Television

Roald Dahl (1916-1990)

The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter, and fighter pilot. His books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide. His Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is enjoyed all over the world.

Military parade

MILITARY PARADE

God bless the people who are doing what they can to help. Shame on us all for allowing the USA to become the Land of the Free and the Home of the Homeless.

Let America be America again

Langston Hughes (1901-1967)

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!

Being number one is overrated

I’m always humbled and amazed by a corps de ballet. Some of the dancers may long to be the prima ballerina, but most of them find satisfaction in creating beauty with discipline, sacrifice, teamwork, and very little individual recognition. You can rank a thousand dancers on any criteria–endurance en pointe, highest jump, most pirouettes. One of them will be first and one of them will be last, but the one who is last will be darn good, and the difference between the number one dancer and the thousandth will be small.

There is no limit to the ways that human beings can rate and rank each other, and from the time we are very young, we hear that we should always aspire to be number one. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with trying to be number one, but if you think you are a failure whenever you don’t make it, you set yourself up for a pretty sad life.

Being number one in some things, like wearing the most t-shirts at one time (Canadian Ted Hastings, 260, 2019), is just not that impressive and having the world’s longest fingernails (Ayanna Williams of Houston, Texas, combined length, 18 feet, 10.9 inches, 2017) is just gross.

I would be proud to be the parent of the “worst” dancer in the best corps. On the other hand, I would probably be a little embarrassed if an offspring of mine won the Guinness record for number of t-shirts on the body or longest fingernails in the world.

I’d rather be last among the best than first among the worst.

Google translator: proceed with caution

An old story that circulates wherever translators gather goes like this.

A Mexican who knew a little English owned a bar in a pueblo near the border. As a rainstorm was approaching, a gringo tourist hustled into the bar. The barkeeper was happy because he knew just what to say.

“Between! Between!” he shouted enthusiastically. “Drink a chair! Here comes the water zero!”  (“Entre! Entre! Tome una silla. Ahi viene el aguacero!”)

Once in awhile, a person will ask me for a word-for-word translation. There may be such a thing, as the hapless barkeeper demonstrated, but the results are often not conducive to effective communication. “Just tell me what it SAYS,” shouts an exasperated client as I try to explain a complex and ambiguous passage.

A translator’s work is to get meaning from the source language and convey the same meaning in a different language. Often, the distance is not great between the words of one language and another language, but sometimes the search for meaning leads to something that is quite different from the source.

Use online translators and bilingual dictionaries with caution, and preferably with adult supervision–someone with enough knowledge of source and target languages to warn you of snafus like these:

  • “Enchufe de los Muebles del Hotel” (Hotel Furniture Outlet)
  • “Meat in your juice” (Carnes en su jugo)
  • “Foot of Lemon” (Pie de Limon)
  • “Hecho en Pavo” (Made in Turkey)
  • “Fresh picture” (Pintura fresca)
  • “Hierro chulo” (Cool iron)
  • “Pope with spicy Mexican sausage” (Papa con chorizo)
  • “To Rome” (aroma)

And from the Chinese translators

  • “Chicken rude and unreasonable” (Jerk chicken)
  • “I can’t find on google but it’s delicious” (Menu item in Chinese)

*“WITHOUT TAILS” (SIN COLAS)

††

Happily never after

Everybody knows beyond doubt their love is real because she is so beautiful and he is so handsome. If there were any doubts, their first kiss erases them. Since their love is so great, they must get married, and we know they will live happily ever after. It’s a lovely script for a movie. It is not a guide to real life.

The words LOVE and MARRIAGE have as many meanings as there are lips to speak them. If we can agree on a working definition for each word, I’d like to rid myself and maybe at least a few readers of some mistaken ideas that keep us from loving and being loved well.

THE DEFINITIONS

LOVE is commitment to the well-being of another person.

MARRIAGE is a contract by which people agree to be married.

THE MISTAKEN IDEAS

  1. The right person, your true love, will make you happy. No. You are the only person in the world who can make YOU happy. If you are an unhappy single person, you will be an unhappy married person. Your spouse, your mother, your friend, your counselor, your minister may point the way to Happiness and her more homely but more desirable sister, Contentment, but you have to find them for yourself.
  2. I can’t live without you,” means that the one who says it really loves you. No. It’s a romantic thing we say to each other, but if your prospective partner shows signs of really believing it, he or she is not reality-based, and you should run as fast as possible in another direction. Love means being a whole person who doesn’t need another person but can choose freely to love that person. Love may mean carrying on alone what you and a loved one have built together. The traditional marriage vow reminds us of this in the words, “until death do us part.”
  3. Marriage is a bill of sale that means, “I am yours and you are mine,” and there can be no secrets between us. No. A desire to share deeply is often brought on by common marital practices like living together, having sex, having children, and staying together for the long haul. Sharing secrets can be a lovely thing, but spouses have a right to keep facts and feelings to themselves, so long as those secrets don’t have a direct effect on the relationship or on the partner. The partner who prods and pries for all facts and feelings will drive them deeper and discourage real sharing. Nobody is “yours” except you, and even that’s debatable.
  4. If you are married, you must live in the same house. No. You will probably want to. It may be convenient. It may be fun. It may be economical. On the other hand, you may work in different cities or have radically different styles, or one of you may be loving and charming and a pain in the butt to share a house with. Living together in marriage is the conventional plan, and most people choose it, but it is by no means a requirement for being or staying married. Separate residences have been known to save relationships. Unfortunately, people sometimes ditch an otherwise wonderful partner simply because they couldn’t live happily in the same house.
  5. If you are married, you must share a bedroom and sleep in the same bed. Nope. Cuddling, waking up together, and enjoying the comfort and convenience of sex in lovely privacy and darkness may be conducive to long and lasting relationships, but I favor having the option of my own space and my own bed, out of acoustic range of a snoring spouse, away from another’s clutter and sleep schedules that are out of sync with mine. Carving out a separate space can be refreshing for a marriage that is getting on someone’s nerves.
  6. If you are married, you must have sex. Not necessarily. I belong to a generation that thought of marriage as society’s permission to have sex, and it was kind of a fun idea, even if you were one of those who got a thrill from the danger of defying your parents and society. So my first reaction to the idea of marriage without sex is, “HUH??” However, being ALLOWED to have sex doesn’t mean you are REQUIRED to have sex. There are a few people who mutually don’t care much for it. Some people are sick or impaired. Some are too old or too tired to bother with it. As long as they agree, they can have a fine relationship without it.
  7. Being married is superior to being single, and staying married is always the best choice. No. Married, single, divorced or widowed people have lived good, wholesome, productive, creative lives. Or not. Being married or single is not a factor. How they lived is what made the difference.
  8. Divorce is always a terrible tragic choice, and it will fill your life with bitterness and strife for as long as you live. Not really. If you believe this, you will probably make it come true, but some people get post-separation life skills. They may uncover a friendship with their former partners that wasn’t possible under the pressure of living up to marriage stereotypes. Most people, whether they admit it or not, once found something attractive in their partner in addition to those youthful pheromones that convinced them they had “fallen in love.” It might have been shared faith, charm, a sense of humor, a shared passion for animals, food, art, movies, bowling, or just about anything, and, of course, if they have children, they share their love for those children. When they are relieved of the expectations for marriage, former partners sometimes see each other in a new light. Of course, there are toxic relationships that can’t be even partially salvaged. Ending a toxic relationship is not tragic, though. It is therapeutic.
  9. If you are happily married, you will want to have children. No. If you want to have children, you want to have children. If you partner with someone who also wants children, things can work out splendidly for all of you. Conventional marriage and children are designed to work together, but you CAN have either without the other. What is not advisable is bringing children into an unhappy marriage.

If you are married, living in the same house, sleeping in the same bed, having sex, and have kids, you don’t need to change anything, but if you are not living in the same house, or not happy about living in the same house, if sex is not that big a deal, and you don’t really want children, don’t be too quick to give up on the relationship, and don’t count yourselves as failures just because your life together doesn’t look like someone else’s.

If movie brides and grooms were real, there would be a fifty-fifty chance their fairy-tale love stories would end in divorce. Of those who didn’t divorce, an incalculable number would make each other mutually miserable until death did them part, and some of them would eventually abuse each other and maybe speed up that parting.

So, what is a good marriage? It comes back to the definition of love. It is caring about the well-being of another person as much as you care about yourself and signing a contract that promises you always will.

Old style church wedding

Before Minimalism had a name, there were Minimalist lifestyles forged by limited circumstances and practical wisdom. Sayings like, “Waste not, want not,” and “A place for everything and everything in its place,” helped children learn to live productively and peacefully in an increasingly materialistic world.

Judged by twenty-first century standards, most pre-1960 weddings were minimalist. They were tradition-bound and financed by the father of the bride. Performance proposals, themed weddings, specialized venues, favors for guests, save-the-dates, and Bridezillas belonged to a future that only the prescient could foresee. So did Destination Weddings unless you count going to Tijuana for a quickie Divorce-Wedding Combo.

CHURCH WEDDINGS AND MORE

Churchgoers who were getting married could rely on their church’s sanctuary, paying little more than a clean-up fee for the janitor and a thank-you gift for the officiating minister. If there were no singers and instrumentalists among friends or relatives, the church’s music staff were available for a modest fee. The unchurched might opt for a home wedding unless they conveniently got religion as they made their wedding plans.

The bride’s mother, grandmother or crafty aunt might make the wedding dress. Attendants made their own dresses or had them made from fabric and patterns provided by the bride.

The local baker could produce a lovely traditional wedding cake. Variations had more to do with size than with originality or artistry. The town florist would happily offer a range of options to match the church‘s facilities and dad’s checkbook.

The church Fellowship Hall with adjacent kitchen could be reserved for a cake-and-punch reception after the ceremony. Banquets and buffets were only for brides whose fathers could afford membership in the country club.

If the groom’s father had the means, he would host a rehearsal dinner at a nice restaurant for attendants and the families on the eve of the wedding.

Considering the expense, the preparation, and the great to-do made of them in the society pages of the local paper, actual weddings were shockingly brief and boring, brightened only by seeing the bride all beautiful in her lovely dress and veil and indulging in the sugar high of obscenely white, obscenely sweet wedding cake. It was rumored that Catholics drank alcoholic beverages and held dances after weddings, but Southern Baptists frowned on such practices. It was also rumored that ethnic peoples, particularly those with Latin or Mediterranean roots had a morally questionable lot of fun at their wedding receptions.

Then the sixties happened. Couples ditched tradition, and those who bothered to seal their vows at all experimented with original venues: helicopters, submarines, untamed beaches, dionysian meadows. Bridal wear might consist of a flowing granny dress and bare feet, a garland of flowers braided into unwashed hair, or bride and groom might show up barefoot all the way to the neck. Hare Krishna chants replaced organ music and high-collared ministers gave way to Buddhist monks or Pagan priests and priestesses. Tokes replaced champagne toasts. Weddings suddenly were fun for all, but there was little profit for anyone but the Cartels. Meanwhile, churches were beginning to look more like rock concert venues than places for worship and sacrament, so…

ENTER THE REAL-ESTATE DEVELOPERS AND PROFESSIONAL WEDDING PLANNERS

Generic Wedding Chapels sprang up, along with Faux Palaces, Faux Barns, Faux Dionysian Meadows, Faux Country Churches and Faux Victorian Mansions. Flimsy portable kiosks and a few plastic chairs could turn Real Beaches into Overpriced Venues. Groomed and perfumed agents rolled out red carpets and pricey package deals. If you could imagine it, for the right price they could make it happen.

Brides’ mothers and crafty aunties were no longer at home ready to stitch up a wedding dress at the first glimmer of an engagement diamond, so wedding fashions ordered from China by corporate specialty fashion boutiques replaced Butterick patterns and yards and yards of peau de soie, Belgian lace, discreetly blingy sequins and faux pearls bought at the local fabric shop and assembled on Singer sewing machines. Mothers and daughters with buy-now-pay-later mindsets indulged in Modern Bride fantasies bringing forth Hollywoodesque productions and debts larger than the family mortgage.

It is probably not a good idea to convert to Minimalism just as you are planning one of your life’s most significant celebrations, but it might be helpful to have a few tricks up your sleeve to keep those excessively groomed-and-perfumed agents (and your mother and your best friend and your best friend’s mother and your grandmother and your sister and a whole slew of ad writers for glossy magazines) from taking over your life and making your head explode. You’re likely to spend more than your grandmother did for her accidentally minimalist wedding, but with some common sense and planning, you won’t have to drive your family into bankruptcy to have a wedding and reception party that will be a lot less boring than Grandma’s and Grandpa’s. Unless, of course, Grandma and Grandpa were Ethnic. Or Catholic. Or both.

SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER

1. It’s a celebration for two people with the people they love, not a Hollywood production for millions of spectators. Unless, of course, that’s what you want. Just don’t get confused.

2. It’s your wedding. It’s extremely important for you two who are getting married and your families. For your invited guests, it is just one more social event in a busy season. Those perfumed agents who are so sure of what you must have won’t even be there.

3. More is not necessarily better, and neither is More Expensive.

3. Simplicity (the aesthetic quality, not the pattern) is the foundation of elegance. Trendy and Extravagant will give you some hilarious Awkward Wedding Photos twenty years from now.

4. If it turns a beautiful bride into Bridezilla, it probably should be eliminated.

5. If anyone pitches an idea, even if it’s your grandma or your future mother-in-law, just smile sweetly and say as sincerely as you possibly can, “That’s a good idea.” Don’t offer any explanations, apologies, or promises to include it.

6. Watch some You Tube Pinterest Fails before you commit to DIY decorations.

7. Hire a competent photographer and a DJ who is in sync with your party style.

8. Worst-Case Scenarios like a tornado, chocolate Groom’s Cake smeared on the wedding dress, or a key player with a broken leg will give you something to laugh about once you get over it, so the sooner you get over it the better. Don’t waste valuable pre-wedding energy worrying about Worst Cases. They are rare and unlikely, even though all my example WCS’s actually happened to people I knew.

9. Originality is overrated. If you have doubts, let traditions with proven success records be your guide.

10. Make your wedding as meaningful, joyful, fun, and stress-free as possible, whatever that means to you and whatever it takes.

Here is an excellent article on reasons to not have an extravagant wedding:

https://www.becomingminimalist.com/the-case-against-extravagant-weddings/

MARRIAGE

Khalil Gibran (1883-1931)

Then Almitra spoke again and said, ‘And what of Marriage, master?’ 

And he answered saying: 

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore. 

You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days. 

Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God. 

But let there be spaces in your togetherness, 

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. 

Love one another but make not a bond of love: 

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. 

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. 

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. 

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, 

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. 

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. 

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. 

And stand together, yet not too near together: 

For the pillars of the temple stand apart, 

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow

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