Abandoning Condescension in 2010

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Yesterday evening, son Stephen called my attention to a brilliant essay on National Public Radio's Monkey See blog. That it is brilliant didn't surprise me; the writer is wordsmith Linda Holmes, whose commentaries have always illuminated their topics while providing delicious (and quotable) phrasing.

The essay opens,

"Familiarity breeds contempt."

Perhaps it is this little saying, or some variation of it, that convinces people that disdain and discernment are the same thing: that the more things you roll your eyes at, the smarter you must be.

Those of us who have spent many hours in following a variety of fields of popular culture have surely run across the phenomenon. "I don't own an idiot box." (I suddenly realize that I haven't recently heard that cliche; at least that phrasing seems to have gone out of favor, though the sneer remains in what amounts to the same thing.) And in comics? Even as the term "graphic novel" actually intimidates some, the humble "comic book" still hasn't achieved the same respect - though they're synonyms.

In any case, do check out Linda's "Let's Resolve" - and join us all in the resolution.


Working Around, Coping, and Generally Managing

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My mother was a master of the work-around in decades past: She could make a Kleenex tissue serve as a coffee filter. She used her freezer to keep from mildew the dampened clothes that awaited ironing during a busy summer. She learned to use plastic wood and screening to patch decaying paneling on our "woodie" station wagon. She figured out that home brew was cheaper than commercially available beer and learned how to make her own.

What occasionally surprises me is that the necessity of figuring out ways of working around problems continues into our 21st century. We are certainly living in a science-fictional age. The grocery-store door opens as we approach. We carry our telephones with us. I have a lightweight tablet that, though newly purchased, lets me carry in one hand the complete works of Mark Twain, the Bible, and 33 novels by P.G. Wodehouse. (I'm in the midst of the introduction of Psmith, one of my favorite Wodehouse characters.) My living room is a theater, complete with Surround Sound and impeccable picture. But that doesn't mean I don't have to go on coping with idiosyncrasies of technology.

My Verizon PocketPC cell phone (Model RAPH500) runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, bought because it has a pull-out physical keyboard and connects to the Internet via dial-up (so I never need a Wi-Fi hot spot), supposedly connected best through "Opera." Except that no one at Verizon could figure how to make the e-mail display properly. After six different consultations, I returned the phone as defective, Verizon sent a replacement - and Opera still didn't work. So much head-scratching. Until someone at Verizon pointed out that I could use Internet Explorer as one of the Windows doohickies, and it has worked just fine. Worked around, coped, and generally managed.

Yesterday, I tried to post two images of absinthe, photographed at my brother's home. One image gave no grief. Two images not only distorted the opening paragraph, they also changed the font. OK, one picture yesterday. One picture today. Had to put it at the start of the post, because it glitched the text when I tried to move it to this paragraph. Worked around, coped, and generally managed.

Airlines are making carrying luggage more and more complicated and expensive. So one box of clothing and such resides at Valerie's home. One box of clothing and such resides at Stephen's home. And I travel with a carry-on and backpack. Worked around, coped, and generally managed.

When we have colonies set up at the North Pole and under the mid-Atlantic Ocean, we'll have solved a lot of problems to do it. But we'll still need to have work-arounds, to cope, and to generally manage.


Absinthe Makes ...

Monday, December 28, 2009

"Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder" is such logical wordplay that it's even the title of an episode on the Showtime series Californication. So no sense trying to pretend it's a brightly original opening for a brief post on my holiday introduction to the absinthe experience. My brother, Paul, learned that absinthe drinking is legal and began to build a home collection of a variety of that beverage. (He prowled the Internet, turning up such sites as that for The Wormwood Society. That organization notes that there's no law that prohibits absinthe by name but that no drink containing "in excess of 10ppm of thujone" is legal in America. However, "several authentic absinthes are now available for purchase at liquor stores and bars in the US." Clearly, there are restrictions. Also clearly, many kinds of absinthe are OK.)

My curiosity was connected with its reputed attractions for such creative folk as Oscar Wilde and an assortment of Parisian artists and writers. The Wiki writeup seems pretty clear on much of the history and comments that American bottlers resumed absinthe production a couple of years ago.

So Paul has spent the last few days providing me with a different brand of absinthe every evening for a tasting experiment. (The preparation is its own complex process, involving a special absinthe glass, mixing with water, and sometimes adding sugar.)

Absinthe (mixed with water) basically comes across to my jaded tongue as weak, slightly sweet licorice. Some varieties slightly numbed my tongue; I felt no alcoholic effects from any of the doses. After several days, I'm here to report that, while Paul's tastebuds can detect the many differences among the varieties and I was able to note that the super-expensive variety did taste different, I'll stick to my one-dose-per-day cabernet sauvignon or rum and Coke.

But at least now I'll know what some of the literary references are talking about.


On the Wings of Dreaming Eagles

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A month and a half between postings? Life happens -- and my best determination to make this blog a habit hasn't been enough to motivate me.

Until now.

'Cause I belieeeeeeeve in myself!

I am now officially inspired, and it's thanks to American Idol and my son.

As I turned on the radio in my car in the motel parking lot, preparatory to heading to the airport and the plane that would take me to the wonder world of holiday travel, Stephen's voice floated melodically in a message of inflated self-importance.

Understand that Stephen has, over the years, been something of a devotee of certain "reality" entertainments. Thanks to the bonus of commentaries on the Television without Pity website and its brilliant analyzer Linda Holmes, he was sucked into the whirlpool of involvement Big Time. It gave him a perspective that led to the composition of what you will hear on his National Public Radio essay for Morning Edition.

(And, yes, that is Stephen performing "On the Wings of Dreaming Eagles.")

You, too, can fly in the sky!


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