Monday, April 4, 2011
How many times did Kurt Vonnegut tell us?
Yet it wasn't until I realized that the oddball lightening, the thunder that keeps rolling and rolling and rolling without any lessening of volume and with a palpably increasing pressure was like the storms in Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake.
And then, of course, the skins peeling off airplanes and there is Doris Lessing's oft repeated tales of the falling apart of the infrastructure, the inability of governments or organizations to maintain safety or schedules.
So, of course, ice-nine was loosed so many decades ago. I had just forgotten.
Friday, April 1, 2011
I don't think it is the result of drugs in the Sixties. But maybe this is what the adults back then meant when they tried to scare us straight.
My flashback occurred at a women's leadership conference -- designed to inspire toward success 800 women who paid a bundle for the insights. Flashback to the early Seventies, consciousness raising groups were reprogramming women to think of themselves as, well, women. Up to that point we had all been girls, regardless of our age. Back then the very word "woman" had sexual overtones.
Here I want to say, "We've come a long way, baby," but last month I discovered the joke was on me.
At the 2011 conference the bottom line turns out to be the same, huge success is the purview of those who are child-free.
I think Marlo Thomas coined that word, 'child-free' to lift the stigma that still existed in the Sixties and Seventies and still today upon woman without children. Child-free not merely softened the childless label but added a slight nobility to her sacrifice upon an overpopulated planet.
The term has evolved.
The only one of the highly successful half-dozen speakers who had children also had the wealth to hire a personal nurse for her seven-week-old infant while presumably other employees attended her two-year-old twins as she left town for a week. This style of mothering has become so commonplace, according to one of her inspirational anecdotes, that an intern under her charge didn't bat an eye when asked to ship pumped breast milk across country to an infant.
I don't know. Call me a fuddy-duddy old earth-mother if you must, but it just doesn't seem all that realistic to me -- given biology and economics are still stacked against us -- that these are the only steps to successful leadership.
Not unless, yet again, we are trying to trick ourselves into believing that wealth is the same as success.
The only woman dressed dowdier than I among more than 800 at a recent Women's Leadership Conference was a retired military officer dressed in a blue polyester pant suit. Other women my age wore slacks if they'd remained lean or short sheaths cinched at the waist and topping the knee. They all wore spike heels.
This is amazing to me. Women my age watched their mothers navigate uneven sidewalks with grates and cracks that, if they caught one of those narrow heel tips could break their mothers' backs.
In rebellion we went barefoot and wore Birkenstock's and platform shoes. My platforms had room to raise goldfish in the heels and toes. They added four, six, maybe eight inches of height and sent us careening as off-balance as our spiked sisters, but at least with our weight still spread across our full foot instead of just the toes.
There is something reminiscent of a Mel Brooks movie watching 800 pairs of spike heels tiptoeing down crowded but thankfully carpeted stairwells.
This was not the visual I was supposed to take away from the conference. The visual and inspirational message presented was of empowerment and the steps required to get there. Powerful and inspirational women spoke. Their overpowering message was this: Outsource.
The most inspirational of them all left me with these two immutable laws of success: Determine and maximize others' perception of you and that even remembering your grandmother's birthday can be outsourced with a standing order at a dependable florist.
Remarkably this is what it boils down to: Look like what your bosses want and outsource the rest.
The brilliance of having your grandmother's thank-you call serve as the reminder to wish her a happy birthday is hard to trump and this super successful woman won appreciative guffaws at the anecdote. But dowdy old me, seeing all of these women back in bondage, felt defeated.
Yes, bondage, there goes that old feminist earth mother nag again, but what in the world are we saying when a woman's leadership conference is filled with short skirts and spike heels? Why is it inspiring to hear success includes slipping family-tending upon other family members?
It is retrograde, the same as my mother's spike heels. This is the success model where those without the wherewithal to outsource typically got a wife.
Back in those old days of Birkenstock's and platform shoes we thought women's success in the future would take the exact opposite direction. We thought it would involve equal standing, even that there would be fashionable sensible shoes by now. And we thought success in the future would mean that those family obligations (so many that turned out to be missed opportunities in retrospect), I guess we thought they'd be outsourced in a way. We thought we'd be sharing them with husbands.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
And isn't that so baby boomer -- matchbook covers.
For those born too late, these were thin packets of matches in folding covers of pliable cardboard. They existed before disposable lighters, which existed even before "non-smoking" sections were partitioned off from a worldwide swath of smokers. Now it's the opposite.
The matchbook covers were anchored with a striking section from which sprouted a score of sulfur tipped, cardboard matches. The exteriors could sport brilliant promotional art. Sometimes, on the interiors of the covers, were printed advertisements for the secret of turning a 98-pound weakling into Atlas, permanent hair removal, mail-order programs to obtain an engineering degree or home courses to learn dentistry or secretarial skills. I'm sure I ran across one or two that promised a publishing house would read my novel.
It was assumed, back when matchbook covers promised new careers and wealth and baby boomers were getting the best education tax dollars could buy, that only desperate, gullible people answered these calls.
It's not like I'm eating cat food, but even with my college degree and graduate credits, last week I tore off the flap of the ezine matchbook cover and sent it in.
This, insists my marketing guru, is the first step toward building a destination Internet site. Which is, by the way, www.vikivolk.com.
I think that is the point. Usually when I reach this point of understanding someone shrugs and says, "It's the Internet. Who knows?"
So, next ezine step is writing 10 (?!?TEN?TEN! 10 !TEN?TEN?!?) feature-y, newsy stories about how to do something that someone else wants to learn how to do via the Internet. So there's the focus. "Who knows?"
In the philosophical realm ezines mean giving away work for free. Which, yes, this here is free as well, but it seems different somehow when I push "publish post" versus someone else. Call me a dilettante, but I see a difference.
Either way, my colleagues rightfully fear what happens to value with product cost at virtual zero.They already see me as crazy and detrimental to the cause. This ezine plummet could confirm their worse professional fears for me. Obviously, there is shame. I can only hope on both sides.
As if the whole self-publishing concept isn't shocking enough. The notion of publishing work un-vetted, let alone unedited, is stomach turning to baby boomer journalists, those old enough to have watched "All the President's Men" in real-time.
Which, btw, is so Old-timer today. Which, further-btw, means aspiring New-timers, please, comment on 10 things you want to know.
Take that step into the New-Age, record a Comment here. Help an old journalist make a buck. "Who knows?"
Friday, September 10, 2010
In my callow youth yelling fire in a theater universally denoted the limits of the First Amendment. Watching other lines of our First Right waver was the evening news of my Baby Boomer life. But I never heard tell of that original principle being abandoned.
But this past media week makes me think such limits have been lifted. So when did it become legal to incite violence? Before or after 9/11? It wasn't that way when I was coming along. Back then you could arrest non-violent protesters for inciting violence. Now it seems more illegal to conspire to commit treason than incite violence. How did that happen?
Another thing I don't get, what does it mean to burn someone's religious book? Is it like burning a flag? Which, by the way, is really confusing in America where burning the flag is both the correct and incorrect way to get rid of one. So that means, in America, with flags, it’s the intent that determines the criminality – or not – of the act. So maybe with flags it's sort of like conspiring. It's the part in your mind that is illegal.
The "will-I-won't-I" Quran burning is more like inciting than conspiring, the proverbial lighting of the match. Is holy-book-burning then an extravagant spit in the face? Could we counter it with a bigger spit? Facing off with a couple dozen Gideon's?
No. It could only work if the Bible burning were an offering of some sort, to peace I suppose. Burning with sneers on our faces is merely a tit for tat, or spit for spat as the case may be. And that is so obviously the problem, not the solution.
I don't propose burning Bibles as an anti-Christian gesture, more an attempt to balance the fallout. I've no disrespect for the Bible, a great book, it guided my upbringing and life values, however poor my adherence. Indeed, it is perhaps shoddy understanding that leads me to think that using the Good Book in any way to defuse hatred would be considered Good Works.
I specifically chose the Gideon’s Bibles because they seem the most nondescript. I don’t propose to offer the small white Bible my mother carried at her wedding and I carried to a smattering of Protestant Sunday schools throughout my childhood. No one suggests you give up something personal when dealing in symbolism.
Maybe that's why symbolism never works well for me at a burning -- be it a flag or an effigy or a book or a whole city -- I have a hard time grasping the philosophical from video of hotly led and undisciplined hooligans with no stake in their wake.
It always seems to me, sitting at a slight remove from my television, we have the stake in this wake, we theater-goers who had planned, at the end of the show, to make dinner and get on with it. We hadn't planned to bump up against a band of hooligans playing irresponsibly in the public streets attempting to set-off the Apocalypse.
So here I am, at my great remove, slack-jawed with wonder. If regulatory stop work orders halt bulldozers, court orders protect threatened individuals, how can there be no Homeland Security measure to protect America from a band of hooligans screaming fire in a crowded theater?
For that matter, when will the public health laws kick in? I thought in America we provided protective confinement for people in imminent danger of harming themselves and others.
Monday, September 6, 2010
Indeed, as I write from the lap of paradise, two jet skiers sputter past. The riders are middle aged. Middle-aged and very sweet to one another. "Do you want to go in first?" asks the man looking back at the woman. "Oh, no, you go on," she says. I wonder if this means they are married or if they are not.
It's easy to hear their conversation and even establish the emotional tone because not only do voices carry well over water but people are typically screaming in a normal voice when a motor is running beneath them.
Come to think of it that also applies to bankruptcy, politics and governing. Or sort of: The natural voice is screaming as the motor of bankruptcy/politics/governing revs beneath them. I wonder if screaming pleasantries could be just as satisfying as screaming anything else.
I have been wanting to scream lately. Remember Primal Scream Therapy? Popular back when we Boomers were still in full possession of our own hearing. It sounded appealing then and sounds appealing now. A couple quick clicks assure me it is still available, Google and Wikipedia are all over it. But the potential humor doesn't draw me, I don't click further. I don't want therapy. I just want to scream.
I would like to scream: Stop! Wasting! My! Time!
The screaming itself might be good therapy. Baby Boomer Girls in my years were raised to fight stealthily and from the flank. We were advised to have a "good cry" over rejection, disappointment, apprehension, loss or disaster to purge ourselves of grief.
Lately crying seems the last possible reaction I could muster from any of those things. A good scream seems much more likely to provoke catharsis. That's what I want.
And then I want to go back to the garden Joni Mitchell was singing about on our way to Woodstock. Remember back when our full concept of "time" was captured in that song?
"Is it the time of year? Or is it the time of Man?"
Women were so young back we weren't even called women yet. We didn't even know to ask, "Is it the change of life?"
So not too far a metaphoric reach: Wanting to capture fleeting time as I write from the lap of paradise on Labor Day, the end of summer. Hard to be a Boomer of my years and miss the middle-aged metaphor there.
Oh no! Not another middle age crisis? It always feels that when the first of the Boomers go through it we're all over it. I think I just really want to scream to stop wasting time, regardless of whether its the time of man, time of day, time to write the great American novel or too late to even read it.
What do we know about it anyway? Ah, there's that famous rub. We know only that we don't know when or how. And now it's the end of summer and we're reckoning? Sheesh, is this as light as Labor Day can get? I might as well go back to bankruptcy, politics and government.
Thank goodness, here come the middle-aged jet-skiers again.
Mostly it's young kids screaming in and out on the jet skis. I clench my teeth and think how rare anyone gets out on the water for a rewind, reset, re-framing of the careening movie that is our life. The machines are nothing but mechanized dinosaur mosquitoes, whining and penetrating every crevice of hearth and home. But it is the lap of paradise and we creek dwellers have little right to whine ourselves.
So this couple puttering along, albeit at jet ski decibel, have a charm. They are wearing matching flotation vests, slimming in black. She appears to have the same armor plated long skirted swimsuit I got from Land's End Overstock last year. And that is not merely endearing but reassuring. I know that no matter what, she won't want to fall off that dinosaur. That suit has enough fabric to it to sink when it gets wet.
She screams across the creek, "Isn't this great?"
I think that's what I'll start screaming. Couldn't hurt.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Of course. How else would it be? At its most concrete, time is ephemeral; once an instant passes, once a breath passes, then the time of now is gone.
when that breath was,
that is what time becomes.
Here and now
whatever time was
time is now ago
And there it will stay forever.
But is it gone?
The heads atop Salvador and Gala Dali's home still overlook the Mediterranean Port Lligat, even if the lens that captured this moment is not there.
They are there.
They are not ago.
This photograph is real,
You can't really help yourself thinking like this after you've been to Salvador Dali's house, the timelessness of it is omnipresent. Rock. Sea. Sun.
Surrealism arrived about the time scientists started adding dimensions to the long held Reality of Three. Come to find out, as the 20th Century rolled along, Time, the absolute yardstick of Life, and thus of Death, was bendable.
Up until then Life was measured in what seemed a one-dimensional way, Time was so one dimensional it wasn't even considered a dimension. Then, Wham!
Not only is Time dimensional, it's such a flexible dimension it can verily double back on itself.
Freud, whom Dali called "my father," found the same thing in the human psyche: Time stretches -- forward, backward, every which where. Memory, conscious and un-, overtakes even the all-powerful present and spills forward into dreams, and obsessions, carving out needs even before desire arises; shaping our destinies.
Dali's best known canvas is about Time and titled The Persistence of Memory.
Perhaps there is no true leaving of Salvador and Gala Dali's house.
It is like the inside of a very bright egg, a stucco cocoon full of open-air windows.
The eccentric couple bought it as a fisherman's hut in 1930 and began shaping it around themselves.
Although shuffled in, shuffled through, shuffled out the door,
the timelessness of sea and sun and stone remains. Either in memory or planted by Dali whose so named "Paranoid Critical Method" called upon his own "irrational knowledge" to trigger the release of others' -- this was the method to seeing Reality in its multiple Dimensions. Surreal.
The home is as though stucco grew around the light and sheltered the correct womb for Dali's studio, rigged for accommodating even huge canvases; then a few stucco stairs -- this is all white. White, white, white, white -- and it is the right place for the shelf for the stuffed swans and there a small altar space for some shells.
It is right to say Dali's home/studio grew organically -- as if the stucco grew around Dali's outrageous genius made live from the brimming brew of the omnipresent Gala.
Just to convey again: The ceiling, the stairs, the walls are white. They are white, white, white, white, white.
It is the same white hot light inside as out.
Egg atop the summer dining room
Anchors the courtyard.
Sun, sun, sun.
Sea, sea, sea.
Then inside, a grand piano, nestled and defunct within crumbling rock.
Meanwhile, playing on the white, white, white stucco wall is The Magician himself.
It would be easy to dismiss Salvador Dali on so many levels -- as George Orwell tried in 1946 in an essay discussing Dali's promiscuous and distasteful subjects:
He is a symptom of the world's illness. The important thing is not to denounce him as a cad who ought to be horsewhipped, or to defend him as a genius who ought not to be questioned, but to find out why he exhibits that particular set of aberrations.
But by the next decade, as time warped and dreams became potentially more real than what had once been Reality, Dali added complex mathematics and Einstein and DNA theories into the visionary work he produced on canvas and in objects; seeking to provoke in others the "irrational knowledge" that layers our Reality and telescopes our vision into other Dimensions.
Perhaps, to try to answer Mr. Orwell from this more distant vantage, from the future, Dali is trying to warn us of something.