Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Don’t show me this message again!

Note:  This is an excerpt from my favorite book: One Hundred Open Houses.  I was editing parts of it and came upon this portion that I feel may be interesting to my blog readers.  By the way, this is the book that saved me from total deterioration at a certain time in my life.)

Don't show me this message again!

The pseudo-porn magazine contact has sent me an e-mail with a huge file attachment  because his parent company has had ten lawyers drawing up the contract.  Lawyers on staff of large corporations are lazy and careless.  They send you boiler plate stuff written in the Middle Ages and when you point out that the terms are impossible to enact, they tell you to just cross it out.  When I try to open the attachment, the message says that the file is compressed.  I e-mail back that the file is compressed and he tells me to use WinZip to open it.  That’s like telling me I have to turn into a crocodile to open it – in other words, impossible.   I look on my desktop and there is an icon of a vice squeezing a file cabinet as when you want to glue furniture. I click on the icon and whoa! WinZip appears right over the e-mail. It says. “Do you want to unzip this now?”    I love it when the message is clear.  
Once I called Dell for advice on an e-mail problem and the tech person in Sri Lanka or wherever told me to check “Don’t show me this message again.”  The minute I checked it I realized I needed the message to get to my e-mail. He said, “I’ve been working here 10 years and I know pretty much and I could probably help you solve your e-mail problem but I have to follow the rules.”  I should have known he was telling me in a subtle way to urge him to help me but (not knowing the next help station was going to charge me to undo the damage from their bad advice,) I said, “Oh, that’s all right.”  I think the people in Calcutta or Sri Lanka have better ethics.  They are more empathetic and want to do the right thing unlike American telephone companies.  When I called back almost in tears, a soft voiced man said:  “I know one way to help you get that message back.  It’s called ‘system restore’ and it allows you to go back to any date you select and start all over again.” And that’s exactly what I did.  I went back to May 10, a Monday, when I still had not checked: “Don’t show me this message again.”
Imagine if you could do this in real life.  I’d go back to 1999 and be rich again.  And then I’d go back to 1960 and accept a date with Butch Ordway.  Or I’d go back… oh, hell, I can’t go back.  
When I first came to work here, I didn’t know how to transfer a call.  I was on overload for about two weeks and even with a gun to my head I couldn’t have told you what color the walls were.  Now I’ve used WinZip. 
I open the contract and try to compare what we sent to the pseudo-porn people and what they are sending to us.  It’s tedious and confusing and I already have a slight headache
Before work today, I went to see the dentist to see what is making the right side of my face hurt. They took an x-ray of the pain site and I thought the technician was going to look at the x-rays scream and say: oh, my god, your teeth are all messed up.  That’s not what happened.  She said my sinus was resting on the nerve. If you thought they were going to say: you don’t need us, go home, no charge.  That was not the case. The dentist looked in my mouth and said I had some fillings that were decomposing and now he’s going to do a whole bunch of things that are going to cost a lot of money.   I’m obsessing about it because in the moment of relief that my teeth were okay, I relaxed my attention and the medical establishment swooped in and mapped out a plan to keep me there for a year and separate me from thousands of dollars.
Three calls to the dentist’s office and now his whole desk staff has doubts about me.  I want to know why he can’t do everything in one visit.  I want to know how much it is all going to cost.  I want to know whether it is necessary.   For some reason the woman on the phone finds these questions unreasonable and obscure, as if no other patient has asked them before.  In the medical establishment, if you ask a question the staff always sees you as trouble. It’s our own fault.  The rules that the medical man is the king and the patient is damn lucky to be in his presence were made a long time ago.  So I have to let this bullshit dentist have his way about “decomposing”: fillings that haven’t given me one iota of trouble. On top of that, without any permission from me, he has numbed the entire left side of my face and ground down one poor tooth to a nub. “You’ll need a crown on that one,” he says.   Yes, I obsess but this dentist is nuts.  Trust me, he is nuts.
There was something on the news today that vindicates my theory that you should never have a medical procedure by the ‘top man.’ Every horror story I’ve ever heard about a procedure is always prefaced with the words ‘he’s supposed to be the top man.’
This man went in for a knee operation and when he comes out, the nurse is wheeling him to his room and says casually:  “Well you have a new left knee.” And the patient says, ”It was supposed to be the right knee.  The doctor marked it.”  Sure enough there’s a big x on the right knee but the numbskull replaced the left knee.  And the hospital is only awarding him half a million dollars.  I would have ruined that lazy crazy bastard.  I’m ready to stab that dentist who ground down my poor tooth. If someone replaced a perfectly good knee and left me with the same problem I came in with, I would never be done hunting him down.  Dr. Feldman was the name in case you need knee surgery.
I can’t stop thinking about that dentist that absolutely ruined two of my teeth and drilled them down as if he were excavating for a new subway or something.   Why do people become dentists anyway, to be legally aggressive?  Now my mouth hurts and I can’t eat peacefully. I guess I shouldn’t complain about that.
On top of this, Shana’s dog has pooped in the office and in order to kill the smell they sprayed the kind of floral scent that gives you a big headache.  I just read a story about a woman who was frequently ‘employee of the month’ but had to quit because of the excessive scents people wore to the office.  While I’m talking about scent assaults, I may as well call your attention to the soap Lever 2000.  I went up to my second floor one day because I smelled the overpowering scent of cheap perfume mixed with stale sweat.  I thought a cologne-crazed robber might be hiding up there.  The smell was suffocating and it was coming from an unwrapped bar of Lever 2000.  I began to feel nauseous and had to take it far out of the house and throw it away.  I would vote for any candidate that would outlaw perfumed soaps, shampoos or anything else.  Thank god for scent-free All.
Shana has no reprimand for the dog.  She loves, loves, loves the dog.  Twice the dog has done number two in the office.  Once right next to the hardest working employee who takes twelve hours to tell you something that could be said in half a sentence.  However, she claims to work until two in the morning (which, by the way, is Shana’s dream employee).  If you worked past seven at night, she would hire you forever even if you were dealing drugs.
So the hard worker had to go out and buy Febreze and clean up the poop and spray everywhere.  But then she said a brilliant thing and a courageous one, too.  She told Shana, there are no bad dogs, just bad owners.
I know too many people who are blindly in love with animals. Peta petitioned the government not to give Timothy McVey any meat for his last meal. The reasoning was why should one more living thing be killed for the monster. Ay, mommie!   I know people who prefer their pets to humans and many of them are women who never had children.  These people are perfectly okay with having the dog knock you down or put his muddy paws on your best silk dress. They let cats sit on the dinner table before and after you eat and only say, “Now Fluffy get off there,” in that tone that Fluffy has learned means “I love you so much, you can sit on my toast for all I care.” And Fluffy does want to sit on the toast especially when it’s still warm. 
When Oprah was on Ellen, they had a dog love competition.
Ellen:  What makes you happiest?
Oprah:  Being with my dogs. 
Ellen:  How many do you have.
Oprah:  Three and I’m getting two more.
Oprah:  I don’t understand people who don’t love dogs.
Ellen:  Me either.  Where are you going after the show?
Oprah:  To play with my dogs in the dog park.
Ellen:  I’ll go with you.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Why do we love romantic comedies so much?

I was once asked to teach a film class and when I demurred that I had no experience either in teaching or in film discussion or in coherent sequential conversation, the woman ignored me because I had used the word ‘discernment.’ I had said, "Even though I work for a film festival, I have no discernment when it comes to film.  I tend to like the most sophomoric junk."  She said, “If you can use the word ‘discernment’ you’ll do fine.”  That night my left brain said:  If you used the word neuroplasticity would you perform brain surgery? Run.  Run like the wind.
Never one to shy away from a death defying challenge  (and also full of myself at the idea of being a teacher) I went to my first class.  The students were college educated adults who had been going to films and loving films their whole lives and knew everything there was to know about film as opposed to myself who didn’t know anything including how to say NO or not to jump off of a tall building because my crazy friend jumped off a tall building.

It was a two-hour class.  In that first terrifying moment I was catatonic but my adrenalin began to talk for me.  “Hi, I’m Consuelo.  I don’t know anything about film or teaching but I know something about human nature.”  Apparently the truth can be amusing and everyone laughed and many of them said, “Hi, Consuelo. Welcome.”  
Then my adrenalin who was doing all the talking asked: “Why do we love romantic comedies so much?  Why are we willing to suspend our disbelief for the sappiest happy ending?” Inexplicably, the students began to answer with very good suggestions. There was a big clock on the wall.  I thought I had been there for a week but only ten minutes had passed.  I could begin to feel the trickle of fear-sweat down my back.   
There was a woman there with her doctor husband who had taken the course for fifteen years.  She was the leader of a contingent of upper echelon professionals who were all smart, rich and retired.  They had been doctors and lawyers and professors in their working life.  They were well-read and well-movied.  It was just a matter of minutes before they stormed out.  I continued to ask questions that they could answer and I gave them as much time as they wanted because the clock was just crawling along.  I survived that first night and assigned a film we could all see and discuss for the next class. I thought they would say something like:  "You can't tell us what to do," but they just wrote it down in their notebook.  Apparently I could tell the entire student body what to do and they would do it.
Each week I would assign a new film that was playing locally. I would go see the film, often in the afternoon, and take notes in the dark. My mind and body felt sorry for me and wanted to help me.  I dimly remembered that I had once taken a master class with Roger Ebert who taught by using almost every frame of Casablanca to explain why each scene was successful, necessary, pivotal or brilliant.  I dredged up everything Roger Ebert had said and used it shamelessly.I often went to the site Rotten Tomatoes to see what the review consensus was so I could agree or disagree.
I assigned eight films including Water, an Indian film, Superman Returns, a dumb American film that I told them was important  (it lost me two students,) a Swedish film that I don’t remember the name of, A Prairie Home Companion, a strange piece of work that had Lily Tomlin, Meryl Streep and Lindsey Lohan in it and they all sang. I found out a lot about myself in that class. First, I could bs my way through anything, second, even smart people will buy anything if you sell it with enough bs, third that I could bs my way through anything.  The woman who hired me sent me an e-mail note which I kept because it said: People have been calling to say you’re the best they’ve ever had in the way of a teacher for this course (including Hollis Alpert, then film critic for the New Yorker). They say you are the most interesting and well prepared of anyone.”
I bought all the accolades before realizing that she was setting me up for teaching the class again.   Even though my students were genial, willing and forgiving, they deserved better.  I was tired of tap dancing.  I said no.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Any story that provides a big Victorian house has me hog tied.

There’s one movie that scares the heck out of me.  It scares me so much that I have to watch it backwards because I can’t stand to look at most of it even though I know how it ends.   It’s called Sleeping With The Enemy and it’s one of my favorite Julia Roberts films.  I continue to watch the movie because in the middle of it the woman, who has faked her death to escape an abusive husband, relocates to Cedar Falls, Iowa and begins a new life with a new name and lives in an old Victorian house in the middle of  town.  That she is escaping a homicidal maniac is incidental to the more compelling real estate factor. One of my other favorite movies is Baby Boom. What's in it?  Real estate. What kind? Farmhouse.  There's a movie called Babies that just shows babies.  They should make a movie called Farmhouse for people like me.  There are other people like me, aren't there?
Any story that provides a big Victorian house with a front porch and original details in the middle of a  Midwestern town has me hog tied. If the plot includes abandoning everything you know and moving, I'll watch it exclusively.  Most people have that  relocation/name change fantasy at least once in their life.  Don’t they?  Or am I alone in this? I figured out the other day that most of what we do or keep on doing is to preserve the image our close friends and relatives have of us.  You don’t want to let anyone down by suddenly deciding to walk across America or sell everything and live under the Williamsburg Bridge. 
This is how I would live when I relocate to my Victorian farmhouse in Cedar Falls.  First, I’d be thin and wear jeans.  I wouldn’t own a car.  I’d walk everywhere or take a bus.  Every morning, I’d run three miles through a residential neighborhood before heading to my favorite diner for breakfast.   I probably would have a part-time job at the library and stop after work for a glass of wine at my favorite bar.  I might join a quilting bee.  This is pretty much the way I live right now.  Minus the running, the thin factor, the part-time job, the quilting bee and willingly leaving the house. 
By the way in Cedar Falls, Iowa you can buy a four-bedroom house for $200,000. and the unemployment rate is only 3.3%.
The critics hated Sleeping With the Enemy.  They called the plot cornball melodrama “constantly on the verge of silliness.”  Really?   Color me stupid and banal because it scared me and continues to scare me every time I see it on television.  On the review site, Rotten Tomatoes it got only 22% on the tomatometer (11% by the top critics) but the audience liked it 65%. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

We're hungry!

Students in schools across America are protesting the smaller lunches brought on by the government’s push to offer healthier fare in the cafeteria.

They took out chicken nuggets this year, which I’m not too happy about, said a junior at Jessup High in upstate New York. 

I want my baked ziti, wailed Cindy McCarthy in Lovelace, Texas.  I loved the baked ziti and now they only give you a tiny bit because they fill up the plate with some lame broccoli. 

What are school lunches for except to get the junk food you can’t get at home.  Come on, I want all of my tater tots, cried one student.  I loved the tater tots and now it’s like four.

The principal said:  There’s one third less turkey in the turkey sandwich.  What’s wrong with turkey?

The cafeteria suppliers said: This is a bonanza to grow the bottom line.  We give them less food.  We charge more money with the blessing of the government. 

A freshman at Tinker Valley High said: They’ve ruined it.  What happened to Pizza Thursday?

The yearbook club said: We’re hungry.  We can’t get through the day.  We won’t stand for this.  We’ll boycott the food and bring lunch.

The computer club made a video showing students fainting in the halls from hunger. 

They couldn’t even crawl into the Principal’s office without taking a nap on the way.

I say:  As in all things governmental, idiocy rules.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I want a bowl, please.

At a recent family get together everyone was eating out of a bowl instead of a plate.  When it came my turn, I wanted a bowl, too.  The salad and main dish got pushed together but we were happy with our bowls.  Lately, when I go to eat my food, I reach for a bowl.  My favorite eating bowl is medium sized and without embellishments. 
I’ve seen a lot of bowl eating in the past year. The ambiance is different when people are eating out of bowls.  They tend to hold it in their hands and lean down.  They turn into themselves and eat in a private little cell.  They might even be in a meditative state as they eat.  There’s not a lot of conversation until they’re done and suddenly look up as if they’ve been away.
Bowls are associated with children but these days they have to share. The traditional foods for bowl eating used to be cereal, soup, ice cream.  Now people are using the bowl for everything.  
The more upheaval in the world, the more bowl eating we are likely to see. In poorer cultures. bowls are the norm.   If the economy becomes robust and wasteful days are here again, plate eating will come thundering back.  I hope not.  My minimalist leanings will vote for the bowl every time.  

A bowl is a round, open-top container used in many cultures to serve food, and is also used for drinking and storing other items.

Monday, May 13, 2013

No one wants to hear anything you have to say

Last night I realized that no one wants to hear anything you have to say. No, really. They might want an answer to a direct question.  Is it still raining or where do you work but that’s about it.  Tomorrow, someone is coming to visit and I’m preparing.  Hi, how are you?“ he will ask. I’ve decided on the response: pretty good.  If you upgrade beyond ‘pretty good,’ you need to elaborate and really no one wants to know if you’re excited and happy unless it’s something that’s going to overflow on them, like money.  Nobody wants to know about your dreary little successes (and definitely they don’t want to know about your big successes) especially if you start attributing them to a higher power or say “everything happens for a reason.”
I’m not saying people are walking around in a bubble of self absorption, it’s just that we’ve become accustomed to just hitting the ‘like’ button as a means of communicating our reactions on people’s doings and that's all the time anything merits.  It’s now almost impossible to focus on what people are saying and exhausting to string words together and form coherent answers.  
Faith Popcorn the trend forecaster fortetold of this societal isolation years ago.  She called it cocooning.  Back in the very late nineties, Faith said we were going to be able to do everything from the couch.  Now it has happened. We are in a mental cocoon, hitting our likes and amusing ourselves and responding with r u ok’s.  Twitter has it right, too.  If it takes more than 140 characters you're just going to annoy everybody.

Since everything is happening to us in a vacuum, we have to self-evaluate.  Is this good for me or bad for me?  You can’t wait for the reaction of your peers because your peers don’t care.  They don’t care if you get married or have a dozen children or move to the Grenadines.  Been there.  Done that and guess what?  Not that great.  You saw The Great Gatsby?  No one wants to know if you liked it or not.  And oh, God, please no. They don’t want to discuss the sub text.   Just think of it as the opposite of the sixties when everyone was discussing everything to death.

If you were on your deathbed and posted on FB, I’m going to die in a few minutes, goodbye, a few would hit the like button but maybe not since you’re going to be dead and the only reason to hit like is for communicating approval or disapproval. The ‘like’ button has become a judgment button.  I’m happy with you and will hit ‘like’ to any dumb thing you put up here, or I’m annoyed with you and will not hit ‘like’ even for the Nobel Prize. FB has absolved us of having to talk.  “Oh, you’re in St. Lucia cavorting in the waves?  Like. You had seviche for dinner and felt obliged to post a picture of your plate?  Like.  You want me to share some dreary message in solidarity but you’re sure I won’t do it?  Like.  You’re right, I won’t do it.  You like palean bread?  I don’t know what the hell that is but ok. Like. 
Forming responses and thinking about things is tiresome and it doesn’t yield anything.  Yes, I said it doesn’t yield anything.  Think about it.  What’s it going to yield?  Nothing. Right?  
Outside of “watch out for the dog poop” everything I say is superfluous.  I’ve come to think that the person who says nothing has it right.  I won’t say:  ‘the person who says nothing speaks volumes’ -  the type of sound byte that passes as thinking.  Some people who say nothing are lazy, bored or dumb.   My advice?  Try to say nothing, hit the “like” button with discretion and perfect a distracted air.  Thank you and good night.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The convoluted mystique of Whole Foods and its ilk

What do you think when I say Whole Foods
Of all the veggie joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.
Who says that?
John Mackey, the CEO
No, he doesn’t. That's Humphrey Bogart.
Maybe not but he could.  John Mackey is cool.  It’s capitalism with a mission.
Some say Whole Food, Whole Paycheck.
I don’t care.
Waldbaum’s probably carries much the same stuff
Sure if you want to feel like a schlumpetty dumpetty.
And Whole Foods?
Nervously excited.
In Brandwashed, Martin Lindstrom says retail stores like Whole Foods neuromarket you.
What’s that?
It’s like when you prime a pump by giving the lever a few yanks until the water gushes up?
What’s a pump?   Just messing with you.  You were saying?
Upscale retailers prime us with imagery until our money gushes out.
Grow up, sailor.  Neuromarketing began in the womb.
How do you feel when you see the fruit displayed in a crate at Whole Foods?
That Farmer Brown just took it off his truck.
How do you feel when you see prices scribbled on a piece of chalkboard?
That I’m in a French outdoor market.
Lindstrom says all of that is staged.
So?  Everything is staged.  Don’t you watch HG TV?
Wouldn't you call it misleading?
I would call it psychic income.  The New Yorker called John Mackey a Food Fighter and you know what he is fighting?  Big Agra.  Horrid tomatoes and peaches, the same dreary rice pudding in the deli counter, acres of unnaturally red meat.  They could do with a little staging.
How do you feel when you see packaged food at Waldbaum's?
That bad men are trying to kill me.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Imagine there's no 'master'

Now and again we get news of what the homebuilders association has in store for us going forward.  One of the archaic designations from the past is something called “the master bedroom.”  They aren’t going to call it that anymore.  I wonder why?  Instead of getting all snarky and feminist, let’s examine why they might have called it that in the first place.  Apparently it had nothing to do with slavery, a period we most closely associate with a ‘master.’   Everyone’s best guess is that it came into being around 1925 and it was a flattery ploy used by developers to get the man to buy the house.  Today they might flatter him with a man cave.  I don’t know why men are portrayed as such easy targets for the shallowest marketing trick.  Do you know?

(This might be a ploy to trick women.  Developers would call it the hyena bedroom if they thought it would instill a yen in man/or woman to overlook the cheap building shortcuts and get us to buy their houses.)

I want to say good-bye to the master bedroom in the same way I said good-bye to the kitchen.  In song and to the tune of “Imagine” (with apologies to John Lennon.)

Imagine there’s no ‘master’
No hierarchy left.
No chores with his and hers signs
Who’s going to feel bereft?
Imagine there’s no fencing
To designate who’s up
To deal with crying toddlers
Who want the yellow cup.
Imagine there’s no bedroom
Named to enthrone the man
It's just too weird and senseless
In today's enlightened plan

You may say this is crazy
The womb will always break the deal
As long as women bear the children
The level field will not be real

(I didn't want this to end this way.  It was supposed to be funny and I do feel the field is getting leveler.)