I Talk And We Listen

I’ve been taken somewhat to task recently by a reader of another weblog column who complained that I did not write what he wished to read. I suspect that what he wanted to read was what he had written – and that if I had written to his mind I should equally have displeased him…for I should have stolen his story and portrayed it as my own.

And there it is for many authors…if they write their story they risk the wrath. And yet, in the end, their own story is the only one they can honestly tell.

This is no bad thing. Consider – if I tell something I know to you, you are not required to hear it – you can turn away unheeding. But I can’t tell you without telling myself, and in many cases I am the person who needs to hear that story. I need to get something straight in my own mind…to remember or to understand. The rehearsal of the facts helps me where it might just bore you.

The WordPress weblog columns can be therapeutic instruments for many people and I am impressed that they are made available to so many for such a little cost. I think mine have done me a world of good in the last six years and I would readily recommend the writing of one to anyone upon a trial basis. There may be no more Hemingways out there, but there are certainly writers who can toll their own bells.

 

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Today’s Victories

One: I read a dozen foolish and arrogant posts on Facebook from a dozen foolish and arrogant people and then elected not to make it a Baker’s Dozen…

Two: I coped with the needs of other people at the expense of my own. If I keep my blessed mouth shut about it, and then dismiss it from my mind, it will be a victory.

Three: I did not spend money for unnecessary things.

Four: I did my duty and kept my promises.

Five: I took the moral decision to avoid a bad idea that has been suggested to me. My initial reaction was to reject it – then I researched the morality – and I was delighted to see that authority agreed with me.

Six: I was a good host. So was my wife, and our house welcomed our visitors.

That seems pretty small stuff, until I consider it in terms of the way the world sometimes works. And also when I consider the times that I did not do so well. I hope I have other good days.

Cooking Classes For The Tasteless

We are always being bombarded with the phrases ” Good Taste ” and ” Bad Taste ” but the people who scold us about these things never seem to be able to offer a practical way to differentiate the two. Often it amounts to waiting until something goes from one to the other – and there are instances of some things switching from one camp to the other several times within a century. You need to have some way to predict which side of the fence you should be on when it blows down.

Here is the current BGA guide to Good and Bad Taste:

a. Name calling is always in bad taste unless the name is really quite clever or trendy and you have a position as a sometime journalist with a small suburban paper. As no-one really reads the thing before they wrap cat scraps in it, you can use it as a platform to be as rude as you please.

b. Bullying is similarly in bad taste. The unfortunate thing is that there is no direct opposite to the word ” bullying ” that can be praised as good taste so the campaigns to stop it can be a little weak. It’s hard to tell someone to take to their tormentors with a fire axe and make it sound like good taste…though it may be good fun.

c. Beige is nearly always good taste and nipple pink nearly always bad. But here again real life can be maddening – at one stage of the Second World War the British experimented with painting some Spitfires ” Nipple Pink ” as a form of dawn camouflage.

d. Nutritionists and health writers are fond of telling us that anything fried is in bad taste. Cooks, on the other hand, frequently fry things and make them taste very good. A case of reality being falsely advertised or vice versa.

e. Comedy is often in bad taste – and jokes in good taste are frequently so weak as to expire before any resuscitation can be attempted. They are greeted with fashionable silence. The cry of ” Quieter and Sadder ” may come from the back of the hall…

f. Anything that involves excretions is in bad taste – the equipment, the occasions, the produce. Just a bad idea.

g. Kittens and puppies are nearly always in good taste. Small owls and otters as well, though the latter may leave damp patches ( see (f.) above. Use your discretion and have a cloth handy.

h. Self aggrandisement, boasting, skiting, bragging, and generally arrogant behaviour is in bad taste until one becomes media promoter, entertainment celebrity, or political candidate. Then it becomes a good idea, if not exactly good taste.

 

” Will You Ever Shut Up? “

When people ask you this assure them that there will come a time, when you do, indeed, shut up. No life goes on forever and even if you leave behind video tapes and recordings of yourself scolding your neighbours and relatives, eventually the recordings will wear out and a blessed silence will descend.

Writers have a better chance of pressing their opinions on others long after they are dead. These may be good things, like P.G. Wodehouse novels or rubbish like Samuel Johnson’s writings. The only real end to a writer’s influence comes when they go out of print and out of circulation – Voltaire is still going and Euclid shows little sign of ceasing any time soon as long as there are parallel lines or right angles.

We might grant some eternal influence to politicians and statesmen but these reputations tend to tarnish and rot more readily than those of the writers. Territories and resources are much more desirable than ideas, and new people will always arrive trying to acquire them. In the process they remove the old rulers, then their remains, and finally their history and their names. The unlucky ones are kept round as curiosities in museums or powdered for Chinese medicines. At least the mummies that may be ground up for this sort of thing have the satisfaction of being able to make some modern Asian fool sicker than when they started out.

I am grateful for the internet as it allows me to monopolise people’s attention for five or ten minutes every morning and no talking back. I suppose one day it will disappear in an EMP but until then I have an extremely small portion of the public eye or ear to remember what I said.

And to ignore it.

 

Make A List

Despite what James Dean said about lists in ” Rebel Without A Cause ” – and wasn’t he the one to talk – they are a very good idea for people with either no time to spare or all the time in the world. Lists organise, monitor, and reward. You can live a happier life with lists:

a. Make a list last thing at night of what you wish to accomplish tomorrow.

b. Look at it – recognise that you are only fooling yourself – then cut it down to three do-able things.

c. Get up in the morning, consult the list and set about doing the three things.

Even if you are interrupted, go back to the list and do the three things before the end of the day. If your day ends at midnight with you collapsing in a heap on the floor, you’ll have time to dawdle. If it ends at 4:00 when you mix a cocktail, you’ll have to have been a bit zippier with the early part of the day.

You decide whether you’d like exhaustion or a cocktail and work accordingly.

d. Tick off the list. Really, tick it off on a sheet of paper and you’ll feel a glow of accomplishment. It will reinforce your will and make it easier to persevere next time.

e. Save the list. Whether it is saved in  paper form or on some electronic instrument, it means that you can go back at the end of the week, month, and year and see the vast number of things that you have accomplished. This will boost your morale no end. And you don’t need to depend upon anyone else’s approval or reward – you reward yourself.

f. Tomorrow is another day. Make tonight’s list.

When You Have To Be Honest…

When you have to be honest about some particular thing, you might just as well surrender yourself to the whole vile experience and be honest about everything. You’ll be cleaning up a damned mess, of course, but the thing won’t be any different than if you just told a little bit of the truth and clammed up about the other things you know.

Not that honesty is required all the time, mind. If you are dealing with magistrates and police officers and coroners and such you’ll have to be completely truthful, of course. Likewise you are going to want to be open and forthright with your physician, dentist, optometrist, etc – otherwise your own body will betray you. But there are other places in society where you can get a rest from being honest:

a. Facebook. No-one really expects to see a 100% honest day on Facebook. There are so many political, religious, and social memes out there just waiting for shares, and most of them are either too good to be true or too true to be good – the former ones outnumber the latter…

b. Instagram. You are encouraged to make things look better than they really are to attract the interest of people who want to attract your interest with their visual lies. Fortunately it makes a nice change from Pokemon and people are less likely to step into traffic while looking at Instagram. Unless it makes them really depressed.

c. The pub. Well, if you can’t tell lies in a place that serves diluted alcohol, what’s the point of going there?

d. Political rallies. Whichever side you are on and whomever you are against, you are never expected to be unbiased and fair at a political rally. You are there to root for your side and howl the rest down. You are often allowed to hold up offensive signs. You are never required to dress well. You are permitted to espouse the foulest creeds and howl the vilest insults. If it had nap time, it would be like kindergarten.

e. Religious meetings. You are required to be honest to God and honest to yourself, but everyone else there can be played like a harmonica. Profess anything that they want you to profess and damn anything that they demand you to damn. Recite creeds, prayers, anthems, and shopping lists if that is the custom of the place. Bob, weave, dance, sing, and perform any gestures that seem to be required.

It’ll all be the same thing. Would I lie to you?

 

 

 

 

Home One – Food

I live at home.

Unlike many people who live at hotels, nightclubs, bars, restaurants, sports stadiums, airports, or overseas resorts…I live at home. I do it because I can, and because it does me far more good than the other choices.

The first major attraction for me is the food at home. It comes out of our pantry, freezer, refrigerator, and mysterious boxes that a kid brings to the door. Nearly all of it, save the mysterious flat boxes, passes through my hands via utensils that I use to boil, fry, broil, bake, and steam. I aim to produce one meal a day that can keep the family healthy, and sometimes I can even extend to two – if one of these is simple fare.

I prepare food that tastes good, and has vitamins, fibre, carbs, protein, and pepper. A lot of the recipes are derived from those used by my mother, but adapted to my lesser skills. I am pleased to say that we rarely have a failure so gross that it needs to be buried.

Home food has another great advantage – price. Admittedly we pay metro supermarket prices for the ingredients that come into the house, but the cost of a good dinner at our table is very much less – in some cases 1/6th – of that at a local restaurant. The cost of a bad dinner – the fast food burger – is about the same but the home-cooked one has nutrition and taste.

And the other kitchen factors? Well, I have two arms and two hands and can wash dishes. We have a brand-new oven, grill, and stove, so there is no technical reason we cannot have good food. And when we eat at home, I do not have to keep reassuring a hovering waiter that the dinner is alright.

Plus there is no surcharge on weekends and public holidays.