Semper Ubi Sub Ubi
March already. Huh. Meh. Feh.
I’m not really complaining, you understand, but I’d like to point out that it snowed exactly three times this winter, and two times it didn’t stick at all. The third time amounted to about a half an inch, nowhere near enough to make snowballs for Brownie the Dog. Brownie likes me to throw snowballs for her to chase. Of course, the snowballs always land in the snow on the ground and become impossible to find, but as long as I make another one right away, she doesn’t mind. Brownie was deeply disappointed by that paltry excuse for snow, so I hope you’re happy, whoever you are. I ended up standing by the refrigerator and tossing her ice cubes, but that really wasn’t the same, and we ended up with little puddles all over the kitchen floor. Everything in this paragraph is true, by the way.
Speaking of little puddles, we finally finished watching Season II of Downton Abbey, about a week after we stumbled across this old article from the Daily Mail in 2011, which indicates that PBS, adjudging their audience to consist largely of enfeebleated droolers, decided to do away with the hard parts of the British version of the series, thus making time for the oleaginous Laura Linney to smooth out the rough edges with her cloying smarm. All this for a show that makes The Young and the Restless look like Hamlet. Duly noted for all concerned.
Anyway, we’re all glad everyone has been miraculously healed (Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!), except, one presumes, the horribly maimed chap who appeared claiming to be heir to the whole magilla but conveniently disappeared about ten minutes later and was, as this show is wont, promptly and utterly forgotten by the rest of the perpetually befuddled gang at the Big House. Elsewhere on Planet Gimmeabreak, I simply must remember to get one of those special ouija boards that have complete words (“Dad,” “farm,” “visit,” “happy,” etc.) spelled out across the top. I’ll bet it saves lots of time.
I kid, of course. Obviously Downton Abbey is far preferable to the vast wasteland of wretched dreck that constitutes US TV these days. People keep asking me if I’ve seen CSI or Special Victims Unit or Dexter or America’s Funniest Home Dungeons and I have to say, no, not yet, when what I really mean is no, not ever.
And as annoying as I find PBS 90% of the time, occasionally they show something like the BBC’s Little Dorrit a few years ago, which I would gladly watch again and may be just about the best thing I’ve ever seen on TV. It even made up for those New Age infomercials and ghastly Celtic Woman things I keep clicking past on PBS.
Onward. We now have a Twitter feed over there in the right column, but don’t expect much beyond pointers to the columns here unless I suddenly get a prescription for something very powerful. You might check the people I follow on that feed and find many of them interesting, as I do. Most of them have some connection to language or books.
We’re still on Facebook (sortof) and Google Plus (barely). I think Google blew it, frankly. The place is a ghost town, and trying to compel people to join when they sign up for Gmail is just obnoxious.
By the way, I do my best to keep up with comments on this site, but it might be a day or two before I get to yours, so please be patient. I approve almost everything, no matter how tangential or odd it may be, as long as it doesn’t abuse other commenters. As for email, I read everything but not always promptly, because my eyes have become sufficiently wonky that to read things I frequently have to crank up the font size to “ginormous” and park my nose about six inches from the screen.
So forward into Spring, I guess. Please remember (you asked me to remind you) to subscribe.
And please send in your questions. I know you have them. And I need them.
And now, on with the show….
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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