Guilty

Turning, one evening, from my phone to a book, I set myself the task of reading a single chapter in one sitting. Simple. But I couldn’t. There was nothing wrong with my eyes. No stroke or disease clouded my way. Yet – if I’m being honest – the failure was also not a surprise.

Paragraphs swirled; sentences snapped like twigs; and sentiments bled out. The usual, these days. I drag my vision across the page and process little. Half an hour later, I throw down the book and watch some Netflix…

So, it’s been unnerving to realize: I have forgotten how to read – really read – and I’ve been refusing to talk about it out of pride…

Online life makes me into a different kind of reader – a cynical one. I scrounge, now, for the useful fact; I zero in on the shareable link. My attention – and thus my experience – fractures. Online reading is about clicks, and comments, and points. When I take that mindset and try to apply it to a beaten-up paperback, my mind bucks.

Author Nicholas Carr writes that, “digital technologies are training us to be more conscious of and more antagonistic toward delays of all sorts.” We become, “more intolerant of moments of time that pass without the arrival of new stimuli.” So, I throw down the old book, craving mental Tabasco sauce. And yet not every emotion can be reduced to an emoji, and not every thought can be conveyed via tweet.

~ Michael Harris, “I have forgotten how to read.” For a long time Michael Harris convinced himself that a childhood spent immersed in old-fashioned books would insulate him from our new media climate – that he could keep on reading in the old way because his mind was formed in pre-internet days. He was wrong.

Read on: “I Have Forgotten How to Read.” (The Globe and Mail, Feb 9, 2018)

 

 

Peaceful easy feeling

house-feb-2018

53° F on Friday.

39° on Saturday morning.

Spring!

So when it started at 7 pm last night, it felt anything but that.  A December feeling in February.

Large, wet flakes, falling softly.

I turn off the television. Enough Mueller, Trump, collusion, and spit from the talking heads on Cable. Dirty. Ugly.

Light from the street lamps paint the fresh snow with a soft amber glow. Magical. “This voice keeps whispering in my other ear…I get this peaceful easy feeling…”

I watch from the window inside.

Mother and Son build a snowman, Eric is days from his 24th birthday.  They’re giggling.

Flashbacks. Rosy cheeks. Over sized mittens. Snow pants swishing. Arms swinging up and down, angels in snow. What’s this portrait missing? Rachel who couldn’t make it home for the weekend. And Zeke. Yes, Zeke loved the snow. Snow flakes melting on his velvety reddish brown fur. Barking, and barking and barking at Dad who chases the kids and pelts them with snowballs. Who you protecting these days Bud? [Read more…]

Nuit Blanche


Thank you Nan Heldenbrand Morrissette for sharing “Nuit Blanche” (Sleepless night) by the Tarkovsky Quartet.

the beginning, the middle, and the end

They sleep early and rise in the dark. It is winter now. The nights are long but outside, where the leaves have fallen from the branches, the snowed-in light comes through. There is a cat who finds the puddles of sunshine. She was small when the boy was small, but then she grew up and left him behind. Still, at night, she hunkers down on Kiri’s bed, proprietorial. They were born just a few weeks apart, but now he is seven and she is forty-four. My son is the beginning, the middle, and the end. When he was a baby, I used to follow him on my hands and knees, the two of us crawling over the wood floors, the cat threading between our legs. Hello, hello, my son would say. Hello, my good friend. How are you? He trundled along, an elephant, a chariot, a glorious madman.

 

Ditch them. You just might hear the world calling your name.

 

I hereby dub them Generation Deaf and Blind.

 I’ve always been vaguely offended by people who walk around wearing headphones, and I only recently realized why. Both my parents were profoundly deaf. I grew up watching them struggle to communicate with others, often misunderstanding and, in turn, finding themselves misunderstood.

So I never took hearing for granted. More than once as a boy, I pressed my hands over my ears, trying to simulate the experience of deafness. Other times I pretended to be Superman, equipped with superhearing to function as a surrogate for my parents.

Why would anyone deliberately tune out sound from the world around us? Granted, music makes us happy. Headphones give us control over what we hear, as well as when and where. They insulate our ears from the din of jackhammers, car horns and the noise of daily life.

The trend toward wearing earpieces in public is unmistakable. Apple has sold more than 300 million iPods since its introduction in 2001. A 2014 survey found that the average millennial wore headphones for nearly four hours a day, and 53% of them owned three or more pairs.

But pedestrians who tune out the sounds around them are taking a real risk. The number of people in the U.S. seriously injured or killed while walking in public and wearing headphones tripled between 2004 and 2011, according to one study. In 29% of those accidents, a warning—such as a horn, siren or shout—evidently went unheard.

People are free to impose such sensory deprivation on themselves. If, in commuting to and from your job, you prefer to listen to music or a podcast than to hear birds warbling or the wind rustling the leaves or an infant giggling as a puppy licks her face—or for that matter, a speeding ambulance honking at you to step aside—be my guest.

Even so, consider the alternative. Ditch the earpieces once in a while, if only as a change of pace. Listen to the sounds around you, a luxury that eludes more than a million deaf Americans. You just might hear the world calling your name.

~ Bob Brody, from “The Case Against Deliberate Deafness. Constant use of headphones creates hazards and muffles the music of daily life.” (wsj.com, Feb 8, 2018)


Photo by ShannonVanB

Imagine having no talent. Imagine being no good at all at something and doing it anyway.

Imagine having no talent. Imagine being no good at all at something and doing it anyway. Then, after nine years, failing at it and giving it up in disgust and moving to Englewood, N.J., and selling aluminum siding. And then, years later, trying the thing again, though it wrecks your marriage, and failing again. And eventually making a meticulous study of the thing and figuring out that, by eliminating every extraneous element, you could isolate what makes it work and just do that. And then, after becoming better at it than anyone who had ever done it, realizing that maybe you didn’t need the talent. That maybe its absence was a gift.

These were the stations on the via dolorosa of Jacob Cohen, a.k.a. Rodney Dangerfield, whose comedy I hold above all others’. At his peak — look on YouTube for any set he did between 1976 and 1990 — he was the funniest entertainer ever. That peak was long in coming; by the time he perfected his act, he was nearly 60. But everything about Dangerfield was weird. While other comedians of that era made their names in television and film, Dangerfield made his with stand-up. It was a stand-up as dated as he was: He stood on stage stock-still in a rumpled black suit and shiny red tie and told a succession of diamond-hard one-liners.

The one-liners were impeccable, unimprovable. Dangerfield spent years on them; he once told an interviewer that it took him three months to work up six minutes of material for a talk-show appearance. If there’s art about life and art about art, Dangerfield’s comedy was the latter — he was the supreme formalist. Lacking inborn ability, he studied the moving parts of a joke with an engineer’s rigor. And so Dangerfield, who told audiences that as a child he was so ugly that his mother fed him with a slingshot, became the leading semiotician of postwar American comedy. How someone can watch him with anything short of wonder is beyond me.

~ Alex Halberstadt, from “Letter of Recommendation: Rodney Dangerfield” (The New York Times, January 26 2018)

I can’t help it. Still going. (30 sec)


  •  The spot, by Anomaly Los Angeles, shows actress Hayley Magnus extolling the virtues of Diet Coke’s new Twisted Mango flavor with a little dance. The video was originally meant to be part of a portfolio of tweetable videos for the brand’s new “Because I can” campaign that touts Diet Coke’s new flavor lineup that comes in slim cans.
  • Diet Coke New Flavors are: Twisted Mango, Feisty Cherry, Zesty Blood Orange, Ginger Lime. Zero Calories!
  • Music: “Long Distance” by Sam Gellaitry

Walking Cross-Town. And Recycling.

My right eye is pulled down and right, to the gutter on 42nd street. A half-eaten sandwich, a bite out of a slice of yellow American cheddar cheese, and its wrapper moist from Italian dressing. A few feet further up, a Bic Pen with its partially chewed blue cap, a cigarette butt and a flyer for Chinese take-out.

This discarded potpourri waits for the next big rain, or the morning sweepers to push it down from one storefront to the next and to the next, when it eventually drops down a street drain, bumping along the dark tunnels, and ending in the Hudson River, where a bottom feeding catfish nibbles on it.

I’m rushing (again) to catch the 6:10 Metro-North home.  I can’t explain it: the mind, my mind, that is.  It’s locked on trash.

Last night, I tossed an empty box of Eggo Frozen Waffles into the trash can in the kitchen. My eyes scan the trash, as my tongue works its way across my lips, lips lightly coated from Log Cabin Maple Syrup.

“Why isn’t this paper in the recycling bin?”

“What paper?”

“All of the paper that should be in the recycling bin.”

“Because it’s soiled.”

Soiled? I dig down. I find unsoiled paper, an empty plastic stick deodorant push-up, zip-lock baggies and empty envelopes.  I toss them into the recycling bin.

I dig down to the bottom for one last pass and my hands land on raw, moist chicken fat. [Read more…]

Tell Me More

Me, I’m all over the place. I look like my dad, and like both the girls in different ways. My hair is naturally curly but not in the sexy beachy way. If I were a dog, I’d be the kind that’s easier to shave down than to groom. I have been told I have large teeth. I’m soft, and getting softer, and my ass is less pumpkin than helipad. To pretend I care enough to fix these things, I exercise every Saturday morning with Edward. I slow down when my forehead starts to shine—I’m not a huge fan of showers. I wear the same clothes all week and often get past noon before putting on a bra or looking in the mirror. I prefer projects to jobs. I’ve built “furniture,” been a “photographer,” and started a “company.” I am riddled with ideas, a dozen a day. My ambition waxes when I drink alcohol—one skinny margarita can have me filing to run for state senate—and wanes in the morning after the kids leave and I am alone with the work. The one absolutely good thing I do is volunteer for our local children’s hospital. Every Tuesday, from three p.m. to five p.m., I hold babies in the NICU.

~ Kelly Corrigan, Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say (January 9, 2018)


Verdict: Highly Recommended.

Cut it. Cut it in half.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

[fragment]

How does one begin to describe Saturday mornings? That lazy, lay-in-bed, nothing-to-do, no-where-to-go feeling. Is this what retirement feels like?

I hoist myself up, lean against headboard, adjust the laptop and screen brightness and begin ingesting data, photos, emails and the morning news. There’s a Metro North train whistle in the distance, Manhattan bound. Thank God that’s not me.

It’s 7:34 a.m. 16 minutes from opening.  We’ve officially boycotted The Salon after the last and final experience in Red Lines, Banalities and Grumpy Middle Aged Men.

So, we’re back. Back to Barber Shop. I pull into the lot at 7:57 a.m. and a “We’re Open” sign hangs from the door.

“Good morning!”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“No, anyone is fine.”
“Ok, no worries, we’ll be right with you.”

Wait time: 2 minutes.

“How would you like it?”

“Not short. Light trim, please.” Are you kidding? Crew cut. Tight. High and Tight. Flat top. Trim. This is a Barber Shop. Like it matters. The precision here is akin to cutting your lawn with a scythe v. a Honda power mower.

He grabs his bottle and spritzes me. Water droplets snail down my forehead. The mist clears, and there is me, staring at me in the mirror. Wow. Look at you. When did this happen? A few desperate hairs cover the front end of your scalp. That ain’t a flattering picture Pal.

And he gets after it. With a whole lot of electric clipper and not much scissor.

[Read more…]

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