Friday, January 18, 2019

Dear TCM, ASPCA, & Mr. Handsome Ads

I am retired. Ergo, I watch an unhealthy amount of television. Television ad managers and advertisers, I address my request directly to you. In the name of all that is holy, and in the interests of national mental health, please stop airing the following televised affronts to intelligence, taste, and heart.

TCM boasting about being “commercial free” when they are continually hawking every TCM product except the molars of their four TCM hosts. I miss the gentle charm of the late Robert Osborne. (Note to programming department: If you broadcast “Casablanca” one more time, I’ll scream!).

ASPCA, please, for my sake, and that of the animal kingdom, take those trembling, shivering dogs out of the blizzard and put them someplace safe and warm. (Note to director: Get the heartbreaking shot in the first take so the poor creature can come inside).

The car commercial where Matthew McConaughey is supposed to be oh, so cool is embarrassingly ridiculous. In it, the handsome actor doesn’t even wait to see how his billiards shot turns out. Because he is so cool, he knows it will be perfect. He saunters off into the vast, beautiful night, pensive and alone in his expensive car. (Note to actor: Look up the definition of “smirk”).  

In a copy-cat car commercial by another automobile company, another handsome actor drives into the vast, beautiful day, pensive and alone in his expensive car. Because he is oh, so cool, he pauses to appreciate the flight of birds. The theme of both commercials is the same. Rugged, handsome, and independent men – no women, pals, or puppies for these guys – only need their car and mommy nature. (Note to creative department: The flight of birdies is lovely but it is still a very silly ad).

These commercials are oh, so uncool!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Aging, Courage, and William Blake

"And we are put on this earth a little space that we might learn to bear the beams of love."
William Blake

My puppy Darby has a habit of pausing during fierce and furious play, coming over to me and giving me a cuddle. He then very quickly returns to his high energy and enthusiastic play, usually with a tennis ball. When my niece was a child, she did the same thing, interrupt her playing, run to me for a quick snuggle or two, then abandon me to my gentle joy as she returned to her doll house and other toys. I have a theory about this behavior shared by descendants of wolves and little girls. It has to do with what poet William Blake called "the beams of love." Little ones feel those beams and acknowledge them with a quick visit to the sender.

As I've aged, I've turned into a real scaredy-cat. It seems incredible to me that I once acted before an audience of thousands in Shakespeare in the Park in Lexington, Kentucky, rode a horse in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains, and preferred the window seat on overseas flights. I don't act, ride, or travel by plane any more. Now, simply thinking these things makes me a tad nervous. I'm calm right now, Darby nestled beside me on a comfy sofa, my fingers tapping the laptop. I seem in real danger of becoming one of those daffy little 'ole ladies daffy about their dogs (spotted in posh neighborhoods, the dears and their doggies often wear matching coats, usually soft plaids).

Aging in a country where looking young is a national obsession can be a challenge. Compare the lined, character-laden faces of British actors to the frozen facelifts of American actors. I'm  not about to bounce into the annoying boosterism that touts aging is a bunch of fun. It isn't, unless you find arthritis, back pain, and short-term memory loss a bunch of fun. But the cowardice that keeps me from stages, stables, and airports doesn't apply to my growing older. I know there are more important things to be concerned about than crow's feet and gray hair.

William Blake sang on his deathbed so certain was he of the joy that awaited him. I doubt I'll sing on my deathbed. My off-key lyrics might offend the angels.

This post was first published on June 16, 2016. Darby is no longer a puppy but I'm still a scaredy-cat.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Politics & Plums

I intended to write a very serious blog post about protest poetry. In it, I was going to share my view on whether political poems are best when specific or when abstract. Recently, I read three books of poetry, two contained protest poems, one did not. Personally, I feel a poem is diminished by the name Trump appearing in it. Any synonym for demagogue seems preferable. Contemporary readers know exactly who the poet means, and future readers can apply the same poem to whatever soulless despot Providence asks their generation to endure. Presumably, mankind will not be perfected for several millennia.

Yes, it was going to be a very serious blog post indeed (excerpts, quotes, that sort of thing). Then something swell happened. In one day I saw my two favorite words, one in a newspaper article and the other in a magazine. It is not possible for me to keep from smiling when I see or hear the word "kerfuffle." Just saying kerfuffle makes me giggle. "Slivovitz," the name of plum brandy, has the same effect on me. Perhaps, even more so, as I'm especially fond of brandy - and of plums. I am very grateful for words like kerfuffle and slivovitz. They help me forget, momentarily, words like Trump. And the odd impulse to write "very serious" blog posts. I won't forget to vote in the November midterm elections. I hope you won't forget either.

Image: © Es75/

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Candy Canes & Apes

Archaeologists have discovered two teeth from 9.7 million years ago. The teeth belonged to a great ape (can’t a gentler appellation be found for a beings who took such marvelous care of their teeth?). The following is an archaeologist’s description of one of the teeth when asked what an almost 10-million-year-old tooth looks like. “It’s perfectly preserved. It actually looks like a new excellent tooth; however, it’s no longer white. It’s shining like amber.” I can almost imagine these teeth resting on dark velvet in Tiffany’s.

I could have enjoyed several world cruises with the money I’ve spent on dental work over the years – a cap for a tooth broken on a candy cane; several root canals; a bite guard to prevent teeth grinding (TMJ). The last two treated by an orthodontist. His office is the one with the Ferrari parked outside. Great apes didn’t munch candy canes, grind their teeth because of office supervisors or ex-spouses, or have money woes about dental bills but surely, they had other stresses. And yet, their “perfect” and “shining” teeth exist.

Americans spend over $100 billion dollars a year on dental care and we’re still losing our teeth. What dental hygiene secrets did the great apes possess? And more importantly, what toothpaste did they use?

Image: © Marietjie Opperman/