Many people believe the Earth is angry at us. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do consider Earth to be a living thing with a consciousness of sorts. Regardless, there is no question that nature is running amok. Nature seems to be telling us, intentionally or otherwise, to get our act together and stop trashing the planet.
I won’t distress Dear Reader with stats about disappearing frog species, nor debate climate change here; just ask a pro tennis player or competitive skier. I’ll wax anecdotal instead. Feel free to submit your own observations. Here’s the short list.
Coyote. I watched a blonde, unkempt dog stroll up a Massachusetts driveway in broad daylight. Oops, it wasn’t a dog. Pack animals roam solo? In daylight? Coyotes are blonde outside of Vermont? Do they have more fun?
Mice. In August, I stepped on a young mouse in my room. I do hope it was dead already, but from its fresh little entrails I could tell it had been alive…recently. What self-respecting rodent goes indoors in summer? Was it too hot outside for mousey? Came in for the A/C? Same week in Bellows Falls, a feisty country mouse scampered around us in my cousin’s driveway unafraid, then leapt into the manifold of his pick-up. Why?
Rabbits.The new generation of bunnies in our neighborhood is fat, confident, and more prone to lolling than hopping. You walk up to them and they don’t even stop chewing. Rabbits, like horses, have no real defense besides flight. So why aren’t they fleeing? I sometimes charge them just so they’ll become afraid of humans, which they should be, especially my sniper neighb with the pellet gun. Rabbits, by the way, are not rodents, because of their incisors and canines, guts, sex parts, and poo-eating. Who knew?
Birdsect. I don’t know what the heck this thing is, besides a fuzzy pollinator. First, I thought it was cool, and giant for a bee (hence the nickname). But when I went to photograph it, it became…aggressive. What the heck is it?
Hawk-Bunny Murder-Suicide. A dead hawk was in our street, with a dead baby bunny in its clutches. It looked like a cartoon caption contest in The New Yorker. “Wha’ happen’?”
Dragonflies. It wasn’t until we saw an unusual number of dragonflies — again, just sort of hanging out — that a lake-loving friend and I read up on them. Most fly for only a few days or weeks of their lives, the rest spent as aquatic nymphs (like us!). One flew from my friend’s head to my head, back and forth, as we swam in a pond. Was it energizing or sampling us? Collecting DNA to colonize its next planet should this one melt? We felt honored either way.
The animals: why are they unafraid? Do they know something we don’t about our imminent demise? Have they realized we are inferior to them? We are in fact idiots, with our moronic abuse of our own planet. Rather than stockpiling canned goods and ammo for the End of Days, let us try an apology: Dear Earth, We are terribly sorry for our pathetic stewardship. Please know that the people of New England, CO, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Cali get it. May other places wake up. You’re gorgeous. Love, Vermont.
Well. Before the waters turn icy, go jump in a lake, river, or ocean. Cold water is renewing, and you adapt to it quicker than ya’d think. Bracing! Great good fun. Good day.
It seems I left a few amateur botanists and my favorite farrier hanging after the prior posts. Naughty! So below is video of the initial opening of the flower and what transpired during the viewing party. The first shows little; you have to really watch. Then I charged my phone so there’s a big gap before the final push. Modern tymes, how you alternately delight and vex!
A still of the inner workings. It’s like a magical wonderland in there, as someone noted, and smells divine.
And there you have it, Mr. Platt.
The last installment was simply too dreary to post. Until now (two months later), when I returned from travels to find that the grandifloras had grown a third bud. Whaaaat?! I posted the dreary one so that you, too, could feel the love — the surge from the agony of defeat to the thrill of victory. Look at this beautiful baby. My guess is it will blow tonight.
Here’s the entire plant, elegantly ugly in yesterday’s morning mist:
The night blooming cereus is an ugly cactus that puts on a riveting show once a year. Mine, a selenicereus grandiflorus, blooms for only a single night. Plants more mature than mine can produce many fragrant blooms, the size of dinner plates; their owners throw parties on that night (see: Crazy Rich Asians). Mine gets one bloom. If two, someone invariably knocks one off. So, one.
Imagine my surprise when it began to flower 2 months early, with 2 buds! But immediately: the agony of defeat. One tiny bud was dead by the time I noticed it. The next croaked 2 days later. Was it too hot? Too cold? Did someone—or something—jostle it? This distressing Christmas That Wasn’t affected me for a good two days. There I’d been scheming happily on how to best blog the blooming for you. Next year, people. Apologies.
See two tiny, withered blooms dangling from top leaf of the grandifloras. Then kill me now.
I’m not sure what to say here. Well, I’m not a Love It Or Leave It type, but I love much about this great Land, and bopping. And CVS.
At least I used to joke that I did. Until by mistake it really happened.
I recently ordered on eBay an “open box” of eyeball moisture drops — the disposable kind. Not only was the box open, every single vial was, and empty. So I kind of bought someone’s recycling. Otherwise known as garbage.
I read recently how having a smartphone is like having a slot machine in your hand. Every time you pick it up, you wonder what you’ll get. You’ve just got to know what you’ve received since you put it down. On your email, texts, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Three cherries?
A friend said, “Having this object within your reach is addicting.” I thought she meant that having the Encyclopedia Britannica in hand to answer your every question in the moment was addicting. She meant the slot machine.
There are other effects: texting neck, thumbs supposedly growing larger, people losing the ability to read facial cues, families texting instead of talking within the home, device lights bedside ruining sleep, mysterious waves irradiating our brains…who knows? For sure: teens hiding in their darkened rooms gaming (weird) instead of fleeing their parents (normal) to run around in the woods (healthy).
A woman on a plane told me she’d instructed her grandkids, “Leave those things in the car.” Horrified, they asked, “What will we do?” Her response: Talk to each other.
When people go on such “screen diets,” limiting their hours on devices, they feel freed yet perilously untethered. When we misplace our phones we absolutely panic, the cost and nuisance aside. We are disconnected, lost at sea. An animal cut off from its herd. Danger!
I once asked a techy friend a techy question and he said he knew the answer at one time but no longer needed to commit anything to memory because his External Brain had all the answers. How many times have you looked up a fact on your device and immediately forgotten the answer? Because you don’t need to know it any more.
Your “multi-purpose mobile computing device” has crazy stuff inside: a magnetometer, proximity sensors, barometer, gyroscope and accelerometer (Wikipedia!). Is all that in our internal brains?
The stats about smartphone use – 3 hours daily for adults, way more for teens – boggle. A decade ago it was 90 minutes. Apps are designed for addiction, with intentionally varying (slot machine!) reward patterns that tease your brain’s reward circuitry. We’re hooked.
With my phone, I mainly communicate – a lot. I’m hooked on communicating. I stress when I realize I haven’t responded to a missive, when the reality is that people send so many that they are hardly waiting for my answer.
If your kid constantly consulted an encyclopedia, you’d be thrilled. That’s the gorgeous Internet. But how many people are doing this? I do searches and read various newses, but mostly I’m texting and forwarding funny stuff. I “Google” with tremendous urgency things like, “Who’s hosting SNL?” or “What does Serena Williams weigh?” Not: “What is a Rhodes Scholar?”
So despite what most impresses about our devices — the world at our fingertips — many use ours mostly to spread joy. Nice! Until: suddenly the day’s over and your free time went down the iDrain. Your room untidy, tasks incomplete…and that class you were gonna take? The bridge club you were to form? All gone. When I’m in Boston I’m texting Vermont and when in Vermont I’m texting Boston when, really, who cares what I’m up to? Why do I have to “report in?” Send a photo? Suggest a restaurant?
I mostly quit Facebook. Because every time I went in, OOPS, there went another :45. I could’ve learned a musical instrument in the hours I wasted reading rampant, silly pandering in there – “Beautiful!”, “That roast looks delicious!” or, the worst, “You look like sisters!” where a woman and her daughter are pictured. Madness.
The line for phone etiquette is ever moving. First, it was rude to talk on your phone in an elevator with trapped others listening to the asininity of your half-convo. Then that became fine, then to be on your phone at a meal. Then to set your child up at a restaurant with an iPad, no earbuds. We don’t look up from our phone when people speak to us. We answer their questions while typing. Lately, I don’t look at them while we’re talking no matter what I’m doing. I first ascribed that to the increased concentration required in your 50s for word retrieval and recalling the names of celebrities. I’m staring a chair leg trying to describe a movie (Ryan … Gosling? Wait: Reynolds … er … O’Neal? Let me check my External Brain.) No, I’m not old; I’m just rude.
What’s the solution? Tweet suggestions to #rudeandgoingblindfromlooking10inchesawayallday. Happy Pesach, Happy Easter, and good day.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @uvgvt. Or by opening your mouth and forming words I receive with 2 sensors on my head.
Human behavior astounds this time of year, as people drive 30 mph through parking lots and a stranger grabs the last of a coveted toy right out of your hands in Walmart to cheery strains (“It’s the hap-happiest time of the year, ding-dong, ding-dong!”) as, all around you, children enact the nuclear option in in an attempt by the majority party to overcome obstruction by the minority.
In small compensation for your endurance of these annual indignities, I try to gift Dear Reader with something of value. In the past I have proffered, for example, A List of Great Books suggested by the nutters I call friends. This year, the parody one friend and I were writing for you–of the duet Baby, It’s Cold Outside as sung by a starlet and Harvey Weinstein–quickly became unfit for publication and was unfortunately scrapped.
I instead asked the nutters I call friends the following: “Can you recall anything your kid(s) said that was precious – a mispronunciation, or something amusingly wrong (e.g., the “Undertoad” in The World According to Garp), or that was wrong yet somehow right, or just interesting?” Following, for Dear Reader’s 2017 gift (of laffs!), are their responses. For as much as we savor excellent expressions such as ”He looks like the cat who ate the canary” or “trophy wife,” really nothing is as treasured or hilarious as our own private lexicons, created over a lifetime.
Once I read about a couple, both writers, who kept an open envelope on the fridge. When their child said something classic, they’d jot it down and insert it into the envelope. Most of us are not that organized, so please enjoy this envelope on our collective refrigerator.
THE MISPRONUNCIATIONS beginning with the foods: lomster, pisghetti, a tuppa cheer, as in have a “cup of” cheer. Custusting , diriculous, the Bommiddle Snowman, hepitata and hopeeter for helicopter, dennerous for dangerous, serra-mix for ceramics, and: my 3 year-old neighbor running frantically down the street screaming, “Good Hoopah, good Hoopah!” at the bizarre and diabolical Good Humor man who purposely drove through our neighborhood at top speed without stopping, presumably to torment children.
ONE LETTER IS WRONG: Remoke, groken, vantastic, brickly, buddons, library, and “E. said fruniture until he was like twelve.”
THE MISUNDERSTOOD LYRICS: Round John Virgin; The Whos down in Whoville singing, “Christmas day is in our breast”; Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds‘s “girl with kaleidoscope eyes” misinterpreted, sadly, as “A girl with colitis goes by.”
OTHER: When one girl’s mother asked her to stop doing something, she’d reply, “I want to if I want to.” Another once called her mother “the Ruiner of Ruiny Ruination.”
A little boy who could not pronounce his L’s, using Y’s in their place, famously asked, “Do caterpiyyars yive in a yittle, yong, yong house?” assuming, naturally, that its housing would suit the insect’s body type.
At wine o’clock, as we tucked into some chips and dip, our visitors’ daughter opened the door and briskly informed passerbys strolling down the dirt road, “We’re having a snack!”
When the priest paid a visit, my young brother opened the door and said, probably imitating our father on a totally different occasion, “Hot damn. Company!”
One kid’s: “I meant for that to be an accident.”
My son would exclaim when he saw any kind of chaos, like traffic, “Power Rangers all fighting in a mess!”
A neighboring child who was a huge fan of Barry Manilow would pepper conversation with random exclamations of, simply, “Barry!”
In the 70s, my little brother tried to show off for two cute southern girls at the Silver Lake State Park’s swing set by jumping off a moving swing in mid-air. His shorts caught on the S hook and shredded, sending the girls into hysterics. One howled, once able to speak: “Y’all ripped yaw pay-ants to pieces!”
CHRISTMAS: In a store, my cousin loudly advised our group, “That Santa smells like beer.”
My 4 year-old brother refused to create a list for Santa Clause, declaring “Santa knows what I want.” This was not a test; he simply understood that Santa knew, and that prying adults–who were in reality trying to extract information for my motherwere a needless bother interrupting his day.
I’ll finish with my own, Dear Reader, a phrase I use to this day. When very little, my niece received a toy doctor’s bag for Christmas. She went around the room “checking” people’s blood pressure. As my brother-in-law took out the stethoscope to “check” someone’s heartrate, she ran to the bag and angrily asserted, “This…doctor…I!” Meaning: “Listen up, Pally, I am the doctor here—not you—and you must not touch this bag, which is the sole property of me, the doctor, for the exclusive use of my personal doctoring activities.”
Do gift us with your own gem in COMMENTS as able. Happy New Year to all. And to all a…good day.
In modern tymes, it is difficult to avoid corporate jargon invented by management smoothies who write books. This invasive lexicon trickles down via Meetings and Presentations to people that have not read the books. Like a parasite, it penetrates each Host and rewires his brain, implanting annoying phrases and replacing perfectly good words with bogus ones, such as “utilize” for “use,” and “impact” (as a verb) for “affect.” A “platform” is always “robust” — when a number of other adjectives would suffice. A “problem,” apparently a dirty word, is reduced to a “challenge.”
I’m not sure why corporate language is grating, but it makes my friends insane. I suppose it’s because the speakers of this terrible language are parroting management smoothies — instead of using their brains – because they think it sounds more sophisticated. Yes, that’s what it is. Dumb, over-repeated phrases are Downloaded, Integrated, and Utilized by the speaker to sound more articulate or techy.
Thinking outside the box, pushing the envelope, and being on the same page, now 20 years old, cease to amuse. But the newer ones, often hyphenated, remain rich. The white space. Multi-tiered. Value-added. Portal-based. Drill down. Impactfulness. Granular.
Hilariously, a founder of Silicon Graphics invented Buzzword Bingo, to be played surreptitiously at meetings where it is likely that speakers will deploy buzzwords or arcane business concepts rather than supplying actual information. Bingo card squares come pre-loaded with corporate jargon, and you get a dot each time some silly lingo on your card is spoken in the meeting. The various ways to announce that one has achieved BINGO are mouth-watering. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in such a meeting, mercifully, but I’d suggest alternate mischief wherein contestants randomly combine buzzwords in nonsensical ways to jar deeply tranquilized meeting-goers out of their fog, e.g., “Drilling down to multi-tiered value-addedness was impactful,” or “His low-hanging fruit is right in my wheelhouse.”
The Corporate BS Generator, a fun online pastime, takes 2 “corporate” adjectives and randomly pairs them with a noun. Synergistic, results-based solutions. Top-down, client-driven transparency. Go ahead, make your own. What’s more fun than spewing twaddle?
I asked some of the brilliant cynics I call friends for their most despised terms. Their choices:
From CT: Alignment – when all divisions of an “enterprise” need to buy office furniture in the official corporate color palette. Branding – see above regarding the color palette. Re-branding – new colors.
From VT: Silos (not the farms). Organic (not the food). Cross-pollination (not the bees).
From NY: Reaching Out – “I thought I’d reach out” rather than “I’m contacting you.” Disintermediation – eliminating the middle man. Multi-sourcing – code for outsourcing. Business Development – a.k.a Sales. Market Development – a.k.a. Marketing.
It makes me wax nostalgic about another form of invasive language, one I welcomed as Host, probably because I was an unsuspecting child at the time. It remains a part of us. Yes, television advertising.
Wessonality. Certs with Retsyn®. Figurines (“Crunch crunch crunch crunch crunch.”) “I’m Rula Lenska.” (Alberto V05). Kind of wow, kind of now (Charlie!). “She conked out, but her hair held up,” (Final Net). “…and my dress is vivid red,” (RCA). I miss the flagrantly untrue, now-illegal product claims (Mark Eden’s “bust enhancement”) as I miss TV in general back then, when snow shoes were always falling out of closets, people were routinely shot out of cannons, and “the old switcheroo” prevailed.
For good or bad, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Now TV shows are based on doctored “reality,” and the ads are all for prescription medicines (“side effects may include new body hair, sleepwalking, swollen tongue…”), or class-action lawsuits (“Were you or a loved one exposed to…THIS?”). Just as Fab detergent had an intoxicating secret ingredient (lemon-freshened Borax), today the power of suggestion secretly leads us by the hand to litigation and a cascade of daily pills. Well, at least the car commercials remain. A comfort. Until they start driving themselves.
Let’s face it. Sometimes a problem is not a challenge; it is a bloody problem. It may not be fun or solvable. I had so many “challenges” outside my “sphere of influence” recently that in the ocean I was momentarily afraid of my own shadow — thought it was some kind of ray, poised for attack. My advice: when the going gets that rough, get yourself on a robust platform that can withstand the weight of a cannon, get a cannon, climb inside it, ask someone to spark that baby up, and just get the hell out of there. Good day.
*This title written before Harvey hit Houston.
** Cannon photo credit and interesting column here.
Sometimes I hear about people following their Bliss, Mainly I see people struggling to manage their time between their jobs and home lives. Which begs the Seinfeldian question, “Who are these people … who have time for bliss?”
I’ll be a on a date where we part at sunset – to go back to work. Our parents did not do this. Holidays, weekends, while making dinner or getting dressed for work … we’re answering work calls and email. If you’re an on-call neurosurgeon, okay. Most of us are not. In New England you see elderly workers, who cannot retire, in physical jobs. Where’s their bliss? Their feet hurt. My grandmothers worked only because they wanted to.
There are few chunks of time off for working stiffs. With puny or nonexistent raises, there is no disposable income to vacation – or to pay helpers (to clean, babysit, shovel, mow), that could free up that elusive little minx, time. The self-employed Vermonters I know work 7 days a week just trying to keep it afloat.
Our “free” time is gobbled up by work, social media and, sometimes, compensatory overparenting. Vermonters who’d rather support local businesses order goods online instead because they have neither cash nor time for local shops. Despite a screwed-up economy with gross inequity of wealth distribution, it’s not money that’s often the issue, it’s time. Retirees and people living off of other people, and those rare birds that live for their jobs, they have time for bliss. Not that I begrudge them that.
Ryan Seacrest, when 20 years ago a funny DJ in Cali, said on air once (I paraphrase): “I thought the weekend was supposed to be for fun. Basically you’re just trying to catch up on everything you didn’t get done during the week.” This was 20 years ago.
I remember summers as a young child. Lazily swinging on a tire swing, at the pool with friends, with cousins in Vermont, household chores, but often lost in rumination, reading, or bored. Kids today aren’t bored. They are whisked from appointment to appointment, Snapchatting feverishly in between. No time for tire swing. No time for deep thots.
Boredom has merits! It means time to imagine (what might be) and review the past (what happened). Social media, alternatively, has algorithms that withhold your incoming new followers then deluges you with them all at once — to make you feel good … to flood your reward circuitry and hook you. My tire swing never did that. Bottlenecked the fun, to affect my neural wiring in a way advantageous to the tire.
But God Bless America; the Fourth fell on a Tuesday this year. A 4-day weekend! I hope yours was fraught with burgers, water sports, sun, mayo, time, and the lifting of nothing more taxing than a fork, paddle, or leash – and that you could hear the Vermont Symphony Orchestra cranking out the 1812 Overture’s timpani, which can and must be felt by the people of the Land, even as it depicts Russia’s victory over Napoleon’s French army, not the U. S. victory over Britain but hey.
Back to the future. Sure, modern tymes have advantages! You can’t touch Al Gore’s Internet for convenience and kicks. And that iPhone secretary, Siri. “Siri, find a driving range near me.” “Here are driving ranges near you.” Wow. Of course, I never have Location Services on because I’m the OP (old people) wary of surveillance … evil forces tracking us … unlike the YPs who don’t seem to care … so I can’t ask Siri to find stuff near me because she doesn’t know where I am. (Good!) Yet it’s a modern option that’s there for me. I turned Siri into a male a week ago (in, naturally, Settings) because I wanted a man working for me, but he was bland. I’ll try the Australian version. Keith Urban working for me. Yeah, Baby (rather, “Bye-by”). I’ll have to learn his vowels.
Alas, also in modern tymes, low-water-use washing machines, as my sister noted, do not clean your clothes. When the indicator says six minutes remaining, it’s like football minutes in the 4th quarter. Also: you can’t sit on closed toilet seat lids; they’re too flimsy now. Not that I’m complaining.
With malevolent algorithms, diabolical surveillance, dirty clothes, misleading time indicators, buckling toilet lids, little free time, and way too much mayo, in July people are frothing at the mouth, forced to meditate the hell out of themselves. After work I recline, plug in my headphones and select something promising from a meditation app (Insight Timer). I’m asleep in five. I’m not meditating, true, but I’m not panicking watching the news either. Religious services can be meditative. I don’t hear the prayer words or scripture sometimes, but I am thinking deep thots, like why do humans worldwide kiss and why do we super like to watch others kissing, or how a friend offhandedly described his son’s friend’s mother as “drunken Catholic awesome.” Not that I’m condoning anything.
Modern tymes, oof. Try to tune out the noise. Eat something health-giving, then do something life-giving, rest, go to the actual movies, laugh. This is one short summer, bye-by, and you need to recharge to face yet more modern tymes come fall. And, taking the longer view, one day you won’t be in an office chair, you’ll be in far more permanent furniture. So fill what remains of summer with fun and peace. Mop your brow. De-froth your kisser and plant one on a creature you love. Not that you asked. Good day.