Then and Now

There’s a new movie coming out, Vanity Fair, based on the book. It inspired me to read the book, which I started long ago and didn’t quite finish.

One of the things that is so interesting about Victorian novels, and which makes them so enduring for today’s readers is the struggle for POSITION. These girls who are trying to marry a man with money, so blatantly struggling to bag a husband with 5 thousand a year, or 80 thousand a year, or with a hundred a year and a title, they are struggling so hard to attain status in their “society.”

The victorian era was all about the rise of the middle class. The Middle class, the newly rich capitalists, rich off trade and business rather than inherited estates were struggling in their world to be what they felt they had a right to be. They wanted into the higher eschelons of “society” and it was a constant struggle to fit in.

The Victorian prudery and extreme care for the chastity and reputation of the ladies was a huge part of that. The lower classes were the only ones that were supposed to engage in imorality. Or, I should say, the lower class WOMEN were the only ones supposed to engage in immorality.

A new standard for women had been introduced, that the unmarried women had to be pure as the driven snow or she could be rejected by that man of X thousand a year.

Why? Because women did not have earning power. They did not have economic rights to the same degree as men did, so their earning power was their marriageability, for the most part.

But that’s really a side note.

What struck me in this novel was again, as I have seen so many times in other novels, was the the focus on CREDIT. Apparently, a young man of nice clothes could ring up bills and bills and bills and no one thought anything of it.

This is so completely contemporary that it makes me wonder.

We’ve got all kinds of new formality in place, that allows a much more egalitarian debt system. You don’t have to “cut a fine figure” as those novelists say. You just have to fill out a mean form.

Bill collectors coming after you? Like they did to Captain Crawley and Rebecca (the Heros of my novel)? Rebecca was praised for her ability to persuade them away.

The 21st century way of dealing with it was to consolidate the debt, transfer some funds and get back on the road.

Here’s the next snapshot in my train of thought:

I saw another ad for a different movie. This one is called “The Corporation

It’s a documentary. I really want to see it.

I’ve previously complained about my life in elevators. That’s one way I describe the life of a corporate corpse. But I also admit that it can be exciting to work in a large structure.

I get to point at my corporate logo, and the corporate logo on the many tall buildings and in the marble lobbies with the huge expensive flower arrangments and say, “I am a part of this. This is the glory I contribute to.”

And I get to build a little home from the blue paychecks.

Do you remember the story of Babel? The tower of babel? They wanted to build a tower to the heavens. They said, ‘We don’t need God anymore! We will climb to heaven ourselves!”

And God looked down from heaven to the people he had created and said, ‘oh shit! They can do it, too!” okay, he actually said, “”If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”

Then he made all the humans who were working together on this tower speak different languages from one another. Suddenly, they couldn’t work together any more. The tower faltered, and was abandoned.

What’s happened since then? A couple more towers have sprung up. A few more very tall buildings have come into existence. Is this a deferred dream we are realizing or a nightmare once averted and now awakened?

The documentary about Corporations seems to be showing how corporations are bad, and how insidious they are to our culture. Granted, take everything I say with a grain of salt because I haven’t seen the movie.

BUT, i’ve seen some other things. I’ve heard the cries for “back to the land!”

You know that commercial where the alternative-hippie-looking kids are hitchiking and talking about majoring in ceramics? But they they see a cool SUV and decide to minor in ceramics so they can afford this shiny car?

THAT”S what I’m talking about. Yes, we know about our desire to be close to the land and the rhythms of the earth. To have our hands in up to the elbows in the act of creation and the practicing of our art.

And we..the american culture…still want the SUV. Which is it?

I wonder. Which half of that equation is the most hypocritical? The pat answer is the side that wants the SUV. I’m not so sure.

I am not in love with corporations. But let us assess.

Did you know that during the victorian period, that marvelous rising of the middle class, there was a huge “back to the earth” movement too? Back to nature?

Only then it was THEIR version of nostalgia. It was for peasant hood (Carlyle is who I am thinking of). ‘Go back to being a peasant! You wil wake with the sun and grow your own food, and live life in the ebb of the earth’s seasonal pageantry! Give up this pursuit of life in the city and …


oh yeah…capitalism…That famous economic tome”Das Kapital” by Karl Marx is from the Victorian age. The Communist manifesto came out of that time too. Remember?

…Communism vs. Capitalism…

The words are still used today. Even though communism is widely described as dead, and capitalism has changed so much that Marx’s theories no longer apply.

What are we up to? We want all the good things, we want all we can get. Then as now. Vanity Fair was the description of London society. Couldn’t it just as well be a description of New York society? Or Beverly Hills?

We have built some pretty big towers. And if we didn’t want them, why did we bother?

What it all a big misunderstanding? Did we really want to live close to the ground, but the architect looked at the plans sideways? Did we have a meeting and someone scrawled the minutes so they build a 105 stories instead of 105 foot garden?

Maybe we don’t recognize this world because after the vision came the revisions.

Did we all get caught in the close at hand and forget the future results? Did our parents and grandparents look only at that weekly paycheck and not know what would happen when all their toil piled up into accomplishments?

I can’t believe that we didn’t know. I think many many of us learned to put aside our different ways of talking and worked together very very hard to get the world that we live in now.

But this final version, this present version of life2004 (brought to you by Microsoft~!) or Reality or however you want to see it contains ALL.
The conversions, reversions, subversions and perversions are all a part of the final version.

This version keeps all that. no pebble turns without reshaping the universe.

Maybe we are amazed at our small selves affecting so much change.

The monuments we’ve constructed changed the warp of gravity. We’ve altered the universe slightly and our environment mightily. We are what we have worked diligently to become.

And that bring it all back to Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy…”Are you sure you asked the right question?”

Are we sure we worked toward the right goal?

Let us deal with what is here and now. You cannot begin your journey in a different place than the one you are in.

‘Do you work outside the home?”

That’s what the guy in the shuttle to the airport asked me. It was sort of stunning. He OBVIOUSLY worked outside the home, because he was there in his briefcase, starched white shirt and tie.

And I was there in my corporate casual, with my laptop bag embroidered with the corporate logo.

When he asked me that question, a big ol’ whiff of Promise Keepers came out of his mouth. Now, I realize that SOME women, those that do work inside the home with children and things, might find it consoling to hear that question. They would appreciate that he did not assume that the only work that counts is the kind that you have to drive to.

But to me, it sounded a lot like “You should be at home, but you’re not. So why are you here? Account for yourself.”

In support of this impression, as soon as I told him I managed the conferencing services for a global company he lost interest in talking to me and began to call people on his cell phone.

Now, since his expectations of females seemed to be the barefoot-and-pregnant variety, he may have found a reason not to talk to this inferior human (me!) anyway.

But the other guys in the shuttle were quite interesting and talkative.

I still feel the slight from Mr. “Traditional Roles”

I personally have learned not to assume that people work outside the home. But it has nothing to do with gender. Most of the people I know who work at home do so because they have found a way of generating income in their own home. I SO wish I could do that too.

At the same time, I have respect for mothers (and fathers) who work on family and home things without generating income. They have found a way to team with their partners and keep their lives in balance with what they think is most important.

But I don’t ask that condescending 80’s question. I say, “What do you do with your time?”

A radio host, from the show “What do you know?’ asks “what do you do in life?” That’s a good one too.

Come on now, dude! Try not to let your stereotypes spill out all ugly like that.

more household chores

I’ve been home rather seldom for the last two months. I went to New York and DC at the beginning of April. THen I came back for a week and then went on vacation to Seattle and Canada. I came back, and four days later flew to New York AGAIN.

I got to be home for almost two weeks before I flew to Denver. I was in Denver for Four days and then I came back. BACK.

I have no plans on the calendar for travel. Thank God. I was forgetting what it was like to be home.

Because I’ve been needing to complete all these projects. I started to re-caulk my bathtub. My other sink needs a washer replaced because it leaks. I have half painted my office. I have mostly scraped my office ceiling.

And I’ve started re-finishing the cupboards in the kitchen.

Walking around often feels like a construction zone. I want to COMPLETE some of these tasks.

finally, I was able to recaulk the bathtub this weekend. THat seemed most critical since a lot can be ruined by improperly sealing a bathtub. Now I just have to wait until monday before I can use it.

THEN I bought a lovely lightest blue green to paint the office. The goal was to find a cactus green…The kind of blue-silver-green that cactuses can be. I fear, however, that as time goes by I will instead think of it as toothpaste.

ButI painted the whole office! Ugh! It was tiring and I was EXHAUSTED afterwards. I took three naps and I think I may take another one.

It’s hard to paint a room thoroughly. I missed a couple spots where the paint is not quite thick enough. I’m going to wait until it’s dark so i can see the contrast better, then I’ll mark all the places that need a little touch up. I’ll finish in the morning. I have BARELY enough paint (I hope) to finish.

As I was painting I listed to an old nostalgic (for me) CD. It is from when I was 18, and it makes me remember how frustrated and hopeful all of us were right then. Remember Nirvana? Dude had to off himself; I guess he was more frustrated than hopeful.

This one was P.M. Dawn’s debut album. It was full of abstract spiritualism and philosophical musings. It made me think a lot about what I’m doing. I hope a lot. I am frustrated a lot because of my hopefulness.

Every day I come up with a hundred and one ideas of how to make the world better. Then I come up with one hundred and two ideas of why it won’t work because people won’t let it.

Except I managed to caulk my tub and paint my bedroom. My grand visions are frustrated by the smallness of those world improvements. And yet they are quite real and true.

Those two things I did by myself. It seems to me that larger improvements take cooperation from other people. And I have so much trouble getting cooperation.

I admire the large buildings that I work in and the people who have created these monuments. And yet…I work in those monuments. I work ON those monuments, in the capacity of assisting communications.

I love that I assist communications all over the world. I am proud, because communication is a true tool for making the world a better place. But for the very reason that I assist with communications, i know how poorly it is done.

It’s sad and frustrating…I remember how hopeful and stupid I was when I was 18. I know a little bit more now, but I also realize that the amount of my knowing in the face of what needs to be known is about as pitiful as the impact of my painting and caulking in the face of all the things that need fixing in the world.

Yes, it is good that I have learned things. It is good that I caulked my bathtub. I guess it’s the little things that add up. That’s what I have to tell myself.

No USAToday after all

Looks like I got the interview but not the mention in USAtoday.

Oh well. At least I had a nice chat with the book reviewer. Maybe I’ll chat with her again.

So don’t rush out to buy it, if you were going to. I’m not in it after all.

Tomorrow’s USA Today

I’m gonna be quoted in USAToday tomorrow.


For a cool thing, too. Apparently the book reviewer, Jacqueline Blais, decided to do a review of the 20th anniversary edition of The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

She found MY review of that book. And she liked it. So we had a lovely phone conversation. She is a very nice woman!

AND she is going to quote from me in the paper.

I’m stunned. It absolutely MADE my day.


The jacarandas are in bloom.

I like the name jacaranda, but the tree is even prettier. Blue puffs of prettiness.

I have a lot of them near my house.

I’m glad they are in bloom because the pink puffs of rhododendron bushes have gone back to green.

it’s kind of a rainbow progression of spring.

I wonder if Summer here has as many flowers as spring. I suspect not. We’ll see. I will try to pay attention this time.

cocktail of life

right now, it’s amazing, how great life is. I don’t know why, but all the pieces are fitting. I’ve got so many pans in the fire, but things are working.

I spent a week in Manhattan, pretty much on times square. I was working 12-14 hours every day. Then I would stagger out to find something to eat and write a little bit.

Every day I felt grateful. I felt like I was blessed. I am in LOVE with the man I”m with, and he’s in love with me. I’m working hard at work, which is actually a good thing. I can’t stand not to have a challenge. I have some good friends who are great to me. My creativity is very high right now, my writing is pouring out. My home is so comfortable, but I’m working on a bunch of improvement projects there too.

How great is this? Why all of a sudden? Maybe it’s spring. I hope this feeling stays. It feels like a good balance…Like riding a bike fast on a flat stretch. Maybe it’s what it feels like to fly.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Maroon 5

Songs About Jane-this album is kicking asses all over the planet. I guess the single “Harder to Breathe” was out a awhile before “This Love” hit. It was the second song, though, that grabbed me and would not let me go. What a great song!

The melody was catchy and did unexpected things. Once I stopped to listen, I was like…”Oh yeah! That’s Steve Wonder singing through the mouth of a 20-something white kid! Alright! We needed some new Stevie sound!”

The whole album really is worth listening too. It’s a rock/funk mix…Runk?

THe other thing that makes it stand out as something to pay attention to is that all the songs are about this guy’s relationship with this girl (Hey…What was the title again…”Songs about Jane”? OH!)

Giving the album one theme makes it exponentially more interesting. Especially since it’s such a soap opera relationship. The lyrics are crafty and subtle enough

“This is not goodbye she said
It is just time for me to rest my head
She does not walk she runs instead
Down these jagged streets and into my bed”

The majority of the album is not the powerhouse of the first two songs, but really, you couldn’t sustain that kind of energy. It relaxes into a more mellow soulful sound. That’s when the lyrics and the theme keep my interest high.

It’s their debut album (if you don’t count that one back in high school under a different name). I have hopes for the next one. This one is my new band to watch.