Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Language’

What a weekend! I got my hair cut just a bit shorter a la Helen Mirren, and one of the Bride’s friends from medical school flew into town with her little boy. She is an Ob-Gyn physician who was recently certified to perform Sex Reassignment Surgery (“SRS -also known as gender reassignment surgery, gender confirmation surgery, genital reconstruction surgery, gender-affirming surgery, or sex realignment surgery).” I am so proud of her!

I remembered this feisty red-headed friend had always been ahead of her time – she started a group in school to push for LGBT rights, she once gave me a button to wear, “Straight but NOT narrow.” She writes the loveliest thank you notes. She and the Bride had (and still have) yoga in common, and if you’ve been following this blog for a long time, you might recall when I helped her pick out a rescue dog!

Her adorable son played hard with my two Grands and it was sad to see them go home yesterday.

But sadder still was our Saturday sojourn to Parnassus Bookstore to hear David Frum talk about his new book, “Trumpocracy.” Frum was actually quite enlightening, it was the topic that reeks of despair. He called himself a Conservative, and deplored the dire direction Mr T has taken our democracy; we are a nation more divided than any time in the history of keeping statistics for such things. The one take-away for me was when he started to talk about “political language.”

If you’ve seen the video of Marco Rubio dancing around the question about his willingness to take NRA money, you know what Frum was talking about. Politicians never, well almost never, give you a straight answer. They equivocate, they zig-zag, they dodge, they prevaricate. We might also say that lying has become a new normal, thank you Ms Conway. Look at all those indictments, thank you very much Mr Mueller. But what Mr T has done is cornered the market on plain talk. He gave Yes, and No answers, he “appears” to be truthful to his supporters. He got tons of free press, always eager for the spotlight. His appeal was his political ennui.

Perhaps the very darkness of the Trump experience can summon the nation to its senses and jolt Americans to a new politics of commonality, a new politics in which the Trump experience is remembered as the end of something bad, and not the beginning of something worse. Trump appealed to what was mean and cruel and shameful. The power of that appeal should never be underestimated. But once its power fades, even those who have succumbed will feel regret.  https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/01/frum-trumpocracy/550685/

Frum makes the case that we need Conservatives to survive, and I would have to agree, we do need their yin to our yang, pulling us closer to a middle way. Or maybe we need a third party? Finding consensus is our only hope, since patriotism is a bi-partisan emotion that is very different from the fear and anger spewed by a small percentage of white-nationalist-identity politicians.

Maybe the GOP would benefit from a little early morning healing, meditative yoga? Namaste.

IMG_2331

 

Read Full Post »

“What does feminism mean to you?” Maxine, a new friend questioned me. I had to stop and think, since it feels like such a natural element in my life, she might have well asked, “Why do you need to breathe?”

My rant began slowly and built up over time. But I had to start out with equal pay for equal work, a fundamental, major prerequisite for life here on earth. Luckily she agreed, but she is about ten years younger. I’ve noticed that some younger women take many of our rights for granted, they think the word “feminist” is alienating. They like to call themselves humanists.

Which is OK I guess. After all, they didn’t have to be married to get birth control from a paternalistic, male doctor. They didn’t see their friends mutilated from illegal abortions, and later be unable to bear children. They were never told not to consider college by a school counselor, instead apply to secretarial school. They were never shamed about their sex.

I fumbled into a bit of a Twitter tirade with a young feminist author recently. I try to avoid trolls at all costs, I believe in just blocking them at first sight. But I was reading Hunger by Roxanne Gay, so I started following her and she mentioned she was working on a group of stories about “difficult women.”  And I asked if “difficult women” are the same as “nasty women.”

“NO,” was her one word reply.

The problem was I didn’t see her reply until the next day and by that time a bunch of angry young “feminist” trolls had said some awful things about me in her feed. So I’m not some 12 year old girl who would have been crushed and possibly suicidal by the digital harassment. I responded to them… I said I was a 68 yr old feminist and truly didn’t know the difference and would they please explain. I went high.

Now one of the responders had mentioned “cis women,” and how fed up she was with them (me), so I was guessing this had to do with some Lesbian sexual thing, since Gay is gay and I was simply referencing Hillary’s “nasty women.” I remembered another instance of being shamed online, when a famous food blogger put my picture up and someone said I looked like a “man.”

Now that really hurt! But I blamed it on my pouffy hat at the Downton Abbey premier. IMG_0836

And if you haven’t heard Pink’s response to her daughter being told she looks like “…a boy with long hair,” listen to this: https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/8/27/16212862/pink-vma-2017-video-vanguard-acceptance-live-your-truth

Thank you very much Pink! It saddens me that some feminists with differing sexual preferences aren’t on the same page, because we all were once upon a time. Ms Gay deleted all those difficult/nasty/mean Tweets and then she blocked ME!

Fine. Her book became difficult for me to finish, and it wasn’t an easy start as she was gang raped at the age of twelve. But I didn’t block her, I’m giving her a chance to explain herself. After all, she doesn’t know I have a good Lesbian friend here in Nashville.

Now Ivanka is another story. She stood behind her dad in blocking the implementation of President Obama’s rule to address gender-based pay discrimination. (Remember that was my very first point to my new friend). The rule would have required businesses to collect data on pay discrepancies based on gender, ethnicity and race. Here is her explanation, in case you were wondering about her feminist cred.

“Ultimately, while I believe the intention was good and agree that pay transparency is important, the proposed policy would not yield the intended results. We look forward to continuing to work with EEOC, OMB, Congress and all relevant stakeholders on robust policies aimed at eliminating the gender wage gap.”

I wish we could all stop shaming each other. When I see snarky comments about FLOTUS wearing stilettos to a flood zone I get just as mad as I would have when anyone criticized Hillary’s hair or her clothes. I mean, come on…..

This is my high school graduation picture, 1966. I was a 17 year old budding feminist then, who didn’t wear stockings or makeup or tease her hair.

IMG_5324

Read Full Post »

It’s that time of year again. Time to cook with apples and honey. Time to walk to the river and throw our sins away, symbolically of course. Time to make a fresh start, before the Book is closed on Yom Kippur.

Yesterday I drove into town for a haircut. IMG_1149My stylist, Christopher, is a wizard, who wears his scissors in a tool belt like a hipster cowboy. One of his clients brought him a bottle of Grey Goose, I usually only bring yellow cherries. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, our hairdressers are like priests; we tell them everything in exchange for making us feel beautiful. If only until the next shampoo.

It was an overcast, rainy day with satellite trucks placed strategically around the Historic Downtown Mall. News outlets from all over the world are waiting to hear if  our outstanding Police Chief, Tim Longo, will find Hannah Graham. She will be missing for 2 weeks this Saturday. The Person of Interest, JL Matthew, is being held in Galveston, TX since last night. Our Chief must have found some evidence in his home or car since he is now being charged with Abduction and not just Reckless Driving. http://www.click2houston.com/news/suspect-in-hannah-graham-case-in-custody/28238756

This new year, I wonder if we can begin to understand how words help shape our culture.

Calling something “domestic abuse” is ridiculous, it’s shorthand for what it really is – assault. If a man pinned another man against a wall in a bar, choking him and threatening to kill him, why I believe he’d be in jail soon enough. If a man punched the lights out of another man in an elevator, well, you get the drift.

When we tell our young women to “Never walk alone,” to “Watch what you wear,” or “Don’t drink too much,” which is what many are saying around the Hannah Graham case, and I previously didn’t even want to go there, but what they are saying is, “Get Back,” don’t display yourself, don’t ask to be raped. We blame women, we say as our college President has said, “Don’t put yourself at risk” – which is putting the blame on the victim, the woman, again and again.

Because we would never tell a man what to wear, not to drink or when he could go out alone.

This Saturday women are gathering around the country at house parties for “V to Shining V” – a Lady Parts Justice initiative to get women out to vote and supporting our reproductive rights. I’m liking this new breed of feminist, thank you Sarah Silverman. It’s not enough to burn bras and knit nipple shaped hats for our nursing babies. We need to elect legislators who know what we’re talking about, who don’t want to go backward. http://ladypartsjustice.com Here are some reasons to join in the fun:

Because women decide elections and if we get together, blow this shit up in a smart and funny way, we just may be able to get folks to sit up, take action and reverse this erosion of rights.
Because neanderthal politicians are spending all their time making laws that put YOUR body squarely into THEIR hands.
Because extremist goon squads exist in EVERY statehouse in America and are sneaking in tons of creepy legislation. We’re staying on top of this shit so you can stay on top this shit.
Because you use birth control.
Because you like sex and it’s not all about having babies. Think about it, if it were there would be no room to stand.

It’s like a second women’s consciousness raising group, only better because it’s huge thanks to social media. I couldn’t wear pants in the streets of Boston, or obtain birth control when I was in college. Look at us now. Let’s take back our language, let’s guard against the erosion of our human rights.

Read Full Post »

I am going to sit on a rock near some water

The Ivy Farms Book Club has asked its members to bring a poem to share at the next meeting. I chose to bring a poem by Billy Collins, our ex-Poet Laureate, who will be a keynote speaker at the KilKenny Arts Festival in Ireland this year. http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/billy-collins-when-i-start-a-poem-i-assume-the-indifference-of-readers-1.1891332?page=1

“When I start a poem, I assume the indifference of readers,” he says. “That there might even be a touch of hostility. There is a line from a Patrick Kavanagh poem that really resonates. It goes: ‘Tomorrow’s Wednesday. Who cares?’ Well, the reader can’t be expected to be interested in your life, the life of a stranger. The job of the poet is to seduce the reader, to make sure they are interested, to make something happen for them that is unexpected.”

When I write I rarely think about the reader, about cajoling her or him to like me or the content. I admit as a journalist I sometimes did, but today I write to make sense of things, I write to flex a muscle in my mind. I figure if the reader doesn’t like what I’m saying, he’ll stop reading! I hope this doesn’t seem cruel dear reader, but I’d rather not presume anything as I begin to write. That’s why I won’t check email or social media when I sit at my desk – later for that. I like to leave that morning space open for the muse of inspiration which will sometimes take hold of my fingers and take me in another direction.

Still I understand poetry may need a bit of a nudge. I like Mr Collins simply because he abhors obscurity or obfuscation in his verse. If he happens to be chopping parsley while listening or thinking about something else, it will find its way into his poem. And he is not writing for someone in an ivory tower, he feels the need to “seduce” us, the general public, with his words. And who doesn’t like to be seduced?

and I am going to stop talking

Last night Bob and I were laying out on the deck in total darkness, we were moon bathing. We wanted to see some shooting stars because it was time for the Perseid meteor shower. It was a perfectly clear night; we stopped talking and watched the enormity of the sky and its brilliant stars. On cue, stars began streaming from one spot in the solar system to another, in the constellation Leo, lying northeast of our ridgeline. I began to understand VanGogh. images

Then Bob said, “Do you hear that?” It was the sawing, symphonic sound of tree frogs chittering away at the edges of our star show. And the silence was broken as he told me more about his boyhood time at Four Bridges, and how much he loved that sound in the midsummer night.

I Love the sound of your voice

like a little saxophone

telling me what I could never know

unless I dug a hole all the way down

through the core of my self 

That was a verse in Collins’ poem “Orient. The other snippets are from “A Question About Birds.”                    Everyday Moments Caught in Time  

Sitting on a Bench to Watch Geese

Sitting on a Bench to Watch Geese

 

Read Full Post »

Do you take offense easily? Are you wedded to being politically correct in everything you say and do? A few years ago I took a course on Buddhism at UVA. The first project our instructor asked us to do was to write down a list of words to describe ourselves. You can imagine when we gathered them together on the blackboard what that list looked like – lots of “mothers,” “fathers,” “friends,” and family ties and occupations galore. I probably added “writer,” and “wife” to the mix. The purpose if I recall correctly, was for us to banish all those words from our consciousness, words that separate us into different groups by clan or class or religion or education, and think in terms of a more universal, inclusive identity. We are all human, deal with it.

Now I’m not writing this just for Bob, who absolutely hates political correctness. He has since the term first appeared. I have to admit that what first attracted me to him was his iconoclastic nature, so even when I’m disagreeing with him about something, I understand his position, for the most part. So when I read this essay in The Spectator by Nick Cohen, I immediately forwarded it on to him. Can we really change the world simply by changing the words we use? I grew up when “mental retardation” was considered a birth defect, and calling someone “retarded” wasn’t cursing, it was just a fact. These children were not mainstreamed and so we knew very little about them. Then later we used words like “intellectual disability.”

Worry about whether you, or more pertinently anyone you wish to boss about, should say ‘person with special needs’ instead of ‘disabled’ or ‘challenged’ instead of ‘mentally handicapped’ and you will enjoy a righteous glow. You will not do anything, however, to provide health care and support to the mentally and physically handicapped, the old or the sick. Indeed, your insistence that you can change the world by changing language, and deal with racism or homophobia merely by not offending the feelings of interest groups, is likely to allow real racism and homophobia to flourish unchallenged, and the sick and disadvantaged to continue to suffer from polite neglect. An obsession with politeness for its own sake drives the modern woman, who deplores the working class habit of using ‘luv’ or ‘duck’, but ignores the oppression of women from ethnic minorities. A Victorian concern for form rather than substance motivates the modern man, who blushes if he says ‘coloured’ instead of ‘African-American’ but never gives a second’s thought to the hundreds of thousands of blacks needlessly incarcerated in the US prison system. http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/nick-cohen/2014/04/you-sexistracistliberalelitist-bastard-how-dare-you/

Cohen believes the right and the left are equally responsible for pitting one group against another, and fighting pretend wars so that all that exists really is the argument. Think about that video of Obama saying something about the middle of the country, or was it PA, “…clinging to their religion and their guns.” Think about that leaked video of Romney at that $50,000 a plate dinner where he said it wasn’t his job to win the 47 percent of voters who were committed to President Obama, because they are “dependent on government” (and he will) “never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” That pretty much deep-sixed his campaign. And I think it’s true. The media is always making it about us and them, except every now and then when a clear voice cuts through the rubble.

“As the late and much-missed Robert Hughes said, ‘We want to create a sort of linguistic Lourdes, where evil and misfortune are dispelled by a dip in the waters of euphemism’.”

Words of course can hurt, and they can heal. We returned last night from Great Grandmother Ada’s Passover Seder. We read through a whole book of words in English and Hebrew before a dinner filled with symbolism and meaning. It’s meant to recall our journey from slavery to freedom, to cement our Jewish identity, and it happened right after some KKK nut job in Kansas yelled “Heil Hitler” after killing three people. He will be charged with a “hate crime.” But Jewish people everywhere know it was so much more than hate. We remembered the six million in our reading of the Haggadah. Until we can break down the mental barriers that divide us, by race or sex or religion – and not just with words but with real legislation and dialogue devoid of political semantics – what should we expect of our politicians.

 

Read Full Post »

Remember when cell phones and blue tooth technology were new? You’d see people walking down the street talking to themselves and wonder, what the heck? Then you’d see that little light in their ear and realize they were not actively hallucinating.

There is currently a cute little PSA on TV with a woman in a grocery store. She is also ostensibly talking to herself…until you notice the baby in her cart. She’s explaining how to pick out fruit, or just passing the time in language. Not baby talk, but really talking to her infant, as if she could understand her. Which is good, because they can.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/10/the-power-of-talking-to-your-baby/?src=me&ref=general According to this article, children who are raised in a poor or disadvantaged family are actually exposed to less language – fewer numbers of words – than other children before the age of 3. And it is this disparity, that can predict future school achievement or failure.

“The disparity was staggering. Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour. Working-class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words. By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family. And the disparity mattered: the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school. TV talk not only didn’t help, it was detrimental.”

2,100 words per hour. Now I studied child psychology in college, I knew about the monkey studies, the importance of touch and bonding. I knew about Skinner and operant conditioning, to pick up your baby before they start crying, so they don’t learn to cry for attention all the time. To praise the behavior you want to continue, and ignore others or distract to avoid total tantrum meltdowns. It all seemed so simple. But no one had ever actually counted the words parents say, per hour, until now.

The lesson here is not just to increase the numbers of words you may say to your baby. Because I have a feeling, and it was not a part of this study so I’m going on instinct here, that distracted parenting may have the same effect as hearing 30 million fewer words. When I see a parent with their head in their lap, on their phone texting away, I see a baby who is adrift in the world. I see a toddler in a playground saying “Look at me,” and a parent giving a cursory nod before returning to their oh so important smart phone.

What you say, and not just the number of times you say it, matters – and it matters deeply. When people would compliment the toddler Bride on her appearance, I would always counter with “…and she’s so smart too.” Later, her Grandmother Ada would give her money for a report card that had the supposedly negative checks of “Raising your hand too much in class” or “Talking too much.” 

I will have to continue that tradition with the Love Bug. She is already saying “Mama” and “Nana.” And she is babbling up a storm. She is a lucky little lady to have very talkative parents. And also to have such a musical family. After all, I wonder how often babies are serenaded almost every night with live guitar music? Well, maybe Nashville babies?

Image

Read Full Post »

Good Morning Followers! Finished your coffee and croissant? It’s back to work for Bob and laundry for me. Sorry to say, I like getting very little French news on our island. Diving back into American culture photo copy and listening to CNN has left me with a headache; the Pope is leaving (really?), Woodward has been “threatened” by the White House (I doubt anyone could threaten this man), and John Kerry has announced we’ll be giving Syrian rebels some “non-lethal” aide (so we send them money to buy our guns?).

Being an old newshound, I found my way to Politico for the Woodward story. Instead I clicked on the piece about John Kerry speaking French, mon Dieu! “Secretary of State John Kerry decided to show off some of his French-language skills during a press conference in France Wednesday.” Ha, not all reporters have gone to Rome! It seems that while running for President it’s better not to speak French, but knowing how to speak a few different languages might be helpful for a Secretary. http://www.politico.com/politico44/2013/02/kerry-busts-out-some-french-158056.html?hp=r23

Now about our old friend Bob Woodward: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/02/exclusive-the-woodward-sperling-emails-revealed-88226.html?hp=t1_3 Breaking News!! It’s semantics people. The word “regret” was used about implying that sequestration was a manufactured idea by POTUS. I find it fascinating that a little tete a tete between two people is more newsworthy than the actual bit about those humongous budget cuts that just may cut the legs off of our economic recovery. Hello!

Needing a break from such serious matters, between the rinse cycle and the 2nd cup of coffee, I thought I’d leave you with this little pick-me-up. Our First Lady, in her continuing effort to fight obesity, taught Jimmy Fallon a few, fine Mom Moves. Couldn’t help but rock that cardigan Madame Michelle! Altogether now, get up and dance!

PS Thank you Aunt Cait for the picture of Fourchue Bay!

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: