Semper Ubi Sub Ubi
One question: am I really supposed to mow the lawn in February? It certainly seems to be growing. And when I took the dogs out yesterday, I was absent-mindedly brushing away a fly circling me for a full minute before I realized that a fly was circling me. That ain’t right. I’ve also just realized that my computer is operating, for some unknown reason, with a UK dictionary and wants me to spell “realized” as “realised.” I must fix this, as I have lost a big chunk of my formerly crackerjack spelling ability in recent years and thus may not notice subtle changes in the colour of my prose.
Speaking of losing my mind, right after I was diagnosed with ms a few years ago, I came across a book called something like “Cognitive Impairment in Multiple Sclerosis.” Cheery, right? Bad enough you can’t walk and can’t see half the time, but it turns out you can’t even sit quietly and think convincingly. The book had been written by a guy with ms and proved to be absolutely unreadable, which sounds like a joke, but I think it was because he was simply a horrible writer, not because he had cognitive problems. I also tried to read “Blindsided” by Mr. Meredith Vieira (Richard Cohen), who has ms and seems like a really nice guy, but I had to give up because his writing style reads like the voice-over on a network news report, bland, shallow and impersonally descriptive, which makes sense since he is/was a network news producer.
I had, back then, gone through six hours (!) of cognitive tests at OSU, the verdict of which was that I had developed some quite peculiar gaps in my mental hedgerows. I am unable, for instance, to add long columns of two-digit numbers in my mind, something I used to do routinely in my job at the Catplex. My short-term memory is dodgy, and I tend to misplace the dogs. I also tend to get turned around downtown, which is pretty scary since our town consists of a gas station, post office, one traffic light and not much else. I can never remember which way the high school is. Thank heavens I don’t go to high school.
Sunday in the Park with Treacle.
All of which brings us, inevitably, to Downton Abbey (not to be confused with Downtown Abby, who hangs out in the high school parking lot on weekends). I swear to god that if there were anything else on TV I would never watch this show. But Storage Wars and Shipping Wars and Hoarders have all started to blend together quite disturbingly in my dreams, so we tivo Downton and watch it in small chunks during the week. I think we’re about two weeks behind at this point. I don’t want to flog this thing too badly, because the only alternative is Dog the Bounty Hunter, but someone in the Guardian the other day called it “the Epcot Center version” of England, and that seems about right. In a bit of classic Disneyesque all-your-tie-ins-are-belong-to-us behavior, PBS apparently tried to open a tawdry online gift shop (“Lady Mary knotted pearl necklace and earring set”) on the coattails of the show without permission of the producers and got itself smartly slapped down.
The New York Times runs about one article per week about the show, the most cringe-worthy being one on the rage for Downton-themed viewing parties among the Manhattan elite. (Small world, indeed. I went back to look at that article and noticed that the accompanying photo features John-John ex-squeeze Christina Haag, with whom I worked many years ago.) Now that the huffy Brits have put the kibosh on cheesy Downton swag, I’m sure there are already clandestine tiara-parties on the Upper East Side where far pricier baubles are traded like Tupperware in Des Moines. It’s nice to know the 1% haven’t lost their childlike taste for dress-up, isn’t it?
So, anyway, a biggie in the ms cognitive whammy department is emotional lability, which means that your emotional reactions to small things tend to be hugely out of proportion. Some people, for instance, foam at the mouth and throw things when it rains. I, on the other hand, weep at stupid things on TV. It’s totally involuntary, and the weird thing is that I often don’t feel especially sad, happy, melancholy or even mildly moved when it happens. But if there’s a kid giving his mom a handmade card in an insurance commercial, I start blubbering. It’s mortifying. And infuriating.
And it’s especially infuriating when I watch Downton Abbey, because the show is shamelessly wrenching your amygdala at every possible opportunity with soaring strings and portentous little speeches embedded in a plot so cornball and dialogue so stilted that the part of my brain that still has some standards is begging me to change the channel to My Name is Earl. But no, there I sit, sniveling over some improbable subplot involving implausible characters whose names I can’t remember from week to week. It makes me want to foam at the mouth and throw things.
Onward. In addition to the TWD Facebook page, we now have a TWD Google Plus page, which can be reached by clicking on that big red thing in the right column. Bonus points for anyone who can tell me what G+ is for. It seems to be a cross between Usenet and Twitter.
As always, we depend on the kindness of readers for our kibble, so please consider subscribing. Think of it as a tiara for your mind.
Semper Ubi Sub Ubi
Well, this is it, kids. 2012, the mother lode and epicenter of ominous predictions. Just remember, whatever else may happen, that there’s gonna be a lot of space to fill on the lesser cable channels come a year from now, so get your ideas into development asap.
Am I the only person around here who is having real trouble typing the numerals 2012? I know what year it is (most of the time, anyway), but my muscle memory has apparently had a mini-meltdown.
So, this just in: I’ve always been a bit of a news junkie, hardwired into cable news and the internet, but watching one popular uprising after another around the world produce nothing but a new roster of corrupt autocratic stooges (on top of our somewhat more sedate domestic iteration of the same dreary process) has finally, at least temporarily, burned out my political synapses. So I’ve decided to throw in the towel for a while and submerge myself in the soothing balm of the collected works of PG Wodehouse, which I first read many years ago but now seem even funnier. So for the next few
weeks months years I plan to use Jeeves’ soothing purr to drown out the barking of the crowd outside.
Meanwhile, for those of you who persist in paying attention, I suggest you take a gander at All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, a three-part documentary made by the remarkable Adam Curtis for the BBC in 2010. It is available, along with many of his other films, at the Internet Archive. Fascinating stuff. It explains the connections between, among other things, Ayn Rand, communes of the 60s, systems theory, the “balance of nature” and the rise of computers.
Speaking of Skynet, I seem to have acquired a NOOK Simple Touch e-reader just in time to watch Barnes & Noble implode completely. Well, it was both cheaper and snappier than the equivalent Kindle, and, unlike the Kindle, lets me add my own books in the widely-used epub format, so if B&N really does buy the farm it won’t be just a paperweight. The rationale for the acquisition (it was a Christmas gift) is that my left hand is largely dysfunctional because of the ms (and my right hand isn’t what it was either). This makes it impossible to handle a large book, especially a hardback. So now I have this little thing, just a bit bigger than a mass-market paperback, on which I am painlessly reading Haruki Murakami’s 944 page 1Q84, which weighs in at about three pounds in hardback, well beyond my comfort zone (I can’t even hold a coffee cup in my left hand). I wish the screen were a bit brighter, but I like the fact that it can’t do anything but show you a book. I actually find reading on this thing very natural, and the fact that I can make the type as large as I like takes away all the stress of trying to focus my eyes on a printed page. I still prefer paper, however, and hope real books are around for a long, long time.
Incidentally, I stopped by the local B&N the other day to buy a simple case for my Nook, and I was taken aback by the palpable desperation of the woman who showed me my choices. She strongly urged me to bring the little fellow in for a visit, perhaps take a class in Advanced Nookery (for a machine that comes with a three-page instruction manual?), buy some Nook bling, or just hang out in the Cafe, guzzling expensive bad coffee while reading ebooks for free. Wow. It was like those old Maytag commercials with Jesse White as the lonely repair guy.
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... and your little dog, too.
Oh, ye of little faith. I promised that there would be a proper December Issue before month’s end, and here we are.
I carried over the modified meme-version of our logo graphic this month. Oddly enough, I made that graphic before I saw the Wizard of Oz one, though I definitely had that caption in mind.
My absolute favorite of the breed, however, is the Magritte treatment below. My first thought on seeing that was “Gee, that would make a great shower curtain.”
Speaking of little dogs, our pal Pokey, the little yellow doggie that wandered in about twelve years ago, is showing her age. She appears to be almost entirely deaf, mostly blind, and somewhat demented to boot, though Pokey was never the brightest bulb on the porch even on a good day. The good news is that she remains indefatigably cheerful; when she detects that you are putting food in her bowl, she bounces into the air, all four feet off the floor, tail wagging as madly as it did the first day she was here.
Unfortunately, Pokey’s vision, or lack thereof, is a problem because she follows me all over the house. She always has, probably because she was dumped in the woods to starve and is understandably insecure even after all these years. The first few weeks she was here, in fact, she slept on a futon in my office and I had to sit with her and tell her bedtime stories every night so she’d settle down and sleep. Well, I probably didn’t really have to, but I did. Anyway, she can climb stairs just fine, and so she does while I work in my office on the second floor every day. But she’s very reluctant to descend the stairs, as she really must at least a few times a day.
So I have to help Pokey downstairs, a process that involves coaxing her to the head of the steps, then gently grasping her collar and supporting her just enough to encourage her, but not so much as to make her panic and start thrashing around. Meanwhile, I have my own problems going downstairs, so I have to grip the banister with my other hand and try not to lose my balance. I’m starting to think a winch and a basket might be a better idea. The scary part is when we approach the bottom of the stairs and Pokey decides, every so often, that she’s sick of the whole laborious process and might as well jump. From the fourth step up. With me attached. I ought to sell tickets.
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