Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The world turns

Post-election, pre-holiday, and, oh yeah, there's been fighting in the Middle East.

The world turns. The dirty world.

My son, home from college and taking it easy this week, was watching a show on the History Channel last night: Mankind The Story of All of Us. Episode two: I came in as the Jews were inventing monotheism; I changed the channel shortly after the baptism of Constantine, as the Romans were spending oodles of money on silk from China.

I didn't pay close attention to the narration (I was working on the computer), but I was surprised to see Henry Louis Gates, whose field is African American history and culture, among those talking about early Christianity. Another talking head stated that persecuted Christians were faced with the choice of dying in the Coliseum or burning in hell for eternity for denying their faith. Was that really how early Christians framed it?

"Mankind" comes with a dark and menacing musical score and piled-on visual images of fear, violence, and chaos. It uses staged recreations of history--tight shots of individuals looking fearful, mobs grabbing at silk, and plenty of fake blood. There did not seem to be any effort to present life as it was lived from day to day, nor a sense of non-visceral ways that people and rulers dealt with the perplexities of life and one another and time.

Very different from Ken Burns' PBS series on the Dust Bowl, which had plenty of black and white photos of mile-high clouds of dirt and dust, but also had ordinary people recalling their childhood lived under this menace. They got by. They endured. Some of their elders grew bitter. Others graciously accepted their place in a wondrous universe.

One does not have to look far to find violence and chaos in our own time: Gaza, Syria, the wind, water and fire from Hurricane Sandy. These images make for good television--if you define good as images it's hard to look away from, short of finding the remote and changing the channel.

Last night I sought refuge from the intensity of history by switching the channel to HGTV. I watched a young couple, smiling and arguing for the camera, buy a very ordinary three-bedroom house in the country for something less than $200,000. I switched to a Daily Show rerun when "Million Dollar Rooms" came on HGTV. Twenty-one granite pillars, each valued at $35,000, in a giant living room with a $35,000 chandelier.

It was too much for me--too much like the excess of greed and violence in "Mankind."

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Coming up next .. .

The election is over. It's taken a lot of hours out of my life.

Time to move on to other pressing questions. Feel free to chime in with answers. 'Cause I need to know.

1) Why does the dishwasher no longer get the dishes clean? I've got brand-name detergent, rinse stuff, careful loading, and I'm even cleaning the gunk out of the bottom fairly regularly. But I don't know what's going on or not going on in there. Makes me want to go out and spend $$$ on a new one. Simple but expensive solution. Alternate solution: stop washing plastic stuff in the dishwasher. That stuff and the coffee cups are what's not getting clean.

2) What's a good filing system for bits and pieces of related information on the computer? Can I put it all in one place so it doesn't take so many clicks to retrieve it when I need it? If I had such place, could I actually train myself to use it? I'm not very good about putting things away.

3) How am I going to cast this show I want to produce in January? Young people, old people, in-between people--gotta have bodies. Gotta personally recruit those bodies.

4) What kinds of loops will I make on the sweater that's been finished since July--except for the buttons and loops? Do I crochet them? Would I-cord be too fat? How do I made sure they stay put and don't pop and break? Is it possible the loops are not getting made because I'm not wanting to sew on nine buttons?

5) Must I make mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner?

6) How little sleep does a fifty-eight-year-old woman really need?

7) Where are those yellow baby booties I knit years ago? The shower's tomorrow! Dare I open the big chest with all the yarn in it? What new projects might result?

Stay tuned. Oobla-dee, oobla-dah, life goes on.

(One more question: why do I have to put all the line-break codes in myself when I use this text editor? Annoying.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day 2012

I was a patriotic child. I read all the American history books on the shelves at the public library--from Jamestown and the Mayflower through the American Revolution, Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, the first woman doctor and Clara Barton and Jane Addams, the Depression and even a little bit about World War II. I said the Pledge of Allegiance believing in liberty and justice for all. I sang the National Anthem at ball games. I believed all that stuff and felt pride in the men and women who built a nation in which communities cared for the weak as well as the strong.

And I've stayed a believer. The idea that Woodward and Bernstein pursued truth to its logical end and took down a dishonest president inspired me. When the Berlin Wall came down, I gave thanks for the Americans who had stood fast for freedom and free markets. With Martin Luther King I know that the arc of history bends towards justice.

When Barack Obama stood on the steps of the Old Capitol in Springfield, Illinois--Lincoln's State Capital--and announced he was running for president, boy, I thought that was audacious. But he had me. I couldn't get on a bus and go canvas Iowa, but I made some phone calls back in 2008, and I've made some more in the last few days. I've responded to more than one email with a $10 donation. I somehow have a sense that I, as just one of many, can make a difference.

So when I watched this video online a little while ago, after talking with a couple voters up in Minnesota, well, both the ten-year-old inside me and the much older woman I am now were proud to be part of the United States of America.

If things turn out tonight as probability suggests they will and President Obama is reelected, he won't have an easy second term. There will be lots of fighting with Congress, lots of vilification from the right and damnation by faint praise from the left. But this country will have near-universal health insurance at last and maybe even immigration reform, along with responsible actions on the national budget and debt.

So watch this, and if you tear up as I do, know hope, know progress, know community. This is what patriotism should look like.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

By 11:30 this morning it fet like mid-afternoon. It takes more than setting the clock back to change how time feels when. And now the ten o'clock sleepiness that is often the prelude to the I-really-ought-to-be-in-bed burst of energy has struck at 11:00 p.m., when I really ought to be sleeping in bed, not dozing on the couch with the computer balanced on my crossed legs.

It's like being behind the beat. Or ahead of it? I'm not sure which way the analogy points.

It's pointing toward bed.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Getting Stuff Done

It's Saturday, which is supposed to be my day to get stuff done. Instead, I'm ruminating on why I don't seem to get stuff done.

Here's one end of my dining room table:

Here's the other end:

Today I named this the Table of Procrastination. I scowl or sigh or shrug whenever I walk through the dining room. I can't not look. But I can keep going.

That box? Three new pairs of pants to be shortened for my daughter. Three more to be returned to Lands End via Sears. The cowboy hat should go back to the attic. I should read that paper, or at least page through it.

At the other end of the table, there's a book to read--I have to start it if I'm going to finish it in time for the discussion. There's a bill hiding there somewhere, and coupons that remind me of getting the jump on Christmas shopping. I should look through that big binder about writing and then haul it back to from whence it came. And yes, put the salt and pepper away and once the table is clear wash the tablecloth so it's ready for Thanksgiving.

This is my couch. These are the things I actually do and would like to be doing more of:

Yes, there are two different knitting projects there, two shades of purple, in two plastic see-through zipper bags. A book that I very much want to read. Books with more knitting projects in them. The remote control. And most evenings, my laptop.

I have to walk past the first two pictures to get to the third. And I have no trouble doing that. Because I am a procrastinator.