The Lost Art of Thinking

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Auguste Rodin
“The question is, not what you look at but what do you see”  Henry David Thoreau

The Lost Art of Thinking

Jesse Itzler, owner of the Atlanta Hawks and author of “Living With Monks,” responded to Nora O’Donnell’s interview question, “What did turning off your phone teach you?” by saying; “That I wasn’t doing a lot of thinking, thinking is a lost art.”

Evidently, he had to shave his head and travel to Tibet to figure that out. And although shaving his head was unnecessary, as Monks no longer shave theirs, he gained enough wisdom to write a book and speak out about this epidemic of not thinking. I am calling it an epidemic and believe it began with the introduction of calculators in classrooms. Think about it, can anyone do simple math?

Itzler is married and has four children, and went on this quest to be a better husband and father. Previously his focus had been on physical strength and endurance discussed in his book, “Living With Seals,” which John Dickerson was quick to clarify were Navy Seals.

Itzler is not the first or only person to suggest that there are side effects to technology and benefits to turning off your phone. Ted Koppel (CBS News) interviewed Nicholas Carr, Bryan Reeves and Justin Rosenstein on the topic and all agree the internet is making us stupid, tinkering with our brains, and future advances will make matters worse.

We have apps to remember our favorite songs, ask Alexa for basic information, and depend on Google Maps or a GPS for directions even to walk. More alarming is our assumption the answers are always correct and no longer question the logic or accuracy of the information being sought.

We have heard stories of automobiles hanging off cliffs and drivers hesitating before driving into a lake because of GPS misinformation, proving the point.

Were they thinking?

In defense, Google Map says the driver failed to upload current information to their device and or the roads were yet to be constructed.

Worse, research now indicates that apps are “remapping the brain,” an NPR radio discussion explored the topic saying;

Writer Alex Hutchinson explores this phenomenon in a recent issue of the Canadian magazine The Walrus. “Neuroscientists are starting to uncover a two-way street: our brains determine how we navigate, but our navigational efforts also shape our brains,” Hutchinson writes. “The experts are picking up some worrying signs about the changes that will occur as we grow accustomed to the brain-free navigation of the GPS era.”

Hutchinson’s  explanation about spatial navigation reliance  on the hippocampus, and stimulus methods that use the caudate nucleus, the brain’s center of motor control having different effects on the brain is complicated, my take; if you use a map you have to think, if you use a GPS you are following directions, blindly, there is no time to think.

Technology eliminates the step of thinking, which is the reason we want more of it. It is easier, faster, and smarter and dependence on a calculator or GPS does not appear to be a problem, yet. Although Hutchinson also states, “Other studies have tied atrophy of the hippocampus to increased risk of dementia.”

Perhaps we do need to think about those things?

I remember Mr. Davis’,  my WAJ High School math teacher, response to my belly aching about Geometry saying math trained the mind to think logically.

What do you think, have we lost the art of thinking?

.  .  .  .just saying

 

 

 

Girlfriends Weekend

 

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Girlfriends Weekend

I recently flew to Boston for a girlfriends weekend and came home thinking I have to get away more. It was not just the good company but getting out in the world of Uber, Lyft, and Google Maps.

I did not know you could “Fly Dry” or that there are several head devices and hats to stimulate hair growth. The Delta Sky Magazine tucked inside the seat pocket (along with a vomit bag) advertised these products.

Having made a commitment to reading or rereading as many of the 100 books on the Great American Read list, I was reading Lois Lowry’s novel, “The Giver.” Last week I read “1984” and thought this a good choice to read next because both have similar themes, loss of individuality, but from contrasting societal views. “The Giver” takes place in a utopian world and “1984”,  a dystopian. Neither are happy reads, although there is no expectation of a happy ever after ending from Big Brother, “The Giver” leaves you guessing and me personally, annoyed.

So bored and grumpy over the ending of “The Giver” I thumbed through the airline magazine. Zach Posen, the designer of new uniforms for Delta’s attendants, was on the cover and I recognized him from Project Runway. Yes, I was a fan. The attendants on the plane wore the new plum colored uniforms that looked practical, comfortable, and wrinkle free. I was reading along when low and behold after the hair restoration advertisements, an ad for icon underwear similar to what I purchase for the trip appears. The tag line Fly Dry, caught my attention and I slipped a pair of cheaters on to read the smaller print, Pee-proof Underwear that keeps you dry on the fly.

I refrained from poking the person next to me and saying aloud, “When did peeing discretely in your pants, find a market?” Then thinking, perhaps it is a better option for those in the window seat reluctant to disturb fellow passengers, especially with the beverage cart in use. Thankfully, further investigation revealed the undergarment is for incontinence of three teaspoons or less.

Relieved I reclined my seat the one quarter of an inch allowable, closed my eyes, and savored the weekend trip.

thWe arrived late in the day, Saturday, but managed an ocean view meal that evening, at Renzo’s in Revere Beach. Sunday morning we viewed The Blaschka Glass Models of Plants and Flowers at the Harvard Museum  of Science, and then walked “The Secret Gardens of Cambridge” stopping for lunch at Toscana’s. In the evening, we went to Cheers Restaurant where no one knew our names, but Norm was there even though he was not. His presence was a cardboard cutout.

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The following morning we were up and out of the hotel early for a Duck Tour. The tour guide, an over-weight past prime super hero, wore a red letter S on his chest and swirled a blue cape. His humor and knowledge of Boston, made us forget it was raining. Lunch was at California Pizza, we did not have pizza. It was the closest restaurant in the rain. After lunch we walked two blocks to the Public Library, a beautiful museum in itself and then made the trek to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to see missing artwork stolen in 1990 (you have to look for the empty frames). I say trek because, Google said it was a mile (the distance birds fly), it had to be a good three miles. I had a latte in the elegant Isabella Garden Café (white tablecloths) before mustering up the energy to climb the stairs and hunt for the missing pictures.IMG_0926

The finale of the trip was dinner in North End at Lucia on Hanover St. The meal was memorable.

I loved Boston and would return in a blink but the best was being with friends who have been friends for years. Two I have known since moving to Newton, N.J. in 1981 so that gives us 37 years of friendship. My oldest friend I met when we were thirteen. She is not older I have simply know her the longest, 57 years. Yikes! I am very blessed.

Year to date I am flying dry on my own, but you never know.

                           .  .   .   .  just saying

 

https://hmnh.harvard.edu/glass-flowers

https://view.imirus.com/209/document/12910/page/1

https://www.iconundies.com/

Ask Alexa About the Big Read and 1984

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Today CBS Morning News reported a Portland, Oregon family’s claim their Amazon Echo recorded a conversation and sent it to a person on their contact list, unbeknownst to them.

“Winston Smith is rolling over in his grave,” I say to Mr. Wonderful, my husband, on the way to reheat a cup of coffee in the microwave.

“Who?” He mumbles.

“Winston Smith, the main character in George Orwell’s novel, ” 1984″, remember Big Brother, Newspeak, Thought Police, and the Telescreen.

“Right, Big Brother, the one with a mustache? and he continues work on a crossword puzzle. “What’s a four letter word for fabric that begins with L?”

“Linen? ”

“Linen is five letters, a four letter word.”

“Lace? Ask Alexa, she’s like Big Brother, knows everything.”

“You really think Alexa is like Big Brother? Let’s find out,” and speaking into air Mr. Wonderful says, “Alexa are you like Big Brother?”

Alexa answers, “I don’t have an opinion on that.”

“See! That’s what I’m talking about,” I start saying but Mr. Wonderful anticipating a rant announces, “I’m going fishing.”

I first read Orwell’s novel in high school, more than fifty years ago but never did the math, the year 1984 seemed so futuristic, I assumed I would be dead and besides at that time, depictions of being vaporized for thinking seemed as unlikely as Aliens arriving from outer space. But I have been rereading the book not only because it is on the Great American Read list but feel as though “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING US,” for real.

Well, Alexa may not be watching but she is definitely listening, ask the family in Portland, Oregon.

The Telescreen in the novel, “whose voice came from a metal plaque like a dulled mirror,” could hear Winston throughout his apartment and sense his every move.

Alexa is more attractive and invited.

Winston works for the Ministry of Truth but questions everything they tell him. He buys a diary, sits in a small alcove to remain outside the range of Telescreen to write, but is unable to formulate his thoughts because thinking is a crime, subject to vaporizing.

Mr. Wonderful interrupts my private rant tossing his car keys on the counter and announcing, “It’s raining.”

I shut my Kindle, get off the couch, and join him in the kitchen.

He inquires, “What are you reading?”

“The novel, “1984,” remember? It’s on the Big Read List.”

“Is David Baldacci on the list? You know he’s my favorite.”

“You should read it, it’s scary, many of the happenings are becoming real; President Trump has embraced Newspeak. Trump probably thinks the destruction of words is a beautiful thing, just like comrade Syme in the novel who questions, “Why do we need the words excellent or splendid when a stronger version of good i.e., plusgood or doubleplusgood works.”

How many times have we heard Trump’s description of things as big, really big, or really really big? Yes occasionally Trump says it is HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHuge! Otherwise he’s the King of a limited vocabulary.”

Mr. Wonderful rolls his eyes and heads to the bathroom to shower.

I follow him my voice escalating, “The party tried to convince Winston two plus two is five and changing old news to fake news is real but Winston couldn’t accept this, even Trump knows fake news is real.

Mr. Wonderful is now in the shower and past pretending he can hear me. When he is towelling off,  I change the subject and ask, “Did you hear about Roseanne Barr?, She shot herself in the foot.”

Mr. Wonderful answers, “I heard, with a tweet.”  Than continues, “Too bad the thought police didn’t vaporize her earlier, think of the jobs that could have been saved. What happens to Winston, I can’t remember.”

“You should read the book. Eventually Winston is sent to Room 101 where his brain is rebooted and he spends the rest of his life gulping gin, and playing chess with himself. He no longer laments about Fake News. Oh he has a job working on The Interim Report, the subject of which is not known.

Mr. Wonderful hangs up his damp towel, smiles and says, “refresh my memory again is ‘1984’  fiction or non-fiction?”

From the other room Alexa answers, “I have no opinion on that.”

                                                       .  .  .  .  just saying

Wikipedia 1984

PBS Great American Read

David Baldacci

Continue reading

The Smell of Rain

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Photo by Nikx

The Smell of Rain

Aging & Attitude

Steel metal colored clouds consume the sky and travel my way. The sun disappears behind them, and  the sky turns dark.

Lightning cracks the sky and the sound pierces my ears.

The rain falls heavily, straight down and creates a blur, like Niagara Falls, a sheet of rain cascades off the roof gutters and I recall  standing on “The Maid of the Mist” weathering the streams of water surrounded by rock.

The pinging rain is musical and comforting.

Floridians call it “big rain,” and pull to the side of the road the visibility is so poor.  It is not a monsoon, a season of precipitation, although the rain in April and May seems endless.

This daytime rain smells sweet.

A smell so fragile I inhale deeply to guess its fragrance. It is clean and crisp like mountain air but not strong. It is not vanilla, nor any other spice and less subtle than an herb.

Childhood memories; searching for a four-leaf clover, cartwheels, and skipping home to snack on Wonder bread, buttered and sugared, permeate my mind.

Coolness surrounds my shoulders and I close my eyes to relish the moment and the smell of rain, but cannot capture words.

What do you think rain smells like?

Welcome to the ’70s

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Welcome to the seventies, not as in 1970, as in this year I will be seventy, and please do not attempt to console me by saying the seventies are the new fifties or sixties, because I have to de-stiff-i-tize when I stand and cannot move my thumbs.

De-stiff-i-tize? You know what I am talking about. It occurs upon rising from a sitting position and can barely stand, you moan and somehow crunch your back and neck into a marginalized upright position. Dining in public restaurants I have observed others replace the moan with an inconsequential laugh, grab the back of a chair then straightening.

Seriously, I cannot move my thumb, and now question what the seventies will be like, every day there is a different challenge, last week it was a hip, this week hands. Therefore, I took to vigorous hand exercises, which resulted in trigger thumb.

Surely, you do not want to hear the full medical prognosis, or perhaps you do, however I swore health would not be the topic of every conversation and yet it is.

Thinking I can nip this in the bud by glimpsing into successful seventy-year-old lives I have started watching “Grace and Frankie,” a Netflix comedy and it is a hoot! Perhaps laughter is the best medicine.

Grace, played by Jane Fonda and Frankie, played by Lilly Tomlin live together after their husbands, gay lovers secretly for the past twenty years, announce they want divorces.

Jane Fonda an eighty year old in real life, pays the part of a younger woman, Grace who is in her seventies and yes, we all wish we look as good as Jane Fonda does at any age and of course the place they are forced to live in is a beautiful beach front house. Actor Martin Sheen plays Robert,  Grace’s ex and Sam Waterson, Saul, Frankie’s.

The plot is fast pace, the cast constantly moves, and there is no on camara de-stiff-i-tizing, although Martin Sheen’s movement getting out of bed, reminds me of how the president got into his suit jacket in West Wing and wondering if his elbows ever could bend.

After falling neither Grace or Frankie can get up and crawl to a phone resulting in their children purchasing First Alert devices for them and Jane Fonda, Grace, smashing hers with her high heel.

My kind of woman, she plans on getting older but never old.

.  .  .  . just saying

 

 

Next Door Neighbors

american-gothic-grant-wood-art-institute-of-chicago-244I keep thinking today is Thursday and it is only 6:30 in the morning. I started thinking today was Thursday in the middle of the night, do not know why because yesterday definitely felt like Tuesday which it was, consequently I should have a feeling today is Wednesday but do not. However, what difference does it make if today is Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday? I am retired!

Nevertheless, I am happy today is Wednesday, not Thursday, because that gives me an extra day between Wednesday and Friday which I need since I opened my big mouth and invited the neighbors over because, although everyone appears to be happy standing in driveways with the sun beating down on our heads pretending not to sweat while we chat, I envision something else.

Well actually, what happened is Mr. Wonderful* came back from getting the mail and announced that the Smith’s house was for sale. Surprised, I asked where were they moving to, his response  “No one is moving “Mary died, that’s why all the cars were parked there last week.”

Stunned I expressed how terrible it is we did not know, and asked about her husband and if he will move closer to family, Mr. Wonderful said, “No her husband died six months ago.”

When we moved here, I joined Nextdoor ,  a private social network that will help find your dog or a plumber so I would be in the know but could not remember my password and instead started knocking on doors.

So we are getting together in two days.

There really is not much to do, neighbors said they would bring what they like to drink and a dish to pass but I need to dust and make sure the toilet is flushing properly which it started not doing the day before yesterday. I need to find that password.

In the mean time bits and pieces from a Chinese passage about neighbors and community are creeping into my head, and search online to find this;

Let there be a small country with a few people

Though neighboring communities overlook one another and the crowing of cocks and barking dogs can be heard

Yet the people there may grow old and die without ever visiting one another

Oh, now I remember what difference it makes if today is Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday; Wednesday morning the trash gets picked up.

                               .  .  .  .  Just saying

Painting by Grant Wood

*Mr. Wonderful is my husband of 47 years

 

 

 

 

Grant Wood Pitch Fork

Just Another Day

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The Fairchild Oak

Just Another Day

Today is just another day but not really. It is a day not to be anywhere, do anything, or explain why I changed my mind about doing nothing and did something. I was awake at 2am listening to the rain, thunder, and cracks of lightning like special effects from an Alfred Hitchcock film flash outside the bedroom window until 4am, when I got out of bed.

I was not going back to sleep.

Sprinkling cinnamon and sugar on a toasted piece of wheat bread smothered with real butter, I watch the mixture ooze into its crevices’, and ponder whether to brew a cup of coffee to dip its crust in, or walk to the Fairchild Oak, less than a mile from here, but consider how muddy the venture would be, and instead make beef barley soup from left over steak, adding frozen green peas, the petite ones.  

Today is just another day but not really. After watching an interview on CBS Morning News about Tom Hanks collection of short stories, “Uncommon Type” (the title reflects his fondness for and use of old typewriters) I am reading the book and now in love with him.

He laughs at himself, and likes writing because he knows what the prize is inside the box, or so he says.th

The book jacket describes Hank’s first work of fiction as one “that dissects, with great affection, humor, and insight, the human condition and all its foibles.”

I hear Tom’s voice as I pretend he is reading to me and sip beef broth standing up.

Today is just another day but not really, it is the first day of the rest of my life.

.  .  .  .  just saying

Can You Squat?

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 Can You Squat?

Rose joined her friend already seated outside at the Hudson Garden Grill. The restaurant known for its ambiance and gourmet menu was contained within the Bronx Botanical Gardens where they planned to attend the Orchid Show after lunch. Hugh clay pots dripping with colorful annuals decorated the patio and cardinals danced with the breeze.

“You’re late,” quipped Joan handing her a menu, “I ordered us drinks.”

Rose sighed and said, “How did you know what I wanted? I’m dieting.”

“You always order a Bloody Mary with lunch. Joan argued, “If you prefer, I’ll drink yours. Really Rose, this is when you thank me, apologize for being late, and explain why . . . . . like, maybe your cat threw up.”

Rose leaned forward and lowered her voice, “Can you Squat?”

Stunned Joan shook her head then blurted out, “Can I squat? Have you lost your mind? I can’t put on my underwear standing up,” as the server appeared with their drinks and interrupted the conversation saying, “Hi, I’m Chantal and I will be your server.” Dressed in a v-neck black tee and a tan khaki skirt she wore a smile from ear to ear, a pen was tucked inside her hair bun.

Rose was hungry. She had not eaten before the incident than did not have time after, but nevertheless asked the server to give them a few minutes.

Chantal said, “It’s a beautiful day, take your time.”

They discussed the menu choices and after deciding Rose would have Chicken Paillaid, Joan the Lobster Bolognese, raised their glasses to toast the occasion. Joan’s first grandchild had been born on her seventieth birthday and she had been busy attending CPR classes for infants and signed up for the course on installing child car seats.

When Joan paused, Rose attempted once again to get a response to her question, “Can you squat?”

“Squat? You mean squat as in the late 1970’s so men couldn’t see up our miniskirt or squat as in squatter’s rights from the 1800’s?”

Rose rubbed the back of her head reminded of the morning’s incident, “Squat as in your butt is nearer to the floor than your knees. It’s concerning, things are going downhill fast, soon we won’t be able to fix our own meals.”

“That’s why there is take out Rose, and surely you have heard of Meals on Wheels. I can open a jar of olives now that I have that rubber thing,” Joan offered with pride.

Again, Rose leaned forward and whispered, “This is serious, can you squat? I can no longer squat. Well that’s not totally true, I can squat just not get up from the squat.” Her voice faded as the server arrived with their entrees.

Joan suctioned her glass with a straw and motioned the server they would have two more drinks.

Nursing the celery topped Bloody Mary’s Rose explained, “I have this vertigo thing going on, and bending over causes dizziness. Today I said to myself, ‘self don’t bend over, squat’ and did. But I couldn’t get up and when my thighs were screaming with pain let go of the counter and fell hitting the back of my head on the floor.”

Joan asked, “Where was Tom, did he call 911?”

“Tom was playing golf. I crawled into the dining room and leaned on a chair to get upright. It was exhausting and reason I was late.”

A patron on their way to the restroom stopped to comment, “The same thing happened to my husband, on the golf course. He forgot he wasn’t twenty-four and squatted to line up his putt, it wasn’t pretty.”

Joan attempted to offer condolences, saying, “You poor thing. You must have a bump.” But giggled instead, putting her hand over her mouth and apologized for laughing. Rose not knowing whether to laugh or cry joined her. Soon their laughter was drawing attention.

Chantal rolled her eyes delivering the check.

After paying, they toured the orchid show, took the train ride to see the azaleas, and visited the gift shop.

On the ride home, Rose wished she were young again.

.  .  .  .   just saying

Poem

                                               To Be Young Once More

Wiggles and giggles galore

Remember we’d drop to the floor

Get up and dance, afraid of wetting our pants and giggle some more

Our faces would ache as spirits soared

Oh to be young once more

 

Now it’s difficult to stand and everything is sore

Not just back, knees, and feet, but ear lobes, eyebrows and seat.

We can no longer squat to pickup something dropped

But bend deep at the waist .  .  .   .  disgraced by a moan

Not  the “When Harry Met Sally” type even though our eyes are shut tight

We linger then limp to a chair wondering, when did we get this old?

 

Easter Hats and Egg Hunts

scan0019Pictured above, Aunt Carol with leucite handbag, sister Judy, Mother (Pregnant with sister Abigail),  sister Mariellen Claudia,  Grandmother, and standing at attention sister Martha Gertrude

 

Easter Hats and Egg Hunts

As Easter approaches I find myself reminiscing about days gone by, holidays I tried to duplicate for my kids and grand-kids that only slightly mirrored mine.

In Florida, the smell of spring and Easter that signaled renewal by a burst of color on Long Island is missing, but memories of blooming Dogwood trees linger. The Weeping Willows wore yellow-green buds to announce the occasion.

We woke to Easter Baskets filled with love made by our grandmother. Hollow chocolate eggs squiggled  with confectionet sugar peeked out of cellophane surrounded by squishy marshmallow chicks called Peeps and jump ropes, jacks, pink Spaulding balls, and socks trimmed with lace, for the girls and for the boys; army men, matchbox cars, baseball cards, and cool shades.

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Great Granny B and 4 month old great-grand son, Tony

My grandmother also baked trays of cookies, some made to look like an Easter baskets, by adding a  handle, shredded coconut, and jelly beans. She used cookie cutters for Bunnies with chocolate ears, and cherry jelly linzer cookies, egg white cookies laced with walnuts and her famous chocolate chips cookies. 

We usually had new dresses and shiny black patent leather shoes, bought by Aunt Carol at Macy’s Herald Square. The shoes fit perfectly because Aunt Carol would trace our feet on card board, cut the pattern out and bring it with her to the store where she and a shoe salesman determined the correct size. 

Aunt Carol always carried a pretty handbag and a tasteful hat, similar to  these: 

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After opening our baskets my mother dressed us in order of our behavior, and told to, “Sit on the couch, and don’t move, or else!” And we didn’t.

Drew, the youngest at the time, was dressed, after my mother dressed, and held by the hand until he was in the car and Mass over.

The Easter Bunny  hid real hard-boiled eggs dyed the day before and shortly after  company arrived on Easter Sunday, a whistle was blown, and we ran, desperate to  find THE GOLDEN EGG, a chocolate egg wrapped in gold foil. Little did we know my brother Victor searched ahead  of us, yes cheated, while I prayed to find the Golden Egg . . . . just this once. The prize was one dollar.

Although Easter is about baskets and dyed eggs, it is really about hats. as seen in the above picture and  I remember shopping at Montgomery Ward’s, the day before Easter in a panic then  thrilled, to find the hat I am wearing, an exact match to my homemade celery green coat.  My sister, Judy, was ecstatic with hers, the red band makes the outfit pop, and sister Mariellen’s  perfect in classic white.

Don’t we look marvelous?

This year we have been invited to our neighbors and  I will bake and decorate a bunny cake, now if I only had that hat.

.   .   .   .  just saying