Enjoy already

In Northern California where I live we are having the most incredible weather.  Sunny and springlike days, no wind, no fog, no smog so why am I so glum?  Because it’s supposed to be raining!  Plants are dying.  The whole bloody month of February has been bone dry and in the 70s.  If it stays this way, by summer we’ll all be dead.

Well, probably not but we won’t have enough water to shower daily or wash the car.  These grassy hills will turn brown. Trees, wither and droop sadly to the ground.

However, that could all change.  The high pressure driving storms north of us could weaken and then we would be back to misery of endless rain.   So why not just enjoy the good weather like this family?

Because in the United States we have the stupidest president imaginable. Any person with a head still on should be able to defeat him in the next election.  And yet, like the lack of rain in California, there seems to be a lack of common sense amongst the people running against him. They’re all infinitely smarter than him.  They’re all infinitely more trustworthy than him.  They’re all at least … human.

Okay, Grandpa Bernie has been claiming for decades that America could be just like Canada or Denmark or Sweden!  Or even Germany.  All we have to do is tax the insanely rich.  It’s not that far left.  He’s not Fidel Castro. He’s said how he’ll pay for Medicare for All but he can’t provide exact numbers because it’s never been attempted.  Just like the frigging rain in California.  It might return, it generally does but what if it doesn’t?  It has been done successfully in other countries.  I’ve been to those countries.  They are not like Cuba or even Russia.

Next, Boss Bloomberg’s big mouth. People make remarks in the workplace every day that someone finds offensive. I had a boss who could not construct a sentence without using some form of the word “fuck.”  He used it as a noun, adjective, adverb, in prayers to God, meetings with important clients, and even when blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.  But he was an uber generous man who believed everyone – janitor, secretary, CEO – deserved an equal voice and respect and so complaints to Human Resources about his “inappropriate” language generally got filed in the trash can. Do we really care if Richie Rich makes an inappropriate joke every now and then?  Compared to what we got now, no.

So my ballot’s been sitting on the counter untouched, like the electric bill for a freezing month that you just don’t want to open.  Spoiler alert. I’m leaning toward Uncle Joe.

 

The Neutering of Jane Austen

I was going to wait until Masterpiece Theater’s version of Sanditon (Jane Austen’s final novel) finally ended before completing my review (begun here) but they’re stretching out the plot like one of those Netflix shows that go on season after season until you realize you’ve been sucked into a damned soap opera. One that will go forever and ever, long after the original stars have died and been reborn and now fight twins who swap brains, obsessive orangutan nurses, and dolls that come to life.

Vampire actors are perfect for Soaps as they never die! They can go on and on and on. But Jane Austen heroines?

Jane Austen only finished eleven chapters of Sanditon before she died and so all of the characters and plot twists had to fleshed out by other authors, based on what she “laid out for them.” After eleven chapters, you can often guess where an author is headed.  But, by the end of the eleventh chapter of Pride and Prejudice (Austen’s most revered work)  we hadn’t even met Mr. Collins. 

For those you who’ve never seen a production of Pride and Prejudice, of which there have been many, he’s the distant cousin who, by reason of an archaic system of patriarchy,  will eventually kick the heroine (Elizabeth Bennett), all of her sisters, and their widowed mother to the curb, leaving them homeless.  Unless, of course, they marry.  Marriage in Austen’s time was the only way for respectable women to leave their parents and take their place in society and what better way to illustrate that injustice than by creating Mr. Collins, a man in whom “the deficiency of nature had been little assisted by education or society …’’ 

Yup, in jolly ole England even a man who was a pompous nitwit was worth more than a sensible woman and you gotta bet Austen wasn’t too happy about that!  So how did the writers who took on the task of completing her last, unfinished novel deal with that anger?  Well, they neutered it. Charlotte Heyward isn’t looking for a husband nor does she seem too worried about a future without one.  Heh? 

I had not read Sanditon in decades so I couldn’t really claim that  the screen writers were taking obscene liberties with her work. Luckily the story is only 66 pages long and so I reread it last night.  I won’t bore those of you who could give a figgy pudding about Sanditon or Austen or even Masterpeeve Theatre any further but, I wasn’t wrong.

Anyway, today’s Valentine’s Day and here in Northern California we’re seeing the first glimpse of green which to me is a romantic sight.

The Galloping Gerties

Last week a friend of mine shared this video from Saturday Night Live.

If you don’t have time to watch, it’s about elderly people who like to argue with voice automation. The final solution to the problem is an Uh-huh feature that allows Grandpa to have the last word every, single time.  It’s brilliant.

If only my GPS had been equipped with that feature when I tried to drive my ninety year-old mother to her new lawyer’s … I probably wouldn’t have gotten that three day migraine.

GPS: Turn right on McCarran.
Mother to the GPS: I don’t think so!  I’ve lived here for fifty years and …
GPS: Uh-huh.
Me: I can’t hear the directions Mother. Please…
Mother angrily:  Suit yourself.  But don’t ask me for help when we get lost.   I’ll just sit back and shut up. I’m just warning you and this will be the last time.  Yes sirree. Don’t expect me to say anything because I won’t and then we’ll be lost and we’ll be late and I’ll never go anywhere with you again!  You can depend on that. Yes, sirree.
GPS: Uh-huh

I wish I could say my days of technological bewilderment are far in the future, but alas, that would be a slight exaggeration.  Well, perhaps not slight. A few days ago I found myself at the Apple Store with a problem I hoped could be solved by a new battery. I was too early to be “checked in” for the appointment I’d made with one of their “genius squad” and so decided to take a look at some of the hundreds of new machines on display.

Alas, my inability to adapt to rapidly evolving technology didn’t manifest until I reached the iPads. Thinking they were just like my iPhone I began randomly poking the screen and something called Galloping Gertie’s All Star Girlie Flicks opened.  Yikes!  I thought, where the devil is the home button or the X to close the damn thing?  I tried the back icon, the forward icon and anything in between and yet all I got were page after page of porno flicks for rent.  “Let me out, you damn Gerties!” I shouted, which got the attention of the intern geniuses tasked with protecting iPads from stubborn old farts who think they know what they’re doing.

“How do I close Galloping Gerties?”
“You swish.”
“I swish?  Sort of like a magic wand?”  I attempted swishing and a bright flash went off, temporarily blinding me. When vision returned, there on the screen was an ungodly close up of my shriveled visage. “Get that horrid thing off the screen!” I screamed.   

“You have swished too much.  You must practice your swishing.” 

Finally my swishing skills are adequate (although I can’t imagine using an iPad after  a couple of glasses of wine!) and the geniuses inform me it’s time for my appointment with my special genius. They then text my description to the genius and tell me to sit on a box.  A few minutes later I hear my name called.  (I don’t think they sent my physical description, do you?  Otherwise why would my special genius also call my name?  I bet they sent a warning.  Your next appointment is with a neurotic old bat named Jan. Good luck.

Unfortunately the news is not good.  Apple isn’t allowed by state law (??) to fix seven year old machines.  They don’t tell you this when you make the appointment and I think the answer is obvious. Buy, buy, buy. 

I hate to tell them but access to Galloping Gertie’s isn’t going to convince me to buy another Apple!  

 

Being a single mother is a brutal plot twist

Over the weekend I watched the movie American Woman.  The heroine (Deb) is a single woman in her early thirties who lives with her teenage daughter across the street from what’s left of her family in a working class town in Pennsylvania.  Deb has a job in some kind of big box store, smokes, drinks and has affairs with married men. She is a mess and her daughter, who’s just had a baby boy out of wedlock, seems to be following in her footsteps.

Deb is not a bad mother.  She’s just a pretty girl who got pregnant at sixteen and now grabs whatever fun she can regardless of consequences. Are there opportunities available to her that she’s not taking advantage of?  We really don’t know.  We only see her family becoming increasingly aggravated with her behavior.  Until … enter the cruel plot twist. 

The movie skips over a period of years to show Deb’s painful crawl toward a more socially acceptable lifestyle.  Finally, another cruel plot twist (this one expected) and she has enough self-confidence to leave town with her then teenage grandson.

I grew up in a gambling town. Many of my friends had single, working class mothers. Those with good legs worked as cocktail waitresses (better tips), those who were good at math were dealers, and those with no particular skills worked as maids or waitresses.  The casinos were open twenty-four hours, seven days a week, and holidays which gave them more flexibility in their working hours.  Men were generally bad news and the smart women preferred to go it alone depending on neighbors, who also worked at the clubs, for childcare help.

Mapes Hotel/Casino where my mom worked.

I guess there is a plus side to living in a gambling town.  But don’t make me say it twice. 

Here’s what bothered me about American Woman.  Being a single mother at any age is a brutal plot twist but being a teenage single mother is especially brutal. You don’t need to throw in the loss of a child to make their transformation acceptable to your audiences. 

Here’s the point that should have been made and wasn’t: American women who find themselves in Deb’s situation (for whatever reason) get no help from the government and are often blamed for the situation they are in.  I didn’t become a single mother until I was in my late thirties and had a college education.  Unless you have strong family support, it’s a brutal plot twist.

 

Gads – sounds like a stumping speech for Elizabeth Warren, doesn’t it?  It isn’t.  I’m still undecided.  But she does have a point. 

Who will win … Austen or Bronte?

2019 was, for me, a year of frustration.  I’d no sooner complete one project when I was late on another.  Things I assumed I’d handled successfully, unraveled into chaos.  Appointments were cancelled and rescheduled at the last minute. Checks and invitations got lost in the mail. 

You know … it was that kind of year and so when I heard that Masterpiece Theatre was broadcasting a new rendition of Jane Austen’s incomplete and posthumously published novel Sanditon, I figured, finally something to look forward to. But alas. Not that it was bad entertainment; it just wasn’t the Jane I’ve known all these years.  Below we have the hero and the heroine in some screenwriter’s idea of a romantic scene:

Mr. Parker: “I say Miss Heyward.  Would you mind dreadfully if I warmed my frigid male instrument in your silk petticoats?”

Miss Heyward:  “Mr. Parker. Kindly return to the sea so that the bass who nibbled off half your cock can bite off the rest!”

The first thing amiss for me about Sanditon was the father sending his daughter off to a naughty seaside resort with perfect strangers and only a brief admonishment to “trust no one.”  While it’s true that fathers in Austen novels tend to be either doddering hypochondriacs (as in Emma), vain and conceited nitwits (Persuasion), or witty curmudgeons (Pride and Prejudice)  they would have never sent their daughters off with a couple they just met.  

Mr. Bennet of P&P: For what do we live but to make sport of our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?

Even if her father was worthless (or dead), an Austen heroine could always depend on a wise older woman to dispense good sound moral judgment. In some cases the advice is wrong (Lady Russell in Persuasion) but it’s always well meant. The only woman giving advice to the heroine of Sanditon is Lady Denham who reminded me of an aging madam in a house of ill-repute.  No woman of that day and age would discuss money with a man except a prostitute. 

The heroine of Sanditon, Charlotte Heyward

Which brings me to the main character.  Was it just me or does the actress playing Charlotte Heyward bear an uncanny resemblance to Meghan Markel? I half expected Prince Harry to show up and  comment on her ruddy complexion. “I say, you’re no English Rose but won’t my granny shit her knickers if I marry an American divorcee!” 

The real Meghan Merkel

Instead Sidney Parker roars along a coastal cliff in a two person carriage scowling like a mad dog.  And why?  Apparently he’s responsible for a rebellious and suicidal heiress from the West Indies. Life is such a drag. Plot sound familiar? 

Rochester, old chap, you’re in the wrong production! Return to Jane Eyre, immediately.

Of course, being an Austen-inspired production, Charlotte and Sidney Parker will misunderstand each other, pout and huff about, and then fall madly in love after he selflessly saves the town.  However, if Bronte again haunts the screenwriters, we may find out Sidney Parker is secretly married to the heiress from the West Indies. After he suggests that they lock her in an attic and live in sin, Charlotte will have a come to Jesus moment, and run off to live on the moors with a religious zealot and his two sisters who coincidentally turn out to be long lost cousins.  When she finally returns, Sanditon will be in ruins and Sidney Parker hobbled and at her mercy.  A true Bronte ending to a Jane Austen story. 

ThursdayDoors: The Music of the Spheres

A few weeks before Christmas while cleaning out the storage area under the house in preparation for a new furnace and some asbestos removal work, I found this long neglected print.

The artist, a childhood friend, called it “The Music of the Spheres.”  It dates back to a time, when young, we both gave unconditionally of ourselves and our work, fully expecting that the universe always made right the innocent.  And it does, although not in the ways we expect.  I framed the print and it sits on the piano.  A good start to a New Year, making right at least one of the treasures cruelly hidden in storage.

I rarely post pictures of my family but here, for Norm’s Thursday Doors is my favorite picture from Christmas.  This little critter likes to slam doors in the faces of his elders.  I suspect he will find many fine doors to slam in his lifetime.

He sometimes gets along with this damsel of the neon lockes.

But she’s rapidly approaching the teenage years.  Oh my.  Enjoy – I tell the parents because the sun sets on everything.  Every year and every innocent friendship of youth.

 

 

 

Above, the last sunset of 2019 reflected in the window of a mobile home in a state park accessible to all.

Reflected in the wall of a gated community just across the street.

Looking up as the sky grew dark.

I hope this next year you uncover many hidden treasures, bring them to the light and enjoy them.

Emaciated Horses

Yes

tin hats

It comes to me and it comes again … like leaves circling in the wind, higher and higher away from the mud and blood upon my hands

A blank face, a lost bet, and let us consider the dead, let them awaken upon the river rocks, let them lift you upward

Look where the green blade sprouts through the eye socket and how there is advantage to everything if one can read the invisible signs

Take my hand little one and let us traverse in reverse to where you have come from, let us cut our bodies and go two by two into the genes of your blood, sit astride the lightning of who you are

Let me show you how it comes to me and then comes again and you can do it too

It comes to me in the blindness of shadows when the sun goes down and…

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