Category Archives: Observations on …. well … Everything

THE PROBLEM WITH TOO MUCH INFORMATION

Info

In Aeon Magazine,  Donald Hine writes about the glut of information available to us, and about how our society always has its nose in a device of some kind of device in an effort to access that information.  He asks:

“Exactly what is it that we are looking for?”

What, indeed.

I know what we are looking for.  Not salvation.  Not nurture.  Not power.  We are collectors.  Amassers.  Acquirers.  Everybody has something that they collect.  Ask on any social network what people collect, and it will be your most popular post, with responses longer than a roll of toilet paper.  Not only do we collect, we like to tell what we collect, and talk about what we collect.

And some of us collect information.  Knowledge  Facts. Trivia.  Oddments of data.  But just as our other collections,  a collection of information can be boring.  Because, as with any other collection, what can you do with it except look at it.   Does it affect your life in some way, other than taking up space?

We collect stuff thinking somehow it will give our lives meaning.  But meaning is hard to come by. In order to create meaning out of our collection, we have to create a narrative from it, stories which help us make sense of it.   That’s why we like to talk about our Elvis memorabilia collection, our navel lint collection, our toilet seat art collection, our barf bags collection, to make sense of why we have this collection.

So, too, with our collection of information.  What is there to do with it, except talk about it?

As Hine says, “There is only so much information any of us can bear,  and we cannot go fishing in the stream if we are drowning in it.”   There are only so many artisanal beer bottles we can collect before they all become worthless and meaningless.   Our collections reach a tipping point where they are beyond talking about.   They simply exist.

So what do you collect?

Here Ya Go, Hon. Enjoy.

Image I’m not quite sure why, but I heartily dislike when a waitress, or waiter for that matter, plops my food down in front of me and says, “Here ya go, hon.  Enjoy.”    Boy, does that grate on my nerves.

In the first place, “Enjoy!”  is not a complete sentence.  It is lazy speak for ‘I hope that you enjoy your meal.’    Oh, and please don’t call me ‘Hon’.  I’m not your
‘hon’.  I am somebody else’s hon.  You, miss/mrs/mr waitperson, may call me ‘Ma’am’.   Or ‘Your Majesty’ if you are more comfortable with that.

Here in my Mexican city, they say, “Aqui tiene.”   (Here you have [it]).  Sigh.    And they call you ‘hija’ or ‘hijo’ [daughter or son].  I have been called ‘hija’ by people less than half my age.  The proper address here in Sunny Mexico is ‘Señora’ or ‘Señor, which if they are trying to practice their English they will translate to Mrs. or Mr.   And it sounds very strange, because of course, Mr. or Mrs. is not a stand alone title, as it is in Mexico.   I have a neighbor, a genial young man,  who generally addresses me as “Mrs. Señora.”

So the correct thing for a Mexican waitperson to say  when presenting your food, is “Buen provecho, Señora.”  Which is the Spanish equivalent of ‘Enjoy your meal, ma’am.’

I wonder why the service industry in the USA has gotten so casual.  Even in rather nice, upper level restaurants, you are liable to encounter the perky ‘Enjoy!’, as if every waitperson were a campy gay person in wait garb.

And while I am whining, I might as well whine about the cheery immediate faux friendship with one’s waitperson.  “Hi,” they’ll chirp.  “My name is Dashiell Salmon and I’ll be your waiter/waitress for the evening.”   OK.  Fine. Now that we’re BFF, can I order?

Whereupon comes the long recited list of specials.  I have to confess, I have the memory of a gnat, so when they get to oh, say, the third item, I have forgotten the first two.  So I usually ask if they have it written for my perusal.  Usually, no, like it makes it more unique a menu offering if it is off menu, only in their bouncy cheery heads.

What a sucky way to have to make a living.  Being all spunky and upbeat all the time even when you feel like the bottom of a bird cage.  I know.  I’ve done that.  I did it back when I was perky and upbeat and 18 years old and it seemed like a great way to make a buck.  I can remember working with other women in their forties and fifties and praying that that would not ever be me, that I would have worked out a way to live life so that in my middle years I didn’t have to deal with ‘the public’.   I find people are really really nice for the most part.  However, the public are beasts.  Vile and cruel.  And not just because I forgot the drawn butter with the lobster.  Just that anonymous people have forgotten their souls.  We all need to remember our souls when we intermingle with the madding crowd.  Because if each of us remembers our own soul, we can then be reminded that everyone else out there owns a soul, too, and it should never be stomped on by our or anyone else’s size 8 galoshes.

So, anyway, don’t call me ‘hon’ and don’t tell me to ‘Enjoy!’   Because that will ensure that I won’t.

Have a nice day.

 

THE QUALITY OF THE LIGHT

sunlight2

The sunlight is stronger here, high up in the mountains of Mexico, in what is known as the Central Highlands.  It makes me squint, makes it impossible to read outside, even in the shade, although I have tried countless times.  Maybe it is the lack of pollution, or the thinness of the atmosphere.  It can burn my skin in less than 15 minutes, and it has given me a permanent red nose because of my lack of consistency with the sun screen.

It is strong enough that you can grow most plants under shade if there is sunlight just beyond the shade.  And if you use an opaque plexiglass kind of roof over your patio, everything will grow and bloom and not burn to a crisp.

My cactus plants are thriving.  I can’t keep them in large enough pots before they need transplanting again to something bigger.  They bloom.  They spread out.  They, of course, are meant for this high desert atmosphere.  Even in our chilly winters, they grow.  And bloom.

James Thurber once said, “There are two kinds of light – the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures.”   We have here the glare, the glare that obscures by its very brightness, but it is also a glare that welcomes bright colors.

Mexico is a land of bright colors.  The bright light here saturates them and makes even the most garish of them look just right.  Reds, eggers-julie-steep-hill-with-colorful-houses-guanajuato-mexicooranges, yellows, rusts, turquoises, pinks, blues, whites, all show their cheery best in this bright glare, under the clear blue sky.

When it is cloudy here, the bright houses look drab in spite of their charming painted exteriors.  We need the sun to bring out the finest palette.

“The light is all.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson said that.  He was right.

I leave you with this thought:

Ever since we crawled out of that primordial slime, that’s been our unifying cry, “More light.” Sunlight. Torchlight. Candlelight. Neon, incandescent lights that banish the darkness from our caves to illuminate our roads, the insides of our refrigerators. Big floods for the night games at Soldier’s Field. Little tiny flashlights for those books we read under the covers when we’re supposed to be asleep.

Light is more than watts and footcandles. Light is metaphor. Light is knowledge, light is life, light is light.
~ Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider

Even a small star shines in the darkness.

light

 

THE FAUX SCHNAUZER

Schultz

This is Schultz, the alleged Schnauzer, age 7 months.  Isn’t he a cutie?  He sure is,  and lively and feisty.  He is loving and snuggly.  He is curious and a collector.  He is all those things, but the one thing he is not is a pure bred Miniature Schnauzer, as advertised.

OK, not advertised, as such.  We acquired Schultz one fine day in September when our young neighbors from across the street showed up with him  and told us he was a gift for us.  Huh?  Gift?  Why would I want another dog, and a puppy kind of dog at that?  We already had Jake, the fuJakezzy unknown mixture  of almost two years.  Didn’t really need another dog.

I’ll tell you why.  Because at barely two months old,  the little black puppy with his solemn black button eyes and his little white soul patch beard, and his white bib, was sooooooo cute.  In fact,  although we had every intention of saying, “Gee, thanks, but no.  We already have a dog.” we immediately started creating reasons for keeping him.

He would be a play pal for Jake.  And  Who knows what would happen to him if we didn’t take him.  Yeah, you know, those kinds of rationales.

So what kind of dog is he, I asked in all my innocence.  “A Miniature Schnauzer,”  they said.  “Why don’t you keep him?  He’s a valuable dog,” said I.  “Because we really wanted a girl to breed and sell the puppies.”

I should know better.  I’ve lived in Mexico almost fifteen years.  I should know by now when I’m being conned.  But this was a gentle con, he was free, he was a gift.

As he grew, and his hair got longer, we waited for the signature beard to come in.  Schnauzers are ratters, they dig holes and go after the vermin in the ground, and have a beard to protect their faces, like this:

schThey have a double coat, the dense inner coat and a long outer coat to shake off the dirt from their dig.  They have distinctive eyebrows, too, and look very Teutonic.  So we named him Schultz.

Even as a tiny guy, he had the eyebrows and he had the beard starting to grow out sideways.  So far so good.  But everything else grew too.  He grew long.  And lanky.  And tall.  Miniature Schnauzers are short stubby fellows,  not lanky with scraggly body and leg hair.

The other day, I really looked at Schultz in all his 7 seven-month glory.  “That,” I said to The Dearly Beloved, “does not look like a purebred Schnauzer.  He agreed.  And then it hit me.  It hit me why the youngsters across the street gave him away.  They knew he was something of a mix, so would not produce purebred pups.

So now we have this Miniature Schnauzer Wannabe,  and who knows what he will look like as he gets older.   My guess is that he will look a lot like a lanky Miniature Schnauzer with some other stuff thrown in.

But we love him anyway.  He is a delight.  The only real purity in this life is love.  And he’s got that in spades.