Friday, April 30, 2010


So many things I have to get done tomorrow.
and so many things I WANT to get done.
Large plans in my mind; will my physical self cooperate?
I could lie right on my carpeted floor at home, straight through until Monday, I feel.
With cat-man walking busily around my head, purring and nudging -- gentle, companionable, curious.
His paws are like palm fronds.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rain things

Things to do on a Rainy Day:

*read a mystery novel
*go through fashion magazines, back to front, looking at every page, tearing out pages where there's something good
*make Nestle's Toll House chocolate chip cookies, putting in raisins as well
*eat some chocolate chip & raisin cookies while watching "The Wizard Of Oz"
*re-design your living space
*write in Writing Practice Notebook
*write in Diary
*watch old movies

I don't subscribe to the school of thought that says enter a building complaining, on a rainy day, "Oh it's cloudy, it's depressing." There are many things in Life to deal with sometimes, and some of them are very difficult -- we have to try to never be depressed, and being "depressed" about weather is -- not allowed. In my world.
On an episode of "Frasier" he was writing a play in the style of the classic type -- a dark and stormy night, an "inn" in the country, isolated, a cast of characters, a murder, and who did it? (A "whodunit"...)

Thought I might try writing one on my Blog. On each post I could add something to my version of the Classic Dark Mystery.
The point being, to Practice, to increase my output.

OK: Classic Dark Mystery #493.
Setting: a bed-and-breakfast in Maine.
Cast of Characters: Fitzgerald Henry, guest. Book publisher from New York City.
Joel Epstein, book agent from New York City.
Catherine Cramer, Hollywood actress.

(Back to Cast Of Characters tomorrow.)


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

an instrument of the devil

Watching the Senate hearings on banking practices yesterday put me in mind of the Watergate hearings -- Sam Ervin, D.-N. Carolina, ran the Senate hearings -- televised. (Only three networks in those days, so they started getting angry calls from homemakers upset that their soap operas weren't on.)

One day there was a telephone call with a message for Sam Ervin -- Nixon was going to give up the tapes. Turned out to be a hoax, a crank caller.

Senator Ervin had to explain on national live TV that he had been tricked. UPI reported Ervin's announcement --
^^^ "It's an awful thing for a very trusting soul like me that there are human beings, if you can call them such, who would perpetrate a hoax like that," the white-haired senator said in his North Carolina drawl. "My trust in humanity has been grossly abused."

"Some people think the telephone is an instrument of the devil anyway," he added.

Nixon didn't find the incident funny.... ^^^

I did.
Some little girls play hopscotch -- I watched Watergate hearings.

Played hopscotch too, plus swimming & other Activities; it was summer--there was time.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

a language all their own

This morning, doing stretch-Pilates and weights on a mat in front of my TV, on CNBC, wall-to-wall Senate Hearings of Wall Street people. Various senators questioning banker-folks. One senator brought up the term "thin files."

"Have you heard or used the term 'thin files'?"
The banker said no.
The same senator asked if he used or hears the term "barbelling."

While I was listening, no one defined these.
What are they?
Thin files?
Barbelling? Bar - belling?
Made me think of a Woody Allen movie from 1979 (?) -- Manhattan. You can probably get it on YouTube -- part 3 or 4. Or 2. Woody Allen's character Isaac and his friend Yale are in a bookstore -- "Isaac" is worried and nervous. (There's news!)
^^^ "I quit my job; my accountant says I did this at a very bad time. I -- I don't have -- I don't have, cash. I'm cash-poor, or something. I'm--I'm not liquid. I got no cash-flow. I don't -- I don't know -- something -- something's not flowing. I don't -- there's a -- they've got a language all their own, those guys." ^^^

A language all their own, those guys.
Cash flow. Liquid. Bar-belling.

(I took that Woody Allen-talk from memory; please check it on YouTube, see how close I came to the actual dialogue - ...)


Monday, April 26, 2010

"The Defiant Ones"

"The Defiant Ones"

a movie I've always heard about and had never seen

Yesterday, on Turner Classic Movie Channel, there it was for me, like a gift.

Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis play two prisoners who escape while being transported from one prison to another, in the South. They are chained together, by their wrists. The vehicle they're riding in goes off the road and rolls: they get out and take off across the brown countryside.

The rest of this black-and-white film is a series of scenes, cutting back and forth from the two escaped convicts, to the guys chasing them -- lawmen, and one with a pack of dogs -- bloodhounds for finding people, and Dobermans for -- biting people, apparently, though you don't see that in the movie -- it looks like that's the plan.

All of the pursuers wear hats with brims. And every time the action switches off the convicts and back to the band of men coming after them, you hear music, ostensibly from one man's radio -- very tangy, twangy, peppy early rock-and-roll: the hum and wail of saxophones. It's an unexpected lightening of mood -- adding "attitude."
But -- we must note, it's not musical background like you get in many movies -- the music is supposed to be playing from the radio of one of the men in the group, so it's "realism." Not "movie" music.

When it cuts back to Curtis and Poitier, there's no music; just gritty struggle against a bleak background.

The two discuss their choices: Sidney Poitier says, "I'm not goin' south." So they go north.
They meet up with people in a turpentine town who want to lynch them.
It rains. The two of them discuss race relations and The Way Things Are.

Tony Curtis says, "I wasn't a big enough crook. To get somewhere in this world, you gotta be a big enough crook where you can get away with anything." (Hello - ! Calling Wall Street, circa 2010!)

Seems like the way they are chained together for part of the picture is intended as a metaphor for modern human experience: we are all bound together by -- Society, our loyalty to country, obligations in communities, family, etc. and we have to respect and get along; if we don't, we don't survive.

I kept thinking during the film yesterday, it must be from the Early 1960s. That was my bet; looking it up on Google today found it was released in 1958. I was close but not "on." A very socially progressive picture and theme, for the 50s! Eisenhower was president.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

a head

This morning I walked into a super-store to go to the bank and as I walked past the hair salon, glanced in -- (all those gleaming, colorful, alluring containers of hair Products! ... coaxing us to imagine plush, beautiful, stylish, edgy, "hot" hair, when we use them - !) --

and there was a head on the counter.

The head had strawberry blonde hair, combed, styled, twisted, separated, spiked -- expertly -- into what was surely an edgy, fashion-forward style. The head was connected to a neck which I couldn't see, and a body in an employee smock. Seated in a chair which was adjusted to just the right height, the young lady had leaned forward and just -- laid her head down to rest, for a few.

A rainy Saturday morning can be like that.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

JFK and Big "Steal"

Yesterday, having a disappointed feeling of being outnumbered, unrepresented, and playing against a stacked deck, thought of Pres. Kennedy and this selection from Leaming book:
They were still on the South Lawn when Jack, having finished his discussion with Cardona, went to the Oval Office to see Roger Blough, chairman of the U.S. Steel Corporation, who had requested an urgent appointment. The President, concerned that a rise in steel prices would trigger inflation, had been working with industry leaders to make sure that did not happen. He had put his prestige on the line and persuaded the unions to limit their wage demands in order to permit management to hold down prices.

On April 6 and 7, the last of those contracts had been signed, and Kennedy had thought that his dealings with Big Steel, as the industry giants were known, were at an end. Why did Blough want to see him today, when a deal had already been struck?

When Blough announced that U.S. Steel had raised its price by six dollars per ton, or 3.5 percent, Kennedy was furious, convinced that U.S. Steel had used him to persuade the workers to cut back their demands, then played him for a patsy. "He fucked me," the President said afterward...."They've fucked us and we've got to try to fuck them."

[from Mrs. Kennedy: The Missing
History of the Kennedy Years,
by Barbara Leaming. Copyright
2001. The Free Press, a
Division of Simon & Schuster Inc.
New York, NY]
I am not like that; I wish I could be more like that -- handle things.
(I don't have Bobby Kennedy to help me plan.) --
they planned a strategy which was basically three things:
Pres. went on TV to criticize the price hikes;
there was a possibility (threat) of antitrust proceedings and an investigation of market practices;
last but not least
the threat to expose embarrassing aspects of certain steel executives' private lives.
i.e.: "Do you want the government to go back to hotel bills that time you were in Schenectady to find who was with you? Too many hotel bills and night club expenses would be hard to get by the weekly wives' bridge group out at the Country Club."
Kennedy learned it from -- guess who? -- J. Edgar Hoover who -- had done it to him - (!!) three weeks earlier.
I'm just not like that. Maybe that's OK; most of us do not have to be president.
We only want to win in small claims court.
And not be ripped off.
And feel that our story was truly considered.
And that is apparently -- sometimes -- Too Much To Ask.
It bothered me to think / realize that a lot of other people probably have this done to them, and they are perhaps less inclined or equipped to stand up for themselves -- to go in and at least Go The Distance, like Rocky.
(I couldn't WIN, like President Kennedy, but
I could Go The Distance, like Rocky.)
But think of the people for whom English is not their first language -- they're probably getting ripped off left and right; it's not good, I don't like it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gonna Fly Now

This morning I went to small claims court to contest something and the judge ruled in favor of the other side.

I was like Rocky. I went the distance, but did not win.
I was thinking of my effort in terms of "Rocky" ahead of time and was trying to have a mind-set of Going The Distance but when I came home afterwards so completely disheartened and feeling screwed-over, I realized I had wanted to be sort of like Rocky, but also I felt that my case spoke overwhelmingly for itself, and that the other side was dead wrong, and I had wanted to win.

Factors that piled on and made me feel cheated:
*received advice ahead of time from people who work in the system, to the effect that people go into small claims court without lawyers and represent themselves -- then when arrived, third floor courthouse this a.m. -- my opponent, there with her attorney! (I didn't realize it at first -- I thought maybe it's just a guy sitting there in a jacket -- the understanding of the whole picture crept up on me, and then I was psyched out. Ticked off, also.)

*the judge didn't listen; she went through the motions, it was a joke -- I could see her, watching my lips moving, waiting for my lips to stop moving, so that she could order me to pay.

What distressed me the most was the slowing dawning realization of the contempt with which the people running the system and the people working the system must obviously regard the vast, far-flung numbers of humans -- miscellaneous members of the Public, such as myself, who blunder along believing there's a fair hearing if you have a problem -- believing in the System and its integrity.

This would not be nearly as painful for me if I wanted to be cynical -- some folks enjoy wallowing in Cynicism. I should take a Page from their Book, because then maybe I would feel less pain.
I hate injustice with a passion.

Why am I like that? The World is absolutely FILLED with injustice.
What planet have I been living on?
What's wrong with me?

Thought of Rocky. And thought of President Kennedy.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

fascination / struggle

I wonder if anyone reads my blog (possibly, or not) -- and if any humans reading my blog posts remember "UHF" channels on TV.

Maybe it was cable, I'm not sure. But my family didn't have cable TV -- no, no our community didn't have it, there was no cable. Only a little bit, maybe in like New York or someplace.

Throughout my younger childhood years we had four channels: the three Networks, CBS, ABC, and NBC, and Public TV, which we used to call "educational" TV.

Then when I was in fourth grade or so, maybe a little older, my family lived close enough to Cleveland, to where we received UHF channels -- Channel 61 and Channel 43, I think. They were totally fuzzy -- it was like television signals coming in from Outer Space or something! Now we're so accustomed to watching things that are clear on our TV sets. There's never a time when the channel "isn't coming in too well."

We might wonder today why did we ever bother to watch something with such poor all-around quality -- picture, sound -- it all "sucked"! (hate using that word but once in a while it's the one you need...!) PLUS --
our TV was black-and-white. !!!!
(If anyone under the age of 39 read this post, they would probably think, "Man, that paleozoic era was rough!")
But -- that was what we had. It was pre- VCRs or DVDs.

And -- surprisingly, some of my pleasantest and strongest memories are of struggling to discern some classic "old movie" on one or the other of those UHF channels.

"The Diary of Anne Frank" -- because we read passages from it in 7th Grade English class and the teacher had alerted us that it was going to be on. Staring, squinting through the black-and-gray "snow" in the screen, to see the little group of people hiding out from the Nazis in the Secret Annex...

"Cheaper By The Dozen" (not Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt, but Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy) -- had to hurry home after church one Sunday to catch that (not SEE it too well, but "catch" it -- at least be in front of the TV when the show was on...!) because my mother had read it aloud to me when I was younger and then I read it to myself when old enough. And my dad was all, "Clifton Webb is in that! I remember that!"

"Some Like It Hot" -- Marilyn Monroe -- singing, some, with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis -- in drag, hiding out from Mobsters. I noted that in TV Guide when in eighth grade I got consumed writing a "report" for history class. "The History Of The Film-Making Industry." (Think our reports "had to be" 10 pages, maybe. Mine was 85 pages, typed. I had the impression the history teacher didn't read it all -- he did give me an "A".
Like -- "All right, all right, 'A' already!")

Had read about Marilyn Monroe, and that movie, in my exhaustive research, and when the movie was actually going to be on one of those murky UHF channels, I had to plan a strategy because it was scheduled at 2 a.m. or so. Had to set an alarm clock to wake up for it, and sleep first.

There's a school of thought that says we appreciate things more when we struggle for them.


Monday, April 19, 2010


This weekend I remembered two things and put them together and was trying to make sense of them.
Sometimes I think that I need to have a panel of about 10 psychologists and psychiatrists whom I could call on whenever I want an opinion on why sometimes some people do and / or say things that I can't figure out.
(Used to know somebody who always had an answer for everything: "He's just trying to..." "She just wants people to think..." And that person didn't have a psychology degree, or a degree in anything except being Controlling and Crazy (that's your B.I. -- Bachelor of Insanity) so what was I listening to them for?)

But really, would like to have my own panel of experts -- like FDR's "kitchen cabinet," if you will.
The two items I recalled:
1. Nearly twenty years ago -- early nineties -- a man I had known since we were both kids said something to me about his cousin which I didn't forget. The man's cousin and her brother and mom had moved back to home community after mom's divorce -- violent marriage, etc. etc.

The cousin -- Girl C -- was in high school. My long-time acquaintance / friend, Man M, was in his early twenties, starting out in his dad's successful business.
I was outgoing and friendly toward Girl C and her mom, etc., because they were relatives of My Friends. Period. That was my only reason.
When I was getting ready to leave every week, M-F, for our state's legislative session, I got an opportunity to create a little "synergy," I felt, by offering Girl C two jobs -- she could get paid by the association I worked for to send out my weekly newsletters during the legislature, and she could get a check from me, personally, for feeding my two cats, in my absence during the week.

I felt like there was all kinds of synergy working out there - ! I was psyched. Girl C loved animals -- she trained horses and dogs, etc. And she wanted to work, work, work, and make money. And I liked her, and it seemed like it would be good for her to have some personal attention and opportunity in an area she already loved -- the animals, and an area it wouldn't hurt to learn about -- state politics.

So I told Man M, in a happy, brain-storm mode, that I was doing this for Girl C, and how sure I was that she would be good at it, and he said --
"How much you paying her for that?"
I answered him -- I don't remember what it was -- a flat fee from me, for the Cats, and an hourly amount -- 5 or 6 or so dollars per hour -- from the School Association.
And -- I don't remember what he exactly said, but I remember the taken-aback feeling I had -- I still have -- when he -- sort of --
scoffed, in resentment, and said something along the lines of -- she didn't need to make that much.

It seemed weird to me.
And I couldn't come up with a good reason -- or any kind of reason -- for the attitude. (He certainly did not share my enthusiasm, as I had anticipated!)
I felt a little like I had "stepped in it."
And didn't know why. Still don't.

The kitty-care and newsletter-sending-out was not work which Man M would have coveted for himself. He had a more-than-full-time, high-paying, investment-powered, management-demanding career / position in his dad's business, and interests of his own besides.

He didn't have any children who were old enough to want to work for me. (Think he may have had one baby at the time, or one baby & a toddler.) So it wasn't a case of his thinking someone closer to him should've had the jobs.

Why would he begrudge his cousin, particularly when she came from a family situation far more replete with difficulties and less protected with wealth than his own. She needed that work; he should have been happy for her.
Girl C -- fed the cats, mailed out the newsletters, picked up the copies at the copy place, stamping, mailing everything -- it was a lot of responsibility, and she did an excellent job. For the next 6-8 years, cannot remember which.
Once during that time, when she was keeping some dogs at her place, I said in the presence of Man M that Girl C was very good with animals. And he immediately replied that she "has the dogs but doesn't take care of them."
I asked for details on how and in what way she did not take care of her dogs -- no details were forthcoming. I never heard that complaint from any other person, and I knew that in that same time-space the Humane Society from our town reported some people in the next town west of there and a whole force went in and transported out some dogs and cats to move them on to a better life.

Since the Humane Society was "on" that case, I figured if there were any problems with my friend Girl C's operation, it would have come to light. My experience was always that she did a fine job with any animal projects she took on, including caring for my own pets.

Why do some people say these negative things, so obviously unsubstantiated? And putting down their own relatives, who are less fortunate than themselves and need to be either -- a) encouraged, or b) left alone. I felt strongly than Man M should not have been feeding this gratuitous, baseless criticism into the mix. It was disappointing.

I still considered him my friend because I'd known him forever and because -- well -- I don't know -- maybe because I was doing most of the talking. (I've realized that sometimes if you have an outgoing personality and an instinct to be diplomatic and entertaining, you create pleasant situations short-term, but you don't always understand what type of person you're dealing with. You're too busy orchestrating the "cocktail party"...!)

Years later when Girl C had moved away and I didn't work with legislature anymore, I had my car parked at Man M's house. His two youngest children, who exhibit obnoxious behavior a large percentage of the time, were whining, nagging, complaining, crying, misbehaving, pestering each other, and generally making their mother's afternoon miserable while she tried to do some yard work, with my help.

The oldest little kid somehow got up into a large vehicle -- a piece of equipment for yard work, or farm work, not sure what it was -- and he drove it smack into the passenger-side door of my car, making a big dent and ripping off the mirror.
It was at a moment of my life when I was looking for full-time work, finding nothing, and could barely afford to put gas in the car, let alone fix it. I was so upset, and stressed out, and felt like I couldn't say anything because they were my friends.

The wife called me the next day and said that Man M said I should have it fixed at their body shop and they would take care of it.
I got it fixed, as directed.
And the next time I saw Man M at his place of business he kind of indirectly "bitched" at me. I couldn't believe it. Sort of "said" -- but not really -- sort of Hinted / said, sort of, that I had had the car fixed the more expensive way instead of the cheapest way as he would have preferred. He said. Then. When the car had already been fixed. At his direction.

It was a weird, passive-aggressive power play. And it worked. Because I felt intimidated. And even more low and stressed-out than I had been feeling already, which is saying a lot because I was down to the bottom already anyway, and fighting against that. (Why was I thinking of these people as my friends?? I'm actually not sure why.

And ironically, I remember now him saying, "Girl C has those dogs but she doesn't take care of them." And I remember how there was no evidence to support his words. And then all those years later, the same could be said of him, if one wished to criticize: he has those kids but he doesn't teach them any better than to drive when they're in the first grade (hello?!) and smash up people's cars and Never. Even. Apologize.

He's the one who doesn't take care of things properly, not his cousin. What he said about her turned out to be more true of him.


Friday, April 16, 2010

stay hungry, stay humble

This morning listening to news on CNBC about S-E-C bringing civil suit against Goldman Sachs (sp?), I thought two things:

1) All these reporters, commentators, and spokespeople were saying how surprised they were. For heaven's sake, after all the news sloshing around us since autumn of '08 about the ECONOMIC DOWNTURN SUBPRIME MORTGAGES WALL STREET BLAH BLAH BLAH, how could anyone be "surprised" that Securities & Exchange Commission is investigating / suing / bringing charges / whatever....??

I'm not "surprised" -- and I am so far from being an "expert" or "in the know" in that field, it isn't even funny. I have no money in the stock market; I don't have a "broker"; I'm an English major, aspiring novel writer with a regular job far from NYC, never took an economics class in my life, and I'M not "surprised" by the SEC's action against Goldman Sachs. Why in the -- heck -- would these suit guys who report the Wall Street news be "surprised"? -- that, I really don't "get."

2) A manager in "my" workplace (the workplace where I show up to do my best every week-day) has gray T-shirts for each of his foremen, etc. On the back of each of these T-shirts are the words -- "Stay hungry, stay humble."

They have one of the best-performing production teams in the country, in their line of work. And they're not being sued, or worried in any way, by the S-E-C or any other regulatory entity.
My recommendation: our friends on Wall Street should get some "Stay hungry, stay humble" focus.

Seriously, I think that would be a radical alteration for any of those people because "Stay hungry, stay humble" is precisely and extremely the opposite of the mind-sets that are encouraged / created in the environment of "high finance."
High on what?! I think it's another world.)


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

reflection and choice

Four days ago
wrote in my Practice Notebook --
It's in human nature to fuss. Complain, bitch, criticize others.
It's not my favorite part of human nature.
After all, as Katharine Hepburn's character says in the film The African Queen: "Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above."
When they were setting up democracy in Ameica they had to anticipate aspects of "human nature" (selfishness, potential power-grabs) and deal with them preemptively, as they rolled out the bold, audacious New Idea. We can observe Alexander Hamilton doing this in the following -- the first two paragraphs of the first letter in The Federalist Papers:

After an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world.

It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.

This idea will add the inducements of philanthropy to those of patriotism, to heighten the solicitude which all considerate and good men must feel for the event. Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, unperplexed and unbiased by considerations not connected with the public good. But this is a thing more ardently to be wished than seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations affects too many particular interests, innovates upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects foreign to its merits, and of views, passions, and prejudices little favorable to the discovery of truth.
!! Gotta watch out for those -- views, passions, and prejudices which are "little favorable to the discovery of truth."


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

things can improve

Came across the following, and was struck with wonder at the Experiment which is Democracy and America.
AND the fact that -- Yes, you can make things better -- make a plan and do it.
(Though of course that's tempered with Reality, Timing, Optimum Organization of Circumstances. Takes some genius, some hope, some luck, and some measure of Disgust with old options.)

The founding father-guys had the Odds against them because This Thing -- free country that we all take "for granted" to some degree --

A law school teacher wrote this:
Enlightenment thinkers like Hobbes and Locke suggested that free men would form governments as a bargain to ensure that one man's freedom did not become another man's tyranny; that they would sacrifice individual license to better preserve their liberty. And building on this concept, political theorists writing before the American Revolution concluded that only a democracy could fulfill the need for both freedom and order -- a form of government in which those who are governed grant their consent, and the laws constraining liberty are uniform, predictable, and transparent, applying equally to the rulers and the ruled.

The Founders were steeped in these theories, and yet they were faced with a discouraging fact: In the history of the world to that point, there were scant examples of functioning democracies, and none that were larger than the city-states of ancient Greece. With thirteen far-flung states and a diverse population of three or four million, an Athenian model of democracy was out of the question, the direct democracy of the New England town meeting unmanageable. A republican form of government, in which the people elected representatives, seemed more promising, but even the most optimistic republicans had assumed that such a system could work only for a geographically compact and homogeneous political community -- a community in which a common culture, a common faith, and a well-developed set of civic virtues on the part of each and every citizen limited contention and strife.

by Barack Obama, Copyright
2006, Crown Publishers,
Random House, Inc., New York.]

Imagine being part of something like that -- setting up a new way for people to live, and participate, and be free, which had not been done, just this way, before. In today's atmosphere, wouldn't the nay-sayers just "beat the idea to death"? Can you imagine if TV and internet had been battering these idealists 24-7, misquoting and maligning?

And -- note the fact that these folks eventually hammered out, and wrote out, agreements on how to do things, set up a government with power balanced among three -- executive, legislative, and judicial, and, by Doing It, set an example.

Setting An Example can be powerfully effective.


Monday, April 12, 2010

surprise connections

Connections happen sometimes between things you've noticed and it seems surprising. Coincidental.
Saturday I was driving by a railroad track where some train cars were sitting, stationary. One said "Santa Fe" on the side. And as I read that and drove I remembered an old movie I watched once on my roommate's small TV set in a Brighton, Mass. apartment -- "The Harvey Girls," with Judy Garland -- and there was a catchy, upbeat song in it with an unforgettable chorus: "...the Atchison, Topeka, and the San-ta-Fe!"

Then today in New York Times Review of Books, there's a blog they link to: "Paper Cuts / A Blog About Books" -- the April 9th post is about that movie. Why that? Why now? How did I happen to notice both, and What Are The Odds? (it's a rhetorical question; will never know the odds...)

Saturday a.m., getting ready to go out, "Men Of A Certain Age" on cable channel -- it's a well-reviewed show; I like it; one of the guys (in Sat.'s episode) used this quote: "The Grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for." (--Allen Chalmers.)

I just used that same quote, which I found randomly, searching internet, in a March Blue Collar post titled "wait a minute."
Why that? Why now? How did I happen to notice both, and What Are The Odds?

Things in your head and then they surface in other places.
Should I wonder about the other places? Or about my head?


Saturday, April 10, 2010

brief, rapt attention

The following selection from The Great Gatsby is one which I copied down, word for word, in a journal when I was 15 or 16. And a couple of years ago when I did some substituting in the high school, I had the opportunity to read the passage aloud to a small group of students.

I had been placed for three weeks in a special study hall class for students who were behind in their work for one reason or another. I was the assistant to the "real" teacher. The kids were plugged into a routine which included some very simple math items -- straightforward multiplication -- as well as vocabulary words. (I think the reason for having some work which seemed to me to be more appropriate for grade school than high school must have been to have the students start their class period by being successful at something, and also to keep them somewhat organized and focused. There were some discipline problems -- the first day I went in, a thin, blonde ninth grade boy picked up a chair, dropped it loudly on the floor and said the f-word. One of those -- "All - right - then" moments.)

One of their brief grammar exercises had a sentence with a reference to "The Great Gatsby" and none of them knew what that was, so I got it from the school library and asked the Teacher's permission to read a couple of paragraphs from it to the students.

She wasn't real psyched, but she let me. (She had her own style. At each class period change, while the students from the last period exited and new ones came in, she would go through a door to the neighboring classroom and talk with the teacher in there, in low, urgent, conspiratorial tones. "Bzzzz-bzzzz-bzzzz." It was like bees, or an electrical problem, or something....)

"We-e-ll -- if you think they'll listen...!" she answered, when I asked her.
I gave them this:

And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter -- tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther....And one fine morning --

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
[The Great Gatsby,
by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Copyright 1925 by Charles
Scribner's Sons.]
In the time it took me to read that aloud to these high school people, no one complained, yelled, asked to go to the bathroom, threw anything, or said the f-word.
That felt major.

Friday, April 9, 2010

coal miners, mansion shadow

today: 2 items.
Gatsby selection
Upper Big Branch suggestion

Their interest rather touched me and made them less remotely rich -- nevertheless, I was confused and a little disgusted as I drove away.... As for Tom the fact that he "had some woman in New York" was really less surprising than that he had been depressed by a book. Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.

Already it was deep summer on roadhouse roofs and in front of wayside garages where new red gas-pumps sat out in pools of light, and when I reached my estate at West Egg I ran the car under its shed and sat for a while on an abandoned grass roller in the yard. The wind had blown off, leaving a loud bright night with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life. The silhouette of a moving cat wavered across the moonlight and turning my head to watch it I saw that I was not alone -- fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor's mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars. Something in his leisurely movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested that it was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens.

I decided to call to him. Miss Baker had mentioned him at dinner, and that would do for an introduction. But I didn't call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone -- he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a cruious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward -- and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.

[The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Copyright 1925 by Charles Scribner's Sons]
Upper Big Branch suggestion:
An idea for Massey's Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia -- CEO Don Blankenship's office could be re-located to space inside the mine, miles down in the earth -- causing prioritization of Safety to rise, and safety violations to be lowered.
(This would prove to be a Mathematical Truth, I think.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

time screaming by

Got so carried away trying to learn and taking notes, forgot to --
post on my Blog, and to
eat my salad.

Will have to take what's in lunch-box HOME, to eat it.

Good article -- learned world of new stuff.
sort of -- some -- a lot -- I have to deduce what it means by context.
That's OK; that's actually probably good for you.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

pastel ambience

Turning me around by one arm he moved a broad flat hand along the front vista, including in its sweep a sunken Italian garden, a half acre of deep pungent roses and a snub-nosed motor boat that bumped the tide off shore.

"It belonged to Demaine the oil man." He turned me around again, politely and abruptly. "We'll go inside."

We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosey-colored space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end. The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding cake of the ceiling -- and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea.

The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor.

[The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Copyright 1925
by Charles Scribner's Sons. (from Chapter I).]
Nice, huh?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

through the books

"You've been with the professors now,
And they've all liked your looks.
With great lawyers you have discussed
lepers and crooks.
You've been through all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald's books..."

[Bob Dylan. "Ballad of a Thin Man." Album:
Highway 61 Revisited. 1965. Columbia Records]
Haven't been through all of Fitzgerald's books, but some.
The Great Gatsby.
That's the one to read if you're selecting only one. It's representative.
When I was in college (majoring in English Literature) I read Fitzgerald books and short stories on my own time, + a biography or two. The Roaring Twenties was the background of his life and his stories.
And at that same time in my life, discovering the music of Bob Dylan: and when I heard Dylan sing that line about "F. Scott Fitzgerald's books" -- I was like, "Whoa!"
(The "Roaring Twenties" were weird. Alcohol consumption and sales had been outlawed -- a federal law, I think, an actual amendment -- strange when you think about it. And once it was against the law more people than ever proceeded to drink more than ever. One of those Reverse Psychology situations. That slice of American history provides a grounding for some of the arguments in favor of legalizing marijuana....)
This morning, remembering the experience of reading those books of short stories by F. Scott, while in school, I recalled sitting -- or standing -- on public transportation, reading F. Scott Fitzgerald. Buses; subways; trolleys. Going to work; going to clubs to hear bands.
Once on way home from a day working at a real estate appraiser's office during the summer, I got sitting-space on a long bench on an old trolley car on the Red Line. When you sat on those during commuting week-day hours, it would be crowded -- rare to get a seat, and you're squooshed right next to a person on each side of you (unless you're at the end, in which case, one person on one side of you).
When you have to be that close to people you don't know, you don't look. I rode about 7 stops that day, reading (either Fitzgerald or Gone With The Wind) and when arrived at my stop in Cambridge, got up, and the person right next to me got up too -- he was one of the guys who lived in the apartment right across the hallway from my roommate and me !

Monday, April 5, 2010

a thousand years young

Go on YouTube and type in
Arlo Guthrie & Willie Nelson.
Then click on "Enter."
The list presented on your screen will probably have at or near the top:
Arlo Guthrie & Willie Nelson, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken"
Play that for yourself.
It's a live performance in a nightclub in New Orleans called Tipitina's.

On Easter Sunday, played this for a boy who is 10 years old.
He knew who Willie Nelson was.
He knew the song (not this particular performance, but the song).
And he sort of knew who Arlo Guthrie is because his mom had recently given him an Arlo CD.
And -- my ten-year-old friend liked the performance I played for him. !

(Mick Jagger says he can't get it; if he calls to consult with me, I can now explain it to him.)

In front of the ten-year-old yesterday, referred to myself as being "a thousand years old"; he patiently and firmly (and articulately) told me, "You're not a thousand years old."

Maybe we should all have things Explained to us by ten-year-olds.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

kindest regards

A few days ago, e-mailed the Republican U.S. Senator from the state where I live. Urged him to take the lead on creating more civil political discourse. (I basically wanted him to fix Everything. That's why they get paid the big Salary.)

This morning, driving, thought -- "Yeah, I'll bet he'll get right on that."
When at a computer, checked my e-mail, and there was a reply from him (or from his computer) - !
"Kindest regards" at the end.

"I frequently work with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle..."
"...move forward with regional priorities."
"I will review all legislative proposals with an open mind, as I have always done."
"I also intend to protect the Senate's history of full and open consideration of major legislation..."
(This could have been a "shot" at the health care legislation, I'm not sure. When politicians want to stop their "colleagues on the other side of the aisle" from getting legislation passed, a frequent tactic is to claim process was not "open" enough. You could have full-time, non-stop debate for ten years, televised on 50 channels, streaming on the internet, equal time for speakers from both parties, and still at the end of ten years politicians who either didn't like the legislation, or liked it but just didn't want the other party to get credit for accomplishing it, would still say the process wasn't "open" enough and there wasn't enough debate.
This is a tactic. When you've run out of legitimate questions, problems, or criticisms, just say there wasn't enough debate or openness. Both Democrats and Republicans have used this tactic.

And I'm not sure my Senator was using this tactic. I'm "reading in." And it's not wrong to do that, because in politics there are often if not always un-stated meanings and hints and implications which are meant to "move" us in one direction or another. I "listen" for them.)

Sen. T. also wrote: "I believe this approach best reflects the tradition of independent thought and fair-mindedness that has come to define our political culture in [our state]."
That's a sentence which expresses the way things should be, as if they are. And maybe they are. Independent thought. Fair-mindedness. That's us! Who wouldn't want those? (I'll have some! Pass the plate!)


Friday, April 2, 2010

court supreme

Who is that "redneck if" guy? Cannot remember his name.
Anyway -- I've got one:
"You know you're a redneck IF -- you refer to all Hispanic (or Latino) people as "Mexicans."

You know -- some of the Spanish-speaking people in our country are from Texas.
Texas is not in Mexico.
Some of the Spanish-speaking people in our country are from Guatemala. Some are from Panama.
Guatemala and Panama are not in Mexico.
Neither is Puerto Rico, or Cuba.
Nothing wrong with Mexico -- it's fine to be referred to as "Mexican" if one is indeed from the country of Mexico.

In the part of the country where I live, I always notice it but it doesn't surprise me, when one of these "cap-guys" (God bless them) refers to any - and - all Spanish-speaking people as "Mexicans." However, one day I heard the "Mexican" reference incorrectly used & was so surprised - !

"Person 900" is a woman who works at the company where I work. I see her almost every day, M-F. She is a cute person, with a cute personality, and lots of style. She bubbles over with laughter and enthusiasm, and she works really hard. She's from Mexico and has worked in America for years; as I understand it she has some kind of dual citizenship.

(Whenever I wear or do something new or different -- hair, make-up, shoes, whatever -- she appraises, nods approval, and pronounces me "Sexy!")
She's just so funny.
Person 900 knows I take an interest in current events and politics; we both like Pres. Obama. (Last year before the Election, watching Barack O. speak, Person 900 said to me, squinting, with both doubt & optimism, "He -- handsome. Right?"

When the president nominated Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, I arrived at work and as I passed by Person 900's working area, she called out my name; as I walked toward her she said, "Obama! He nominate Mexican to Court Supreme!"

This hit me on a couple of levels. "Court Supreme. So cute. Of course in Spanish the adjective often comes after the noun -- "a girl very pretty," etc.

But what really surprised me was hearing her refer to Sotomayor as a "Mexican"! Might expect that from one of my cap-guy friends. But Person 900 is actually Mexican; she knows very well that the Bronx, where Sotomayor was born, is most certainly not in Mexico, and neither is Puerto Rico where the Latina Justice's ancestors were from.

Person 900 was simply using the word "Mexican" to mean anyone who's Hispanic. She's such a relaxed, social, cheerful person -- it's her style to "go with the flow" on something like that, instead of taking offense, or correcting people.

Like the saying, "When in Rome do as the Romans do."
(Some of these guys, I swear, if they were indeed IN Rome, they'd be calling the Romans "Mexicans" too!)

(In a Book Review, reading about a book detailing Franklin Roosevelt's difficulties and machinations with the Supreme Court -- the reviewer listed people on the Supreme Court at that time, the 1930s. One name: Benjamin Cardozo. Saw that and I thought, Could current media be mistaken in saying Sonia Sotomayor is first Hispanic person on Supreme Court -- "Cardozo" sounds like an Hispanic name, to me.

Looked him up: he was from New York City; his grandparents on both sides were "Sephardi Jews" -- Jewish people who lived on Portugal's Iberian Peninsula. Some of those left during the Inquisition [always a great time to get the hell out] and went to Holland, and some to England, and later some of those emigrated to America.
Cardozo: a Portuguese name.)

Sum up: Sonia Sotomayor is indeed first Hispanic person on Supreme Court.
And Benjamin Cardozo was not the first Jewish person on the Supreme Court; he was the second.
First was Louis Brandeis, earlier in Twentieth Century.


Thursday, April 1, 2010


Go to You Tube, and type in
The Third Man
A list will appear underneath this title: about four lines down, or so, it will say, "The Third Man cuckoo clock"
Click on that
Then the first three selections they offer you at the top -- two of them are :20 seconds or so. One is 6 minutes. Play the 6-minute one.

The setting is Vienna right after World War II. The city was divided into quarters -- U.S. ran one; Russia ran one; and the other two, can't remember....
"The Third Man" was filmed on location. The plunky zither music is to help us feel like we are in Vienna in 1945. And it works.

I first heard this cuckoo clock argument from my American History professor, sophomore or junior year of college. (He told it to us, but he didn't support it.) He didn't mention it was in a movie. So it came as a surprise -- a "ding!" moment -- when I was watching "The Third Man" (on a big screen, thank you very much wonderful Coolidge Corner Theater!!) and the actor Orson Welles told Professor Offner's story.

It's a funny, surprising feeling: like having someone grab you and hug you when you didn't expect it.

The tension in this movie clip: genius.