Archive for December, 2017

cohen

“I would like to remind
the management
that the drinks are watered
and the hat-check girl
has syphilis
and the band is composed
of former ss monsters.
However since it is
new year’s eve
and i have lip cancer
i will place my
paper hat on my
concussion and dance.”
–Leonard Cohen

The title of this entry is a quote from T. S. Eliot, Ol’ Possum himself. For a poet, he seemed to be very much in tune with the principles of Eastern mysticism, or quantum physics, the modern science which seems to be a scientific way of proving its tenets.

“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.”

What I find the most interesting about my own writing is that no matter how much I plan, or how many outlines I create, when I actually sit down and start to write, the writing itself takes over and controls me.

I first noticed this when I took a class entitled “Selected Masterpieces of American Literature at university. Most of us who took the class knew from the previous semester that what we were going to be doing was reading and studying on William Faulkner novel a week. One newcomer, who hadn’t been in on “the secret,” complained to the professor that the course title was rather deceptive. “Well, he replied, “these books are classics of American literature, and I selected them, so I don’t see the problem.”

For our final paper we had a choice: write a scholarly paper related to Faulkner or his works, or write a short story emulating his style.

I chose the former.

But when I finally printed out the results, I realized that once again the mule had taken the lead and wandered down dusty backroads, past corn and cotton fields, and somehow ended up in Faulkner’s backyard in Oxford, Mississippi.

It’s the same with this post: I was going to recap the past year of my life, and maybe compare it with what I hoped the coming year would be like. But there’s this mule, see….

I’d Like To Close the Year With a Ray of Hope

And once again, to do that, I’m going to quote William Faulkner. This time, it is the text of his acceptance speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm, December 10, 1950:

Ladies and gentlemen,

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work – a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand here where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

A little under two weeks ago, having gotten tired by (among other things) the saturation-bombing of (mostly) irrelevant garbage on my Facebook account, I decided to cancel it. This was not a decision I made lightly, and I wanted to share some of my reasons:

My experience had become a brain-sucking, mind-killing psychic vampire-like waste of time. For every one article I was interested in, there were a dozen more I had no interest in. And the ones I did want were–far too often–little more than click-bait, forcing me to wade through a ton of advertisements. Oh, sure–I could avoid them by using Facebook on my laptop browser with ad blocking software, but I preferred the freedom of my iPhone and iPad.

Over the years, Facebook has deteriorated from a social network to a system for spreading lies, innuendo, hatred, and vitriol. No longer is it a platform for sharing knowledge and experiences; rather it is now little more than a convenient way to launch personal attacks against both individuals as well as groups.

Each minute I spent on Facebook, I could almost feel my blood pressure climbing into the stratosphere.

For these (and a few other) reasons, I decided it was time for me to leave.

I jumped through all of the hoops I needed to in order to permanently delete my account–only to be informed that it would take 2 weeks for it to take effect. At first, I was angry at Facebook’s arrogant assumption that I would change my mind, but ultimately, it worked out for the better.

Family Ties Rule!

I grew up in a military family, so for the first part of my life, I was unable to put down roots. (As an aside, numerous studies have demonstrated just how harmful the military life is to families in general and to children in particular. As John Donne said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” [Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent]). It isn’t easy to develop lasting friendships when you know they’re only going to last 2 or 3 years; think of it as growing up in an atmosphere of breakups and dislocations.

As a result of the constant reassignments and relocations, I had very little opportunity to get to know my extended family. From California to Japan to New Jersey to New York to Texas and Alaska, I might have seen my cousins on less than a dozen occasions.

But then I discovered Facebook. And while it wasn’t face-to-face contact, I was able to reunite with many of my cousins and much of my extended family. I’m living in Rochester, New York as I write this, and contrary to much belief, it is nowhere near New York City, where at least two of my cousins live. In fact, Rochester is closer to Toronto than it is to NYC.

Other cousins are in California, Mississippi, and Oregon. One brother in in Texas and the other is in New Mexico. My daughters and grandchildren live in the Seattle area, as does my nephew and beloved niece and her children.

Between Facebook and Instagram, it is the only contact I have with most of them. So you see why I had to come back. And that is why Facebook, in its wisdom, made me wait 2 weeks before they deactivated my account: they wanted to be certain that I was certain. I reactivated my account 4 days before it would have been permanently deleted.

A New Approach

No longer do I log in to Facebook at all hours of the day and night; I limit myself to twice a day. I’m also leaving a number of groups that once were relevant to me, but no longer are important.

Instead, I’m spending more time on Medium, where the level of discussion is both more relevant to my interests, as well as more eloquent and literate. At least no one here sends me messages like “I lk yr post. How R U?”

Is it possible that Medium is the last bastion of genuine intellect in the world of social media?

My tea is getting cool, and so I shall close now. Thank you for taking the time to read this; I know your time is valuable, and as always I appreciate the time we have spent together.

A little under two weeks ago, having gotten tired by (among other things) the saturation-bombing of (mostly) irrelevant garbage on my Facebook account, I decided to cancel it. This was not a decision I made lightly, and I wanted to share some of my reasons:

My experience had become a brain-sucking, mind-killing psychic vampire-like waste of time. For every one article I was interested in, there were a dozen more I had no interest in. And the ones I did want were?—?far too often?—?little more than click-bait, forcing me to wade through a ton of advertisements. Oh, sure?—?I could avoid them by using Facebook on my laptop browser with ad blocking software, but I preferred the freedom of my iPhone and iPad.

Over the years, Facebook has deteriorated from a social network to a system for spreading lies, innuendo, hatred, and vitriol. No longer is it a platform for sharing knowledge and experiences; rather it is now little more than a convenient way to launch personal attacks against both individuals as well as groups.

Each minute I spent on Facebook, I could almost feel my blood pressure climbing into the stratosphere.

For these (and a few other) reasons, I decided it was time for me to leave.

I jumped through all of the hoops I needed to in order to permanently delete my account?—?only to be informed that it would take 2 weeks for it to take effect. At first, I was angry at Facebook’s arrogant assumption that I would change my mind, but ultimately, it worked out for the better.

Family Ties Rule!

I grew up in a military family, so for the first part of my life, I was unable to put down roots. (As an aside, numerous studies have demonstrated just how harmful the military life is to families in general and to children in particular. As John Donne said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” [Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent]). It isn’t easy to develop lasting friendships when you know they’re only going to last 2 or 3 years; think of it as growing up in an atmosphere of breakups and dislocations.

As a result of the constant reassignments and relocations, I had very little opportunity to get to know my extended family. From California to Japan to New Jersey to New York to Texas and Alaska, I might have seen my cousins on less than a dozen occasions.

But then I discovered Facebook. And while it wasn’t face-to-face contact, I was able to reunite with many of my cousins and much of my extended family. I’m living in Rochester, New York as I write this, and contrary to much belief, it is nowhere near New York City, where at least two of my cousins live. In fact, Rochester is closer to Toronto than it is to NYC.

Other cousins are in California, Mississippi, and Oregon. One brother in in Texas and the other is in New Mexico. My daughters and grandchildren live in the Seattle area, as does my nephew and beloved niece and her children.

Between Facebook and Instagram, it is the only contact I have with most of them. So you see why I had to come back. And that is why Facebook, in its wisdom, made me wait 2 weeks before they deactivated my account: they wanted to be certain that I was certain. I reactivated my account 4 days before it would have been permanently deleted.

A New Approach

No longer do I log in to Facebook at all hours of the day and night; I limit myself to twice a day. I’m also leaving a number of groups that once were relevant to me, but no longer are important.

Instead, I’m spending more time on Medium, where the level of discussion is both more relevant to my interests, as well as more eloquent and literate. At least no one here sends me messages like “I lk yr post. How R U?”

Is it possible that Medium is the last bastion of genuine intellect in the world of social media?

My tea is getting cool, and so I shall close now. Thank you for taking the time to read this; I know your time is valuable, and as always I appreciate the time we have spent together.

Especially since this week was when the days officially started getting longer. But when I said they’re getting brighter, I meant it in a figurative and not a literal sense. You DO know what “literal” means, yes? It’s one of those words that far too many people sprinkle their speech with, never realizing that they’re using it incorrectly. It also gets confused with “virtual,” which is the word they should use.

ANYWAY, after nearly 10 days without my iPhone, I was finally able to get a ride to the Verizon store, where I was informed that there was nothing they could do, and that I needed to take it to the Apple Store.

When I explained this to my driver (my landlord), he asked where the Apple Store was. “Eastview Mall,” I answered.

This will tell you what kind of a guy my landlord, Ed, is: Eastview Mall is about 15 miles from our house. Ed’s reaction? “Well, we might as well go there now.”

At the Apple Store, since I didn’t have an appointment, they told me there would be about a 10 minute wait—which turned out to be about 3 minutes. I explained my problem, and that I was unable to resolve it on my own, since none of the troubleshooting steps list on the Apple web site worked.

Dave (the technician) was able to resolve my problem in about 10 minutes. I was a Happy Camper!

Of course, once I got home, it took about 30 minutes to restore my files.

What I Learned

1. Always, always, always BACK UP YOUR PHONE! Of course, since I was already obeying Robyn’s First Rule of Computing it was no big deal. What’s that? Oh, right: Robyn’s First Rule of Computing states BE PARANOID AND COMPULSIVE when it comes to backing up your data.

2. When attempting to recover from iPhone problems, it’s always best to do so via iTunes on a Macintosh computer. I have a PC and iTunes, but that combination just didn’t work.

3. You can save yourself a lot of heartache and stress if you get it fixed immediately!

And thus endeth the lesson for today.