The Nature of Friendship

(posted by Ann)

I rejoice in the diversity of my friends.

This morning, I got one of those e-mails that says “If you forward this, you’ll get a check in five days” with all sorts of presumably logical reasons.* And I thought, “What the heck, it’d be nice to see a check in five days, especially from our misguided and hazardous-to-our-stress-levels movie investment.” So I picked five friends at random, people I thought would appreciate not so much the e-mail but my gently poking fun at such things.

First response: “Oh, how I love thee, Ann.” Needless to say, I’m all on board for that one. (Okay, I confess that one came from the person who originally sent it to me. Still, she loves me.)

Second response:  “Sorry, I really hate this stuff. Please don’t send any more.” She assures me she still loves me too, despite my sending her a chain e-mail.

Both responses are valid.  Our time at the computer—and offline as well—is limited, and we are inundated with things of no interest to us. But my mind now had fodder for playing with such totally different reactions. I’m glad my friends are different from me and from each other. I bask in the positive comment. At the same time, I find myself responding personally and defensively to the negative comment. I want to say “Bravo! I’m glad I’m the kind of friend you can say that to” and “Chill, for crying out loud. It’s just one short e-mail” all at the same time. I’m a magnet caught in that infinitesimal spot, wobbling midway between north or south.

It’s easy to accept praise, or what we choose to interpret as praise. It’s harder to merge within ourselves the reactions to anything that causes our defensive hackles to rise up and do a prickly dance. But really, it’s not about me, and I have to remind myself of that a fair number of times. My friend doesn’t want those sorts of e-mails, that’s all there is to it. The world has not imploded, I am still the same person I was five minutes before I read that e-mail, and life will go on just as it has. If I’m a good friend—and I usually try to be—all I have to do is remember not to forward her any chain letters. I can do that. It doesn’t make her a less valuable friend in any way.

My friends are still remarkably diverse and by choosing to take the ego out of our friendships, I haven’t closed myself off from people who don’t agree with me. Tribalism is in that direction, and I’d rather be of many tribes that limit myself to just one, to be inclusionary rather than exclusionary.

*Just in case you want to try forwarding it on, here’s main part of the e-mail I sent:

“This year’s July has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays, which apparently happens once every 823 years.  This is called money bags.  So send this on and money will arrive in 5 days.  Based on Chinese feng shui, the one who does not pass this on will have money troubles for the rest of the year…”

My e-mail added these comments:  “Was feng shui around 823 years ago? How about 1646 years ago, so that maybe somebody would have noticed a trend? A quick Wikipedia check tells me it’s been around in some fashion since around 4,000 BCE.  Or did they have so little to do with their spare time 823 years ago that they worked out the calendar for the next 820-odd years? And only THEN noticed that, gosh, there are five Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays!!   (Or, more precisely, 星期五,星期六和星期日, as the case may be.)  🙂

My view: Super Bowl XLV

Portal Flagposted by annmeeker:

Elliott has been sweetly pushing me to write something for his/our blog and I have gently and stubbornly said I have nothing to write. Who would want to hear my opinion on anything? Anyone I know would simply ask me. But in the interests of spousal kindliness and from a certain amount of stubborn I-can-do-it-when-I-get-around-to-it-ness, I am writing something. About the Super Bowl.

“Sheesh,” I can hear you say, “Ann’s writing about the Super Bowl? She doesn’t even known which end of the ball goes forward.” (Yes I do, it’s the pointy end.)

Actually, it’s not about the game I want to write, though we did watch one (I’m tempted to call it an inning) quarter. We also watched the half-time show and a lot of the ads.

First, the ads. I must be getting old, but I simply don’t find it amusing to see a woman knocked down into the mud by a giant log or a guy brought to his knees by a kick to his balls or any other sort of violent mischief. I know I’m not supposed to take these sorts of things seriously (“Aw, come on, Ann, it’s just in fun!”), but such representations leaving me feeling like I live in a very sick society. When did we ever find amusement in watching someone else get hurt, even if it is “just in fun”? I admit to an irrepressible urge to laugh when I see someone do a slippy dance on a bit of ice, but it doesn’t last past that moment when the poor dancer actually starts to fall and it slowly sinks into my brain that someone might get hurt. I admit to roadside fascination about accidents. But so many of the ads on the Super Bowl (and have you noticed how they now have ads about the ads?) are gratuitously violent? Our youth ARE impressionable and we are subtly and surely molding their minds–not to mention the squishy minds of we adults–to find violent acts amusing and not reprehensible. I was disgusted, in short. But that’s not a surprise. I gave up watching television a long time ago. When I find myself somewhere where it’s playing, I have to drag my eyes away from it much like driving past that roadside accident. It’s fascinating in a deranged way. (Side note: Two weeks ago somebody introduced me to The Biggest Loser. My first reality show. I hate to say it, but I loved it.)

Now on to the half-time show, the Black-Eyes Peas. First a disclaimer: I’d never heard the Black-Eyed Peas before. (And is Usher part of them or was he a separate act? I’m still not sure…) Anyway, and it must be age again, but I couldn’t understand most of the lyrics. I’ve always been challenged that way, music never having been one of my strong points, but I watched the lips move and tried to make sense of the words–and there was a big disconnect. So, I turned off my ears and looked at the costuming. Now THAT was cool. Hokey, but cool. I think the choreographers/costumers deserve the credit for the show, however much is due. To pull off that sort of a live event must take an enormous amount of coordination and technology. I don’t know much about costuming (despite having just edited a 1900-page book on costumes) but pulling off a dance of that magnitude had to take all of the dancers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area a fair amount of time–tho admittedly the “dancing” didn’t look hard, but remembering “Oh, now I’m supposed to be a green arrow!” “Okay, red heart time” “Let’s see, white rows, and I turn left–no right!” must have been a lot to keep track of. Keeping track of my arms and legs is tough enough, but color too? So, hats off to the dancers, choreographers, and costumers! They were the stars of the show.

And the game? I hear the Packers won. Whatever. They were both good teams and had to play a lot of great games to make it as far as they did. There’s no shame in losing, tho I admit winning is probably a lot more fun.

And now the hype begins for next year. I can no longer say I watch for the ads. Or the half-time show. Maybe I’d better figure out how to play football and watch for the game itself.

Where the Motorheads are: A Visit to Savannah Race Engineering

My friend and neighbor, Ted Wenz, recently relocated his racing motor business from New York to Savannah, Georgia, and, as he’s gotten fully settled in, offered to host a group of his friends and neighbors for a Saturday morning open house.

The centerpiece of the morning was a dyaomometer run of a 900 to 900+ bhp Chevy racing engine.

Enjoy the pics and video!


Here’s the video of the dynamometer run. It’s about six minutes long:

Payback Prank!: Mobistar – Belgium

Have you ever wanted to get even for the hours you’ve spent dealing with Customer “Service”?  Belgium’s Mobistar phone company is universally reviled for its terrible customer service in that country. Here’s what happened…

With our thanks to Boing-Boing, and, too, Daniel Schmidt, for circulating this!

‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’, by Connie Willis – A Review

‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’ , as I came to read it in its entirety, is an interesting story, for I had started it once some years ago, and failed to progress in my reading of it.  The failure, time has shown me, was entirely my own.  For whatever reason, the distractions in my life prevented me from realizing what a jewel of a story Ms. Willis had crafted. I simply didn’t know what it was I had in my hands, and so never got beyond the first chapter.  It worked something like this: this is supposed to be a time traveler’s story, and here’s this odd crew of weird academics picking over the wreckage of the cathedral at Coventry after having been firebombed by the Nazi’s in WWII. Their incompetence is exceeded only by their fatigue. Their quest is to find a missing piece of Victorian bric-a-braq called “The Bishop’s Bird Stump”, and this at the behest of a tyrant-boss who needs to copy it to decorate a modern knock-off cathedral being built in the mid-21st century.  Somehow, this wasn’t the time-travel yarn I was looking for at that time.

However, it should have been. What doesn’t immediately make itself known about Willis’ book is that it plays on so many different levels at once. It is as much about a future time when when historians might mine the past in person , as it is a gentle exercise in lampooning the Victorians both in person and through their literature, AND in the context of a cosmos that is as forgiving of our tinkering with time as Willis’ Victorians are of her lampooning of them.

It was my older daughter who eventually turned my attention back to this book, when she, in her quirky manner, quoted a meme from it, unreferenced, as her Facebook status one evening. She posted, “We are all, in a sense, Ensign Klepperman.” This game requires that I figure out what the heck she is referring to, and few google searches later it came to me in a flash that these words derived from the odd time-travel book I’d started and never finished some five years before.  Klepperman’s story and person are but a sidebar to illuminate the tasks of Willis’ protagonists as well as her greater themes in this tour-de-force, but to say how in this review might be telling too much.

This much can be said: it is a truly great piece of fiction that can mull over more than a few profound questions about the relationship between the present and the past with SUCH a gracious and deft touch that the reader hardly senses the depth of the work beneath the constant and ongoing humor, until suddenly GOB-SMACKED by it with near lethal force at the conclusion.

I’m at present reading the second work in this series, ‘Blackout’, and in possession of the third such work, ‘All Clear’, so am well positioned to feast on Ms. Willis’ works for some time to come. I’ll write about those too, in time.

For now, though, take my recommendation for ‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’ to heart if you think you’d enjoy a warm summer’s journey by boat in Victoria’s England combined with a romp helter-skelter through other times, as well.


Cha Bella, Broad and Broughton Streets, Savannah, Ga.

Tonight we dined out at a place we’ve come to love up in Savannah, called Cha-Bella.  We drove up with our neighbors, Ron and Jannette, stopping for cocktails first at the cellar tavern at The Olde Pink House, some blocks away.

The tavern was dark and comforting, with a welcoming gas log and deep leather chairs. Ann’s Long Island Iced Tea, and our friend’s martinis were well-constructed, and my Walker Red was a generous pour. Serendipitously, we kept meeting people whose life tapestries  bore similar threads to our own, and the conversations flowed easily until it was time to walk over to Cha-Bella.

Walking across the squares of Savannah on a Saturday night is always pleasant, the city being full of students and their limitless energy. We passed some SCAD photography students lying across the sidewalk on their bellies shooting film for some project as if it was as normal as strolling.

Cha-Bella was warm and softly lit as we arrived.

For dinner we ordered the grouper special served with avocado slices over risotto, a plate of yellow-fin tuna, chicken breast braised in olive oil, and a breaded pork cutlet. I, myself, had a chance to sample both fish platters, and found myself wishing I had ordered the tuna, not that the grouper was lacking in merit. The darker flavors of the tuna were simply a better match for the Merlot accompanying the meal.

The meal was splendid, as was the company. Our conversations ranged from easy journeys and pleasant vacations to dead-stick landings and storms at sea, and from raising babies to the joys of the empty nest.

I hope we dine so well again soon!

— Elliott

‘The Dreaming Void’ , by Peter F. Hamilton – A Review

February 1, 2011

Actually, I’m only WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE of finishing this interesting book, which was a gift from one of my daughters more than a year ago.

While worthy and, as I said, interesting in many ways, it was not for me a compelling read.  Hamilton is gifted but seems to write without any discipline with regard to outlining his story arcs in advance of writing, or if he does so, it is not set out for the reader in any clearly discernible way.

However, his gifts and strengths are evident, and lie in his imagination, and the scope of the palette on which he builds his yarns.  His weakness is in launching so many story lines at once and flitting between them willy-nilly, so that most readers would be at a loss as to what the hell is going on, overall. And this is exacerbated by the action being spread over thousands (or is it hundreds of thousands?) of light-years of real estate, and an indeterminate amount of time, which could be as few as several Earth months, or as many as several Earth years, if we only had a clue as to where Earth stood in this panoply.

Having reported that I’m close to finishing this major work,  I must also sadly add that I have NOT a CLUE as to how anything will ultimately turn out. After reading almost 700 pages, I will only be in a good position to set out in the second tome of this TRILOGY.  And, being a bit cynical, I despair of knowing any much more at the end of the second book, should I venture on.

The damnable part of it is, I might keep reading anyway!  Although there are few characters and story lines I much care about, there are some which do interest me. Those are well drawn, inspired in their characteristics and adventures, and might just keep me going.

The best I can say of this series is that it would make great television, as it is drawn from a superior imagination, but expresses no clear notion of where it is going so far.  New television dramas never seem to suffer as much from a want of long-term story arcs. As sci-fi “popcorn for the mind”, ‘The Dreaming Void’ is very good. Among the great sci-fi novel-series, so far it can only be an also-ran.

In line to vote with Exxon and BP…

It was brought home to me today that it has been more than a year since the dreadful Supreme Court decision, ‘Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission’.  A one-time friend from my youth whose present wrongheadedness in most things political does not border on, but rather EXCEEDS the utterly maniacal, took advantage, in a recent exchange, of gloating on the fact.

In trying to understand his position it occurred me that he had never in his adult life worked for anything but major corporations. I grimly predict that a day may arrive when his masters put him out to pasture, social security and medicare gutted, and his pension stolen outright, which might alter his views somewhat. Or not. His views are mighty extreme.

If you are groping here a bit as to what that Supreme Court case was about, here are the broad strokes. The five Republican judges appointed by Geo. W Bush carried a majority opinion that corporations should have the same freedom as individuals to practice “free speech”, which includes the freedom to unlimited investment of corporate assets and monies on political campaigns. It does not matter that the ownership of such corporations may be primarily foreign, or antithetical to what is best for our society at large, but only that they be licensed on United States soil.

Nor does it matter that, unlike individuals, they can never be held accountable for crimes against society in any meaningful way. You can’t incarcerate BP, as much as you may want to at times. But BP can certainly spend the dollars it takes to buy the election of your next senator or congressman, without regard to its lack of safety in its business practices.

None of this is particularly cheerful to contemplate.

My reply to my former friend included a caution that a populace disenfranchised from meaningful involvement in the selection of its government has an annoying tendency  of rising up, sooner or later. I further expressed my hope that this would not become necessary. The news from Cairo sounds just awful.

There are people who say it will take an amendment to the constitution to right this situation. Let’s start thinking about that instead!

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Portal FlagThis is the blog portal serving our family server Swiftpassage. We reside on the Georgia coast, in view of the South Newport River. This space is intended to remind us of the virtue and satisfaction to be found in journaling, for our friends and children. Ann and I are pleased that you are visiting. Please leave comments, links, etc, and we will pass them on for the enjoyment of our other like-minded acquaintances.   Thank you for visiting!

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