semi-soiled, Biodegradable, Locally sourced goods, or Decaying matter? I wanted to avoid putting anything in the one marked “Defiler of Mother Earth” – the one that actually goes to a landfill.  I need a Waste Sherpa, I thought.

Lunch can feel more stressful than the work you return to sometimes.

 

Haircuts

Later that night I tried to read a bit of my paperback before settling in to sleep, and kept having to blow shaggy bangs out of my face. I have managed to find yet another hair stylist who is so petrified of creating a Mullet that I pretty much get a Tellum – an anti-mullet. The back is practically scalped and the front is long and unruly about a week after my cut. So I “trim” the front part, of course (I randomly cut pieces, but with tiny delicate snips like at the salon, so it feels legit).

When I do return to get my hair cut, the stylist assesses my head, wrinkles her nose, and asks, “Who trimmed your bangs?” She wants to know if I cheated on her with another stylist. She knows the trim is bad and can’t wait to insult the Other Woman. But fear not, I paid no money for this.

“So, the thing is . . .,” I begin. And she knows I’ve been tangoing with dull scissors.

“You know we do discounted bang trims between haircuts,” she will say. “Just pop in.”

Yes. The trouble is, it’s at 10:30 pm on a Sunday that I can no longer take the sheepdog situation. I can’t just pop in. Seriously, what working parent “pops in” anywhere? We schedule pee breaks in advance.

Not that a haircut is just a haircut lately anyway. I was getting my hair shampooed recently at the salon, and the stylist asked, “Would you like a complimentary paraffin hand treatment?” She said it in a way that assumed I would know what the words “paraffin” + “hand” + “treatment” mean, perhaps because I am female. (The wrong sized hand-me-down corduroys I wore should have been a giveaway that I’m not much into “beauty treatments”, or “appearance”, but that’s another story).  I DO, however, know the word “Complimentary” and I like it a lot.

I said, “I don’t know what that is, but I’ll try it!”

She brought me and my sopping head to a station with a bowl of hot wax. She directed me to dip my hands in 3 times, one at a time. I kept forgetting to splay my fingers when dipping, so my fingers fused together as one hardened, waxy unit. Then she slipped oven mitts on my hands. I was wondering if I should tip her for this additional service when I realized there was no way in hell I could wrangle cash out of a wallet unless I used my feet.

Which made me think that this would be a great mugging scheme for a high-class area! Offer someone a complimentary paraffin treatment, and once the wax and mitts are on, sha-bam – she’s immobilized and you run off with her Kate Spade bag.  Or whatever it is the fancy ladies carry these days.  I was trying to figure out how much the paraffin and a means of keeping it warm would cost – would the investment be offset by the profits?  If you need a second person to collect the bowl and heating equipment while you escape with the purse, then you’re already splitting the take.  Hmm.

I was lost in this imagining, smirking and spaced out in the fancy salon in my hand-me-down cords and oven mitts, until I was roused and directed to a chair for my next Tellum.

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I’ve been enjoying Kathy A. Johnson’s blog “Catching Happiness” at www.catchinghappiness.com. She recently participated in a meme started by Simon at Stuck in a Book.  His instructions were:

I’m going to kick off a meme where we say our favourite book author, song, film, and object beginning with a particular letter. And that letter will be randomly assigned to you by me, via random.org. If you’d like to join in, comment in the comment section and I’ll tell you your letter! (And then, of course, the chain can keep going on your blog.)

I requested my letter at her post at http://www.catchinghappiness.com/2014/06/brought-to-you-by-letter-g.html.  My answers are below. What fun!  Please play along.  A bloggy, asynchronous playdate if you will.   If you want me to assign you a letter, let me know in the comments.  Even if you don’t have a blog, you can leave your favorites in the comments.  (I promise not to give you Q or X!)

My randomly generated letter from Kathy was “C”. Here goes!

Favorite “C” book author – this was instantaneous, as my favorite author of all time is Truman Capote. I haven’t read everything he has written, but close to it.  For any “Lost” fans out there, it feels a bit like when Desmond has a Dickens book on the island but is hesitant to read it, because he has read all other Dickens works and that would be it.  I own, but haven’t yet read, “In Cold Blood”, the book he’s best known for besides “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” I think my favorites are his short story and essay collections, especially “Music for Chameleons.”  I love the way he twists language.  He bends language like so much taffy, in a way I’ve only otherwise encountered with my second favorite author, Nabokov.

Favorite “C” song Crucify by Tori Amos, on the album of the same name.  (1992).  That entire album was so eye-opening and inspiring.  I love this song, although I wish a pal of mine never asked me, “What does she mean, that her heart is in cheese?”  “Chains,” I said.  “Her heart is in chains.”  But now all I hear is “cheese.”

Favorite “C” filmThe Commitments. (1991). “Heroine kills.”  “I never pictured God with a fat gut and corset singing “My Way” at Caesar’s Palace.”

Favorite “C” object – Card, Library !  Still feels pretty miraculous that you can find wonderful books and media and take them home to enjoy.  I would live at the library if I could.

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I was searching on Elizabeth Warren today on Amazon.  Because she is awesome and I love her and want to read more of her.

So, I clicked on the link for her book “Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents are Going Broke” (http://www.amazon.com/The-Two-Income-Trap-Middle-Class-Parents/dp/0465090907/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1398875870&sr=8-4&keywords=elizabeth+warren), intending to add it to my wish list.  (Sometimes my amazon wish list fuels purchases.  More often, it builds my “look for at the local library” list).

Anyhoo, there was also an option to add this title to a “Wedding Registry” or a “Baby Registry.”  How gd depressing would it be to buy a book with this title for a baby or wedding shower?

Good luck to you guys!  Even if you both get great jobs chances are you’ll still be scraping by!  Hope this shindig didn’t set you back too much!!

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I’m no scholar.

I have a B.S., yes, and an M. Ed.  I have taken courses in literature and read books about poetry as well as many books of poetry.   I do not allege I am any expert of poetry, therefore the following statement may merely be a show of my ignorance.

However –

I can’t help but notice that over the last couple of years, the poems I have read in The New Yorker sound more and more like those nonsense spam emails – the ones that must exist for something like luring people to “unsubscribe” from a list and unwittingly confirm an active email account.  To me the poems lately seem distant and cold, robocalls of poetic expression, and hella disjointed.  I feel like I could grab phrases from fortune cookies, Bazooka Joe wrappers and Monopoly game Chance cards and string them together to create something similar.

Here’s one I made up that I think could fit right in:

“Do we not strive for a ladder, the blue

cat will not say:

Is there a Chanel store in this hogs’ earth?

Breaking the sixth board is

difficult for everyone, anyone.

If the glass shatters on His Cake

He may not nearly hear the cock crow in the morning.”

It almost seems like there is a contest happening for who can be the most obscure.  Except no one has informed the “dear readers.”

But then, I wonder.

Because, other people at the local mall could see the hidden image in those Magic Eye pictures and I never could.  I blinked and winked and squinted, moved in and out, and finally would state that it was a hoax, like the Emperor’s clothes – none of you really see that sailboat; you just say you do so you don’t feel left out.

And because other people slowly move from one side of a Pollock dribble to another – they step closer, move back, hand on chin.  I watch them watching the splotches and cannot father what it is that I cannot fathom.

There are too many people who have explained to me a deep meaning in a seemingly random post-modern story, or nonsensical-sounding punk song, for me to disregard all seeming obscurity.  So I think there is more to many creations I’ve initially dismissed.  In fact, I am related to someone I consider an amazing “close-seer.”  When I have scoffed at seemingly superficial creations (“sure it’s fun, but what does it mean?”), my brother often explains it to me in very persuasive detail.  The guys knows how to support his assertions.  He’s a master analogist and the English teacher’s dream.

When I was in college I was in the Sondheim musical “Assassins.”  I liked to sing and dance but looking back I think I was a rather shallow sort of performer.  I had never trained well enough to find deep and personal connections to content and characters (or if someone had tried to train me to do so, it didn’t take).  I don’t think I really wanted to connect, anyway – I wanted to escape and pretend – that was the whole point, for me.  I didn’t want to find the Me within the part.  I wanted to stop being me while I was in a show.  So, that is how I came to play a major role in this musical without having done much soul-searching or plumbing the hows and whys of these various assassins, would-be assassins and political figures.

I saw a hummable pageant.  My brother, a highschooler at the time, came to the show, and saw something else.  I made an offhand remark about liking the tunes bit not really feeling like the show had much to say.  After having seen it the one time, he gave a compelling analysis of what he believed Sondheim had put forth in this work, that floored me.  Of course these many years later I cannot remember now what his thesis was, likely dystopias and anti-heroes were a part of it.  But I do remember I looked at the show very differently after that, for the remaining few performances.  And wished I had cared enough to not assume that a master creator like Sondheim would phone it in and put on a hummable pageant just because I hadn’t spent the time to figure out what he was saying.  Or wanting people to think over.

I do remember that I shared my brother’s thoughts with the play’s director that night.  She was similarly amazed by his sophisticated and thoughtful views of the show’s meaning.  She was not one to be speechless yet this had left her mute for a bit, that it had come from a highschooler.

It’d obvious he’s a master analyst, and yet I’m the one whose job title actually has the word “analyst” in it.  He’s a code breaker, a decipherer.  He’s an actor now.  A real actor, not a pageant giver or jazz hand waver.  And perhaps that’s what true soulful acting is, after all – not my world of pretend but rather the product of a master sign-reader interpreting a text for the rest of us, who are blinking and winking and hoping for the hidden sailboat to appear in the Magic Eye picture before it’s time for Mom to pick us up at the food court.

If I indulged my paranoid side – which I generally don’t – I could start to wonder if there may be some subculture of such hyper sign-readers – maybe ads and New Yorker poems are merely coded messages being traded back and forth.  But, probably not.

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