Thou shalt not take the tweets of God in vain.

9 Apr

In retrospect, intervening in a Twitter fight between God and Ricky Gervais was probably not one of my better ideas.

In my defense,  it was bound to happen. Either it was predetermined that I would log onto Twitter on that fateful Sunday morning, or free will was at work. Whenever free will is involved, nine times out of ten, “not one of my better ideas” is the result.

And so it came to pass that I was destined — whether by virtue of fate or poor decision-making — to peek in on Twitter while cleaning the bathroom and converting my office to living space for an out-of-town guest.

I often forget about Twitter for weeks or months at a time, but knowing that I’d be without access to my desktop for a few days led to a last-minute social media binge. Whereas it had been ages since he’d crossed my mind, suddenly I had an urgent need to know what Honest Toddler was up to.

While the computer fired up, I did a precursory scrub of the shower, planning to do a quick peek in at my social media world, and then hop in the shower for the final scrub and rinse.

In retrospect, hopping in the shower was probably not one of my better ideas.

And so it came to pass that I was destined — by virtue of fate or a light-hearted tweet gone awry — to find myself lying on the bathroom floor, gazing toward Heaven, which looks surprisingly like those popcorn ceilings that were popular in the mid-to-late twentieth century, thinking, “So this is how it ends.”

Heaven (dramatization).

Heaven (dramatization).

And also, “Owwwwwwwwww.”

I know. Pretty lame last words, especially for someone whose pasty white corpse was going to be discovered in a most unflattering position. So I attempted to class it up a bit.

“Rosebud,” I offered up to the beckoning light, which, I might add, looks surprisingly like one of those solar tubes installed in window-less rooms to offer natural light.

“No, not Rosebud. Inigo,” shot back the comically concerned canine visage hovering over me. “Uh, how long you think you’re gonna be down there? Because, you know, lunchtime? Tick tock. Tick tock.”

It occurs to me that my dog is getting used to my vertically challenged nature.

A lot goes through a person’s mind after a backwards fall out of the shower onto the terra-cotta flooring that took days to pick out. Things such as, “Can I move my legs? . . . Do my children know that I love them?. . . Why did I think it would be fine to hold out until the deadline to sign up for health insurance? . . . What will the authorities find in my browser cache?”

Eventually I arrived, as I usually do, at “Why me, God?” and that was when the epiphany came to me.

This could very well be an act of God. Or an act of Ricky. One of those.

Direct and swift retribution for my final tweet, the last words I would utter via social media.

When I wrote this post, I was a fan . . .Palm Sunday’s tweet crossed a line. #unfollowed

 

When I’d logged on to Twitter, I noticed that God was riled up again over something Ricky, a passionate atheist, had tweeted.  His Eminence was throwing down the gauntlet, including calling Ricky “Muppet Boy.”  (The tweet has since been removed, supporting evidence to those who’ve theorized that Disney might be more powerful than God Himself.)

Here’s where I probably should’ve minded my own business and gone about cleaning the bathroom. You remember what I said about free will, right?

So I playfully tweeted, “It’s Sunday morning. Shouldn’t at least one of you be in church?”

Heh, heh. Ha. Um. Yeah.

It was a joke. Really! You know, a little good-natured ribbing. I mean, God and I, we go back a long way. We talk on a daily basis.  I figured he’d know I was just playin’.

Ricky and I aren’t quite as tight, but we have met, sort of. I’ve been to exactly two tapings of The Daily Show and Ricky was the guest both times. That can’t be coincidence, right?

It’s been about a week and a half since I lay on that cold, hard, stylish terra-cotta floor, wondering which of my dead relatives would arrive via solar tube to take me Home (and, no doubt, to lecture me on the vices of the Internet).

I’ve been writing this post since Saturday, five or ten minutes at a time, either lying flat on the bed with my laptop up in the air, or sitting or standing for a few brief moments. I was able to sit on the couch for a while today. Not only is that progress, it adds Ally McBeal binge-watching to the recuperative process.

So as I get better, I’d like to apologize to God and to Ricky and to the Muppets and to Disney and to anyone involved. Whoever it was, your instant karma skills are impressive.

Bygones.

 

 

 

 

 

Gravatar Anxiety Disorder and the search for an online identity

29 Mar hippie change gravatar

Just for fun, or perhaps in some deep-rooted yet light-hearted passive-aggressive schadenfreudian slip (feel free to psychoanalyze and/or judge - your conclusions are probably right), this week I participated in Throwback Thursday on Facebook and uploaded a profile picture of my 22-ish year old self.

That was fun, but now it’s time to change back.

Whereas in real life, the change over the past 28-ish years has been gradual and natural, going from Throwback Thursday to Reality Friday (some things are just too serious to alliterate) has presented a challenge similar to one I’ve experienced with my struggle for identity as Hippie Cahier.

Regular readers (and again, I thank you beyond words for that) have noticed that I frequently change my blog theme, which is, of course, ill-advised if one is seeking to establish a brand or otherwise make oneself instantly recognizable. I have consistently maintained that I am consistently inconsistent, so the frequent blog theme change is either in keeping with that brand or it is simply further support of another consistent assertion, that I’m not here to sell anything.

Changing my blog theme has become almost a hobby, one far less expensive than redecorating the living room, not to mention easier on the knees.

Some may also have noticed that, especially lately, I’ve changed my “gravatar” or profile picture more frequently.  I, myself, am fascinated and/or amused at how much anxiety is behind the search for my online identity.

On both Facebook and the Hippie Cahier blog, I’ve been using a selfie taken just before a face-plant in the snow on my snowman-making misadventure a couple of months ago. Since we’ve all had just about enough of this winter, it’s time to change to something without a winter coat and scarf with barren trees in the background.

One very big obstacle to including an updated photo is the fact that I hate having my picture taken.

As a matter of fact, if you have  time to waste and you’re not into updating your blog theme, find a thesaurus, look up the word ‘hate,’ and find the strongest synonym.

Multiply that times googol and that’s how much I dislike having my photo taken, so much so that it totally derailed some offers for modeling jobs when I was around 18 to  22-ish.

I’ve considered trying another selfie, possibly sporting the new big, geeky reading glasses I picked up at the dollar store, based solely on a rare  compliment from a boy whose opinion shouldn’t matter but, for reasons that shall forever elude me, does. But that would require more effort than I’m willing to expend.

I got a belly button ring when I was 36. My father died a few months later. I am haunted to this day by the notion that there is some connection between these events.

I got a belly button ring when I was 36. My father died a few months later. I am haunted to this day by the notion that there is some connection between these events.

I recently played around with a fun “paper doll”-like program that I stumbled upon online, and came up with a teenager hippie cartoon, but let’s face it, I’m not a teenager, and my father would be appalled at that bare midriff. Appalled, I tell you.

After a good deal of thought, I’ve decided on two contenders for the “real” hippie gravatar and some reasons for rejecting the other contenders:

One is the original picture I chose when I had every intention of remaining completely anonymous.  The hippie kid still has a place in my heart for the childlike adventure “she” represents.  That anonymity has faded slightly. I’ve met four of you and 75% of the time a pleasant off-blog acquaintance has been the result.

It’s that one-out-of-four experience that makes the hippie kid bittersweet for me.

Adorable, before she figured out that whole blonde thing.

Adorable and forever young

 

I’m searching for a summer Hippie and a more modern photo, so the one I used last summer should be in the running, but it’s not. Because it’s blonde Hippie.

It may not look blonde to most, but it’s at the beginning of another summer hair experiment, the second time I’ve tried seeing life through the eyes of Those Who Have More Fun. Turns out, I’m not really blonde. So not me.

Time and again, I come back to one true “Hippie Cahier” photo, which I’ve re-established as my gravatar, unless and until a good selfie of me in my geeky readers comes to pass.

One reason I’ve changed from this photo is that it is misleading because it isn’t current. It was taken at least fifteen years ago. In putting it back up, I thought I’d tell why it is perhaps my favorite photo of me as Karen, and fitting of me as Hippie Cahier.

The photo was taken by someone I knew for only a few days, but in considering why it is that this is my favorite image of me, it seems to me that he is one of the few men I’ve ever known who truly saw me.

Maybe if I’d known him for longer, that  would have changed, and maybe that’s the beauty of only knowing him — and of his only knowing me, if I’m going to be fair about it — for a few days.

When I think about why it is that this picture seems to capture “me,” lyrics  come to mind from Jackson Browne’s “Fountain of Sorrow,” which is a more depressing title than the sentiment I intend to suggest.

I wasn’t posing for the photo. I didn’t know the camera was out, which probably would have changed the shot entirely.

" . . You were turning 'round looking to see who was behind you and I took your childish laughter by surprise. . . "

” . . You were turning ’round looking to see who was behind you and I took your childish laughter by surprise. . . “

The story of how we came to know one another, and for only that few days,  is rather tangled and hard to follow. He and his teenage son and a friend were stopping over in DC on their way from their home in Europe to a vacation home in the Bahamas. I ended up showing them around on behalf of a shared acquaintance who was unexpectedly called away. Of the three, the photographer was the only one fluent in English. He acted as translator during our adventures.

That morning we’d done some sightseeing and brunch in town and had gone swimming in the afternoon. They tried to teach me to juggle, much to all our amusement, and after a full day, we met up again for an evening outdoor concert.

Although I didn’t speak their language, I was at that time quite fluent in Teenager, and I’d heard “Coca Cola” coming through in the brooding tone of a boy who was not enjoying his summer holiday.

Just out of frame in this picture is that brooding teenage boy. I was laying out a picnic for us and had just opened the cooler and handed him a Coca Cola to a receptive and enthusiastic “Thank you!”

Just at that moment, his dad called my name, and I turned to the camera’s click, without a chance to think about how much I hate having my picture taken.

That evening is one of my favorite memories, free from everyday worries — except for the fact that I will never be able to juggle, listening to good music under a beautiful starlit sky after a picnic dinner and a busy day with friends that I didn’t really know.

At the end of our visit, we exchanged gifts — I gave them one of my prized personal possessions — ironically enough, a limited edition book of photographs —  and they gave me a set of juggling balls with a note tucked in that read, “Anything is possible.”

Making good memories with people I didn’t really know. That seems fitting for a personal blog profile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 43, 2014: the siege continues

15 Mar I wonder if Walt spits in chemistry class.

Just a quick hello because I’m sick as a dog, tired as an old dollar bill, and in the middle of writing lesson plans on figurative language (next up: idioms and cliches). I wanted to let you know that I’ve been thinking of you because — and isn’t this always the case? — the most blogworthy things happen when I don’t have time to write about them. Here are just a few:

  • I’ve spent much of the past couple of weeks hanging out with the gym teacher and a group of students who were not taking a state-mandated test, while the test was being administered in my classroom. We alternated physical activity and quiet activity. While basketball and juggling are not my sports, I was aces at word searches and hangman.

Interestingly enough, Words With Friends hasn’t really taken off with middle schoolers, nor do they appear to be aware of the basic Wheel of Fortune strategy of guessing R,S,T,L,N and E. In five consecutive games, they guessed the letter Z, so in the sixth game, the teacher took it easy on them, and the puzzle came into play thusly:  TAR__AN. They tried TARQAN, TARWAN, TARXAN. This time no one guessed Z.

  • On a related note, you wouldn’t believe how many jokes I’ve heard about balls in the past two weeks. You wouldn’t believe how many of them were up inside my own head.
  • Also on a related note, I’m starting to think like an 8th grade boy. Everything sounds like a dirty joke. I am not proud of this. I like to think of it as a survival tactic enabling me to think two steps ahead on anything that’s going to set off the rabble-rousers. Not that it helps much. At this point, I doubt we could recite the alphabet without madness and mayhem ensuing.  (…L,M,N,O,P, BWAHAHAHAHA, Ms. Cahier said “Pee!”).  Future Bloggers of America.
  • This really happened: during a planning meeting discussing an upcoming mandatory test, an administrator popped in (possibly right after a parent conference) and reminded everyone not to use sarcasm in the classroom because students at this level are not capable of processing sarcarsm — their thinking is literal at this age. Then we went back to discussing benchmark measures on figurative language and curriculum planning for achieving them. Sensing I was the only one who found this amusingly ironic (probably because my paycheck isn’t on the line), I kept my giggle to myself.
  • The school is in a rural area. The building was closed one day this week for what can best be described as an Act of God. Death and destruction were involved (non-human). In the more suburban, cosmopolitan area where I used to work, the rest of the week would have been dedicated to post-traumatic stress counseling, homework would have been canceled while students processed the horror, and a parent task-force would have mobilized to find somebody, anybody to blame.  Country kids and their families just roll with it.  It was wild. It was a day off. We came back and it was over. After all, there were ball jokes to be made and a scandalous alphabet to recite.
  • Lest I give the impression that I’m loving it, let me state emphatically that I am not.  I’ve met a number of really great kids and nice parents and absolutely fabulous teachers. Unfortunately, the small group (of students)  that always has and always shall exist to perpetuate chaos is louder and more disrespectful and defiant than ever.

It breaks my heart that I can’t get to know the good kids and teach the fun lessons I’m preparing because of all the noise. They walk around the classroom at will. They sit where they want. They do what they want. They say what they want. They tell you they hate you (it’s not that I’m here to be liked, but it makes me sad that they’re capable of ‘hating’ someone they don’t even know) . . . and worse. They pretty much dare you to try to stop them. My goal for however long I’m here (possibly the rest of the year) is to somehow keep enough peace for the respectful kids to have a relatively decent day.  Such a waste for all of us. The good news for me is that this is exactly what I wanted to know before committing to the expense and steps necessary to reactivate my teaching certification. Most likely I will not.

  • What I mean to say by that bummer of a paragraph is this:  this week I morphed into Heisenberg. I mean, I didn’t start a meth lab or
    I wonder if Walt spits in chemistry class.

    I wonder if Walt spits in chemistry class.

    anything. I just went mean, only I didn’t do it in that calm and deliberate, “I am the danger” tone. I was loud. I’m never loud. I reached down inside myself to that place that does not like to yell and let it out.  It was the only way to stop things from escalating to a point where they were going to start throwing furniture. They laughed and pointed out that I spit when I yell.

  • We’re expecting more snow tomorrow night, which may be the universe’s way of giving me another day to get this spitting thing under control.
  • On a brighter note, yesterday was Pi Day. My classroom is next to a math teacher and across the hall from another.  One loves Pi Day and made a big to-do. The other wanted no part of it.  So I decided to remain Switzerland.  Here’s my post from a couple of years ago on the subject.
  • Today is (theoretically) March 15, but if you ask me it’s more like February 43.  Beware the Ides of March. . . and watch out for spitting teachers.

Peace out,

Heisenberg  (“Spitball”) Cahier

I’ll always have Vegas. And men in yoga pants.

17 Feb For Peg.

It feels like forever since anything has struck me as funny writing material, and by “forever,” I, of course, mean “February.”  To me, the terms are distressingly synonymous.

That isn’t entirely true.

The part about the terms being synonymous is true. I wouldn’t joke about synonymity. Synonymity would be a great Scrabble word and Scrabble is for serious people. No joking.

It’s not entirely true that nothing funny has happened in February.

The Super Bowl was played in February this year. That means the draft of “Why Men Should Not Wear Yoga Pants” has been downward-dogging me since the beginning of February, following a horrifying incident at the local grocery store involving a last minute run for snacks, mine and that of a man straight out of a Cialis commercial who made a most unfortunate wardrobe decision that included yoga pants. Blue yoga pants.

Desperate times, desperate measures and all that, but really, no bag of Funyons is worth the searing trauma to my retinas that will never go away.  In short,  men should not wear yoga pants. End of story.

It was some time in February, maybe January, when I headed back to the classroom after quitting my job in the rat race.  My first day back there were only two incidents of bloodshed: a major nosebleed and a bored seventh grader who decided ripping out a loose tooth was more fun than the algebra assignment. Not that I blame him.

Back in the day I would have found this to be a stressful day. But I’ve been on K Street. I have seen things.  No seventh grader can traumatize me any more than a former congressman having a hissy fit.  Still, the bloodshed on K Street is a little less literal. So that was kind of funny.

After several weather closings and Presidents’ Day sales, tomorrow I head back to the classroom for what looks like a steady gig for a while, maybe until the end of the year. I expect plenty of funny to follow, but also plenty of lesson planning and paper grading, not to mention the clean up of potentially hazardous bodily fluids.  So I wanted to step away from the keyboard with something a little lighter left behind.

But it’s February.  It is SO hard for me to find the funny in February. I know not everyone thinks this way. Today I ventured out into the world again and found myself in conversation with a delightful young woman who said, “February’s almost over. I can’t believe how fast it’s gone by.”  I know she was speaking English, but that sentence did not translate. To me it’s been February since November.

Thankfully, there are always search terms to lighten things up a little. Today, for example, someone found Le Cahier by performing an Internet search for the term “cahier hacks,” one of the few times I’ve felt hopeful that someone was criticizing my writing skill.

I looked into my search term history, which hasn’t been as interesting since folks caught on to private browsing. I did find a few noteworthy search terms.

So as I gather up my planning book and my colorful pens and my hazmat suit, I leave you with these ways that searchers have recently found their way to Le Cahier:

  • “Vegas90403″ – This  is the number one search term in my statistics. Apparently Vegas is a popular guy. A lot of smart Match.com searchers are doing their due
    Vegas90403 - the most interesting man on the Internet

    Vegas90403 – the most interesting man on the Internet

    diligence before dating him.  Good news for you Vegas ladies:  we broke up, shortly after Misty of Misty’s Laws sent me a text message informing me that he was stepping out on me, flashing his steamy come-hither look her way.

  • “hippie cahier trombone” — How prescient. This very day I found myself wandering around the Staples looking for cool ways to bribe reward classroom behaviors and saw that “trombone” is French for paper clip.
  • “what is the next line after hippie cahie” — Um. “r peace.love.hyperbole.”
  • “hippie sunflower wedding” — I don’t know where the wedding part came in, but this term just warms my February heart.  If you had a hippie sunflower wedding, I hope it was as beautiful as it sounds.
  • “cahiers d’une jipster” — Or you can call me hipster.
  • “i am not really something” — Yes you are. You are kind. You are beautiful. You are special.  Maybe you are even a hippie!
  • “refreshingly honest tagline” — Thank you.
  • “cashiers hazelnut song” — I’m intrigued.
  • “donut academy awards” – Doubly intrigued.  “And the award for Best Supporting Cruller goes to . . . “
  • “my daughter says i’m a hoarder but i’m not” — May I suggest the search term “Bravo network”?
  • “sinkhole chicken” –  Not to be confused with the mudslide turkey, neither of which is a euphemism. I hope.
  • “storyteller baseball player salt and pepper shakers” — I kind of like the idea that I’m probably the only person in the world who pictures her father when she sees that term.
  • “famous and memorable hippies”  — Well, shucks, I wouldn’t exactly say ‘famous’. . . (blushing)
  • “que es la influenza hippie”I survived!
  • “what’s a quasi hippie” — It’s like a centaur. Half worrier princess, half long-haired “groovy”-spewer. Glad I could clear that up.
  • “hippie is not a hippy” — And also not a quasi-hippy.
  • “what would it mean to call someone a meatball” — That they are a bear infringing on someone’s trademark. I thought everyone knew that.
  • “what do hippies do friday nights” — Vegas, is that you?
  • “soupmate.” – I love how definitive that is. They knew exactly what they wanted. Soupmate. Period. Unless they wanted a soulmate, in which case they came to the wrong place because I can be a stickler for spelling.  Then again, I do love soup. Oh, what a tangled interweb.
  • “hippie grandmothers” – Not yet, but I plan to be a self-appointed auntie to the lovely and talented Scout Appear-Sutherland any day now.
  • “sorry i killed your grandmother but i didnt want to spill my latte” — Oh, well then, ok. All is forgiven.
  • “hippie things to say about unnecessary drama” – “It would be far out if  you would  cancel that Kardashians show. Thank you, man.”

Somewhere between the worlds of men and make-believe: thoughts on ‘flogging’ and interactive fiction

16 Feb What if I told you I'm not really a hippie?

I’ve been preoccupied with duality of late, particularly that of reality versus illusion and what has seemed to me to be a rapid blending of the two.  Recently my son started a thread on Facebook about the glitch in The Matrix, a thread that I can barely understand, except that it proves that our DNA and wavelengths are sufficiently entwined so as to transcend the 5585 miles between us.

" . . .like the songs that the darkness composes to worship the light. . . "

” . . .like the songs that the darkness composes to worship the light. . . “

I went to bed with all this on my mind and when I awoke this morning, the line, “Qui peut dire le faux et le réel?” (“Who can tell illusion from reality?”) from Dan Fogelberg’s “Dancing Shoes” was in my head, reminding me that questions about the blending of reality and illusion are not new, not even to me. I realized it has been years since listening to the album Nether Lands was part of my Sunday ritual.


I dug out one of the three copies I have ( I don’t know why I have three copies. Have I ever claimed to make sense? No, I have not.) and remembered again how fascinated I always was with the dualities that permeate everything from the album art — the dark and light of the chiaroscuro cover photograph – reflected in the self-portrait on the inside cover, the references to night and day, sun and moon, darkness and light, winter and summer, earth and sky, and most of all to reality and illusion.

Some of the reality versus illusion imagery is evoked even in song titles, “Nether Lands” (not Netherlands, but instead an in-between place that is not real and is not a dream); “Once Upon A Time” (the classic fairy tale opening); “Scarecrow’s Dream” (Scarecrows aren’t real; neither are dreams; the song is dedicated to Don Quixote (the dreamer), Walt Disney, and the Wizard of Oz); “Sketches” (depictions of actual things and people); and “False Faces.”

Visionaries and dreamers freely flow between reality and illusion. That's the point of having visionaries and dreamers.

Visionaries and dreamers freely flow between reality and illusion. That’s the point of having visionaries and dreamers.


There are frequent lyrical references to confusion, being lost “between the worlds of men and make-believe,”  to not knowing “what is real and what’s illusion,” with “pleasure . . . a thin disguise,” to being “certain of nothing,” not to mention plenty of references to faces reflected in water, including streams which appear to be frozen that “thirst for the thaw but they’re running still.”  (I love that conceit.)

If you’re a fan of The Eagles and you don’t know Nether Lands, it features appearances by Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and John David (JD) Souther, and the liner notes also thank Irv Azoff, who(m) you might remember from the recent “History of The Eagles.” Azoff and Fogelberg started out together, striking out from Peoria and heading to California, where the rest is, well, the history of The Eagles.

If you’re an Elvis fan or a Jimmy Buffett fan or just a music fan, Norb Putnam is also featured.  When I went looking for a link, I saw that he has an autobiography either pending or recently published. In December, Oxford American Magazine featured an excerpt about his relationship with Elvis, which you can read by clicking here.

All that got me to thinking . . .

The lyric from “Dancing Shoes” first came to mind during a long walk in the snow where my thoughts meandered to the hypothetical idea of a fictional “flog.”

A flog (the blending of “fake” and “blog,” which in turn is a blending of “web” and “log,” which just underscores my notion that blending is all the rage), also known as a “flack blog,” is defined as  “. . . an electronic communication form that appears to originate from a credible, non-biased source, but which in fact is created by a company or organization for the purpose of marketing a product, service, or political viewpoint. The purpose of a fake blog is to inspire viral marketing or create an internet meme that generates traffic and interest in a product, much the same as astroturfing (a “fake grassroots” campaign),” (Wikipedia).

Flogs are considered by the public relations status quo to be less than ethical means of promoting products or services, but what if your product is a novel or your service is fiction writing?

It has been said, and I agree, that all memoir is fiction. Every personal blog is the telling of a person’s life story as she or he experienced it.

Sometimes I come across a blog that has a “Choose Your Own Adventure,” interactive  feel to it, where the blogger feels like a main character and the commenters seem unwittingly to suggest the next course of action. The blogs are well-written, so much so that they could be the work of a professional writer.  Some storylines are so dramatic and entertaining it’s as if the blogger is a protagonist ripped from the cover of a romance novel or from the screen of a Lifetime movie event.

It’s just a thought. That happens when I walk.

Most memoir writers — which by extension can include personal bloggers — embellish or to some degree reconstruct or reconfigure reality in telling their stories.

But what if, in this boundary-pushing age, there were writers who created blog characters from pure fiction based very little on reality  — or perhaps on a composite reality gleaned from the stories told by the personal bloggers in their following.  What if the blog itself were  really more a novel-in-progress?

This led to my wondering how folks would feel if they found out a really fantastic blogger was in fact a fictional creation.

What if I told you I'm not really a hippie?

What if I told you I’m not really a hippie?

What if, say six months or a year into following someone’s wildly entertaining stories, a writer stepped forward to say that you’d been reading  the narrative of the protagonist to his or her new novel, thanked you for helping guide the plot, and invited you to buy the final work to see how it ends?

Would there be a sense of betrayal? Would you applaud the performance art? Would you feel honored to be part of some sort of pre-fan fiction experience?

Would it make a difference if the blogger/character endured life challenges similar to your own and the plot details were drawn from your experience?

Would it make a difference if, instead of a commercial endeavor, the flog were an academic project for a sociology class? For a creative writing class? For a marketing class?

Would the time that you’d followed the blog before the revelation make a difference?

Would the contrast between the blogger/character’s identity and the writer’s identity make a difference. That is to say, might your reaction to the revelation be different  if you were following a young, vibrant heroine who turned out to be the fictional creation of a young, vibrant female author versus finding out she was the fictional creation of David Shields (who advocates for blurring the lines and pushing the boundaries and co-author of the recent biography with “new revelations” about J.D. Salinger, the recluse who craved privacy) or James Frey (notable for having written a memoir that wasn’t entirely fact-based, duping Oprah Winfrey) ?

Would the experience change your own writing or your approach to blogging? Your interaction with other bloggers?

If you are a fiction writer or an aspiring one, would you yourself consider creating a fictional blog for one of your characters?

As with many questions I ponder while walking, I don’t know what my own answers to these questions would be. Certainly, the comments section is space-limited for sharing your answers to all of them.  If you’re interested in writing a related post, feel free to post a link here.

Meantime, I have more walking to do and perhaps a marathon viewing of The Matrix before calling my son.

Why I don’t want to know what’s in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s diary

8 Feb

Yesterday or the day before there was a funeral for a famous and beloved actor who died earlier in the week from what is presumed to have been a heroin overdose. As a person whose life was in no way connected to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s, beyond watching movies in which he played a role, that is all I need to know.

Reportedly, his body was found with a needle still in his arm. I’m not sure I need to know that, but if true, it would confirm the likely cause of death, especially in light of Mr. Hoffman’s past public disclosure about his struggle with addiction.

Yes, it’s sad. Yes, it’s a loss, as is the loss of anyone who died that day, or any of the days before, or any of the days since.

I disagree that he was “an idiot,” as I saw tweeted by someone who apparently, and thankfully, has not seen someone battle addiction.  Then again, maybe her life is more connected to Mr. Hoffman’s and she knew him to be an idiot and was therefore entitled to express that as her first public thought within hours of the news of his death. Doubtful, but I’ll give the benefit of that doubt. My point here is that I don’t need to know.

In the flurry of news that followed, I heard one report that police were examining Mr. Hoffman’s diary and news about what they found would be forthcoming.

Why?

Rest in peace.

Rest in peace.

Why do I need to know what is in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s diary?  I am not a detective investigating his death or any potential criminal activity related to it.  If his death was indeed a heroin overdose, then surely the heroin came from somewhere, but I don’t need to know the names of those involved. I have no need to know.

It comes as no surprise to me that there are heroin dealers in New York City. It should come as no surprise to anyone that no matter who supplied the heroin that caused Mr. Hoffman’s death, revealing their names, charging them, trying them, convicting them, and locking them away will not change the fact that there are heroin dealers in New York City.  I have no need to know their names and I do not support giving them their fifteen minutes of infamy.

Whatever else is in Mr. Hoffman’s diary is his own business — was his own business. That’s what diaries are supposed to be about: private records of a person’s thoughts and feelings that they do not want disclosed to the world.

It seems that in our extroverted, no-holds-barred society,  we lay claim to those in the public eye, because, after all, they choose to be in the public eye. Therefore, we are free to scrutinize and judge, or on the positive side, model and imitate them based on their every move, expression, decision.

That Mr. Hoffman struggled with heroin addiction is a matter of public record. He disclosed this himself, whether by personal choice or some other factor. Anyone who is aware of popular culture to the extent that they are familiar with who he was or what he did for a living surely is sufficiently aware that addiction, especially to heroin, is a lifelong battle, one that, if the reports are accurate, he so tragically lost.

Those of us whose lives intersected with his only by means of a movie screen have no need to know any more about that than that which he chose to disclose. Unless the opening page indicates that the contents therein should be disclosed upon the event of his death, what he wrote in his diary was private and it should stay that way, except for evidence that may lead to the conviction of drug dealers, which is information of use only to investigators.

About a year or so ago, I saw a review of a new book about Emily Dickinson’s life based on information from distant descendants who’d uncovered some previously unpublished diary entries or letters.  I wasn’t sure what I thought about that, and I’m still not sure.

Emily Dickinson was a notoriously private person. Her posthumously published poetry is a national treasure.  Surely it would be interesting to discover more.

On the other hand, I started wondering what would happen to Emily Dickinson in a world full of tweeting and posting and LOL’ing. Would we have laughed her off the screen? Demanded that she reveal her mystery man? Critiqued her fashion sense? Would we have even noticed her at all?

I started to think about my own blog and my choice even to have one.  In doing so, in hitting ‘publish,’ am I inviting strangers to examine everything in my life?  I started a still-unpublished post titled “How public like a blog,” but like so many other unpublished snippets, I couldn’t find the humor that would make it entertaining to the masses.

I’ve joked about the things the authorities would find in the notebooks where  I jot down ideas for things that I find entertaining that I might one day write about. Taken together, they are admittedly bizarre and one could paint a picture of a rather tortured and disturbed soul, when in actuality they’re most likely movie quotes, such as “. . . naked girls in fish tanks.”

Along with those notebooks, which are scattered everywhere, there’s a leather-bound journal in a private place. In it are those things that I don’t want to disclose to the world. But I don’t want to forget them or the person I was in the moment I was experiencing them. They’re mostly the dark places. The times of betrayal and hurt and sadness and anger and loss. It’s a record of the worst of times and the worst of  me and, to be honest,  the worst of the people around me who might otherwise be good people and who wouldn’t deserve to have those dark moments revealed should public society decide they had a right to know. It troubles me to imagine those thoughts revealed to anyone, especially to strangers who would impose their own narratives in interpretation.

I am entirely comfortable expressing my happy, joyful, peaceful thoughts. There is no need for those to go in the leather journal. I think everyone deserves that place, no matter how famous or powerful or even attention-seeking in their public lives, where they can record those things they want to keep to themselves.

In a society where most of us are to some degree adopting a “public” persona, the line between public life and private life is becoming increasingly blurred in ways that are both within and beyond our personal control. To the extent that we have any control, we should exercise it. We can start by affording everyone some expectation of privacy somewhere, even after their death.

Omedeto, Oma and domo arigato, all y’all!

3 Feb

It occurs to me that of the 1700-plus followers of this blog, subtracting out the 1650 that came by way of click-farm, there might be one or two of you who are confused about the  “OmaMania” post I re-blogged or the  #oma-ha media blitz on Twitter yesterday  In short, the video is a celebration of fellow blogger Omawarisan’s recent retirement.

Cheers, from #Oma-ha Girl, aka SusieLindau. Thanks, Susie! Chair-lift incoming - duck!!

Cheers, from #Oma-ha Girl, aka SusieLindau.
Thanks, Susie! Chair-lift incoming – duck!!

Here’s the longer version.

Searching for a place to put the thoughts inside my head, I decided to check out WordPress. Wandering through “Freshly Pressed,” I came across a funny piece recounting an experience with Target’s customer service, very similar to an encounter I had just endured, but presented in a much more entertaining manner.

Reading through the blog was like reading a Dave Barry book or a series of Gene Weingarten articles, or like eating a bag of Lay’s potato chips.  When I stumbled on his interview with the legendary Goat Man, I learned that we’d attended the same university at about the same time. It was like being a tourist in a foreign land and meeting someone from your neighborhood back home.

His was the first blog I followed. He kindly reciprocated and a small following of nice folks followed.  Because I was riding his coattails, readers responded to silly posts, but I’m sure many of you will agree that I’m not really a humor writer.  I’m forever grateful that he brought his humor and swagger and good people over here. I never expected to write such silliness — I’m often uncomfortable when I look back at posts — and I never intended to make “friends” here, but I have and I did and I blame him.

He started a fun project, sending an Angelina Jolie action figure to visit his blog followers around the world.

The Jolie rubs the nose of Testudo, the mascot of the University of Maryland. It's a Terp thing.

The Jolie rubs the nose of Testudo, the mascot of the University of Maryland. It’s a Terp thing.

At that time his gravatar was a headshot of the Japanese action figure, Gigantor. As a joke that would take too long to explain, I launched a counter-project, sending a Gigantor action figure around the world.

Last year he retired from a distinguished career in law enforcement. To celebrate that, we created a music video to raise a toast to Omawarisan, who has since shed his Gigantor image (and grown a lot of facial hair). If there’s even one real person reading this who hasn’t experienced a Blurt blog read, you should do that post haste.

Thank you, again.

The process of making the video was delayed several times, most recently when I was *this close* to getting it together and I lost everything when a virus attacked my computer.  I pieced what I hope was everything back together. If your picture was somehow excluded, please know that was not intentional and I apologize.

I’ve thanked them repeatedly but I can’t say it enough that the stars of the video are actually mega-stars. So, thank you, again, for rocking the Ray Bans.

I haven’t thanked Edward Hotspur, who without knowing it was my deus ex machina, in that he wrote a post about a sign-maker program that provided just what I needed to work out some final issues and provided publicity materials for the media blitz on Twitter. Thanks, Hotspur.

But, wait, there’s more!

This is a fitting time for the robot to retire, too.  The action figure is packed up, along with his very own globe with adjustable equator, a signature element of the coming Oma Administration (really, you have to read his Policies page. It’s impossible to explain what goes on in his mind).

As the robot has traveled, he’s carried a notebook. It contains retirement greetings from those who’ve kindly shown him around their own towns or taken him on vacation.  The robot and the notebook are on their way to you, Omawarisan.

Congratulations on your retirement and very best wishes for your new horizons. And as they say, write on.

The world is yours now, complete with adjustable equator.

The world is yours, complete with adjustable equator.

Inigo and the snowman that wasn’t

26 Jan

Meet Inigo, a Doberman / Rottweiler who is the new “rock star” in my life.

That Claire Underwood seems so familiar.

That Claire Underwood seems so familiar.

While it may look like he’s kickin’ back watching House of Cards, Inigo is actually hard at work in that picture. That arm of the couch faces the entry door, and should there be any attempted unauthorized entrance, Inigo will take care of the situation faster than Muhammad Ali could turn off the lights. “Unauthorized entrance” includes burglars, unsuspecting family and friends, meddling squirrels, particles of air of nonstandard density.

Inigo’s DNA is a composite of breeds established as guard dogs. He’s very good at it. Unfortunately, his life before he came here seems to have been such that the more aggressive and protective genetic tendencies were exploited. It’s hard for him to turn it off.

I don’t think he ever completely sleeps. As I type this he appears to be sleeping on his bed near the fireplace, guarding me from meddling squirrels and random menacing particles of air and waiting for me to go to bed, but JUST as I typed that last  line, he looked up at me like he knew I was writing about him. Uber-keen perception and lightning fast reflexes.

Inigo is the blog name I’ve given him because he’s occasionally featured  in stories about his happily-ever-after. I understand and respect his need to keep this life separate from that one.

When he came to live here, Inigo had basically two expressions:  the Woody Allen (“Oh, no, something bad is about to happen, isn’t it?”) and the Inigo Montoya (“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”)  Apparently, a high-density particle of air killed his father. Or a meddling squirrel. I’ll probably never know. He doesn’t talk about it.

In his time with me, he has developed a third expression.  It’s reminiscent of the look my kids had when I would show off my Macarena skills in public. To summarize, his three expressions are

  • The Woody Allen
  • The Inigo Montoya
  • The Mortified Teenager.

To wit.

It’s Winter!

Recently I waxed idyllic at the idea of making a snowman without any reason or excuse to make a snowman. A necessary element to waxing idyllic is the harsh, cold reality that inevitably, by contrast, underscores the notion of “idyllic.”

Like so many adventures before and no doubt so many others to come, this seemed like a good idea at the time.  As I gathered the snowman materials (hat, scarf, black olives, Tootsie Rolls, a pack of Mentos, and some croutons), I checked the thermostat.

Here’s an interesting fact of nature:  20 degrees Fahrenheit feels much warmer when you’re looking at it from 68 degrees Fahrenheit. For readers in more intelligent places, 20 degrees Fahrenheit is -6.6667 degrees Celsius.

When he saw 20 degrees on the thermostat, Inigo opted for standing guard from the warmth and comfort of the couch. I ventured forth, boldly going where no self-respecting Doberweiler would go.

Here’s the thing about -6.6667 degrees Celsius: it’s @#$% cold.

Add to that gale-force winds (hyperbole!) and snow roughly the consistency of pixie dust, and you have a snowman-building no-go.

Did I let that stop me? Sure, end of story!

Not really.

The King Lear Approach to Snowman Building

I made my way to the side of the house to build my snowman visible from the window by my desk and where the neighbors couldn’t see me acting like a six-year old. I  tried and tried and tried again  to pack together enough particles of pixie dust to get a snowman rolling. While perched on the side of a hill.

The wind whipped. My extremities froze. I kept slipping sideways and backward down the hill.

I tried to distract myself by remembering King Lear’s speech on the heath, but my brain cells were busy calculating the wind chill on -6.6667 degrees Celsius at gale-force winds. (Whenever nature is kicking my butt, I think of King Lear. Don’t judge.)

Eventually I accepted the harsh reality of nature’s superiority – this snowman was not coming to life this day.  No snow angel, either.  The puffy coat I was wearing would’ve formed a snow blob. At least Lear was smart enough not to wear a puffy coat. Or maybe he did in the First Folio. Whatever.

This was one of those rare life dilemmas where reciting Shakespeare was not the solution.  No, this called for hyperbole.  And post-Elizabethan creative problem-solving.

Aha! A snow logo, the logical solution to any post-Elizabethan crisis.

I drew a peace sign/heart/exclamation point in the snow and tried to take a picture using my fancy new cell phone, which zoomed to “4 X” without my permission and would not go back to regular X.

I fiddled with the buttons and the snow shovel fell over, creating a small avalanche of pixie dust that destroyed the snow logo.

At this point Inigo came from inside to check on me. He walked to this position and assumed his guard stance for precisely 2.57 seconds (which I believe is 2.57 seconds Celsius):

How ya doin'? Everything cool out here?

How ya doin’? Everything cool out here?

Then he looked at me – slipping and sliding and fumbling and cursing the gods —  with a mix of pity and dismay that was so amusing I couldn’t laugh and snap the shot at the same time. He flashed me the Mortified Teenager, turned, and went back inside.

I'm outta here.

I’m outta here.

I remembered there was a selfie feature and figured maybe just a picture of me with the snowy background would work.  I could pretend I was reciting Lear’s speech, with the howling winds and nature’s torment. How would you know that was a total lie? Here’s how the selfie idea worked out:

snowman mystery

just before face plant pre face plant 02

When I went back inside, I realized my dog has a far better understanding of “idyllic” than I do:

Really? You're the one with opposable thumbs?

I’m embarrassed for you. What’s next? The Macarena?

***********************

Two days later, I managed this, while Inigo stood guard:

snow plh

 No particles of air were harmed in the writing of this piece or the attempted building of a snowman from pixie dust.

Snow day: an empty-nester’s lament

22 Jan

Today is my first snow day since leaving teaching a decade ago. Technically, yesterday was my first snow day, but it didn’t actually snow until late in the day because someone was caught sleeping with her pajamas right-side out.

A few years ago we went through Snowmaggedon, but those didn’t count as snow days because I worked from home and the few breaks I took were to shovel paths in the back yard long and wide enough for an arthritic, 115-pound Doberman to make his way out for exercise and bathroom breaks.  And there was a snow day last year when it didn’t actually snow.

This. This is the real deal.

It was still snowing when I went to bed last night after another marathon viewing of Breaking Bad. I knew this would be the view from the window beside my computer desk this morning:

I wonder if those tracks lead to a snowdeer.

I wonder if those tracks lead to a snowdeer.

Do you see what’s missing from that picture? Do you? Well, I do.

It needs a snowman. Desperately.

And here I am with no legitimate reason to make a snowman. No children in the house. No “festive holiday decor” clause (Oh, yes. I thought a snowman might add a little more holiday cheer!”). Plenty of chores and projects to tend to.

And yet, I’ve been sitting here all morning, shuffling around my to do list, waiting for the neighbors to finish shoveling so I can get out there and make a little snow magic happen without all the questions, the judgmental raised eyebrows, the offers to drop off their grandchildren for a couple of hours.

Sure, I could go out and  help, but this could lead to grown-up conversation, such as wind chill and polar vortex and climate change or how long it took to have the street plowed or last month’s skyrocketing electric bill.

It’ll be faster for all of us to avoid that. They have places to be and I have things to do, like making a snowman. These are thoughtful, kind people and I enjoy talking with them, but not today.

Today I want to make a snowman and then come in to some hot cocoa, a cozy fire,  and a good book.

In (happy, snow-filled) memory of the rockstar.

In (happy, snow-filled) memory of “Rock Star”

The smell of laminator in the morning.

17 Jan jeanne-stevenson-literary-techniques-hyperbole

Last Friday, after a two-hour, two-prosecco lunch, followed by a round of goodbye visits and emails, I signed off the computer in my brightly lit, well-equipped office in a shiny law firm building, across the hall from one of many conference rooms continually restocked with logo-emblazoned legal pads and crisply sharpened pencils, and took the final elevator trip to the parking garage.  As I handed my parking card and hang tag to a now-former colleague and reminded him again how much I’d enjoyed working with him, he smiled and said, “Don’t worry ’bout that, you’ll be back.” I smiled back and apologized for “yelling” at him for running in the building the day before, in a premature flash back to that hall-monitor mentality to which I was preparing to return. We shared a last laugh and wave goodbye and then I pulled out into the K Street traffic for my last long commute home.

This Friday I was back in the classroom, reminding seventh graders to turn in their homework and reminding myself about reverse operations in algebraic equations, with a 10-minute lunch break of turkey and swiss from an everyday Ziploc bag, accompanied by a full-bodied raspberry seltzer water.

My day was filled with the same directives: “Turn in your homework. . . .pick up the warm-up sheet. . . sit in your assigned seat . . .no gum. . . no bathroom passes in the first 10 minutes of class. . ..” Repeatedly I suggested that those who were out of notebook paper or didn’t have a pencil might borrow from a classmate, as the teacher’s classroom supply bin, no doubt stocked at her own expense, was empty.

Circulating the classroom, navigating my way through backpacks and binders, I counted the fluorescent ceiling lights, probably the originals in this building erected forty years ago, recently passed over (yet again) for renovation or new building because of prohibitive expense. Of 20 lights, only 12 were lit. I asked if students could see well enough to work through their problem sets. They said they were used to it; the lights have been out for as long as they can remember.

Yesterday I stayed behind with the kids who weren’t going on the field trip and we watched videos as part of the science teacher’s assignment. They strained to hear the only available audio, through the computer’s built-in speaker. The external speaker connection “hasn’t worked in a long time,” and the satisfaction I gained during lunch when I found that it was plugged into the wrong port and corrected it was short-lived when we tried again and the speaker wire proved fickle. Unless I was sitting next to the speaker holding the wire, audio was intermittent.

Earlier in the week, I walked into a high school where every “Good morning” I offered was returned by an equally enthusiastic “Good morning!”

Dozens of times.

By teachers, staff, the school policeman, and much to my happy surprise, by students.

Teenagers. Saying, “Good morning!”

I spent that morning operating the laminating machine, the secret envy of any teacher who’s ever been told that only the media specialist is allowed to operate the laminating machine.  I felt a kinship with every one of them who altered their path to draw in a big sniff of the hot plastic. I know that whiff.  It ranks up there with freshly baked bread or perfectly brewed coffee.

Later in that same morning, the Internet went down and stayed that way for the rest of the day, throwing off lesson plans and research projects and any number of important activities in support of the educational process. Everyone adjusted. No heads rolled. No jobs lost. I ate lunch in a faculty lounge furnished with old overstuffed couches and motivational posters from the 1970s, with teachers who were tired but still smiling and chugging along, offering me any help I might need, despite the fact that they didn’t know me and might or might not ever see me again. Because that’s who teachers are. Ok, maybe they were angling for a surreptitious spin at the controls of the laminator. Still.

I would totally laminate this. Totally.

I would totally laminate this. Totally.

This contrast has struck me so many times in this past week, the first in this interim period where I’m figuring out what I want to be now that I’ve decided being a grown up wasn’t for me. In “big law,” especially on K Street, burned out lighting is replaced within minutes. If the Internet is down for more than 10 minutes, heads roll and careers are on the line. (After all, we have to know what’s going on at Above the Law.) There has never been a time that paper and pencils, not to mention herbal tea and specialty coffees, aren’t within immediate reach — at no one’s personal expense — and restocked almost as quickly as they’re borrowed. The bathrooms are spotless — cleaned every hour on the hour. The buildings are new or newly renovated. Clients don’t want to visit dingy offices. And when you say “Good morning” to someone, they assess your standing in the food chain to decide whether or not to acknowledge your existence.

As this week has passed, with the Internet outage and the audio difficulties and a half-dark classroom, I’ve thought a lot about how students could benefit from the wealth that goes into just the infrastructure alone of a major law firm. A major new high school could be paid for by less than a year’s revenue of a mid-sized firm.

Then today I noticed some posters near the American flag, where students take them in, if only subliminally, in the daily ritual of the Pledge of Allegiance:  a bullying-awareness poster and a “fast cash/crime doesn’t pay” poster, meant to discourage an unethical mindset. If I ever do go back to the clean, well-lighted world of big law, I’d like to take those posters with me.

While I’ll miss the occasional fancy lunch and the clean bathrooms and the endless supply of sharp pencils, nothing can compare to hearing a teenager say, “Good morning!”


“Teenagers Kick Our Butts,” Dar Williams

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