The day the music died ….. it didn’t.

cockatielSometime in late 2010, my husband dropped his iPod in the toilet.  It fell out of his pocket and I never asked for details because frankly I did not want to hear them. It was clearly gone, even more so after he went ahead and stuck it in a bowl of uncooked rice that he later couldn’t even find.

Fall of 2010 wasn’t so great at our house. We also lost Pebble, our cockatiel who’d been with us for twelve years. We never figured out whether Pebble was a guy or a gal, but he/she/it used to walk around on my shoulder and sing along with my husband and was part of the family. The music was well worth all the moths that came into the house with Pebble’s food, forcing us to put our cereal and other dry goods into Ziplock bags. Pebble left us shortly after the Ipod did and between the two losses there was far less music in our home for awhile.

But of course time moved on and the iPod was replaced and we started leaving dry goods in their original packaging and life was good. Our kitchen filled back up with new songs.

walk talk 3Last week my husband, chief cook at our house, made a wonderful crab creole and then discovered that we were out of rice. He couldn’t believe it.  We do eat a lot of rice. Rummaging into the darkest, furthest reaches of our pantry he found an old bag from the Pebble days, the little white grains firmly enclosed in not one but two Ziploc bags. Might be better than nothing, he reasoned, as he poured the grains out into a bowl to see if they looked okay.

More than rice came tumbling out, of course. There was the iPod from 2010, dry, happy and in perfect working condition. All the old songs were there, the battery was weak but fine. My husband plugged it into a charger and our sound system and by the time I got home from work he was happily singing along as he made some pasta to go with the creole.

A gift from a cherished pet from long ago? A testament to the fine engineering over at Apple? Or just a reminder that what appears to be gone and forgotten is sometimes still very much here? You pick. I’m too busy enjoying the music.


Meet the Football Team from Washington D.C.

When George Marshall changed the name of his football team from the Boston Braves to the Boston Redskins in 1932, he may or may not have meant it as a tribute to the team’s coach William Henry Dietz. Glen Beck thinks that he did, but then again Glen Beck thinks a lot of things that I am dubious about. Coach Dietz may not even have been part Native American. The only thing I do believe about this legend of the origin of the name “Redskins” is that the word was not considered offensive at the time, at least not by the general population. But things change.

foundation 3Bitch, once considered an offensive word for a woman, is so common now that is seems to be in the lyrics of every other song. My mother, a staunch supporter of the civil rights movement of the sixties, would slip sometimes and refer to African Americans as “darkies”, the word she had been taught as a child. She died still confused about why her word was so offensive and the phrase “people of color” was not.

It comes down to how a word or phrase is perceived, most importantly by those whom it describes and to some extent by the others using and hearing the word as well. We could start a campaign today to refer to all blue eyed people as “water eyes” and say it in a fashion that implies a great deal of disrespect. After awhile it would become pejorative and children would rightly be taught not to use the term. Silly? Not really. It’s not the literal meaning of the words that matter or even the history of the phrase. It is the generally accepted meaning of the word now that determines if a term is hurtful and needs to be avoided .

Yes, it is true that some days this seems like rough ground to navigate. I have learned to use Inuit not Eskimo. I’ve realized that there are South Asians. I’ve dropped “retarded” from my vocabulary along with “third world country”. In the end, it isn’t all that difficult and I am glad to refer to people as they prefer. I want to stop using words once they become offensive, or once I realize that they always were and I just didn’t know it.

sungazing5So I just do not get Daniel Snyder. The name of a sports team is not just about history. It is very much about the present.  Whether Mr. Synder likes it or not (and clearly he does not) the name Redskins has slowly come to offend a lot of people.  It particularly offends many Native Americans and the fact that it does not offend every single one of them is besides the point. Things change. Once it became clear that his team mascot had become offensive to many,  it was time for it to go.

However, Snyder has made quite a point of the fact that he cannot be forced to change his team’s name. Okay, he can’t. He has a right to be an asshole if he insists on it. (Wait. Is “asshole” an offensive term?)

Imagine my delight tonight when my like-minded husband started yelling at the TV. Generally he yells because somebody playing some sport has done something inept and he is displeased, but tonight he was yelling his support. CBS football analyst Phil Simms and NBC football analyst Tony Dungy declared that they are going to refuse to use the name “Redskins” on the air. If no one can make Snyder behave with compassion, then Snyder cannot force these newscasters to behave without it. On September 25, the Giants will play the “team from Washington” and even I will be watching.

Things change. Today was a good today because there was at least one change for the better.





“To Say Nothing of the Dog” and what I learned from Connie Willis

When I picked up my own pen to start writing fiction in late 2010, I quickly discovered that I couldn’t read the novels of others while I was writing my own. Just couldn’t. This was a real problem because reading books was my favorite pastime. I moved on to flash faction, to playing online word games, and to losing myself in the worlds I was creating. So it was a big deal a few weeks ago when I finished d4 and left for a two week vacation with my family and decided that after almost four years it was high time I read a book for the sheer fun of it.

I chose Connie Willis’ “To Say Nothing of the Dog” which I had bought for my travel friendly Kindle. It had been on my list for years. Her award winning short story “Daisy in the Sun” remains one of my favorites ever and what could provide more vacation reading pleasure than a book described as a “comedic romp through an unpredictable world of mystery, love, and time travel.” Too bad I did not enjoy the book.

walk talk 4It’s well written, of course. Willis is an accomplished teller of tales. Part of the problem might be that I’m a more critical reader these days, and part of it might be that my expectations were too high. But mostly,  I was reminded how much the reading of a novel is an interaction between two people. There isn’t just a book. There is chemistry between the book and the mind of the reader and the problem here is that Connie Willis and I don’t have enough chemistry together to get through a whole novel.

She’s fascinated by Victorian England. A lot of people share this obsession, as the whole steam punk genre proves. I don’t particularly, and I had no idea that the novel would be so deeply rooted in it. I also seem to lack the genes for fascination with World War Two and with Napoleon, either of which would have helped. I am fascinated by the history of lots of other things, mind you, like mountain climbing in the Himalayas and sailing in the south Pacific and you’ve got my full attention for anything about the Mayans, or the Druids. Not a trace of these were to be found, however,  just endless riffs on butlers, chaperones and appropriate cutlery. There were also far more details about an old English cathedral than I was prepared to absorb.

My favorite part of the book involved an intellectual feud between two history professors about whether individual actions could affect the course of history. It was funny, and it showed how silly we all can be when we adhere blindly to a our pet theories. This brings me to the second problem between me and Ms. Willis.

I really, truly do not like her approach to time travel. I winced when I saw the movie “Back to the Future” long ago, explaining to anyone who would listen how you can’t go back in history and change things. You can’t kill your grandfather and then fade into nothingness. You can’t kill off Stalin and destroy the space time continuum. If you can somehow find a way to go back in time then by definition you are on another time line when you get there. You now live in another universe. Kill off who you please, including people who appear to be your grandparents if you can find them, because it won’t affect the folks back in your own universe who created you. You are just an alien now, causing havoc in your new home maybe, but destroying nobody’s cosmos.

Most of the parts of “To Say Nothing of the Dog” that were not infatuated with Victorian courtship were all about saving the universe from the misdeeds of other time travelers lest the whole universe unravel. “No!” I screamed, just like one of Willis’ pedantic professors. “You’ve got it all wrong! It doesn’t work that way.” The people on the beach just ignored me.

I finished the book feeling quite disappointed, and turned to the other science fiction fan in my family to vent my frustration. Turns out he read “To Say Nothing of the Dog” a few years ago. He really enjoyed it. What was my problem?

Even though Connie Willis did not give me the fun read I hoped for, she may have given me something better. She helped me to understand why some readers really seem to like my work and others are not impressed. I’ve received enough of both kinds of reviews now to know that it’s not just me. Ms. Willis has me thinking that it is also not just them. It’s me and the reader together, and the ways that our interests and philosophies compliment each other, or don’t.