Old Moon

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I can't let another day go by without saying something about the death of a sales clerk in a stampede at a Walmart. That is the kind of story that makes fanatics out of people who consider themselves above the common herd, who think of themselves as religious and/or ethical experts. It's also the kind of story that makes anyone with a modicum of imagination wonder whether the pronouncements about "common humanity" and "essential goodness" have any but the shallowest foundation. I tremble to think that so many people could be so intent on buying things that they could overlook--worse, perpetrate--the destruction of a stranger's life!

There are so many frightening events these days, and often I'm even glad to be old enough to know I won't find out how they will all play out because I'm scared of how the resolution could be. And that's the most upsetting of all: the thought that maybe the good could actually be outdone by the evil.

Every ordinary person simply cannot become like the people who work in slaughterhouses who have to learn to shut down empathy. Somehow we have to show our children and theirs that until we can in some degree imagine what it's like to be someone else and care about them, we could be dooming the planet!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lost comment

To the anonymous writer of the rebuttal re "enormity," apologies. I can't seem to get your comment posted, but would like to reply by saying that you must be right. We have 4 dictionaries in our house, but all are over 10 years old. Probably the most important part of this usage is that everyone seems to understand what the speaker really means. That's what counts.

I Wish I Were Jonathan Swift...

...Because if I were, I might be able to shake up a few readers. Does anyone remember "A Modest Proposal?" Consult your handy dictionary of quotations.
In the October 26 edition of the New York Times Magazine there is an article that should shock the ethical and even the reasonable parts of any reader's brain. The title is "Once Upon a Time in Namibia" with a subhead, "Sergio Leone Meets Ralph Lauren in an African Ghost Town." The title alone takes an entire page.
The first picture is a moody low-key photo of a girl with scraggly hair seated in a window opening (sic.) with an artful lens-flare the brightest spot in the near-silhouette of the picture. She appears to be looking thoughtfully down on a completely barren landscape with a glaring white sky above. One can barely see that she is clad in a jacket with raveling hem on the three-quarter sleeve, a tight, long sleeve protrudes from that, and she seems to be wearing a necklace. The picture's caption identifies the designer of the jacket, which is priced at $2,910, pants (invisible) at $1,240, a belt (also invisible and unpriced), and a Lanvin necklace. That little price list is the only text on the page.
The next two pages are photos of respectively, a truly giraffe-like figure clad in a sort of slouch hat, two-piece tan dress, elbow-length black gloves, and stiletto-heeled shoes. She is leaning against a scabrous interior wall in a building obviously long abandoned. The facing page shows a desert landscape photographed through a ruined window and absent wall indicated by the remains of severely weathered wood that form the frame. In the near distance is what appears to be the same model in the same hat, but this time in a black evening gown accompanied by what look like long brown leather gauntlets. The left-hand page in the spread again has the only text for both pages. It consists of the clothes designer's names and the prices for the main items. They begin in excess of one thousand dollars, and the gown on the right-hand page is $10,000.
This same style (?) continues for four more pages, each as heat-drenched and arid and empty as the first. The dramatic atmosphere of once-inhabited desolation is astonishing—an effective photo essay on a recently independent and obviously nearly destitute part of Africa.
If the reader thinks that, it's only for a brief instant, before he gets to the sparse, tiny, white-ink inscriptions on the lower corners of the pages.
The model is extremely thin and extremely tall and her hair needs combing. The clothes are black or tan and without exception unflattering. The prices are staggering. The pictures are artistic, emotionally charged, and memorable.
I felt as if I'd fallen into some kind of out-of-body experience, or had misread the few words available after the whole page of elaborate fonts and background for the title. What was the editor thinking? Above all, I wondered, Why was that place used as a setting for those designers to exhibit those clothes at those prices? Above all, what was the editor thinking?
There seems to be no excuse for the callousness of the choice of such a site for the exploitation of conspicuous consumption. I thought of Swift's ability to flay human folly and wished I could somehow convey in the way he would have done the combination of fury and incredulity that assailed me as I looked at that spread in a respected, traditionally liberal medium I've known since childhood. If "the medium is the message," I tremble for us all who can accept it without question.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


What is it about Time? Maybe I'm a little obsessive, but it really does seem as though even a second is shorter than it used to be. Trying to keep putting something up here on a regular basis while keeping up with the minutes I need to transcribe (I keep swearing I won't be a secretary again), the promised reviews and occasional essay for the Senior Women Web, and the queries for the last finished novel, plus revision of another...I think my long-suffering husband is glad I get around to doing the laundry. We don't discuss ironing.

Then I think that the impression may be distorted by the terrible pressures on the country and the world of late. Nothing that matters has time enough to be understood by most of us, let alone to figure out ways to deal with them. It was such an incredible relief to be finished with the election. Yet, we're now faced with actually finding things to DO--about the economy, the wars, the pirates, the fires and floods and earthquakes, the dying wilderness and rain forests, the educational and healthcare systems, and that list is only a beginning.

Everyone is always amazed when there is actually more than one person who wants to be President. This year, I find it harder to believe than ever before that even one person sought the office with such dedication to winning. Could it really be that someone without a personality disorder could fill the job? Is there really a man or woman who has the ego and drive to get there who will also have the sense and humility to be effective? If all the wise heads of all parties could be made to cooperate as advisors, would their counsel be recognized and considered?

And how can we, the ordinary Joes and Janes and the eggheads and experts, help? WILL enough of us help if someone comes up with instructions? Will we be able to keep our sights high enough above our own problems to see beyond them? Is there enough time to take care of everything we need to if we're to go on living on our beloved planet?

And how does one decide where to begin?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Speaking of Speaking…

It's discouraging to hear even the most respected pundits—"talking heads" and heads of state—misusing our wonderfully varied and precise language. Does anybody look up a word anymore?

Enormity?! "The quality of passing all moral bounds…" (American Heritage Dictionary.) Nothing whatever to do with size! Granted, perhaps that word could be used to apply to the tasks facing the upcoming administration, but it's to be hoped not! The job is enormous, gargantuan even, daunting certainly, but not yet "a monstrous evil…"

Maybe it's not of great consequence, but hasn't anyone noticed that there really is a difference between "convince" and "persuade?" Between "bring" and "take?"

When I hear the locution, "She went…" to introduce words someone has spoken, I want to scream (not "go")!

I hope the succeeding generation will give up "like" as a hesitant insertion while the speaker is trying to think of how to say exactly what he has in mind.

Language does evolve; we know that, but I hate to think that the only mechanism is vandalism! "Willful or malicious destruction of public or private property." (Ibid.)

Friday, November 7, 2008


It turns out that one shouldn't be too hasty about "dissing" awards. I got another one I didn't mention here: first place statewide in the NC Senior Games literary arts division. A phone call this morning asked permission to put the short story up on the website. http://www.ncseniorgames.org/. Naturally, I was happy (would thrilled be more accurate?) to give said permission. So, in a day or two, see if it's there, if you're interested.

After the election marathon, nothing else seems worthy of designation as work! Let us hope that winners and losers alike have something left for the real long haul! We all know it's uphill from here, but maybe even those of us back in the crowd along the sidelines can be of some use by soberly cheering the team on. Personally, I hope more than I can say that never again will so much time, money and labor be spent just getting to the starting post! The best thing has been the number of hitherto uninvolved voters. More of that would make much of future campaign excesses unnecessary.

It's not always easy, perhaps, but it does mean everything to have something to look forward to.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Not all traditional, but they're so much fun to write!


Sleek triplets white
in scattered flashes, adorn
winter's sleeping woods.


Brash rustics, crowd in
among fine grass, thornĂ©d rose –
brave the slashing hoe.


The hand's clasp unfelt
and sweet voiced words unspoken
love's gifts accepted.


Why not alone taste
first savor of the day? Boor,
the bacon's burning.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Be Our Guest?

Be Our Guest?

Do you ever wonder how the other half—or at least, others than you—live? If you're like me, (cowardly) there are only some others you really want to know about. I've always felt Dickens and the newspapers provide all I can bear of the really awful conditions which most of the world seems to be forced to inhabit. Well, the other evening, we were offered a chance (admittedly not the first one) to see the abode and sample some of the lifestyle of a couple of those special people. It gave me pause.

We had a really lovely time, so don't misunderstand these remarks. It's just that I can't resist trying to relive some of it in the hope of learning how to do it. To begin with, we all know the housewife who somehow manages to keep her home in a state that would require not the slightest adjustment from a stylist for Architectural Digest or Better Homes. Maybe she's not your best friend, and maybe, like me, you envy her talents. I just wish I could pick up the knack!
The apartment we visited is one of those abodes. Not only is there not so much as a crushed cushion on the sofa, every ornament on side tables is perfectly positioned, every fold in the "window treatments" is exactly the width of every other one. There is not a single newspaper or magazine (except for the TV schedule) in view in any of the four rooms we were shown, in fact, the only book I noticed ornamented the exact center of the coffee table and was a collection of botanical prints in an oversize binding, dust jacket pristine. Look at any furniture grouping, and you realize it's artistic, pretty, even beckoning. And the kitchen counters? No coffee maker, no canisters, not a dropped potholder, just pristine gray granite.
Already intimidated, I was prepared to try to stifle my natural garrulity, and take it all in for future reference. I've always aspired to improve the general ambience of our home in the face of both my husband's and my tendency to littering and slovenliness.
The conversation and the other guests were delightful, I rattled on shamelessly despite my determination not to, and the food was delicious.
We came contentedly back to our rumpled domicile which is replete with cat hair and odd bits of broken leaves off our dog's feet, where our coffee table is hidden under magazines and half-finished newspaper articles, the couch cushions not plumped after the last time we sat there, and the curtains weren't even drawn.
I reflected that it would probably take me at least half an hour of clearing my husband's paperwork off the dining table and tidying the rest of what any casual visitor would be exposed to before I could comfortably let another person in, let alone offer them a meal. Just looking around our home was embarrassing.
So the question arises: is there an acceptable excuse for this disorder? I surely hope so, because here I sit right now, writing about it when I should obviously be clearing it up. We, even though we're long retired, work here. Sure, we live here too, but we write and paint and manage our volunteer jobs where it's comfortable to do what we want to do. I hope the occasional drop-in can forgive the mess. I remind myself that "home" is the operative word.
Our bed goes unmade only on the day I change the sheets. You should know that when we entertain, we do clear up and tidy. Of course, that means we stack the magazines and newspapers, we don't get them out of sight. How could we? This is a small retirement cottage. We straighten the picture frames after the cleaners have been in every other week, keep the guest room neat and the beds changed, and I love a blossom from our flower bed in a vase.
We'd love to offer a cup of tea or a drink, if you have the courage to enter where this half lives.