Sunday, October 27, 2013

Halloween Is Just Another Name For Thursday

The stores are observing Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas simultaneously and have been doing it for some time now. No wonder there is so much stress and depression during the season. Why can’t we tackle one holiday at a time? Talk about pressure! Maybe I’ll just dress up like Santa Claus and surprise everyone by not buying any gifts. That would make me thankful.

Halloween. What is actually being celebrated by dressing up in scanty costumes, eating food shaped like gross things and carving pumpkins? There are several theories. One states that it was a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. Many believe it is a feast that honors All Hallows’ Eve, influenced by Celtic harvest festivals. Another story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of those who passed throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. The medical term for this possession is menopause. Celtic villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. Then they would dress up in ghoulish costumes, and parade around the neighborhood, being destructive, in order to frighten the spirits away.

I have unknowingly practiced this ritual for some time. I extinguish all the lights in my house to make it undesirable for the costumed midgets that knock on my door in search of treats that are obtained by panhandling. It is really for their own good that I do this, and for mine. I have been known to eat the entire stash myself before a single midget arrived.

The Jack-o-lantern wasn’t aways the pumpkin that we all know and love. Lanterns used to be fashioned from a hollowed-out turnip. Considering the size of a turnip, this must have been a substantial artistic challenge.

As the legend goes, the lantern was named after a man named Jack, ‘Stingy Jack’ to be precise. Jack was notorious as a drunkard, a thief and a trickster. He successfully tricked Satan into climbing a tree to pick a piece of fruit. I’m guessing it was a Criterion apple. Once he was up there, Jack carved a cross in the tree’s bark preventing him from getting down. Jack made him promise to leave him alone for ten years before he would free him.

(I have to admit, I too have been tricked by a Jack. Jack Daniels tricked me onto many a barroom table and forced me to dance. He carved gigantic smiles on the observer’s faces, males mostly, which trapped me on the table but that’s another story for another time).

Anyway, Jack died ten years later. He was denied access to heaven because of his evil ways and hell wouldn’t have him either because Satan didn’t find the old climb the tree and pick some fruit gag very funny. He did however give Jack a single ember to light his way in the frigid darkness between heaven and hell. The hollowed-out turnip was the handy carrying case that it came with.

It was when the Irish immigrants came to America, that the pumpkin was adopted as Jack’s lantern. It’s a good thing too. Pumpkins are much more colorful when smashed on asphalt. The other name for Halloween this year is, Thursday. So, happy Thursday, whatever you celebrate. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Again With the Warnings?

The Huffington Post recently published an article about how computers, games and phones are affecting kids’ bodies. They seem to be developing pain in their fingers and thumbs from playing games and texting. Sitting in front of a screen more than being outside can develop extra narrow blood vessels in their eyes. Too much time social networking can lead to ‘Facebook Depression’ and ADD.  Permanent damage to the ears is being caused by excessive headphone wearing and necks and backs are sore from kids hunching over their phone screens, better known as I-posture. That one put a smile on my face.

It seems like every generation has its concerns. My generation was warned about too much television viewing.  My mother always told me if I sat too close to the screen I would go blind. What do I do now? Sit in front of a computer screen for 12 hours a day. I’m still not blind. The only one allowed really close to the television was the Sears serviceman who periodically came to run the degaussing ring around the outside of the set creating swirls of vibrant colors during the demagnetizing process. I loved to watch that.

 “Don’t touch the screen!” My father’s eleventh commandment was burned into my soul. Do you know what it did to me when touch screens came out? It was like learning to walk all over again.  I had to consciously force myself to reach out and with a trembling finger…touch.  I felt like I was committing a crime every time I did it.

Anyway, this article suggested the human body is not made for long term sitting. Really? Then why was the sitting room invented? How would an author write or an artist paint if they didn’t sit for extended periods of time?  People have been reading for centuries. How do they do it if they are not sitting or lying down for hours? It took Michelangelo over four years to paint the Sistine chapel ceiling.  I can’t even imagine how much that affected his eyes, neck, back and arms.  The Harry Potter series adds up to approximately 1.08 million words. I wonder if J.K. Rowling remained still for any length of time to write them?

The way I see it is there are inside people and there are outside people, the innies and the outies. For some reason, the outies think they know what is good for the innies and being inside isn’t good. Outies are the ones who march into a room that an innie is perfectly happy in and swish back the drapes saying, “how can you stand being in the dark?” I usually hiss and rush back to close out the light again but I didn’t used to. I would sigh and do what the all knowing outie said was best for me like go on a bug hunt or run through the sprinklers.

I’d just like to remind the outies that they wouldn’t have as many great movies, books, art or music if it weren’t for the innies. Don’t swish back drapes or shame an innie into a bug hunt and don’t worry about our eyes or our backs or if we’ll get depressed ‘cause we haven’t been poked by the right Facebook person.

Outies, go ahead and enjoy your hike, swim, wander in the park. We innies don’t care. We’ll be waiting for you when you return, sitting for hours, in the dark, with our squinty eyes and atrophied muscles. Bleh.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Secrets of True Genius

This morning I read an article written by Oliver Burkeman for, The Guardian. It is an overview of daily routines of history’s most creative minds. I was fascinated by some of the examples he gave, such as Benjamin Franklin spending his mornings naked (an air bath) and that  Agatha Christie didn’t own a desk. Every morning, before getting to work, Søren Kierkegaard poured black coffee over a full cup of sugar and pounded down the sludge that was the consistency of mud.

My love for research and interesting facts led me to buy the book, Daily Rituals, by Mason Currey, the book that Burkeman’s article referred to. I bought it for purely selfish reasons though because I long to know what it is that I need to change, buy, grow, rent, beg for or steal to obtain even the most infinitesimal piece of creativity that was ever so abundant in the history of certain great minds.

I found a few routines that immediately must be ruled out. I have to decline the practice of strategic alcohol abuse that seems to be such a common theme among great writers. I’ve tried but can’t be organized and often refer to my disorganization as ‘comfort clutter’. I’ll never be a morning person and would kill anyone who tried to reform me.

I sort of got hung up on the piece about Patricia Highsmith, the author of, Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley. She was never short of illumination and often boasted that she had ideas like rats had orgasms although I’m not sure she was speaking from knowledge or presumption. She needed a ‘womb of her own’, to be surrounded by cigarettes, ashtrays, matches, coffee, doughnuts and a saucer of sugar to work. Wow, what is it with the sugar? She didn’t seem to be overweight in her photos but I’m seeing some relationship between sugar and inspiration. She only ever ate bacon, eggs and cereal at odd times of the day. She was ill at ease around people. I can relate to that being the introvert that I am. What I couldn’t relate to…at all…was her intense connection with snails. She raised hundreds of snails in her Suffolk garden and once went to a cocktail party with a huge handbag that carried a head of lettuce and a hundred snails. She said they were her companions for the evening. When she moved to France, she had to smuggle her companions over the border by making several trips and hiding six to ten of them under each breast. Heh.

Okay, so maybe I wouldn’t want to have some of the routines I have read about so far but if overindulgence in something is one of the prerequisites, then I do qualify.

I drink gallons of diet Pepsi! It’s embarrassing to admit but it has been going on for quite some time now and if the chemicals they use to produce it are scientifically proven to be unhealthy then at least I’ll know what’s gonna’ take me out. Cans are lined up in the refrigerator right now like little tin soldiers ready for duty. The recycle bin is overflowing and the utility porch is well stocked. If diet Pepsi were ever to become illegal, I could see myself smuggling a can under each breast.

Know what  really scares me? Pepsi announced that they have changed the formula to remove the risk factors. Adding a warning label that the product ‘may cause cancer’, was unthinkable. They won’t be using Asparteme anymore but have assured customers that the taste will remain the same. Poppycock! I just hope this doesn’t affect my writing.