Observations and Meanderings

A Woman of Heart and Mind

Joni Mitchell turns 75 today.

For my morning hot tea and vinyl, I picked “For the Roses” and “Blue.” There is so much to appreciate here:  songwriting, composition, phrasing, who steps in to help out (Stephen Stills, James Taylor, Graham Nash), and that voice. Oh my goodness.

I’m on my second copy of “For the Roses” and the cover of “Blue” is looking pretty bad. Recorded over 45 years ago (1972 and 1971, respectively), they are among a handful of albums I own that have, as they say, stood the test of time. If you haven’t heard them in a while or never heard them before, I encourage you to give them a spin. She’s a poet and a musician and about as authentic as it gets. 

Happy birthday, Ms. Mitchell.

The Boone Series returns

The Boone Series is back! 

pushing_back1     matching_scars1      keeping_secrest1

 

Available in ebook format on several sites, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Scribd and Google Play for those of you enrolled in a subscription service. Check my book page on this site for the links.

The print version should be available by December first in bookstores, or sooner if you run into me at one of the arts/craft fairs I’m participating in this season. Or drop me a line if you’re in a hurry.

Thanks to everyone for your patience, and I hope you enjoy the new look!

The Real Fake News

Pretty much all I know about some of the people I’m connected to on social media is which sites they visit to get the angry pages they share with their friends (and that’s only if I look at the top of the post).

I don’t even know whether they believe strongly in what they’re passing along, or if something happened to sour their mood and a computer with a wi-fi connection was handy at that moment.

I know that people are more complex than their views on a single subject, and that even their views on that subject are more nuanced and layered than is apparent from what they might sign their names to and send out into the cyberverse. Nuance, however, is not well suited to the pace of social media, and so we lose access to an essential part of those around us, and we get an incomplete, “fake,” inaccurate picture of each other. This, as we all know, is a source of all kinds of nasty stuff, especially when we use that as a basis for our interactions out in the physical world. Somebody said once that the trouble with stereotypes was not that they weren’t true, but that they were incomplete. I think there’s some truth in that.

A small number of my social media connections create most of their own posts and for that I am grateful. Even if what they are sharing is angry or tragic or embarrassing or self-deprecating, it’s a window into what is really happening to them as they move through the day. Plus, some of what they create or pass along is funny as hell. I believe there is a basic difference between sharing hate and anger and sharing laughter. Laughter is healing. It’s the best medicine, or so I’ve been told.

And sometimes what they put out there is a kind of love letter to the rest of the world. Those are pretty neat, too.

Okay, rant over. I’m even leaving the oxymoronic title just as it is.

Choosing Sides

A few weeks ago I decided that even though I liked my car, there were several things it didn’t have that I wanted. With my wife’s help I made a list and took it with me to visit several car lots. Almost without exception, when the sales reps looked at my list they said, “Oh, that’s a Subaru.” So that’s what I bought. Not new, but new to me, and so far the choice feels right.

Deciding what is important and letting that guide me to a choice is how I do things when I’ve got it together enough to remember that it’s the best way to go. I can’t say I’m all that consistent yet, but it’s something to aim for.

Of course, whatever method I employ, once I make a decision I immediately start paying more attention to things that support my decision and less to things that indicate I might have made a mistake. There is a downside to this, a real danger. The danger can be referred to as incestuous amplification (a term attributed to the military during the Vietnam War), which is a way of saying that if you only listen to people with whom you already agree, your views tend to become more rigid and more extreme.

Needless to say, this kind of self-perpetuating polarization is rampant this election cycle and has a distinctly unhealthy feel about it. 

After all, elections are about choosing sides, and we all choose sides. Over and over again, all through our lives. It’s part of being human — to look for a tribe, a group to belong to, people who let me know I’m not alone.

It’s also human, once I’ve picked a tribe, to become more aware of the things that separate my tribe from yours, the reasons my tribe is better, stronger, more in the right. I’m not sure there’s any way around this. Just as there is no light without darkness, no good without evil, if we’re going to measure something we also need something to measure it against.

There are a couple of ways to do this measuring; one is to say how my tribe is better. The other is to say how your tribe is less than mine in some way. If from my point of view the way yours is less than mine is accurate and important, that’s one thing. If the difference is trivial or inaccurate, that’s something else entirely.

Civil discourse is a good and necessary thing. My tribe has stuff that yours doesn’t and, if I’m being honest, the reverse is also true, and real progress can come from honest discussion and disagreement. Unfortunately, there is a part of me that is capable of the uncivil, the crude, the use of ad hominem attacks to make my point. Looking around, I don’t think I’m alone in this. The secret is, I think, not to deny that part of me but rather to refuse to be guided by it. 

After all, that’s really the lazy way out, isn’t it? If I spend my time and energy on attack, then I don’t have to examine my position to see if it makes social, scientific, moral, or spiritual sense. Contradictions won’t bother me if I don’t let myself know they are there.

In the service today our minister kept returning to the theme of how hard it is to stay human. It’s unfortunate that it is difficult, because our shared humanity is what binds us together and allows us to tackle the big issues without getting bogged down in personal attacks or bogus arguments. There are times, and I think this may be one of them, when getting bogged down can have devastating consequences.

A New Look for Boone

The books in the Boone Series will be temporarily unavailable while I make some changes to the cover design and interiors. I appreciate your patience and will have the books (both print and ebook) back as soon as possible. Nick Castle Design did a great job on the covers and I’m looking forward to getting the books back out on the market. Stay tuned!

Adam mommy

I checked my iPhone yesterday and saw that I had a voicemail. I opened it and scanned the transcript before I listened to it.

Earlier in the week I had stopped by Three Rivers Market to check on an item they no longer carried; I wanted to know if I could order it. Randy said he would check and someone would get back to me. The voicemail was from Heather, who had the information I had requested.

The transcript read that while they no longer carried that specific type of Adam mommy, I could order it if I was willing to buy a full case — 8 boxes. When I called Heather back to confirm the order we had a good laugh about the transcription program’s butchering of the word edamame.

I was reminded of other computer translation programs and specifically of one example a friend of mine posted on Facebook. Someone had taken the words to “Rocky Top” and run them through several different languages and then back to English. The result was surreal. I tried the same thing just now with a different song:

Here we go

Come on, hand, days

So it’s open

Play a new game

This is the current laughing boy

It thrives well

In the morning, blasphemed

In the heart

The above is, of course, the first verse to “Brown-Eyed Girl.” It appears that even with all the advances in AI there are still some things that work much better with a human touch.

By the way, my order of Adam mommy should be here within the next few days. I’m looking forward to it; we ran out just last week.