Saturday, January 30, 2010

Salinger passing

J.D. Salinger passed this week. 91 years old.

He wrote The Catcher In The Rye.
Main character: Holden Caulfield, a 16-year-old NYC prep school boy.
(Whom my father referred to as "that smart-mouthed kid in Catcher in the Rye.")

I read the book when I was sixteen.
I can't really remember having a strong feeling about it.
I pushed myself through it, because I knew it was Literature, + it was supposed to be somewhat subversive.

Think at that age I was captivated by other types of stories -- what books did I like, then??
MMM --

The Great Gatsby
To Kill A Mockingbird
...I don't, there were distractions.
Being 16 is about as much excitement as a person can stand.

"OMG" -- that year, sophomore / high school, a paperback which was supposed to be "a dirty book" got passed around between some of us girls: I actually found it more depressing than sexy -- after me, Classmate Q took it home, scanning it for "the good parts"...

her dad, who had a reputation as a loud drunk, among other things, found the book, (apparently found "the good parts" right away -- man must have been a genius! -- or speed-reader --), & demanded to know where "Q" got the book...

She named me, and her dad roared, "Well, I'd like to see her father preach a sermon on that !!"

Q & I laughed about that several times, since.


And back to Salinger.
After he had his "hit book" in 1951, he published very little else & became a recluse.
It was almost like he predicted the current shallow-and-insane celebrity culture, and decided to avoid it altogether.

I cannot imagine why he didn't publish more, as he certainly had the opportunity -- he must have had enough Money.

[From 1/29/10 New York Times]:

"Catcher" was published in 1951, and its very first sentence,

distantly echoing Mark Twain, struck a brash new note in American literature:

"If you really want to hear about it,
the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all

before they had me and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."


Friday, January 29, 2010

Accessing Thoughts

I don't know what I'm going to write until I write it.

I might know some --

and have ideas and a concepts and a chain of events or conversation that I plan to desribe,
but then I start Writing, and new things come to me.

Thoughts that I write down
remind me of things I hadn't thought of before;
help me realize things I hadn't figured out before;
and lead me in directions that weren't in the original plan.

This is true of all kinds of writing --

Writing Practice
the novel
and the things I write in my Project Journal.

You (or, at least, I) don't know for sure until I

(It's like -- somehow I think differently, or access new sources in my brain computer when I pick up the pen or get to the keyboard and -- Start Writing.)

For me, accepting and working with the fact that
I don't know what I will write
until I write it


the hardest thing


the easiest thing

about Writing.

Another "Discovery."


Tuesday, January 26, 2010


In yesterday's post the word "kingmaker" came to mind as appropriate and I used it. However, it's a word that rarely comes up.

I recall hearing it once in real-life conversation, when I was a child; then recently I read the word in what is probably the definitive Princess Diana biography -- Tina Brown's The Diana Chronicles.

So I decided, this morning, that I was going to have Whigs in the blog.
Whigs in the blog.
(Yes -- and no drugs invented yet, to address that!)

[from The Diana Chronicles -- Chapter 3, "Difficult Women."]
> > > > The Spencers could trace themselves back to 1469, when they were a respected clan of prospering sheep farmers in Warwickshire, already in a position to lend money to the monarchy. In 1603, [King] James I repaid the royal debts with...a barony, conferred on the prosperous Robert Spencer... .

In 1699, the Spencers entwined their lustrous family tree with that of the Churchill family when the daughter of the first Duke of Marlborough...married Charles Spencer.


...The Spencers' glory days were the eighteenth century.

They became powerful forces in the Whig party, dedicated to restraining the power of the monarchy and supporters of the Protestant succession; in the nineteenth century, they became Parliamentary Liberals, rivals to the Tories. They were behind-the-scenes power brokers.

They helped smooth the ascension to the throne of the Hanoverian prince who became King George I. There was no paradox in the fact that seven or eight generations of Spencers had been loyal courtiers and servants of the crown. They were servants of the monarchy they chose. They saw themselves not as courtiers but -- literally -- as kingmakers, in touch with the populace but aloof from the merely rich. < < <

I look at that, & it kind of sets the record straight compared to something I remember reading in a Diana biography written back in the 80s by an American. The author wrote that Diana came from a long line of "royal groupies."

Kingmakers may be many things, but they are hardly groupies. The person who wrote that, didn't "get it."


Monday, January 25, 2010

However ...

Negative campaigning. In the last post, mentioned being assured by experienced politician that IT WORKS.

Here's the HOWEVER...
Within recent memory, in the state where I live, there were three gubernatorial candidates in the majority party's primary --
Candidate A (shall we say),
Candidate B, and
Candidate L.

Candidate A
had personal experience in statewide elected office & considerable family influence in the Party, and (I'd assume) Financial Resources with heft. And he's a lawyer.

Candidate B
was from our state's largest city (the most votes, + clout that comes with perception: people in the rest of the state may grumble about the city but we also elect people from there to be governor -- it's a plus to be from there, bottom-line-wise).

I don't know whether Candidate B was an attorney or not; he & his family have more money than God -- super-wealthy.

Candidate L -- from our state's capital, not the "City"; had been state senator from his district; not rich; not a lawyer.

The kingmakers -- and perhaps others -- in our state saw --
1) the majority-party's primary as, essentially, the contest; and
2) Candidates A & B as the Contenders.

Candidate L was the "Rodney Dangerfield" of that primary election.
As a potential winner, and next governor of our state, he wasn't "gettin' much respect."


And then this happened:

Candidates A & B ran a lot of negative advertising about each other, spent a ton of money, and the party's voters became so tired of hearing it that they voted for Candidate L in the primary.

It was like a total upset. No one expected that result & everyone talked about it.
It was considered a triumph of civility over Negative Campaigning.

Candidate L went on to win in the general election, that year, and four years later got re-elected for a second term.


"People say they don't like negative campaigning, but it works."
This is what another guy, a former governor, assured me in -- maybe -- 1988.

So what does the A -- B -- L saga teach us?

I. Maybe it means that voters are turned off by negative campaigning and will express their displeasure with their votes, when the opportunity presents itself.

(You don't always have a third guy to vote for. If you have two candidates and they both engage in mud-slinging, we don't have a third option, we vote for one of the mud-slingers, and their operatives walk away saying "negative campaigning works."...You see what I'm saying? It doesn't mean that worked, it just means options were limited.)

II. Maybe it means that "the exception proves the rule" (old adage).

III. Maybe it means Anything can happen in politics. (I don't think that is an old saying; but I'm saying it, now.)


Saturday, January 23, 2010


A former governor told me,

"People say they don't like negative campaigning, but it works."


Friday, January 22, 2010

The Inner Archie

The community where I live has been, over the years until recently, mostly "white."

(I like to say -- this state is so homogeneous, not only is everybody white, everybody's blonde...!)

Then we began to get immigrant workers coming in to work in certain industries: Hispanic people, and Asian people -- Karen and Maung, etc.

Up on the bulletin boards at work we have a sheet announcing a two-day-long Community Cultural Fair taking place next month.

Programs include, among others, "From Burma to Thailand to U.S."; "Hispanic Cultural Panel"; "Refugees in our community"; "Get to Know Your Biases."

I love that last one.
Not laughing at it, or putting it down -- it's a great idea and I'm sure it will have excellent positive influence.

I just have to smile (OK--laugh) when I think of "Get to Know Your Biases."

"Ah, yes -- may we now get in touch with our inner Archie Bunker!"

Regarding that program title, a man I work with who's from Puerto Rico said, when it comes to bias, "That goes both ways."

"What do you mean?"

He said, "When I was at the agency signing up to come over here to work, I thought everyone here was Amish."


He said the agency person told him people here were very conservative, didn't drink, etc., etc. Somehow, in his mind, or in the agency's explanation, that became -- the people there are Amish.

Hmmm. O-kay.
(To my knowledge, we don't have any Amish people in our state, or any "dry" towns.)

That's the "Information Age" for ya.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

not dead

A philosophy for daily life as a human:
Any day when you are above ground is a good day.

If a person can look in the mirror and ask himself, "Well, am I dead?" and honestly answer, "No," then it's a good day.

Woody Allen: "Some people want to achieve immortality through their art. I want to achieve it through not dying."


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sex - City - Boulevard

Last night after work, while doing things at home, I flipped channels back and forth between an episode of "Sex And The City" (the HBO t.v. show) on TBS and "Sunset Boulevard" (black-and-white film noir) on TCM.

Each time the tidal wave of a billion commercials hit me during "Sex" I turned over to "Boulevard" with no commercials.

The William Holden character suddenly recognizes the former star of silent movies, played by Gloria Swanson.

He says,
"Wait a minute. I recognize you.
You're Norma Desmond.
You used to be in pictures, used to be big."

When she speaks, her voice contains just the faintest whiff of contempt, overlaid with pride, dignity, pain, and her sense of displacement. A tiny brief space between each word adds power and effect.

(He says "...You're Norma Desmond. you used to be in pictures, used to be big.")
She replies,

"I am big.

It's the pictures that got small."


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Three Presidents

Over the past weekend, a brief "clip" on news channels, showing former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, with President Obama. They walked toward the camera, coming toward the viewer -- sort of dramatic, or a moment to pause -- three tall man in suits. Guys with ties.

It was about how to help Haiti, post-earthquake.

It was comforting and made me feel good -- proud, to see them together, walking with purpose. ('Haiti's had an earthquake, & we're here to do somethin' about it - !')

I was thinking back trying to remember who all I voted for, & realized I've voted for all three of those presidents, at least once.

CLINTON in 1996 (but not 1992 -- that year I remember I intended to vote for Perot [are you laughing with me, or at me??!] but then I was so disgusted with him when he decided to drop out of the presidential race, part-way through (hello??!!) that I think I may have voted for George Bush (Bush - 1, the incumbent that year). Still could have voted for Perot -- think he dropped back in, after dropping out.

BUSH-2 ("W"), in 2004, because didn't think there was a good reason to change presidents in the middle of a war.
I might have voted for George W. Bush in 2000 also -- I honestly can't remember, and was surprised at myself for not remembering -- I do remember being equally uninspired by both Bush and Gore, that year.

And OBAMA, in 2008. I only decided to vote for him a week before the Election: bought his book, The Audacity of Hope, started flipping through, reading random passages, and found that Barack Obama said things (wrote things) that I had thought, myself, on my own. It was like -- my thoughts on his page. (Whoa!)


Friday, January 15, 2010

Woke Up This Morning

Since I love the Intro song for "The Sopranos" so much, this morning when the show was on, after enjoying the song, I watched the show. I see why people like it. When it was new I never saw it because I don't have HBO.

They certainly wear out the "F" word.

It's on A & E and they don't seem to use the "f" word on that channel, but you know they're using it a lot because you hear "freakin'" about a million times and the other million times there's a little blank "blip" of nothing in the middle of a sentence -- sounds like the guy stuttered, or like something's wrong with your TV reception, but it's just from bad words being removed.

Swear-word removal.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Two Epiphanies

Two Epiphanies:

1. There are two kinds of people in the world.
2. Synergy is necessary.

Last post, I wrote that art makes things better after people make things worse.

Realized -- something I learned in the past year was this: there are people who make things worse, not better; and there are people who make things better, not worse.

I had never thought about that too much, before. Two kinds of people.

It's like the striking statement in the eulogy for Robert Kennedy: "...a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it; saw pain and tried to heal it; saw war and tried to stop it" -- (or something close to that).

Art is not the only thing that makes things better: the people who Make Things Better, Not Worse also Do.

The People Who Make Things Better, Not Worse
do what Ted Kennedy said:
they see wrong and try to right it,
see pain and try to heal it,
etc. ...

I have learned a profound appreciation and reverence for the People Who Make Things Better Not Worse.

And I have also learned that -- maybe Everyone, or at least most people, including me, need Synergy. People who want you to succeed.
People who help and don't hurt.
Situations that are set up to help you, or at least to allow you, to succeed.

Someone helped me a while ago, and when I thanked the person, they said, "That's what I'm here for." (A very simple statement, yet one I don't think I had ever heard before.)
"That's what I'm here for."

And then I said, "No it's not!"


What the hell was the matter with me?? Those words just came out automatically, I didn't have time to think.

I thought about that a few times afterward, in subsequent months, and I realized that I live with a very strong belief, or sense, that I have to do everything myself. A belief that I must not depend on anyone else, or allow anyone to help me -- or, look to anyone or anything...I don't know.

And I believed that by sheer hard work and excellence (insofar as I can achieve any) I could -- I don't know, somehow do OK in life.

But when I had this epiphany where I realized I held this belief of having to do everything yourself, another epiphany followed: You need synergy.
actual dictionary definitions of "synergy":

The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.
Cooperative interaction among groups, especially among the acquired subsidiaries or merged parts of a corporation, that creates an enhanced combined effect.//-->

(Raising an imaginary glass): "To synergy!"
"To -- better, rather than worse."


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

art -- brick

Last Friday I felt grouchy and out-of-sorts; don't like to be that way. That happens. Something lets you down, or you get negative "vibes."

Friday night, I finished my part-time work at the Episcopal Church. Listened to "The Sopranos" intro music ("Woke Up This Morning"), and Saturday night, watched "Notorious"-- (Hitchcock directed; Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman starred -- such a great movie). I think it qualifies as "noir" -- film noir -- because of the use of shadows and shades of inky darkness. Black - and - white films were so great for noir; although, noir can be done in color -- i.e., "Body Heat."

I was thinking: if something makes me feel bad, music and movies always are helpful toward letting me feel better -- Music or movies or other kinds of art -- good book, poetry, good TV -- theater, if we were someplace where they have that...And paintings, don't want to forget pure visual aesthetics.

Art is the answer to Life.
Art makes things better, after situations or people make things worse.

I say I don't know about interior design, but the truth is, at this point in my life I DO know -- at least I "know what I like" as the saying goes....

HGTV last weekend showed a couple making "improvements" to a house -- they took a room that had a wall of exposed brick and they

covered it up with dry - wall.

! ! ! ? ? !

I was really, really surprised. If I had exposed brick in a room of my house I would be grateful and joyful, and I would decorate around-and-with that.

I couldn't believe they covered it up.

I guess I don't have the same taste as whoever is in charge of doing things at HGTV. And surely they have more professional qualifications than I do. That makes me feel like I should agree with them and admire whatever they show, but --

it's actually good that I have enough confidence in my own preferences and taste.


Friday, January 8, 2010


This weekend: on Saturday night, 8 eastern time, 7 central: "Notorious" !!

Hitchcock directed.

Starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.

A great classic.

Kissing scene: censors at the time (1940s) allowed an on-screen kiss to go for a limited amount of time -- maybe 3 seconds, or 5 seconds, I'm not sure.

For the story, they needed more kissing, so to get around the limit, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman kiss for the allowed amount of time and then kiss again, for that amount of time, and then again, and again...

Romantic / sexy.

Woody Allen has said that every time he watches Notorious, even though he has seen it many times before and he knows how it ends, he still gets nervous and all in-suspense during the coming-down-the-stairs scene near the end.
I feel the same way.

When I was in college, my friend Debbie Luisi who was in film school at Emerson explained some things about Hitchcock's movies to me, because it was one of her enthusiasms. (And I was a good listener, I think.) She told me about a particular shot (people in film schools are always referring to "shots" the way guitar players will tell you about "riffs" --O-k) -- where Ingrid Bergman's character holds a key in her hand and there was a difficult and unique thing where the camera was up real high, hanging from something, and it had to sort of swoop down and in, going from a wide shot of a room full of people at a party, to a tight close-up of the key in her hand.

I was told all about that shot before I ever saw the actual movie -- which is an interesting way to experience a story -- or a "shot". And I notice that Shot
I watch
the movie.

Today I wrote down "Notorious" on a piece of scratch paper, and added the date, time and channel, + Hitchcock, Cary Grant, and Ingrid Bergman, and gave it to a guy: "I want to recommend something!"
I also had a small peppermint pattie, in my other hand, which I was going to give him (Pearson's brand -- they're very good).

He read my piece of paper, handed it back to me, and said, "I don't think so," and walked away.
Sorry I blew up.
(I just kept the piece of candy. I can give that to somebody else.)

Maybe from now on, in my life, I should just blog and not interact with any humans.

Maybe people struggle to find a basis on which to connect. I've thought about that, before. Maybe what seems to me like civil-and-engaging conversation, about something interesting and fun, seems to someone else like an assignment. An unwelcome assignment.

And that was a person who I thought liked me - !

It's like the old joke -- my father used to say it: "With friends like that, who needs enemies ?!"

Story of my life.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chess Records

Thinking of my cats, as I was in my last post:

My cats are named Chess (the boy) and Genie (girl).

I love names. I'm fascinated (involuntarily) by what people's names are -- what nationality they are, how they are spelled, if they sound good, if they rhyme, if there's someone else by the same name...
It's ridiculous. I shouldn't even admit this; it started when I was a small child.
I used to sit with an 8 and a half by 11 sheet of paper and just list names.
My mother said, "You're a name nut."

There isn't even a pill for this.

When I got Chess from the Humane Society his name (given to him there) was "Buddy." I was trying to think of a good name for him while driving in my blue Ford Tempo, to a meeting at the state capital. I thought of cat names on the way out, and on the way back, while listening to blues songs by a variety of artists on a cassette tape.

My plan was to name the gray cat after a blues singer. But as it turned out most blues singers (at least in that particular collection) don't have cat-appropriate names.

Muddy Waters. Now, cats don't like to be wet, so "waters" didn't seem to fit, for that reason, and they're fastidious, they would not enjoy mud. So that was out. Howlin' Wolf -- then you're into a whole other species. Female names were out; finally I looked up in the right-hand corner of the cassette, where it said "All original Chess recordings."

Chess was the name of a record company in (Chicago, I think) owned by brothers who emigrated from Poland and started recording music from the African American community -- jazz, blues, R & B -- eventually they recorded Chuck Berry.

So I had a lot of respect for that name, plus it seemed like a catly name.
The cat accepted it right away. It has worked well.

On the occasions when I have introduced my cats to small children, they usually misunderstand and call him "Chest."

"Here, Chest! Come on, Chest!"

That's OK.
It's so cold, where I live. If we wanted relief in a warmer climate, we could probably try Siberia.

I think of the line from Body Heat
when William Hurt says to Kathleen Turner,
"You can stand here with me if you want, but you'll have to agree not to talk about the heat."
We can say that sentence here, but substitute "cold" for "heat."


Tuesday, January 5, 2010



A year and three or four months ago, this Worldwide Economic Downturn (WED?) was presented to us as Great Depression-time.

I heard several people mention the possibility of needing to stockpile food--like, the money would not be worth anything, or something....

Articles I read said some people were putting everything into cash, then into a safe, to be guarded with a gun.

I was remembering, this weekend, a couple of conversations I had at the time -- one person said he was buying large amounts of some kind of food -- potatoes? Rice? Cannot remember.

I mentioned to someone that the first thing I would (theoretically) buy in large supply would be -- cat food.

He got a sort of look of dismay on his face; he frowned slightly, paused a moment, and then said, "Oh well -- I --er-- I wouldn't eat cat food!"

I meant -- for my two cats.


Monday, January 4, 2010


Mondays mean three things in my current life:
1. I may be in a residual good mood from watching Question Time or House of Commons on C-Span Sunday night.
2. The New York Times Review Of Books, to look at.
3. I'll be in a mind-set of looking for recipes to try. (I think that's because over the weekend I may have the Food Channel on, and the desire to cook something interesting but not too difficult enters my consciousness subliminally.)

Checked some recipes:
Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina
Smokey Roasted Peaches
Greens with Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette
Green Goddess Rice
Roasted Beet Salad
Updated Green Bean Casserole
Crockpot Wild Rice Pilaf.

One thing which can sometimes subtract from this positive mind-set is if I'm reading a few recipes and they mention stuff that I don't have ("cheesecloth"?? Go away I'm not doin' it), stuff wherein I don't know what it is, and when the recipe is labeled "easy" but as I read it I find it so unbelievably fussy that I start thinking sarcastically, "You know if I wanted to perform brain surgery I'd have gone to school for it...I Just Want To Cook A Little Something !!"

The other thing is -- food processors. Several recipes I selected based on their titles and the "easy" rating, tell you to put some of the ingredients in a food processor and mix them up that way.

Am I the last person in the free world who does not own a food processor??

I feel like -- my mother cooked throughout her adult life without any food processor; I have lived this long without one; why, all of a sudden, does a recipe labeled "easy" demand a freaking gadget which I do not own. I mean, I have to go out and BUY one, just so that I can make this dish?

I asked the Safety Manager of my workplace about this phenomenon; he is an excellent cook: and his answer to me was, he does not believe in food processors -- Thank You Very Much!

"I don't believe in them," is what he said.

If he has to mix something together, he either stirs it, or puts it in the blender.

THANK YOU, my man!

I felt like I'd been given permission to proceed as I see fit.