Sunday, November 28, 2010

One is a lonely number

I was watching a TV show on public television, all about the New Jersey Turnpike. The narrators and the various experts reflected on how the turnpike somehow represented an American ethos or something. They blathered on about how there was a code of the highway and the egalitarian nature of this project made America strong and crystallized the identity of the New Jersey psyche.

One thing they said was that part of that code of the highway dictated that the truck lanes were for real men and only less-than-real-men use the "cars only" lanes. Now I have driven (and been driven) on the turnpike for 35 years and I have never heard that line. I live in New Jersey as do all of my neighbors here in New Jersey and none of them had ever heard of that. It got me thinking, and that's never a good idea.

And another thing...when I listen to the radio business reports the reporter tells about "the market" and what "it" does as if the traders all get together and vote on a course of action and a reason for it, then act in unison and file a report. It just doesn't happen that way.

You see, there is no singular collective voice that can be caught and printed on bumper stickers. The mass consciousness is really all about a bunch of individuals none of whom has an opinion that anyone would care about were anyone to speak with this individual one on one. All of these phantom groupthink ideas are the projected ideals of the sociologists who report on them and the wishful philosophers who need to claim they have their fingers on a pulse which doesn't really exist. We can't know what we all think because we don't all think and if we did we wouldn't all share what we think or even get any sort of summary of all the things we think. And we certainly don't agree.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lost skills in America

and another thing...
when was the last time you pulled out a paper map and tried to read it? I do frequently because I'm a fan of the map but I see the following as lost arts or arts we will lose soon.
1. map folding. gone the way of newspaper folding for easy reading on the subway
2. map printing
3. map reading

I went to a driver of a class truiip and asked him if he wanted my set of printed directions. He said "no thanks...I have a GPS." So maybe I should include "preparing for a trip by reviewing directions" to my list.

Will we become so dependent on GPS devices and directions that we won't even be able to find our around the block without a soothing voice reminding us to take a right turn in 300 feet? Will those crazy people who go orienteering no longer need a compass and map because their cell phones will tell them what to do and where to go? Don't we need to be able to read a map, find a street and judge distances on our own? It is bad enough that students insist they don't need to learn to spell because of spell check, but will a 2nd grade geography class begin with "OK kids, now log onto google earth"?

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I'm trying to quantify how different proclivities see the same event differently. This made perfect sense about 4 Red Stripes (and half a bottle of Pinot Grigio) ago.

A leaf falls from a tree.

A physicist computes the acceleration.
A climatologist considers the change of seasons.
A poet writes about the cycle of life.
A philosopher thinks about the concept of death.
The writer creates a story from the leaf's point of view.
A gardener bemoans the extra work.
The child jumps into the pile of leaves
The theist thanks god.

Add more as you see fit. I need to lie down.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Old News

So I'm sitting here at the computer, engaged in my standard evening activities of using the internet to get good and angry. Out of the corner of my eye, I'm watching one child studying and searching the world on Google Earth while the other works on her application to high school. In a few short years she'll be working on applications to college.

Where did my babies go?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What circle of hello am I in

So there I was in synagogue today and a gentleman gets up to lead services. Now you have to know me to understand that, as an orthodox Jew living in my neighborhood, I hear many people lead services. While I had seen this guy around, I had never heard him sing. And sing, he did. So I asked a friend whom I respect about such things as singing, prayer and people. I respect him, by the way, in a completely reasonable way, as much as you can respect someone and not sound crazy or simply star struck.

My friend looks at me and says "you don't know?" He fills me in that this guy is some world renowned cantor guy who happens to live in our neighborhood but he and his father are some top tier cantors (if such a thing exists). I felt like a fool for not knowing, by sight, that this guy is someone but I realized, I don't really keep myself in that particular loop. I tried to imagine a situation that my friend would have to ask me to identify someone and I could look at him disdainfully and ask "you mean you don't recognize _____?"

Then it hit me. I don't really know anyone, especially not anyone who wouldn't already be recognized by anyone else. I have friends who can spot a third string minor league baseball player from three cars away when we are on the Van Wyck and I wouldn't know the president if I was locked in my bathroom with him (note, my bathroom is very small and this should not be construed as a terroristic threat against our president. I have no intention of kidnapping him and subjecting him to being in our small bathroom with me). I know some stuff -- teaching English, reading biblical texts, playing hangman on my Blackberry and watching reruns of police procedurals. I can bake a cake, fold socks and juggle but I'd have trouble identifying any of the "top people" in any of these fields, or any other.

For years, the wife has been able to point out celebrities she sees on the street or make connections between people from her past and I need a cheat sheet to remember my own birthday. So if you are famous, and you see me, introduce yourself and wait a couple of minutes for me to place you. Then I'll be real nice and stuff. Maybe even bake you a cake or fold your socks.