Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Good, for goodness sake!

He sees you when you’re sleeping!?

Well that’s just great.

Set aside for the moment the inherent creepiness of that idea – Billy Bob Thornton in a red velvet suit window peeping on a middle-aged woman. 

Hey!  I could be middle-aged!  What with modern science and life expectancies extended every year, 126 isn’t so unrealistic, is it?

Set it aside.  Santa’s not the National Security Administration after all.  Or, maybe he is more like the NSA that we want to believe.  The NSA’s benign, right?  Only checking in to see if we have been bad.  Totally disinterested if we have been good.  Right. 

Yep, that’s it.  The NSA is just keeping us on our Goody Two Shoes’ toes.  Like Santa.

So, if Santa sees a middle-aged woman sleeping with her mouth open, just as an example, she wouldn’t get demerits for that, would she?

Santa would still remember her modest Christmas wishes.  He would not be so grossed out that he crossed her off his list, would he?  Would he??

And why is it that only little kids sleep with their mouths closed, anyway?  They already have a leg up at the Bureau of the Cute and Adorable.  It is only in the autumn of one’s years that one’s chin relaxes, sags and ultimately lets go, only perfunctorily guarding one’s uvula.  We are the ones who need special consideration!

But surely Santa overlooks mouth breathing.  Surely.  He still knows she’s a good girl.  A dry tongue wouldn’t put him off, would it?  Everyone loves a parakeet!

And this whole thing with drool – again, endearing in the little ones, but for the rest of us, a sad soggy scenario, not appealing to Santa I fear.

And how does that phenomenon play itself out anyway?  Does a person just drool herself all the way to a dry mouth?  It is out of her control, you know.  She’s being judged while she SLEEPS! 

And still watching when I’m awake?  Relentless!  And utterly unfair.  How can a person bear up under this kind of scrutiny?

OK, I am mostly nice.  That counts for something, doesn’t it? 

I mean honestly, who doesn’t take the cream cheese frosting out of another lady’s shopping cart on occasion?  That’s not truly naughty!  I spent MINUTES scanning the shelves for it to no avail.

Geez!  Where’s the harm?  She found it the first time; she’ll find it again!  Come on Santa!  Cut a girl a break!

And the way I see it, I contributed to the greater good when I sat through a second green light after that mean man behind me honked so rudely and said unkind things when I absentmindedly sat through the first green light.  I’m sure he came away feeling philosophical.  I helped him understand that rushing through life robs it of its joy.  He must surely have paid it forward!

See?  Santa??

I am wondering what your perspective is on things like this.  I mean, what is your method of calculation on the good-bad spectrum?  Are there baskets or goalposts, points of any kind?  It is not so clear cut!  Shades of gray, Santa!  You have to inject some subjectivity!

I think those spontaneous acts of charity in traffic count for more than the fake ones everyone else points to this time of year.  So what if you are tripping around doing “random acts of kindness”?  Whoopti-frickin’-do! 

Let’s just cut to the chase on this thing:  You have the goodies and I want ‘em. 

I have made a good faith effort not to W. C. Fields it all over town.  That is to say I kept most of my cantankerousness to myself.  Anything you heard to the contrary was an unintentional burst of irritability brought on by all those perfect little people who are so annoying to the rest of us.  Don’t believe everything you hear Santa.  Everyone has an agenda.

So let loose with the largesse Santa Baby, or I alert the NSA to your brand of terrorism – nighttime peeping and list-keeping and playing of favorites!  I haven’t lived this many years to be cut out of the booty!

That’s right.  Two can play at this game.  When I’m good, I’m very good.  But when I’m bad…make a note of it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Moral of the story: Don't be too sure of yourself

Doomsday minister Harold Camping could have used some Hunch Farming.

Sparks & Honey, Cultural Strategists and coiners of the phrase “hunch farming,” say since we are already crowd-sourcing complex problem resolution, fundraising and political support; so why not farm our “hunches” from the masses? 

Of course with names like Sparks & Honey, it is hard to take them seriously.  It’s like getting your technology updates from Abercrombie & Fitch, or Peaches & Herb.

Nevertheless, they assure us that science is confirming the power of collective consciousness and intuition.

For example, they cite the phenomenon of social chatter spiking globally in the period leading up to the 2011 tsunami and before September 11th, “like birds instinctively warning the forest of a predator.”

And a prophecy about the end of the world is as good a place as any for hunch farming.

If only Sparks & Honey had been around to help the Reverend Camping market his concept.

They suggest basing prognostications not on mathematics as he did, but on the intuitive powers of the collective consciousness.

But the Reverend Camping tried to create his own chatter.  And then he didn’t listen to it.  Because he knew he was right, after all.

You remember Harold Camping, the California preacher who calculated the end of the world would arrive on May 21, 2011.  Via his radio ministry and as many as 5,000 billboards across the country, Camping flapped around trying to create frenzy around his prediction of global demise. 

He got all of us in a lather about it.  Or at least some of us. 

Actually, nobody I know got excited, but play along.

According to his former partner at the Family Radio Network, Camping was bull-headed.  He had a mathematical formula for working all this out and he was sure of himself. 

In fact, he was so certain that on May 22, 2011, the morning after his soothsaying flopped, amid a flustered flurry of harrumphs and mad re-calculations, he admitted only to an error in his arithmetic and announced the new and improved date of doom to be October 21, 2011.

As I recall, he said something like, “Oops.  I see where I went off,” before releasing the October date.  A master of denial, even though he was so publicly and undeniably wrong, he still knew he was right.

Camping exhorted his followers to shed their jobs, homes and bank accounts in preparation for the rapture.  Gotta travel light on the way up, it seems.

And amazingly, many who had not already done so stripped down to a carry-on and one small personal item and began gazing upward in anticipation of the new date.

On the morning of October 22, when once more he woke up with the rest of us, Mayans and assorted other non-believers, well, you can imagine.  He was chagrined.

The world had not ended again!  Camping had no choice but to accept that in spite of his calculus, his superior intellect and his pipeline to God, he really was wrong. 

In a letter to his followers he confessed he had no evidence the rapture was coming anytime soon.  He said he wasn't trying to work out any future dates and skulked off with a slide rule in his hand and cloud over his head.

And now, Reverend Harold Camping has died this week, before the world did.

One good thing about dying is that he cannot be embarrassed anymore about all the glaring blunders he made while alive on the planet.

Unless there actually is an afterlife.  In that case he must be way past chagrin.  That’s like an eternally red face.  He will never live that down!

That’s why I gave up being right all the time.  It just does not pay.  There is no joy in it for one thing.  When all is said and done, what do you have – “I told you so”?

And if you are wrong – all that celebration from everyone who wanted you to be wrong!  It may not be the end of the world, but it is intolerable for a know-it-all like me.

So I have retired from the throne. 

I leave all the divination to the birds.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Keep your mitts off my daydreams!

Who is this upstart brainpickings.org?  What do they know anyway?

I came across this article on the site, The Art of Constructive Daydreaming.”  It’s written by Maria Popova, who calls herself a “cultural curator.”  She is founder and Editor in Chief of Brain Pickings.

Popova talks about the “science of fantasy” and “imaginative escapism,” calling them essential elements of a satisfying mental life.

Now don’t get me wrong!  I am in full possession of a thoroughly satisfying mental life, if I do say so myself.  And I do say so. 

Why on any given day, my internal flights of fancy make Walter Mitty look like Casper Milquetoast.  I achieve imaginary greatness with regularity.  Oh yes!  I soar above my mundane actual life and fly virtually alongside Wonder Woman.  She does fly, doesn’t she?  In my daydreams she does; and time after time I edge her out.

You could say I’m in the same daydreaming league as some of the greats:  Truly famous creators like T. S. Eliot who called his flights of fancy “idea incubation;” Alexander Graham Bell who dressed up the habit with the moniker “unconscious cerebration:” and Lewis Carroll who applied the pragmatic appellation “mental mastication.”

Whatever you want to call it, I can incubate, celebrate, er, cerebrate and chew with the best of them. 

So you can understand how totally annoyed I am to find this come-lately Popova who has to ruin it for the rest of us long-time practitioners of the delicate art of whiling away the time.  She just had to dredge up the research, wave it in our faces and act like she knows something about something. 

To wit:  She sites Yale psychologist Jerome L. Singer and his foundational investigation of daylight ponderings.  His findings, published in The Inner World of Daydreaming, described three core styles of daydreaming:
·        Positive Constructive Daydreaming – a process fairly free of psychological conflict, in which playful, vivid, wishful imagery drives creative thought;
·        Guilty-dysphoric Daydreaming – driven by a combination of ambitiousness, anguishing fantasies of heroism, failure, and aggression, and obsessive reliving of trauma, a mode particularly correlated with PTSD; and
·        Poor Attentional Control – typical of the anxious, the distractible, and those having difficulties concentrating.

Thanks a lot Ms. Popova!  Now I feel like I have to analyze my own daydreaming habits and therefore psychoanalyze myself!  Where’s the fun in that?  Wouldn’t you much rather doze in the sunshine and dream about pina coladas?

But OK, here goes – It’s pretty obvious – I am surely the Positive Constructive Daydreamer, right?  In my daydreams, I imagine myself to be playful and free of conflict, not the crabby misanthrope who’s on the edge of road rage.  My vivid imagery drives my powerful creativity.  Yeah that’s it.

OK…that feels a little forced. 

But even if I do feel guilty for everything that ever went wrong anywhere, surely I am not “dysphoric”?!!  Do my Wonder Woman daydreams reveal an “anguishing fantasy of heroism”?  Yikes! 

When is a cigar just a cigar?

Of course, for me, the real truth probably lies behind Door #3: Poor Attentional Control.  I guess I have to face it:  I’m distractible.  It’s no fun to concentrate!  Too many pretty, shiny objects in the vicinity of my keyboard.

I would much rather don my cape and combat crime.  As soon as I finish this column.

Carolyn will matriculate to 4th grade, but she must learn to pay attention, follow directions and stay on task.


Friday, December 6, 2013

A Peter Cottontail Christmas

The Christmas Bunny 

I did it again.  I said the cursed words – “I’ll remember.”

I don’t remember.  Yet, like a crazy person, I continue to promise myself that I will remember.  And I believe myself! 

I must have an honest face.

For example, I might say to myself in a reasonable tone, “Carolyn, there’s no need to make a note of when you give the cats their flea treatment.  Yes, you do have at your disposal a perfectly good spot right on the package expressly for the purpose of making a note so you don’t coat your cats with flea goop so often that they wind up looking like Jersey Boys.  But why?  You will remember today as the day of their treatment.  Why it’s the Friday before the Wednesday you go to your six month check up with the dentist!” 

And so, I bypass the logical step of making a note.  I tell myself I’ll remember the extraordinary moment when I crack open the ampule and let the stuff ooze onto their little kitty napes.

In that moment, I truly believe I will remember.  But I never remember.  At the time of their next treatment, the cats are either flea-bitten or oily.

I guess I forget that I reminded myself that I quit remembering some years back. 

Thank goodness it’s not the terrifying kind of memory loss, the kind where you can’t remember that you have a car.  No, happily, I know I have a car.  Pretty sure.  Let me just go check….yep!  Car!


It’s that other kind of forgetfulness.  The stupid avoidable kind.

Here’s how it came to my attention this time:  Long ago I read a tip for spreading out the expense and stress of Christmas shopping – when people’s birthdays come around, buy them their birthday present AND a Christmas present! 

Deliver the birthday stuff and tuck the Christmas stuff safely away until December.  Then, voila!  All shopping is done except for those few people who might have December birthdays! 

Isn’t that just the best system?!

It is!  Except for this one thing:  I don’t know where I stashed that present, that really cool perfect gift I bought for my BFF back in March, on the occasion of her birth.  The one I was so proud of and so sure she would love. 


And so, yet again, my Christmas preparations consist of an Easter Egg Hunt!

You would think a rational person such as I would secure her collection of gifts in a central, secure location, a logical place, a guest room closet, for example.  Nope.

So I checked all the shelves in all the closets looking for my friend’s gift.  Under all the beds.

A surge of hope only to be dashed again when a miss-matched partial case of Two Buck Chuck turns up.  Nothing but sad, undrinkable wine.

And it doesn’t help to have a couple of greasy kitties dogging you from room to room with their “you never learn, do you?” eyes.

My friend has that quirky cool sense of style.  When I see something I know she’ll like I buy it right then and set it aside.  It makes me feel good to be so well-prepared, in advance.  Efficient.  Thoughtful.

Stress and expense dispersed....Throughout the house.  In safe places.  Where only Santa and the Easter Bunny can find them.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gratitude ~ a post mortem


Here goes: Yes yes yes, I’m thankful.  I’m so very thankful.  La la la la la la la.  Neener neener.  Yadda yadda yadda.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am extremely grateful for the many marvels in my life every flippin’ day.

Wait.  OK.  I seem to have a tone.  Let me start again.

How about this weather!?  On Thanksgiving!  We are so lucky! 

We really are very lucky not to be sitting in the airport in Paducah, Kentucky, staring at the string of cancelations on the departure board. 

Just like Sigourney Weaver in “Alien,” when she discovered that she and her cat Jonesy were trapped in the escape pod WITH the alien and nothing to wear but cotton bikinis and a space suit.  You remember her famous line:  “Lucky, lucky, lucky!”

All right, the context is different, but that was my mantra yesterday on Interstate 80 Eastbound to Sacramento.  While at a standstill.  For no evident reason.  For hours!

OK.  It was just a momentary pause.  Lucky.  I know! 

It just seemed like hours.  Not that difficult to deal with except that I had my husband in the car with me.  And an appetizer and a side dish. 

But in spite of our preparation and the anticipation of the yummy meal forthcoming, my husband, a lovely person in his own right, was not so thankful at that momentary pause in the action.  “Lucky, lucky, lucky” was not what I heard him say.

See, my husband has that shark DNA.  He has to keep moving.  He will take a 20 minute detour to avoid a 5 minute delay.  That makes sense to him and his Great White brain. 

But the thing is, I drive.  Since my delicate constitution won’t allow me to be a well passenger on any road other than a straight line through the Nevada desert, he has graciously surrendered the driver’s seat for lo these 23 years. 

In exchange for the steering wheel, I grant him the right to direct me in traffic, even though, along with his shark brain, he has that left/right affliction whereby he says “left” when he means “right” and then gets mad at me when I follow directions and turn left.

But I have a high tolerance for bulging veins and wild gesticulations and a pretty long fuse in traffic.  Oh, eventually gridlock will get to me; but he’s got a hair trigger on his frustration meter.

So that was the crux of the situation.  At the tiniest hint of a slowdown, we took the first available exit.  A side road.  The back way.  An “alternate route.” 

You can’t pin this boondoggle on me.  Or my GPS, which first displayed a jumpy screen, twitched out multiple multi-colored attempts to redirect us, then sighed and gave up. I just followed Jaws’s orders. 

We wound up somewhere south of Sac on a wash-boardy dirt road dodging potholes big enough to swallow us and our green beans in one gulp.  

“It goes through!” he claimed.  “I’ve taken this road before.” 

We began to pass heavy equipment and soon very tall chain-link fences rose up around us.  A warning sign not unlike the one posted down the way from Area 51 shouted, “Warning!  Restricted area!  Authorized vehicles only!  You’ll be really, really sorry if you keep going this way Dummy!  It’s a dead end anyway!” 

Or something like that.

So we hair pinned, found the levy road, and noodled our way through rural America.  Speed limit 45mph, but constant motion.  Bucolic beauty in every direction.  La la la la la!

We were only an hour late, nobody was mad and the turkey was delicious.

In situations like that, you have to ask yourself, “Do I feel lucky?

And the answer is, “Yes, I do.” 

Lucky, lucky and thankful too.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Wisdom or bliss? That is the question!

I have just been reading about wisdom:  The acquisition of wisdom, its attributes and the benefits of its application.

Not sure if that a was wise thing to do – I feel stupider than ever.  Probably should have been grocery shopping, or dusting or something with more tangible rewards.

A word to the wise:  Don’t bother with all that “evolving” rigmarole.  Read a good Sherlock Holmes story instead.  Then you can go around deducing and annoying your friends.  From what I’ve learned, that’ll work just as well as so-called “wisdom.”

Of course there are studies of wisdom.  Research on the concept.  Somebody thought it would be fun and somebody else funded it.

White-coated lab geeks have furrowed their brows and made notes on their clipboards over who is the most sage, how s/he got that way and if there’s a convincing method of faking it.  (No, not really.  I was just hoping, that’s all.)

They came to some noteworthy conclusions:

First and perhaps most irritating of all, there is no correlation between age and wisdom. 

If that doesn’t make an old person feel foolish, well…

I mean, having paced myself all these years, waiting for wisdom to catch up with me, I’m more than a little miffed to learn that instead of settling around me, bestowing an aura of ascendency, wisdom apparently zoomed past me quite a while ago, most likely during my tie-dye stage.

And what?  We’re supposed to listen to young people now?! 

It’s OK though.  Really.  It’s perfect.  I’ll just plod along in my humdrum way with all the other Slowskis, oblivious, but full of opinions and ready to share.

No worries, right? 

Which brings us to a second conclusion reached by our intrepid researchers:  Wisdom does not necessarily lead to happiness.

So I say why bother?  It must be depressing for a preeminently learned person to confront all the witlessness s/he encounters each day!  I mean, what’re you going to do?  If you keep setting people straight, imparting your knowledge all over town, it won’t be long before you have no one to play with.

I mean, to paraphrase my grandpa, nobody likes a “smart donkey,” right?

And here’s the clincher, research says that the wise person seeks to understand other people and their behavior rather than judging them.

Well where’s the fun in that?  The way I see it, God wouldn’t have given us Toronto Mayor Rob Ford if He didn’t want us to feel superior to SOMEONE. 

For Pete’s sake!  If we can’t look down on Lindsay Lohan from a lofty position of self-righteousness, then…then…

Or Miley Cyrus or Charlie Sheen!  Come on!

What are we normal schmos supposed to do when our egos need a little boost?  Analyze?  Show compassion?  Empathize?  Intone, “There but for fortune go I?” 

Well I refuse!  I always hated that uppity grammar anyway.

Nope.  If I can’t have wisdom I’m going to make the most of my lack.  I’m going to work my obtuse angle.  I’ll be the best ignoramus you can find! 

Oh.  Wait a minute.  That didn’t come out like I thought it would.

What I meant to say is, I don’t want to live on the mountain top or in the ivory tower or wherever all those wise guys hang out anyway.  I’ve heard it’s lonely up there.  And all that serenity!  It’s not my style.

I’ll just be here at home, watching TMZ.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Six Degrees of Sweden

I don’t know where the Swedes get off with their movie rating system.  That wheel was invented a long while ago right here in the US of A. 

That’s right, Sven, we have the Motion Picture Association of America to protect and advise us.  So what if they’re a trade organization that works for the studios in Hollywood?

They let us know if our movies contain sex or bad words, or bad words about sex.  Or of course, violins.  Sex and violins.  That’s it, mostly.

What??  Oh!  Violence.  Got it!  The MPAA is on the lookout for sex and violence.

Pretty sure that covers any legitimate concern an insightful film goer might have prior to shelling out the $37.50 per person required to sit in the multi-plex and be safely entertained. 

Relax.  Thanks to the MPAA you run no risk of being blind-sided by an untoward bit of slang, errant body part, or stray bullet.

Thank God. 

And, like you, I of course have my own system for evaluating movies after I have seen them.

OK.  Maybe proximity of cast members to Kevin Bacon is not the strongest movie rating system.

But hey – that’s not the only reason I like “Mars Attacks!” (Rated PG-13 for sci-fi fantasy violence and brief sexuality).

Come on!  You’ve gotta love a Tim Burton concoction chock full of camp. 

“Mars Attacks!” also just happens to have a cast of dozens.  This gives the astute Six Degrees aficionado links to a cross-section of the playlists of notable actors including, among others, Michael J. Fox, Pierce Bronsan, Lucas Haas, Paul Winfield, Rod Steiger, Annette Bening, Glenn Close, Natalie Portman, Sarah Jessica Parker, and – this is key – Jack Nicholson.

If you can get to Jack Nicholson, you can get to Kevin Bacon. 

So “Mars Attacks!” is not only a fun movie.  It also delivers the critical bonus of easy access for the Six Degrees.

That’s an important way to rate a movie.

It has given me a great appreciation for ensemble casts.  And an ensemble that includes Kevin Bacon, e.g.  “Mystic River” or “JFK.”  Jackpot!

I like a good love story too.  Not a sappy one, though I did watch “The Notebook” and cry like an idiot.  But I don’t think I’ll watch it again.  It lacked key elements.

I prefer a funny love story with a supernatural edge to it, like “Ghost.”  Well worth a second and third viewing since 1990. 

“Ghost” is funny with Whoopi Goldberg’s Oscar-winning performance as a phony psychic who unwittingly becomes a real one; it has drama and tension based on betrayal and murder; and it has that incredibly sexy yet sexless Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” fully-clothed potter’s wheel love scene between Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. 

All that and a poignant, bitter-sweet ending when Swayze makes his final choice. 

You really can’t get a love story much better than that! 

All the elements of my love story rating system are in place.  AND, you can get to Kevin Bacon in one step – via Demi Moore in “A Few Good Men.”  KB is the defense attorney for Jack Nicholson.  You’re welcome.

That’s a pretty good list of movies to see and/or see again; but none of them would pass the Swedish Bechdel Test.

Yes, brand new from Sweden…well, actually developed in 1985 by United States author Alison Bechdel, and put to use by Swedish theater operators, the Bechdel system is simple:  To pass the test with an A rating a movie must have three elements:  At least two women – who talk to each other – about something other than a man.

None of the movies already mentioned would pass.

In addition I’ve just seen some pretty great 2013 releases that won’t pass the Bechdel test either:  “Gravity,” “Captain Phillips” and “The Butler” for example.  So there is more than one way to rate a movie.

Conversely, if you’re looking for a movie with at least two men who talk to each other about something other than a woman, well, see all of the above.  In fact, see just about any movie produced in Hollywood.  Many of which are excellent. 

But Bechdel is interesting, isn’t it?  Gives you a new slant on things. 

Just sayin’.

Monday, November 11, 2013

To each his own muse

 I need a cow.

Gertrude Stein had one.  It worked for her.

Actually, now that I’ve said it, Gertrude had a herd of cows. 

I imagine they were the black and white ones and that they grazed in a brilliantly green French pasture enclosed with a split rail fence.  Chewing their cud.  Peacefully.  Reminiscing, as it were.

The cows weren’t exactly hers.  She just lived near enough to them that she could drive by daily and stop at different cows until she found the one that most inspired her. 
Then she’d write for her routine 30 minutes a day. 

She produced an impressive body of work just like that, staring at large bovine creatures.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a different approach:  Don’t go the bathroom. 

"I always try to be the first one in in the morning … take the fewest vacations and the least time away from the desk to go to the bathroom…"  Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show.  

But as it turns out, you can argue with success, or at least with Bloomberg’s methods.

According to the author of “Your Creative Brain," Harvard psychologist Shelley H. Carson, little distractions like going to the bathroom can actually be a good thing when it comes to creativity.  She explains that interruptions and diversions can lead to a creative "incubation period."

That’s precisely what I say to my husband when he’s banging on the bathroom door asking how much longer I’m going to be in there:  “Hey!  I’m incubating here!”

I tell him that a number of incredibly successful people have had their most brilliant ideas in the bathroom, but I’m not sure he stays outside the door to listen.  We have another bathroom downstairs.  He can incubate down there.

And I found some research that supports my belief that being in the shower boosts my creativity and innovative thinking.

That and a big dose of dopamine.

According to neuroscientist and brain/creativity researcher, Alice Flaherty, the more dopamine in the noodle, the more creative we can be.

As she put it, “People vary in terms of their level of creative drive according to the activity of the dopamine pathways of the limbic system.”

Gosh, thanks.  I’ll get right on that.

Is there a black market for high grade dopamine?  I wouldn’t mind skipping all these esoteric side trips and just taking a pill.

But wait.  Flaherty goes on to say that typical triggers of increased dopamine flow are things that take us to our happy place, including taking a warm shower!  No pills necessary!

That’s my kind of multi-tasking! 

And as an example, Carolyn Gregoire, syndicated columnist from the huffingtonpost.com says Woody Allen, the writer, actor and director regularly takes showers for inspiration, sometimes standing in the water for close to an hour to get his creative juices flowing.

Uh, OK.

"In the shower, with the hot water coming down, you've left the real world behind, and very frequently things open up for you," Allen said in a recent interview with Esquire, inexplicably referring to himself in the second person.  "It's the change of venue, the unblocking the attempt to force the ideas that's crippling you when you're trying to write."

But Woody, an hour?  There is that pruning thing. 

Have you seen him lately?  I know he’s getting old, but he appears to be manifesting some serious sag.  I guess it’s all a tradeoff.

So I’m working on the bovine solution.  Watching the cows. 

My neighbors brought in a bunch of goats for weed abatement.  That oughta work.

Women's Breasts - Out in front again

“Some parts of the anatomy, like a woman’s breast tissue, age faster than the rest of the body.”

Well that’s just great.

Thank you so much, Steven Horvath, Professor of Human Genetics and Biostatistics at UCLA. 

Professor Horvath has applied for a patent for his revelation, which he has ever-so-humbly named the “Horvath Clock.” 

He explains his discovery as an internal timepiece able to accurately calculate the age of diverse human organs, tissues and cell types.  Call it a biological clock used for comparison with our chronological clocks.

It’s a years-on-the-road versus mileage kind of thing.  And following that analogy, breasts equate to tires, I suppose.  Might as well go ahead and spring for the Michelins.

“It’s surprising that one could develop a clock that reliably keeps time across the human anatomy,” Horvath admitted. 

Most of his samples’ biological ages matched their chronological ages, but others diverged significantly. 

“My approach compared apples and oranges, or in this case, very different parts of the body: the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidney, cartilage...” 

And breasts.

Of all things.    

I can’t help feeling betrayed.  Why should any body part charge out ahead of the others?  What’s the rush girls?  You’re acting like those puffed up people who just have to fly first class.  We’re all going to get there at the same time, you know.

But there is something pretty amazing from the professor’s work: “If a woman has breast cancer, the healthy tissue next to the tumor is an average of 12 years older than the rest of her body.”

Horvath says these results may explain why breast cancer is the most common cancer in women.  Given that the Horvath Clock ranked tumor tissue at an average of 36 years older than healthy tissue, it could explain why age is a major risk factor for many cancers in both genders.

So all right.  The Horvath Clock could be a very good thing.

And besides, there’s a buck to be made here!  I’m glad to know women’s breasts age faster than the rest of our bodies because…

I can buy my support bras in advance, avoiding the inevitable surge in price as Baby Boomer women crest the curve and flood the market, their breasts leading the way.

Better still, I’ll buy stock in Playtex, Soma and Victoria’s Secret, ha!  Ha!

OK.  I hate those ideas, but less than I hate the fact that my breasts are aging faster than the rest of me. 

I want men to experience some of this disparate degeneration too.  Fair’s fair.  Did Professor Horvath even look into that possibility? 

In my thoroughly superficial survey of his work, I found no reference men’s body parts.  And of course I can’t mention them here!

He talks about saliva and hormones.  Whooptifrickindo! 

He plans to test rats for similar biological clocks, which seems like ten steps backwards to me.  A total boondoggle. 

I hope he’s not preoccupied with male pattern baldness or erectile dysfunction. 

But did he even notice that old men’s ears are huge?  They’re leading some kind of race.

What about it Doc?  We want equal rights to unequal body-part aging!  Get on it wouldja?!

Thank you so much Professor Horvath.

Monday, October 21, 2013

In search of the Quirk

Seeking a niche among the great minds of creativity, my research brought me to an assessment of my own creative process.

What makes this little clock tock?

What are the mysterious machinations of such an imaginative mind?  Oh, how to encapsulate the processes by which the mundane is made pithy?  (Spoiler Alert:  You’ve got to have a ration of mundane, for one thing.  Then just add a pinch of pith.)

Or, more directly to the point, as my husband puts it:  What are you doing all day?!

Ahem.  Let me just say that writing all this stuff takes a certain kind of person. 

And that sort of person may do particular things as a part of her writing life.  In fact, she might even do some of those things ritualistically.  So what?  Is there a problem with that?

What sorts of ceremonies might such a writer conduct?  Oh and wouldn’t you like to know! 

In fact, a guy named Mason Currey did want to know.  Not about me.  He’s never heard of me in spite of all the trouble I’ve gone to. 

My adorable, if overlooked, eccentricity notwithstanding, I commend him for his expedition into the realm of the persistent writer.  He collected working profiles of some of the creative greats and their weird little habits in his book Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work: How Artists Work.

First thing you’re going to notice – some of these guys are pretty whacky. 

For example, according to Currey, Igor Stravinsky stood on his head to clear his brain.  I guess it worked but his hats fit funny.

Beethoven counted out exactly 60 coffee beans for his morning cup before he sat down to compose.  Now that seems just plain goofy.  But Ludwig himself?  Not goofy at all!  In fact, if you look at his portraits he wears a perpetual frown, perhaps brought on by the bean counting.

Here’s a good one:  Benjamin Franklin started his day with an "air bath." I think that means he sat around naked.  You’ve got to love Ben!  Though somewhere I read he also had monumental scalp itch.  Dandruff.  That and an air bath.  No wonder he lived alone.

But even fully clothed, if sweats and a rally cap qualify, this writer works a cappella.  Unless you count Sports Radio.  Yep.  Just me, my worry beads, Marty Lurie and my blankie.  Sigh.

Jean Paul Sartre ingested ten times the recommended daily dose of amphetamine.  I guess they recommended amphetamine back then.  He did get a lot done.  

As much as I want to secure my niche, it looks like I’m going to have to cultivate some more interesting eccentricities. 

As it is, sneaking up on the computer is the best I have to offer, and everyone does that. 

What?  You just walk right up to yours?  In full sight?  And it lets you? 

Wow.  Maybe I am quirky.

Friday, October 18, 2013

XXX - Read me!

Pornographers have dreams too.

That’s the only conclusion I can draw from the fact that so many pornographers visit my blog sites.

They’re reading my blogs about dreams; learning dreams’ language of metaphor and self-reflection.  They contemplate my advice and apply it when establishing loving relationships; I help them find common ground in the workplace…

Yeah, I don’t think that’s it.

But there they are!  Month after month.  How do these sleaze balls find me?  Why do they keep coming back?  What words do I use that would trigger a porn site’s browser? 

I haven’t said “titillating” in forever.  And let’s be honest, those guys aren’t into teasing.  They aren’t coy.  Subtlety is not their domain.

Of course dreams are not subtle either.  They expose the truth.  Hey…  Maybe that’s it!  “Exposure.”

And besides, in dreams, exposure is a concept, not a brick in the face, so to speak.  Or a close-up of any other kind.

Double ugh.

I’m told if a person is trying to boost her readership online, she needs to analyze the data.  I’m trying, but my delicate constitution demurs.

All right, here goes:  I have said “hot,” and “mother,” but never in the same sentence and only in response to a dream submitted by a frantic guy who dreamed he left his wife in the desert and danced away with his mom.

OK.  I made that up.  Just now, not in the dream column.  I did it here for you.  To make a point.

Google AdSense reports to me with daily updates about my legions of readers.  They track “hits” on my pages and categorize them for my edification.

And I went to school and everything, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out what it means or how to make use of it.

For example, here’s another puzzle:  The Czech Republic reads me.  Romania.  Sweden and Poland account for more than 10,000 hits! 

Indians, Indonesians, Portuguese, Germans.

I’ve always loved the Kazakhstanis.  It must come through in my writing.

I get a bunch of readers in Russia.  Now I do have a couple of friends in Russia, but not 637.  Maybe word of mouth? 

Maybe I’m a phenomenon in Leningrad!?  A superstar in the Ukraine.  They can’t wait for my 2014 “Dreams around the World” tour. 

I could be a regular Rodriguez…you know, that guy in Detroit living in obscure poverty while the albums he made as a young man unbeknownst to him sold millions and millions in South Africa. 

That could be me – wildly popular and praised in Eastern Europe for my poetic voice, my facility with language, my depth of insight into the human heart.  And here am I, plodding along in ignorance, in my perfectly humble way.  Of course.

A couple of months ago I had a big surge in readership.  More than 3500 hits on this column alone. 
I can tell you which browsers routed the greatest number of readers to me.  I can tell you the time of day they read and the posts they liked the best.  I just can’t tell you what I did that month that was different from any other month.

I was my normal charming self.  Witty.  Relatable.  Wise.

Supposedly, I can learn from all these numbers and double my money!  Why, if I can get a handle on this stuff, I might be able to boost my writer’s income into the double digits!

My creeping fear is that all this AdSense rigmarole means nothing. 

That’s probably it.  My readers aren’t what they seem to be.  They’re probably not readers at all, but machines combing the clouds, randomly hitting my websites knowing that I will see their links in AdSense and click on them, thereby giving them another hit so their sponsoring porno kingpins will pay them more. 

Hooray.  Always happy to be helpful.

I have to face the probability that my while the search engines may love me, it’s likely four of my friends in California and six of my cousins in Oklahoma who constitute living breathing human beings reading those blogs.  God love ‘em.

And you!  Of course you, Dear Reader.  You’re the best by the way.  Thanks.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Quest for the Quirk

Seeking a niche among the great minds of creativity, my research brought me to an assessment of my own creative process.

What makes this little clock tock.  How do I do it?

Even more fundamental:  What is it that I do?  What are the mysterious machinations of such an imaginative mind?  Oh, how to encapsulate the processes by which the mundane is made pithy?  (You've got to have a ration of mundane, for one thing.  Then just add a pinch of pith.)

Or, more directly to the point, as my husband puts it:  What are you doing all day?!

Ahem.  Let me just say that writing all this stuff takes a certain kind of person. 

And that sort of person may do particular things as a part of her writing life.  In fact, she might even do some of those things ritualistically.  So what?  Is there a problem with that?

What sorts of ceremonies might such a writer conduct?  Oh and wouldn't you like to know! 

In fact, a guy named Mason Currey did want to know.  Not about me.  He’s never heard of me in spite of all the trouble I've gone to. 

My adorable, if overlooked, eccentricity notwithstanding, I commend him for his expedition into the realm of the persistent writer.  He collected working profiles of some of the creative greats and their weird little habits in his book Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work: How Artists Work.

First thing you’re going to notice – some of these guys are pretty whacky. 

For example, according to Currey, Igor Stravinsky stood on his head to clear his brain.  I guess it worked but his hats fit funny.

Beethoven counted out exactly 60 coffee beans for his morning cup before he sat down to compose.  Now that seems just plain goofy.  But Ludwig himself?  Not goofy at all!  In fact, if you look at his portraits he wears a perpetual frown, perhaps brought on by the bean counting.

Pulitzer Prize winning poet W. H. Auden believed that a life of "military precision was essential to his creativity," and so this meant constantly checking his watch. "Eating, drinking, writing, shopping, crossword puzzles, even the mailman’s arrival— all are timed to the minute and with accompanying routines."  Today we call that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Auden even wrote about his practices: 

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone…

Seriously.  He wrote that.  Poets!  What’re you going to do?

I’ll just clear up any misconceptions right now:  I might have a twist or two, but I’m not W.H. Auden.  Although I will admit to having a bunch of old wind-up chiming clocks that need frequent cajoling, so maybe I am checking them all the time.  But it’s not the same. 

On the other hand, perhaps I should take my neighbor’s dog a juicy bone as he hasn't quit barking since Arbor Day.  I’ll just wedge it between his molars.

Here’s a good one:  Benjamin Franklin started his day with an "air bath." I think that means he sat around naked.  You've got to love Ben!  Though somewhere I read he also had monumental scalp itch.  Dandruff.  That and an air bath.  No wonder he lived alone.

But even fully clothed, if sweats and a rally cap qualify, this writer works a Capella.  Unless you count Sports Radio.  Yep.  Just me, my worry beads, Marty Lurie and my blankie.  Sigh.

Jean Paul Sartre ingested ten times the recommended daily dose of amphetamine.  I guess they recommended amphetamine back then.  He did get a lot done.  

As much as I want to secure my niche, it looks like I’m going to have to cultivate some more interesting eccentricities. 

As it is, sneaking up on the computer is the best I have to offer, and everyone does that. 

What?  You just walk right up to yours?  In full sight?  And it lets you? 

Wow.  Maybe I am quirky.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mr. Moodgeist and the commute of the future

Ever vigilant in my quest for cutting edge technology to make your life safer, happier, more pleasant, I bring you the wave of the future:  Ladies and Gentlemen; Moodgeisting!

That’s right, Moodgeisting! – The latest and greatest creep into your private moments.  An ostensibly altruistic attempt at control.

Now, picture yourself on the freeway in your Toyota.  (We all drive Toyotas now, don’t we?) 

And this morning, you’re feeling a little bit crabby.  Say the dog drooled on your croissant and your pants leg and your file folder with today’s presentation.  Say you jammed your toe on the sprinkler head just before it spurted into motion dousing the fresh pants you changed into.
Your good humor is threadbare and you have strapped yourself into a one-ton fuel-efficient marvel of a mechanized stress-venting machine.

So you head onto the freeway to find that gusty winds have fellow commuters swingin’ and swayin’ their way into the city.  Oh boy.  This is going to be fun.

By the way, research indicates that a driver in a bad mood is more likely to have an accident than a gleeful goofball with kids on the honor roll and a new pair of shoes who’s zipping in and out of traffic while singing along with Bob Marley.

And I don’t know about you, but when my sunshiny self is overcast by an eventful morning, I’ve been known to grip the steering wheel with a tad more zeal.  Or grit my veneers just so.  These telltale indicators should prompt me to reassess my determination to get ahead of this jerk in the Escalade.  But sometimes I lose track of my higher self.

Not to worry!  Toyota has anticipated this very situation.  Toyota has Moodgeisting!  That’s right.  They’ve included mood-reading technologies “in-cabin” to provide drivers like you and me with mood metrics and calming advice.

What mood-reading technologies, you might ask.   Why, facial recognition, for one.  And we’re not talking about the kind of facial recognition where your car greets you like Bat Man, fires up on 12 cylinders and purrs down the expressway inspiring awe in those around you.  Though it might do that if you’d only cheer up. 

No.  We’re talking about in-cabin facial recognition technology that scans your face looking for frownies.  Frownies are bad for you; frownies could cause accidents. 

Yes, your invisible Moodgeisting buddy employs a range of biometric indices of your disposition comprised of analysis of your voice, sweat, pupil dilation and grip, among others.

Like Santa Claus, Mr. Moodgeist knows if you’re being bad or good.  He knows that happy motorists speak in sweet voices and rest dry palms on the wheel.  You just can’t fake sweet and dry, now can you? 

Yes, Mr. Moodgeist, for your own safety you understand, can sense when you’re on the verge of spontaneous combustion.  And as a first line of response, he gives you the readouts of your escalating biometrics, so you can bring yourself back into line. 

You can look at the rising thermometer next to “pulse,” for example, and say to yourself, “My oh my!  I must breathe deeply to drop my heart rate and alleviate my agitation.  Driving under stress is unsafe, according to research.”

“I’ll just chant my mantra and coax my sweat glands into submission.  Mellow!  Mellow!”

And here’s the greatest thing:  If you can’t talk yourself down from the carpool lane crazies; if your pupils remain dilated; if you continue to wrench the steering wheel on its post and sweat through your work shirt, Mr. Moodgeist will take over and speak to you in soothing tones with calming advice.

I imagine he’ll say something like, “Slow down!  Slow down!  You’re going to kill yourself!”  Or, “Think of your children!  They need you!”  Or, “For God’s sake, brake!  Brake!  Steer INTO a skid!” 

Hahaha!  Just kidding.  I’m sure Mr. Moodgeist is programmed with just the right balance of logic and psychology to calmly tap into the Stepford stem of your brain, ensuring that you will reduce your speed, graciously permit others into your lane, and courteously pull over so others can pass.

Just surrender, Dear Reader.  Just give in. 

Mr. Moodgeist knows best.  You can trust him in these matters.  Relax.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Facebook made me inane!

Evidently, I’m in favor of animal abuse. 

You see, I just can’t bring myself to re-post the picture that came up on my Facebook news feed this morning.  It shows an orange ribbon with a banner that reads:

“I’m against animal cruelty.  Share if you are too!”

I’m not going to click the button!  Of course, I’m not going to pinch my cat either.  Or tell the dog he’s ugly.

But you can’t make me share!  There it is.  Deal with it.

It’s stupid anyway.  Who’s NOT against animal cruelty?  It might be more important to identify those people, don’t you think?  Why doesn’t someone create a post that says “Share if you want to kick the dog,” or, “How many ‘likes’ for Michael Vick?”

I will confess to a twinge of guilt for not re-posting.  It’s only a click after all.  What kind of misanthrope am I?  Why won’t I take two seconds to stand with the masses of decent people against meanness to our fuzzy buddies?

A person can only take so much manipulation, that’s why. 

“Share if you wish there were no cancer.”  Well, duh. 

And if I don’t share does that mean I’m OK with cancer?  If I do share will my wishes be joined in the cosmos with the wishes of all the other really nice people and thereby eradicate that foul disease? 

“Keep this going if you miss someone in heaven.”  OK…

And then there’s, “Re-post if you love your kids with all your heart NO MATTER WHAT!”

Why?  Why would I re-post those pink hearts and balloons? 

Wait a minute…Are you saying I don’t love my kid? 

And if I do re-post (which I do not) – who is my intended audience?  Who am I trying to persuade of my motherly love?  That woman who overheard me threatening my son in the candy aisle of Safeway all those years ago? 

Listen Lady:  #1 Mind your own business!  You weren’t there that morning when he ate an entire tub of chocolate cake frosting on the day we were supposed to take cupcakes to his soccer team.  And #2… Oh I don’t know!  Just leave me alone with your eye rolling and your sharing.

I love the kid, all right?! 

The only logical conclusion in the midst of all this schmaltz is that there are a bunch of miserable posters on Facebook and they’re looking for company.  That’s gotta be it. 

Of course, they’re all my friends…

“Thousands of pictures of babies and puppies and I’ll bet only 10% of you will re-post this picture of a brave soldier.”


And the grammar!  Old English teachers cannot be at peace on Facebook:  There are dozens of aphorisms, witticisms and words to the wise – just the kind of sappy stuff I thrive on – but cannot in good conscience like or share because they’re chock full, chock full I tell you, of misspelled words and poor punctuation.  Damn you, Standard English!

But in fairness, if I’m going to wax curmudgeonly on the posts I peruse every day –
if I’m going to be all uppity about the sentiments of others – I should probably complete an objective review of my own shares and posts.  And who better to do it than me?

So here we go.  Here are samples from the timeline of an erudite contributor to the collective conversation:

OK.  Choosing randomly:

Here’s a cartoon of a pig in a hospital room staring in shock at a ham on the bed.  The pig doctor stands by proudly announcing, “He’s cured!”

I love this one:  It’s a photo of a German shepherd trotting happily toward the camera, smiling, wearing sunglasses, and there’s a cat riding on his back!  And the caption says, “You might think you’re cool; but you’re not a cat riding on a dog wearing sunglasses cool!” 

Cute, huh? 

And here’s that “Stealth Kitty” video.  Priceless!

Oh, I love this line drawing of a young woman gazing into the eyes of her Prince.  The caption:  “You had me at your proper use of ‘whom.’”

And this is classic:  “It’s hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally.”  Hahahaha! 

Come on!  You loved it!!

Seriously!  Like and share!  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sleeping with one eye open!

When do freckles become age spots? 

These innocent points of pigment used to be cute.  Now, they’re just another element in the conspiracy.   

As best as I can determine – and I have studied the phenomenon – freckles convert to “dark spots,” – the current euphemism for what my grandma called “liver spots,” –
Ew! – at roughly the point when a person looks away.  For an instant.   

That fleeting lapse in attention allows spider webs to convert into cob webs and freckles to go bad. 

It’s that pause between perfect teenage skin, with its concomitant arrogance, and old age.   

You know, that blink of the unsuspecting eye when you’re living your life, somewhere in between flagrantly sunning in a bikini in your backyard kiddie pool and frantically slathering sunscreen on your extremities before dashing from awning to awning if you should happen to find yourself outdoors in daylight. 

It’s that moment when a person wakes to find the Louisiana Purchase mapped out on her fanny. 

It’s that fateful flash when you glance at your reflection in the mirror and say, “Holy Lewis and Clark!”  And you vow not to look again tomorrow because it’s a sure bet that Western Expansion is on “the horizon,” if you know what I mean.  

Recently, a dermatologist, responding to my worries over what seemed to me to be an especially aggressive freckle, a freckle that woke in the wee hours of the night and annexed new territory at will, Attila the freckle, the freckle that ate Manhattan…   

I pointed this thing out to my dermatologist you see, with my head turned slightly away.   I thought she would don her welder’s mask and hazardous waste gear and scorch me with her freezing hot laser wand.   

Instead, she brushed her forefinger across it casually and said with a sinister smile, “Oh, no!  These ‘wisdom spots’ are nothing.  We all get them – eventually.” 

OK.  Two components of that dismissal require attention.   

First, let me just say that the startling transformation from a charming splash of speckles like a reverse image of stars in the night sky to a map of Texas on the back of my leg isn’t nothing!     

My heretofore darling flecks of color, my trademarks, my Opies are turning against me I tell you!  They’re organizing!  They’re forming ranks!  That is not nothing.  It’s something. 

And “wisdom spots”?  Puh - lease.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  I haven’t seen that much blatant condescension since our son was a teenager. 

And that’s right Sweetie.  That’s right.  We all get them and your eventuality is closer than you think!  You’re looking the other way right now, I’ll bet.  You’re living your life with your flawless skin and your medical degree and your… 

Oh all right.  She made me mad.  When did my innate good humor morph into to cantankerousness?  Why I’m known for my sunny disposition!   

I used to get compliments on my smile until I discovered that all these years I’ve been YELLOWING! 

What’s next?  Enlarged ears?  Unruly nose hairs??!   

Note to self:  Never ask what’s next.  There’s always something next.  We’re all in line in a vast deli whose menu includes cataracts and four-footed walking canes.   

And our numbers are coming up. 

And so what?  What’s a person to do with this new evidence of treachery?  Just add it to the list! 

Check it off the roster of insults advancing in the night:  You go to sleep a young person and wake up with a crow’s foot.  Then it’s a laugh line.  And suddenly you look like some nut who’s been seized with fits of hilarity over a lifetime spent in a padded room. 

Maybe you’re one of those philosophical types who waves it all off as signs of character.  Life’s lessons.  Sagacity.  Indeed. 

But not me!  I’m not going to chuckle and pat Old Age on the back like an eccentric aunt who made a faux pas at the dinner table.   

No.  I’m bleaching my teeth until I look like Bob Barker.  I’m buying a vat of vanishing cream and I’ll sit in it ‘til I’m all pruned up.   


I see how it is.  Coming and going.  Chinese finger trap.   

I feel so much better now.  Thank you.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pilates ~ Caveat Emptor!

My pants came down in my Pilates class this morning. 

The Pilates people don’t tell you about that.  They don’t tell you about those waffle-y rubber floor mats and their gripping power. 

No!  It’s all about your core and your health and feeling so much better.  Oh Pilates!  Pilates!  You’ll be so glad you went to Pilates! 

Well, let me tell you I did NOT feel all that much better with my drawers hanging out!  It could have been a real disaster.  Face it.  It could have been a lunar phenomenon. 

There I was like a teenager doing the prison walk – britches sagging and bloomers, well, blooming! 

Thank goodness I always set myself up like a poker player at the Long Branch Saloon – near the exit with my back to the wall and a clear view of everything and everyone around me. 

I’m no fool you know.  Except maybe when it comes to trusting “fitness experts” who clearly have their own agendas no matter what they say to you with their smiling teeth and their clipboards and their grippy mats. 

I should have known better.   

They’re all skinny for one thing.  There’s always an undernourished one up at the front of the class, sweat free, calling all this “fun.”   

Where are all the normal people at the gym?  Oh, here they are, rolling around on the floor with me like so many sea mammals on the beach at Ano Nuevo, snorting and making sand angels.   

There had better not be any cameras in this joint! 

The trainers are young, too.  I hate that.  Why aren’t the old people running the gym?  We’re the ones with the money!  Oh never mind.  I already know.  We’re not running the gym because we’re on the floor with our feet in the air. 

And who is this Pilates guy anyway?  Sounds like a foreigner.  What kind of name is “Pilates”?  Has to be Greek.  I dated a Greek guy once.  Oily.  Must have been all those olives.   

OK.  Wait a minute.  Checking the web.  Here he is:  Joseph Pilates and his theory of fitness.  Whooptifrickin’do!  

Greek!  I knew it!   

“Pilates was a sickly child suffering from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever… He dedicated his entire life to improving his physical strength…  By the age of 14, he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts.”   

Well that’s just plain creepy.  But OK.  He worked hard. 

Pilates came to believe that the "modern" life-style, bad posture, and inefficient breathing were the roots of poor health.  And that was the early 20th century “modern”!   

I don’t know, but I’m thinking they were a wee bit more active back then than we are today.  They walked with their eyes on the horizon for one thing.  That keeps you going at a respectable clip.   

No need to slow down to avoid mis-texting while crossing the parking lot for a scone and a latte. 

Get this:  Pilates started out as a gymnast, diver, and bodybuilder.  But ultimately he earned his living as a professional boxer, circus-performer, and self-defense trainer at Scotland Yard. 

I’ll bet you skimmed right over that one critical detail just like I did the first time through:  Joseph Pilates was a circus performer?  I’m following a fitness routine devised by a CIRCUS PERFORMER?!!   

Why not just call it the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey method of embarrassing yourself and amusing others?  A little truth in advertising, please! 

It all makes sense though, all this stiff-legged toe-pointing, swimming on the ground.  Just put me in a tutu, stand me upright on a trapeze and voila! I’m a Flying Walenda! 

Old Joe’s probably spinning in his grave at the specter of “modern life” in the early 21st century.  Of course he’d be spinning hands free, toes rotated outward, using only his lower abdominals, just like we do in class. 

That’s right.  Once you get really good at it, you never touch the ground.  You breathe deeply, pull those abs up behind your ribs and just drift upwards.  That’s right.  Float.  Now hold it!  Hold it! 

We earthbound beginners however, must struggle against gravity and the Velcro-like connection between polyester workout pants and waffled rubber mats.   

I think I’ll invest in some suspenders. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Everyone needs a walk-up song

My life would be better if I had a walk-up song – something to play me onstage for the start of the day.  An energizer.  That’s what I need. 

Baseball players have walk-up songs – music that’s played – eight bars anyway – as they make the trip from the on-deck circle to the batter’s box, weapon in hand.   

That’s what I’m talking about; I need a chorus when I crack my eyes open in the AM – a few “Hallelujahs!” to bring me up to task. 

Baseball players’ theme songs flood the airwaves, throbbing in the ears of the thousands who’ve come to witness the impending duel.  At the Plath household, it’s just me, Mr. Plath, the dog and the cats, but each day’s challenges can be daunting in a relative way. 

So we aren’t talking about ditties here.  We’re talking about anthems to inspire all kinds players, get us focused and put the fear of our mighty bats into the psyches of the opposing pitchers. 

That’s what I want – “Eye of the Tiger,” “Can’t Touch This,” or maybe that catchy C. Lo Green number where he speaks directly to his rival in love.  You know the one, bold, direct, unquotable in a family-oriented periodical. 

OK.  Nobody uses any of those tunes, but you get the idea.  It’s important to have a walk-up song for those crucial, stress-inducing moments when you’re supposed to hit a 94mph fast ball.  Or plan dinner. 

A walk-up song is a brand.  It carries a cache.  It identifies the player, regardless of the playing field, as a force with which to be reckoned.  (Note the no-nonsense grammar.) 

Once his walk-up song starts to play, a batter’s swagger kicks in.  It conveys to his teammates and the world: “No worries.  I’ve got this.” 

I could use a song like that. 

Because right now, I only get out of bed in the morning when the cats make me.   

Like baseball players – the cats have their routines.  They wake up hungry, knowing I control the rations; so they commence their demonstration of will.  And they’re good.  If these cats had a walk-up song, it would be Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” 

I can hear it faintly in their kitty voices:  “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t…!”  They always win.  I get up in the dark and feed them.   

Once a player is in the batter’s box, he has rituals, too.  He pats his bat; kisses the pine tar smeared thereon; taps home plate at the farthest point and the closest.  Some of them sigh, and stretch their backs, then dig their cleats into the trenches, stare at the pitcher and point the bat right at him!   

Pablo Sandoval, SF Giants’ Belushi-like third baseman, skips out toward the pitcher and kicks the bat twice in his direction.  He taps his helmet a couple of taps with the bat head, turns back to home plate and then uses the bat’s handle to trace the name of his daughter in the dirt before facing the pitcher.  Who’s in control now?!   

And the Panda wallops balls inside, outside, down and up. 

I’m not sure what Pablo’s walk-up song is …”Anything Goes”? 

The concept’s a good one.  We have our routine.  All that’s missing is the music. 

I need my own theme song as a coupe de gras. 

Let’s see…The President has the best walk-up song.  So that’s taken.

The theme from X-Files or Alfred Hitchcock would be fun, but what tone would it set for the day?  I cultivate quirky, but one of those two might propel me into, well, the Twilight Zone. 

When I was working in the public schools, I found myself humming the theme from Rawhide under my breath – “don’t try to understand ‘em; just rope and throw and brand ‘em…!”  But I don’t think that applies to my more gentile retired life.  Still, I’m not quite ready for whistling away my days with an AndyGriffith walk-up. 

I’m looking for a track suitable for a game changer.  I have big plans.  I’m making waves.   

Hmm…It needs to reflect my approach to life:  fun-loving and formidable.  Cagey, light on my feet.  I’m thinking motivator.  Confidence builder…Here it comes….I can hear it! 

Mission Impossible!   

Double entendre notwithstanding.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Blue screen blues

I can’t find my typewriter.

I don’t remember the last time I saw it.

It’s one of those really cool ones too. Electric. Has that pop-in cartridge with a white-out ribbon for corrections.

So every time I make ANOTHER typo, I can just pop out the ink-ribbon cartridge; pop in the white-out cartridge; re-type the error exactly as I made it to begin with, thereby obliterating the error with white-out; pop out the correction cartridge; pop in the ink-ribbon cartridge, and go, go, go!

It sounds awkward, but I remember the day, back at UCSB, when I had a rhythm with that thing.

Type, type, type; pop in, pop out, pop in. Yeah. I could rock along.

I kind of need it right now since my computer has “blue screened.” That’s a technical term for "What the *bleep* am I supposed to do now?!!"

Yes, I tried the recommended sequence of steps for recovering everything important in my life’s work, to wit: Gasping. Gasping again. Whispering, “Oh no!”  Then louder, “Oh no, no, NO!” 

Control/Alt/Delete.  Blue nothing.  Not even a Task Manager.

Stand up, turn around, sit down, cover mouth and stare.

Blue. The screen’s still blue. No icons. No words to soothe the trembling heart. Just blue, sky blue.

Breathe. Flip the surge protector off then on again.

What’s this? Hooray! A message: “Windows has failed to launch.  Well, DUH!

Do you want to a) Launch Windows in the protected mode (recommended), or b) Launch Windows normally?


Blue screen.

OK. Surge off and on.  Back through the loop.


Blue screen.

OK, I'm really scared now.  Where’s my rally cap?

I did save most of my documents on Drop Box recently. They’re floating serenely above me now. Smiling down from the cloud.

Of course, I can’t get to the cloud because I can’t get the flippin’ computer to boot up!


OK. Breathe. Call the guy. Call the Magnificent Geek who has taken his exalted place at the right hand of God. The Guy who can make it all better. The Computer Guy.

“Bring it in,” his terse response to my breathless description of this desperate dilemma.

Yes! Yes, of course! I’ll bring it in!

Put the whole machine in the hand basket I brought home from hell last time I went through this.

Drop it off in his workshop at the North Pole next door to Computer Heaven, where all sad things are made happy again.

He’ll get to it. He’ll call. Terrific. 

Now what?  Foot tapping.  Deadline looming.

And no typewriter.  Desperately seeking Plan C.

The Library!  Of course! 

So here I am facing a corner of carpeted walls, on a public computer at the public library feeling pretty cool and righteous.  The Library does that to you.  It’s so green, you know, eco-friendly.  Recycling books and computers and all. 

There is something wholesome about a Library.  A cadre of kids all wearing the same green T-shirt, in line to sit in the light in the children’s section and read books!  Women get up to peruse the shelves and leave their purses on the tables, for goodness sake.  You can’t get much more faith-in-the-goodness-of –man than the Library.

And some might argue that a writer can write anywhere – in a bus terminal for example, or a bowling alley.  And she can write on anything, right?  A crumpled and damp cocktail napkin, or a PG&E envelope, or a typewriter even.

But I’m feeling like a goldfish on the carpet, sucking air and waiting to die, if I don’t hear from the Computer Geek soon.

Hurry!  Save me!  Get me MY machine and my cozy study with all my artifacts and talismen, so I can conjure the way I know to conjure.  I need a cat to pester me and shed into the keyboard and the buzzer on the clothes dryer to give me a break.

But my sense of duty compels me to soldier on.  Pausing and pecking.  Fifty words to go.  Forty.  For you, Dear Reader, for you.

What’s that?  My cell phone?  On vibrate, of course, in deference to my upright and decent companions.  Could it be…?!!  Yes!  The Geek!  I’m saved!

Coming soon – investigative report about the dangers of computer dependency.