Keep Calm and Back Away From the Keyboard

afk

For what it’s worth, and maybe not much, I have decided to curtail my activity on the internet, and especially on ‘anti-social media’.  It is not that I don’t enjoy it and  feel the responsibility to be  informed, but that the information I get from there is skewed, often angry and about as well-thought out as a shark attack.  Many, not all but many, of the people who post in Facebook or on Twitter, in my limited experience, just want to troll.  Others want to push their ideology as what seems to them to be the only logical point of view.  Some want to shock (and do it very well.)  Some just want to be clever and collect ‘likes’ and smiley faces. Least objectionable, but most cloying, are the puppies and babies crowd.  There is a subset of those folks who use FB as a diary and thrill in the telling, often with photographs, of their daily meals, their favorite coffee cup, and who in their natural surroundings is, pregnant, graduating, going somewhere for vacation, or celebrating  a birthday.  I suppose, when originally conceived, this ‘social’ interaction was the real goal of ‘social media’.  Certainly that is a great way for disconnected friends and families in our mobile society to keep in touch.  

In the political sphere, there is not a lot of reasoned discourse available.  Some people, as is their right, just love to argue.  Stupid me, I like to learn, and I like to have informed opinions based on factual information, even in this age of ‘alternative facts’.

The real problem currently for me is some form of emotional or perhaps attentional addiction.  I think it is okay if you FB or Twitter a couple of times a day, but I find myself checking it two or three times an hour.  If I am out somewhere, AFK as the abbreviation goes, I look forward to how many new notifications and tweets there will be when I get BTK (Back To Keyboard).  In the hour I have been writing this piece I have stopped myself several times from opening a new tab and checking my Facebook.  SAD!

So, I will consciously work to cut down.  

And oh, by the way, ‘Twitter’ is a good name for the service, but ‘a tweet’, from either the Chief Executive of the most powerful nation on earth, or from a tenth grader with  social anxiety, just sounds like a wimpy way to communicate.  I propose that we change it to ‘crow’, as in, “I crowed this morning that the word ‘tweeting’ is lame.”

Not that it matters to me anymore.

Advertisements

Through My Glasses, Darkly

I have four pairs of glasses, Well, four that I know of.  There are probably others lurking in dark recesses, shirking their duties, maybe even smirking.  Two of the ones I can locate are prescription bifocals, one regular, and one with the coating that darkens the lenses in sunlight.  So far the ‘polychromatic’ lenses have proven useless because we have barely seen the sun around here since the end of March.  The other day I heard the song “Here Comes The Sun” and the White House immediately condemned it as fake news.  

The other two pairs currently in circulation are just readers, available at any drugstore, department store, dermatologist or tree surgeon.  I try to keep the readers in the house, conveniently placed so I can use them to read.  Yeah, right.

Anyone over thirty living in the twenty-first century knows that eyeglasses migrate.  There is a rumor that they elope with the sox that go missing from your drier, but I don’t believe that.  Clearly, sox are snobbish and would not wish to share their alternate universe with something as prosaic as eyeglasses.  Glasses simply sneak around by themselves.  Logical people swear that this is not true, but they don’t even try to explain how they end up somewhere other than where they were put.  I don’t know if they flip, slide, swim, roll, slither or transport, I only know that they relocate when no one is looking.

Today for example… at least one of the bifocals is supposed to be in the car, for distance when driving.  I don’t need the readers in the car because I don’t usually read while I am driving.  Almost never.  The readers are supposed to be in the house, as I mentioned, so I can use them to read, because I don’t generally drive the car in the house.  Again, almost never.  So today, somehow, both pairs of readers were in the car and both pairs of bifocals were in the house. I think they’re just screwin’ with me now.

To paraphrase Steve Martin,” I gotta get a pair of eyeglass leg irons, and I gotta get ‘em quick!”

mr-magoo-clipart-1

Troll…ing

Trolling….

… is one of those words that you just can’t seem to hide from anymore.  The newspapers reference it, magazines use it, newscasters spout it, and social media is saturated with it.  It even came up at dinner the other night.

It’s a funny word, flexible and ambidextrous.  Being of a certain age, trolling to me still means fishing from a slow moving boat.  In the 90’s,  a troll  was a popular doll with hair like Don King, but cute.  And a troll, of course, is a mythical creature, generally huge, ugly and dumb.  I think the current cache of troll villains began in Norse mythology.  There are trolls that worked for Sauron in Lord of the Rings; Bilbo got them to argue until the sun came up when they turned to stone.  It was a troll that snuck into Hogwarts and almost turned Hermione into an appetizer.   

But we have moved from trolls to trolling.  Another example of our high-speed culture that can’t wait to turn a noun into a verb. Trolling is not cute, or dumb, but it is huge and ugly.

In the relatively new social media demimonde trolling  means to purposely antagonize someone online.  Of course there are multiple ways to do that… written text, pictures, video… and in our current political climate, trolling has become an art for some, and an obsession for others.   

But it is one of those words, or concepts, that is losing meaning, fading from overuse, fraying at the edges from being stretched to fit too many things.  Now, I think, it has morphed into any joke, negative comment, or even a reasonable disagreement directed at someone.  I react, I disagree, I joke, I poke fun, but I don’t troll.  At least  don’t think I do.

And, silly of me I know, but I have this serene image in my head when I see the word trolling.  In my head, a huge beast with bad teeth is fishing in a slow moving boat.  Behind him, a tiny naked figure with wild hair is rowing with one hand and frantically typing something into his cell phone with the other.

troll

 

 

Looks

“People say believe half of what you see, son and none of what you hear.”

              — Marvin Gaye, et al

“It’s better to look good than to feel good.”   — Billy Crystal

~~~~~

In the past, days gone by, the good old days, in my day, in my time, … and similar clichés, people would tell me that I didn’t look my age.  And, while I usually don’t believe what people tell me, I believed that.  I still have most of my teeth, all my hair which is still brown, and just a small pot belly.  I still walk pretty much upright pretty much all of the time, and I don’t ever use phrases like ‘in the past, days gone by, the good old days, in my day, in my time’.  Well, I never used them before, and probably will never again.

When I retired from one of my jobs, my boss from another job asked how old I was and told me that I looked ten years younger.  “You are a very discerning woman,” I said, “and your eyesight is excellent.”

But I was brought up short the other day, or perhaps it wasn’t ‘up short’ but rather ‘up to date’ by my barber.  Nino, about whom I have written before, happened to ask how old I was.  When I told him, he didn’t say, ‘Well you look much younger’, which I certainly expected.  He said, “Oh, well, don’t worry, I’m older than you.”

‘Well,’ I thought, ‘of course you’re older than me.  Everyone is older than me.  That’s just the natural order of the universe.’

But, in a trice, or perhaps even a nonce, somehow the subject had changed from how old I look to how old I actually am.

I am not a person that reads obituaries or has anything close to a fascination with age and death, but I do find myself checking, on occasion, the ages of famous persons that come across the news.  John Glenn made his final orbit at 95.  Leonard Cohen sang his last impenetrable song at 82.  Robin Williams blew us away for the last time at 63.  

What is a little scary for me, maybe not scary but meaningful, is that I think they all looked good for their age.  

Or, in those immortal words of I-don’t-know-who, ‘Sometimes you’re Gladys Knight, and sometimes you’re just one of the Pips.’

Out of Touch

Still paying attention to the national election, and still find it disturbing.  It is boggling to me that so many people, according to the polls, can still support Donny.  He is abrasive, transparently hypocritical, narrow-minded, egotistical, and woefully, gleefully uninformed.  He surrounds himself with people that are very much like him, including his family.  His children look more like cardboard cutouts than flesh and blood.  His top echelon supporters, i.e. Christie, Gingrich, Hannity, Sessions, all have their own serious baggage that they are trying to outrun by attaching themselves to this rambling, mercenary gas bag.  

And yet, and yet, he seems to be doing well, even leading by some measures.  His root audience seem not to care what he says, as long as he doesn’t say what everyone else says.  I hate to get all hyperbolic and historical, but I think this situation lends itself to hyperbole and history.  

Donny is trading on the idea that he is different.  Caesar did that. And Hitler and Mussolini and Huey Long and Father Coughlin.

The dictionary, the go-to reference when something needs to be clear, defines demagogue as:  a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.  

To me, that pretty much sums up Donny.  Long on prejudices and short on rational argument.

But I am coming to understand that he is not really the problem, just a shimmering, slightly orange reflection of it.  The real problem is the people who are supporting him.  Scenes of his rallies leave me nonplussed and slack-jawed (if nonplussed and slack-jawed are the terms I want.  Do you think nonplussed and slack jawed are the terms I want?).  Screaming epithets, abusing minorities, offensive sloganeering.  And that’s before they get warmed up.  The term ‘mob’ seems to fit comfortably here, and I don’t think I need to refer to a dictionary definition.  

To be selfish about it, what concerns me most is that I am so completely out of touch.  I never saw this coming.  I know we are a melting pot society, but I thought there were some boundaries, some common ground.  How can it be that people have become so wooden headed, so obtuse, so attached to one point of view that rationality is not even possible?

I could never support someone because of the banner he or she stood under: Republican, Democrat, Conservative, Progressive, Liberal, Libertarian… none of them. 

Dear Sir or Madam standing on your soapbox or reading from your teleprompter, tell me what you think and I’ll either agree or disagree.  But I will think about it first.  

I wonder, is there room anymore for an independent?   

‘Unofficial’

Tomorrow is Labor Day, the ‘unofficial’ end to summer.  “Officially’ summer ends on Sept. 20, which is another seventeen days.  As summer has only 93 days (I counted) that means ‘unofficial’ cheats us out of almost 19% of summer.

So, who are these ‘unofficial’ officials that are cheating me!  Yes, cheating me out of 17 days of sun, breezes, ice cream, chirping birds, flowers, baseball, iced tea and barbecues.  That is more than half a month!  Monsters!  Neanderthal cave dwellers with expensive suits, suspenders and shiny shoes.  And calendars.

Who are these people?  Who is able to muster the cheek, the impudence, the brazen, bald-faced chutzpah to shorten the summer.  They cause millions, maybe billions, to descend into depression.  Leaves turn dry and fall to the ground, crestfallen and suicidal.  Children sit, staring mournfully at iPods, waiting for school buses that are late because the drivers are learning their new route.  Stores move out the ‘back to school’ specials and move in the Christmas Decorations.  Parents search frantically for just the right backpack.

All because of the ‘unofficial’ end of summer.   

Personally, I plan to barbecue right through September 20th.  Maybe go to the beach next weekend.  Perhaps in a burst of defiance, I’ll buy a new pair of flip-flops and heart-shaped sunglasses.  

I won’t be intimidated.  I want my seventeen days!  Just who are these people?  

Have A Nice… Rant

At a store today, the pleasant lady behind the counter gave me my change and said ‘Have a nice weekend.’  Being in a grumpy mood, I almost shot back with my frequent retort, ‘Don’t tell me what to do’.  But, I buy wine there a lot, and the prices are good, so I gulped and shut-up.  

I know I risk alienating my tens of faithful readers who routinely employ this phrase out of the best of intentions; friendliness, concern, compassion, sociability, affection.  But….

If you recall, the title of this blog contains the word ‘curmudgeon’, and that sobriquet refers specifically to me.  Any curmudgeon worth his thesaurus would be irked by, not so much the innocuous phrase itself, but its inescapable presence in all of our lives.  Try and get through a day without someone saying one of the variations of ‘have a nice weekend’. Have a nice….. morning, night, afternoon, day, vacation, trip, drive, game, life, nap, swim, and, of course, ‘have a nice etc.’

I am waiting, hoping, for the day when someone with a sense of humor says something like ‘have a nice root canal’ or ‘have a nice IRS audit’ or ‘have a nice argument with your teenager for whom slamming doors is as close to an expression of affection as you are likely to get’.  That little bit of humor, that bit of snoot, would at least establish some connection between the speaker and the speakee.  It would be true communication.

It really isn’t the phrase itself, which has become so meaningless that it enters one ear, barely makes an impression on the auditory nerve, swirls around the brain for half a nanosecond and rushes right out the other ear without even leaving a forwarding address.

There is a subatomic particle, the neutrino, that is so small that trillions of them pass through our bodies every second, yes even the bodies of curmudgeons, and we never even know it.  In fact, if you had a warehouse full of neutrinos, you would still have room for a warehouse full of neutrinos.  I know that doesn’t make sense, but it’s physics and who says basic principles of the universe have to make sense?  The ‘have a nice…’ farewell has all the gravitas and impact of a neutrino.  Perhaps even a neutrino on a diet.

Language, speech, verbal social interaction are meant to reduce what could be an infinite distance between us all.  Without some kind of social discourse, some ability to connect with each other,  life would be, in that famous phrase, ‘solitary, poor, nasty brutish and short’.  And who needs that?

My point, and like Ellen DeGeneres I do have one, is that this verbal and vocal belch, ‘have a nice whatever’ actually dilutes this vital ingredient of the Mulligan Stew that is life in the twenty-first century.  

It is background noise.  It is Muzak.  It is humming when you don’t know the tune or the words.  Worse, it is the background noise obscuring the Muzak that you are humming when you don’t know the tune or the words and you have half a tuna sandwich in your mouth and a stuffy nose.  It is that meaningless.

So, as a public service (very un-curmudgeonly if un-curmudgeonly is the word I want and if it is even a word), I offer these alternatives to the ‘have a nice’ vocal belch.

***

“Don’t let the giraffe look over your shoulder.”

“Try not to fall in a hole and disappear.”

“Just let a smile be your umbrella (and you’ll get rain on your teeth)”.

“No matter where you go, there you are.” (A personal favorite)

“A rabbit’s foot may bring you luck, but it didn’t do that much for the rabbit.” (That one is from Ambrose Bierce).

***

Try one of these next time you get a chance and see what kind of intensely appreciative stares you get.