Sunday, March 25, 2018

it's mom's birthday


my mom turns 79 today. my sister went to her assisted living yesterday and did a whole shebang. mom's sister was there, there was music, there was cake - it was a celebration. reports suggest that mom enjoyed herself thoroughly, which warms my heart in these times when i wonder what her quality of life is through the fog of her alzheimer's. and i feel very far away. mostly because i am very far away. and i have some ambivalence about that - it can be good and bad, sometimes at the same time.


these photos of mom are from the late 1950s. she was a member of the class of 1957 (of musical fame) and these must have been shortly after her graduation, when she was working at the sioux falls argus leader. her father had been an editor there for 30+ years, so she got a job there as well, even though he died when she was 16. she was a typesetter, but i think in these photos, she was a markets reporter. there must have been several photoshoots, since she's not wearing the same clothes in all the photos, nor is her hair quite the same. i suspect she trimmed it herself. and she never really stopped doing that.


i look at these and i wonder who she was? i'm not sure we ever really know our parents, they are kind of strangers to us. what goes on their heads? what life did they have before we came along? what dreams did she have? what did she like to do? what did she think of her job? did she like it? it seems obvious she laughed at work and enjoyed it, and i'd like to believe it wasn't just for the camera. i think the cameraman was wilmer. i don't remember his last name, but i remember visiting his smoked-filled house frequently as a child. he made the most amazing photographic new year's cards every year. they weren't christmas cards, as i recall him not believing in god, which was pretty out there for someone from sioux falls in the 1970s (probably even more so today). he was a real photographer - i remember his small house in sioux falls - his wife helen's fish pond in a very eclectic back yard and stacks of photos balanced precariously on card tables in the living room. even in my childish memories, he was a real character and probably one of the first intellectuals i was exposed to. in my memory, those new year's cards were a bit surreal and dali-esque. always with a clock on them, to signify time passing. i hope there are some in a box somewhere in the house, i'd like to see them again, to see if they match my memories.


it seems appropriate to stroll through my own memories as hers fade away. i am struck by the sorrow of her becoming even more of a stranger, that who she was and who she is are ever more unreachable by me. in this last photo, i look at her hands and i see my own hands, but otherwise, i don't find myself in her. maybe i see a hint of myself in that collar bone and in the freckles on her arm. but otherwise, she is and will undoubtedly remain, a mystery to me.

happy 79th birthday mom. you are your own, to the very end.

Monday, March 19, 2018

the trolls are out


yikes, there was a post in the nytimes podcast club, asking for what annoys people about podcasts. i said many podcasters' pronunciation of qatar as "cutter" drove me crazy. it created a whole lot of discussion and much more outrage and trollishness that i would ever have imagined. one girl got a little bit unhinged and accused me of being pretentious and pseudo intellectual. um, what? i was just answering the question. the internet is awful.



i hadn't encountered such stridency in the nytimes podcast club before this.  i think it's an interesting example of the times in which we live and the increasing absence of it being ok to disagree. and also, of citing a random internet site as authority. i think i'll ask helen zolzmann of the allusionist what she thinks.

* * *

apropos people who disappoint,
advice on how to find joy.
we could all use that.

* * *
sam sifton (the sublime nytimes cooking writer)
recommended this
i trust his advice.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

reality:check


CPH:dox, the copenhagen documentary film festival, is sending some of their films out to the provinces, and so i had the chance to see two of the films at spinderihallerne in vejle. spinderihallerne is one of the few bright spots in vejle, which otherwise rather thinks more of itself than it actually should. it's an old factory in the center of the city that's been converted to a museum, café, event and coworking space and they've done it very well.

the films i saw were maxim pozdarovkin's our new president, about the fake news about the american election IN russia. you can see a longish trailer for it here. i spent much of the screening with my mouth gaped open in horror. it's easy to understand how the russian trolls spread their insane, conspiratorial stories on our shores. what's less easy to understand is how anyone fell for it. i feel sad about russia today. i spent many years studying russian and russian culture and i think what's happening under putin does a rich and intelligent culture a real disservice.

the other film i saw was called pre-crime - about the algorithms and technology that's "helping" police departments all over the world catch criminals before they even are criminals. if you've seen person of interest, you'll realize that reality and fiction are far closer than we may like. but can you imagine being approached by the police because you landed on a computer-generated list of people who might someday commit a crime? what if you had been hanging out with the wrong crowd, but you weren't doing that anymore, what if you'd gone back to school and gotten your life in order when they came knocking? what would that do to you?

it was a very thought-provoking day, but also quite sobering. it is frightening how we all are voluntarily giving up so much information - through facebook, instagram, location-sharing and yes, even free google-owned platforms like this blog - that's sold on to those who would use it against us. it gave me thoughts of seriously living off-grid. but i think that's become quite difficult. plus, i'm such a device-geek that i would find it very hard. what if i could no longer photograph every cup of coffee or the adventures of my minifigures or share the latest things the cats are doing? but, what if that could be used against me in ways i cannot even imagine.

both films had a talk after them - the first, about fake news in general and the second about the state of surveillance in denmark. neither talk made me feel any better. but it feels really important to have the conversation. i'm glad denmark is still funding such things. this event was free. i used my whole saturday afternoon learning something new and being provoked to think and there was even free popcorn. i don't think it gets much better than that.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

searching for a sense of community


i took a little stroll into the past this morning. the bloggy past. i visited a bunch of old haunts, from char's ramblings to truth cycles to c is for capetown to the emma tree and the eleventh and beyond. all were, in some fashion, more or less dormant. we knew that about char, of course, since she died all too young back in 2011. but what happened to the rest of us? what happened to our community? some of us moved over to facebook and are still friends there. but it's arguably not the same as it was back in the blogging heyday. i used to write daily, sometimes multiple times, but now i'm only here a couple of times a month, when i want to figure out what i think about something. what changed? jobs? kids? did life accelerate somehow? was it the rise of the smart phone (who wants to type a whole blog post on that little keyboard)? or did facebook, instagram and twitter just kill our blogging vibe? but i realized that i miss that old sense of community. that's just not the same on facebook.

there is a kind of community on facebook and i have recently observed the intersection of one part of that community with actual, in-real-life community. watching it from afar has been at turns nauseating and heartwarming. i haven't really known how to feel about it. i've felt like a voyeur, since it was tangential to my own community, so it's felt like an invasion of privacy on my part to read the regular updates. but on the other hand, it was shared publicly, so i wasn't really spying. but it has felt like spying. and not only did i spy, i judged. at times harshly. there was a lot of god stuff and i have a hard time with that. but then, something softened in me. i can see people of all ages, from high school girls to grandparents, pouring out good thoughts of healing and support and honestly, it suddenly melted my heart. people demonstrably caring about other people, what's not to like? there's so much awfulness in the world right now, and i can't believe i almost missed this situation as an antidote to it. when i let myself, i can see that it's a genuine sense of community.

but at the same time, i can't bring myself to participate in it. so i sit across an ocean and voyeuristically read the posts, but don't contribute anything to the conversation. and there are a couple of reasons for that. one is the god thing - i cannot see how you can possibly praise god up and down for his mercy in the girl's recovery and not blame him that she fell ill in the first place - the logic just doesn't add up for me. the other is that i don't really know these people, tho' they are from my hometown, so i would feel like an intruder if i participated in the conversation. i have a classmate who i can see is part of the conversation and she's for all practical purposes, as far away as i am, but she feels she can contribute to the community in a way that i cannot. or will not. because i also admit that it's a choice on my part. she's just making a different choice than i am. and that's ok. it's perhaps a community i'm no longer part of, especially after my father died and with the decline of my mother and seeing how all the friends she had have fallen away as she has deteriorated. it's hard to keep a positive view of the place when it seems like it was all a facade and not real when the going gets tough.

i don't really know where it all leaves me, and i'm not done pondering it or looking for answers as to how to live this life we have landed in. a colleague recommended a russian philosopher that i had strangely not heard of before - p.d. ouspensky. i got his work from 1917 - in search of the miraculous - and i've been reading it today. perhaps it will provide me with a new way of viewing the world, even tho' the world in which he wrote was so far from our technology-flooded world today. but perhaps humans aren't all that different.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

fear and other baggage


fear is an annoyance, rearing its head when you least desire it, popping up from the depths where you had tucked it away. sometimes you are surprised by what provokes it, other times, it returns like dust on your window ledge, there's a thin covering of it and you didn't even notice its arrival until it's there, keeping you awake at night, grinding your teeth. my fear doesn't have to do with dying, it's about feeling (or being shown) that i don't belong. but this piece about audrey lourde on the ever-brilliant brainpickings spoke to me, even tho' it was about the much more real fear of impending death. as the piece says, not giving in to fear is about "everyday living and making decisions." deciding not to give in to fear, to let it rob you of sleep, your fillings, your happiness and contentment and your genuine enjoyment of your job and life in general. but, in times of uncertainty, that can be hard.


i wrote the above last sunday night and left it unfinished here in my browser tab. in the meantime, i've had a whole week to ponder the question of fear. i also listened to a wonderful podcast on the topic, which, by chance (or not, if you have a fatalist presbyterian inside you), was the nytimes podcast club's pick this week - closer than they appear. it was so thoughtful, deep and self-reflective, that it made me think about fear differently. the host, carvell wallace, examines trump's america and how one can cope with living in it. in the first episode, he asked listeners to think about someone they'd like to talk to, who they haven't been able to for one reason or another - someone who they were estranged from or angry with - and about something you want to say to someone, which you haven't been able to say.

and i began to think about who that would be for me. two people came to mind, and then it became three and then four, none of which i really have the possibility to speak to, unless i really tried. but the need is still there, and i think it's actually really blocking me from truly living to my full potential. in all three four cases, it is the root of the fear i feel today in the face of some of my colleagues losing their jobs and fearing for my own.


the first one is that old norwegian misogynist dinosaur who was a sexist son-of-a-bitch to my face. in this era of #metoo, he has been on my mind a lot. i was so nonplussed at the time, that i just flushed and swallowed hard and couldn't think of a single thing to say against his ridiculous claim that a woman couldn't interview a shipping ceo. and i eventually left that job because of that incident, which i reported to hr and then was "bought out" and left.  i'd like to call him a misogynist dinosaur to his face.

the second one is uncle fester. he was utterly wrong about a situation and he never admitted that he was wrong. of course, he was someone who had no problem standing in front of large groups of people, lying to their faces, so there's that. i have heard that he has had a rather severe case of lyme disease, which makes me believe in karma. he is the least of the four, as i moved on to other jobs which took me in a better, more interesting direction. i would still like to tell him i think he's a weak coward for being unable to admit his mistake. and i probably could write to him, but i'm not sure it's worth it.

number three is an old friend who hasn't been a friend for some years. i'd love to tell him (these are all men, have you noticed?) how hurt i was by his actions, but i'm not sure what good it would do. on the other hand, i had an amazing bodywork session on friday that made me think that i hold this baggage in my body, so perhaps it would be worth getting in touch and trying to clear the air.

the last is that asshat from lego. he said i wasn't commercial. and he negated me as a person, more than any of the others (except, perhaps interestingly enough, that other norwegian twat). perhaps above all, i'd like to give him a piece of my mind. and since he's but 15 minutes away, the possibility lingers.

but then i think about whether it's really worth it. would any of them learn anything or recognize the damage they did? would i be prepared to accept it if they didn't? would my body be able to let go of the baggage i carry? at my age, there's starting to be so much, that i wonder sometimes how i can carry it all.

i'm not done pondering this and i think i'll even listen to the closer than they appear podcast again, to try and work through it (also, it's that good). and i'm definitely going back for more bodywork - that was amazing. and potentially transformative. it would be good to be able to let go of all this fear. undoubtedly a whole new wave of fears would take center stage, but then i could deal with those (i'm looking at you, alzheimer's). above all, it would be good to have something else rule my life/behavior...like awesome energy and good karma.

so much work to do.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

8 things


you really should sit down and write when the inspiration strikes, because if you wait and attempt to write from the little note you scribbled between the names of james bond films on a postcard that's lying on your desk, you might not remember what it was you actually wanted to write. that's mostly because what you wrote was "8 things." potentially quite broad. but what the hell, let's give it a whirl:

one.
the past week was a mixed bag of shitty and not shitty. shitty in the surprise layoff of 17 colleagues, two from my own department. none of us saw it coming when the company had just announced another fabulous result. i felt so much sympathy, as i've been there too. it's a reminder (yet again) that corporations are unfeeling, ruthless things and as such cannot be trusted.

two.
a week of below-zero temps froze over our lake, but sunny days this weekend melted it just enough on the top layer as to be untrustworthy to skate on. i had dug out the skates, made homemade marshmallows for hot chocolate (which the child characterized as bougie and extra), and was preparing to bundle up and head down there when husband reported the melting. i did go down to the lake to check it myself with my skate-clad lego penguin, but he was the only one who got to skate.

three.
it was a doozy of a news week. i find that i can't even keep up with the number of scandals coming at us. it's relentless, exhausting and at times downright bizarre.

four.
just the very thought of owning a t-rex costume has the capacity to cheer you up. putting it in your amazon basket can make you giddy. hitting order might make you feel downright elated.

five.
there is always another idea.

six.
sometimes your first impression of people is just plain wrong. and sometimes it's spot on. the trick is knowing which is which.

seven.
i'll admit, i had to ask if being bougie and extra was good or bad. she assured me it's good, like sephora. knowing how she feels about sephora, it's high praise indeed.

eight.
there's very little that's better than making a proper sunday breakfast - bacon, waffles, eggs and a big pot of tea.

i'm quite certain these weren't the eight things i was thinking of when i jotted that down on friday evening. at that point, i was tired from a long week and had just been to see the smart feminist comic sophie hagen in århus, and i wanted nothing more than to go to bed, so i didn't sit down to write then. you should probably always sit down and write when inspiration strikes, because it may never strike in the exactly the same way again.