Saturday, March 29, 2008

See any similarities?

My sister forwarded an email to me that included a group of photos of her youngest granddaughter. The pictures cracked me up. They were taken by the toddler's mom (my niece), who had captioned them "THE EGG DYE TABLETS ARE NOT CANDY." Here's a sample:

It's obvious that the "attitude" gene is alive and well in our family. I'm not a bit surprised. The boy babies may not have been as severely afflicted, but I can't think of a single girl child in this family who wouldn't have been able to cock her head and roll her eyes in the hospital nursery if things hadn't gone to suit her.

One photo in particular gave me immense pleasure and sparked a little photo-editing project. First, I took the picture of my sister's grandbaby and turned it from color to black and white. Then I went digging through my files and found a snapshot of my sister, one that was taken about 1949. I blew it up, cropped it, "sprayed" a little "digital egg dye" around the mouth, and placed it side-by-side with the photo of her grandchild.


My sister's the one on the right. The apple didn't fall far from the tree in this case, did it?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Longing for the way we were

It’s been six days since I’ve posted, and five of the six were bad days. There have been times in the past when I couldn’t think of much to write about, but lately the problem has been that I had too much to say. I was afraid that if I began to write what I was thinking, the words would pour out of me so fast I wouldn’t be able to hold any of them back, even the ones I wouldn’t normally say in polite company.

Fortunately, I spent a wonderful Easter with my family, and that was enough to mellow me out a little bit. It was a resurrection of my spirit, in a way.

What had me so riled up was politics. I’m so invested in this presidential race that you’d think one of my children was running for office. I’ve spent hours and hours watching TV, trying to broaden my understanding of all the candidates’ points of view, and then more hours online, researching the truth behind all the “he said/she said” stuff. When I’ve seen inflammatory snippets of speeches, I’ve gone in search of text and videos to view those snippets in context, and I’ve been appalled that so many so-called “journalists” have been willing to pull a contentious word or phrase out of an otherwise sensible speech and leave it to stand out there on it’s own, a sound bite to stir controversy.

I understand about ratings. Even though it angers me to listen to certain reporters’ more unconscionable (read “twisted”) interpretations of a candidate’s actions or remarks, even though I think some of them take perverse pleasure in disseminating misinformation, I get it. In this day and age, newscasters are motivated more by the ratings than they are by the truth. Where’s Walter Cronkite when we need him?

That complaint notwithstanding, it wasn’t even biased news reporting that upset me so much last week. What really shook me was reading some of the online comments left on political websites by “average American” supporters of all three major candidates. I can’t recall the last time I’ve been exposed to so much vile, vitriolic language, so much hate speech, so much meanness, nastiness and, yes, ignorance.

Where do all these people come from? Do they live under rocks? I don’t want to know people who would write such hateful things, and it scares me to think people like that walk freely among us. It seems to me that if someone is bright enough to use a computer to spew hatred onto the Internet (much of it badly spelled, by the way), they ought to have sense enough to search out the whole story before they contaminate cyberspace with their animosity.

I’ll tell you what: I’m really glad to be an American. There’s never been anywhere else on earth I’ve wanted to live. But proud? Well, yeah, of course I’m proud – just not as proud as I used to be.

Somewhere along the way, our message has changed, a change that's even reflected in our music. In the early ‘80s, we listened to the radio and heard words like, “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.” More recently, the attitude we’ve projected to the world has been, “We’ll put a boot in your a$$, it’s the American way.” When did that change happen, exactly?

I know there’s nothing “average” about my regular readers, but I need to hear from you. Please reassure me that the kind of hostility I've described is not representative of the “average” Americans you know.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

In my face

If you have just a minute, try a little experiment with me. Keep both eyes open, but cover one eye with the palm of your hand. Assuming you didn't cover your dominant eye, you can probably read the words on your computer monitor, but you can also see the shape of your open palm. It's as if your palm has become semi-transparent and you can read right through it.

Now, we're not finished, so if you've already taken your hand down, please put it back.

What I'd like you to do next is imagine that instead of looking at your monitor, you're looking at your television screen. And instead of seeing the shape of your palm over one eye, you're seeing a big dog head. Got that image? Great. The point of this experiment was to show you how I've been watching TV lately. It leaves something to be desired, doesn't it?

I don't know what the deal is, but both Butch and Kadi seem to have decided recently that lying on the sofa next to me isn't good enough. Instead, whichever one of them gets to the sofa first will sit upright, facing me and leaning in to hover directly in front of my face. I love them, but this kind of togetherness is driving me nuts!

Do you suppose my breath has the scent of liver or some other doggy delicacy? I haven't noticed any people backing away from me in an apparent sense of urgency, but I can't think of any other reason why the dogs need to have their heads so close to mine. Perhaps I should find a mouthwash that smells like something they find repugnant. Unfortunately, that's a really short list.

Nail clippers, maybe. Or bathwater.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Signs of Spring

It's been months since the backyard was dry enough for me to venture out into it without staying on the stepping stones, but today I was able to take my camera for a short walk through the grass (or, more accurately, the dollarweed). The signs of Spring were thrilling.

The fig tree is covered with baby leaves, perfectly shaped but very tiny.

The tangelo tree survived a couple of freezes and now displays clusters of white buds. Each bud has the potential to be a blossom, and each blossom could produce a fruit. This will be the third summer for this tree, and I'm hoping the fruit will be sweeter this year.

I'm a little concerned about the gardenia bush. Some of the leaves don't look too healthy, and there's no sign of buds yet. Maybe it's too soon...or maybe this bright red bug (and others like him) are causing problems. Does anyone know what this creature is?

The crawfish (not the edible kind) have been busy building their muddy towers all Winter long, and there are quite a few of them in the backyard. The most ingenious of the lot belongs to the builder of this structure. At least one of the walls in his living room is wood-paneled.

Yesterday I saw the surest sign of all that Spring has arrived: my daughter and son-in-law mowing the lawn for the first time of the season. Thanks, Kelli and Troy. Next time, will you stand still long enough for a photo?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

While I'm complaining... the last few days I've been having problems with Blogger comments. Specifically, once I've clicked on comments, I can't get away from the comments window without closing the blog window.

I used to be able to read comments, add one if I chose to, and then use the back arrow to go back to the blog I was reading. From there, one click of the back arrow would take me back to my own blog so I could click on the link to the next thing I wanted to read.

Recently, though, I've been getting stuck in the comments screen. The back arrow brings up the little security question window again. If I click on any part of that, it takes me right back to comments. I end up toggling back and forth between the comments and the security window until I get frustrated and click the "x" to close the blog window.

I haven't changed any settings, so I'm wondering if Blogger has tweaked something recently that might be causing this? Does anyone know?

Stop it! Go away!

No, wait, I don't mean you.

I love getting comments on my blog. Sometimes people e-mail me instead of commenting, and I really enjoy that, too. What I don't like is blog-related SPAM.

Within days of starting the new book-review blog, I started getting multiple unsolicited e-mails every day, always from a different name and always with a book reference in the subject line. They all contain book reviews, and they're all typed in the same font and format, so I knew they were coming from the same place. By right-clicking on the e-mails and selecting "properties," I learned that all of them are coming from one e-mail address, despite the different names in the "from" column.

I know a couple of my regular and/or occasional readers write book reviews sometimes, and I'm wondering if you've ever had this problem. If so, what did you do about it?

I've read that it isn't a good idea to respond to a SPAM e-mail, because doing so confirms that the unwanted messages are finding a target. Becsause of that, I haven't asked the sender to cease and desist. Any ideas out there?

The source of this particular SPAM is Bostick Communications. When I Googled that name, one of the search results included the words "making a press release through Bostick Communications who are a Christian company..." That might explain it. Maybe they see it as their religious duty to annoy the hell out of people.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Still another Boleyn girl

Blogging wasn't the first pastime to keep me tethered to the computer for hours on end. That distinction belongs to genealogy, a joyful pursuit that began in 1989 and continues to this day. I couldn't begin to estimate the hours (and dollars) I've spent tracing my ancestors and learning as much as I could about them.

Most of the people in my family history were ordinary citizens, living their lives in the best way they could, much as most of us try to do. I'm pleased to have inherited whatever common genes I share with them, and I wish I knew more about them.

Other ancestors were more prominent, so much more has been written about them, and some of them were not especially nice. If you've turned on your television set for more than an hour in the last month, you've probably seen the trailer for The Other Boleyn Girl. The "other" refers to Mary Boleyn, the lesser known sister of Anne Boleyn, whom King Henry VIII married and later caused to be beheaded. Mary was my 15th-great-grandmother, on my mother's side of the family.

Mary was a married woman (girl, more accurately) who had a long-term affair with Henry VIII before her wily sister, Anne, wormed her way into his favor. The stories of these two sisters totally dispel the notion held by some folks that Hollywood is to blame for today's "loose morals." Ha! The people in that particular royal circle thought up plenty of naughtiness all by themselves.

I wish I'd known all this stuff when I was younger. When my mother walked in and found teenage me in a passionate lip-lock with my boyfriend, it would have been really handy to be able to say, "I know this looks bad, Mother, but at least I'm not as bad as your Granny Mary or Auntie Anne." And if, as an adult, I ever made a questionable, late-night decision out of loneliness or longing (not that I'd ever admit to that), it would have been less regrettable in the morning if I'd known about Mary and Anne. I could have written off my foolishness to genetics and cut myself some slack.

Fortunately, in the generations between Mary Boleyn and myself, our gene pool has been watered down by plenty of people who were more grounded than the members of King Henry's court. Grounded is better, I think. I may never have romanced a king, but I've loved at least one royal pain in the a$$, and I suspect my experience in that regard was not dissimilar to Mary's.

When I think about Mary, I like to picture her in the latter years of her life. She married a second time, for love apparently. Because Mary married a commoner, her sister, who was queen by then, banished her and her husband from the court. According to historians, they lived the rest of their lives in relative anonymity.

If there was any part of Mary that's now a part of me, I believe she appreciated the peace and quiet.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Breathing a sigh of relief

Between presidential politics and the new season of reality shows, it’s been hard for me to tear myself away from the TV long enough to blog lately. I’ve seen a lot of things that were inspirational and a lot of others that have distressed me. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of ugly out there.

I’ve been particularly disturbed as I’ve watched one high-profile woman, for weeks now, maintain a professional demeanor and a smile on her face while lies and exaggerations poured out of her mouth. She has portrayed herself as the brightest of the lot, the most capable performer, the shining star, deserving of the ultimate prize. She has taken credit for the work of others and blamed those same others for her own errors of judgment. When challenged, she has twisted the truth at every turn to suit her own agenda, and she hasn’t missed an opportunity to misdirect the viewing public and point a figurative middle finger at a series of opponents. It’s been sickening to watch.

Tonight, though, I’m feeling encouraged again. Justice prevailed on my TV screen earlier this evening, and that “Washington insider” whose underhanded tactics left me so dismayed is out of the race.

Tonight I heard the words I've been waiting to hear: “Omarosa, you’re fired!”

Thank you, Donald Trump, for restoring my faith in humanity.