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20 April 2006

Pinkerton's Rules For Living

Naps are good.

Mom is good...even if she is hairless.

The sky could fall at any minute. When in doubt sit under something. Beds are good. Chairs are good. Bed trays are the best, they sit up high so you can see everything. Plus they give you that nice secure feeling of something over your head.

Warm french fries are very good.

Looking outside is good.

Being outside...not so much.

Naps are medicine

Hands are scary.

Wind is scary.

Vacuum cleaners are scary.

People are scary . . . and not that attractive.

Other cats are scary. Watch them till they go away or growl if they don't and run. This is also a good time to sit under something

Little people are evil.  They have loud high voices and grabby hands. Avoid at all costs. If Mom is there ignore them or growl. If Mom is away attack attack attack and then go sit under something. Remember to punish mom when she gets back for leaving you alone.

Naps = gorgeous me.

Towels are a good place to sit.

Bathtubs are fun. Baths are evil. Avoid at all costs. If you can't, resist resist resist. When resistance is futile, go to your happy place until it's over. Then go sit under something while you dry. Remember to punish mom for getting you wet.

Toilets are fun. Falling in isn't.

Bugs are fun. Small bugs.

String is fun . . . but don't eat it. Remember what happened that one time. Eww.

Staring is fun.

Naps are fun.

A food dish less than a quarter full is unacceptable.

Too much icky in the litter box is unacceptable.

To much hair on favorite sitting towel is unacceptable. It should also smell freshly laundered.

Being told to sit on favorite sitting towel is unacceptable, resist resist resist.

Get mom to rub your head while you eat. This is good.

Get mom to sing and rub your head. This is good.

Get mom to brush your head as much as possible, back also good. Brushing tummy is unacceptable, resist, resist resist.

Nap on favorite sitting towel, under the bed tray after strenuous resistance.

I'm Entitled, You're Entitled, Everyone's Entitle-titled

Here's a thing. I've been watching the amazing, revealing and sometimes painful new series Black.White. on F/X. Bruno (the white guy made up as a black man) in particular throws a word around a lot that has always been a button-pusher for me. Not the `N' word (have you ever heard anything more silly?), the `E' word. Entitlement.

I hate it when people (and by people I mean moneyed people referring to un-moneyed, white people referring to non-white, naturalized people referring to non-naturalized people), go on and on about `entitlement' as if the very act of feeling you have a right to something, means that you don't deserve it. The ludicrous, the ridiculous hypocritical, pseudo-self-righteousness with which they denigrate the angry unwashed for their errant sense of entitlement, never fails to get me hot under the collar. Of course `they' whoever the `they' is under discussion feels entitled. Everybody does. Why should the poor, and non-white be any different from Middle America, Middle-Class America or Corporate America?

It doesn't matter who we are or where live, or the color our skin or the bracket in which we file our taxes. We all feel entitled, as if we have a right to expect things to turn out well for us; whether or not we put in the requisite effort to ensure success. We're Americans for goodness sake! Our entire societal psychology is built on achieving a Dream. They don't call it the 'American You Really Worked For It Didn't You?' or the 'American You Get Exactly What You've Earned And No More' The phrase is the American Dream, a term which in and of itself betrays a cultural inability to deal with reality.

I say American, but the truth is having a sense of entitlement, a feeling that we have a right to the things we need or passionately wish for, is just part of the human condition. However, if you are if you are poor or black (or really any minority, but sticking to the subject of the show), you likely have a much better sense of reality and thus, a lesser sense of entitlement, than your middle-class or white brethren. You have seen the myriad ways in which it is possible for things not to go well. Experience has taught you that just because things are bad, it doesn't mean they can't always get worse. You don't expect breaks, or rescues, or for people to just help you out. Nothing `turns up' (as in the saying `something will turn up'?), things don't `work out'. You have enough of a sense of entitlement to be pissed, but not necessarily enough to hope for better.

On the other hand, entitlement among the moneyed and white is alive and well. I grew up in a very white town. And I came up old school. While other black suburbanites were attempting to insulate their kids from the realities of racism and just the general unfairnesses of life by pretending they didn't exist. Telling them things like, `You're just as good as anyone, in fact better, you can do anything you want.' Which incidentally is what most of my white classmate were being told by their parents. My parents drummed a different message into my head. `Being black in America means you have to work twice as hard as the white person next to you in order to get just as far. Yet another of those axioms I don't really believe, but have found to be true. Another is that taking Vitamin C helps keep you healthy.

I can't count the number of times I've been on a job or whatever and have watched my fellow workmates get away with murder. It's not so much that they didn't get caught taking the extra breaks, taking long personal calls, taking home the office supplies, barely getting their work done or not getting it done at all; it's the attitude with which they perform, or don't. The sense that they have a right to cheat the boss or behave incompetently and not get their butts fired. And if, by some (amazing) stretch they do get fired, guess who's fault it isn't, as far as they are concerned? As if somehow they had done their employer a favor by condescending to show up; whether or not they actually did their jobs was irrelevant.

Now I admit to having a kind of old school Southern girl work ethic. So I get that my take on workplace deportment is in the minority. But what I'm getting at is that no one really feels that they should be condemned to living with the consequences of their actual actions.

We do, on the other hand, feel that other people should face the music. You know if 'they can't take the heat, they should get out of the kitchen'; 'if they can't do the time, they shouldn't do the crime. For ourselves we expect -- feel . . . a-heh . . . entitled to a little mercy. 'Yes, my son knows he shouldn't have groped that woman on the subway, but calling the police? Isn't that just a little extreme? After all, boys will be boys.' 'Well, sure, I padded my expense account just a little, everyone does it. Should that cost me my job?' Or 'Why are you pulling me over? At least two other cars were going faster than I was.'

We all have our thing, a little thing, a big thing; some behavior for which we would really, really prefer the chickens not come home to roost. After all, we feel we are good people and if nothing else, entitled to having our lives go on undisturbed by excessive consequences. So why don't we all just ease up on deciding what godless excesses to which other people should feel entitled?

16 April 2006

A Little Night Music, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Chopin

So I’ve been listening to a little Chopin. I’ve always been interested in classical music. Have always been transported on my tentative forays into the symphony. But . . . and it’s the usual but . . . have always been intimidated by the wealth of material and the depth of my own ignorance.

Which composers will I prefer? What period? Style? Instruments? Which musicians? Which recordings? Good heavens there are so many options, it’s positively paralytic. I always thought that the only way I could really and truly get into classical music was to have my own personal tutor. Actually I feel that way about music in general. CALLING ALL MUSIC SNOBS! HELP! However, I have found a way to begin feeling my way around. Amazon.com reviews and the Yahoo! Music Engine. I love it! For like six bucks a month I can get almost any artist, recording, whatever and download it to my computer for my listening enjoyment. Which is great, cause I’m not a person for whom purchasing CD’s is a good option. I have enough trouble committing to a style of music, much less a particular artist or CD, I like having the option of buying without having the pressure that comes from, ‘okay now I bought it so I really gotta listen to it...for the rest of my life’ this of course leads immediately to my listening nonstop for a month or two and then never picking it up again.

Anyway, about classical music. Here’s what I did. First, I broke it down to the very basics. What are my favorite instruments? Piano and cello. Okay great, start with piano. Next which composer? I already had a composer in mind; Chopin. If you’ve never seen Impromptu featuring Hugh Grant and Judy Davis, you are missing out! It’s a beautiful, fun, funny and literate movie for which the headline stars are just the tip of the iceberg. Also appearing are Mandy Patinkin, Julian Sands, Emma Thompson and Bernadette Peters. Anyway, Impromptu began my fascination with both George Sand and Chopin.

“I am not full of virtues and noble qualities, I love that is all. But I love strongly, exclusively, steadfastly.” – a line in the movie adapted from Mauprat by George Sand.
And the music! I couldn’t believe how beautiful the music was.

So . . . Chopin it was. Then to find a recording. Dear god this was where things got extremely . . . extreme. So I went to Amazon.com and started browsing the classical music section looking for customer selections that mentioned Chopin; trying to find consensus on which were considered the definitive, essential, can’t-miss-this-one recordings. Amazingly, Yahoo Music had many–well, some of them. As a result I’ve been listening to Rachmaninov Plays Chopin.

Color me amazed. I mean shocked. The complexity, the sheer artistry is astonishing. And there’s something else. As complex and intellectual the structures seem in comparison to modern music, almost left brain; the effect, the affect is so primary, so basic I can actually feel certain notes -- certain combinations strike up corresponding emotion inside of me.

Like any good INTP I generally listen to the music I’m in the mood for. Yet something about Chopin’s Scherzo in C Sharp Minor, Op.39 No.3 as played by Sergei Rachmaninov, puts a mood in me.

So. Music experts and snobs, where should I go from here?