Monthly Archives: April 2013

seventeen

It’s been less than exciting recently, except, maybe, in my head. In my head there’s always something cool going on. I dream in technicolor, do they even talk about that anymore? No, it’s probably something digital now. I used to say, when I looked in the mirror, I see me at seventeen, but then, again, I’m not quite sure what age I am in my head these days, it keeps changing. Not that seventeen wasn’t good, it was. It was my senior year in high school. Started badly, what with Kennedy being shot just before Thanksgiving and the all the weeping and crying, the doomsaying, the loss of Camelot. Well. It wasn’t Camelot, it was politics.

There was the funeral procession down in DC, not there was much else on the seven or nine channels we had in LA at the time. I have pictures taken by a guy I thought was the most gorgeous boy in the world, he was at the Defense Language Institute in DC, pictures of the horseless rider, the flag draped casket.  Then there was all the nasty set ups about Lyndon. I felt sorry for LBJ, he had wanted to be president, and settled for second. ‘Course, even then, the historian in me thought Jack was more potential and promise, not an empty suit, and unfortunately we never really found out if he was as good as he said.

But there was good stuff, not that I was one of the cool kids, I was a watcher, sometimes a participant. No, that’s not right, not a watcher, I was more clueless, observed, participated but missed a lot. Not one of a clique, but one who moved in and out of cliques, passing through, getting information, moving on. And the information was scattered. Maybe that’s the reason I have had no interest in school reunions. You’d think a lover of history like me would want to return, but no. I like to, no love to, study the stuff, but returning, seems like a waste of time. I hardly ever re-read a book, mainly because once I’ve got the story, the characters and the plot, I’m done. I really don’t care about books, I mean I don’t care if they are on a tablet, oral or between hard or soft covers. What I care about is plot, how a character is getting from one part of the story to the other, who are they using, who is using them, what are they running from, and what are they running toward. Yep, that seventeen is still in my head.

anniversary

Tricky things, anniversaries. A date in the past, do we mark anniversaries or do we celebrate them? Yesterday was my parent’s wedding anniversary. Seventy-one years ago, in the middle of The Great War, not the War to End All Wars, that was what we call WWI, this was WWII, my parents married and then honeymooned in Williamsburg, Virginia at the Williamsburg Inn. We visited Williamsburg with my parents back in the mid-eighties, when the girls were little. Tom has this great video of Mom and Dad, sitting on a bench in front of a field of red and yellow tulips, discussing how life was in 1942. It was a date we celebrated every year in our family.

This past week I watched the Frost/Nixon movies, about David Frost interviewing Richard Nixon three years out from The Resignation. I remember being in a restaurant August 6, 1974, the day of Nixon’s resignation and watching the family walk to the helicopter to leave the White House. The movie was interesting, about stuff surrounding the interviews I was unfamiliar with but the story I certainly knew, growing up in California, having Nixon come back to San Clemente. Besides that whole thing was bizarre, a sitting president involved so blatantly in a crime. Ol’ Tricky Dicky, hoisted on his own petard. I did agree with Gerald Ford when he pardoned him. There was too much trauma to heal without a pardon. Some, certainly, celebrated when Nixon resigned. Some were just sad.

There are other dates we mark, not celebrate. Strange that I know this, but the beheading of Charles I, January 30, 1649. April 24, 1916, the Easter Rebellion in Ireland. June 6, 1944, D Day and the beaches of Normandy. When I was in college it felt like you had to look far and wide to mark a date in history. Not so in the twenty first century. September 11, 2001 World Trade Center, the Pentagon and that field in Pennsylvania. March 20, 2003, the invasion of Iraq. May 20, 2010 the foiled Times Square Bombing. April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing. And how many in between that I’m failing to register? Markings, not celebrations.

These anniversaries will mark the children of this century, the way they view life and the way they pass on their view of life. These anniversaries will change our sense of comfort and our sense of achieving happiness. Let us hope that it doesn’t change our essential optimism and our world view.

hyperbole

Hyperbole. A dictionary defines hyperbole as exaggerated statements, not meant to be taken literally. When I was in school, hyperbole meant we understood that the stories in the bible were to show the awesomeness of God. We read books like Werner Keller’s book, The Bible As History,  an academic study, not a quick read, but interesting. So, did the Red Sea really part for the fleeing Israelites? Probably not. More likely the water level was very low, the Israelites were able to ford the sea and the Egyptian charioteers’ wheels stuck in the muddy sea floor. A bit of hyperbole to get across the point of God saving the people of Israel, history written in supposedly simple stories.

Today, the news is being written large, in a 24/7, five-hundred channel world, where the rush to name events comes in at the penultimate level. The news channels create logos for each of the big events that catalyze us with a common bond, a bond that lasts as long as the headline remains the top story. Did this start with September 11, 2001? Has this evolved as the way to deal with events in the twenty-first century?  You have to wonder at the low-key ‘Troubles’ in Ireland, Na Trioblóidí, in Irish, certainly a violent conflict. Now, ‘Troubles’ seems so calm.

We have been jolted, pierced and bombarded with news. It’s almost too much to bear. And there seems to be no end to it. It’s still news, but we treat it like history. I wonder if there will ever be a book, The Media as History?  A book about events labeled at their most extreme; it is a crisis, a tragedy, a catastrophe, a calamity. And we precede those labels with adjectives; worst, appalling, horrid, ramping up the tension and the stress. Does this create something in the brain, blindsiding us from a sober look at the events, inhibiting an intelligent discussion of the causes and the effects, limiting our reasoning ability?

“Memory is tyrannical,” is a quote by Professor Rosenstock-Huessy. My BA thesis was on Jacob Christoph Burckhardt, a Swiss Professor of History, lousy historian, great philosopher of history and I came across the Rosenstock-Huessy quote in my research. If you study history, you know you get history after memory, when we’ve moved past the personally known, past the individual point of view. Yes, memory is tyrannical, but so is the media today.

voices

It was a couple of years back, at the wrap-up party for the SCBWI LA conference. I was sitting at a table, poolside, with a couple of other RA’s when Richard Peck came up and asked if he could sit with us and eat his dinner. Natch, we said yes, rather enthusiastically. I mean, come on, Richard Peck! A refined, gracious, and gentle man. He told us about his new book, about a girl who texts with her friends, when she’s supposed to be driving. She dies. Not a new story. But what Richard said was interesting. He said that the girl’s voice had been in his head for months. He kept hearing her and then he started to see the action, like a play on a stage, and that when he knew he had to write it down, make a story, make a book.

I’ve had this person living in the back of my brain for a couple of years now. She’s not the main character. It’s taken me two years to find the main character, maybe even characters. As a matter of fact, I don’t start with character, I start with idea, plot, a happening. It takes me a long time to get to character. I suspect that has more to do with the way I was brought up, and the stories I read as a kid, than it does with writing. I didn’t read LOTR for Aragon, or Frodo, or even Bilbo. I read it for the grand adventure they took on. I read it for the fact that I truly believe that good will always win. Always. I read it because I think good always looks outnumbered.

Maybe that’s the reason I read a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and I suppose that is the reason I continue to read fairy tales. Not not the Grimm, although I do like the TV show, Grimm. The Grimm fairy tales are more about morality and the twist. I read to find the good that wins. And, with this new voice in my head, I’m thinking that good may win, but it may not be a happy ending!

imps, cobwebs and Boston

Is it just me or do you feel like you can’t take one more hit? That your psyche is almost in shreds? That you see the words, ALERT, roll across the bottom of a screen, any screen and your brain squeezes a little, you feel faint and you think, What? Again? Really? Seriously? And like it or not you are riveted, attached to the screen by some invisible string. A string you can’t break, no matter how you try. It’s just there. It’s there whether you have a connection or not. It’s there because it has become, what happens to one of us happens to all of us.

Back in 1957, GE Theater ran an episode, Imp on a Cobweb Leash.  I can’t remember the story, if it was a comedy or if it was a drama, I just know that it came with a twist and a moral tag at the end. Very Babbit-like, and not very subtle. They were much better at that in the 50’s, they were willing to say there was right and there was wrong and show the difference between the two.

Originally, I held an image of an imp as mischievous, a wink and a nod prankster, but harmless. Maybe in 1957, but in 2013? No, not so much. When I see the news, this latest being the bombing at the Boston Marathon, I cringe. And, I see that imp, somewhere in that picture, and he’s not harmless or mischievous, he’s vicious. I think of him more like Wormwood, in the Screwtape Letters, he is deadly earnest, serving the Great Father Below. He’s out, trying to take souls.

That imp, be it Wormwood or any of his compatriots, is out to terrorize us all. Sometimes I feel like I can push that imp away, ignore it, maybe it will go away, but it’s that cobweb? That’s tougher. It’s hooked between me and the news scrolling across the screen, incessantly, demanding. Not that immediate posts have value, well, they do, sort of, only because they hold only vestiges of truth, more often it’s speculation and one-up-man-ship, trying to outdo the four million other news outlets. Those posts are pieces of the story, and we’re awaiting the truth, maybe not the whole truth, but some truth, and that takes perseverance, fortitude and time, mostly time.

Now, in the second decade of the twenty first century, the social sharing is hooked to that cobweb, our collective need to share, to post, a recognition of the horror we all feel while gazing at the pictures, the horrid, horrid pictures.

I’m looking to remove that cobweb, no better than remove, destroy it, and that imp. Something that will let me recognize evil in the world and know to pray, not watch, because somehow watching seems impertinent. Something that will comfort me, not scandalize me because I am fearful of what each new imp can do. Something that will reinforce that good will win, no matter what the odds, because my faith tells me that is so.