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.