Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My News, Your News

Last evening we were treated to a commercial for KPRC-TV news where the anchors explained with charming body language that the news they delivered was a "conversation", that what interested them was what interested us, that they were focused on giving us the news we want...

Let me think. What interests me are things like literary fiction, how to seed a pasture, when to plant haricots verts, how to prune a climbing rose. I don't really think that's going to get much air time on Channel 2 somehow. And I don't want it to.

I don't think it's healthy for a culture's news to be passed through the filter of what the listener wants to hear. For crying out loud, people! The news I want to hear doesn't exist yet. It doesn't even have the probability of existing without a sea-change in human nature. (Examples: peace and civility among all people; lives free from pain and deprivation; and a screeching halt to global warming.)

News should be news. Stuff happens that affects all of us: let's hear about it. A fire in an apartment house affects the people in the immediate neighborhood--strictly speaking, I'd let it pass. A man gets drunk and stabs someone--a terrible thing for the person stabbed, and for the drunk man, too, and for all their loved ones--but it's not affecting all of us, is it? And we certainly don't need to see the bereaved weeping for the camera's pleasure.

I want to know what laws get passed that affect us, what taxpayer funded projects hit complicating snags, how much pollution got spewed out into the air we all breathed last month, or more recently if those figures are available.

If the excellent residents of New Mexico march on Texas, or vice-versa, that would be news. If a refinery blows up, you bet: news. Drug murders along the border, crime sprees, those would qualify. How our sports teams fare, that would be news for a local station.

The defining filter would be the effect on the common good, upon the interets of a majority of people within the geographical radius served by the station.

It's the news we need to hear. Our love of trivia, our desperate need for entertainment have nothing to do with it. And if providing that news cuts ratings in half, then precede it with a half hour of amusing nonsense--oh, wait. They already do that.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I am thinking about handshakes. Three men we knew walked into the restaurant last night where we were having dinner, JW's in Carmine. One, the oldest, shook hands properly, man to man, the way I find so many do in business. I know how to shake the hand of that kind of man, with my own arthritic knobby one, but I go deep and squeeze enough to flex the protective muscle. He didn't try to win a pumping contest, either. Just nice and clean.

His son in law came next and it was limp and slightly moist. The question always rises: was it limp because I am a weak and womanish sort? Is there confusion at how one shakes such hands? Is he unaccustomed to shaking women's hands except as his mother taught him among her social friends? Is it a matter of limp character? (Negating this image is the reason for the first kind of handshake, compensatory or not, it makes an excellent impression.)

And the third, from a man who appears strong enough to hold a full bore motorcycle aloft with one hand while shaking yours with the other, and it is a curiously gentle shake, but that makes sense in the context. No doubt he has learned that a pressure normal from his perspective sends men and women alike to their knees. Men like that often have a gentle touch.

So: three men, three hands, too much revealed? Or perhaps nothing at all?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Home on the Range

Our dog, Charlotte Bronte, lies on the back porch in the late afternoon and looks through the ballusters at the yard and pasture beyond, leading down to the creek. Birds chirp. Rabbits move among the grasses and scout the perimeter of the vegetable garden, which is thankfully well fenced.

I, sitting in the rocking chair, whisper: Rabbit, Bronte!

No response.

Look, B--(pointing)--Rabbit!


After thirty seconds of this, escalating in volume, she lopes off the porch in the wrong direction.

Nothing has ever been as safe on our premises as those rabbits.

Oops. Maybe not.

After dinner, I stroll out the front door toward the gate to finish carving an entrance arch through the Lady Banks, so visitors won't have an eye poked out. The sun has just disappeared behind the trees and it's still light. Something moves in my peripheral vision. I stop. It moves again and I think: deer.

But no. Not deer.

A large grey and russet furred creature just outside our yard fence stops. He looks at me. I look at him.

Coyote. As big as Bronte, which is large for the local variety. Never seen one here in daylight.

We exchange looks for about ten seconds and then he trots off behind a clump of trees.

And where is the B dog? In the front yard, nose to the ground. Smelling the passage of rabbits, no doubt.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I've been thinking about motherhood today. Not so much individual mothers, as the experience itself. Women are waiting so much longer now to have children and I know something about the side effects of that, myself. My mother was 37 when I was born, which was nearly unheard of in the 1940s and 50s. I was called an "elderly primipara" myself when I was pregnant with my son, and I was 29.

The temptations and demands of career seem to be the reason for women having children later. We have control, now, to an extent unimaginable even fifty years ago. And so the bright young women fan out into their careers, with few distractions from the challenges of their jobs.

These young women are focused achievers, just like their male counterparts. Neither they or the young men have been required to place the needs of someone dependent ahead of their own. Or if they have done so, it hasn't been for long. It hasn't been for twenty years at a clip.

No wonder they regard parenthood as a fearful prospect. Also, an expensive one. Schools, clothes, food, doctoring--all become the main locus of expenditures. Personal indulgences shrink in number and kind. The idea of deferring personal gratification seems as disagreeable as it is novel.

I was afraid of having children, too, and as an only child, ignorant of everything involved. Married couples had children, though, and so we did. When my son was born, I felt stunned for the first few months, pulled by his daily needs to exist only in the present. How to interpret his cries? Would I ever again rest, sleep, think? And enveloping it all, breaking over every fear and worry, the most overwhelming surges of love, surely the great love of the human race, the one that keeps it all going.

This is the part of having children that the hesitant young women and men of today don't know. They don't feel this for even the closest sibling. They don't feel it for their pets. They don't even feel it for each other. It's simply more, greater, than everything else.

So, looking back on it now from the perspective of my sixties, I can see that the products of the ego, however lavish or glamorous, mean nothing in comparison to the experience of rearing/raising my child. If I had been able to do it, and refused for whatever reason, I would have missed out on the central experience of life.

A few additional words about elderly mothers. Once you manage to get pregnant, it's not your age when your child is born that matters so much, although it has an effect. Toddlers in particular take a lot of maternal energy. It's your age after that: To be nearly sixty when your oldest child graduates from college; to be seventy for the first grandchild; to absent yourselves from your grandchildren's lives by dying before they can really know you. We may live a lot longer now than people did in earlier generations, but not all of us enjoy that opportunity.

It's worth thinking about, if you have a choice.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cop Shows

I confess to the guilty habit of watching TV cop/FBI shows, but I'm about to quit. I stopped CSI years ago because of all the dead bodies. If I wanted to look at dead bodies I would be, right now, an M.D.

The Mentalist is OK; Law and Order is still generally OK, with the puzzle the main thing, and I can usually figure it out in the first ten minutes or less, so the fun is in being right about something for once (or twice), except when I'm wrong.

But the rest of these things are disgusting. Especially Medium which has been getting more grisly with every season. It's like CSI spawned a virus that's infected all of them. I watched Medium last night with my eyes closed every time there was a tight camera angle on someone or on a door about to be opened.

Down with decomposition, I say, and up with people. Stories about living people who are not murderers or child molesters.

Brothers and Sisters, anyone?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Am I in her head?

Either I'm obsessing or I've discovered a major failing in my writing. At this juncture, darn it. Why not twenty years ago?

My problem has been, I think, that I am fluent, especially on a computer word processor. Refining the fluency has been my focus for a long time. Getting the sentence to say exactly what I intend and to do so in a fresh manner.

Unfortunately the result is often boring. Sort of pretty but dull.

I was lolloping along today, feeling like I've been spiralling ever closer complete stasis, when two words popped in my head: Narrative Distance.

When I succeed in being in the character's head, the writing is more interesting. Light bulb flashing on! That's being in their head, not describing what it's like in their head. Not spending fifteen years looking for the right words to describe what they're feeling.

Am I on to something? Is this an oh-oh moment? Or is it an oh s--t moment, if you'll pardon the Anglo-Saxon reference?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Catching Up

I've been scarce lately on this blog. The main reason is that I've been working hard to complete a draft of my novel. That draws on some of the same energy as blogging. (Other reasons, too, but they're boring.)

Nevertheless, blogging has people on the other end while novel revision is just me and the screen and all those characters I have immobilized there until I decide things like the order of chapters, etc.

So: hello.

Developments around our place include three green tomatoes, first of the season; petunias in place of cactus in our window boxes--the cactus were not happy;
the first vines coiling up our pergola (thanks to Richard for removing the poison ivy flooring beneath it--even though he got poison oak for his trouble--maybe not from my poison oak, I can only hope).

We found a small copperhead snake in the pool skimmer. Everyone knows what that means. I'll make a careful search from now on before doing my water therapy.

Dog ate a small nest of baby rabbits, I think. I know she was eating where one of our many rabbits spends the night. I've actually watched a dog do that before (gulp, gulp, gulp and gulp) and it isn't pretty. This time, I didn't investigate, frankly.

Yes, I know that a swimming pool sounds extravagant. It probably is extravagant. But this is a narrow exercise pool to keep me ambulatory. I am hopeful that the result will prove the expense entirely worthwhile.

The twenty-five year old climbing rose that was devouring the side of our porch was brutally cut back in the winter with a saw. It is now reborn, sending up the most prolifigate number of shoots, most of which have new growth that is curled back upon itself. I can't tell for sure what's doing it. So I have no idea what to do to fix it.

The cardinals are everywhere, and in the mornings, we are treated to a splendid refrain of at least seven different bird species, possibly more, with no volume control.

I do love it here.