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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.

On yellows and greys and other people’s words

24 Oct yellow grey rainbow2

I’ve had a recent run of thinking and talking in song lyrics more than usual. I’m sure it’s as annoying to others as it can sometimes be for me. Using my own words would, of course, be preferable, but so many gifted people have seen this same world, lived these same experiences, and used their words so much more evocatively and on-point than I can. I often find myself experiencing something through someone else’s words and melody.  My words don’t seem to measure up.

My life is littered with little notebooks or scraps of paper where I’ve scribbled a few lines thinking they would eventually build into a great song. And they probably would, if I handed them over to a real songwriter.

Other people’s stories

Last week, for instance, Bob Schieffer was on the morning news previewing a television special about the upcoming anniversary of JFK’s assassination, more specifically, about Abraham Zapruder, the man whose home video captured that historic and tragic moment.  Schieffer told the story of being at work in the newsroom of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram when the shooting occurred and answering the phone to a woman saying, “Is there anybody there who can give me a ride to Dallas?”

He said he almost hung up on her, telling her this wasn’t a cab service and that the president had just been shot. She said she knew and that she thought it was her son who had been arrested for the shooting. I stopped in the tracks of my morning routine to think about what it must have been like to be in her position at that moment.  He and the city editor picked her up and gave Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother a ride to Dallas.

I thought “Is there anybody there who can give me a ride to Dallas” was a great line upon which one might build a song from the perspective of Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother.  I wish I could write it. Maybe someone will and maybe I’ll hear it and then those will be lyrics that I relate in some future conversation when someone else’s words serve better than mine.

Other people’s words

Today, I took a walk to pick up some lunch, and the second I walked outside, a song came into my head that I hadn’t thought of in probably a year. And before that it had probably been a year.

The weather is turning cooler and the sky was grey, and Dan Fogelberg’s “Old Tennessee” became the soundtrack for my walk and reminded me that it’s the end of October, which hit me by surprise. . . again.

End of October/ The sleepy brown woods seem to nod down their heads to the winter/ Yellows and greys paint the sad skies today and/ I wonder when you're coming home. Woke up one morning, the wind through the window/Reminded me winter was just 'round the bend/ Somehow I just did not see it was comin' It took me by surprise again. . . .

End of October/ The sleepy brown woods seem to nod down their heads to the winter/ Yellows and greys paint the sad skies today and/ I wonder when you’re coming home. Woke up one morning, the wind through the window/Reminded me winter was just ’round the bend/ Somehow I just did not see it was comin’ It took me by surprise again. . . .

There are a few other songs that usually come to mind around this time of year.

It’s almost an annual tradition for me to post a video of my favorite Halloween love song. Richard Shindell’s “Are You Happy Now?” always comes to mind when the Cinderella and ghost costumes and the mega-sized bags of candy hit the shelves.

At  some time in October, but usually more near the end of September, James Taylor’s “October Road” falls into my brain.

I started to make a list of end of October songs, but after a few more, it became forced and contrived.

Somehow or other, when I experience my first cool, grey day or my first glimpse of yellow leaves against a grey sky, my mind seeks the southern comfort of a warm cup of soup and the chorus of “Old Tennessee.” Then it’s officially fall.

Do you have any change of season songs?


Daily Prompt: Express yourself. Tell us about a time you couldn’t quite get your words or images to express what you wanted to express.

Where it began, I can’t begin to knowin’.

10 Sep Can you get any sweeter than a pony called Macaroni? (LIFE magazine, September 7, 1962)

This post is in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge prompt: Backward, which you can read about here.

Friday, September 6, 2013, approximately 0635 U.S. Eastern:

“So, I’m in a bar in Auckland and they’re playing “Sweet Caroline.” I don’t think you’d like it any better sung in a sexy Kiwi accent.”

Thus begins the text message exchange that finally brought about détente with the song that has been the bane of my existence for decades.

July 2013:

Marc Anthony sings an anemic “God Bless America” at Major League Baseball’s annual All-Star Game.

Seriously anemic. Someone give that man a sandwich.

And then . . .

Marc Anthony  is followed by Neil Diamond.  I know what is coming. I can’t take the moral ambiguity any longer.

I text, “AUGGHHHH!” to my friend, who replies, clearly understanding my anguish: “I thought you loved that song.”

April, 2013:

The nation and the world watch as a terrible, sad thing happens in the city of Boston.

“Sweet Caroline,” a favorite at Boston Red Sox games, rises again as a symbol of strength, perseverance, and Boston pride.

I find myself once again steeped in moral ambiguity. I want to share in the expressions of sympathy and support.  But. Augh.

September 2010 to present:

In the course of a certain friendship, it becomes apparent that the number of Neil Diamond songs on my friend’s iPod is  inconceivably incongruent with his Antonio Banderas-meets-LL Cool J swag.

In a temporary lapse of judgment, I tell him of my lifelong struggle with “Sweet Caroline” (bum-bum-bum).

Bad move. Bad, bad move.  I might as well have put on a maxi-dress and handed him a caterpillar.

One of the pillars of our friendship is the shared inside knowledge that if I ever find myself holed up in the Vatican embassy in Panama and he is sent on the mission to dislodge me, it will take no more than the first line of the chorus of “Sweet Caroline” to elicit my immediate surrender. Mission accomplished.

Summer of 1990-something:

On a sweltering hot summer day, I find myself serving valiantly as time-keeper at a swim-meet.

In the natural course of conversation between events,  the identity of the time-keeper in the adjacent lane is revealed to me.  While he seems to be a nice, fair-and-balanced time-keeper kind of guy, he is none other than the band teacher / director from my days in  junior/senior high school,  he of the “Sweet Caroline” obsession.

I spend the rest of the day wrestling with moral ambiguity.  On the outside, I remain a calm, cool, fair-and-balanced, you might even say “sweet” time-keeper. On the inside I am running all sorts of Ally McBeal / Walter Mitty scenarios to finally exact my “Sweet Caroline” revenge. Bum-bum-bum.

Do I tell him how much I detest that song because of him?

Do I ask him what the deal was?

Do I “accidentally” trip him when no one’s looking and then hold him underwater while he struggles and gasps for his final breath?  Hands, touchin’ hands . . .reachin’ out, touchin’ me, touchin’ you. . . .(glub-glub-glub)

No. I do not.

I don’t remember how the meet turned out. I don’t remember exactly how hot it was. I don’t remember how much my feet and back hurt from standing all day. All I remember is that I won a small moral victory over my own murderous impulses.  Good times never felt so good.

Friday, September 17, 1982:

Columbia Records releases Neil Diamond’s Heartlight album, with the title track inspired by the sweet alien’s heart (bum-bum-bum).

Diamond calls the song,  “A simple musical statement that we all felt very sincerely.”

I call the song Neil Diamond’s  diabolical attempt to get around my “Sweet Caroline” (bum-bum-bum) embargo. I am not falling for it. No matter how cute that little alien is. Not even if you put him on a pony.

Friday, June 11, 1982:

Universal Studios releases Steven Spielberg’s E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial, “. . .about a stranded alien and his loving relationship with a fatherless boy.”

The alien is adorable. He is sweet.

The boy is adorable. He is sweet.

Enter Neil Diamond.

Diamond, Carol Bayer Sager, and Burt Bacharach attend a screening of the film and are inspired by the story and by  the sweet little alien creature, whose heart glows a  warm, caring red.

November 1980, it ends:

The end of football season in my senior year of junior/senior high school. I vow never again to listen to “Sweet Caroline” (bum-bum-bum).

I move on.  I go to college. My roommate plays oboe but not when I’m around. If “Sweet Caroline” (bum-bum-bum) is in her repertoire, I am blissfully unaware of the fact.

Life is good.

September 1976, it begins:

My sister, the newest Big Shot Seventh-Grader in our family, becomes a drummer in the marching band.  I have to wait for her to finish after-school practice before we walk home from school together. Every single day.

The band practices “Sweet Caroline” (bum-bum-bum) over and over and over and over again. Every single day.

She walks around our house tapping out the rhythm over and over and over. Every. Single. Day.

She sings herself to sleep at night, in the bedroom we share: “Sweet Caroline (bum-bum-bum) . . . “.

I spend way too many sleepless nights plotting an unfortunate bunk-bed accident. Every single night.

I come to loathe the song “Sweet Caroline” (bum-bum-bum) and to rue the day somebody put Caroline Kennedy up on that stupid pony, inspiring Neil Diamond, who in turn  inspired the junior/senior high school band director, whose apparent obsession with that song scarred me (musically) for life .

Some Friday Night, September 1975:

As a Big Shot Seventh-Grader at the junior/senior high school in my town, I attend my first high school football game. I only briefly wonder what “Sweet Caroline” (bum-bum-bum) has to do with football, when the marching band plays it . . .several times.

For the record, I’ve never understood what “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” has to do with baseball or Baltimore, but it’s a seventh-inning stretch tradition that I don’t question out loud. It would be un-American.

There are some facts of life you just go with. So. somehow “Sweet Caroline” has something to do with leading our team to victory.  Ok, fine.


Tuesday, September 16, 1969:

Neil Diamond’s single,  “Sweet Caroline” (bum-bum-bum), inspired by sweet little Caroline Kennedy, is released.

Coincidentally, if you believe in such a thing as coincidence, this is about the same time, possibly even the very same day,  that the caterpillar incident happened.

I think it’s safe to say that September 1969 profoundly shaped my destiny, not in a happy way.  Caterpillars still haunt me. As does Caroline.

Friday, September 7, 1962:

LIFE magazine’s cover photo show adorable Caroline Kennedy riding a pony.

She is adorable.

She is sweet. She is Caroline.

Can you get any sweeter than a pony called Macaroni? (LIFE magazine, September 7, 1962)

Can you get any sweeter than a pony called Macaroni? (LIFE magazine, September 7, 1962)

Friday, September 6, 2013, approximately 0635 U.S. Eastern:

“So, I’m in a bar in Auckland and they’re playing “Sweet Caroline.” I don’t think you’d like it any better sung in a sexy Kiwi accent.”

We don’t see each other as often or have the chance to catch up as frequently as we used to, which makes me appreciate these random text exchanges from anywhere at any time all the more.

In the silly banter that follows, my world-traveling friend points out that as long as this song plays on in every corner of the world, he will think of me whenever and wherever he hears it  I fire back a silly response. I begin my day. Later I come to realize that whenever I hear the song, I think of him, too, and the times we’ve laughed about this song.

I have to admit to wondering what it sounds like in ‘sexy Kiwi.’ I’m grateful for the friendship that the song now brings to mind and for my new appreciation of the song.

And I suppose I’m grateful that I didn’t drown the band teacher. Bum-bum-bum.

Be The Boss Of Me Poll: The Results Are In.

5 Aug peacetrain

In what I consider to be a stunning and pleasant — not to mention convenient — upset, the winner of the Be The Boss of Me Theme Song Poll, and my new(ish) theme song, to be played before I enter a room . . . . or whenever I’m doing whatever I do that makes me me . . . or during my Life Moment, whenever that will be and whatever that will be, that theme song  is . . .

Peace Train

Peace Train was on my list of also-rans because I’ve written about it twice before so it seemed like I should at least give it a nod.  The first time I wrote about it was a spontaneous moment one morning a few years ago when I was looking for something else online and stumbled upon a YouTube video of Cat Stevens performing the song in the 1970s.

Peace is joyful.

I was charmed by his youthful exuberance and the feeling of joy I experienced from watching it.  It reminded me of the notion  that music can bring such joy and, to my way of thinking, you cannot be simultaneously joyful and without peace.  Sure, joy can and often should be noisy, but it’s good noise, joyful noise if you will.

Peace is sublime.

In the side frame that morning, YouTube suggested another version of the song, performed by Yusuf Islam, Cat Stevens’ latter day name.  That version is quietly peaceful. You might say prayerful.

The juxtaposition of the two was poignant for me, so I published an impromptu post featuring both.

Peace is versatile.

Last year on the morning of September 11, I decided it was as good a day as any to send out an intention of peace and I published a similar post.  While searching for the videos, I found a third one, where Yusuf Islam is playing on a couch, which looks just like mine and is positioned just where mine is except when you look out my door you see the masts of sailboats in a marina,  so it felt almost as if he were playing in my living room.  In that video, after a lovely acoustic version, he plays a blues version (it starts at about the 2:20 mark).

I love the notion  that peace manifests itself with such versatility.

To borrow from the candy bar commercial, also from the 70s, sometimes I feel like a nut, sometimes I don’t. But I always feel like peace is the word.

When I updated the Be The Boss of Me poll to include your write-in suggestions, just as I was finishing, I felt a sense that Peace Train belonged on the ballot, so I tossed it on as an after-thought. And 33% of you voted for it.

Peace should not be an after-thought.

This is convenient in that it nudges me to follow up on something I started months ago.  I don’t recall how, but I stumbled (I stumble a lot) upon Everyday Guru’s Bloggers for Peace and signed up, committing myself to the goal of writing one post a month focused on the idea of peace.  This month (or maybe last — I’m behind on reading)  there’s a theme to the Bloggers for Peace posts: peace through music.

Two of my favorite things.  Man, you throw a Hershey bar  and a margarita into that mix and I personally will have achieved something close to nirvana.

I’ve been working on a more serious peace/music post, because this is truly where I should get on the Bloggers for Peace train.  For now, though, this technically fulfills my commitment to my monthly peace post. You, the Bosses of Me (BoMs), have chosen Peace Train as my theme song. And I thank you for that.

I like it because it sets a good intention before walking into any room and the version I play can be adjusted to fit the room. I like it because it fits my sometimes silly, sometimes serious, sometimes curled up barefoot on the couch moods.  I hope that whatever my Life Moment turns out to be, it will be a celebration of joy and peace.

Hmm. Turns out maybe I might be a little more hippie than I’ve been letting on. Kumbaya, all y’all.

Here’s how the rest of the voting played out.

  • Second place:  Get Ready, with 17% of the vote.
  • Tied for third: Teacher, Teacher and Powerful Stuff, each with 13% of the vote.
  • Fifth place:  Dandelion.
  • Devil With the Blue Dress, Feelin’ Groovy, Galway Girl, and You Can’t Resist It were tied with an equal vote.
  • And, no one voted for Cynical Girl. I like to think there’s a broader message in that and I kinda dig it

Thanks for playing. I so enjoyed your comments and suggestions.  You are the BoMs!

Be The Boss Of Me 2013: The Poll

2 Aug penguinboss

Without further ado, it’s time for the annual Be The Boss of Me poll.  This year you’ve had to work hard, which doesn’t come easy to you boss types. Instead of one poll with a few options, you’ve watched old music videos all week. You’ve made recommendations and  rejected some of the weaker ideas, which I’m sure you’ll present to the board of directors later as your own and claim full credit, but that’s ok.

Now it’s time to decide my fate. Hey, it’s not like I’m asking for a raise or the corner office.  Just a theme song is all I ask.

Need a reminder about the choices?  Check out  this handy voter’s guide I prepared over lunch.  So, yeah, about that raise.

Handy Voters’ Guide

The Finalists:

Get Ready, The Temptations

Devil In the Blue Dress, Mitch Ryder

Cynical Girl, Marshall Crenshaw

59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy), Simon & Garfunkel

Dandelion, Antje Duvekot

Honorable Mention:

Teacher, Teacher, Rockpile

Write-In Candidates from some Bosses of Me (They are the BoMs.)

Special thanks to the sunshiney midwesterner and the  chip-kickin’ Texas women for their suggestions.

Powerful Stuff, The Fabulous Thunderbirds  / Jimmy Vaughan — (Linda of Shore Acres)

Galway Girl, Steve Earle– (Domer’s Mom, Debbie) — This links to the Gerard Butler scene from the movie P.S. I Love You.

You Can’t Resist It, Lyle Lovett and Leo Kottke  (Valentine Logar)

Ready, set, be the boss of me!

Poll closes Sunday, August 4 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. The theme song reveal will be posted on Monday.

And just for fun, the Also-Rans

Fever, Peggy Lee —  

Why I considered it: The intention-setting factor

Why it’s not a finalist: It’s Peggy Lee’s theme song.

Penguins, Lyle Lovett

Why I considered it: C’mon. Who doesn’t love penguins?

Why it’s not a finalist: I didn’t think of it until Val suggested Lyle Lovett.

So What (I’m Still a Rock Star, P!nk)

Why I considered it: What, you doubt that?

Why it’s not a finalist: My P!nk moods are fleeting.

Might As Well Have Fun, Alice Peacock

Why I considered it: Carpe diem!

Why it’s not a finalist: The only video I could find has two minutes of talking at the beginning. If you click the link, the song starts around 2:15. It’s worth it!

Carolina In My Mind, James Taylor

Why I considered it: Because it’s been my true theme song since a pact I made with some friends when I was  20-something. That opening line is particularly brilliant.

Why it’s not a finalist: Too schmaltzy. Come to think of it, that probably suits me fine. If my moment involves sharing the spotlight on a remote beach with the baby sea turtles I’m rescuing, this will fit. Otherwise, it’s just a dreamy song.

Peace Train, Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam

Why I considered it: Peace is always a good idea.

Why it’s not on the list:  I’ve written about that song twice before. I’m not really as obsessed with it as that sounds.

Bright Baby Blues, Jackson Browne

Why I considered it: Hello? They’re up here.

Why it’s not a finalist: Also schmaltzy, plus there’s a drug reference and good Lord do I have trouble enough convincing  you people I’m not really a hippie.

Be The Boss Of Me: Dandelion

2 Aug spring bike ride 11

The fifth and final finalist for the race to choose my theme song, and the frontrunner in my mind, was Teacher, Teacher, by Rockpile. Then I accidentally played my iPod on my way home from work. Antje Duvekot’s angelic voice reminded me that I had a perfectly appropriate theme song posted on my About page for months.  For cryin’ out loud, it’s the inspiration behind my visual theme.

How could I not have considered this as a finalist?

To be honest, I was avoiding folk music. I was looking more for head-banger or toe-tapper or mood-elevator music.  Admittedly, this song isn’t going to cause any rousing ovations when I enter a room, but it would serve as good background music while I meander about doing dandelion things.

I’m sorry, folk music.  I treated you like you were less important because you aren’t loud and flashy. I treated you like you were invisible. I treated you like a dandelion in a sea of orchids.

I know how that feels.

Because I am and I will always be a dandelion.

Sometimes I can pass for an orchid, but as anyone with a lawn knows, you can’t stop dandelions from being dandelions.

#5: Dandelion, Antje Duvekot


So that wraps up the five finalists.  Click here to vote in the Be The Boss Of Me Poll.

Be The Boss Of Me: 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)

1 Aug artscape 07222012 035

Last week I accidentally had a groovy day.

I took the day off for car service and for some reason – either the break in our heat wave or the break from too many long hours at work — I  was overtaken by the spirit of Goldie Hawn, who channeled giggly, bubbleheadedness into my every word and deed. The more I fought it, the worse (or better) it got.

Sunshine personified.

Sunshine personified.

Oddly enough, everyone I encountered that day enjoyed Goldie’s presence.   When I left the shop, the mechanic called out to me, “Bye, Sunshine!” No one’s called me that in ages. I stopped to tell him that my dad  called me Sunshine and he replied, “Well, it’s ’cause you are. It’s your smile. It’s beautiful.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him it wasn’t my smile. It was Goldie’s. I was just borrowing it for the day.

 Just like everyone should have a theme song, everyone should have the occasional groovy day, when your heart feels as light as Goldie Hawn’s smile. I hope today is yours.

My seventh grade music teacher made us sing this song over and over and over again.  I love to hate and hate to love it.  At least he spared us the Star Trek uniforms.

#4 Simon & Garfunkel – 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)

Tomorrow is the big day: Theme Song Finalist #5 and your chance to Be The Boss Of Me.

Be The Boss Of Me: Cynical Girl

31 Jul cynical

It’s Day 3 of Be The Boss Of Me Week. What’s Be The Boss Of Me Week?  In case you missed it, here’s what.

It’s Wednesday and my carefree weekend vibe has become a midweek doldrum vibe. Enter Cynical Girl.

I don’t know how this song became a top-five contender.You have to admit, it makes ‘cynical’ sound like a wholesome thing. I wonder what a Joan Jett cover would sound like.

Most of the time, I am an optimist, maybe even an idealist. Sometimes I am not. I prefer to go along to get along, but you might be

My cynical girl idol.

My cynical girl idol.

surprised at my inner Dorothy Parker’s take on any given situation.

After enough time in this town, you can  start to wonder when your momma says she loves you, if she might be jivin’ too. That last line is borrowed from a Keb Mo’ song.

I thought  a blues song in the top five might be a good way to convey my less chipper side, but every one I considered was ruled out on the intention-setting principle. The missed-beat syncopation of the 12 bar form creates an anticipatory tension* that results in different gender effects:

A man entering the room to certain blues songs establishes the expectation that this is one cool cat, man. Somethin’ smooth is goin’ down.

A woman entering a room to certain blues songs establishes the expectation that she’ll be disrobing at some point.

There’ll be none of that around here. At least not on this side of the keyboard. Feel free to read in whatever state of undress you choose. But please, no pictures.  Some guy named Carlos has maxed out my phone’s memory.

Despite my peace-love-hyperbole, “yay, you!”-spewing ways,  I sometimes struggle to hold on to my inner optimist. Truth be told,  I find some of you a tad suspicious. :-)

If you’re lookin’ for a cynical girl, here’s my number. Call me maybe.

#3. Marshall Crenshaw, Cynical Girl

*Don’t ask me to explain that.  It’s paraphrased from something I read in a book last summer. It made sense at the time.

Be The Boss Of Me: Devil With the Blue Dress

30 Jul My dream Vera Wang. I probably wouldn't wear it on a Wednesday.

This is Day 2 of Be The Boss Of Me Week. What’s Be The Boss Of Me Week?  In case you missed it, here’s what.

I am a quiet person. Not only do I exist in a quiet environment, except for all the frivolity going on up inside my head, but when I speak others often have a hard time hearing me.

This can be a problem for someone in my former profession educating young minds, encouraging young hearts, molding young spirits, guiding young citizens toward productive and prosperous future endeavours, when they absolutely, positively can NOT FOR THE LOVE OF PETE BE QUIET FOR ONE HOT SECOND!


Early in my student teaching experience, it became clear that I would need to compensate for my near-inaudibility.  One way to do that was to go oVEr the noise, which I can do. Oh boy, can I.  I can get loud if I need to, but I don’t like to.

It exhausts me just to call to someone across the room. Shouting darn near wears me out and in my first three years of teaching, I had complete laryngitis by December.  So I work with my  quiet voice instead of against it.

If you stand before a group of noisy teenagers and quietly, calmly share your message while all manner of calamity is going on around you,  they start to wonder, maybe not what it is you’re saying, but rather whether or not someone should call for medical assistance. Really, teenagers are much more caring than you might imagine.

Some time near the end of the first marking period, they realize you are more or less possessed of your faculties and are merely employing slick classroom management techniques.  Teenagers are keen to being classroom-managed and they adapt.  It’s a delicate dance and you must be thinking steps ahead. By this time you need alternative methods.  While the our-teacher-might-be-crazy-because-she-talks-to-herself method dwindles in effectiveness, it is imperative to have simultaneously built nonverbal gestures and hand signals into the communication repertoire.

No, not those gestures and hand signals.  I am a trained professional.  Work with me here.

These three nonverbal options got me through most situations:

  1. Pointing to the imaginary bill of my imaginary baseball cap, as a means of communicating, “Please remove your chapeau in the building.”
  2. Pointing to my mouth and mouthing the word “gum,” while shaking my head in one stern, disapproving move, then removing the finger and pointing it in the direction of the nearest waste receptacle. The key here is the one stern move. Repeated shaking can lead to misinterpretation as a command to chew faster. See? Trained professional.
  3. And, finally,  because sometimes students have quiet voices too, cupping my hand behind my ear and leaning that side of my head in the speaker’s direction. In a warm and nurturing environment, which is what I like to think my classroom was,  this generally communicates, “I really care about what you have to say. Please repeat it so I can enjoy it.”

I’ve been out of the classroom for over a decade and I still have trouble at the mall holding myself back from offering teenagers nonverbal cues to remove their hats and spit out their gum.

Last week the ear-cupping gesture came into play in an entirely different setting, and thereby hangs the tale of the devil in the blue dress.

Why a blue dress?

Perhaps to balance out the quiet voice, Mother Nature endowed me with big, loud blue eyes. Before the laugh lines set in, it was suggested they should be registered weapons. Honestly, they’ve gotten me into about as much trouble as they’ve gotten me out of. Now they pretty much hide behind bifocals, staring at a computer screen, reminiscing about the adventures they’ve had.

My dream Vera Wang. I probably wouldn't wear it on a Wednesday.

My dream Vera Wang. I probably wouldn’t wear it on a Wednesday. (Sofia Vergara at the 2012 Golden Globe Awards. Poor dear. Her eyes are brown.)

Long ago a friend insisted that eyes that blue should always, always have a great blue dress to go with them. It was the beginning of an accidental accumulation of blue dresses in the closet, more out of habit than anything else.

Recently my organization moved and my new office is located near the offices of new colleagues, one of whom is a nice man, also possessed of a quiet nature and a quiet voice. In the professional pecking order, he is far above me in rank. In the personal order, it’s clear that he was raised to be a personable gentleman, so he often has a kind word when we pass one another in the hall.

I am usually up inside my head when I realize he is saying something, and I clumsily respond with a “Huh, excuse me? Did you say something?” This forces him to repeat his kind words, with an expression that suggests he might be worried that he’s offended me. I feel awful when this happens and I’ve been trying to pay more attention to keep from putting him through it.

It’s not going so well.

Last week I wore a new blue dress that got rave reviews, bifocals and all. I was headed down hallway where I don’t normally see him, so I was blissfully up inside my head, when he mouthed something that was not a command to remove my hat, but I didn’t hear, so. . . ugh. . . I said, “Excuse me?” and just as he repeated it, someone in a nearby office started a printer, so I missed it twice, and with the automaticity of a seasoned nonverbal cue-user, I cupped my ear and leaned toward him.

He, mustering his quiet voice for the third attempt, nearly shouted, “I SAID THAT COLOR BLUE LOOKS GREAT ON YOU,” just as the printer stopped and it was painfully quiet . . . for everyone within earshot.

I felt terrible. I felt evil. I felt like the devil in my stupid blue dress. Maybe that should be my theme song.

As with all my choices, there are down sides to this one:

1. My name isn’t Molly.

2. To establish this as my theme song, I would need to wear blue dresses consistently for an extended period of time. That could get a little weird.

#2. Mitch Ryder, Devil With the Blue Dress

Be The Boss Of Me: Get Ready

29 Jul navyband

What’s Be The Boss Of Me Week?  In case you missed it, here’s what.

#1. The Temptations, Get Ready.

As an astute and erudite reader pointed out, Elvis Presley’s “CC Rider” is an excellent dramatic entrance-type theme song because when you hear it play, you know something exciting is going to happen.

I think Get Ready is a similar anticipation-building choice for a theme song. About the only down side to choosing it as my theme song is having to live up to that expectation.  A lot of the time when I enter a room, I don’t have anything all that interesting to contribute.  I might have to start wearing a cape or something.

Still I can imagine the horns starting to play before I enter a room and a hush falling over the crowd.  “Is that? Why, yes. Yes, it is!  That’s Hippie Cahier’s theme song.  Get ready, everybody! Here she comes. . . “


One of my first live music events outside of church was the US Navy Band’s performance at my elementary school when I was in sixth grade.  When the singer, a tall blond named Jerry with horn-rimmed glasses, hopped off the stage and swiveled his hips to this tune, the world as I knew it changed.  In an instant, boys were interesting.

I happened to be sitting next to Leo, a boy from my neighborhood.  So shocking and unsettling was this new world view that I turned to look at Leo to see if something had happened in the cosmos to make all boys interesting.

Leo reacted in a manner that one might expect from a sixth grade boy. He punched my arm. Or kicked me.  Or something.

It would be some time before I understood that this meant Leo thought girls were interesting.

Tweedle-ee-dee. Tweedle–ee-dum.

Tomorrow — Be The Boss Of Me Theme Song Nominee #2: Something blue.


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