Thursday, March 17, 2016

Deconstructing Uptown Funk. 'Take a sip, sign a check Julio, get the stretch'




I have no right to be humming Uptown Funk all the time and even mouthing the refrain under my breath 'girls hit your halleluiah, girls hit your halleluiah'  I don't know what the heck it's talking about. It says, 'this one for them hood girls' and I'm just a  middle class nerd who should stick to Celine Dion.

Here is a very good example of how a kind of scattered non linear sequence of ideas can hot wire your brain while the laborious ordered sentences of politicians melt into the ether.  When Bruno Mars says, "cause Uptown Funk gon' give it to you" my emotions go haywire and I feel as happy as a butterfly in Martha Stewart's flower garden.

Marco Rubio said to the electorate, “Let’s dispel this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing,” If instead, he had turned to Chris Christie and said, "I'm too hot (hot damn), called a police and a fireman. I'm going to take Uptown Funk straight to the White House and it's gon' give it to you and all the country. Uh, uh, uh, UH!," he would he at the top of the leader board instead of back in his precariously mortgaged house scratching his head.

I'm not sure what Uptown Funk is gon' to give me but it makes me feel included in a way that no political promise does. Mark Ronson, the composer, has figured out that you don't need to make sense to everybody, if you drop a string of captivating phrases and finish off with uh, uh, uh, uh. I'm too hot (hot damn), make a dragon wanna retire man. Nonsensical but kind of adorable. 

You know how Hemingway figured out that you don't need a bunch of adjectives and adverbs to write persuasively and emotionally?  Well Mark Ronson has figured out that nuance is a bigger motivator than logic. He's figured out that the mind is like a xylophone and you just tap this strip and that strip and you have a grip on the entire country. 'Take a sip, sign a check, Julio, get the stretch.'

Hillary, start rapping!


 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The sucker punch, the finger and getting in your face.


I'm learning some new phrases during this election cycle. One of them is sucker punch.  This is a phrase that makes your ears perk up during a normal boring blah, blah, blah newscast.

As I understand it, there was one solitary sucker punch last week but I hear the phrase at every newscast, every day.  You can tell the newscasters enjoy saying the words.  I don't blame them.  I now say sucker punched as often as I can because it makes me sound street tough and street smart.  Taken apart the words sucker and punch could be used for a child's birthday party.  A sucker is a lollipop and punch and is a sweet substitute drink.

The Urban Dictionary: Easily confused with a punch defined as a "bitch move" a true sucker punch is ... John sucker punched David, and then he nutted him while he lay gasping for ..

Wikipedia: A sucker punch (American English), also known as a coward punch, one hit punch, king hit (Australian English), or cold-cock (American English), is a punch ...

I heard Bill O'Reilly say when discussing this, 'He cold-cocked him.' Wait. What?  Aren't there some bad words in these definitions?  From what I have gathered, a sucker punch is an unexpected punch delivered without warning or real provocation.

The other phrase I heard during election news coverage was, "If you are going to get in my face, I'm going to get in yours." This makes no literal sense.  If you could actually get into someone's face, I would get into the supermodel Behati Prinsloo's face today.  Again this is street talk for someone getting too close to you usually with a jabbing finger leading the way.  I have difficulty shaking hands with strangers in church so I am somewhat sympathetic to throwing a sucker punch if someone gets in your face.

The finger.  I know what the finger means although it's hard to trace the journey from being Mr. Tallman on a child's hand to being a symbol for the grandest of insults.  Nevertheless, 'the finger' has also aroused impolite behavior during some political rallies.  I believe it was 'the finger' that provoked the 'sucker punch.'

Now I'm going to say something shocking.  I think all these schoolyard brawls aren't all that terrible. I think sometimes we are sick of words and need an old-fashioned controlled tussle where someone is around to pull us apart so there's no real damage done but some of the frustration is knocked out.

"I got him good, didn't I?"
"Yes, you did now let's go home."

Friday, March 11, 2016

Jimmy, the microwave and Ben Carson

While I'm waiting for the edits on the manuscript I handed in, I gathered a pile of stuff to throw away.  I put my old  microwave on the deck ready to take to the recycling center.  It might no longer be safe.  I was about to carry it to the car when something made me stop.  I think it was Jimmy, the man who had given me the oven.  He said, the microwave is our link on this earth.

Jimmy is one of a handful of people that I love and who died of AIDS many years ago.  I took the oven back into the house and googled "is an old microwave safe?" One answer was this:  unplug the oven, put your cellphone inside, close the door and then call the cellphone.  If the phone does NOT ring, "waves" are not getting through into the oven and they are not getting out either.  Jimmy would have loved that little scenario.

I don't know if this is a valid safety test but it was enough to make me give the oven another chance.  I vacuumed the vents and set it up.  I put in a cup of water and it heated up and started to boil.  I remember once Oprah had a show of the dirtiest housekeepers in America and one of them had a  filthy microwave encrusted with spills, etc.  The cleaning expert said to boil some water in the chamber and the steam would loosen the dirt and make the microwave easier to clean.  It worked.

On a lighter note,  Ben Carson, the sleepy, soft voiced neurosurgeon that ran for president, a man I have also come to love for his idiosyncratic behavior, endorsed Donald Trump this morning.
Dr. Carson says there are two Donalds:  a very smart, substantive Donald and the other one.  I think the phrase, "strange bedfellows" was created for just this situation.




Saturday, March 5, 2016

You Can't Handle The Truth (redux)

(Watching the political events wherein the candidates gleefully call each other liars at every opportunity, I decided to re-post this 'defense' essay on our times, the post-truth society.)
 
I’ve lied a few times in my life.  I probably lie to myself everyday so I can live with the bad habits that have a stranglehold. Perhaps that’s existential lying. Remember that line from A Few Good Men? “The truth! You can’t handle the truth.” Well, I probably can’t. I know I can’t. And what the heck is the truth and is it going to make my life better?

Disclaimer: I didn’t mean for this post to take this dark anti-values turn but it seems to have it’s own agenda.

Pamela Meyer who gives a slap-in-the-face wake up call in her TED lecture on lying, feels we are a post truth society and that even babies fake cry, stop to see who is coming and then continue crying. Bottom line, we are all born liars; it is part of evolution and the smarter we are, the more we lie.  Ms. Meyer also points out that lying is a cooperative act.  A lie has no power until someone agrees to accept it (even if that someone is you).

Once a cop stopped me for speeding and I told him the truth: “I was rushing to the doctor for a perceived emergency.”  The policeman believed me and I was confused. I was so ready to lie to a speeding charge that I lost sight of the truth. According to Ms. Meyer, we are deeply ambivalent about the truth. We are against lying but we are covertly for it.  Even Koko the gorilla who learned to communicate so charmingly with sign language blamed her pet kitten for ripping the sink out of the wall.

Here’s the good news: although we are all liars not all lies are harmful. Lying is often used for social dignity. Ms. Meyer says we are lied to from 10 to 200 hundred times a day. She says strangers lie to each other 3 times within the first ten minutes of meeting.

 “Is that your Porsche?”
“Yes.”
“Why is that man driving it away?”
“That’s my brother. I told him he could drive it.”
“You two don’t look anything alike.”
“Different fathers.”

Of course lying has an evil corrupting face when it undermines the economy or a government. Corporate fraud has ruined the lives of many and undermined the financial health of the country. Think Enron or Bernie Madoff.  In her book, Liespotting, Ms. Meyer shows you techniques for detecting a lie, especially helpful If someone is trying to dupe you out of your life savings (if you still have life savings.)

Some telltale phrases: “In all candor.” or “To tell the truth,” She says, the more we lie the more formal we get in conversation. My favorite Liespotting phrase describes the inappropriate smile after a very sober statement. We all remember President Nixon’s inappropriate smile when he was delivering a mea culpa message.  Ms. Meyer calls this “duping delight”.  The speaker is pleased with himself for lying so brilliantly. A suspect might describe the bloody death of four people, deny his involvement and finish with a big grin.

Henry Oberlander, the most accomplished con man of all time who could have undermined the entire banking system of the world, had a rule explaining why he was so successful. Henry said that everybody is willing to give you something for whatever it is they are hungry for. Ms. Meyer agrees. If you don’t want to be deceived you have to know what it is you are hungry for, she warns.  We are hungry for better looks, height, wealth, intelligence, social standing. "Lying bridges the gap between what we wish we were and what we are." That sounds about right.

Monday, January 25, 2016

I'm not dead.

Today I checked my blog and saw that I had lost three subscribers.  I don't blame those subscribers.  I've been absent since August.

Here's what is going on.

Deadline.  Manuscript I owe to Amazon is almost done two or three weeks +/-

There are so many things I need to write about:

1. Trump (and not in a negative way and I'll tell you why)
2. When Giada visited Ina (Not one sincere/interesting/instructive word.  No cross cooking please Food Network)
3. Why Tina Fey's Sarah Palin bit no longer works. (same reason Trump is on the rise)
4. What happened to Hilary???????
5.  What happened to Bill??????
6. When Steve Harvey called the wrong winner and the important life lesson.
7.  What happened to Marco Rubio?  So cute. So articulate. But this time we hate cute and articulate.
8.  Jada's whining about the Oscars.
9.  The childish hubris of the media in that first Rep debate and Ted Cruz's finest and possibly last hour.
10. The fantastic train wreck that was Ben Carson.  Remember at the Nelson Mandela funeral when the "signer" for the hearing impaired was signing nonsense not real words?  Dr. Carson reminds me of that.  So much un-funeral stuff went down at Mandela's funeral.  That was the time Obama and the prime minister of Denmark? were sort of flirting and taking selfies and Michelle was giving them the side eye.
11.  Why repeating something (even a lie) over and over works.   


Lots of other stuff.  Please don't leave.  I'll be back.




 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

I feel fortunate and happy to have a job

I'm busy writing my book.  If I didn't have a contract binding me to a delivery date in the near future, I would not be working this hard.  I feel fortunate and happy to have a job to do and realize that my happiness is based on purposeful work. I like to work.   Happiness, by the way, is a quiet thing.  Happiness is like an agreeable companion who links arms and walks with you and let's you lead the conversation.

 I have no concept of what "working hard" means for a writer.  People who jackhammer concrete in 90 degree heat work hard.  Window cleaners in high rise buildings who dangle over the abyss while they swipe a squeegee over glass work hard.  School teachers who teach teenagers work hard. 

Sometimes the characters in this book speak up and tell me how they want to proceed.  Sometimes minor characters show me how they can be used to move the story along.  I am continually amazed at the process because it defies explanation and sounds false.  It is not false.  This is my seventh book and the writing experience is very different.  I'm trusting it but I'm not sure I should trust it completely.

I'm posting today because my book, Three Daughters, is part of an Amazon promotion for the month of October.  You can buy all 722 pages of the Kindle edition for 1.99.  It's going to be on sale in the UK, too, beginning Oct. 9th.




Saturday, August 29, 2015

"You're promised nothing. Ever." Marlon Brando


Every time I think of saying good-bye to Facebook, I will get a snippet in my feed from Joanne Woodward.  I don't know Joanne and I'm not sure how I became one of her FB friends but almost daily she posts quotes from two works by James Grissom: Tennessee Williams biography, "Follies of God" and from Marlon Brando's portrait "Come Up A Man: The Hungers of Marlon Brando. We knew Tennessee was brilliant but who knew Marlon Brando was a brilliant thinker?  All of Brando's quotes are so incisive it makes you realize he could have been a great writer as well as a great actor.  He gets to the deeply buried truth about things.  In the quote below he talks about talent in a way I hadn't considered.

"Work the talent. Hone the talent. Share the talent. This has been my life, and this was seen as healthy and necessary. Talent gives nothing to its owner: It only gives momentary pleasure to those to whom it is given. The application of talent depletes a person, while the study of things and people to feed it give great pleasure. But when you're done sharing the talent, you're empty and tired and terribly vulnerable, and if you have no one in your life to tell you to do things and to be there for them, you're dead. Talent is not enough. Judy Garland is proof of that: She gave and she gave, and she had, in the end, nothing. No one to hold her--I mean HER, not the person known as Judy Garland. I am an example of this: I pursued talent and work and the marketing of it, and what do I have? What do any of us have? A lonely phone call in the night."--Marlon Brando/ From Grissom's "Come Up A Man: The Hungers of Marlon Brando

And also from Brando: "You're promised nothing. Ever. Without becoming entirely nihilistic, keep this always in mind. The pursuit is everything. The reaching. The straining. Harold [Clurman] told me once that to die with your arm stretched toward something that is impossible for you is the greatest goal to have. Keep reaching. Expect nothing. And then--one day, amazingly--you grab hold of the play, the film, the book, the person. And life is that amazing thing you hoped for, dreamed of." 

The other quote is from  Grissom's extraordinary portrait of Tennessee Williams' and his take on Ernest Hemingway.  It is exactly the way I feel about Hemingway, "he altered the literary scene for all of us and his rhythms are now our rhythms....."  By the way, this book is a masterful biography of Williams' creative process which can overlap to include even the least of us.

 "Whatever we may feel about him personally--whatever his particular demons may have been--he altered the literary scene for all of us, and his rhythms are now our rhythms, and his nightmares our nightmares. We are all indebted to him even in small ways."--Tennessee Williams on Ernest Hemingway.


 Off subject:  on a personal note, I have been fortunate to sell another book (one that isn't written yet) and my posts may be farther (further?) apart.  I'm a little scared if I will be able to fulfill the enthusiasm and expectations of the publisher but I'm going to keep writing and do my best.  Writing this blog has helped me become a more facile writer.  By that I mean I can summon the emotional context in which to place events without too much agonizing.  My mind is used to finding the best way to present even small ideas.  I notice the writing process is markedly different from when I wrote my last book.