Friday, September 30, 2011

Pleasure Can Be Perverse

Back in the 40s, when radio was the only source of live audible information and entertainment, my mother would listen to a program called "Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick."

The "Dorothy" was a gossip reporter and columnist named Kilgallen who became more famous a few years later as a panelist on what seems now to have been a delightfully innocent example of programming called, "What's My Line."

Kilgallen coined the question, "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" when trying to elicit from a guest what it was they did or produced for a living.

At night, over dinner,  mother frequently scoffed at some inane bit of radio intelligence she had received earlier in the day, such as: Dorothy Kilgallen uses only candles to light her bedroom to keep romance alive in her marriage. 

The impracticality of such a daily time-wasting, and possibly hazardous  routine for a busy woman, and the likelihood that it was all hogwash designed to impress suburban housewives with her sophistication, was not lost on my mother.

When I asked her why she listened to someone she obviously disliked, she said, it was for the pleasure of the irritation.

I suppose that doesn't make much sense to most people, but I have come to understand it. And I am my mother's daughter. I watch at least a part of Morning Joe every day just to delight in the irritation produced by watching Mika Brzezinski's constant, embarrassingly narcissistic, mugging for the camera. She never fails to produce!

Are there any psychologists out there who can explain why it can feel good to be annoyed?

* * * *

(According to a story titled Who Killed Dorothy Kilgallen by journalist Sara Jordan, Frank Sinatra loathed her, too, and called her "the chinless wonder." Maybe the candlelight was more effective than a paper bag over her head.) 


Friday, September 16, 2011

Going Forth and Being Fruitful

 There was quite a little tizzy in the press about 10 days ago when it was reported that one man was the source of donated sperm that have materialized into 150 children.

I don't think this was all in one helping, if that's what it could be called. It may be that women found the outcome so sublime they came back for more...and maybe did testimonials, as well.

Said one commenter:

"It's kinda irresponsible to have so many people be able to use one donor, since it could accidently [sic] cause inter-breeding or something else."

What could possibly be the "something else" that could happen? I'd be fascinated to know.

But maybe even more fascinating is the consternation suddenly besetting those who have availed themselves of these wares. Had the possibility of incest never occurred to them when they purchased an off-the-shelf commodity?

Now, apparently, they are developing some kind of number alert system that can be used to determine communal fatherhood. But surely some of these children will come from families who have not advised them of their status, leaving them vulnerable.

And even if they can source their forebear, it would seem a little previous to check the books when they first meet someone. But if they wait until after they have fallen in love, that could lead to heartbreak or, as the commenter said, "something else". 

It seems to me this whole petri dish method of propagation is better left to fruit and vegetables. 


Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Ties Have It

It's a little after 5 p.m. and I am staring at a frozen TV screen.  The phone rang and I had halted Chris Matthews mid-mouth. Now I am examining the motionless split screen and see that Matthews is wearing a red tie, its knot skewed a little to the left, and Ed Rollins is wearing a navy blue tie; his twists a little to the right. How appropriate.

I've been noticing ties a lot lately. I'm not sure if I ever remembered seeing so many of them looking so untidy. Either the knot is off center or else it isn't fitting tight up against the collar button.

I've also noticed that men's ties swing around a lot more than I've observed in the past. A TV host seems to have to hold the thing close to his chest when he bends down to sit...or if a guest sits in a chair next to the host and doesn't unbutton his jacket, the tie often is left peeping from below the button....looking a little like something is out that should be in.

And the colors. When President Obama addressed the combined House and Senate this month, he was wearing a pale blue tie. His Veep was wearing a lavender one and the Speaker was wearing a pinkish one - all watered down colors that we identify with a statement of neutrality.

It's starting to look like ties are now the only thing that a man can rely on to say something about himself. Every other garment is pretty much the same (look at the row of navy blue suits lined up at the recent GOP debates). 

I missed the second and saw only clips so I didn't really mark what the "suits" were all wearing. But at the first one, I noted Huntsman was wearing a nicely knotted yellow tie with his blue suit...and looked quite splendid. Cain, too, wore yellow... departing from the obligatory blue, red and in between colors. But it wasn't the standout Huntsman's was.

If ties are doing the talking, one of the clearest, neatest, smartest man on the public stage appears to be.....(wait for it)......Keith Olbermann! He is the epitome of sartorial splendor. His tie is always knotted correctly and centered under a perfect white collar...and the designs are bold and strong.

In the land of "ties talk" he is clear winner. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

So Perryesque As To Be Grotyesque

Texas has a lean, mean, well-barbered governor who calls it like he sees it - and he sees only guilt where the incarcerated are concerned. You get arrested - you get justice: Texas justice. Rapid and uncompromising "justice" with no room for doubt, nor consideration for error.

This Texas style of dismissing any weight given arguments for the possibility of sending the innocent into oblivion, came to mind last night when I heard that Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, has said that shoe removal at airports may be a thing of the past. New technology for apprehending potential mass murderers is on its way.

Gone will be the naively inconvenient ways to discern if shampoo is combustible, or if there is explosive material in someone's belly-button lint. Cutting edge technology will prevail.

It reminded me that I had heard of a new technology last year that was reported by the Israelis. They are developing an airport security device that eliminates the privacy concerns that come with full-body scanners at the airports.

It's a booth you can step into that will not X-ray you, but will detonate any explosive device you may have on you. They see this new instrument as a win-win for everyone, with none of the whining about racial profiling. It also would eliminate the  costs of long and expensive trials.

Justice would be swift indeed.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Getting to Know You (and Like You - Maybe)?

This past Sunday's Meet the Press had Tom Friedman discussing the expansion of worldwide inter-connectedness. He pointed out that Facebook didn't exist for most people when he wrote his flat earth book seven years ago (I can never remember the title, even though he mentions it every time you see him).

I joined the social network a couple of years ago in an effort to put myself where people from the way-back-beyond past might find me. No one from my childhood has, but I've made a number of new friends.

(You can tell when you have a good selection of new friends on Facebook -  the old ones start poaching them, and vice versa. Therein lies the interconnected value of idea exchange.)

In the last year, Facebook has become important to me in the main because friends - those who are active contributors - will find something interesting and post it where I, and the rest of the world, can find it - and then it gets  passed on again and again and again.

I've seen breathtaking photographs, videos of gloriously silly things, nostalgic pictures and prose, alarming news and careful research compiled and shared by accomplished people who I would never otherwise know. And, of course, there is always the up-to-the-minute political insanity of our times.

And I haven't moved anything except hand and eye.

Thoroughly amazing, what?

But even with the availability of this rich fare of information, still the uninformed thrive; multiply, even. It's almost as if they are being nourished by snapping up the scraps of misinformation that spill off a banquet table that has room only for facts, and this detritus  becomes soiled and even covered with the spittle of the curs who inhabit the underside of everything, and chew with open-mouthed avarice.

And I it different? Have people become dumber and dirtier since I was a girl, or is it that each aging generation is critical of the mores of the new one? Aren't there lyrics from the musical Flower Drum Song  that tell us that?

Is that all it is? Or is it something more sinister?

Yes, I think it is much, much more sinister. And, because of our inter-connectedness, it is going to travel faster and faster and faster.

It's going to be a bumpy ride.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Smarter, Smaller and Secular

Wham! Bam! Thank you, m'am! An earthquake and a hurricane in the same week in Virginia. Phenomenal.

My aversion to Augusts is well-founded.  Nothing good ever happened in any August I recall.

The 5.9 earthquake and its subsequent aftershocks didn't do much here on my little patch of earth except get my adrenaline going; and, if the truth be known, neither did the hurricane. At least not in view of what it could have done. 

Bewilderingly, the much vaunted rage of Irene caused no loss of power.  We weren't totally unscathed since we lost a decoratively placed, 24-inch diameter tree that took down a 14-foot gate, nicked the corner of the roof and left a big mess. However, that big mess is - three days after the event - being cleaned up with dispatch by a man and a machine that chews up and spits out branches with  authority. 

What did people do before we had machines? 

With no fossil fueled mechanical power, there was nothing in past millennia  that could make our modern world go. Horsepower and manpower have been left in a ditch.

With the lack of the Internet, television, movies, rock stars, NASCAR, speedboats and jets in the ancient world, there was hardly a single time-wasting thing to do except burn witches, torture heretics, lynch whomever and make babies.

Although, the advent of all this labor-saving and entertainment-producing machinery doesn't seem to have hindered that latter pastime because the world appears to be crawling with humanity - all of whom claim to be out of work.

Maybe we need to set aside all our labor saving devices and support ourselves by the sweat of our brows.

Amend that. Only the Republicans with their high-finance puppet-masters and their theocratic fundamentalist overlords should be set to manually laborious work - when it's scarce and when it's abundant - and maybe this will conjure up a bracing jolt of self-awareness when it comes to their lack of interest in making the populace better educated, scientifically prepared for a productive future, and providing a safer place for all those children they would force us to have.

I'm pretty sure that with a smarter, smaller and secular population this country would be some kind of wonderful.