Sunday, July 12, 2015

Forties Flicks

I have recently closed a gap in my Oscar-film viewing experience, specifically, I have now watched all of the Oscar-winning Best Pictures from the 1940s. This should have long since been accomplished, but hey! Spilt milk! Now it has. (If only I weren't always getting distracted from my projects by other projects. So many projects I have! So many...)

Anyway, the 1940s winners are fun; they include, among other things, one of my favorite all-time films and one of my mom's favorite all-time films. But I will point out one not-as-fun thing, which is that after you have watched half a dozen of the flicks in a month period you start to get really sick of the opening credits, which all blend together. Laaa! Dramatic music! Black and white! Studio presents! This music sounds the same as the last three movies! Sweeping crescendo!  Ugh. Boring.A girl can hardly wait to get to a decade where someone makes a bold move in how to start a picture.

The 1940s Academy Award movies themselves, though, are a great bunch. Here's my ranking, from my favorite to my not-as-favorite:

Top Tier: Simply the best!
Casablanca (1943)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Next Tier: I still really like them and recognize greatness here.
Mrs. Miniver (1942)
Going My Way (1944)
Hamlet (1948)
Gentleman's Agreement (1947)

Third Tier: I can still order my third tier, unlike the U.S. News law school rankings
The Lost Weekend (1945) and Rebecca (1940)
All the King's Men (1949)
How Green Was My Valley (1941)

How does your ranking of these ten films compare?

Now for a few thoughts:

Casablanca is not just my top film of the 1940s but one of my top five of all time; it has been for years. It's astounding and I love it and if you watch it after being alive in the English-speaking world for any length of time you will probably recognize a billion quotes from it. Actually, Hamlet kind of has that going for it, too. Hamlet, naturally, is great, but Ophelia is super crazy and the film really does start to drag just a bit somewhere in Act III...

As for underrated gems, The Best Years of Our Lives and Gentleman's Agreement really should get more buzz than they do. They are so prescient, socially relevant, thoughtful, and still entertaining. Going My Way, on the other hand, IS more on people's radar, I think, what with the Bing Crosby factor and all, but I can't say that before I watched it as an adult I really knew much about it besides its star. It's full of neat little bits, though, and well worth a watch. Perhaps my favorite undiscovered gem is Mrs. Miniver. Whatever you're picturing when you hear that there's a film called Mrs. Miniver from the early 1940s is probably not at all accurate. Also, it had one of the best depictions of a non-native speaker trying to use the English language I've ever seen on film, and it features a most awesome cat.

About the others: I grew up watching or not really paying attention to Rebecca because my mom adores it but when I finally read the book and sat down to watch the film all the way through I was not as impressed as I'd hoped to be. (The book, especially, left me sorely disappointed; you just want to punch every character in the face. At least the movies has cool visual stuff going for it.) The Lost Weekend was all right; I actually didn't read that book of How Green Was My Valley, but I suspect both are better than their film versions. All the King's Men was. While I did feel plunged into the hot air of Louisiana and its politics, some of the performances were kind of cliche and the whole thing almost feels perfunctory.

Next up, I'll watch whatever I've missed/forgotten in the 1950s, my other weirdly gappy Oscar decade. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Moooove over, dairy: how to win my udder loyalty

From the true-true files: I drink a lot of coffee. And the salient point here is not just that I drink it, but I buy it. Regularly. With enthusiasm. (Like most foods and beverages,) I much prefer buying it to making it at home. I like going to coffee shops. I like getting coffee to go on the way to work.  I consider stopping for iced coffee an essential first step to any errand. I like barista lingo, the hiss of steaming milk, and rewards programs.

Let's focus on those last two for a moment.

In the circles I run in, or any circles that I would ever want to run in, it's fun to debate the grand question of our era, to wit: Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts? I used to say that Starbucks is like cocaine (addictive, expensive, a definitive part of certain lifestyles,  ubiquitous in L.A. and Manhattan) while DD is like crack (cheaper, grittier, arguably more powerful, easy to find on every corner in certain cities). But this is not to say I'm all about the behemoths, because I also dig independent coffee shops. I've done quality time in Insomnia, Buzz Coffee, Someday Cafe, Champion Coffee, and more recently, Beans and Bagels. I also like the coffee chains that haven't reached cartel saturation levels, like your Peet's and your Caribou and your Intelligentsia, and I like the local heroes: Dutch Bros., Biggby, Angel-in-Us. Basically, if you are willing to invest in espresso, ice cubes, and employees,  I'm yours. "Iced coffee is civilization!" That's my motto, but I won't turn down a hot one, either.

So we need to talk about milk.

The dairy industry lobby is really powerful in the U.S./world. Disgustingly powerful. They have convinced so very, very many of you that milk is an essential part of your diet. "Got Milk?" "It does a body good,"  you know. Ha! The non-advertising truth is more like, what's up with suckling at the breast of an entirely different species, something most mammals only do when in dire orphaned straits? Because lattes, cappuccinos, cafe au lait, etc. are the greatest thing in the world, the aforementioned coffee shops buy a whole lot of milk. We are talking unfathomable amounts. The power of the dairy industry and economies of scale mean that milk comes cheap -- well, that and the immense suffering borne by the dairy cows, the calves ripped away from mothers, the mothers locked, immobile, in pens, the milking machines, the unjustified captivity, the industrial nightmare of it all. ("Got torture?" "It wears a body out!")

The coffee shops offer dairy alternatives, such as soy milk and more recently the trendy almond milk and coconut milk. This makes me happy. The coffee shops charge extra for these alternatives. This makes me sad. I have paid these extra charges over the decades because I have to, and I've watched them go from 30 or 40 cents extra to a standard of 50 or 60 and even sometimes 75 cents more for soy. 75 cents extra! For one drink! I can buy a carton of soy milk for $2.75 and get way more than four drinks out of it. (Don't even get me started on having the same upcharge for a latte, which is mostly milk, as for an iced coffee with milk, which is just a splash of soy. Some Starbucks cashiers do the right thing when you get just a splash and note "with soy" not "add soy" but you take your chances on this in general.) But the coffee shops don't pay anything close to retail prices for their truckloads of cow milk, so it makes some kind of economic sense to them to think of the cow milk in a latte as costing them a cent but the soy milk in a latte costing them 50 cents. That's not quite right, but I follow their thinking.

The problem is that the dairy industry is evil, and most coffee shops aspire to be socially conscious. What they should do is make soy/almond/coconut/oat/hemp milk free and charge extra for dairy.

Since the vast majority of people are ordering dairy, they could upcharge a mere ten cents and more than make their money back, but still call attention to the issue that your dairy choice is a bad choice (because it's cruel) (not to mention unhealthy) and that you could make a better choice. Or, hell, they could be brave enough to really speak truth to power and just go ahead and make it a fifty cent upcharge on dairy from the word go, which might light a fire under the ass of some of those who just need reality pointed out to them once in a while but who are willing to do the right thing.

And so here is my announcement:

Despite my love for any and all the coffee places, I hereby declare the I will permanently switch my loyalty to the first coffee place that makes soy and other non-dairy alternatives free while simultaneously charging extra for dairy.

If Starbucks has the socially responsible guts to do it, I'm theirs. If feisty upstart DD does it, something I find hard to imagine seeing as they recently made me pay the 50-cent almond milk upcharge when I got a "free" rewards drink that I had earned in their Perks program, then I will forever more choose to run on Dunkin' even if the mermaid is looking longingly at me from a block closer.If a smaller chain does it, I will visit that smaller chain every time I have the option to do so.

You might be thinking, um, what's the big deal? But if you actually know me, you know that the idea of becoming loyal to one coffee shop is a very big deal indeed. There couldn't be a bigger deal for me, unless I announced that I was going to read only genre fiction from here on out or something. (Note: that would never ever happen.)  And whatever coffee shop is willing to make people face a tiny portion of the cost that the cruelty of dairy incurs will get the added benefit of my evangelizing on their behalf forever, too, because when I'm loyal, I can also be loquacious.

If there is some coffee place already doing this, not just giving soy/non-dairy alternatives free but also charging extra for cow's milk, some beautiful little coffee shop somewhere, then let me know, because that place is my next vacation destination (and who are you that you haven't told me about it already?)

In China, Starbucks didn't charge extra for soy. I don't always espouse the benefits of living in China (or, you know, ever espouse those largely non-existent benefits) but that one is a good one. In the U.S., we Starbucks Gold Card members used to get free soy, but it was apparently costing them too much, so they changed their rewards program. They should have changed it to charging all customers for dairy instead.

Who will do it? Who wants my loyalty -- for LIFE?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

I never understood / the frequency

I have two questions, or possibly the same question about two things.

First, to those of you who are bothered when others have an "intense conversation" or "passionate debate," what is it that bothers you about that? I mean, I ask this from the most genuine place of ignorance. What exactly is the problem? For example, among co-workers, or friends gathered having a barbecue or whatever. Let's say someone brings up "should there be a $15 minimum wage?" or "The Iraq war sure was a dastardly joke, eh?" or "Immigration sucks!" or whatever the case may be, and then two or more people have a conversation and it becomes "intense" or "passionate." Who cares? Why do you care? So many times, people have commented on this, asked the passionate debaters to stop, made comments such as "OK, guys, take it easy" or "Look what you started!" to the person who made an initial remark. Sometimes you can tell that someone is uncomfortable because of the two other people having a debate. Why? What precisely is it that makes you uncomfortable about two other people talking? I truly want to know.

Next question. Related, I suppose, but this is more of an interpersonal focus. Sometimes someone is talking about an issue and either someone tells the person, "Now, don't get emotional" or else the speaker takes it upon him/herself to apologize for "getting emotional." Why? What is wrong with "getting emotional?" I mean, what exactly is the negative thing there?  Why are emotions bad? To the extent that "getting emotional" is code for "crying," I still don't understand. Why exactly do you care if someone cries? Do you care if they laugh? Smile? Pray? Dance the hula? Why does crying threaten to ruin everything? They're just tears. They're not going to hurt you. They're not even contagious.

I'm not looking for the answer that society has somehow deemed these methods of talking and expression inappropriate. I'm asking why. What, specifically, is the problem?

Inquiring minds want to know. And I mean, really really really want to know.

Friday, April 03, 2015

What gives you the right to exist?

It infuriates me when someone (say, Benjamin Netanyahu) "demands" (!) that someone else (say, perhaps, Iran) "acknowledge Israel's right to exist." It is a smoke screen. It is a perfect example of the utterly bogus catchphrase politics that I loathe with every fiber of my being: so-called leaders say something that sounds so right that you couldn't possibly disagree with it--unless you actually critically think about it, that is. But they don't want you to do that. They just want your emotional response that pegs everyone who doesn't immediately do this as a demon.

Before we get to whether "Israel has a right to exist" and why that phrase actually means nothing, let's illustrate with a couple of other common examples. One of the most prevalent and annoying is "family values." Precisely what the hell does it mean to be "against family values"? That's right, it means nothing. But every year another politician or two dutifully trots out the line that s/he is in favor of family values, and no one ever asks them what, exactly, is a family value? What are you supporting? Does anyone recall that this phrase hit the big-time when Dan Quayle -- Dan Quayle of all people -- hurled it at a fictional TV character whose life choices he didn't like (even though they weren't, actually, you know, real choices in a real life that existed or anything)? The fact that we're still being subjected to this nonsense phrase more than two decades later says something -- I don't know what, but something pretty awful -- about the U.S. political scene.

From "the" other "side" of things, we get another bit of political rhetoric you're unlikely to avoid if you ever like to be on the internet, and that is the false dichotomy of gay marriage versus "hate." Gay marriage versus discrimination, yes. Gay marriage versus unequal treatment, certainly. Gay marriages versus people clinging to some misguided ideas, I'll grant you. But all the signs and memes and posters and retweets with phrases like "Do you support gay marriage or do you support HATE?!" are just absurd. What do you hope to accomplish with that? "Yeah, put me down in the hate column." Who says that? (I might add that the idea of being "pro-choice" is also problematic in this way, but then again, that term is fighting against the even more insidious and misleading "pro-life," so the abortion rhetoric battle is long past any hope of real words that mean anything.)

Right, so, Israel. Here's Netanyahu, who doesn't want to play with the neighbor children sign any deals unless/until Iran "acknowledges Israel's right to exist." Notice what happens when he/anyone says this.  It's visceral, a gut punch, a surge of adrenaline: we're supposed to bristle at the very idea that someone could be so demonic as to "not acknowledge Israel's right to exist." But why? What does that mean? What IS a "right to exist"?  You know who has a right to exist? Living things that exist. It's not up for debate. It's like the thing about human rights, right? You have them because you're human. Existence is. Do I need to get Descartes up in here? What exactly does a right to exist do? If you exist, whether you have the right to do so or not is kind of a moot point.

There are three basic problems with Netanyahu's demand.
1. Israel is not the same thing as Jewish people. But this is the emotional reaction they're playing on. They say "Israel's right to exist" and we are supposed to immediately line up on the "right" side, that is to say, the side that equates "not wanting to kill millions of people" with "support for Israel" (to the extent that those three words actually mean anything either). If someone is born, they now exist (note: born) and you don't have a right to kill them. So, that's the end of the story. There is no coda in which their lives, one life or a hundred lives or six million lives or approaching seven billion lives mean any particular nation should or shouldn't exist. It means those one or a hundred or six million or nearly seven billion lives get to be lived. That's what it means.
2. Maybe, just maybe, carving a modern Jewish state out of Palestine was not in fact the best solution. Maybe, just maybe, it caused more problems than it solved. Maybe, just maybe, some people should be willing to discuss this instead of shutting off all debate about it. And yet, instead we sit here demanding recognition of Israel's "right to exist." Does any state have a "right" to exist? Why? Why do any states exist in the first place? For a lot of terrible reasons, for many of them. History, inertia, war, reproduction, heritage, negotiations, genocide, whatever led people to be where they are and establish nation states -- these aren't really the same thing as having rights.
3. It goes back to the oft-repeated but never correctly translated statement that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad allegedly made (except guess what, he didn't) that Israel should be wiped off the map. That loaded phrase in English is an idiom that for some reason everyone takes figuratively and literally when they hear this (alleged but not really made) statement about Israel. But he didn't say it. He was explaining that maybe said modern Jewish state shouldn't have been carved out of Palestine with these particular lines in the sand (and now, on maps) where they are. Kind of like what I'm trying to explain to you all (see #2 above). And that it's OK to have a conversation about this. But we don't have a conversation. We run around ignoring everything except inflammatory rhetoric (real or imagined).

What does it actually mean to recognize the right to exist? What is the point of it? Look at the things around me. My pen. My desk. My cat sleeping on the bed. My comfortable sweatshirt. Do these things have a right to exist? They just exist! You don't have the right to destroy them, but what actual right do they have? What does it mean? It's more like a right to not not-exist by someone else's action. But god forbid we talk nuances or philosophy or, you know, subtlety of thought. We'd rather scream and yell about Israel as if it's a good idea and you're a terrible hater if you don't value it, where "value" is defined to mean "repeat a bunch of cliches and tired old saws that will get a lot of warmongering blood pumping."

Thursday, February 26, 2015

And the misplaced outrage goes to...

The 87th Academy Awards have come and gone, with few surprise winners and no triumph for Boyhood. Yes, I was in that camp: the one that was moved and impressed more by Richard Linklater's 12-years-of-filming look at the quiet moments of life than by Alejandro G.(onzález) Iñárritu's weird and flashy spectacle of actors, cinematography, and dark snark. Alas.

And you know, if Boyhood and Linklater had won then we wouldn't have been able to make Twitter explode with outrage over Sean Penn's "racist" joke, uttered after he opened the envelope while we all waited through a dramatic pause and his one-liner to find out the Best Picture of 2014. Oh, wait, what's that? It wasn't actually racist? Twitter would have found something else about which to explode in outrage instead? How right you are.

For those who live under a rock or, perhaps worse, didn't watch Sunday night's ceremony, Sean Penn saw that Birdman had won and that his buddy Iñárritu would be returning to the stage to collect another statuette having already been up there for his Screenplay and Director wins, and so before announcing the name of the picture, Penn quipped, "Who gave this son-of-a-bitch his green card?" 

Apparently, this "ruined the Oscars" for some people. (Um. Hello?) For others, it was a reminder that the Oscars are so white (I mean: #OscarsSoWhite. Who needs verbs?) that as soon as a Mexican gets an award, there's bound to be a green card joke. Never mind the fact that said joke specifically mocks this very offensive attitude, that attitude being "Who let in all these Mexicans?" where "in" is defined to mean "entering the space that was actually Mexico longer than it has been the United States but was taken by means of a coercive treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo and a ruthless, illegal war conducted by James K. Polk and company, from which the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice junta got all its best warmongering ideas."

Right, never mind all that. Time to Tweet. Among the Tweets were some questions as to whether Penn and Iñárritu are friends? They are. They give each other crap all the time. They made 21 Grams together. Iñárritu said Penn's joke was hilarious. He also went on to talk about Mexico, Mexicans and immigrants in his acceptance speech. But this curious "Yikes! I hope they're friends!" response signals to me how weirdly people seem to have lost the ability to read humorous social cues. I can't believe anyone actually thinks or thought that Sean Penn (or anyone -- but least of all Sean Penn) would really mean that green card statement without irony. Or thinks that an Oscar presenter would refer to someone they're not pals with as a "son-of-a-bitch" in that situation. Those would be weird moves even for a celebrity actor.

Now, was the joke necessary? Of course not. Why must these walking egos actors deliver a one-liner upon opening the envelope? I have never forgotten Denzel Washington's "By a nose!" instead of just saying that Nicole Kidman had won Best Actress for The Hours; at the end of a long awards season full of babble about her prosthetic nose that overlooked all the anguish, insight, and emotional nuance of her portrayal of Virginia Woolf, we had to have one more nose joke. What's the point? Why do you have to take one more second for yourself before handing out the award? Then again, why not? It's a big party, we're all here together, why not crack wise with your friends? In other words: is this all much ado about nothing? 

Was the joke funny? Clever? Reasonable minds could disagree.  I mean, first of all, partly no, in the sense that you don't even need a "green card" or to work in the United States to make a film, or be nominated for Best Picture. Like, Iñárritu could have been nominated in all those categories as a Mexican resident for making a film in Mexico, so it doesn't even matter. It's not like, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger governing the state of California. But also, there are layers to it. Gotta love a good joke with layers. The idea that there are authoritative bodies (governments, academies) that can bestow legitimacy on people and their work...the idea that others might resent that...the idea that you can have "too many" people from a certain place in another certain place... it might actually turn out to be more nuanced than it first appears. 

Or, you could just ignore it and move on with your disappointment that Boyhood didn't win Best Picture. It received only one award all night, Supporting Actress for Patricia Arquette, who ended her speech with a rousing call for wage equality and equal rights for women, which prompted Meryl Streep to shout "Yes!" and leap to her feet. And you thought that was going to be the political moment of the night! 

People pretend to like sarcasm -- they dutifully watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert skewering the news and news makers -- but when someone actually does say something sarcastic they don't always know what to do with themselves. They do better if there are a lot of big flashing arrows saying "LOL here" and misusing "literally" to help them understand that someone is joking. 

People also pretend to like those who "say what they think."  Really, you hear that all the time in empty platitudes: "I really respect [PersonX]; s/he speaks her/his mind...says what s/he thinks..tells it like it is.." and so on. Until someone actually does that, and then it's all a horrified, "Wow, you're so opinionated." Or, my favorite, "Never discuss politics with friends."  What?  What kind of friendships do you have?

If you are really concerned about how "offensive" it was for Sean Penn to pretend he was indignant that Alejandro G. Iñárritu (who, yes, has officially approved the Anglicizing of how he uses his last name[s]) has a green card even though he doesn't need a green card to be nominated for or win Oscars, maybe you should take it up with your representatives in Congress who let the morass of idiocy that is U.S. immigration law persist in its unfair state year after year. Or maybe you should watch a previous Iñárritu nominee, Babel, which ably depicts actual human life at the U.S./Mexican border and the actual misunderstandings that swirl around lives there. Or maybe you should read up on the blatantly illegal and dishonest maneuvering Polk used to kick off the Mexican-American war that make Dubya and Company look -- well, if not better, than at least like they weren't the first to have the idea that they could just use the military to do whatever they want, no matter how many innocents were murdered in the process. Maybe you could even spare a thought or two for the entirely overlooked sexism in the fact that "son-of-a-bitch" is a go-to insult in the first place, in many languages. could just go on Twitter and ascribe the world's problems to Sean Penn. Sean Penn

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Calling 'Dibs!' on Dibs

You might have heard that Chicago experienced a huge snowstorm the first weekend in February, on Super Bowl Sunday, in fact. Some hungover people even got a snow day Monday! It was the fifth largest snowstorm on record (inches in a certain period of time), such-and-such amount fell at O'Hare, there were train delays, reporters checking out the commute, and so on..snow, snow, snow. And when the Chicago Tribune ran out of things to write about (because actually, the post-storm recovery was going pretty smoothly), they started writing daily about "Dibs."

"Dibs on parking spaces after snow is the Chicago Way," said one editorial headline. It's a "quaint custom" and a "Chicago winter tradition" whereby vehicle owners shovel out their street parking spot, drive off somewhere (assuredly it must be to work, what with the Chicago Midwest work ethic that undoubtedly is behind all things that happen here in the land of friendly earnest Midwesterners) (did we mention we're in the Midwest?), and leave in the newly shoveled-out spot a chair, or a plastic stool, or maybe some crates from the porch, even an ironing board. Thus, "Dibs!" has been called, and no pesky driver who didn't shovel the spot can violate the code of Dibs and park there. Is it legal? Is it libertarian? Is it great? These and other questions have been discussed for more than a week now in the opinion pages of the Tribune, and now we're in the public-weighing-in phase of the discourse with letters to the editor extolling the lovely communal spirit of Dibs that is just a "quirky Chicago attribute" and a symbol of the ever-great neighborly Midwest. And a cursory internet search reveals that this same self-congratulatory discussion has launched itself in the news pages in previous winters as well. 

One small problem, Chicago: Dibs is not unique to you.

What?! Sputter, gasp, the friendly Midwesterners of the neighborly vibe, earnest work ethic, and pathetic NFL team spit out their coffee (often Dunkin' Donuts, it must be said -- they do have that good sense) and choke on their deep dish "pizza" and ketchup-free hot dogs. But it's true. Citizens of other cities respond to their own snowy deluges by digging out their cars and then claiming the space with a folding lawn chair that would otherwise go unused for another few months. Dibs. I, for one,  learned about the practice when I witnessed it in Medford, Massachusetts. (Boston, another city that is proud of itself from time to time, also experiences a fair amount of snow, as you may know.)

I was passing over most of the Dibs talk with no more than mild interest for a few days but this morning the bit I read in a letter published in the Trib was over-the-top in its delight about this so very Chicago tradition, and this one was from someone who isn't even from here. The letter didn't specify the writer's original home; it just cakcled with delight about moving to Chicago a year ago and discovering Dibs.

Chicago, you're on thin ice here (<--- see what I did there?). I moved to the "Second" City (sort of) to get away from this attitude of specialness, or, as I like to call it, New York. I am forever telling anyone who will listen (all three of them) that Chicago gives New York a run for its money in offering up art, music, literature, theater, dance, people, crowds, liveliness, and anything else a city dweller could want, sometimes at half the rent. (And almost twice the rats.) I am forever reveling in the experience of life in this big, famous city that isn't so full of, well, New Yorkers...the annoying ones, I mean. The ones who have never been anywhere else, the ones who can't really distinguish between Colorado and California, the ones who are entirely convinced that New York is the one and only place in the world worth living. It's not, those people are dumb, and the attitude of specialness threatens to undo the specialness. Don't let this happen to you, Chicago.

So I commented about this particular letter to the editor and its effusive praise for the quirky Chicago attribute (which is not that at all), and Brian's response, besides just disagreeing with me that this is a problem or issue to be noted, was along the lines of, well, how can the Chicagoans be expected to know what goes on in other cities?

Gaaaaaahh! This! This!!! THIS is what I hate the most about the specialness. If you don't know what goes on in other cities, then now is not the time to talk about how quaint and quirky and special yours is.

I love bemused, self-deprecating geographical humor. I loved reading the "Only in L.A." columns as much as the next person. I re-Tweet all the great "10 Things Arizona Natives Have to Explain to the New People" pieces. It's all a good time. But in order to make the comparisons, you're going to have to know about the other place, too. "How can they be expected to know?" Nuh-uh. But if you don't know, then you can be expected not to talk.

You can't get dibs on "Dibs!" by calling Dibs!-dibs. That's like a giant, living Möbius strip or something. It's like trying to mail yourself to the post office. The world just doesn't work that way.

Friday, January 09, 2015


Among the many things I read in the Chicago Tribune today (that's the actual paper edition, mind you, but I will obligingly post a link for you online masses to the digital version, sigh) was an editorial headlined "What does the West do now?" I'm not sharing it for its stark either/or characterization of what it calls the "militant Islamist assaults on liberal Western lands and their freedoms" but rather for one of the points it makes in its list of suggestions of what, in fact, "the West" can do now.

One of its bullet points is that "More Westerners would be open to calls for tolerance of Muslim immigrants if more leaders within Islam would publicly, and vigorously, denounce jihadist sentiments that attract some Muslims to religious extremism."

Apart from the troubling phrase "Muslim immigrants" (immigrants go from nation to nation; the religion isn't really a factor; the phrase dangerously implies there aren't native-born Muslims in these so-called liberal Western countries, etc.), I would love to see more of a discussion of this suggestion.

Particularly, I think it's a good idea to -- and I wish more people would -- call for leaders to "publicly, and vigorously, denounce" jihadist sentiments. In other words, your half-assed calls for peace ain't cuttin' it, might be another way of putting it.

But lest you think I am applying this only to Islam vs. its extremists, which I think misses large parts of the problem, I wonder if we shouldn't call for more leaders in other areas to publicly, and vigorously, denounce the psychos who act in their name.

Should evangelical Christians be urged to publicly, and vigorously, denounce the Ku Klux Klan? The Westboro Baptist Church?  The Quiverfull movement?

Should Mormon leaders publicly, and vigorously, denounce polygamy? I'm forever annoyed by how non-Mormons call the shots in associating current Mormons with this abandoned practice. One can only assume that the church leaders tacitly support the idea of bringing it back someday when they refuse to publicly, and vigorously, denounce it.

Will any of our political leaders ever publicly, and vigorously, denounce the warmongers and torturemongers in their ranks? Or the awful shenanigans in countries that have oil/other resources we want? What if people in the military could have publicly and vigorously denounced the horrible Iraq war choices without being called unpatriotic, or worse?  What if Edward Snowden had been able to publicly and vigorously denounce unchecked unfounded surveillance without then having to flee as a refugee?

Or will everyone just keep playing the Oh-my-gosh-I-wouldn't-want-to-offend-anybody game?

Many of us from Arizona have to spend more time than we'd like publicly and vigorously denouncing the psychos who get themselves elected with alarming frequency there. Publicly and vigorously denouncing people who claim to speak for you isn't so bad. It can be fun. Try it sometime!

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

"Why are you shooting that thing at us?"

As Colonel Mustard says so eloquently in Clue, WHY are you shooting? WHY? "I could have been killed," he says, as the chandelier spins and twists furiously above him. "I can't take any more scares!" And then it comes crashing down right behind him.

World, we are all in this together. I do not care if you are right about your opinion in an argument. You don't get to shoot people when you are right. I don't care if you are indignant, angry, outraged, hurt, vengeful, righteous, patriotic, religious, atheist, whatever. You do not have the right to shoot anyone. Furthermore you do not have a good reason to shoot anyone. I guarantee you that whatever reason you have for shooting someone is not a very good one.

Stop shooting people who disagree with you. It's not OK. You're not OK. When you shoot someone, you are being an asshole. Stop shooting people.

Today's assholes fired their weapons in a fatal attack at the Paris offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo. These particular assholes are apparently angry that this satirical publication has satirized things having to do with Islam, Mohammed, etc. They shouted, "Nous avons vengé le prophète!"  

You know what, assholes? No, you haven't. Because there is no such thing as vengeance. There is only assholery. When you shoot people, you are being an asshole. And when you shoot people because they disagree with you? You are being the supreme asshole of the Earth, and you have not avenged any goddamn prophet, peace be upon him. (Did you get that last part?)

You're absurd, masked gunmen. And that goes for you, too, Newtown shooter. And you, too, gang bangers. And you over there, executioner, Fort Hood, movie theater, Virginia Tech, political assassin, CIA, drug dealers, mafia, robbers, on and on and on....  How absurd is it that we just sat here last night pondering these insane mass shootings while watching the Frontline documentary Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA. I do not give a shit about the NRA. I am not even interested in arguing about anyone's right to bear arms or not bear arms. It's a distraction. I am interested in this world caring about a mass realization that shooting people is the wrong thing to do. That is the discussion. Every person who does not have a deep, abiding belief that they should not shoot people who disagree with them needs to wake the f**k up.

Stop shooting people. Stop it. It does not make you cool. It does not solve your problems. It does not avenge your prophet. It does not spread truth. It does not issue a wake-up call. It does nothing except violently kill people and reveal that you are an asshole. So if your goal is to reveal that you are an asshole, then you might accomplish it by shooting people, but there are easier ways to achieve this goal, too. For example, you could open your mouth and share your opinion that you believe you should shoot people who disagree with you, and then we will all easily know that you are an asshole without you even having to do anything violent about it.  How about that? So easy.

Stop stop stop stop stop stop stop shooting people who disagree with you.
Stop shooting people!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Cougar town

You know those dreams where something bad happens, and it's not necessarily a nightmare, I mean, it's not scary, but something bad has definitely, irrevocably happened and then you wake up and are SO relieved to find out it didn't really happen and you can go back to your normal life?  It can be anything, big or small; I mean, I've done it all from the dreaming I woke up late (and then waking up a thousand times to see that I have not, in fact, yet slept through the alarm) and, especially in the first year or two after I quit smoking, dreaming that I'd had a cigarette, to big-time life acts like dreaming I had a baby, cheated on a partner, or even killed someone (not that those three things are equal degrees of malice...)  Seriously, I've totally had the killed someone dream a few times; usually it's like I hit them while driving or something because apparently even the most deeply disturbed parts of my subconscious don't see me as the murdering type... Actually, I do realize these things are symbolic, and that just like with the Oops-I'm-taking-this-class-I-didn't-go-to-all-semester dreams they are about wasting life or "killing" it in other ways than the literal. Anyhoo, so, you know those dreams?

Well, last night was a new one on me. I dreamed  I went back and took some classes from BYU. Now, here's a little-known fun fact about me: I actually did go  to BYU, back in the day. I know, what? It's another lifetime, what can I say. First of all, I attended a five-week-long high-school summer theatre workshop there for four teenage summers in a row, and then I headed there as a bona-fide college freshman on a lovely scholarship. Good times, good dorm friends, a fabulous English department, languages up the wazoo, ski class, lots of psychotic behavioral control issues, and the well-that-certainly-had-the-opposite-effect final pushing me away from religion (which, to be fair, was sure to happen eventually anyway). What fun! This was all like so long ago now, though, that I have now had more life AFTER BYU than before it. How about that?! But anyway, back at age 18 I saw the error of my ways and transferred out of there, but not before firing off angry letters to the deans, presidents, and board of trustees promising to never again let another penny of mine go to that school. 

How would I spend another penny on BYU, you ask? Well, it was actually quite possible, because I continued to spend time in Utah regularly, mainly due to family connections. But I felt so strongly about this not-another-penny resolve that I stuck to it even in desperate situations. FOR example, one of the many times I flew into Salt Lake City and headed to Payson, Utah, to see my grandfather, I opted not to rent a car but instead took the SLC Airport Express bus to Provo, which lies between Salt Lake and Payson, where I then transferred to the Provo-Payson bus that would drop me off just a hop, skip, and jump from Grandpa's ol' homestead. Naturally, where does this Provo bus transfer take place? At the BYU Wilkinson Center on-campus bus transfer hub, which most of the Provo-bound and intra-Provo-Orem bus routes hit up. Now, I had a bit of time to kill in between buses (because I'm sure the Provo-Payson bus frequency was like once every hour or two, if that), and so I'm right there, you know, at the Wilk (as the Kidz always call it) and not only was I in the usual I've-just-been-on-a-plane-and-then-a-bus hunger/thirst mode but I discovered that they had added a Jamba Juice! A JAMBA JUICE! There had not been a Jamba Juice on campus when I attended there. I really wanted Jamba Juice. There was certainly not a Jamba Juice in Payson, and what with me not having a rental car on this trip I was going to be a prisoner of the Payson homestead, unable to even hop over into Spanish Fork on  a whim, beholden to the needs and wants of my decidedly non-coffee-drinking family members, not pursuing my daily franchised happiness of my own accord, basically. These thoughts made Jamba Juice even more appealing than it normally was (which is: very), but I couldn't do it. because this branch was on the BYU campus, paying rent or whatever to BYU, and probably the campus gets some sort of profit, I thought?  I didn't (don't) really know how it works with these on-campus Sbarros and Subways and other fast food franchises, but I just knew that despite my longing for some Jamba, I couldn't let a penny of mine pass into BYU coffers, and so I abstained. Such resolve! Choose the right, eh?

And then last night, I dreamed I was taking classes from BYU...some kind of independent study/in-person collaboration...I can't recall all the hazy dream details or why I was taking them, but what was notable, even in my dream, was after the classes were going or I was preparing for the exams or whatever, I realized with full punch-to-the-gut horror that Ooops!!! Oh no!!! I had given hundreds of my dollars to BYU to take these classes!  And I wasn't supposed to ever do that or give money to BYU ever again! Oh no! Regret washed over could I undo this mistake?! 

And then I woke up to realize it wasn't true, that I was safe, that I have not in fact accidentally spent a few hundred bucks (?!) on a BYU class, that my boycott still stands. Ahhh, sweet relief. 

Well, Freudians, anyone want to venture a guess about what it all means?

Monday, January 05, 2015

Readin' and 'Rithmetic and 'Ridin' the Bus:
A School Reform Debate

OK, I am pretty sure the anti-testing debate has just jumped the shark.

During the 9 o'clock hour every morning, I invariably end up changing from WBEZ, our Chicago public radio station, to WXRT, for the simple reason that a call-in talk show occurs on WBEZ at that hour and I cannot bear the insipid things that people say. Even some of the "experts" on this particular show tend to be local heroes at best, who could use a bit more expertise. Today, I was in the other room doing other stuff and the 9' o'clock hour got going with WBEZ still playing through the speakers, so I was privileged to hear an "expert" (about Chicago, school boards, local policy, something, who knows?) responding to a (teenage?) young lady about what is being taught in schools in low-income neighborhoods, specifically responding to the point of whether it was a good idea to be teaching Mandarin Chinese when students' main problem on any given day is getting bus fare together to get to school and they have no intention of ever traveling to China.

(And yes, I realize there are SO many problems with the logic of that question that it's hard to know where to begin: it's not an either/or thing, education is a process of learning how to learn, languages are helpful for brain development, how do you know China isn't going to take over your neighborhood, you don't need to have travel plans to benefit from learning a language, kids should not have to worry about bus fare at all because they should be walking or biking or on a freakin' free yellow school bus for the love of goodness sakes alive... etc.  But that's not even the point. It's what happened next.)

So this "expert," who ends all of her sentences? and clauses? with an upward intonation? that sounds really freakin' stupid and annoying??? tells us about how the mayor is definitely concerned with this issue and about the importance of being sure we are teaching life skills in the classroom and not just (and I quote!) "reading and math" and other things that are on the standardized tests.

Oh - my - !@#$%%^* - god - are - we -ever - doomed.  Yes, yes we are.

To paraphrase Mr. Keating*, we don't learn math and reading because they are on standardized tests. We learn math and reading because they ARE the skills of life and the essential functioning needed to participate in human society. (Or, really, even if you want to drop out of human society, so that you can produce your manifesto and whatnot when you go psycho and also to calculate your requirements for feeding yourself when you're off the grid. So, yeah. Math and reading.)

*I refer, of course, to Dead Poets Society, when Robin Williams' character tells his students: "We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race."

And we will use math and reading to do things throughout our life. Some of us will use math and reading to do truly great things, but even those of us who are not DaVinci, Jefferson, Curie, Hawking, et. al., can also do wonderful things during our lives because we are educated. We can make the world better, and we can make ourselves better.

I understand that the whole school testing thing has its issues. The main one, however, is not that we are testing our students once a year. (Even six-year-olds!) The issue is that society, in its perpetual love affair with statistics, thinks it can boil everything down to a number, and that it can then make all decisions about whether a school is "failing" based on a number which is based on a bunch of tests' numbers, instead of using standardized tests to, you know, compare students to a standard and check out what sorts of basic things have been learned/not learned.

Really, there is more to say about standardized testing than is going to be said here in one blog entry, but rest assured, I am a language teacher. I am a HUGE proponent of recognizing multiple intelligences and teaching things using visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and other interactive methods. This is not about that.

This is about the fact that people have so thoroughly lost their minds at the very notion of testing that they now, without batting an eyelash, jabber on the thoughtful public radio program about whether we need to rethink our emphasis on math and reading and those other pesky aspects of life that also happen to be examined on standardized tests.

And Brian wonders why I insist on changing the station to 'XRT mid-morning?!  Please, society. Touch that dial.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Super Duper Losers
a stream-of-consciousness pigskin rant

I used to not care for (American) football. I don't think it was for the same reasons that most people dislike watching the sport, which I generally hear  to be along the lines of it's "boring" (too much down time, play stoppage, etc.) or "confusing" (lots of rules and penalties and whatnot), or possibly that it's a giant waste of money with which some people are far too obsessed. That last may be true, but none of these were the reasons I didn't watch it for years. Instead, I just thought it was sexist--the one sport (in my world, having grown up in the U.S. as I did) that not only was blatantly male and specifically excluded women from playing (except for the occasional newsmaking teenage girl with chutzpah and mad skillz who makes her school team and grabs headlines for a few days, but I'm talking systemically excludes women) but also built up an entire substitute "sport" (cheerleading) for the girls, which in turn launched its own thousand debates about what's really a sport and what gets short shrift and the whole thing was annoying to me because at the time I was only looking at the idea of equal opportunity as a social thing. But in terms of sports, it's just a physical thing. You see, the male and female bodies are different. (I feel more and more strongly about *this* every time the gender debate escalates to a place where sex differences are entirely thrown out the window.) I don't have a problem with those bodies doing different things that cater to different strengths, namely, male upper body strength and female hips/thighs/different-center-of-gravity-and-flexibility strength. For example: ballet. It is incredible, and the skills and talents involved in the male-female lifts and other ballet feats totally involve different body types, all making one beautiful ballet dance. In that light, I totally reconsidered and now accept football as a sport designed to capitalize on the bulky male body's peak performance and I don't really care anymore that it exists (although I OBVIOUSLY agree that women and women's sports should be given equal access, opportunity, funding, etc.)  What's weird is that I, who grew up doing gymnastics, was unable to make sense of this back then, seeing as gymnastics is entirely constructed around the different strengths of the different male and female body types. But, like I said, the whole social aspects took precedence (as they SO often do with football) in the debate and so I didn't care for it. NOT to mention the fact that I went to a fabulous, storied football school (USC) during its worst couple of football seasons in recent memory, so my best chance at fandom glory was also shot. (I re-engaged with my Trojan football love, too, post-late-'90s, after graduation. I do enjoy the college football, I do.)

Anyway, so I didn't use to watch much professional American football and on top of that Phoenix  didn't even have an NFL team in my early childhood and then we got the Cardinals and then they sucked and then I moved away and everyone in Phoenix had just kept always being Cowboys (mostly) or Broncos or 49ers fans (or possibly fans of the team from whatever Midwestern state they hailed from)  As a youngster I'd thought about maybe being a Broncos fan because I liked orange and blue...but nothing ever really came of that. So then I lived in L.A., which had its own NFL issues, and when I moved to Boston, while the Patriots were (are) undeniably great, I moved there just in time for the Red Sox to become awesome and lift the curse and win their World Series so all Boston sports excitement was all about that. Then I went to Korea. You see, no NFL football team ever took hold, really, mentally or emotionally for me, even as I stopped hating the whole inequality thing.

I might add that now I am in Chicago where I am so amused  by the Bears fans and their inability to comprehend how their team could possibly have a losing season when these fans are so clearly entitled to be given a winning season and the Chicago Tribune has about sixteen writers on staff dedicated to telling us all about that every day on the front page (not just of the sports section, I mean the front page front page) that I could never actually become a fan of the local team; it would ruin all my schadenfreude fun.

When I lived in New York, I thought about being a Jets fan, especially the one year I lived down the street from their practice place, but then again, I loathed Long Island. The last few years spending time with Brian I've idly paid attention to the Lions, those lovable losers, but I haven't really committed. Instead, I basically just circled back around to my hometown and decided I might as well like the Cardinals. Like, when they went to the Super Bowl? That was ridiculously awesome! Of course I rooted for them! And people I knew in New York who also knew me from Massachusetts-California or whatever were like, "Arizona? How does that fit in?" and I'm all like whatever people, I'm totally allowed to root for them (even though I hadn't bothered to do so for a couple intervening decades) and especially the last few years as we've been living in various countries but hanging out with sports fans and someone needs to stand up for the team from Arizona, yo.

The point is (bet you thought we'd never get there) that all year I've been delighted by the Arizona Cardinals' performance and their playoffs and even Super Bowl potential but then someone started killing off all our quarterbacks and it looked grim but then we thought, you know, the Panthers?! We can do this! Only we couldn't.

And then to make things worse, Brian's Lions had to go and lose after a promising first half of their game today to, of all things, "America's team" (groan. I will NOT consider adopting the Cowboys, ever). And with that, I have lost interest in the Super Bowl and will now only watch, if I deign to at all, for the Katy Perry halftime show.

Also, I hate the word "belly."

Saturday, January 03, 2015

"War and peace?"
-- Radar O'Reilly

I do believe the time is here. This is the year to re-read War and Peace. Who's with me?

Why now, you ask? Careful readers will note that I first began reading The Book, as I like to call it, that magical Russian novel that lives up to all its promise of literary glory, in 2005. (In fact, it's what prompted me to start my Literary Supplement blog in December of that year.)(Have you actually looked at the URL of my Literary Supplement blog?) And now it's 2015. (CANYOUBELIEVEIT'SBEEN10YEARSSINCE2005?!! BECAUSEICAN'T.) It's been nearly a decade since I moved to Korea, started a blog, assumed my Linda Without Borders identity, and bought my treasured copy of War and Peace (not in that order, because I had bought the book at Borders -- which has since died, leaving us all Without Borders -- in Massachusetts well before leaving the country). Ten freakin' years, my friends.  Side note: we shall perhaps have to have a tenth blogiversary party this fall.  I have mentioned in the time since I read The Book that it is definitely a book to be reread over one's lifetime, since it's so goddamn wonderful and all, and naturally this reminds me of the random guy on the Boston Common who jabbered to me about Goodbye, Columbus. Remember him? Go on and click that link to refresh your memory, if you don't recall the encounter. I'll wait here.  ...  OK, all caught up? He was funny. And I still haven't watched Goodbye, Columbus.

(Is Ali McGraw going to annoy me in it as much as she did in Love Story? I mean, that is one overrated movie and her character was SO irritating! I hated that movie. "Love means never having to say you're sorry." Ugh, who thinks that? Who wants a relationship based on that? Good god. That is second only to "The customer is always right" as the emptiest platitude of crap that everyone repeats as if it speaks some profound truth. Blech.) (It does occur to me to wonder, though, whether the man on the Common jabbered to me because I reminded him of Ali somehow. I mean, she could play me in the movie of my life, right? Or the older version of me, anyway. What is she doing these days?  Maybe it was just her character that was annoying. Maybe I should give her the actress another chance, or read her book, or something. But not that horrible overrated Love Story again, no thanks.)

OK, so where were we? Right. War and Peace. Over the past almost-decade, I have cherished my memories of reading that novel, that quintessential novel of novels, that standard of bookdom, that ultimate literary fiction experience. I remember the excitement of plunging in, reading those first few pages of something SO big and famous and intriguing. I remember the cafe across from my job in Daegu where I would read for an hour or two each afternoon in between classes on my split shift days. I remember finishing it on the plane on the way back to the U.S.-- such interesting timing -- and then the random Eastern-European-who-spoke-Russian man next to me talking to me about it and me being utterly unable to form an answer to the immense question "So, how was it?"

And I'm inspired to reread it now because every ten years, why not, and also because at the bookstore here in Chicago where I attend my Women's Classics book group there is also another book group that is reading big books (called, would you believe it, the Big Books Group) and taking two or three months/meetings to discuss each one, so like they just did Middlemarch and are now doing Vanity Fair and in the spring will be doing, what else, the ol' War and Peace.

I'm starting to get a little bit giddy with the anticipation. (Even among all the other books and projects and reading plans I have for 2015.) Who wants to revisit The Book with me, or perhaps discover its joys for the first time?  Who's in?

Friday, January 02, 2015

Doctor Flu?

Apparently, I should get a flu shot. Why haven't I got a flu shot? ("yet"?) Do I have a case of influenza-nertia, since I've never had a flu shot before? Not only have I never got one, but this is one of those things where I find myself having to reevaluate my entire conception of How Things Are in order to keep up with the public discourse. During my childhood/adolescence/young adulthood, I never heard of anyone getting an annual flu shot. Eventually, I started hearing of it, mostly as I started knowing more and more nurses and other medical professionals, and it was something I associated with people who were not me (said nurses, old people maybe, and I wasn't sure who else). But now all of a sudden it's one of those things being urged far and wide, and there is definitely a bit of finger-wagging and shaming on the part of the admonishers. "Get your flu shot or you're going to endanger us all!" Fair enough; if flu shots are a thing everyone should get, then I suppose everyone should be reminded to get them (although maybe without the cheerleading condescension? Maybe.) But when did they become a thing? It reminds me of Doctor Who. As a faithful reader of EW (that would be the magazine Entertainment Weekly, and if you're cool you read that as E-dub, NOT "ee double-u"), I get to find out about a lot of pop culture obsessions that I don't partake in. It's very handy. One of these is Doctor Who. Around 2012, it started reaching whatever saturation point of popularity is necessary to merit multiple lengthy articles in the pages of our weekly pop culture bible, so I learned that loads of North Americans have joined the Brits in revering and watching this series, which is so long-running that there have been a bunch of different actors who play The Doctor, kind of like James Bond, I suppose. (Also, I gather that it makes sense somehow in the show's plot/mythology to have different people become The Doctor; it's not just about actors getting bored or whatever.) Now, I have never seen an episode of Doctor Who in my life, but I'm OK with learning about it from my beloved EW (did you pronounce it right that time?), but when I got confused was over the next couple of years, 2013 and 2014, as more and more friends revealed their deep, abiding, enthusiastic love for the program. Really, friends? When did this happen, exactly? I mean I had never heard a WORD about Doctor Who, from these friends or anyone else. But suddenly it was a big pop culture obsession, and not a big NEW pop culture obsession that everyone knew they had just discovered (like your Meghan Trainors or your Hunger Games or your Orange Is the New Blacks (or is that Oranges Are the New Blacks in the plural?) (joke), but a big longstanding pop culture obsession. I mean, decades-long. Where were all these fans during my entire life that I went without hearing about Doctor Who? I'm so confused. It's really weird, this sensation of not having missed the boat, exactly, but more like of standing with a bunch of people admiring the gorgeous cruise ship and then all of a sudden turning around and finding yourself alone on the pier and everyone waving to you from the deck. How did that happen? What did I miss? Did I fall asleep or something? I haven't jumped on the Doctor Who bandwagon and I haven't been able to figure out why everybody refrained from saying a word about it during this whole life of fandom they apparently had for decades, nor have I got my flu shot or been able to pinpoint when getting a flu shot became a thing that everybody has always been doing -- even when nobody was, that I recall. It must be that handy time-traveling phone booth thing. That could totally have something to do with it.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

New Year, New You!

I think the key to being able to stick to your resolution to get up and go for a run on the morning of January 1st -- in spite of any wee-hours-of-the-morning New Year's Eve celebration you may have engaged in the night before -- is to start running five days a week on December 1st so you're already in the habit come New Year's Day. Granted, I was in slower motion this a.m. than I have been the past four and half weeks, but I had a cup of tea and a bit of pastry for some fuel and then went out there and did my miles. I saw a few other runners in the park, and on the way back, through the half a mile or so of neighborhood streets between the park and our apartment building I passed a woman walking her dog, bundled against the cold in a long puffy coat. She complimented me as I ran by: "Good for you!" Ha, ha, thanks, I thought, but it's not a New Year's resolution or any wherewithal on my part, just a habit developed through the preceding month of December that got me out there, really.

I love New Year's Day and New Year's resolutions. As usual, I have a slew of goals and projects for 2015 and I enjoy taking advantage of the new calendar numbers to schedule these things and plot them out. Also as usual, I don't necessarily talk about my resolutions. I guess that may seem strange to some people who hate New Year's resolutions, or maybe even to people who like them, too; they wonder if I'm so fond of the whole thing why I don't want to declare them. It's funny: for as unabashed as I am in putting my analysis of the world and life opinions out there, I'm actually more of  private person than people realize about my personal life and self. I do not need everyone to know my innermost thoughts, goings-on, goals, progress reports, etc. Because I'm so willing to talk about so many things, lots of people think they know me, but then those people are sometimes very wrong in the conclusions they draw about me based on the not-personal stuff I've said that they assumed explains everything about me.

Some people, however, are not like me and they DO like to talk all about their personal stuff and other people's personal stuff and about their New Year's resolutions and goals, and if you're one of those people I by all means encourage you to share. It is indeed fun to, for example, have a project and then blog about it month by month as you work your way through. I may or may not do some blogging about my various 2015 endeavors as I get into them.

But I think that's part of the key, too: getting into them. There is one school of thought that says when you have a goal, be it weight loss or quitting smoking or writing your novel or whatever new ambition you're undertaking, you should declare it so that friends and family can "hold you accountable" and support you. The thinking is that putting it out there -- out loud -- means you can't back away from it because now you've said you're going to do it, so you have to do it, unlike if you just said it to yourself.

Me? No. That's not my school of thought. For one thing, why is making a promise to yourself any less important than making the commitment in front of other people? It's like, have some self-respect, am I right? I care more about my integrity than about what others think of me. I am the person who didn't tell a damn soul I was quitting smoking until I was weeks into the quit. and no way did I say that I had quit until months had gone by. I am the complete and total opposite of declare-so-others-can-check-up-on-you. Hell, no. Mind your own business! Now, eleven years later, I tell anyone who will listen (and a few people who won't) all about my quit smoking process, which by the way I think is genius. But then? It was like a two-year process, and it was not something I had any interest in discussing until a long time had gone by and I was sure it had worked. I am very much about doing my thing and I do not need other people involved in my thing. I have so many projects -- I'm like a duck floating on the water, and my projects are the feet flapping underneath that keep me moving through life that everyone on the surface might not ever see or know about. I have personal goal projects going all the time. And with every New Year's Day, I like to add a few more. And then maybe next year I'll tell you about them.

Feel free to share your resolutions here -- if you're one of the sharers, that is!

Happy New Year to all.