Category Archives: Media

Attention Span

While I was standing next to my car last week, filling up the tank, I realized that the screen embedded in the fueling station didn’t just have some pop-up ads showing but an actual video stream of a basketball game. TV.

At my gym, there is a speaker OUTSIDE that plays music as you are approaching/departing the building. Equipment like bikes and treadmills all have individual tv screens and for the weight-lifting machine there are big screens hanging from the ceiling.  There is even a TV in the locker room.  In most airports you can’t find a space that doesn’t have something blaring at you. With everyone glued to their phones these days, it seems a waste of electricity.

It made me think that we have become a society with such a limited attention span that we need 24/7 entertainment. There are several folks here at my office who use earbuds all the time – even when they are away from their desks and I often see people walking along, looking like they are talking to themselves, but of course they are on their phones.

In college I had a professor who had memorized all of Paradise Lost by John Milton.  Today he’d have it downloaded to his phone so he could access it whenever he wanted!

What the largest thing you have memorized?

Keeping Warm

Photo from IMBd.

I’m not sure why but the cold weather this week found me yearning for our old Monday morning song by the Sons of the Pioneers. Luckily you can find this kind of thing on the internet.  I’ve played it several times over the past few days.  It doesn’t warm me up physically, but gives me an inside warmth that comes with good memories.

Here’s another:

Just one more:

What warms your heart?

Rituals

Today’s post comes to us from Port Huron Steve.

The debut broadcast of CBS Sunday Morning aired January 28, 1979. Because I was a fan of the host, Charles Kuralt, I made a point of watching that first show. I’ve seen many of the broadcasts that have aired in the 40 years since. While my life is mostly unstructured and variable, I try to catch that show. It pleases me to have something in the week that is fixed and predictable. Watching it has become a ritual for me.

Most of us have rituals. They can be annual (like how we celebrate Christmas) or monthly, weekly, daily or something altogether different. If I can believe his songs, a ritual for folksinger Greg Brown is drinking coffee in the morning. My parents couldn’t go to sleep until they had told each other, “I’ll see you in the morning.” Some people meditate. Many folks couldn’t feel right about a week that does not include going to church.

For several decades our family had just one ritual. On Saturday nights we gathered to enjoy the Prairie Home Companion broadcast. We were heartbroken when Garrison quit—was it two times or three?—and thrilled when he came back. I used to walk dogs with a woman who was close to Garrison. She assured me that he needed to do the show as badly as I needed to hear it.

In 2000 I acquired a puppy, an exceptionally affectionate English setter. Katie and I both needed exercise, so we adopted the daily ritual of hiking the off-leash dog park that lies between Minnehaha Falls and Fort Snelling. We had many friends there, human and canine. Our route took about an hour to walk. I used my time in the park to reflect on my life. I couldn’t afford a therapist with an office and a couch, so I relied on the park walks to help me sort out my past and make plans for the future. Katie and I walked that park virtually every day of her life for eleven years.

Like many fans of Trail Baboon, listening to The Morning Show was once an essential ritual for me. I remember thinking I couldn’t bear starting the day without the help of Dale and Tom. Even so, I always knew that someday the show—wonderful as it was—would come to an end. Shows do not live forever, although The Simpsons carries on as ever. The LGMS remains one ritual I’ve never been able to replace.

What role does ritual have in your life?

Surfing Pluto

It’s amazing what happens sometimes when you’re surfing the internet. I started with my daily dose of Sci Show Space, which led me to Gustav Holst’s Suite of Planets.  I realized that Holst wrote The Planets before Pluto was discovered, so he can’t be blamed that after 1930, he was missing a planet (of course now he’s OK again if you want align yourself with the Astronomer’s Union).  Over the years composers have “added” to Holst’s work with various songs about Pluto.

There are serious attempts like Pluto, the Renewer by Colin Matthews):

and very silly (yet funny) pieces, like For the Planet Pluto by the Music Tapes:

And I particularly like this one, Plutonian Nights by Sun Ra:

Then my lunch break was up and I had to get back to work!

Any unsung heroes in your life?

Epic Opening Lines

As I was wandering up the stairs at our public library the other day, my journey was arrested by the bright-colored bulletin board pictured in the header. This board is changed monthly, and frequently has things like Staff book picks, or children’s drawings with a book pick, etc.

But this was over the top! A bright orange sign up top announces “Epic Opening Lines”, and another orange sign to the left asks “Any of these sound familiar?” On brightly colored cards are printed thirty one- or two-sentence beginnings to a book; you can lift the flap to peek at the title and author of the book represented. It was a challenge to see if I could recognize any of them – a few were familiar, and one or two were obvious, but many I had never laid eyes on. I realized when I started looking them up at home that quite a few were Young Adult or children’s novels.

Since I doubt if you can read them all from the header, I’ll type several of them here, and see if any baboons can guess them – then I’ll reveal answers Sunday. Here you go:

1. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

2. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

3. They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.

4. I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.

6. This is the saddest story I have ever heard.

10. The early morning sky was the color of cat vomit. Of course, Tally thought, you’d have to feed your cat only salmon-flavored cat food for a while, to get the pinks right.

11. The moment one learns English, complications set in.

14. “Where’s Papa going with that axe?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

15. Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex’s admonition, against Allen’s angry assertion: another African amusement… anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa’s antipodal ant annexation.

16. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

17. It was a pleasure to burn.

20. Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, is women.

23. I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.

24. There is a right way to do things and a wrong way, if you’re going to run a hotel in a smuggler’s town. You shouldn’t make it a habit to ask too many questions, for one thing. And you probably shouldn’t be in it for the money.

27. All children, except one, grow up.

28. It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.

29. In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

30. Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.

Do you have a favorite opening line(s) from a book you’ve read?

Arithmetic Assault

Decades ago I knew all of my friends’ phone numbers by heart. I knew almost everybody’s address that I sent mail to on a regular basis.  I knew my multiplication tables.

Over the years, most addresses have faded since I have them written in my day planner as well as on a spreadsheet. I recognize them when I write them out on envelopes, but that’s about it.  If a pixie got into my planner and re-arranged the house numbers, I probably wouldn’t know.

My cell phone has helped to alleviate the trouble of remembering my friends’ phone numbers well.  As people have added cell phones to their lives and dropped land lines, I have added their new numbers to my phone’s contact list but I have never memorized any of them.  With the exception of my BFF and YA, I don’t think I know anybody’s number by heart any more.

But the cruelest blow happened this morning. I was working on a program and deciding on how many beach towels we needed to order.  Without much thought at all, I entered 64 into the calculator on my desk and then hit “divide” by 2.  To get 32.  As soon as I did it, I realized what I had done. I used a machine to divide 64 by 2. This is horrifying to me.  Not that I’m worried about my ability to figure this out on my own, but that I would automatically go to a machine if I needed to do arithmetic.  Ouch.

My new practice starting tomorrow is to not turn on the calculator until I actually need it.

What technology has crept up on you?

Trending Fashion

On January 5, 1797, John Hetherington, a London haberdasher,  stepped out into the public with the first top hat. It caused a riot, and Hetherington was arrested.  The arresting officer said:

He had such a tall and shiny construction on his head that it must have terrified nervous people.  The sight of this construction was so overstated that various women fainted, children began to cry and dogs started to bark.  One child broke his arm among all the jostling“.

The London Times came out in favor of the hat, and predicted that it would become a fashion staple. It was declared “a significant advance in the transformation of dress“.

I suppose the only time I was at the forefront of fashion was when I wore bib overalls in my early 20’s. That sure didn’t last long. These days I am a corduroy and sweater sort of person, dressed for comfort, not fashion, although those overalls were pretty comfy.

What do you think it would take to get a similar reaction to fashion today?  When have you been at the forefront of fashion? Own any fun hats?  Where would you like fashion to trend now?