Thursday, April 30, 2009

Faux Facts

Don't facts matter anymore?

Representative Michelle Bachman opens her mouth and out comes drivel. Now, who exactly was President of the United States in 1976, ma'am? Did anyone ever teach you the difference between correlation and causation? And you are making laws for us, poor citizens that we are.

Your health insurance might cost $500 per month. But that's not really a fact, because you have deductibles and co-pays and out-of-pocket-maximums and excluded procedures and a few other small print items. Get hit by a bus, no worries. But have routine medical issues normally associated with life in the retired lane? Keep that Visa card handy; you'll need it.

Some things that used to be facts now are faux-facts. Take a carton of ice cream, for example. I'm serious; take the carton in your hand next time you're in the grocery store. Does it feel different somehow? It should - it's lighter than it used to be. Chips, cookies, and crackers are just some of the products which are now almost what they were before. Faux facts.

President Bush's last budget was a fact, for sure. It asked for money and money was spent. And yet, there was no line item for the Iraq War. No money requested in the budget at all, in fact, for a war which was certainly costing billions. So, was it a budget? I thought that meant that you listed your income and expenses and made plans accordingly. Or, perhaps facts mean something different in Washington, D.C. ?

You can create a new life in cyber-space and no one looks askance. Even the fact of your self can be questioned. Ask anyone who's been around someone playing these kinds of games - reality becomes less interesting than the fast-twitch avatar and facts, like dinner and homework and bedtimes, become fantasy while joining your guild in destroying the entrance to the inner sanctuary is "what I did today". Facts that don't really exist. Or do they?

There's an assaulting large number of facts thrown at the socially networked these days. The immediacy of twitter and cell-phones and picture messaging fills our devices with things we never cared about before but which now are the most ubiquitous facts in our lives. Separating the wheat from the chaff was never easy. Now it's next to impossible.

So, maybe that's the answer to Rep. Bachman's misstatements. There were just too many facts flying around and she got confused.



"I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would love to see an expose like that." Rep. Bachman on Hardball 10/27/08

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cool

Facebook thread:
she: "Odd that you are my oldest and truest friend from high school but I didn't even know you in high school"
me: "That's because you were waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too cool for me then"
she: "I wish I had known that then....."

And believe me, she was very cool then. Long long long hair that hung straight down her back over her Go-Getter's booster club sweater that was every bit as wonderful as the varsity sweater the cheerleaders wore. She was never alone. She was always with the other fabulously cool girls, walking in their fabulously cool pack, laughing their ..... well, you get the picture. Social worries? Issues? Anxieties? Problems? No way those girls dealt with anything more horrifying than not having the exact right color grosgrain ribbon for their perfect pony-tails.

It wasn't about money; we were all middle-class to one degree or another. It wasn't about anything discernible to my pubescent self, just on the cusp of something but not knowing what. They knew, though, those totally cool girls. They had to know - they were so confident. I was as much fun to be around as they were - why didn't they notice?? And why did I care? Yes, I asked myself that even then. But recognizing that you're doing something absurd doesn't equip you to quit.

When we met junior year in college, she was a transfer student with a boyfriend but no one else on campus. I recognized her immediately. After all, she'd been "someone" in high school. I don't remember how we became so close, but I do remember my amazement that someone as cool as she wanted to be my friend.

But she did. It turned out that we really knew each other very well, even without knowing each other at all. Inside and out. Laughing or crying (fabulously or otherwise) it was like going to high school all over again, only on Bizarro . The other side was real and it was sitting on my couch telling me that she never felt cool and that the girls were often mean to one another and that most of their Saturday nights were spent with each other or on the phone while they were babysitting. Not parties every weekend. Not relishing the good life. Not conscious of how inconspicuous the rest of us felt. Worst of all, she wasn't always happy.

Now "always happy" is what I'd wished for on every birthday cake my whole life up til then. To find out that what I'd known to be the living embodiment of my birthday wish wasn't that at all ...... time stopped. And just as fast, started right back up again, only this time "always happy" had become "happy as I am right now".

The grass is always greener? Be careful what you wish for? Nope, just this : Thanks, my true friend.



"This is where Dionne lives. She's my friend because we both know what it's like for people to be jealous of us."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gotcha??

Have you seen it? Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu (the smartest scientist ever to sit in a Presidential Cabinet?) and Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, one laughing, one smirking and both confusing the hell out of me.

I had to watch the clip 3 times, then talk to the Big Cuter about what was really going on. Rep. Barton was making a point, and Dr. Chu was agreeing with him, and then Rep. Barton posts "Gotcha" on his website and I really didn't get it. Where was the "gotcha"? Rep. Barton was right - the oil just seeped through the cracks and layers of tectonic plates and got up to Alaska. He said it. I heard it. So, I guess the "gotcha" is that the answer wasn't what he wanted to hear? Or that it was what he expected from an Obama appointee? Or that it was so easy to understand that Dr. Chu must be fooling?

Rep. Barton is a Purdue educated engineer. He consulted for ARCO. He is the ranking member (and former chair) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. How is it possible that he's done all that and has never heard of plate tectonics? I read John McPhee's Basin and Range aloud to the cuters as TBG drove us from Chicago to Ithaca. They were 6 and 8 at the time. Perhaps they didn't understand all of it, but the notion of Pangea and the moving plates was simple enough for them to grasp.

Rep. Barton is making energy policy for America without an understanding of the science behind the creation of oil. Yes, Antarctica was once closer to the equator than it is right now, and it was probably a lot warmer then, too. And yes, as Rep. Barton would like us to believe, humans are not totally responsible for global warming; climate change has been going on for eons. But to smirk at a Nobel laureate as he's giving you a clear, concise, easy to understand 30 second answer to a question that requires a 3 hour explanation, well that's just dumb.

It's also really scary.


"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room. "

Monday, April 27, 2009

Favorite Movies - part 1

Robin Hood is an old old friend. Long cold wintry Chicago afternoons with Cuters under afghans (the green ones) and snacks everywhere and Errol and the gang in green tights. They were definitely Men in Tights, dashing sword-fighting athletic men. We all wanted to swing from those vines into Sir Guy's gaping face, and then stuff ourselves at the feast with The Lady Marian by our side. Except for the times we wanted to be Little John and Friar Tuck and pick on each other. There's intrigue and love and honor and justice and and there are horses and castles and bows and arrows in addition to those swords. It's just wonderful.

TBG first gave me this gift, and endeared himself to G'ma forever in doing so. She's always said that if Errol Flynn came to her door, she was ready for him. This was the first time I'd ever heard the expression "I wouldn't kick him out of bed for eating crackers."

We've seen every incarnation of the movie (Kevin Costner should be ashamed of himself) but only Disney's version made it into our permanent rotation. "Kid Robin Hood" is more than a watered down remake. It's thoughtful homage of the highest order. Watch the crowd of tortured peasants behind Robin and Marian in the glen and you'll see Mother Rabbit's inspiration; the main characters' avatars are all too easy to spot. Peter Ustinov voiced both the brothers, Prince John and King Richard. And if you can watch Sir Hiss and not see Basil Rathbone, then you need to learn to embrace your inner child.

The film never ceases to surprise us. Tonight we watched it on TCM and it was the clearest print we'd ever seen. Now you know that we are true fanatics: we'd never noticed the lavender stained glass windows behind Prince John as he's dressing for his coronation. Nor that Will Scarlet's saddle was bright green, and that Basil Rathbone's cloak at the archery tournament had a golden lining. The music was clearer, too. Erich Wolfgang Korngold (that's a great name for a composer) makes you ride through the stream and feel the water on your horse's flank and introduces your kids to the notion of theme in composition. Just let us hear a snippet - we'll tell you what is on the screen without having to look.

And, like all the best movies, the last frame on the screen says The End.



"May I obey all your commands with equal pleasure!"

Sunday, April 26, 2009

21st Century Scrabble

A cardboard backed board and 100 wooden tiles in a small, burgundy box. 4 racks to hold the tiles, a velvety bag (Crown Royal?), a pad and a pencil. No plugs. No plastic. A table was nice, but the floor worked just as well. The junior version had pictures, but the grown-ups got to play with pink and blue squares with little points around their edges.

That was Scrabble up until the Web got its claws into it.

First there was Scrabulous. Suddenly, it was possible to play on-line with strangers. Real time games on a familiar board. You could play and chat and challenge. They kept statistics and graphs and charts. It was almost like playing with the Little Cuter at the kitchen table, except that now she was beating me with alarming regularity.

Alas, Hasbro and Mattel decided that their rights were more important than our fun, and the lawyers got involved and there was a lot of on-line screeching but "the man" won and Scrabulous was history.

I tried Lexulous, their next incarnation, but there were no markings on the board and I like to be reminded which colors mean what. After all, I do have other things to think about, and game playing should be the most user-friendly of activities on the planet. Lexulous just didn't make it. It rarely was functioning when I wanted to play, and the lack of real-time chat took lots of the fun out of the game.

Plus, players had 8 letters in the rack, not 7. That was a serious issue for me for a long time. I'm not sure I'm over it yet.

The Little Cuter took us to Wordscraper late last year. The name is hardly as mellifluous as Scrabble, and there are still 8 tiles in your rack, but it's the most fun we've had together in a long time. We're in touch for no reason at all except that it's fun to play the game. We can spend an hour in each other's company when we're separated by thousands of miles. We can come and go and pick up right where we left off. With the "challenge" setting we can accept words that the game's dictionary would refuse (oy or doofus or zoot) and make allowances for mis-typings and other errors. They keep statistics and charts and lists of your best words.

There's also the option to play with random rules or to create your own board and rules. That requires an entirely new set of skills, and I'm not sure they are skills I choose to acquire. It's totally humiliating to lose by 700 points to a stranger, even if she does laugh at your chat.

Self-flagellation is not my idea of a good time. But if I can't have the Cuters sitting next to me, cyber-scrabbling is the next best thing.



"Children are the most desirable opponents at scrabble as they are both easy to beat and fun to cheat" Fran Leibowitz

Friday, April 24, 2009

Old Videos

My album-oriented-adult-quality-music-from-then-and-now radio station was hyping a new service today : Videos you loved when you were growing up. Log on and watch even the really old ones.

The really old ones? Like from when they were invented when the Cuters were in middle-school? Like yesterday? Like, I mean, c'mon.

Middle Brother and I used to wake up at 5am when we were very young. We'd curl up in the afghans Grandma had crocheted for us (the red and yellow ones with the flower pattern) and watch the end of Modern Farmer while waiting for Crusader Rabbit and Mighty Mouse to start. If we got up too early, all we could see was the test pattern on two of the stations and the waving American Flag on the third.

We didn't have just video. We had Audio-Video. A/V meant slide shows with a reel-to-reel tape deck almost-but-not-totally-synced to the automatic slide advancer. There were slide shows on Navajo sheep farmers and the building of the Panama Canal and on health topics better discussed in single-sex classrooms. No scantily clad dancers, no special effects, no memorable tunes. The only home-made A/V productions were 8mm family movies or slide shows of the neighbors' trip to Florida. Silent movies and slide shows - without imported Top 40 soundtracks - those were our videos.

Audio and video were stationary then. Daddooooooooo brought home one of the first transistor radios when I was in the 6th grade. Before that, music lived on the record player in the Hi-Fi in the living room or inside the console radio in the kitchen. Portable video? That was just for Dick Tracey and his wrist watch/camera/communicator.

The really old music videos...... yeah, right.




"James James Morrison Morrison Weatherbee George DuPree
Said one day to his mother, "Mother, " he said, said he,
"You must never go down to the end of town
Without consulting Me"

A.A.Milne When We Were Very Young

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why ?

Can someone explain to me why the SAT is advertising on Facebook?

I'm really confused. Going to college - you know about the test. Live in a family that pays half an ounce of attention to the world around it - you know about the test. Attend high school - you know about the test. Have older siblings - you know about the test. You really don't need to be reminded.

"The one, the only - the SAT". As if it were a fancy car - the Ferrari of tests - something to which everyone would aspire. It's cool. It's hip. It's your friend - "There are scarier things than the SAT - like having your Mom chaperone the prom" . And it's physically attractive. At least the ad is.

So, I'm 15 and I'm hooked. Forget the ACT. I'll sign up. I promise.

Is ETS using high school kids to pressure colleges to retain the test as an admissions tool? After all, if you've paid to take the thing, and studied for it, and stayed up nights worrying about it, you're going to send your scores whether the school demands them or not. And if they show up in the Admissions Office you know they'll be looked at, and that's a hard bell to un-ring.

Standardizing anything is difficult, and trying to quantify the thinking of high school students is impossible by definition. Test taking skills, access to tutoring, having the flu on test day - there are lots of reasons you're smarter than your score. Or dumber, for that matter. But as one piece of the complex puzzle that is a college applicant, it has its place.

I just don't know why they're advertising.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Talking and Listening

On the way to the gym on Monday, I was listening to Diane Rehm . One of her callers was Jeff, a postal worker who identified himself as "just a guy". He suggested that the census be taken by the people who know the neighborhood best - the mail carriers. He pointed out that they are federal employees who already walk the beat. One of the panelists commented, "from your lips to God's ear" and hoped that someone from the White House was listening to the show.

I had a West Wing moment, imagining Ginger? an intern? sitting in the bullpen outside Sam and Toby's offices listening to Diane's show. Not a picture I could have conjured up a year ago. But somehow it seems possible that in this administration such a thing was heard and noticed and commented upon.

It's nice to feel included, to be talked to as if I might really understand the issues and could actually hold a nuanced thought in my head. When the President or his minions are interviewed, I don't have that awful sinking feeling in my stomach, worrying about how embarrassing their answers are going to be. I find that I can learn something if I pay attention. And better than that, I have the sense that they are listening to us, too.

I really wanted to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt after 9/11. I really did. But he lost me when his call to the country was "Go Shopping". C'mon. For the first time in a long time we were Americans as a whole, not separate states or religions or races or parties. Just Americans. And we loved America in a way we hadn't felt in a long long long long time. Ask us anything when we're in a mood like that; we'll do it. Ask for a sacrifice, issue a call to public service - just tell us where and when to show up. But don't send us to the mall.

In contrast, the first major piece of legislation sent to President Obama's desk was the Senator Edward M Kennedy Serve America Act. For $5.7billion over 5 years more Americans than ever will have the opportunity to work for little or no salary in dangerous or depressing neighborhoods doing work that needs to be done. Whether to feel a sense of accomplishment, extend a helping hand, put retirement's free time to good use or to pad a resume before graduate school there will be no shortage of Americans anxious to participate. We've just been looking for a little encouragement.

It's nice to feel that someone is listening.

(That afternoon, a census taker came to our front door. How weird is that?)


"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country"

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day

I like Earth Day. I was there at its creation, after all.

It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970. Initially, it was a touchy-feely alternative to the harsher realities of the anti-Vietnam War protests. You wanted to do something, but war was such an uncomfortable subject and arguing against it made your parents wonder why they were spending tuition dollars while you were telling the lawfully elected President of the United States of America that you knew more than he did. With your picture in the crowd on the front page of the NY Times. At 18 years of age, no less. But planting trees? Recycling newspaper? Not littering? And all this in service to Mother Earth. Who could be aggravated about supporting Mother Earth?

Earth Day had teach-in's. They were more fun than sit-in's, which invariably involved police and disciplinary action. They were less fun than be-in's, which owed more to Timothy Leary and The Grateful Dead than to anything political or practical. Teach-in's were earnest and had hand-outs and statistics and pictures of desolate landscapes ravaged by the cruelty of man. There was science and legislation and outrage and lots of tree give-aways.

Earth Day had no mandatory family gatherings. It required no gift giving, no card sending. You went outside and did something - cleaned a playground, weeded a median strip, planted one of those free trees. You felt good because you were doing good.

Now there is Earth Week and "We're greener than you are" tv networks Were this still 1970, there would be protests about the idea being "co-opted by 'the man'". Instead, Sheryl Crow is designing reuseable grocery bags for Whole Foods and Wal-Mart is selling them next to the discounted paper towels.

And Mother Earth is grateful.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Decisions

"And you, Senora? A margarita?"

A fairly innocuous question in a Mexican restaurant at dinner time. But when G'ma looks at me and says "Do I want a margarita?" all kinds of hell breaks loose inside my head.

NO - you are on 8 different medications all of which caution against alcohol. I don't want to feel responsible for your impaired functioning if you fall tonight. Falling is not a good thing when you're 86 years old, as you well know.

But half a margarita? With dinner? Once every 6 months? Really, how much damage could that do?

I looked at the margarita glass. It was huge. "I'm driving. Let's share one."

The waitress left, but the question stuck around. Around and around and around. It wasn't quite "Do I like margaritas?" - I could chalk that up to a failing memory and the fact that you're not a big drinker. You could have forgotten if you liked them. It wasn't "Do I care to drink a margarita right now?" - that empty philosophical Hamlet-like passive aggressive piece of you that makes me crazy but which I have learned to ignore. You weren't kidding around; you were really asking me the question. But what did you mean? And why was I still thinking about this?

I've been making lots of decisions for you since you came to live in our town. I chose your apartment. I buy your groceries, choosing your breakfast cereal and toothpaste. I found and hired your "girls", the delightful sisters who keep you safe. I decided on your cable tv package and your renters' insurance coverage and which newspaper you'd have delivered. Your doctors, your surgeries, your therapists - all me.

I check it all out with you, looking for a dispositive answer. Do you have a firm opinion anymore? Or do the questions not interest you? Have you given over that much control of your life to those who can remember what you did yesterday? The questions have different values - breakfast cereal and kyphoplasty certainly fall into different categories of importance. But what about waking up in the morning? If you want to roll over and sleep til 11 should the girls just smile and go back to their telenovelas or do we make the decision that life is to be lived and if you're breathing then you should participate in the world around you so get up and get out of that bed?

Where's the line? Somewhere between the doctor's office and Parilla Suiza, I suppose.

You're shorter and thinner than you were in your prime; are you vanishing before my eyes?

Nerd TV

Neil Armstrong really did walk on the moon. I watched them prove it last night on Mythbusters.

I never doubted that he walked on the moon. I was 17, I wanted to believe that he was there, and it was easy for me to buy into the notion that smart people were able to figure out the science and math needed for the LEM's soft landing, the rocketry to lift off and return to Apollo 11, the re-entry spacecraft protections, the pressurizing and breathing apparatus and especially those very spiffy moon boots. We were Americans, after all. If we wanted to do something, it got done.

Apparently, though, there are people who think that, with nothing else to occupy their minds (Vietnam? Nuclear proliferation? Civil Rights?) our government spent time and resources in an effort to delude the American people. Would that they were that clever. I don't think so. And now I have proof.

And it was really cool proof, too. "If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing," they said. There was faux space dust from NASA, a mini-gravity airplane ride and a personal spacesuit. There were movie lights and vacuum chambers and lots of unconventionally attractive people jumping up and down in nerd glee.

Nerd glee is fun to watch. It's relaxing. There's no pressure. "Adam chafes for science." Uncomfortable underwear is uncomfortable underwear and it's funny, too. There's no schadenfreude. Everyone's had a wedgie. It's a free giggle.



"The Eagle has landed"



Saturday, April 18, 2009

King James

Watching the NBA playoffs is not my favorite way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon. For TBG, though, watching LeBron lead Cleveland is just this side of heaven. (Heaven was watching Michael Jordan 6-peat.)

It's hard to remember that LeBron is the same age as the Little Cuter. He's a big man playing a big man's game, and he's playing with authority. The high school phenom turned Rookie of the Year. The man who has all of Cleveland "Believe"-ing. A real reason (beyond fabulous greek restaurants) to live by the shores of Lake Erie. And yet, he's still so young.

He's been drawing a paycheck since he was 18 years old. This wasn't a paycheck most high school grads receive - this was serious money.

Whole organizations were devoted to his interests. Paul Silas was hired to nurture him. Nike paid him $90,000,000 to be a human hanger and a shoe model.

And he was just a kid.

Last summer, LeBron played for Mike Krzyzewski and Team USA. This season he's playing defense like never before, and leading the Cav's to a first round victory over Detroit as I type. Does anyone else see a connection? Seems like LeBron went to college last summer.

Perhaps it was playing on an international stage. Perhaps it was representing the United States of America. Perhaps it was just natural maturation. Perhaps. Perhaps it was a set of intangibles surrounding the college experience and those who, like Coach K, live their lives surrounded by those intangibles.

No question that Coach K is a really good college coach. He's a teacher, a motivator, a game coach, a leader. The players he coaches are college students who don't earn more than he does. And those players graduate.

No question that LeBron is a really good basketball player, either. I just wonder if there's not something about college that's rubbed off on him.





*For a concise history of this topic try : http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/columns/story?columnist=adande_ja&page=highschoolers-090416


Hoya Saxa!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Inside and Outside Names

A NY Times piece by Richard Rodriguez was the first time I thought this through. Speaking Spanish at home and English out in the world, at a young age Rodriguez realized that the safety and comfort of home was embodied in the private, family-only names he was called there. He was a different person, with different expectations, inside and outside his home.

Yesterday, I heard Alberto Alvaro Rios speak at the library. The author of the OneBookAZ selection for 2009, Capirotada, he, too, grew up bi-lingual. Listening to him read from his (completely delightful and often quite ins ,  ightful) stories, I was struck by what happened when he read names. Matilde .... Consuela .... Obregon His voice caressed each syllable. His eyes crinkled and looked at something I couldn't see. His shoulders rolled just a little and his mouth had a teeny tiny almost couldn't see it but you knew it was there grin. And the whole thing was more than each part - he was in another place. Just for that instant, the Regents' Professor at ASU was gone and there was the kid who lived behind the Catholic church in Nogales in an apartment filled with love. The moments passed quickly, and the stories flowed beautifully as he turned the pages, but the difference struck me.

G'ma tells this story about a day in elementary school: The teacher wanted to know what languages were spoken at home. "Raise your hand if you speak Italian" "German" "Yiddish" "Russian". The numbers didn't add up. She tried again. Something was still wrong. She had everyone stand up and went through the list again. At the end, only G'ma was still standing. "Go home and ask your mother" and, quaking in her shoes, she did just that. Her mother stopped, thought, and said "Zog tu ir English" *.

That fluidity between cultures often argues with the swaddling clothes security which comes within the walls of the burrow. Until you learn that one is "better" than the other assimilation is a meaningless term. You are. Not "You are Jewish". Not "You speak Spanish". You are. How you come to terms with "the other", now that's another story.


*"Tell her English"

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rules

Kids like rules. Always have, always will. Those little monsters running amok in the grocery aisles? Chasing through restaurants like banshees? Wreaking havoc amidst the flowerbeds? They're just looking for some one, any one, come on people ..... Make Me Feel Safe.

You try. As a parent, you're not sure if you're stunting their creativity by protecting the sanctity of the wallpaper, but you try to strike a balance. Starting when the kid is an infant is infinitely easier than waiting til you've decided the little beast is a sentient being after all. Saying "no" to someone without verbal skills is lots easier than arguing with a taller-than-you-are teenager. And once you get into the habit of establishing the boundaries, it happens on its own more often than not. Without realizing it, you're keeping the Burrow walls intact.

G'ma has "the look". Come home late for dinner? Throw a snowball at the school bus? One look at her face and you are quaking in your boots. She never has to say a word. It's the look. And it's not anger or fury or disgust you're seeing. It's more along the lines of "I can't believe you were so foolish as to do that which will cause this look to appear". No harrangue. No argument. Just the look. As I grew older, I began to see her smile behind the look. Not a smile that the recipient noticed, but the smile in her heart as she laughed at the foolishness of the act and reveled in the power of "the look". The punishment was in the anticipation, the dread, the self-flagellation the miscreant inflicted upon herself. And G'ma didn't have to think of anything else to do or say; "the look" did it all.

Are there blogging rules? The Big Cuter says "no", that timeliness and consistency are vastly overrated and that there is no cyber-spatial expectation that I will post at the same time every day or that the posts be uniform in length or content. All this freedom - I'm like the ground squirrels in the front yard, digging tunnels everywhere with impunity. Wherever they come up, the squirrels are happy, it seems. There are snacks (the tunas from the cacti) at the entrances and nibble marks on my newly planted desert marigolds, and how do they climb those fish hook cacti without getting stuck on the thorns? No one is in charge, as far as I can see. Certainly, I am not. And yet, when the coyotes stroll across the street the squirrels are nowhere to be found. Did they go to Squirrel School to learn to hide? There's not a Captain Squirrel herding the laggards down the holes. No squirrel alarms are heard. Yet they are gone, safe, protecting themselves, following rules known to them alone.

Like the ground squirrel, here in the Burrow I'll come up where and when I want, leaving detritus in little piles, while following the rules which keep me safe. And I'll be happy.




"You know more than you think you do"
Dr. Benjamin Spock

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Explicatory Bloviating

The Big Cuter thinks I should divulge more of myself because, in this medium ("New Media, Gasp" said Princess Myrtle one day) bloviating is encouraged. The Little Cuter is my first follower. It's nice to be loved and supported and mentored by those you've loved and supported and mentored yourself. Maybe that's what G'ma means when she thanks me these days.

Ashleigh Burroughs has been with me since college, when I realized that I was never going to write the great American novel but that, perhaps, Ashleigh would. It's good to have dreams and it's awful when your dreams make your reality seem paltry in comparison - especially when your reality is a good one. Giving Ashleigh her own persona cured that problem lickety-split. Like her namesake from Gone With the Wind, her intentions are stronger than her actions. But that's ok. She's been waiting for just this occasion to shine.

The Edgar Rice Burroughs Martian series kept The Big Guy sane during boring summer jobs in his youth. He read them aloud on Carribbean beaches and at Floridian pool-sides and they prompted a 7 year old reluctant reader to become a literary junkie. Inspiring, exciting, provocative -- I'd be glad if the Burrow meets that standard.

When I really really really like a book I'll try to make it last by rationing the chapters I allow myself to read in one sitting. Herman Wouk's The Winds of War got me through my first lonely weeks in graduate school that way. The Hobbit kept me company on a cloudy week near Disney World, and Sam Gamgee and Bilbo Baggins (also great names) have been by my side ever since. Bilbo loved his burrow home, and never wanted an adventure, and fit right in with the community and his friends and went out and DID SOMETHING SPECIAL anyway. Home should be like that, I think - keep you cozy and toss you right out.

Ashleigh Burroughs is a great writer's name. A burrow is a great place to live and to leave. Living up to the name and enjoying the adventure - that's the challenge. Welcome to Ashleigh Burroughs in the Burrow.



"After all, tomorrow is another day"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Good Names

Roy Hobbs is a good baseball name. Dick Butkus is a good football name. Ashleigh Burroughs is a good writer's name.

Lots of writers have lots of initials. Most of them seem to be R ..... J R R Tolkien, George R R Martin......

Growing up, I didn't have any nicknames, which is funny now, because I have lots of them as an adult. Am I living my life backwards? I'm parenting my parent, and mothering my children. I'm living the cowboy songs I loved as a child.

Roy Rogers is a good cowboy name.



"Pick me a good one, Bobby"

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