Is There Anybody Out There?

I caught a few minutes of Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony on Capitol Hill. I found curious that this titan of commerce is somewhat unimpressive to me. Maybe it’s his boyish face and voice, and the veiled petulant stance he took with his questioners. I never used Facebook. I tried for about two minutes – it was too busy and noisy. Not to say that Twitter isn’t a frenetic sphere, but I was able to “get” it.

What amuses me, and worries me, is the data collected on everyone who uses Facebook, and how that information is used. Certainly, it is of great concern, but I am vexed because I found myself tangled in a competitive streak. I wondered: with all this watching, why aren’t they (who are they?) looking at my blog?! According to my analytics, I’m lucky to have a dozen people a day visiting. I know I should return to the “I-don’t-care-that’s-not-why-I-am-writing-it” attitude with which I began. That would be the wiser course of action.

I was helping a 20-year-old with a college transfer essay which prompted her to write about her academic and career goals. She was stumped – blocked. So typically, I related it to my experience and said, “Well, when I was 20 my goal was world domination.” I was half-joking and she laughed. Then she looked at me and said, “I can see that.” She just met me! I decided to take it as a compliment, but her comment made me think: what the hell kind of vibe do I give off? To consider that people see you differently than you see yourself was a valuable reality check. Duh!

As I have mentioned, I attended a rigorous rarefied prep school*, which I, for the most part, loved. An acquaintance once said to me that the only thing my school was good for was “breeding competitive little bitches.” He was just jealous that he’d never look as cute in the uniform.

I ran into this young lady the next day and thanked her for the insight. She was great and said, “You could definitely beat those old white guys’ asses.” How’s that for a morale boost?

Data collection, big brother, old white guys, whatever…come on people! Read this competitive little bitch’s blog! 

 

 

 

 

 

Clare Irwin

 

*See January 2018 post: “Be True To Your School.” http://phantomnoiseinordinarytime.com/2018/01/14/be-true-to-your-school/

Baker’s Dozen – I

I’ve been mulling over whether to write this post or not, consulted friends, and as I start this now I still don’t know. Last week, I was in Trader Joe’s and I remembered that I once wrote an article about TJ’s beauty aisle for a now defunct fashion/beauty website: “Trader Joe’s Baker’s Dozen Best Buys for Beauty.” The site went out of business before I submitted the final draft. I dug around and found the article – it’s a bit long and heavy on the lavender and tea tree oil – but informational.

What stumped me most was the alarming note of not recognizing myself in the writing. I sound positively giddy. To be sure, I was writing it for a specific purpose/audience, and it was a number of years ago – at least five. But that wasn’t it, I’ve found writings and “scribbles” from when I was a kid and I see myself. All I could think was, “Who is this woman?” “And, what extraordinary cocktail of drugs is she taking?” The answer is none, so I have no excuses. I’m attempting to recall what was going on at that time, and it’s vague because it wasn’t particularly interesting. I was friends with a girl who normally I wouldn’t be friendly with – we had mutual acquaintances. Anyway, she was…I sound like her in this which really scares me. I can’t remember now, but I may have deliberately tried to channel her “voice” since the audience for this piece would have been girls/women like her. Nice, safe, conforming, aiming to please, nonthreatening…blech. Sadly, or not, I don’t fit this role as much as I may try. I lean more in the direction of say her (right), or this (below):

Now, I am less drawn to the make-up and creams as I was a couple of years ago. Obviously, there are other products at TJ’s that actually may contribute to my health like juices, nuts, fruit, and of course candy (reward motivation system?). The 99 cent greeting cards are excellent too. So, I’ll frequent TJ’s until the farmer’s markets gear up again.

Now I have to figure out how to add the article without making this an endless word salad. Help!

Tripped Up & To Be Continued –

                                         Clare Irwin

Okay, it’s done. See the above post “Beauty’s Baker’s Dozen II” for the article where I dost not know my self.

Rider on the Rain

I declared today a snow day. It’s more a sleet and rain mess, but I needed at-home time. I was channel surfing and caught Shopgirl with Claire Danes and Steve Martin – Martin also wrote the screenplay and novella. Danes is wonderful as the quiet and sad young woman named Mirabelle. Shopgirl is touching and lovingly human; everyone is broken in a forgiving way. A gem. Shopgirl got me thinking of other movies that may or may not be well-known, but don’t get the same amount of play, or buzz, as let’s say. The Shape of Water which I am looking forward to seeing – friends say it’s great. In that vein, Sally Hawkins, who I love, has a lot of gems. From earlier in her career, Happy-Go-Lucky, directed by Mike Leigh, is worth seeing.

This is an unorganized stream of movies that are on my mind but not on everyone’s lips. Watching all the madness in the news, I thought about King of Hearts with Alan Bates. Bates plays a Scottish soldier in France during World War I who finds himself in a French village where all who remain are the residents of the local asylum. Marvelous!

The film that started this thought process is Rider on the Rain. I originally saw it on TCM (air it again, please). It stars Charles Bronson, whose body of work, I would imagine, doesn’t come up on most top ten lists, but he has good ones (e.g.,The Magnificent Seven), and Rider on the Rain is another – at least for me. It’s from 1970 – with fun fashion as a bonus. And, it’s creepy. When I looked it up, I was pleasantly surprised that Rider on the Rain was directed by Rene Clement (Purple Noon, Forbidden Games). I found a Guardian article that described it as a, “cool, stylish, demented Hitchcockian thriller” – yup. Rider on the Rain has all five food groups: a woman in peril (named Melancolie!) , a maniac stalker/rapist, murder, a body dump, and a semi-sadistic hero.

I think I’ll end. Time to curl up and troll for more treasures. All seem content with our at-home day; there’s something baking in the oven, music is on, and the cat – to her delight – has been fed twice. More movies are clamoring in my head – I could always do a Part II – but I would much rather hear about your favorite “unsung” movies.

Delight in Discovering

Clare Irwin

Portable Magic – Part I

There’s a hash tag on Twitter entitled Shakespeare Sunday. Today, I tweeted a quote from The Tempest  – Prospero speaks wistfully of the worthiness of books: “Knowing I loved my books, he furnish’d me/From mine own library with volumes that/I prize above my dukedom.”  I come from a family of voracious readers, the house teemed with books: in the library – my father’s and the family’s, in everyone’s rooms, left on side tables, and of course huge piles next to one’s bed. I think my mother’s was the highest of all. Looking back, I am so grateful that I came from a family of readers – it’s a wonderful gift. I still read, but less than in past  years – I am busy with work, like most of us, in the nice weather I am outdoors, I started this blog – and I am drawn to the competing force of legion television/movie availability. We have Netflix and a fairly loaded cable package which needs to go. Our local provider raises their rates monthly, and we’ve reached the point of whether it’s a little luxury or a huge bill. Even at the risk of missing something EVERYONE will be talking about, and will eventually be aired somewhere, I think we shall reduce.

The startling revelation came to me that if I wasn’t doing so much viewing I would be doing more reading (duh!). I’ve started again – mostly catching up on past issues of The London Review of Books, The Guardian and The New Yorker which is still a standard of fine writing. In a past issue there’s an article on Julian Assange and Protest Theory – both deserve a look wherever you fall on these issues. I also love how once you delve in, the author leads you somewhere else. The Assange article mentioned Philip Dick’s book The Man in the High Castle which reminded me of Dick’s other prescient works that inspired blockbuster movies: Blade Runner, The Adjustment Bureau, Total RecallThe Minority Report et al.

I am delighted for the return of that gemutlich feeling reading elicits. There’s more I could mention from these three issues – but I’ll end here. With a little bit of time management (ha!), I will post Part II in a few days which starts with a memory, a book in the overall, and includes a recipe! Imagine that!

Happy Exploring

Clare Irwin

N.B. The title of this post is taken from Stephen King’s widely well-known book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

The Year Got Rung

I woke up the morning of January 1, thrilled to be on this beautiful earth, and so grateful that 2017 was a fine year and looking forward to 2018 being the best year yet. Happily I was having my coffee, looking out onto the frigid yet beautiful view from where I write…musing…”God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world!…” You’d think, right?

Well, it was true until a couple of people in my life, not necessarily close people, but people I must deal with, started to infiltrate my euphoria…the buzz kill was about to begin. And, in the time in which we now find ourselves, always plugged in, the invasion is that much harder to stave off. Do I have to end up like the guy in The Omen who shuts off his electricity, wallpapers his apartment with newspaper clippings, and seals himself in?

I don’t know, maybe it’s the full moon. But part of the day was vexing. Inconsiderate behavior — one of my least favorite things. By early afternoon I had put the matter in the proper perspective, and pretty much didn’t care anymore. Blithely, I went about the remainder of my day.

Until about 9:15 the next morning. It’s all minor stuff, but I’m territorial when it comes to my peace being disturbed. I was contacted by email by same persons. When I tried to call them: unreachable, can’t talk, in meetings all day, yada, yada, yada. Sure. I consulted a friend who gave me good input, and moved on to other things. Later, I realized I hadn’t addressed the issue. So I started to compose an email that would be fair, polite, balanced – whatever, because God forbid anyone’s feelings gets hurt! I found myself agonizing over word choice and I stopped. I thought,  “Why do I even care about this?” I hopped over to here – Phantom Noise –  and slammed this out. My inclination is to not do anything, which is usually the best course of inaction. I am fairly sure I’m never going to be right with these people anyway.

That’s it. The big drama. A friend of mine says, “The smaller the stakes, the bigger the drama.” How true. So instead of thinking this is the tone of 2018, I’m decreeing it was annoying, and if that’s the worst – then I’ll take it and we got it out of the way.

Happy 2018! For real.

Clare Irwin

Holiday Wishes! & I’m Just Wild about Harry!

Yuletide wishes & happy festivities to everyone! I hope your holiday is full of love and joy and peace. Now and always.

I was on Twitter this morning, composing a holiday greeting, and on my feed I saw a sweet tweet from a gentleman in England: Harry Leslie Smith. The tweet read: 

“Happy Christmas to all my friends and followers. Love will triumph even in this darkness, if we show the courage of compassion to our fellow travelers. All the best, Harry.” I went to his home page and learned that Harry is a remarkable man. Nearly 95, he has decided that, “I’m spending the last years of my life touring the refugee hot spots of the world to find a solution to this crisis…” How fantastic is that? Harry’s profile reads: “Survivor of the Great Depression, RAF veteran Activist for the Welfare State Author of Harry’s Last Stand Love Among the Ruins, 1923 & The Empress of Australia…”

I hope I’m like that if I make it to 95 – but why wait? I think I will take a leaf out of Harry’s book and start…now. All that courage, concern, heart, resilience and joy. It’s admirable stuff. I remember that The New Yorker magazine used to have mini-columns (maybe it still does), that were usually at the end of an article where some space needed to be filled. There was: “Block that Metaphor!” and “There’ll Always Be an England.” Of course they were clever and funny, and I am thinking of Harry, but more in connection to the song,”There’ll Always Be an England,” which I vaguely know. It embodies British pluck and courage even in the midst of the “darkness” to which Harry refers.

So dear friends, have a happy and raise a glass to Harry, to yourselves, your loved ones, and to bravery. 

Cheers!

Clare Irwin

Giving Thanks

I remember a hymn we used to sing in school at this time of year, “We Gather Together.” I always liked it and still do. It’s a pretty melody and one I can actually sing – I can’t carry a tune to save my life. I thought it was English, but I was just reading that it is Dutch in origin. Religious practices aside, the title is a nice thought – let us gather together, be at peace, grateful that we can, as the family of man (and women), be one.

The present seems unsettled, fractious. Perhaps it is. But following the axiom of “be here now,” really truly being present – I pray and hope that for all of us “now” is a quiet moment, loving and gentle. I have spent holidays in hospital rooms and places where I knew what was coming was going to be challenging. And, I have spent holidays full of joy and abundance and with all the people I love around me. They are all worthy. I think that often we learn more from the “hard” times – as uncomfortable a feeling they may evoke.

Let’s take a moment, or more than a moment, to shift our attention from all the ads and reminders of Black Friday sales, shopping, consuming and more consuming, and slow down, breathe deeply and exhale. 

I hope all who read this, whether they observe this holiday or not, take some time today to think about what they are grateful for, who they are grateful to have as friends, family, loves, grateful for all the little things we take for granted: the sweet bird at the bird bath, the sunshine, a smile from a stranger, small acts of kindness.

I am deeply grateful for this day, for all I have, had, and will have. The road before us is unknown, but it matters not. It reveal itself at the proper time. Know the journey is what we make of it, and often the journey is as or more amazing than the destination – maybe they are one and the same.

Enjoy. With love and gratitude,

Clare Irwin

 

“We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.”

Theodore Baker, 1894

The Squirrel Raises the Stakes

I admire tenacity, I really do. However, my ongoing struggle with our intrepid squirrel continues. In the last few weeks, well first of all it’s been uncommonly warm, so the flowers keep blooming and my guardianship of them grudgingly continues. I did give up on even trying to stop Brother Squirrel from destroying them. Just to mess with me, he’s completely ignoring the begonias and has instead adopted another tack. He is now using our deck as a storehouse for his winter food supply. I found one morning piles of hickory nut husks – his treasure trove –  one of which was heaped into the top of one of the flower pots. Exhibit A: 

In case I didn’t get the point, Brother Squirrel left a partially eaten hickory nut on the railing. Exhibit B (below): Point taken! Territory marked!

Now here’s the curious part. There are no hickory trees surrounding the back yard where the deck is. There are maples and oaks – the usual. So I am imagining that he’s hauling these nuts from wherever the nearest hickory tree is (one by one?) and depositing them onto the porch which is elevated. There’s effort involved. Is this some sort of evil genius at work here?

In my fantasies of what makes Brother Squirrel tick, I see what may be his “end game.” I imagine him in our home, lounging in the recliner – maybe wearing a smoking jacket – with his paws (?) behind his head, and a big old smile on his face; while we are huddled and shivering out on the deck scratching to get in. 

I know that I haven’t even gotten to the endless battle with the family cat, and she too has upped the ante in her efforts to usurp power. Are she and Brother Squirrel having secret meetings, late at night with the screen door between them like Pyramus and Thisbe in A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Are they trading pointers and sharing strategies?

There is more to come. Of that I am sure.  

Peace

Clare Irwin

The Fey Effect

When I wrote the post below, “A Touch of Fey,” last Tuesday I didn’t know that SNL was doing a summer edition of Weekend Update, or that Tina Fey was going to make a surprise stellar appearance eating sheet cake! So this warrants more than a coda, and I see that on Twitter and Facebook her coping advice for weathering the current turmoil is “trending” big time. As media savvy people say, her appearance received a lot of “buzz” and went “viral.” It was courageous, funny, and her trademark razor sharp authentic humor, as always, was in fine form.

When I went to look for the video of her “stress eating” I saw several articles from venerable periodicals like The Washington Post and The Atlantic ruminating of what has been labeled “The Fey Effect.” Apparently this dates back to 2012 (how do I miss these things?). The Atlantic defines it as follows: “Fey’s jokes,…had proven comedy’s power, especially in times of question and perhaps also in times of crisis, to shape people’s sense of the world. The jokes had woven themselves into the workings of American democracy. The researchers called it the Fey Effect.” In other words, she’s funny and people talk about it over the literal and virtual “water cooler.”

I suppose not all of this is news to most, but it was to me, and I felt somewhat pleased with myself that I had my own uninfluenced take on Tina’s power. And, the SNL appearance validated “A Touch of Fey” all the more. Yard sale Barbie….That’s a good one. Jealous? No, not at all – we dearly need to laugh and eat cake.

Clare Irwin

P.S. Relevant to nothing, when Fey was still doing Weekend Update, she made a hilarious (and so true) slightly off color joke about Colin Farrell and his head being in the way. I’ve never been able to watch anything with Farrell in it without thinking of that joke. Took the air right out of him. Look it up! 

Happy Birthday Phantom Noise in Ordinary Time!

It is a year today that the adventure began.

All in all I am pleased with what has been accomplished. I always feel I could have done more, done it better, had more and more content, more traffic, more “marketing savvy” (whatever that means), which is probably all true.

One the other hand, I am pleased and happy with the quality vs quantity, and most of all the kind people who follow us – it’s been a wonderful experience in every way and I love doing it. So looking at things positively, I am delighted to celebrate one year of my blog, I wish and hope for many more, and for writing and posting more often and more traffic!

Thank you all for sharing this brand new experience with me. More to come very soon.

With love and deep appreciation,Clare Irwin

P.S. I know I used the word “more” at least eight times! Here’s another three: