Monthly Archives: May 2011

Deeply Gross (amended reprint)

America has a very silly and deeply gross adolescent streak; our national “Cameron Diaz” – “Owen Wilson” – “Knocked Up” – “American Graffiti” – “Ferris Beuller” side. This piece of our national psyche has a kind of brash, rebellious strength and a really embarrassing and sophomoric superficiality. For the initiated this goofy spirit trumps wars and economic woes. It blithely and pruriently triumphs over all harsh reality by being so absorbed in its own, often boozy, foolishness that it just doesn’t notice.

While I feel a certain bogus awe when I have a “Porky’s” experience, I do not have this party-down bone in my body. I don’t want this image to “represent” us to the world. It’s our silly side, but it’s also our sleaszy side. There is a certain audacity to being this disgusting – to this cult of the naughty girl and the bad boy. It’s funny to us, but I think it is “lost in translation” and should be for home consumption only.

Considering the number of people who have gone to the movies to see “Hangover II” and “Bridesmaids” recently, it is obvious that I am in the minority when it comes to humor that revolves around puking and farting and really immature sexual nonsense. I guess deeply gross is deeply funny to many, many and probably not just in America.

Falling Behind the Curve

Technology that is too “young” for me:

Smart phone

Can’t make best use of features because it makes my brain bleed
Can’t see the letters or the screen
Don’t know how to text
Not up on my “text” language

GPS

I would have an accident
I try not to go anywhere I don’t know how to go
Those voices would get on my last nerve

Wireless

I don’t know where I packed my router
I understand 4G is slow
Even if I could find my router I have never once been successful in setting it up

HDMI

I am speechless – I don’t have clue

Home Theater

Only if I had enough money to buy all of the pieces and the services of a “geek” to set them up properly

Twitter

I will probably never Tweet
I have not even visited Twitter yet

I am ashamed to be falling this far behind the curve. I don’t know if a remedial class would even help at this point. Is not being able to keep up with new technology a sign? Something new comes along almost every day. I may have to push myself to conquer some of this stuff, or perhaps my life will be just as pleasurable if I give in to the inevitable and stick with the technology I know.

Let’s Reconsider

Wasn’t there an idea floating around that programs would be made available to high school or college graduates who could not find jobs or were not sure what they wanted to do (the former being much more likely these days)? These would be paid internships or perhaps paid community service positions. This would take some pressure off young people and off the job market. Military service would also remain an alternative.

This was an excellent idea with obviously big difficulties in this economy and with the GOP screaming for small government. Who would spearhead these programs? The states cannot afford it and even if it could be funded at the federal level it probably would not fly due to the political climate.

What would the positives be? Well the program would certainly help young job seekers get a start on an interesting resume and boost their confidence. A lot of work would get done. There could be jobs for young people who preferred a physically active position and jobs for those who did not. It would give employers a chance to get to know graduates and benefit from their assistance and that might even help grow their businesses. Maybe permanent jobs would result from such a temporary endeavor. Are we too poor to try such a positive program? Let’s reconsider this idea.

Let’s Change Our Election Rules

Let’s elect Presidents for eight years. Having elections every four years is too distracting and too expensive. We would still have the right of impeachment in case someone got so carried away with power that our freedoms were in jeopardy (which may have already happened in several previous administrations anyway).

First of all, no one wants to vote for important legislation because it might affect the outcome of the election, although, surprisingly the GOP seems eager to pass a budget with the Ryan Medicare option. What’s that all about?

A second consideration is that no one wants to run against a sitting President after their first term because even if they really stink, which Obama doesn’t, they usually win a second term. The media and the polls suggest that Obama has the edge in 2012 and the Republicans are having a lot of trouble finding someone who wants to run.

Additionally in a time when our economy is so tight and the Republicans remind us everyday that we need to save, cut costs, and tighten our belts; why would we want to waste millions of dollars on an election?

And pretty soon the whole world will take a breath and wait for America to hold our next election. Except the day-to-day events of the world will not stop; something happens every day. So the world will continue to move forward and backward and sideways, to advance or go into crisis, while we sit watching horrible election ads again and while we get so involved in our internal politics that we may not be able to make good and timely decisions. I’d rather eat dirt.

Let’s get an amendment to the Constitution moving through Congress. We’ll vote on that instead of holding the expensive Presidential election.

Book List – May, 2011

Doc by Mary Doria Russell – Everyone is talking about this story of Doc Holliday.

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok – Sounds wonderful – Chinese immigrant girl tries to negotiate Brooklyn with her feet in two worlds, daytime, school; nighttime, sweatshop. She must also negotiate language and love.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton – “a spell-binding tale of mystery and self discovery”

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley – “when a man is presumed poisoned in the cucumber patch of a dilapidated Buckshaw mansion in 1950, Flavia de Luce investigates.” It’s a whodunit.

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer – “Set in 1937 Europe – three Hungarian brothers – a marriage tested by disaster – a Jewish family’s struggle against annihilation and the dangerous power of art in times of war.”

The Lotus Eaters by Tatiana Soli – sweeping Vietnam era novel – story of two photojournalists – one American, one Vietnamese mostly told in flashback.

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda – a baby girl is born in India – her mother gives her up in favor of a son – she gives her to an American doctor – two families are changed by the child who connects them.

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay – Life of a Russian ballerina who was a defector – told through her memories.

Anthill by Edward Osborne – a young Southern boy becomes a naturalist through observing 4 ant colonies – he also becomes a conservationist at odds with developers. –“Part thriller, part parable”, “Stunning twists and startling revelations” ,“new insights into survival in rapidly changing world”

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Sin – family attempts to find mom who went missing from Seoul Station – as they think back through their lives with their mom they realize she may not have been very happy

The Love of My Youth by Mary Gordon –Two lovers met in Rome. They were parted by some betrayal in the 1960’s. They meet again in their late fifties in Rome where they begin daily walks and talks. They experience Rome and each other –“a rich and wise story”

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson – A Polish family escapes the past by moving to England after WW II. Their secrets come with them and threaten their new peace.

Elizabeth I by Margaret George – Elizabeth I is about the rivalry between two women who both love Robert Dudley. One woman is Elizabeth, the other is Lettice Knollys, Dudley’s wife who is trying to regain power and position for her family.

Once Upon a Time, There was You by Elizabeth Berg – “unforgettable”, about a couple who meet again after a divorce.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown – 3 estranged sisters return home for ailing mother and find themselves learning to love what they ran away from. This is a family of book lovers, the girls are all named after Shakespeare characters.

Miss New India by Bharati Mukherjee – Slumdog for girls, in a way

The End of the World

fire and iceImage by Raymond Larose via Flickr

Robert Frost once wrote about the end of the world in Fire and Ice, you remember this poem right?

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

This poem comes to mind especially after we had the weekend of the “Rapture” that wasn’t. I don’t want to be too flippant about this because I do not want to tempt fate. Frost suggests that our emotional vices make either fire or ice a fitting end for us very flawed humans.

However, after watching weeks and weeks of damaging tornadoes and the new damage to Joplin, Missouri, I wonder if the world could end in wind, and just what emotional dysfunction Robert Frost would connect to apocalypse by wind.

Perhaps the wind comes from the current climate of dissent. I know it could be global warming but that doesn’t fit the paradigm. It is not a human emotion, although it may result from a human need for comfort and luxury (which are considered sinful). I do not think the people of Joplin are especially guilty of any of these human failings and we are all in awe of how fearful nature can be. We’ve seen almost all of nature’s scary power the past few years. What can we say to people when they are faced with these kinds of loss? You are with us in our hearts and in our minds. It isn’t enough, but it is all we have.

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Lisa See’s Books

Lisa See has a new book, Dreams of Joy: A Novel.

I have enjoyed a number of Lisa See’s books. She also wrote:

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel

Peony in Love: A Novel

Shanghai Girls: A Novel

I loved all of these books but I especially loved Peony in Love.  I can’t wait to read her new novel. These novels may appeal to women more than men but that doesn’t mean men cannot gain insight into Chinese culture by reading Lisa See’s books.

Lisa also wrote some books I have not read. She wrote the Red Princess mysteries

Dragon Bones: A Red Princess Mystery

Flower Net: A Red Princess Mystery

The Interior: A Red Princess Mystery

If I ever get through the books already on my list I may try these.

She also wrote a nonfiction book called On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family which I would also like to read at some point.

If you haven’t given Lisa See a try start with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and work your way through.

Lawn Mower Saga – Part Deux

If you recall, Home Depot was nice enough to take back the cordless electric lawn mower even though I had charged it and used it once, sort of. It was too heavy to push so I didn’t get very far with it. I bought another mower (more expensive), a gas mower with a key start which is self propelled. As soon as I got it home I felt that I had made another mistake. What if this mower was too heavy? I called the lawn and garden department at Home Depot and the manager said that they would have opened the box for me so that I could have tested it in the store. She told me to bring it back and they would work with me until I found a lawn mower that was appropriate.

When I got to the store Earl was waiting for me (not the manager, but good with machines). He took me and my mower over to the tool shed and he opened the box and put the lawn mower together so that I could push it. We could not use the key start or the self propel feature because it takes 24 hours to charge the battery. The charge lasts about one month. I was able to push the mower, but we were on concrete, so I was still not absolutely sure how I would do on a very uneven lawn. But I could tell that the mower was much lighter than that cordless electric monster. It is a nice mower. It even has a place to screw in the hose so you can wash out the bottom of the mower without turning it over. So I agreed to take the mower back home with me.

Of course, the mower was no longer in the box and was now in my backseat, quite a distance from the ground where it needed to be. If I understood levitation it would have been quite easy to get it out of the car. I waited until the next morning when my energy levels were up and I looked around to make sure no neighbors were conspicuously watching and I got that lawn mower out of the car. It wasn’t pretty but I did it without damaging me or the mower.

Since we were in for seven days of rain I knew I would not be able to use the mower right away. Besides it needed to charge for 24 hours in a dry place. I have no garage and no outside outlet. I put it away in the shed to contemplate my next move. Five days later we had a sunny morning so I went to the shed to get the mower. That was when I noticed the hole in the shed roof and saw how wet my new lawn mower had gotten in the shed. No real damage done I finally got it plugged in. It will be ready tonight, Thursday. Tomorrow I will get some gas for it and put the oil in it and wait until Saturday when the rain is supposed to stop. My grass is so long again that it will take me days to cut it, but we only have sun for one day. Yikes! This was all so easy when I was 30. I’ve got the lawn mower blues.

Water for Elephants – A Movie

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 02:  (L-R) Christoph Wa...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

This movie has a lot of great qualities. Its heroes are a young man, Jacob, played by Robert Pattinson who is handsome enough to make your head spin; a young woman, Marlena, played by Reese Witherspoon, who is both sparkly and sincere; a wonderful elephant, Rosie; and a dwarf, Walter, played by Mark Povinelli. It’s got a villain, August, played by Christoph Waltz, who is both charming and ruthless in alarmingly unpredictable succession. And it’s got the circus with both the glitter and the sleaze.

The film is set during the Great Depression and the director, Frances Lawrence, perfectly captures what we see in our mind when we picture that time. The movie is based on the book written by Sara Gruen. See it! Rosie is wonderful and so are all the other heroes.

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Wimps?

Democrats – we have a lot to answer for. We are so silent. I don’t hear any groundswell from Democrats. I don’t see our Democrats in Congress doing their own due diligence to offer up a plan. I don’t see any overall support for our President from Democrats. I don’t see any compromise occurring behind closed doors so that Democrats can present a solid front to America to tell us what they have planned. Do they have a plan?

Perhaps Democrats think it is unseemly to demonstrate against Republican ideas or to form some kind of unified power group. We seem wishy-washy and passive. Maybe we can’t agree about what we want. Republicans are against a lot of things – abortion, gun control, large government, Obama’s healthcare plan. What are we for and against? We have not been very supportive lately of education or labor unions, things we have often supported in the past. We seem to accept all the cuts to school budgets as absolutely necessary because we know we can’t pay any more property taxes and we are convinced that if we do support our schools our property taxes will rise. We don’t meet to talk about how to reform or consolidate our educational system so that it will be more productive but less costly. We want things to continue as they are but we are told they cannot. If we don’t get into the dialogue we will find that we have to take what is offered. I feel the same inertia that other Democrats feel. What will it take to light our fire? Will we have to wait for the sad times, the bad times, let them wash over us, before we get a plan or make a stand?