Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tinny Tussle

Is it just me, or are people speaking faster?
Sometimes I feel like my ears are full of plaster.
When I watch TV they all seem to be, like, twenty,
And their lips do move, but the background noise is plenty.

Are they making sense, is there anything they're saying
That I ought to hear? What's that awful music playing?
And that high-pitched whine, what's it doing in my ears?
It is always there, but grows louder with the years.

Now I'm getting mail from the Beltone Corporation
For those free coupons for an head examination.
I guess they heard that I require some augmentation
If I wish to hear my neighbor's conversation.

But I don't blame drums for my hearing aberration,
Or my lack of skill in interpreting vibration
Or the gap that forms between each generation
Or some nasty gene that has caused deterioration.

No, indeed, I say, there's a simpler explanation.
It is mere old age that diverts my concentration
For when I was young, life was rife with aspiration,
And the aim of mine was to get an education.

But that stage is past, as the Bard so aptly penned;
I no longer sway to the beat of every trend.
Existential thoughts now well up in my head
And drown out things that other folks have said.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Such success

In keeping with my father's admonition that “if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything”, I have refrained for more than a year from adding to the pile of screed you may have seen here.

But my problem is not that I can't say anything nice, but rather that I can't say anything clever. Given the number of websites that repeat wise quotations from everyone from the John Adams to Frank Zappa, I feel like The Preacher who proclaimed that 

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. “_Ecclesiastes 1:9 KJV

Well, that's kind of depressing, but strangely reassuring, if you stop to think about it. 

So when someone says, “Hey man, what's new”, I guess I'm supposed to reply, “Same old same old.” Or I could just say, “Wait for it.” But that could get old really quickly.

It does amaze me, though, the cleverness of those quotation innovators who lurk all over the internet. Example:

“If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.”

 In my dad's day, that would have been “If at first you don't succeed, suck eggs”, possibly because sucking eggs predates skydiving by several generations.

  I forget how many years it was before I saw the connection between the “suck seed” and “succeed” parts. Even more time passed before I understood that “teaching your grandmother to suck eggs” was the equivalent of saying “try telling her something she doesn't already know.”

I was certain my grandma sucked eggs, until I observed her technique. She pieced both ends, enlarged both holes, and blew the innards out of the eggs, rather than sucking them.  The yoke was on me.  

Today marks the 71st year since I took up planetary space, so I am working very hard on doing something that I have never done before, namely, creating a clever internet-worthy quotation. I figure it will likely take me a year, so you're invited back here, same time, same place next year to watch me suck seed or suck eggs.

(Man, that was a mouthful).

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Focus Tales

Well, it's coming up on the anniversary of a full year of this blog (in April) during which I have not posted an entry.

Too much has happened in the intervening time to write about. Most bloggers would be thrilled by this wealth of events, given that these are the stuff of which life (and hence, blog entries) are made. I refer, of course, to the three Rs: Remarriage, Retirement and Relocation.

During this embarrassingly long interval of hyperactivity with no literary output, the phenomenon of social networking has taken a stranglehold on the web. Facebook in particular has become as daily an addiction for the generations behind mine as Days of Our Lives is for my own age group (66+). Twitter likewise, is filled with Tweets, or is it Twits? And these are only two components of a whole movement, abetted by the ubiquitous cell phone/camera/movie theatre/game parlor that has become a tool for the upheaval of entire societies and cultures.

To post to a blog requires reflection, introspection and above all, time. Where did all that go?

In the old days (a couple of years or so ago) it would take, at a minimum, ten or fifteen minutes to sit down and write anything on a blog. Even assuming the computer was already running, there was the ritual of having to log onto the blog site, run the editor, type up the entry, proofread it, and then post it (and in many cases, correct it post haste). Blog hosting companies soon adopted the idea of simplifying posting by allowing direct posting from an email message, and now, of course, you can post voice messages directly from your phone.

Other writers have mentioned Attention Deficit Disorder as a symptom of our times: some call it The Demand for Instant Gratification, and the doddering amongst us find Impatience to be a sufficient description of the trend. My generation experienced it mainly on three occasions: Christmas morning, sermons, and the last week of school.

If it is true that humanity is speeding up and becoming more interconnected at the same time, there is a down side to this trend, which has already shown up in, for example, Facebook. Some call it over-sharing. There's TMI (too much information). The stretching of privacy boundaries until they snap. The arbitrary changing of corporate policy or rules while the game is on. The inattention to craftsmanship and detail. The elevation of the trivial to the consequential.

Along with the ratcheting up of the pace and triviality of mass communication (and to think that most of this junk is now stored and indexed and retrievable), comes an overwhelming need to limit intake and filter content. It gives me pause to think about the hours of my life that I have irretrievably wasted on reading comments that follow even a New York Times piece, or a home improvement site. It becomes an addiction, like gold mining: panning the muck for that valuable gem of insight or information that can instruct me, enrich my experience, or save me effort, when the odds against success are those of a Reno blackjack table. Even the search engines are swamped.

When I ponder my tendency to waste these hours (which are now more available, given that I finally smartened up and retired), I conclude that I'm as needy for community wisdom as a teenager is for social interaction. The difference is, a younger person has little difficulty in mastering the technology, while I can't seem to hit the mute button on the remote without changing the channel or turning the damn thing off.

I cannot multitask, talk on the phone while watching TV, boil water unless I remain in the kitchen, or converse with an Android. So what are my options? This post started an hour ago. I have only one option: to go from Point A to Point B in a single, straight line, pausing only to deal with spelling, grammar and composition. I suppose that during this interval, a million or more Tweets have flown by , and another 3/4 of a million people have logged onto Facebook.

As I gaze at the Ohio River in flood, a slowly turning raft of sticks, twigs, branches, bottles, tires, styrofoam and plastic revolves just offshore. Occasionally an object will break free from the vortex and rejoin the current, only to become entrapped in the next whirling mass.

The burden of churning flotsam reminds me of social networking.