Friday, December 13, 2013

Voices in the Night

It's a little too cold
I'm a little too tired
It's a little too late
to be very inspired.

The computer is on
The TV is too
I sit here and wait
for a sign or a clue

Is there a truth to impart
or a story to tell
is there a picture to share
or a song I know well?

There are so many options
For topics, instead
I think I'll choose nothing
and crawl into bed.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Voice Reunited

It doesn't much matter that the house is a mess,
...that bags and clothes and books and the laptop are strewn all over the living room
...that dirty dishes once again turn up in random locations
...that the TV remote is not where you left it so you'd be able to find it again
...and that it's late, really cold, and exhaustion seems to have taken up permanent residence.

When your child comes home from college for Christmas break
...the mess reminds you of all you have
...the dishes remind you of your great fortune to have enough food to eat
...the lost remote reminds you that you'd rather make your own stories than watch those of others
...and that time is precious, love fills the house with warmth, and exhaustion takes a back seat to raucous laughter, wild adventures, and a life filled with wonder, happiness and surprise.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fabled Voices

Once upon a time there was a maiden who lived in a faraway kingdom full of all of the usual enchanted places, magical people and fantastical things that one might expect in a faraway kingdom in a fairy tale.  This particular maiden was an extraordinary beauty with long locks of hair, a dress that sparkled like sunshine and a voice that would charm all the forest creatures.  What was interesting was that she wasn't the only maiden who came complete with beauty, long hair, sparkly dresses and a lovely voice.  In fact, this particular kingdom seemed to be overrun with fair and lovely maidens, so much so that none of them seemed particularly special at all.

In this faraway kingdom there were also Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons.  In other words, you couldn't swing an enchanted frog without hitting a man with fancy titles.  As is also the case, hitting a fancy-titled man with an enchanted frog wasn't necessarily the worst thing you could do, but they might disagree.

Now, as you might imagine, the forest in this faraway kingdom contained all sorts of secrets, some of which were not particularly nice.  The Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons didn't take much notice, for they were often too busy talking to each other about themselves.  They had no time for forest riff-raff, and some even doubted the existence of anything unsavory.  The multitudes of maidens, however, thought otherwise, and took care to avoid the dangers that lurked in the forest. Over the years they learned many truths to keep them safe. They knew it was unwise to enter the forest after sunset.  They also knew that their voice was a powerful weapon, and if they used their lovely voice, alone or together, their strength would multiply and help would arrive.

Nothing of note happened in this faraway kingdom for a long time.  On occasion the Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons would notice the maidens using their voice more than usual, and their talking would interrupt the Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons in the midst of one of their speeches.  They found it quite annoying and wished it would stop.

As is the case with these stories, one day something happened.  And then many, many things happened. One day a maiden found herself in the forest in the midst of day.  Why she was there didn't matter.  She might have been picking berries for a pie or gathering flowers for a garland or making friends with the small forest creatures.  Whatever the reason, there she was.  And then, as is the case with stories such as these, there was the dragon.

There is nothing good about the presence of a dragon.  They appear at terrible times and do terrible deeds. They don't always follow the rules, and this one, on this particular day, decided not to wait until dark to venture from his cave.  That is why, in the midst of day, the dragon came upon the maiden.  When she saw him she was so surprised and so very, very afraid, she was unable to make a sound.  Her lovely voice was as frightened as she was.  Without her voice she was powerless.  And then terrible, terrible things happened.

It wasn't until much later that the maiden was discovered in a terrible state.  She was brought back to the village in the faraway kingdom with all due haste.  Someone desperately needed to tend to her wounds.

The town was in an uproar.  Everyone spoke at once and there was great confusion.  The Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons asked each other why the maiden would be in the forest and offered all sorts of explanations formed from their own imaginations.  The maidens, however, were only concerned with caring for the injured. The more they spoke, the stronger their voices became.  This was a surprise, because it had been believed that their power came solely from happiness and singing.  Through this horrible ordeal, they discovered there was great power in their words.  

So they continued to talk about the forest and the dragon and the terrible terrible things that happened.  This interruption only proved to annoy the the Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons even more. And then they became angry.

"Why was she in the kingdom?"
"Didn't she know the rules?"
"Why didn't she use her voice?"
"I don't believe a dragon would show themselves in the midst of day."
"Perhaps her delicious berries lured the dragon from his den"
"Perhaps the scent of the flowers intoxicated the dragon"

On and on and on the discussion went until the dragon, who had done terrible, terrible things was all but absolved, and the maiden -- half dead from her torment -- carried the blame alone.

Shocked and dismayed, the maidens continued to talk and their voices grew stronger still.  This, of course, made the Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons very annoyed indeed.  So annoyed, it prompted them to take action. 

The Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons summoned all the maidens to the council.  When they arrived, they discovered with surprise and horror that the council had no interest in dealing with the dragon.  The maidens demanded safe passage through the forest.  They pleaded for compassion and begged the council to help them tend to the poor maiden, now consumed with grief and sorrow.  The council replied that if only the maiden had brought an escort with her to the forest, the dragon would have been slain and the maiden would have been safe.  

And with that one single pronouncement, the Dragon was free once more.  The Lovely Maiden lived out her days in silent sadness full of grief, and the rest of the maidens of the village, overcome by disbelief and anger fell silent, losing all the power that their voices had brought.

And what of the Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons? Finding themselves free from the pesky thoughts, opinions and interruptions of others, they were able to talk to themselves about themselves once more.

And there was no happily ever after.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Voices of the Internet

Things I sent today via IM, chat, text, tweet or Facebook for which you have no point of reference:

  2. you would have thought it was Siberia
  3. I swear I just saw "speed peeing"
  4. I wondered why you were being so coy not to swear
  5. did you have to write lines and have it scratched into your hand ala Umbridge?
  6. why do you have to go to fire hazard class IF THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW?
  7. just calm your brain
  8. He knows we're genetically speedy people
  9. And rejoicing arose from Archangel Orville Reddenbacher
  10. Loud lady went to lunch
  11. Damn bird whistles better than I do
  12. As long as Russell Crowe isn't in it
  13. There's no business like snow business
  14. Go kill 'em, Sergei
  15. I'm sure we can hook you up
  16. Yes Master Yoda

Monday, December 09, 2013

Voices - Some Assembly Required

There are times -- more times than I can count -- when I sit in this chair and start to drift off.  This leads to  violent head snapping and empty promises to myself that I'll get to bed early tonight.  Well, earlier.  Well, before 11.  Or 12.  Hopefully? For once?

Then I have to decide what to do.There are times when I feel like I have a rich supply of topics, humorous anecdotes and wise truths to share, but as late night gives way to early morning, these all seem to scatter and hide in the rafters of my mind.

My browser is of no help at all.  Bloated and cumbersome, it is virtually crushed by weight of 10 or more windows open simultaneously.  Nonetheless, it is still a treasure-trove of stuff... recipes, social media, articles to read later, calendars, a YouTube page, an Amazon page and of course, the unruly and very spoiled trio of Facebook, Google and Twitter.  Oh my.

But still I plow on, dozing and then waking suddenly after a 3 minute nap.  I slightly more refreshed, and this wondrous feeling of connection lasts upwards of 45 seconds, and then like Simba and the Circle of Life, it's back to nodding off once more.

Once I get going, though, my neurons start firing and I click into gear.  I hope against hope that tonight will be a night of lucidity and I won't need to spend more time proofreading and editing than I did actually writing.  I know what yo're thinking, and Har Har Har.  Sometimes it appears I don't proofread or edit anything anyway.  Point taken. Moving on.

Finally finished, I save-preview-tweak-save-preview-tweak until I feel sure it's time to press publish.  Then it's off to post a snippet, which looks something like this:
There are times...more than I can count...when I sit in this chair and start to drift off..

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Voices of Imagination

In my most vivid, jealous imagination, you're all having a wonderful time.

I spent another weekend on roller skates, racing from town to town, from concert to concert to rehearsal and home again in time to eat dinner, feed the cats, do the dishes and collapse.

You've spent the weekend doing all sorts of activities.  You baked cookies, decorated your homes, and did some holiday shopping.  You stopped for a fancy cup of coffee and indulged in a scone or perhaps an over-sized muffin.  You went to movies, you played games with your family, you read books, you knit and crocheted, and you dressed your dogs in winter coats before you breezed outside for a mid-afternoon walk.  Sometimes, though, you forego all activities and you lounge around all day in your pajamas, shunning the world with a wink and a smile, knowing full well you'll be back tomorrow.

In my most vivid, jealous imagination, you all live wonderful lives.

I'm a little too blunt and a little too impatient.  My irreverence often strays into the danger-red-zone, and I'm just as apt to look at those in need with skepticism first and compassion second.

You're witty without being crass.  You're good looking, yet approachable.  You're friendly to a fault but still manage a zinger or two, at exactly the right time.  You're funny, occasionally irreverent, but at the heart of it all, you have a heart and a soul which are genuine and sincere.  Your life and your priorities follow a similar arc, and you never hesitate to help someone who seems to have become lost along the way.

In my most vivid, jealous imagination, you all are highly talented, creative people.

I do lots of stuff, but not as well as my perfection would prefer.  For me, practice comes from necessity first and love of craft second.  Patience is an overly-tired toddler who often leaves before intermission.  

You sing.  You dance. You act.  You play instruments.  You paint.  You sew.  You knit.  You spin.  You craft.  You create.  You appreciate the arts.  You are athletic.  You run.  You swim. You play baseball, football and basketball.  You have the patience to practice disciplined activities like Yoga and martial arts.  You set long-term goals and see them through, enjoying the journey and the rigors of practice along the way.

In my most vivid, jealous imagination, you all are strong.

I often feel anything but strong.  I am a compulsive worrier, and have made a sport of simultaneously looking back and beating myself up over messes I've made while looking forward and fretting about impending disasters, whether they are real or not.

You persevere amid hardships.  You get knocked down and you get right back up again.  You don't let life get you down.  You don't let circumstances get the better of you.  Your strength of spirit lifts you, carries you and sustains you during the darkest of times.  And when the storm ends and the sun appears once more, yours is the first voice to be heard, laughing, singing and celebrating once more.

In my most vivid, jealous imagination, you all think I'm crazy.

You wonder why I conjure up perfect people leading idyllic lives, and then compare myself to this impossible  standard.  You think nobody is this happy.  Nobody is this perfect.  No life is this wonderful.

And you'd be wrong.  

My reality is that I know every single person listed above.  And although nobody is all of these things at any one given time, these traits, singular and in combination, describe real people I know -- family, friends, coworkers, colleagues and even strangers.  You all are a wonderful, amazing, astonishing group people.  You do things an infinite number of things to enrich your lives and nourish your soul, which, in turn, enriches and nourishes mine.  You are friendly, funny, creative and strong.  And when the storm ends and yours is the first voice to be heard, I'm not jealous at all.  I'm thankful for all of you and what you bring to the world.  I'm grateful for the inspiration and the encouragement.

And in my most vivid imagination, I am hopeful to be even a fraction of that in return. 

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Photo Finish

Today was concert day.  This, in and of itself, is not an unusual occurrence, especially in December.  Today, however, was especially fun because I had the opportunity to be in the audience, on the "other side" of the conductor, so to speak.  It was a massive choral concert with nearly 200 singers, so the audiences (plural -- there were two performances) were quite large, filled with lots of parents in addition to all the community members who so faithfully support the college music program.

As happy as I was to see so many people there in support of the musicians, I had to wonder how many enjoyed it.  Not because it wasn't enjoyable.  On the contrary, it was an outstanding concert.  I wondered because so many people in the audience were preoccupied.  

Before the concert began there was a stampede of folks with taking pictures.  Lots of pictures of the church, which had been tastefully decorated for the holiday.  Pictures of the giant wreath, pictures of Christmas trees, pictures of the organ pipes up in the balcony.  This progressed to an extended session of "selfies."  Pictures of themselves (obviously).  Pictures of them and their friend/date/random stranger sitting next to them.  Pictures of their entire family sitting in the row all leaned over and scrunched in so they'd make the shot. Everywhere I looked, heads were tilted together, and people were staring and CHEESEing into the back of a cellphone.

When the concert started, the selfies stopped (thank goodness), but the picture-taking, sadly, did not.  Several people shuffled multiple devices: cellphones, standard cameras, movie cameras, and even ginormous iPads, and continued to snap pictures throughout the entire concert like it was THEIR JOB.  The paparazzi seemed amateurish in comparison.  All of this was astonishing, annoying, and very very sad.

I understand the desire to document events, particularly when they involve a child.  It's nice to have something to look back on and remember.  But manners, decorum and tact have taken a back seat to the insatiable allure of one more picture, one more closeup, one more... one more...

If I give camera-people the benefit of the doubt, I will assume that it doesn't even occur to them that all this picture taking is a huge annoyance to the rest of us in the audience.  I'm not here to watch you, but when your screen lights up in a dark hall, I can't help it. It's also impossible to ignore you when your camera is raised above your head right in front of my line of sight.  I know you think you need to "get the shot", but Ansel, you're in my way.  And then I have to watch you focus, and do the little two finger pinchy thing to zoom in or out.  It's a huge distraction, and I'm just in the audience.  Consider the poor performer who has to navigate a concert while an overzealous photog (complete with camera flash) impedes their ability to see critical things, including, but not limited to: words and notes on a page, other people, furniture, and well, you know...THE EDGE OF THE FREAKING STAGE.   For them it's not just a distraction, it's an outright danger.

As annoying as this behavior is, I actually find it more than a little bit sad.  There was a man who spent a bit of time before the concert telling us about his son, a freshman, who was one of the performers.  Even before the concert started, he was juggling an iPhone and a standard camera with a sizable zoom lens.  Once the lights dimmed and the singers began, he.... just kept right on taking pictures.  It seemed sad to me that he was so busy documenting the concert that he never stopped to actually listen to it.

Over the years I've been in and been to more concerts than I could ever possibly count, and each performance represents an enormous amount of time learning and preparing to do one thing:  to communicate.  We tell stories, declare truths, and hope to inspire through philosophy, humor, beauty, rhythm, harmony and melody.  We desperately want to share these incredibly special things with you, and we simply can't do that if there is a camera, cellphone or other electronic peripheral standing in the way.

Ultimately, cameras can only document what they see.  They can never truly capture the heart and soul of either performer or performance.  It takes a real measure of courage to come to a concert unarmed.  I challenge you to put away your camera and turn off your phone.  Be fully present, involved and engaged. If you take the time to listen, watch and think, you'll be amazed at what an incredible gift you're given.  The audience will appreciate your politeness.  The performers will be thrilled beyond measure.  

Believe me, I know.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Colla Voce

A month or so ago I had one of those brief, polite conversations whose purpose and topic was meant to be polite, generic and brief, since we were on a short rehearsal break.  In mid "so what have you been up to" conversation, I was asked, "So, did you read any good books this summer?"

I don't know why this question caught me so off-guard, but it did.  And then I stood there for what seemed like a very long time and thought hard.  Hard like "solve this calculus problem" hard.  Embarrassingly, absolutely nothing came to mind, and so I blurted out, quite honestly, "Uhhh..No!!"  And then, before I engaged my brain, my mouth added, "but I bought a bunch!"

It was the total, unfiltered truth, and for a minute I felt like an idiot.

But then I forgave myself.  I mean, who cares?  I know for some, the summer months are reading months. For me, it's always a great idea, but oftentimes, I'm simply busy doing other things, including but not limited to working, teaching, gardening, organizing, cleaning, exercising, goofing around, going to plays and/or movies and/or concerts, and on occasion, sleeping.  Reading doesn't even rank high enough in importance to earn a spot on a to-do list.  The best it could muster would be a high ranking on a want-to-do list.  Along with about 250 other things.  

There are some who have a very set seasonal schedule.  No whites after Labor Day, holiday decorations up a solid month prior to the big day, Christmas Tree decorated and shopping completed by the end of Thanksgiving weekend, cards sent in a timely manner.  It all sounds wonderful and absolutely foreign to me.  If you asked me if my house was decorated, I'd laugh.  Oh, it's decorated, alright.  It's decorated with papers and binders, with books and music, with mail that needs to be attended to and laundry that needs to be folded.  There are plenty of decorations.  Just probably not the ones you're thinking of.

I think because so much of my life is extremely scheduled -- a necessity with two jobs plus private students, rehearsals and various gigs on the side -- I'm not inclined to commit the personal scraps of time I have left to anything in particular, unless it's absolutely necessary, which, it usually is not.  So have no fear.  I'll get to the holiday decorating, the shopping, the cooking and cleaning, the special TV shows and movies, and yes, even the books. Lucky for me I already have a stack waiting to be read, which I'll get to soon.  Or, eventually.  Or much, much later.  It will depend on one hundred different variables.

But it won't depend on someone else's schedule.

colla voce is a musical term meaning "with the voice".  This instruction is generally found in the piano accompaniment, and it serves as a warning to the pianist to pay special attention to the singer, because they're about to make some decisions and stylistic changes (generally relating to tempo) that aren't notated in the music.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Sound of Haiku Voices

The hills are alive.
Is it bleating or belting?
stuff it, Maria.

Maria looks like
The Swiss Miss Choc'late box.
Pass the marshmallows.

Love me some Audra
but you must admit that she's
one sassy mother.

The Goatherd's lonely

Rolf is seventeen?
Now try to make me believe
Maria can act.

Here's the paradox:
Wooden cast chews scenery.
The Sound of Beavers?

Made it through one hour
Appreciate the hashtag
of #teambaroness

At the end did nuns
gave the car a "Before He
Cheats" special blessing?

As for Miss Julie,
The force is strong within her.
Legacy untouched.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Voices of Chaos

I have been trying for longer than I'd care to admit to get a handle on stuff.  And by "stuff" I mean accumulated objects of various types.  And by "get a handle on" I mean rearrange, file, toss or just shuffle the piles around and pray that they somehow magically get smaller over time.

You can probably guess that I haven't yet hung a banner proclaiming Mission Accomplished, and the piles haven't done their damn job, either.  Sadly, they are just as heavy and unwieldy as ever.  Is anyone surprised?  No, I thought not.

I know people who are highly organized.  I know people who not only preach but also (successfully) practice a place for everything and everything in its place.  I have to admit it's both awe-inspiring and annoying as hell.  Sometimes I feel like it must require some sort of black magic or deal-with-the-Devil kind of arrangement.  Whatever it is, so far, I don't have it.  But I still try.

Sometimes I think my problem is I'm a victim of my own over-zealous sense of organization, and I fret over basic decisions and make the entire process much more complicated than it needs to be.  If I'm organizing my books, should I arrange it by genre?  By book size?  Hardcover vs. Softcover?  And speaking of book size, why aren't sizes standard?  What am I supposed to do with the odd volume that's abnormally long, or unusually tall?  SOMETHING has to be done, because it will wreck the entire shelf.  Problems like this might sound insignificant, but these are the exact things that throw me into a tizzy.  

When I'm not dithering over books, I'm wrangling sheet music, CDs and DVDs.  Should I put Porgy and Bess with the operas or the Broadway shows?  Should the Blu Rays be separated or interfiled with DVDs?  And the worst problem of all:  Should I file the movie under L for "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" or should I file it under S for "Series of Unfortunate Events" or under U for Unfortunate Events?  These decisions should not be and are not taken lightly.  

I'm getting better with embracing the whole notion of donating items for others to use and enjoy.  It took a long time to get to that point without feeling like a wasteful human being, or worrying that as soon as I gave something away, I'd certainly need it again.  I've got clothing donations down.  Books are still a challenge, because getting rid of books is like turning your back on children.  It's not a skill I possess.

In the end, I don't think I'll ever be entirely neat, clean, and organized.  But I'm happy to report that things are getting better, if only by miniscule degrees.  Meantime, I'll be over in the corner, pondering Richard Rogers (Musicals or Jazz standards?), the filing conundrum of Monty Python's Spamalot and what the heck I'm going to do with that one enormous oversized book.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Voice of Holidailies Past

Last year at this time I did a post listing things I was not going to write about.  I think we've all waited long enough, so I'm going to write about each and every one of them.  Right this very minute.  Ready, set...

1. The Fiscal Cliff 
The good news is, like lemmings with improved GPS, we survived this scare.  The bad news is "the fiscal cliff" has been replaced by "the sequester".  Which I shall not talk about.

2. Royal Baby / Babies - Speculative Edition
Speculate no more.  They had one. It was royal.  It's name is George.  I hope like nothing else that one of those royals does the whole Loony Toons bit, because it would be a damn waste of a name if they didn't.

3. The Weather - Too Hot / Too Cold Edition
It's always going to be one or the other, and never the one you want.

4. Santa
Best news I have about Santa is I whupped his butt at the Turkeyman Trot 5k race on Thanksgiving morning.  Take that, Kringle!

5. Elves
I have nothing to say about elves, whether perched on a shelf, toiling in local sweatshops or studying dentistry.

6. Reindeer
I can't believe I somehow felt strongly enough about reindeer to include them on a list of things I was refusing to discuss.  Reindeer are fine in theory, although shorter than one might expect in real life.  Other than that, and the fact that reindeer were stereotyped as enormous jerks in Rudolph, one year later, I still got nothing.

7. Christmas Cookie Power Ranking
I have no idea what this is.

8. The atrocious state of spelling and grammar on the Internet
Here's the thing: I'm as annoyed as the next troll at the mangled verbiage that gets posted on the Internet for all eternity.  And still, I find myself doubly annoyed at people who take up even more space criticizing and mocking the mistakes of others.  Yes, people misplace apostrophes.  ALL THE TIME.  Yes, typos exist.  But you don't look smarter by pointing out how stupid other people are.  You saw it.  We saw it.  Just shake your head and judge silently in your heart and move on.

9. Why I've Never Seen a Single Episode of Downton Abbey
Another year gone.  Keeping the streak alive!

10. Internet Trolls
Simple solution -- Stop reading the comments section.

11. Politics
See above.  And here's another thing -- could we possibly stop with the whole litany of Kindergarten name calling, like "Rethuglicans" "Obummercare" and the like?  It might be clever if you're five, but really, if you resort to infantile name-calling, you're just a poopyhead.  DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE?

12. Lost Socks
Still losing them.

13. Cats
Currently resting and recharging in preparation for the 3am game of Turbo Chase followed by 15 rounds of feline wrestling.

14. Inflatable Christmas Decorations, or, Why is Santa in a Snowglobe?
Maybe it's me, but these just seem creepy.

15. Skype - Or, How to look like a murderer in one easy step
When I Skype -- which is solely to chat and do homework with the collegian, I've gotten to the point where I'm pretty sure all she sees is the top of my head.  And you know, I'm fine with that.

16. Haiku Poetry.  Creativity Abounds.  Counting is a Must.
With each Haiku line - My fingers count syllables - Trust not an option.

17. I'm Trying to like Doctor Who like the other cool kids, but so far the jury of me is bored.
Stalled out after Season 1, episode three. Keeping the streak alive!

18. No, I still haven't seen **insert name of movie here**
I did, however, see "Catching Fire".  Ten points for Gryffindor.

19. Why is the Ghost of Christmas Future a Skeleton?  Isn't a skeleton the representation of something that is past?  Like Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Past?
Wow.  Why did I care about this?   Maybe it's a skeleton because skeleton's are scary, and it would be a bit of a stretch to be psychologically intimidated and coerced into a different lifestyle by a baby.  

20. As much as "Hoarders" makes me feel good about my house, it's not enough to compensate for how utterly sad and creepy gross it is.  I Can't Watch.
Keeping the streak alive!

21. Wacky-Tacky Nativity Scenes -- What's Not to Love?
These are awesome.  From Marshallows, to a Spam manger, to Fischer Price Peg People, to Veggie Tales, wacky-tacky nativity scenes are THE best.  Magi tested, Messiah approved.

22. Teaching is Exhausting Awesomeness
23. Whoever Invented the Cubicle is a very, very bad man.
24. I'll let you have "God is Good" but you'll never convince me that God answered your prayer for a good parking space.  Even God has priorities.
25. How many more days until **something that happens later** ?
26. Waiting
27. Three Wise Men
28. Fifty Dumb Men
29. If Frozen Yogurt battled Gelato in a cage match, who would win?
30. Considering everything that was happening last year at this time, it's a wonder I'm still here.
31. What does a Christmas List and War and Peace have in common? I haven't started either one.
32. I don't like Miracle on 34th Street or It's a Wonderful Life. Do I need a Holly Jolly transfusion?
33. Charlie Brown Christmas will always and forever be the best. Rudolph runs a close second.
34. Is there a book club for people who can't get past page 3 before falling asleep?
35. I'm tired

...and the accompanying commentary
22. Yes.
23. Yes, very.
24. Yes, but the hosannas have been silenced because God upped the ante and gave them temporary handicapped vouchers.
25. If it's something good, always more than you wish.  
26. Tis the season
27. They sure took their time.
28. There's only fifty?  What happened to the rest of them?
29. Frozen Yogurt, because Gelato is too classy to climb into a cage.
30. The irony of this statement is overwhelming.  If I only knew then what I know now.
31. Keeping the streak alive!
32. Keeping the streak alive.  And NO!
33. Damn right.
34. No, but there is a timer on the TV set, which is very handy, indeed.
35. This observation brought to you by all the days with a "y" in them.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Silent Voices

At the end of the long Thanksgiving weekend it was time, once again, to return the college sophomore to her tiny room with her bed up in the sky.  She was armed with apple cider and a fresh supply of bagels to get her through the last week of classes and finals.  Traffic was predictably lousy, with the marauding hordes darting in and out of bumper to bumper traffic in an effort to return to wherever they came from in the first place.   After lugging the clean laundry, laptop and homework back to the third floor, we said a quick goodbye and got back in the car to go home again, half-giddy that our ETA was a very respectable 10 pm.

As we made the last turn and followed the curve to the house, we saw police lights.  Two cars.  "Uh oh," I said.  "Someone got nabbed."  But two cars seemed unusual, and as we drove past, we noticed there was no car pulled over and no tickets being written.  And then we saw the yellow tape in front of the grey house at the end of our block.  And then we got very quiet.

First there was wonder, and then there was worry.  Was there a robbery?  Maybe.  It was a holiday weekend, and with people out of town, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility.  Was there a fire?  Didn't seem to be.  Was there other mayhem or mischief?  It was hard to tell.  Did the Internet know anything?  I checked periodically and couldn't find any answers, which made us wonder and worry even more.  From my bedroom I could see one of the police cruisers, and I ended up falling asleep with visions of flashing blue and red lights that continued long past midnight.

In the morning, they were gone.  The Internet had no information to share. With an absence of any clues, I did what I do every Monday: I hauled myself into work and kind of forgot about the whole thing.  It wasn't until late morning that I happened to see a post from the local news station full of words you never want to see:  murder... suicide... married... elderly... failing health... in my city, on my  street, down my block.

I was left with shock, an overwhelming sadness for people I didn't know, and a tangle of thoughts and emotions.  Was it noble?  Was it selfish?  Was it brave?  Was it compassionate?  Was it anguished?  Was it peaceful?  Was it madness?  Was it rational?  Were there no alternatives?  All my words seemed to be followed by question marks.  Even my own feelings were conflicted. Scared.  Angry.  Sad.  Unsettled.

Tonight there are no answers, no morals to the story, and no neat conclusions.  Never has the thought of asking for a "peace that passes all understanding" seemed so important, because there is no understanding and there is no peace.  Yesterday voices were silenced, and in its aftermath, I can find nothing to say.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

One Voice, Hold the Wilderness

On the first day of December, the first day of Advent and the first day of Holidailies, I have come to realize that this tiny, insignificant, sometimes self-indulgent, and more frequently-than-I-would-prefer ignored corner of the Internet is ten years old.

Over the years while this page has been redesigned and links have been added and deleted, the posts have remained an eclectic mishmash of verbiage: from inane to humorous to serious to poetry (with Haiku being my personal favorite). There is also the customary postings of pictures and YouTube clips, depending on my mood, the time of day, the time of year, the insanity of my calendar, the insanity of my family and friends, and the reading on my current boredom and/or procrastination meter.

The creation of the TunaNews came as a result of some on and off forum postings and daily recaps for yes, gasp, a reality television show (Hello, Big Brother 2003).  During those long chunks of time when nothing was happening, we'd post anyway, often telling humorous stories of our "real" life.  Because I had a nine-year old, I had plenty of fodder.  At the end of the summer, and with a bit of nudging, I created a "blog", which, back in the olden days (ten years ago), was a much newer idea.  Without the presence of Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social platforms, blogs were a major way to communicate with people who chose to come visit.  It was fun.

Time passed, things changed and the Internet grew into a much, much bigger machine.  It became possible to track how and when and why people visited our sites.  Weekly, daily, and even hourly stats became as important as the content on the page, and sometimes more important.  It was fun for awhile, but then started to feel less like communication and more like competition.

I don't know when exactly it was that I began to feel overwhelmed by the noise.  The Internet noise.  The explosion of blogs in every format possible led to websites able to track the latest postings of blogs you might "subscribe to" so you wouldn't miss anything.  This, in my case (of course) led to subscribing to everything.  Literary blogs.  Cooking blogs.  Political blogs.  Essays.  Humor.  Parody.  News.  I didn't want to miss anything so I subscribed to everything and immediately got BURIED by my interests.  And then instead of not missing anything...I missed everything.  

After blogs came Facebook and Twitter.  Oh my.  And Instagram and Flickr and Pinterest and Lord knows what else.  More and more people added their voices, not merely wanting to be heard, but needing to be heard . Obsessively working in overdrive for the elusive click of the ticker.  Wanting the stats.  Cross-posting once, twice, ten times a day.  Sure, you still had to choose to come visit but it was a short trip from a kind request to a gentle nudge to an annoying nagging to click through to hear their voice, read their opinion, laugh at their joke, cry at their story, or copy their family recipe.  And then not only were the writers fighting for readers, the readers themselves became equally competitive, vying for most comments, wittiest rebuttals, most antagonistic troll-bombs, or a mutual love-fests via re-posts and thumbs-ups.  People were fighting for two things -- validation and a voice.

I understood it and still do: this the overwhelming need for validation and to be heard.  But for me, a middle child who prefers a peaceful, balanced coexistence, when the noise of the Internet got too loud, my response was to not add to the cacophony.  So I silenced my voice and stopped writing.

My poor blog sat for days, weeks and months at a time.  This time I've almost gone a full year without posting and it's been several years since I checked a blog counter or looked over my stats.  Yet to this day, my blog is my homepage and every time I go online I feel both guilty and sad that I'm staring at a story that is 350 days old.

In Advent we hear about "a voice in the wilderness crying".  Although the Internet is probably the furthest thing possible from a "wilderness", there is a very real and palpable loneliness that comes part and parcel with all of the people and the postings and the memes and the quizzes and the games and the noise.  Despite all that, I'm going to dive back into Holidailies and spend the month writing.  Maybe this month will give me some insight into my voice, my words, my content and my contribution.  While I'm no John the Baptist and I'm fresh out of hair shirts, I hope to rediscover my voice and its purpose in this otherwise noisy world.