Thursday, January 30, 2014

"It's going to take money..."

I'm sorry, but is there anyone with LESS charisma than George Harrison??

Crappy charisma nonetheless, and not-so-great song nonetheless... I still, while listening, kept randomly, stupidly thinking of F. Scott Fitzgerald singing this to Zelda back in the '20s. She wouldn't marry him until he had money, and he knew it, and he wrote 'til he had a novel fit for publishing, then he went and got her. I'm astounded by and admiring of his effort and ultimate success. Sure, look where it ultimately got 'em, but, hey, they didn't know that when they were kiddos.

And even in their last years, when they'd been living separately and could barely stand to look at each other during their brief meetings: “Liquor on my breath is sweet to her. I cherish her most extravagant hallucinations.” That's hard, real love, folks.

6:50am and I've BEEN up, not just GETTING up!

God, I hated that stupid job! And, by the way, the same stupid faces I had to see every day on the bus! The Sylvia-Plath-girl, the big fat Indian trying to look cool with his fuschia socks... at least these two were UNIQUE -- most of the rest generic "Kennedy from 90s MTV" and their generic plaid-shirted/bearded/glassesed boyfriends getting off at the front of the bus --- you get ON at the front, you get OFF at the back, you bunch-of-retards-trying-to-act-cool-yet-who-obviously-have-never-lived-in-a-big-city-and-thus-taken-public-transportation-and-know-the -etiquette-of-such!

Every one of them were irritating! That was one good thing about the "gypsy" buses that ran to/from NYC --- they came randomly every 10 minutes so you could just step out your door and get on a bus. It didn't have to be a ritual with knowing where every damn person was going to sit and who was going to stick his feet out and then pull 'em. ETC. ETC. I truly don't want to know exactly where these dipshits are going to sit and/or what they're going to wear every day.
I have freelance work to do today, paying $27 an hour, thank you. And I can do it at 10pm if I please. The contract not lasting long, but while it lasts... FUCK SECRETARIAL WORK AND FUCKING PEOPLE WHO RIDE THE BUS AT THE SAME TIME EVERY FUCKING DAY. Ugh. I'm sure I'll be back there soon, but in the meantime: FREEEEEEEEEEDOMMMMMMMMMMMM! Briefly, sweetly...

Storyboard P to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"

I've been a New Yorker subscriber for over 20 years now. As a kid, a blind admirer. As I've gotten older and gained more experience, seeing more and more the magazine's biases (while still more-than-occasionally being blown away by its actual profundities).

In the Jan. 6 issue, a story on "Storyboard P," a Brooklyn street dancer on the rise. The article's subhead "Storyboard P, the Basquiat of street dancing" completely turned me off. I absolutely hate the "Basquiat" tag. Too liberally applied by middle-aged intellectuals to any young "person of color" (in the parlance) with artistic inclinations.

But some of the quotes from/about "Storyboard P" in the article were interesting:

"I would cry when I saw Michael [Jackson]. His energy would scramble your frequency."

For a time, he developed choreography by sitting alone and staring at a wall until it came to resemble a projecting screen for strange, imagined shapes; he would then attempt to replicate what he was seeing with his body.

At home, deprivation forced him to be crafty. "Not having a lot, you're going to create... When I got a toy, I always broke it apart, put a new arm on it reinventing it....When my brother left me for his friends, it was back to not having a new toy, but knowing I can create one for myself. That's where the storytelling came from, that fantasy. Like people who play house and shit -- you're creating alternative realms to cope with where you are."

Dancers started battle by slamming a clawed palm into an opponent's chest, right above the heart, as if trying to tear it loose. "It's not 'Let's dance,' Storyboard said. "It's 'Gimme that!' He needs my energy to survive."

"We can all communicate without words, but we're asleep. We've dumbed down our clairvoyance.... So that girl there is standing. But the world is spinning, so what's really happening to her? She's not really standing, she's hovering... I'm just revealing what's really there. Revealing unseen forces -- that's what illusion is. Utilizing them unseen forces to manipulate a moment."

Wow, I thought. When I was young, I had similar freakouts/insights. I was deeply curious about where these took his dancing. I wanted to be blown away by Storyboard P's dancing based purely on his words. But when I looked him up on YouTube, this seemed to be the dancing highlight:

Nah. The New Yorker article, to me, much more profound than the subject's actual work. Not a kudo to The New Yorker; rather, a slam on its attempted false buildup. In fact, while watching this video, I soon became much more interested in what the mother and her kids behind Storyboard were doing in the sprinklers. (Oh, but where's the "Basquiat reference" in THAT story?)

End of a Minor Chapter

My last day at my 3-month temp job was to have been Tuesday, but because Austin was AGAIN shut down for a snow day, I came in on Wednesday, which was also the first day of the new person hired permanently in "my" position. The overlapping meant that I got to train her a little bit. (Which I was hoping to avoid.)

First of all: I've been around for the 2 rounds of this hiring process and, weirdly, was put in charge of making notebooks that compiled the top 10 candidates. Which meant that I got to see all of my "competition"'s resumes, cover letters, and references. The first round before Christmas -- only open to in-house applicants -- ended up without anyone being chosen, which meant that I was all of a sudden a strong candidate. (As a temp, I wasn't considered "in-house.") The second round, with the job being reopened to the public, had about the same level of candidates. Then after the second round closure, one more resume came in late -- since I had access to all of the files, I saw that once the job had been closed the second time, it was then REopened for just one more day (by my boss)... to allow this last one to be registered. This last candidate was also one of the 3 interviewees in the second round. She's Hispanic, like my secretarial boss. She was the one who got the job.

Now, OK, in Texas there are a lot of Hispanics. Could have been a coincidence. But... today while training her, she mentioned that she'd known my boss for "a while." I asked, casually, how she knew her: Turns out they're both members of a local "Hispanic Administrative Associates" group--seriously. And that my boss told her specifically that she should apply. (Even though she was past the job-closing deadline--which my boss reopened for her.)

The woman does indeed have 20 years of secretarial experience, as opposed to my three. So of course on paper she's, in general, more qualified than I am. But just in general. While I was training her today, she didn't seem to get basic stuff: Like, how server paths worked; how to scan letters to one's e-mail and then re-name those attachments; even the old-school thing of putting a check-mark by the names on CC's in hard copies of letters... Rudimentary stuff. (Not that she was merely "disinterested" in what I, a lame-duck temp, had to say, but that, while we were doing actual letters she kept "forgetting" this and that -- stuff that was NOT specific to this particular job but rather general knowledge.)

Whatevah. Knowing the anality of my secretarial boss, and discovering the scattered-ness of my trainee today, this "hire-my-people" romance is going to be a little rocky. While I found the job depressing and dumb, it still ticks me off that I know I'm more competent, and had been on the job for 3 months...yet didn't get the job.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Joan Crawford, 1963



A couple of weeks ago when my temp boss told me that they'd hired someone else for the position that I'd been doing for the past 3 months, I broke down and cried. Started slow, with some frowns and sniffles, but soon was full-out weeping, to where my "mean" boss was handing me tissues and telling me to take all the time I needed...

I did not like this job at all. But I was competent at it. And it was to pay very well. I wasn't intellectually stimulated, and I absolutely hated the constant glad-handing and smiling and "Would you like anything to drink?" involved... Not just me having to do this, but having to listen to it going on around me constantly; I was constantly inwardly cringing for both myself and for the others behaving so subserviently. (Not just the women secretaries, but every single person walking into the office --- as I mentioned before, it was a VIP's office: the sucking up and uber-joyousness EVERY person exhibited upon walking in was DRAINING in its falsity.)

But yeah, I WEPT when I found out I wasn't getting the job. I've been a job-gypsy for over 7 years now, ever since I left a regular position in Austin to move to New York in early 2007. My whole time in New York, and my whole time since coming home in 2010, has been a constant hustle, hassle of temp crap, some decent, some horrible, most draining in some way -- i.e., either nothing at all to do, or "lifer" office-lady bosses being nasty, or something... In this case, I wanted the $3800 a month salary very much, thought I could fake my way into being pleasant while jumping at every whim of the "officially retired" exec I was doing the correspondence for.

In reality, I was extremely competent at getting the letters typed and at booking appointments for the man, but... I absolutely hated his self-importance and his popping out of his office every half-hour to give me, in his words, a "special project" that wasn't "special" at all, just something minor and irritating. Like, say, a new Rolodex card. Or a third cancellation of a lunch appointment. (Which I somehow felt guilty for; just as I felt guilty for the people he sometimes kept waiting for 20 minutes out in the lobby.) This wasn't a "stressful environment" in the way that, say, a miner's job would be physically stressful. But it was, though, mentally stressful to me because I was doing a lot of extremely stupid stuff. And I'm sure the expression on my face sometimes showed my disdain for what I was doing.

At one point early on, my Executive Assistant secretary boss told me, in all seriousness: "If you want this job, you've got to OWN it." To me, "owning it" means doing the job right. It doesn't mean smiling and kowtowing (aka "shucking and jiving").

At the meeting where this woman told me I wasn't getting the job, she mentioned, first, that I hadn't really "earned" the job -- i.e., I had only 3 years of secretarial experience whereas others in the pool had 20 or more. (As an aside, I mentally calculated: At 48, I'm NEVER going to gain 20 years of secretarial experience, because I'll be retired by then -- THANK GOD.) Then she said, somewhat kindly I suppose, based on my resume that I'd handed her: "You were a WRITER! Why do you want this job?" ME: "I wasn't ever a WRITER, just a copy editor. And the publishing field dried up completely with the crash in 2008. I'm a secretary now."

I think she, as a longtime secretary, wanted to see her fellow longtime secretaries advance. No sympathy for those of us now apparently "slumming."


Your horoscope for January 27, 2014 
 Today is a fantastic day for you, STEPHANIE. Put yourself into high gear and get things done. Pursue those activities that are most meaningful for you. Work with what resonates with your true self. Express your opinions and thoughts with others. Be courageous and openhearted. Share your enthusiasm with others. If a situation doesn't spark your interest, walk away and find something that does. Life is short. Live it while you've got it.


The above is all very well and good. And, luckily corresponds almost exactly with what TV ads and bosses exhort. Only... In Real Life, no one wants me to "Pursue those activities that are most meaningful for you" or those that resonate with my true self. If I reveal my actual opinions and thoughts to others, I'm shunned. No one wants me to be courageous or openhearted. In the past, if a situation hasn't sparked my interest and I've walked away in order to find something that does... I've paid serious monetary and psychological consequences.

Heart, mind, and soul tell me one thing. The Real World tells me another.

So, which is it?


Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Odyssey

Was irritated upon receiving my 2003 D.C.H. Rieu Penguin translation of "The Odyssey" to find the thing in PROSE. (Is that the "thing" now?) I hereby completely declare myself in concordance with the 1967 Richard Lattimore dactylic hexameter version! Can't stand the Rieu version I just got. Not merely a matter of "line breaks," but also the language:

Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven
far journeys, after he had sacked Troy's sacred citadel.
Many were they whose cities he saw, whose minds he learned of,
many the pains he suffered in his spirit on the wide sea,
struggling for his own life and the homecoming of his companions.
Even so he could not save his companions, hard though
he strove to; they were destroyed by their own wild recklessness,
fools, who devoured the oxen of Helios, the Sun God,
and he took away the day of their homecoming. From some point
here, goddess, daughter of Zeus, speak, and begin our story.

Tell me, Muse, the story of that resourceful man who was driven to wander far and wide after he had sacked the holy citadel of Troy. He saw the cities of many people and he learnt their ways. He suffered great anguish on the high seas in his struggles to preserve his life and bring his comrades home. But he failed to save those comrades, in spite of all his efforts. It was their own transgression that brought them to their doom, for in their folly they devoured the oxen of Hyperion the Sun-god and he saw to it that they would never return. Tell us this story, goddess daughter of Zeus, beginning at whatever point you will.

More specifically:

they were destroyed by their own wild recklessness,
fools, who devoured the oxen of Helios, the Sun God,
and he took away the day of their homecoming.


It was their own transgression that brought them to their doom, for in their folly they devoured the oxen of Hyperion the Sun-god and he saw to it that they would never return.

The latter reads like a joke to me, like Steve Allen in the '60s reciting pop lyrics on television to get knowing titters from his audience.

"I've been uptight and made a mess"

Been beat up and battered 'round
Been sent up and I've been shot down
You're the best thing that I've ever found
Handle me with care
Reputations changeable
Situations tolerable
But baby, you're adorable
Handle me with care
I'm so tired of being lonely
I still have some love to give
Won't you show me
That you really care?
Everybody's got somebody
To lean on
Put your body next to mine
And dream on
I've been fobbed off and I've been fooled
I've been robbed and ridiculed
In Daycare Centers and night schools
Handle me with care
Been stuck in airports, terrorized
Sent to meetings, hypnotized
Overexposed, commercialized
Handle me with care
I'm so tired of being lonely
I still have some love to give
Won't you show me
That you really care?
Everybody got somebody
To lean on
Put your body next to mine
And dream on
I've been uptight and made a mess
But I'll clean it up myself, I guess
Oh, the sweet smell of success
Handle me with care

Beware of Darkness (for the SS)

Behind That Locked Door (for SS)

Why are you still crying?
Your pain is now through
Please forget those teardrops
Let me take them from you
The love you are blessed with
This world's waiting for
So let out your heart, please, please
From behind that locked door
It's time we start smiling
What else should we do?
With only this short time
I'm gonna be here with you
And the tales you have taught me
From the things that you saw
Makes me want out your heart, please, please
From behind that locked door
And if ever my love goes
If I'm rich or I'm poor
Please let out my heart, please, please
From behind that locked door

The Art of Dying


Tonight I've been listening to "All Things Must Pass," George Harrison's first solo album post-Beatles, for the first time. After Disc 1, I was kind of bummed out after editing out 4 of the 9 songs before transferring to my iPod. (Wanted to be totally enthralled, wasn't. The 5 of 9 songs I kept: My Sweet Lord, Wah-Wah, What Is Life, If Not For You, Behind That Locked Door.)

So by Disc 2, I was kind of bored, kind of ready to be done with the "chore" of listening to the whole now-only-"supposedly" classic thing just to get the distillation. I was pleasantly surprised, though, to find that I liked every song that I was hearing on 2. Really liked "Beware of Darkness"; merely liked the rest, was grooving along... And then came "The Art of Dying"! I got goosebumps, both because of the music and the lyrics. This YouTube version doesn't do it justice (should be heard SUPER-LOUD, with headphones, IN YOUR HEAD) -- WOW!

...Nothing in this life that I've been trying
Can equal or surpass the art of dying...

Searching for the truth among the lying
And answered when you've learned
The art of dying...

But when you have it there'll be no need for it

There'll come a time
When most of us return here
Brought back by our desire to be
A perfect entity
Living through a million years of crying
Until you've realized the art of dying...

I guess this song at this moment in time for me is particularly meaningful because... I got nothin', baby! :)  Not a single spiritual thing, no Love. I got plenty o' intellectual things to tide me over, see me through. But the lack of the spiritual, the lack of Love, is killin' me. (Only figuratively, but killin' me nonetheless.) There's no solution at all for my lack. George's karmic suggestion that I quit being disturbed by said lack is interesting -- unless I quit wanting, I'm going to be coming back to try the same thing over and over and over and over... I get it! :)  I get it, but, as a young-soul Leo, albeit a 48-year-old one, I can't quite yet ACCEPT it. "Rage, rage against the dying of the light..." You know, THAT sort of thing. Accepting "nothingness" reminds me of accepting a subservient secretarial job and pretending with all my might to be happy with it, to be grateful for the chance to smile constantly at blowhards and clean up the kitchen. I WON'T. I WON'T. Guess, according to George, I still have a "million years of crying" (minus 80-some-odd) left to do. So be it, I suppose. I fought my asshole Father over saying "May I be excused" from the table until he fell asleep, and I'll fucking fight the Universe -- one million years if necessary -- over this.

--Woops! Just realized that this was kinda the point of the song, and about what I'd already realized for myself: "Don't waste energy on responding to assholes, be it your father or the universe. Instead, flooowwwwwwww." Yeah, OK, RIGHT! (Now does everyone see the dilemma? You see fucked-up shit and you want to rage against it -- But if you say anything, you're a "troublemaker" and, nowadays in an adroit creepy psychological turnaround, a "bully." There's no fucking way out of this.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Photo taken December 30, 2013.

She gave birth to her second child, also a son, on December 31.
On January 4, 2014, she had an aneurysm and went into a coma.
This morning, January 21, she died.
How, within 3 weeks, do you go from a Christmas picture full of happiness and hopes for your newborn to being dead?


The Greatest

 A friend of mine sent me the Cat Power video (below) months ago. Just a couple of days ago I came across this Joan Crawford picture (on a tour to promote Pepsi in the '60s) to accompany it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I've got freelance work to do tomorrow...

...but I really don't feel like going to bed now (6:36) so I can get up to do any work. Can't quit listening to Beatles '62............................................

Like Dreamers Do

Written by Paul McCartney in 1957 (when he was 16); recorded during the Beatles' unsuccessful Decca audition in 1962.

Words to live by

Graduated high school from Azle, Texas, in 1983. Just learned on Wikipedia tonight that the town's motto is:

"Come to our side if you like shin deep lake water!"

Where I come from, folks.

As an addendum, just came across this Facebook entry ("Am I awesome or what") from a boy I had a crush on in high school: "I was dumping the guts from the fish and saw the pig and luckily had my gun with me. I shot her wearing birkenstocks and gym shorts."

He and several other boys in Azle all lived in the "Timberlake Estates," and their daddies were all primarily bankers, etc. At the time, I thought these were the "rich" and "sophisticated" kids. Now, on Facebook, at least 3 of them have nothing more to brag about than what animal they just killed.

POST-SCRIPT: I just responded on Facebook to this guy pictured here saying pretty much exactly what I said above: "I used to think you 'Timberlake Estates' guys were so rich and hot and now you're just proud of killing animals" ---- and he wrote me back, first: "Fuck you. My daddy used to shit in an outhouse... And my great-grandmother got stabbed in WWI" ... or something like that. I LOVED that! 'Cause MY back-story claim to fame is that... "My daddy used to shit in an outhouse, too! And my German mother's house was bombed by the Brits in WWII!"  So I threw all that in. And then he wrote back: "Your dad would have seen these pictures and told you to hook up with the dude." Me: "Huh? My dad wondered why I didn't marry a lawyer. He would NOT encourage your big ol' rural self." And then it got down to him saying how he killed all of his stuff JUST TO EAT IT, and had his own garden, to boot; and I said I admired that, as opposed to those of us, including me, who got all of our meat from a grocer's.

And then, at the end of the evening, this video from him posted to me specifically on Facebook:

Which is a pretty sexy thing to do.

Except the pictures of my old high-school crush at 275 pounds with the fish and the dead pig aren't sexy at all. I honestly DO admire the fact that he's self-sufficient and kills only to eat... and I used to think he was very laid-back and dreamy back in high school... (Aside from my making eyes at him constantly, though, our only conversation occurred once in the lunch line, about the just-released KISS solo albums: ME: "I love Gene's album!" HIM: "None of the solo albums ROCK!")

Friday, January 17, 2014

And when I touch you I feel happy inside

The Stones are the far sexier band, and even the better rockers. But there's something about watching the Beatles --- they are completely into it. They're not posing, not acting cool. They're -- Paul especially, and George -- just as spastically excited as the fans are.

I think when the Stones came on US TV a couple of months later, they taught viewers how to sit back and OBSERVE: Watch the cool guys pose, etc. Whereas the Beatles gave middle-class kids permission to be loose and crazy, because the band was just as unpretentious as the kid viewers were.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Bonnie

Been working as a temp for the past 3 months at a very high-powered exec's office (you'd know his name if you heard it), disliking the whole time my immediate secretary-boss but liking very much the idea of a potential $3800 a month and the powerful environment. Just got the shaft last week, but was told that maybe they'd want to keep me around to do "Girl-Friday-type" stuff because they were short-handed. Today: nah, no Gal Friday even.

Last week when I first found out I wasn't up for the $3800 a month, I went home and cried all weekend: "I'm a loser; nobody wants me." Today, a week later: I feel like a huge weight is off of me. I HATED the stuff I was doing. Well, no, it was TOLERABLE. What I hated was my secretary-boss:  Here's an example: Yesterday, she handed me a letter with extraneous material, part of which was to be sent as an enclosure, part NOT to be sent. I specifically said to her, "OK -- let me mark what's NOT to be sent." She handed me the material NOT to be sent and I specifically marked it and put it aside. I went and did my scanning, etc., and e-mailed her a copy. Minutes later, she says to me: "I told you NOT to include _____. Why is that in the packet?" This kind of thing happened at least 10 times in the 3 months I've been there. At first, I thought I was just stupid and/or crazy! After a couple of weeks, though, I realized that SHE was the stupid, utterly irrational one.

So, nah, I'm not terribly depressed over losing out on $3800 a month from this particular source. It WOULD have meant the end to my wayward life since 2007, which I was kind of looking forward to... But... I honestly don't know how long I could have put up with this boss's bullshit before I snapped.

In the meantime, I've been reading Part One of Mark Lewisohn's new in-depth Beatles biography, up 'til '62. At first I took heart at the youthful Paul McCartney's giving up his day job at John Lennon's demand, but then, wait a second... these kids in the "story" were 20; I'm 48... Fuck! ;p  (Still, I keep wondering, irrationally, while reading: What's going to happen? Another thing I kept reading was how random, various people in the early years kept saying how the Beatles made them "happy"-- I read the same on some of the Amazon reviews, too. EXACTLY. I was a miserable 15-year-old trapped in 1980 in a small town, then sans-Internet, isolated in the summer from my school friends, from anyone... And then came a Beatles Revival over one of the local Fort Worth rock stations, and a couple of  Beatles movies shown during the afternoon on local TV... By my birthday in August 1980 I had Nicholas Schaffner's "Beatles Forever" book, and I was in love. During the fall, I'd decided on my favorite Beatle: John, based on his interviews and solo albums and lyrics to songs like "Working Class Hero" and "God." )

Point? Reading the Beatles bio kinda hearkened me back to when I was first discovering myself as a young teen. And reminded me that nothing about this job had anything to do with myself. I walked out of the office today feeling lighthearted and free. (At 48. I supposed that's kind of rare.)

Monday, January 13, 2014

In Praise of Shower Curtains and Fluffy Rugs

I haven't had a shower curtain that I liked/loved, or a fluffy rug and toilet-seat cover to go along with it, since early 2007, when I dumped (so to speak) all of my possessions to move to New York. SEVEN YEARS, man, without nice bathroom accoutrements!

I'm back, baby! ;p  In the tiniest of bathrooms, but... the rug is fluffy and not a "mat" or nonexistent. And the curtain is now something I paid a lot for and meaningful to me and not a liner for $7 from a supermarket or Dollar Store. And there's a matching trashcan/tumbler/scrubber.

Life's too short to have shitty (so to speak) bathroom stuff. At the rate I've been going lately -- new only every 7 years -- I'll, at 48, only have time for 3 more rounds before I die (assuming I'll die in my mid-70s): at 55, 62, and 69. Wow. That's kind of freaky to think about: Only 3 more sets of towels and shower curtains in my life...

Saturday, January 11, 2014

She Resuscitates Me/She Fucking Hates Me

Your temper's just as bad as mine.

Pope Francis from his Apostolic Exhortation (Nov 2013)

Am I just old at 48 and thus wanting to believe? Is society making a turn? I can't quite tell. I find the below from Pope Francis extremely profound. As a baptized Lutheran, and as someone who deeply respects Martin Luther's bravery and honesty in his original Protestantism (Protest!), I'm not exactly gonna convert or anything, but still... the below is thrilling to me. What Pope Francis says below means something. As an intellectual premise --- and especially as an intellectual premise coming from the highest authority of the church with more adherents than any other in the world.

Chapter 2, I:

...Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and na├»ve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

No to the new idolatry of money
55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Facebook Deathwatch, Part 2

For the past few days, I've been reading an acquaintance's posts about his wife's aneurysm after the birth of their second child. She's now in a coma, not known whether she'll live or not.

Sorry: The post-er isn't an "acquaintance," he's the best friend of my brother, and I've known him since he was a kid in high school. When the boys were 17 and Seniors, they made a trip to Austin to visit "the cool older sister" (me at 23). This boy was mightily impressed with my garage apartment, and the fact that I knew "punks" to hang out with and bands for them to see. A few years later, this same "boy" (now a man, emotionally) hung out with me in a bar that my brother was working at; sensing my utter isolation, he invited me back to his apartment with his visiting mother to hang out and watch movies -- we all watched, and enjoyed, the very-appropriate-for-that-moment "Marty" with Ernest Borgnine! :)

In subsequent years, he eventually moved to LA and got a television job there. And now he's posting on Facebook about his wife being in a coma. Along with pictures of him painting her comatose fingernails. (He's not painting her nails for the public to be grotesque, but rather hoping that she'll get mad enough at him for messing the job up to wake up.)

Reminds me of my high-school acquaintance Patsy's public Death on Facebook a couple of years ago, in which she started posting one evening upon the taking of a potent prescription drug, then took more and more of the pills, all the while becoming less and less coherent in her posts. The next day, we on Facebook were informed by her daughter that she'd overdosed and died.

I'm pruriently fascinated by this stuff when it shows up. But I don't need to see it. It's private and personal. I'll LOOK at it, sure. But WHY is it there for ME, an acquaintance, to look at?

A person's suicide? Is Facebook really the place to "fade out"?

A person's coma? I don't want to see a Facebook photo of the comatose person's nails being done (in all good faith) by her grief-stricken husband. (Complete with a subsequent Facebook comment by a well-meaning, but extremely idiotic, friend: "When I saw her yesterday, her nails looked really great. Good job!")

"Decorum," "decency." Something. There's something missing here. STOP IT. I'll read about this kind of thing day in and day out for my own prurient interest, just because it's there and more fascinating than the day's football scores. But it's not for me to read. It's the most intimate of things -- part of who YOU are -- can't you see that? STOP IT.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Schtick und Helter Skelter

Is there an alternative?

I work in an office with an accomplished man who officially retired back in August. He's constantly worked more than full-time in the months since then. All the while making wry comments every chance he gets about how hard he's working despite the fact that he's "retired." When I first started at this office several months ago, I was told, "Now, __________ is officially retired, but, boy, he still can't seem to get a break!"

I get it. I understand. When he really retires, he's nothing; as long as he hangs around, though, making his presence known more than 40 hours a week as "someone who's retired but is obviously so needed that he can't really cut back on his hours," he's still a somebody.

I like the man. (Weirdly, he has the same Scorpio birthday of someone I still love.) But this shilly-shallying is driving me nuts. Ideally, I'd like one of two things:

(1) Announce you don't want to retire after all and officially come back to work full-time.

(2) Be retired and come into work part-time. If you happen to work more than 20 hours a week, just work your extra and shut up about it.

I just can't stand this "I'm retired but look how much I work" SCHTICK constantly.

On a personal level: My own tired SCHTICK is: "I moved to New York City for 3 years. I've seen things. And that's why I don't have a car or a job-with-benefits now." I'm bored with that, as well. Though, come to think of it, I'm also bored with: Why am I ashamed of not having a car or a job-with-benefits? Why can't I pleasantly live sans car and just LIVE with whatever job? (While I'm happy in a one-room apartment with my books, paying all bills on time, I'm also well aware that I'm smart and have a Master's degree and that I should be making at least $75,000 a year. If only I were willing to put up with multiple other people's bullshit.)

I remain uncomfortably in-between worlds. I feel that I've come to the crossroads where I should choose one, but since I hate both options (hipsters are as phony as office people), it's hard. I keep telling myself, while currently being a highly-paid secretary: "Just get the money and go home." But what I'm doing during the day, and how some people speak to me, AFFECT me. I don't just come home and automatically switch over into being an independent person --- there's still very much the residue of anger of how I was condescended to during the day.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Paul's Memory song for John

And John has his girlfriend there and is smacking his gum. George and Ringo looking like they're on heroin. I feel bad for Paul.

"When I wake up, I'll be in Shanghai"

Lindsay Lohan via Twitter
(Three women's faces I can't get enough of: Joan Crawford's, Anne Sexton's, and Lindsay Lohan's.)

Some Revolver Songs

This segue in "Revolver" from "She Said She Said" to "Good Day Sunshine" has to be one of the most incongruous in music, and of the most realistic in relationships:

Followed directly by one of my favorite Beatles songs ever:

And then by one of Paul's prettiest/saddest/most emotionally honest songs:

I like this album a lot. If only I could delete the 3 George songs and Ringo's showcase "Yellow Submarine," which just seem obligatory rather than innate.

The last two songs, Paul's "Got to Get You Into My Life" and John's "Tomorrow Never Knows" are, per the earlier dichotomy of "She Said"/"Good Day Sunshine," what is most fascinating and poetic about the album: Two young men's differing attempts at negotiating their intimate worlds. (The contrast but equal depth unique to the forced collaborative format of popular music -- Baudelaire, for instance, had no one to play off of. For which I'm sure he was grateful, and why most band members go solo.)

In Praise of Judging

I think being judgmental is underrated and unfairly maligned nowadays. I'm not talking about judging people on the color of their skin or on their gender or on their sexual orientation or what-have-you (I'm a bi white female Democrat, BTW). These "criteria" were, unfortunately, how many WERE judged until fairly recently -- thus the social upheaval beginning in the late 60s, a necessary response to the insane rigidity of American society up 'til that point.

In recent years, however, the pendulum has swung way too far in the other direction: You're now called a racist if you want to tighten criteria for being eligible for welfare/unemployment. You're anti-woman if you agree that abortions shouldn't be allowed after, say, 3 or 4 months. You're anti-gay if you criticize sleeping around for both straights and gays. You're anti-education if you're pro merit pay for teachers and testing for students. You're anti-environment if you question the concept of global warming, wondering if natural heating/cooling cycles (as geologically recorded) are not also in play. Taken scarily further: You're a bully if you intellectually criticize someone's work. (On a minor personal note RE the latter: Just days ago I was called, in an e-mail, a "cunt," a "bitch," and a "snobbish hag" for stating online that it was ridiculous for someone who had admittedly never read a single Joan Crawford biography to present themselves online as an expert on Joan Crawford.)

I think that "intellectual rigor" has in recent years been somehow unfortunately recategorized under the too-wide, negative umbrella of "judgmentalism." And I think general standards have, as a result, deteriorated mightily.

Tonight's "Let Me Be the Judge" entry is from a random "Mommy Blog" that I just came across (I was fascinated by how very different this woman's New Year's entry was from mine):

Random New Year’s thoughts;
No one is perfect and this life is our opportunity to live imperfectly.
It’s the moments that count and make up a joyous life so live them to the fullest.
Life doesn’t turn out how you plan, it turns out better.
If you go see one movie in January make it The Secret Life of Walter Mitty-this is one you’ll want to see on the big screen, plus it’s very uplifting
“Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.” -The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

(1) "No one is perfect and this life is our opportunity to live imperfectly." Well, sure, obviously, "no one is perfect." And, sure, obviously, "this life is our opportunity to live imperfectly." But what's the point in stroking people for being mediocre? It's an unfortunate state to be lived with since it can't be helped, not something to be lauded with a slogan. 
(2) "It's the moments that count and make up a joyous life so live them to the fullest." The "joyous life" concept is a weird modern fallacy. "Joy" is not the norm and never has been the norm throughout history. There are moments of joy, sure, but as a whole, as a constant? No way.
(3) "Life doesn't turn out how you plan, it turns out better." ARE YOU KIDDING? I don't know a single person who thinks that their life turned out better than their initial dreams.
(4) The "Walter Mitty" movie stuff: Haven't seen the 2013 movie, but from every review I've read, it has very little to do, psychologically, with the original Thurber story in the New Yorker, which has a mild-mannered man fantasizing about escaping from his overbearing wife.
Just judgin'.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

A New Year

I'm, overall, pleased with how 2014 has started out for me. I think how I spend New Year's Eve tends to set the tone for the upcoming year; this year, I spent the Eve not drinking a thing (despite having a bottle of cheap champagne waiting in the fridge) and reading the first 100 pages or so of Toby Wilkinson's "The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt." Book's epigraph from Shelley's wise "Ozymandias": "'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:/Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'/Nothing beside remains. Round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,/The lone and level sands stretch far away." Which some might find depressing, but I've always found comforting and rather peaceful, as in: "NOTHING MATTERS: we're all going to end up dust anyway!" :)  (As I've mentioned before, I also like going to graveyards.)

I've spent way too much time over the past years on the Internet, and being offline New Year's Eve reading and thinking felt good and mentally/spiritually nourishing. Nothing wrong with the Internet; it can also be stimulating. It's just that the stimulation is more shallow, like eating a ton of candy or watching a Bravo "Housewives" marathon -- it feels good at the time, but afterwards you feel kind of nauseous.

I've always overdone the Internet; instead of, say, 6 hours a weeknight working on my Joan website and then trawling around on social media sites trying to find ANYTHING to stimulate me mentally/ameliorate feelings of isolation, I need to work on moderation --- I think 3 hours a night would be much more reasonable. Maybe off the Internet by 10pm, then the next couple of hours in bed with a good book? Much healthier, much less drinking/smoking, much better feelings (both physical and mental) the next day.

p.s. Turned low in the background during my New Year's Eve reading, and also on New Year's Day: A 24-hour "Twilight Zone" marathon running on the SyFy channel. When the thousands of years of Egyptian civilization got too much, I could always take a breather with the TV and still THINK a bit about the nature of existence! Plus it was fun to see so many familiar faces of TV's heyday -- Shatner, Savalas, for instance -- in early roles, as well as getting to judge the episodes from a current perspective: Did they still stand up to what I remembered from first seeing them as re-runs in the 70s? For the most part, yes. The Talking Tina doll (with its subtext of an abusive stepfather), the evil child (Billy Mumy) forcing his family/neighbors to tell him how loved he was for fear of being put "under the cornfield," the woman whose mother's murderer comes back to visit her 20 years later after a visitation by her 8-year-old self, the townspeople turning on each other with accusations of being an alien, the townspeople fighting to get into a neighbor's bomb shelter, Shatner's already emotionally disturbed man on the airplane seeing a creature on the wing and not being believed, Inger Stevens' lost motorist seemingly terrorized by a hitchhiker who keeps turning up (only to find out she is already dead)... Oh, and the funny "To Serve Mankind" episode: "It's a COOKBOOK!" I was constantly being "fed" by this excellent, psychologically astute television! (The only episode I was extremely disappointed by was one written by Earl Hamner, Jr., of "Waltons" fame, about kids of divorcing parents who kept diving through their swimming pool to find a much more pleasant world -- heavy-handedly mean parents, false writing for the usually subtle show.)

Post-Egypt/Twilight Zone: I went to the dentist on the 2nd for the first time in over 7 years! Sans insurance, I'd asked my mom for a cleaning for Christmas. Surprised to learn that what I remember costing $50 seven years ago has now ballooned to $169! And pleasantly surprised to learn that no, my teeth weren't rotting away! The "chips" falling out of my mouth 6 or so months ago (that I, freaking out, taped to a post-it note to show someone when I got the chance) weren't from TEETH, just chunks of tartar! And today, the 4th, a fresh haircut for the New Year...