Monday, August 30, 2010

Pleasure of discovering little known writers

I miss the Housing Works Thrift shops in NYC because readers of serious books gave their extras to these shops and I found wonderful books I can't find in the local second hand shops which are far too heavy in Danielle Steel and Barbara Cartland as if people read only "beach books" all year round. One of my happiest pleasures is finding a book with an interesting blub by some author I never heard of, putting it in my to-read bookcase and then one day finally saying, Maybe I'll try that one. Once in a while it's a looser and goes in the give-away pile after 25 pages. Mostly it's a winner.

Chingas [there are various spellings] Aitmatov was a Russian writer, well respected even during the dark Stalin and post-Stalin years. If his best known book which I've just read, A Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years, is representative, he walked a tightrope brilliantly. The protagonist is a hard working Kazakh who lives at a tiny railroad switching station town, a be-medalled ex-soldier with a steadfast wife and a grand camel. In the one day the man undertakes to bury is longtime friend and mentor - a 30 kilometer journey across the steppe desert. But the novel includes much of the man's history at this lonely outpost and that of other residents too; it also includes a couple or three myths from the area and incidentally some of the happenings at a super secret space station in the desert [which has a cooperative twin in the US in Nevada].

On one level I simply enjoy a believable look at a place, it's people, in a society I know nothing about although I have stereotypes in mind about all of Russia during those years -- they are partly broken down by my involvement with the Kazakh, his family and friends and by seeing what Aitmatov was able to pull off as he told his story. It seems to be translated with simplicity and good sense. I assume that is Aitmatov's style in writing about these people who also have simplicity and good sense.

For my next reading, I've just picked up an American book from my to-read shelf and I am sure I am going to like it. However I have always taken a special pleasure in reading the work of writers from other countries and cultures who tell me stories with an insider's point of view and selection of careful details. I will long remember the major image from the book: a old man on a big, fine camel, a scrubby rust-colored dog trotting along, behind them the body wrapped in a shroud and a rug lying in a trailer, accompanied by a son-in-law and a son riding in the tractor pulling the trailer, plus behind them a digging machine ... moving across a flat, gray desert while an eagle circles above ... and while my mind is full of myth and also the futuristic story of the cosmonauts who have found life elsewhere in the universe which the powers on earth [Russian AND American] decide to keep secret lest the delicate balance on earth is disturbed ... for the better.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday Summary #15

Cats cause more allergies than do dogs, an male cats are more likely to cause allergies than female and some evidence suggests that dark colored fur causes more allergic reactions than light. Those who compiled these facts did not mention that light colored cats especially love to leave their fur on dark colored clothing, especially when the wearer is going to an important event.

It's true, as many of us hoped, that chocolate is good for us. Modest amounts can help lower blood pressure and Swedish women who eat chocolate one or two times a week have fewer heart attacks than those who never eat chocolate. However daily indulgence in large quantities has adverse effects, like obesity which may lead to diabetes and more heart attacks. Some of the best things in life should be rationed, not gorged on.

Who would think of a banana peel as "real estate"? A marketing expert, of course. People at Chiquita Banana consider the peels prime real estate for building their brand -- via those little stickers which have been designed to welcome you to the land of Delicious. Lately Chiquita has decided to redesign those stickers, which they announced on their website. Some 25,000 people supplied possible new versions -- all sticking to the familiar blue and yellow color scheme. Some 1355 were chosen as finalists and will be voted on. 18 winners will eventually appear on a banana near you -- perhaps as near as in the hand approaching your mouth.

The more complex our civilization grows the longer it takes our human offspring to be ready for adulthood. For most of history a child was treated like a smaller adult and at very early ages set to work as part of the family. In early industrial society [some parts of the world are still at this stage] children worked in factories from as young as 9 or 10. But then, in the US and elsewhere, a stage called adolescence was recognized when children grew rapidly and become unruly, about that time adulthood began to be defined as either 18 or 21 [depending on local laws]. Since then young people accepting adult responsibilities, like marriage, has changed too. In the '70s, the average age for marriage was women, 21, men, 23; by 2009 it was women 26, men 28. Now the whole 20-something period has become an extended pre-adulthood with many young people returning to their parents' nest after college.

Enough soft "science." A couple of political facts, civilians in Iraq are safer than those in Venezuela. Last year 4,644 civilians in Iraq died violently; in Venezuela the number was a staggering 16,047. Mexico may be trying to compete in numbers with Venezuela, but many of their dead are hidden in mass graves.

Finally, the worlds biggest traffic jam -- between Hohhut, a city in Inner Mongolia, and Beijing is about 60 miles long. For more than a week the traffic jam on that four to six lane road is so bad many people have been stuck for up to five days on a journey they could probably walk in five days. Some reports say it is easing, others say this kind of jam is going to go on for as much as five years while the government, a bit belatedly, builds rail lines to carry the coal mined in Hohhut, thus getting the many coal carrying trucks off the road. People who live along the route are taking advantage and selling apples, noodles and such for whatever exorbitant prices they can get. Nothing has been written as far as I've seen about the sanitary facilities, or lack thereof. Labor Day travelers in the US may have to deal with heavy traffic but before road rage sets in they might consider that 60 mile traffic jam and take a few grateful breaths.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Short attention span?

For years articles have talked about how young people have a very short attention span -- supposedly due to TV, computers, etc. I've long suspected the short attention span is that of bored and essentially lazy movie, TV producers, and book editors. Harry Potter books are pretty darned long, The Lord of the Rings is too, so are a lot of Stephen King books, a lot of fantasy and sci-fi multi-volume stories.

This truth or myth, whichever it actually is, has definitely invaded the world of senior writing opportunities. I have recently found two places that solicit stories by and for people over 60 -- BUT one wants pieces no more than 1000 words and the other limits it to 750 words. Why? I don't believe it is for the readers' sake; I think it is laziness on the editors' part. I love words, I love stories, I love full and interesting characterization, vivid description, complex stories. None of those attributes are possible in 1000 words. The so-called "flash fiction" that some serious literary journals solicit is utterly boring except in the cases where it is actually a prose poem with the density of lanugage and meaning of a poem, not a short story. And very few people are capable of writing truly fine prose poems, just as very few poets can write fine haiku.

If I write a 2500 word short story [and I generally do] I would eviscerate the characters, turn settings into stereotype and washout most of the vivid details. I don't want to read or write that kind of short story. Most of mine will remain on my hard drive with hard copies shared with only a very close friends.

Monday, August 23, 2010

When you call yourself, what do you say?

The windows have been dripping with rain all day. After months of very little rain, and most of that at night, I feel as if I'm a school kid having a snow day. I spent more time than usual just browsing the blogs this morning and came across a post that I've been thinking about all day.

The blogger said she had noticed that many young women use the screen name Soandso'sMom. She found that many of those blogs were largely about parenting or about the kids. Not surprising. On the Swap-bot site which has several thousand members, mostly women, from all over the world, ages ranging from late teens to well into the 70s and maybe even 80s, everyone has a screen name and everyone has posted a profile revealing as much or as little as they choose. Quite a few identify themselves in their screen name as someone's mom -- sometimes I find that someone is a cat or dog. I certainly haven't done a study correlating interests to names but I'm sure the blogger I referred to above is correct about the family orientation of the women who choose to use "Mom" as part of their screen name.

Some people refer to their craft in their name, some to where they live, many have combined parts of first and last names or used nicknames -- nothing surprising there. For instance my other blog is called "Calenderpages" which is my last name [spelled with the er instead of ar that is "correct"] because that seemed to me a logical name for a blog or any sort of diary-ish writing. The name of this blog simply makes a statement about what I hope it says about life as a septuagenarian. Many blogs are named in this spirit.

One observation that disturbs me is that many screen names on the swap site include words like "angel, princess, fairy, nymph" and so on. These words suggest childishness. Older people easily call a child whose name they don't know by these "sweet" words. What does it mean when an adult chooses such a word for her identification? It feels inappropriate to me. I also notice some names which are personal put-downs. I'm reluctant to be specific but really can't get past the one that is "mousepoo". My instinct says the woman feels this is funny, but it seems to be funny at her own expense so that we cannot take her seriously.

What do older people call themselves on such sites? Some do choose "gramma" or "nana" which I think has the same implication as "mom". Some use the word "lady" which I like although I feel I may be politically incorrect in feeling that way. It is a word that suggests dignity beyond "woman". Lady seems ageless. Nowadays "gentleman" seems to be used only for an older man except when we say it of a small boy to suggest he has unusually good manners for one his age.

Society [in America and many other countries] is shifting, and our language is shifting with it, of course. I am not comfortable with "crone" which many older women like. I am unhesitating about asking for a "senior" ticket at the movie theatre. But I cringe at "golden ager". I don't really know what to call myself when I call myself something, except for the name on my passport which is the name my parents gave me and, in fact, I have never liked it very much. Although it may sound appropriate, I will not accept "grumpy old lady."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday Summary #14

For many, many people going to the movies means eating popcorn. The large tub in an average theater contains 20 cups of popcorn which is 1200 calories, and 980 mg of sodium, 60 grams of saturated fat; the small size is 11 cups of popcorn, 670 calories, 550 mg sodium and 29 grams of saturated fat. Maybe you ought to switch to Twizzles?

A bit of data that makes me feel good even though I no longer live in NYC [where I was a regular jaywalker]: jaywalkers were the least often in pedestrian accidents [I knew this -- we actually LOOK where we're going[. The pedestrians most often hit were the ones who wait for the Walk light and cross only at the cross walk. They were not hit by taxis nearly as often as by private cars, and those cars were nearly always driven by men.

This leads us to people with criminal records, of which there are, in the US, 47 MILLION. Prosecutors win 90% of their cases [don't get me started on the public defender system]. And 90% of the people in the US who require confinement due to mental illness are in prisons, not mental hospitals.

While our justice system is far from perfect, Saudi Arabia can be vicious; the eye for an eye verdict has been ordered by a judge in the case of a man who attacked another with a cleaver leaving the victim paralyzed due to an injured spine. The attacker will have his spinal cord damaged at the same place and will be paralyzed in the same way.

Moving to less gruesome medical matters, neurologists now think that Lou Gehrig did not have AML [amyotropic lateral sclerosis] after all -- it's the disease we call "Lou Gehrig's Disease". In fact many diagnoses of AML may be wrong. The sort of disease Lou Gehrig had seems to be caused by concussions such are often suffered by athletes, especially football players, as Gehrig was in high school and college. He was famous for playing with injuries and is known to have concussions at various times. AML is a different disease, the cause of which is still unclear. Medical knowledge is constantly in flux. Furthermore the unknowns far outweigh what is known.

In today's paper an article about how patient's feeding tubes and IV tubes are frequently mixed up and that the mix ups are rarely reported beyond hospital's in-house statistics, although several people have died because of it. The two apparently look almost identical. Food pumped into a view is like plugging it with concrete says the article, chaos ensues and if not discovered soon leads to death. I've had numerous medical people say to me "stay out of hospitals if you possibly can."

A social change in China -- when a large manufacturer laid off many white collar workers in a downsizing move, several dozen of them gathered outside the factory one morning in their usual work clothes, then at a signal all put on tee shirt with a protest message printed on them. They were almost immediately arrested and hustled into five waiting buses to be taken to jail. This suggests some subtext: someone had tipped off the police, this is the first known protest of white collar workers, someone tipped off the international media because this was on the front page of the NYTimes. China may still repress protest and dissent but it will be seen around the world.

Finally the latest social stigma in NYC [and I'm glad I don't live there right now] is the shunning of people who are trying to deal with infestations of bedbugs. It started [at least as reported] a few years ago with the critters in a popular hotel near Madison Square Garden and they've spread to both public and private places, including at least on movie theatre. Bedbug sniffing beagles can be hired by worried people. But those who, through no fault of their own, live with the biters are not invited to parties, are often not even hugged by their friends as people are terrified of accidentally carrying them home. And to return to the justice system, since bedbugs are known to be in some jails, lawyers chose to meet with their [out of jail] clients in coffee shops instead of allowing them into their offices. We've heard that the meak will inherit the earth but really, the cockroaches and bedbugs will.

Friday, August 20, 2010

What Bee Did

Bee not only buzzed
When swatted at, Bee deviled,
Bee smirched. And when fuddled,
like many of us, Bee labored, Bee reaved.
He behaved as well as any Bee can have.

Bee never lied. Bee never lated.
And despite the fact Bee took, Bee also stowed.
In love, Bee sieged. Bee seeched.
Bee moaned, Bee sighed himself.
Bee gat with his Beloved.

And because Bee tokened summer
(the one season we all, like Bee, must lieve)
Bee also dazzled.

This poem is by Julie Larios from The Best American Poetry of 2007. The Bee came to see one of my favorites in the book.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Still Playing AroundAs

As if I didn't learn yesterday to stop snooping in the cluttered info available on Google, today I found a site that purports to tell you who you write like. It was not highly recommended by the person who wrote about it but, of course, I was curious. One must copy at least a couple of paragraphs, better a couple of pages, of his/her writing to this site and simply hit the "analyze" bit at the bottom to be told within a second or two who you write like.

The person who mentioned the site had input some of Melville and been told that the writing was like James Joyce, and that some pages of Lovecraft were like Jack London. But some of Poe was indeed like Poe. So, thought I, What fun! I input some of a short story that I think of as be in my "tough" voice and it came out "like David Foster Wallace." I have never read Mr. Wallace but I know that I have adopted that voice from other things I've read -- not to copy them but because it's a voice of a no-nonsense character and some of my first person characters are that sort. Now I really must read a bit of Wallace.

Then I tried another short story in a meditative tone with thoughts by the protagonist about the "monkey mind" of which Buddhists speak. I was told that resembled Rudyard Kipling. Monkeys were the only similarity I could find there. I'll try something else possibly tomorrow and see what I get -- maybe I will get a feeling of schizophrenia.

It's the so called Dog Days of Summer when some of us feel a bit stagnant and look for entertainment where it can be easily found.

Image above: Roses all growing on one stem, looking like a perfect bridal bouquet.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Instant Humility

The picture is just for its beauty and doesn't refer to what little I am about to write.

I discovered instant humility in a chance google search. Apparently someone calculates hits on blogs and in the world of blogging [or maybe just blogger] my other blog, Calenderpages, ranks 16,610,158th. Some tidbits of information we really don't need to know.

I can't even say my "head is bloody but unbowed," I don't feel bloodied, I'll just carry on as if I never saw that bit of information.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday Summary #13

An iceberg broke off of Greenland's larger glacier creating an island four times as large as Manhattan. It is taller than half the height of the Empire State Building and contains enough water to keep the Hudson and Delaware Rivers flowing for three years. And it's all fresh, clean water!

Sonia Gandhi, head of the Congress Party in India has proposed that the "right to food" be a universal law of the land. Just in India's eight poorest states, in 26 of Africa's poorest countries. We in the developed world don't even think about whether having food is a right -- we take it for granted and eat far more than we need for good health.

On the subject: doctors in some clinics are prescribing "farm"aceuticals -- Actually writing prescriptions for people to eat fresh fruit and vegetables.

Speaking of growing things: in the arid sections of the south of France lavender has long been one of the few cash crops that grows in that soil and climate. They produce 70% of the world's lavender which amounts to 15 tons of scented oil for perfume on every 1000 acres. Synthetic oils have been produced and threaten the market for real lavender these days. But the beautiful fields have also served as an attraction for tourists.

Other attractions for tourists that are becoming increasingly popular in Europe, especially France and England, are slag heaps from coal mines that have been covered, planted with grass which is kept watered and wet and used as ski slopes year round. Other slag heaps have been turned into paraglider runways, ampitheaters and even bird sanctuaries.

Being the director a world class museum can be a very cushy job. Not only do the directors of the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Modern Art get very large salaries all are provided with free housing -- the MoMA condo is in the tower above the museum, the others' large apartments are within very easy walking distance. And they don't have to pay tax, for some reason, on this perk.

Of course, I'm sure, everyone knows about my favorite incident of the week -- the airline steward who lost all cool, cursed out the passengers and his job, on the public PA system, pushed the emergency chute and slid out of the plane, ran to his car in the employee parking lot and drove home. Soon, of cosure, he was arrested and is unlikely to fly again. The part I like best is the vision in my mind's eye of him sliding down the chute. It's as good as get-aways in action movies. And I'm not sorry the passenger got cursed out for getting up and opening the overhead bin - I've always felt irked by those people who think that's going to get them someplace faster than the rest of the passengers.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Book Buying

Bookstores and credit cards are a dangerous combination and tables marked "50% OFF second book" are icy patches in the road. I know this. I see those icy patches from far off. Do I slow my forward momentum, crawl past them keeping a firm hand on the steering wheel? Ha! I hit them full speed, do a 360 or two or three and find myself at the check out counter with many hundreds of pages to read.

The pile in the pictures is yesterday's loot. This was my conversation with the smart, slightly nerdy looking clerk -- it was a slow time, just then I was the only customer checking out.

I don't know why I can't resist these thick books.

It's the thirst for knowledge.

That's true. But over the years I've accumulated so many kinds of knowledge I don't have anyone to talk to anymore.

I think there's a parabola in acquiring knowledge. It's a very long upward curve and it makes it possible to talk to many more people with diverse interests as you advance.

I feel like I'm on the downward side of the curve where I've got fewer people to share all this accumulation with. I rarely have a conversation about the renaissance or the age of exploration.

Knowledge is always satisfying for itself, like beauty

BIG SIGH! I forked over the credit card and signed the slip. Came home ruminating about Jonas' descriptive after last Saturday's post, "a free range mind." That sounded very good and I think he meant it positively. But I pictured the chickens on my parent's farm long before "free range" arrived as a marketing concept. It was simply farmers grew their own chickens. They wandered about the barnyard, the cow lot and the weedy fields around the chicken house indiscriminately eating whatever bugs they found, whatever worms they scratched up from the ground and whatever hands full of chicken feed we threw to them [cracked corn, various sorts of grains and seed]. They thrived, laid tasty eggs and were themselves tasty when they became Sunday dinner. But they were birdbrains and, essentially food factories.Bo

There are analogies to be drawn. Perhaps those analogies are best left largely unexplored. Meanwhile, I really love fat books that are great overviews of history from one point of view or another. So when am I going to read these book, or the 13 picked up the library book sale last week?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Uninvited guests

The Canadian geese are back. They were here well into the snowy season and then disappeared -- presumably to more southerly foraging grounds. Then they came back for only a month or so early in the spring. And disappeared again. -- North, even to Canada? I don't know. The crows took over the morning wake up duties, we seem to have feuding congregations of them -- congregations do, of course feud fiercely sometimes. The crows certainly strut about like righteous parsons in their clerical feathers. They had stayed all winter, in fact, but must have been proselytizing because their numbers grew. Some mornings they seemed to be preaching about hell fire and damnation, usually from tree tops but sometimes from the lawn or parking lot.

The last few weeks the geese have returned, at first just a few and just for a couple of hours in the morning. Then more and more, they look, but do not sound like Quakers in their gray garb. Now their 5:15a.m.honking tells me the clock radio will soon come on. They have breakfast on the lawn by this side of the apartment complex. Nobody likes their leavings in the grass. Joe, the handyman sympathizes. This morning I had just had breakfast and was checking my email when I heard a motor -- Joe, on the little green John Deere, was herding geese off the lawn, riding like a determined cowboy -- I listened for a "get along, Little Goosies" but he played the strong silent type in a baseball cap instead of a stetson. I'll be curious if they are back tomorrow morning ... somehow, I think they will.

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Place, Sally Morgan

Touted as "The American Roots" for it's US editions, My Place by Sally Morgan is a book anyone who is curious about what the lives of Australian Aborigines, especially the women, is like today should read this book. The book is written in simple declarative sentences broken into short chapters; there is nothing difficult about this book -- until one begins contemplating the difficulties Sally, her mother and her Nan [Grandmother] had in her young years. And then the reader wonders, with Sally, why there are so many things neither mother or grandmother will talk about. Sally doesn't ask a lot of questions until she's well into high school but then she can't stop asking questions. Slowly she realizes she, a light skinned woman who does not look especially Aboriginal, actually is "black".
Only because of her insatiable curiosity does the family's story finally unfold -- rather it is dug, pulled and clawed out of the family and, at the end, areas of secrecy remain. Both mother and grandmother were taken from their mothers at early ages and soon forced to become domestics in white households. They say plainly they were treated like animals in most cases, and at the mercy of their "employers" including the men who fathered children with them -- children they never claimed.

This is not a new book. Sally has written another and is a professor now. A good many years ago I met an Aboriginal woman who is a playwright who, like Sally's mother and grandmother, had been separated from her mother at a very young age. We Americans can read Sally's story and mutter "How terrible" but, in fact, the American government had a similar policy, at least with some groups of Native Americans, until quite recently. We also might contemplate that last winter the Australian government finally issued an official apology to the Aboriginal people. The U.S. government has never done anything of the sort.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday Summary #12

I'm chuckling this morning over the big stir [pun intended] about how Thomas' English Muffins get all their "nooks and crannies". Not the how so much as the names involved. A couple of years ago the company was purchased by a Mexican company, Grupo Bimbo. So Bimbo USA is the owner of the muffin company and it's $500,000 a year product. One employee recently got fed up with company policies and decided to move on to the makers of Ho-hos and Twinkies [Hostess]. He was formerly one of only seven people with the secret of how the muffins get their butter and jam welcoming holes. He's accused of planning to break his confidentiality agreement to let the Hostess Company in on the secret. It's more complicated than that but he seems to have been dissatisfied with being a Bimbo baker. I can't say I take Ho-hos quite as seriously as I take English muffins.

Forgotten history item: The US-Dakota War in Minnesota [before statehood]lasted six weeks in 1862 and ended with the public hanging of 38 Sioux on December 26th. Eventually an obelisk weighing 8,500 pounds was erected to commemorate what the Dakota and Sioux considered a massacre. It stood for years in a parking lot but in 1971 was taken down and stored in a warehouse. It has not utterly disappeared, just as has our memory of this action and numerous others against the Native Americans.

A term I learned this week, "linear forests" is applied to the hedgerows that have been a part of English and French countryside for centuries. These are being torn down and disappearing to enable mechanical farming thus destroying a habitat for many small animals and insects like butterflies. In France, between 1960 and 1990, 217,350 miles of hedges were destroyed. The butterflies seem to be moving on to municipal parks. I don't know what happens to the hedgehogs.

Other terms I like: among serious scientists are the "skin out" and "skin in" researchers. Frances Crick [Nobelist for discovery of helical DNA structure] is a skin in scientist. He said of skin out-er, Stephen Jay Gould, "The trouble with you evolutionary biologists is that you are always asking 'why' before you understand 'how'." The world is fortunate to have heavy weights on both ends of the seesaw.

In terms of light weight: Bicycles are now being made of bamboo and are becoming popular with bike messengers and people in countries where many cannot afford autos. Bamboo is the world's fastest growing grass. -- Yes, it's a grass.-- It can grow as much as 3 feet a day. It is a very renewable resource. It's tensile strength per pound is equal to steel.

An ecological disaster, among several I've read this week, the heavier than usual monsoon season has sent so much water carrying the waste dumped up-river down the Yangtze that tons of waste are piling up behind the Three Gorges Dam. They have been carting away as much as 3,000 tons a day but can't keep up with the inflow which threatens to disable the dam's lock system.

Also in China, factories that have been dedicated to making faux designer handbags and other luxury items are changing their products due to decreasing purchases in the US and elsewhere; they have shifted to mid-level products like Kate Spade and Liz Claiborne bags. Of course handbags are far from the only counterfeited products being made, the actual list is pages and pages long. [But none of the products are English muffins.]

The Nepali embassy in Kuwait is filled with Nepali women wishing to return home because their jobs as domestic servants have been more like slave labor than they expected. Likewise, in the Philippine embassy women wanting to go home are sleeping on their suitcases in every available space -- all hoped to make decent money, all are disappointed.

Finally a product the Chinese are not yet producing for the world market: Vulva Original is not a perfume, it is a scent that sells for $31 a vial which has a roll on top [like some deodorants have] because it is meant to be used sparingly, rolled on the wrist or top of one's hand. It's meant to be sniffed in order enhance the pleasure of male self-stimulation. The makers emphasize that it is not to be applied to any mucus membranes. My reading did not list where to purchase the product, surely an internet search would reward the needy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Etudes - poem

Reading in bed last night, this poem totally charmed me. It's by Elaine Equi and is in Best Poems of 2007, previously published in "the tiny".


Autumn is solitude.
Winter is fortitude.
Spring is altitude.
Summer is attitude.

Summer is multitude.
Autumn is aptitude.
Winter is Quaalude.
Spring is prelude.

Spring is lassitude.
Summer is longitude.
Autumn is gratitude.
Winter is interlude.

Winter is beatitude.
Spring is platitude.
Summer is verisimilitude.
Autumn is semi-nude

This seemed to me too good not to share.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Blogging, tweeting and such

Tweets are being saved by the Library of Congress, as I noted in the previous post. I don't tweet, don't do Facebook or any of those others but, obviously, I blog. As I ate breakfast I read Peggy Orenstein's essay in yesterday's NYTimes Magazine, "I Tweet, Therefore I Am." As I think about what her essay I believe blogging is, at least for those of us who blog no more than once a day, and often much less regularly, a different experience than tweeting.

Orenstein emphasizes a an outward thrust of persona, a pervasive self-consciousness about what one is experiencing, even in relaxed and maybe intimate moments, crafting one's sense of what's happening into a few brief words to be shared with the anyone who reads Twitter. For instance she was listening to a recorded reading of "The Trumpet of the Swan" with her daughter and forming in her mind the 140 character tweet she could post about the experience. How many people externalize that kind of moment [is this quality time with your daughter ?] into a comment? I think most just live those moments. Although, as someone who's written all my life, with a trunk full of journals stashed away, I know that some of us have a habit of regularly putting our experiences, even very mundane ones, into words with a feeling that we are more watchers than actors. Knowing this is how my mind works, I've always thought it odd -- and I've known very few other people who do this ... although it now sounds like it's becoming much more usual.

I've always thought of blogging as being akin to journalistic reportage, though mostly more personal and usually of lesser importance. For me it's a chance to shape small insights, or experiences in order to share them with a few others who may say ho-hum, or may have a small new piece of information or insight -- just as they read, or used to read, papers and magazines.

If Orenstein is correct and millions of people [especially young people] are constantly self-aware, and, at least part of the time fabricating to seem different [more interesting] than they are, then, as she hints, something important is happening psychically. I partly hope for at least a small backlash of people turning to meditation, quiet time, a respite from constant thinking of self to think only of breathing or a mantra or a candle flame. An internal life seems necessary to me, areas of privacy that we will share only with those closest to us or perhaps forge into poetry or other writing or musical composition, art. It's a big subject and I have only begun thinking about it.

As with much else read in American traditional media, most of it talks to and about a small percentage of the population -- never mind the huge numbers of users these virtual media claim, much greater numbers of people do not fit into these categories. They are not simply slow adapters, many have neither the means nor the impulse to be a part of this so-called technological revolution.