Category Archives: Observations

Breaking Up is Hard to Do (Political Edition)

What a week! I would normally shy away from discussing anything political on this blog, but it’s been such a wild time that I feel compelled to dive in and mix a few metaphors.

7 million more of us saw the writing on the (bathroom obscenities) wall and anticipated a certain amount of resistance to the election results. But I do have some sympathy for those blindsided Kool-Aid drinkers who couldn’t see that their beloved was in the throes of a Hitler-in-the-bunker last stand.

Think about it. Four years is a long time to be in an intense relationship with a crazy person. There’s been a collective Stockholm Syndrome amongst these supporters who only get information from their crush and don’t want the grownups to explain that all is not as it seems. Both the highs and lows are so intense that “normal” is seen as boring. And woe betide anyone who dares say that the emperor has no clothes (ok, that’s a horrifying visual). He HAS clothes. They’re GREAT clothes. They’re the BEST clothes anyone ever had.

Well, sadly, the wannabe coup-coo dictator can’t even break up with his fan club on Twitter, like other cowards do. And unless he’s planning to write a whole lot of personal “It’s not you, it’s me” Dear Don letters, they’ll have to learn about it on the real news, i.e. the non-conspiracy, actually-validated-with-facts sort of news.

Meanwhile, expect sales of tissues and Rocky Road ice cream to go through the roof.

Ain’t love a bitch?

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The Curmudgeon Chronicles: Smartass Technology

This week, braving dreary weather, R and I visited one of our favorite wineries, where one of our favorite people manages the tasting room. She gently reminded me that I’ve been remiss in my blog posting, so Linda, this one’s for you!

Spacious tent, faux fur blankets, space heaters, wine and good company make a cozy oasis on a chilly, rainy afternoon.

Back to the topic at hand.

I’m all for smart technology, such as the dishwasher that senses when my dishes aren’t dry enough, or when I need to refill the rinsing agent so the glasses don’t have leprosy.

On the other hand, some inanimate objects seem to have been designed with a real smart-alecky attitude. Like my smartphone’s spelling “correction”, which regularly replaces perfectly good English with gibberish. Or its more obscure settings, which convey general condescension toward those of us who grew up with princess phones. (What? You can’t find that function? Bwaa-ha-ha…!)

Where does the term “smart alec” come from, you ask? (OK, you didn’t, but now don’t you want to know?)

It originates from the exploits of one Alec Hoag, an infamous con man in 1840’s New York. He and his wife Melinda, along with an accomplice known as French Jack, operated a con called the Panel Game, in which prostitutes and their pimps robbed customers. Or so says Wikipedia.

What’s next in phones, I wonder. Will the built-in camera automatically subtract 10 pounds and add hair to hairless heads? Will it flash a warning to delete a tactless text before we send it? Will it short-circuit if we drunk dial our ex-lovers or horrible bosses? Wouldn’t any of these features improve our lives more than AutoCorrect? I rest my case.

Smartass tech is poised to invade other aspects of our lives, too. Imagine a fridge equipped with auto-lock if you open it too often. Or between meals. Likewise, a scale that proudly announces your last weight. Or a mirror that self-writes helpful suggestions such as, “Time to color your hair” or “Ever considered Botox?”

Soon we’ll have self-driving cars, which could be useful for those of us who don’t have chauffeurs. But will they refuse to go somewhere they feel isn’t in our best interest, such as the racetrack or the restaurant that gave us heartburn?

The line between human and machine grows ever thinner, my fellow curmudgeons. Stay vigilant!

Good News Monday: Cyber-crazy?

Is Cyber Monday a “thing” outside of the US? My inbox is being bombarded with hundreds of panicky Buy Now! Last Chance! Special Pricing! emails today. My fingers are sore from deleting them all. And I haven’t even bought anything!

I hope all of you who celebrated Thanksgiving had a wonderful holiday. We were lucky enough to have two of our “girls” visit — one who had Covid and a subsequent positive antibody test, and another who never leaves her apartment and whose fiancé recently tested negative for Covid. Fingers crossed that nobody gets sick.

Having consumed enough food to feel positively whale-ish, the following article seemed appropriately Good Newsy for this week.

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Send In the Cavalry!

Exciting news these days, as several COVID vaccines show promising results, and it looks as though antibodies in those who’ve survived the disease can last months or even years.

While we wait, it’s also good to know that both mouthwash and baby shampoo have been shown to provide additional protection. (No, we aren’t supposed to gargle with baby shampoo or put mouthwash in our hair. It’s quite straightforward.)

What I really want to see, though, are some additional, mandatory vaccines:

  • Protection against false claims of fake news, fake election results, and generally fake anything you happen to disagree with
  • A vaccine against racism, antisemitism and Holocaust denial
  • 100% protection against ignoring the reality of climate change
  • 99.9% protection against stupidity — 100% being simply unrealistic
  • A vaccine against meanspiritedness, unneighborly behavior and selfishness

And, finally, a shot that will permanently erase 2020.

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Reflections on Loss, Love and Loathing

How do you mourn someone when you don’t grieve? I’ve been grappling with this question since my mother’s death a week ago.

It was a good death by any measure. At age 95, she was frail but still living in her own house, with a fulltime caregiver who found her unresponsive and got her to the hospital. She never regained consciousness and slipped away painlessly and peacefully.

The thing is: my mother was not a particularly nice person. We’d been estranged for some years, and despite my efforts at reconciliation my sister reported that she “cared about [me] but was too stubborn” to acknowledge it. We’ve agreed that our mother taught us a great deal about how to be a good parent… by doing the opposite of what had been modeled for us.

One of my cousins wrote, possibly struggling himself to find something to say, that he had admired her “biting wit.” Maybe it was amusing if you weren’t on the receiving end of it.

Another suggested we all remember happier times rather than more recent events. This one’s a puzzler, too, because although I had a generally happy childhood it was more to do with friends, locations, and activities than specific parental memories. I keep trying to dredge them up, but the more unpleasant ones surge to the foreground. Such as the time my mother, sister and I were chatting on the porch and within the space of about a minute she’d chastised my sister for being a stay-at-home mom and “wasting her education” and me for having a demanding career and presumably neglecting my kids. Lose-lose.

This was a person who wouldn’t come to any of her grandchildren’s birthday parties because she and my dad found them “boring.” Likewise, any sports the kids played. She simply wasn’t interested, and couldn’t fathom why these things might be important to them, or why she should pretend to care.

Another memory comes to mind: When her friend of many years was dying of cancer, I asked my mother if she’d visited or called the woman. The reply: “No, (because) I wouldn’t know what to say.”

It helps a little to understand that she was a victim of her own upbringing: a brilliant, intellectual, and aloof mother who found her silly and frivolous, a sweet but depressive father, and a brother who suffered from extreme bipolar disorder that alternated between mania (such as the time he got arrested on the subway for pushing a young woman into the seat he’d vacated for her, not understanding that her polite refusals were most likely terror at the crazy man who kept insisting she sit down) and catatonia.

The other night my husband and I had dinner with some dear friends who told us that three generations of a family they know had contracted COVID and were not expected to survive.

That’s a tragedy.

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Autocorrect For Life

Have you ever made a simple cooking mistake that rendered your masterpiece totally inedible? I did this yesterday.

I’d decided to make a mixed-grain bread using bread flour, whole wheat, and rye, adding caraway, chia and hemp seeds for texture and interest.

Except I grabbed fennel seeds instead of caraway, which is almost as bad as mixing up salt and sugar. YUCK.

Which got me thinking… wouldn’t it be great to have Universal Autocorrect every time we were about to do something dumb? Like a booming voice from above yelling “Stop!” when we’re walking down the aisle towards the wrong person. (TMI? Am I the only one who’s done this??) Or a quick rewind after we inadvertently send “reply all” bitching about a colleague. How about a time freeze before we sign the contract for a house that will prove to be a money pit?

Unlike my iPhone autocorrect, which turns typos into gibberish, our Life Autocorrect would be unfailingly wise and judicious, knowing what we meant to do, not what we actually did, and fixing it pronto.

Sigh. Back to the drawing board, a.k.a bread board. And like love, the results were lovelier — and tastier — the second time around.

Future History

If the 1920’s were the Roaring Twenties, what will this decade be called — The Whimpering Twenties? The Weeping Twenties? So far, so bad, but perhaps we will all rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of 2020. One can only hope.

Here in the US, COVID deaths have now reached (surpassed?) an unimaginable 200,000, making it anyone’s guess how we’ll wrap up the year. (“Worse”, I could posit.) My parents — and maybe also yours — used to say, “There are two sides to every story.” In the current political climate that sentiment seems downright nostalgic, as we currently have a country with two distinct stories, each side primarily getting information from news outlets that support and calcify its entrenched beliefs.

Whimpering feels like the appropriate response. Or, you can do what I do: cover your ears saying “La, la, la” whenever the Great Pumpkin holds a news conference. That voice alone is like nails on a chalkboard, nevermind the inanities being spouted.

But this is not meant to be a political blog, so on to a new — and more uplifting — topic. I recently read about a Brooklyn tailoring firm known for working with customers of all shapes, sizes and gender identity that also offers a free bespoke suit to wrongfully incarcerated citizens who have been exonerated through actions of the Innocence Project.

A new suit won’t make up for years of misery and injustice, of course. But it helps restore a person’s sense of dignity and normalcy. And isn’t that something worth celebrating amidst all this lousy news?

Image by Harmony Lawrence from Pixabay

Jibes, Barbs and Slurs

These glorious insults are from an era before the English language got boiled down to 4-letter words ….

“He had delusions of adequacy.” – Walter Kerr

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” – Winston Churchill

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” -Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” -William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.” – Moses Hadas

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” – Mark Twain

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” – Oscar Wilde

“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend, if you have one.” – George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

“Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second… if there is one.” – Winston Churchill, in response

“I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.” – Stephen Bishop

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” – John Bright

“I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.” – Irvin S. Cobb

“He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.” – Samuel Johnson

“He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.” – Paul Keating

“In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.” – Charles, Count Talleyrand

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.” – Forrest Tucker

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?” – Mark Twain

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.” – Mae West

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.” – Oscar Wilde

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts… for support rather than illumination.” – Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” – Billy Wilder

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But I’m afraid this
wasn’t it.”
– Groucho Marx

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