Sunday afternoon . . .

“Christmas is our time to be aware of what we lack, of who’s not home.” ~ John Irving, from A Prayer for Owen Meany

Sunday night. Less windy and colder, 47 degrees.

Okay, so it’s not exactly afternoon. I got distracted by the sound of my computer crashing over and over . . .

Anyway, I had set aside the following clips to share with you in my attempt to put myself squarely in a somewhat festive mood for the season. After all, I’m only going to be doing all of the lead up to Christmas mostly by myself as Corey won’t be getting home until Christmas eve. So I’ve told myself that I’m going to start this week, try to do a little each day, but the reality is with having Olivia, I never know how my days will turn out.

And truthfully, while I associate my father with Thanksgiving, I associate my mother with Christmas, and this is the first one without her, and I’m trying, really, really trying not to think too much.

So in the spirit of trying . . .

I will admit that I’m one of those people who cries at Christmas Commercials. My favorite was always the Miller “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” sleigh ride. I used to weep buckets. I’ve never been able to find a decent video of it, but I keep hoping. John Lewis (UK) commercials are always wonderful, and this year’s just slays me (it warrants repeating). And then there are the Coke commercials. Remember “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”?

The Stella Artois company did something truly amazing with their commercials this year. Here are two from their “Give Beautifully” series:

More later. Peace.

                   

An Old Man Performs Alchemy on His Doorstep at Christmastime

Cream of Tartar, commonly used to lift meringue and
angel food cake, is actually made from crystallized fine wine.

After they stopped singing for him,
the carolers became transparent in the dark,
and he stepped into their emptiness to say
he lost his wife last week, please
sing again. Their voices filled with gold.
Last week, his fedora nodded hello to me
on the sidewalk, and the fragile breath
of kindness that passed between us
made something sweet of a morning
that had frightened me for no earthly reason.
Surely, you know this by another name:
the mysteries we intake, exhale, could be
sitting on our shelves, left on the bus seat
beside us. Don’t wash your hands.
You fingered them at the supermarket,
gave them to the cashier; intoxicated tonight,
she’ll sing in the streets. Think of the old man.
Who knew he kept the secret of levitation,
transference, and lightness filling a winter night?
— an effortless, crystalline powder
That could almost seem transfigured from loss.

~ Anna George Meek

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If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

Friday night. Clear and cool, 41 degrees.

Woke up with a migraine that left me puny for almost the whole day . . . Le sigh . . .

This week’s headline:

“You’re maudlin and full of self-pity. You’re magnificent!” ~ Joseph L. Mankiewicz, from All About Eve

The philosophy of Calvin and Hobbes:

Calvin: They say the world is a stage. But obviously the play is unrehearsed and everybody is ad-libbing his lines.

Hobbes: Maybe that’s why it’s hard to tell if we’re living in a tragedy or a farce.

Calvin: We need more special effects and dance numbers.

Finally, I have found the perfect graphic to illustrate my complicated relationship with math beyond algebra:

So Ellen does Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln Commercial, and it’s soooo much better:

And speaking of women making it better, you must read the Amazon comments for this product:

And continuing with the education themes . . . this teacher does it for the win:

I can’t believe I ate the whole thing . . .

A possum broke into an Australian bakery and ate so many pastries it couldn’t move. This is how they found him.

Things that make you go hmm . . . Yes, these were real ads (click here to see more):

Speaking of the past . . . things Olivia’s generation will never know:

incredibly long download times for one song . . .

Saving homework on one of these and then losing it . . .

Twitter turns Time magazine’s proposed ban on word feminist into Princess Bride tirade:

Dogs can be such dweebs:

Music by who else? Pink Floyd, “Another Brick in the Wall”

“I’ve always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed.” ~ David Benioff, from City of Thieves

“I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like that. That you wanted to sleep for a thousand years. Or just not exist. Or just not be aware that you do exist. Or something like that. I think wanting that is very morbid, but I want it when I get like this. That’s why I’m trying not to think. I just want it all to stop spinning.” ~ Stephen Chbosky, from The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Had to have my mother at the hospital by 7:30 this morning for her colonoscopy . . . I’m not even conscious this early . . .

I cannot even begin to share this experience with you as most of it belongs squarely within the realm of the surreal, so instead, I’m just going to default to Calvin and Hobbes.

“Before we work on artificial intelligence why don’t we do something about natural stupidity?” ~ Steve Polyak

 

“There are two things which cannot be attacked in front: ignorance and narrow-mindedness. They can only be shaken by the simple development of the contrary qualities. They will not bear discussion.” ~ Lord John Emerett Edward Dalberg Acton

The following story is reprinted verbatim from TPM Live Wire:

The Secret Service investigated an Alabama high school teacher for using the example of shooting President Obama while teaching a geometry lesson.

The Secret Service spoke with the man, a teacher at Corner High School in Jefferson County, but decided not to arrest him.

“We did not find a credible threat,” Roy Sex­ton, of Birmingham’s Secret Service office, told the Birmingham News. “As far as the Secret Service is concerned, we looked into it, we talked to the gentleman and we have closed our investigation.”

A student in the class described the lesson: “He was talking about angles and said, ‘If you’re in this building, you would need to take this angle to shoot the president.'”

The district superintendent told the News that the unnamed teacher will not be disciplined.

“We are going to have a long conversation with him about what’s appropriate,” he said. “It was extremely poor judgment on his part, and a poor choice of words.”

The superintendent, Phil Hammonds, did not immediately return a request for comment.

So many things wrong with this picture. Where do I begin . . .

  1. A “long conversation with him about what’s appropriate.” Is this also known as a stern talking to? If so, than I’m greatly relieved because everyone knows that a stern talking to in the South is just one step away from a lickin’ with a switch. And after all, it’s not like he was talking about killing the president or anything . . . No wait. He was. Dang.
  2. Imagine if this same scenario had taken place three years ago. Now imagine that the teacher is black. Do you still think that the teacher would have only been chastised verbally? Would the Secret Service have so blithely dismissed the situation as non-threatening?
  3. All Alabama jokes aside, research shows that Alabama ranks 35 in state rankings for education. According to a report by the NEA, Alabama is 36th for average teacher salaries in 08-09, and the state come in at 25th for the number of public high school graduates for 08-09. Since 1990, Alabama has climbed from 40th to 70th in the percentage of students who achieve at the basic level in math; However, minority teachers compose only 25 percent of the teacher pool for the state.
  4. Interestingly enough, Corner High School in Jefferson County ranks 184 out of the 369 high schools in Alabama. Corner’s student population is 99.6 percent white, and .1 percent black. So let’s not pretend that racial bias does not play into this situation.
  5. Some of the people from Jefferson County, Alabama think that too much is being made of this incident, as in it was an innocent mistake, live and let live. I don’t think so. This teacher was discussing assassination outside of the context of an historical event. I think that’s a pretty big deal.
  6. For those of you who contend that this is a local incident and not anyone else’s business, I beg to differ. The well-being of the POTUS is everyone’s business. Remember? People, please.

Here’s what I think: The next time a teacher of this ilk decides to try to make his or her lessons more real-world applicable, how about determining the angle of the shadow cast by the flagpole at 2 p.m. Nothing violent about that. No hidden messages. Nothing incendiary.

If you do click on the TPM link, take a few moments to peruse the comments. Priceless and hugely entertaining.

More later. Peace.

Music by Nada Surf, “Where is My Mind?”

Wear Sunscreen.

Headache today, so I thought that I would use this opportunity to post one of my favorites, a graduation speech by Mary Schmich. Even if you’ve read it, it is worth reading again:

“‘Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young.’

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.”

Chicago Tribune, January 6, 1997 

More later. Peace.

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all.” ~ Ayn Rand

I miss Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes

 “Were you born this infuriating?”
“It’s taken me years of practice.” ~ Misty Massey from Mad Kestrel

A bit better today. It’s still bone-chillingly cold outside, and pretty chilly inside, but at least I feel able to get out of bed for a bit. You know that you are truly sick when you take a shower and then have to get back into bed to recover from the exertion.

Last night Corey and I watched more of the NCIS backlog on the DVR. One of the best aspects of our cable company is that they supply a DVR with the cable bundle service to which we subscribe. This means that I have the poor man’s version of TiVo, but it works really well. I have all of my favorite shows set up to tape, and I can rank them so that if there happens to be a conflict, the higher-ranked shows will tape.

Anyway, I have this incredible backlog of NCIS (my very favorite show) because Corey asked me to tape it for him, but it’s hard to get him to watch them. So we’ve been making a concerted effort to get caught up. I’ve been picking out the most important story arcs, but there is one problem with that: When a show is a repeat, it does not necessarily have the same name as the original. As a result, we’ve watched some shows out of order, and we are missing a few key shows.

Corey thinks that it’s a subversive plot on my part to drive him crazy: Let’s watch the shows about La Grenouile . . . Oh wait, that one is missing. Only to find the show under a different name later. Personally, the back and forth doesn’t bother me at all as that is the way in which my mind works—all over the place at once—and even though it isn’t a conscience plot, perhaps I am trying to make Corey less rigid in wanting things to be linear . . .

Oh well. At least it sort of sounded good.

“One of ennui’s most terrible components is the overwhelming feeling of ennui that comes over you whenever you try to explain it.” ~ Ingmar Bergman

We’re back to the very strange dreams again. Apparently, I’m waking up not screaming, but arguing, and then when Corey tries to calm me, I get angry with him, and I am so loud that Brett hears me from the other room. I hate that because when I wake up for good, I’m in a foul mood, which makes absolutely no sense. How very strange.

The dreams that I remember are strange as well. In one of them, I found out that Brett had shot someone, but my mother told everyone to lie to me about it. Obviously, I was distressed by this news, and then my dad (always disconcerting when dad appears) told me that he would take care of it and talk to my mom and Brett. The strangest part about this dream was that after the main dream, I then dreamed that I was awake and that I was going to write a book about what had happened. I even came up with the title of the book and the first chapter. Of course when I actually awoke, there was no book, and the title made no sense at all. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I did that automatic writing thing in my sleep and woke up to find a chapter written?

In another one, I someone was shooting me, not near me but at me. I don’t remember a lot about this one except for the fact that I was being shot and that I was screaming at the person who was shooting me. Last night, I had a very, very weird dream in which there was some small-town high school event, and I was going to disrupt it somehow.

I know. Weird. Why can’t I have dreams about lying on a white sandy beach with an umbrella drink in my hands? Just that, nothing else, no confrontations, no conflict, just the ocean, the sand, blue skies. Probably too much to expect of a dream.

“Give me detached existentialist ennui . . . Give me rampant intellectualism as a coping mechanism.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
Flash.”

Okay, so the quotes about ennui? The word popped into my head while I was sitting here trying to figure out the best way to describe the past few days. Ennui: a feeling of listlessness for lack of activity or excitement . . . voila! My past few days. I have been so listless that I cannot even read, which is a very big deal, especially as I am in the middle of a book, but as I said, I am starting to feel a bit better, a little more energy.

I have an embarrassing story to tell about the word ennui: Many years ago I was playing Scrabble with my ex and some friends (for some reason, my ex always won when we played together, which really pissed me off as he was the scientist and I was the lit major). Someone put down the word ennui. Now, I should have recognized the word, but to give me credit, her pronunciation really threw me. She said en-noo-ee, not on-we, so I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about, and I challenged her. Of course, I was wrong, but shouldn’t she have lost points for her dreadful mispronunciation?

I know. Poor sport. But I hate to lose at Scrabble, which is probably why no one will play with me any more. I think that it has something to do with my rampant intellectualism as a coping mechanism . . .

“Life is like topography, Hobbes. There are summits of happiness and success, flat stretches of boring routine and valleys of frustration and failure.” ~ Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

I do miss Calvin and Hobbes, as witnessed by today’s images. It was a genius comic strip, written for both the child and adult from a child’s point of view but with infusions of adult wisdom from the stuffed tiger Hobbes. I always viewed Calvin’s perpetual energy, zeal for life, and unabashed talent for reducing things to bare bones as being such a refreshing commentary on life. Watterson did with his strip what Shulz had done with Peanuts years before: used a popular medium to entertain on the one level and enlighten on a more subliminal level. I’m hoping that I can get the collection that hit the market a few months ago, perhaps for my birthday.

I want to share with you a wonderful passage I recently came across. It’s from Simon Rich’s Ant Farm: and Other Desperate Situations, and I think that it is absolutely priceless in summing up frustration:

“I still remember the day I got my first calculator

Teacher: All right, children, welcome to fourth grade math. Everyone take a calculator out of the bin.
Me: What are these?
Teacher: From now on we’ll be using calculators.
Me: What do these things do?
Teacher: Simple operations, like multiplication and division.
Me: You mean this device just…does them? By itself?
Teacher: Yes. You enter in the problem and press equal.
Me: You…you knew about this machine all along, didn’t you? This whole time, while we were going through this…this charade with the pencils and the line paper and the stupid multiplication tables!…I’m sorry for shouting…It’s just…I’m a little blown away.
Teacher: Okay, everyone, today we’re going to go over some word problems.
Me: What the hell else do you have back there? A magical pen that writes book reports by itself? Some kind of automatic social studies worksheet that…that fills itself out? What the hell is going on?
Teacher: If a farmer farms five acres of land a day–
Me: So that’s it, then. The past three years have been a total farce. All this time I’ve been thinking, “Well, this is pretty hard and frustrating but I guess these are useful skills to have.” Meanwhile, there was a whole bin of these things in your desk. We could have jumped straight to graphing. Unless, of course, there’s some kind of graphing calculator!
Teacher: There is. You get one in ninth grade.
Me: Is this…Am I on TV? Is this a prank show?
Teacher: No.”

More later. Peace.

Moby’s “One of these Mornings,” just because it is so beautiful. Actually, couldn’t decide between two videos, so posting both. Let me know if you have a preference . . .