Sunday, January 30, 2011

Soggy Sunday

What a perfect day. My knees were aching, which meant I shouldn’t have been surprised by the sudden rain, but I was. Combine that with a night of dreams that would have made Duchamp proud and both Jung and Freud reconsider their vocations, and I decided to take the day off from the gym to Get Things Done Around The House.

When was the last time you did that? All those little chores that aren’t survival oriented, things you notice but don’t notice noticing, that don’t matter if they’re not done – when was the last time you attacked them? I didn’t get to them all, but I did enough.

Cleaning-as-metaphor aside, there’s a rare satisfaction to be found in the accretion of small achievements. I don’t know that I feel better, but it’s a different kind of good.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You Are Here

Back when I was your age, secrecy was a big deal. We wanted to go places no one else could get into, know things that no one else knew. We had inside jokes and --- this may seem a little unbelievable today --- private conversations. Seriously, we did!

Compare that with how people update their daily lives online now. With Foursquare, you know when and where your friends are shopping and eating. Everything else is on Facebook, not that I look at Facebook anymore. It’s too akin to reading a bunch of memoirs simultaneously, one sentence at a time.

I like memoirs, but there’s something uncomfortably voyeuristic about this brave new world. Facebook updates are too fact-oriented, what people did rather than what they thought.

Privacy is obsolete. A desire for privacy is now a social aberration, as if there’s something to hide. Don’t get me wrong, I’m here spilling the contents of my psyche for you and I might not even know you. Please note that I’m ruminating and contemplating. I’m not talking about where I got my keyboard or how much I paid for dinner last night.

There’s a possibly apocryphal tweet that allegedly appeared in the early days of Twitter: “Poop coming out now.” Nuff said.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Zero Sum

We’re conditioned from birth to be competitive. This could be an American thing or maybe it’s just an inevitable result of modern culture.

If you can’t be the “most” something, then at least you can be “more”. It used to be having the biggest car, and then it was the smallest phone. You’re supposed to want the most friends on Facebook, the most followers on Twitter and to be a mayor on Foursquare. Feel free to substitute salary, breasts, gigabytes, muscles, grades, enlightenment or whatever the ideal is for your circumstances.

Most, -est, more… see what I mean? But it’s not always so extreme. As the old joke goes, “I don’t have to run that fast. I just have to run faster than you.” We attack social intercourse (I could have said “interaction” but I wanted to see if you’re awake) competitively. When I meet someone, more often than not I feel as if my value is being assessed and compared. Sometimes, generally when the result isn’t in my favor, I find myself doing the assessing. I wish I wouldn’t, but the instinct is there.

The Big Dog is visiting. Both dogs have bowls of kibble. It’s the same kibble, but Jonah wouldn’t touch his own bowl. He hogged the Big Dog’s bowl. It’s all about the competition, and as is so often true, the little dog won. Or he thinks he did. The Big Dog cleared both bowls after Jonah was done.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


It was another perfect day in Paradise. Eighty degrees outside, multiple visits from people we like, and even a few problems solved and chores completed. Knock on wood, this was one for the record books.

Contentment is a funny thing. It has inertia, and won’t be swayed by minor annoyances. There were a few of those today too, but who cares? An abiding sense of good will can anchor your soul.

We are taught to crave action, to value adventure over tranquility, to prefer going to stopping. Exhortations to “stop and smell the roses” imply that the stop is just a pause. The race continues until you get to happily ever after, then the story just ends. Once the conflict is resolved there’s not supposed to be anything left.

Guess what. Happily ever after isn’t an end. It’s a place. If you’re very lucky, you get to stay there for as long as you can. Knocking wood again, I intend to try.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In My Opinion

I like the Internet. I ought to, I live here. It is vocation and avocation, creation and recreation. But even I know that what I see on the Internet isn't Truth.

Picture me explaining to a slightly older (yes, children, it’s possible to be older than I am) friend that you can’t believe what you see online. He pointed out that I cite the Internet all the time, which I do. I say things like “according to this website” or “so-and-so posted that”. I don’t cite statement as fact; I merely pass on what I saw so it can be discussed.

Granted, I’m a teensy bit cynical. Go ahead and snort, we’ll wait. I take what’s told to me at face value. Factor in my obsession with staying informed, and it’s at best a dilemma and at worst a paradox.

How do you do it?

How do you tell the difference between what your Great-Aunt Myrtle says about government conspiracies, and what you heard on the news?

My friend asked me, “Who do you believe?” and I have to say I was stumped. Then again, I don’t believe much.

The question of the day, indeed, the question for our time, is how to tell truth from opinion and observation from presumption. But don’t take my word for it. This is just something you saw online, and isn’t any more true than a Viagra ad or the latest weight-loss fad.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Ridicule Us

I blame Aristophanes for the phrase “Neener, neener!” You could make a case for it having been Anaxagoras, given as how he was so much earlier, but Aristophanes was more of a prick.

Satire and the friendly giving-of-shit are hardwired into our culture. I do it all the time, and I take my share. But we all have lines we don’t want people to cross, usually right next to our bruises and scars. That’s when the satire becomes mockery, which is neither fun nor funny.

My idol Miss Manners says, “The difference between teasing and taunting is like the difference between kissing and spitting. The ingredients are the same; it is the emotion that determines whether it is pleasing or repellent.” (Judith Martin, “Miss Manners’ Guide to Domestic Tranquility”, 1999)

With all possible respect to that exalted lady, I got my feelings hurt by what was intended to be a humorous throwaway line. It wasn’t funny, but it was meant to be. No one intended for feelings to be hurt, but mine were.

The obvious next question is how to respond. Do you think Aristophanes’ subjects forced laughter to show they weren’t offended by his satire? I didn’t do that. I explained that I found the comment offensive but made a point of otherwise showing good will to the person who said it. I think Aristophanes might have found me humorless, but I hope that Miss Manners would applaud my dignity, and, well, my manners.