WHAT DOGS KNOW ABOUT WOMEN

Marilyn Armstrong:

Today’s a perfect day to reblog this one. It made me laugh. It made me laugh a lot and I have to admit, it did not make Garry laugh nearly as much.

Sometimes I think there is only one husband in the world. He comes in a variety of packaging options — size, color, age, ethnicity — but underneath, it’s the same guy.

Originally posted on Stuff my dog taught me:

woman and dogThe other night I had an argument with the husband so I harrumphed up the stairs and went to bed early.  (Actually, I harrumphed up then back down then back up, since I had forgotten the ipad in the living room.  This took away a fair bit of the effect from my initial harrumph but it also allowed me to watch a new season of The Vampire Diaries in bed, so…).

Buster the Schnauzer did not have even a moment of angst over what to do in such a situation.  Without hesitation, my loyal friend followed me up the stairs, AND back down, AND back up.  As I settled under the covers, he sat upright on the bottom of the bed with a look that clearly said, “You are everything wonderful and perfect in the world and HE is an ass.” (Buster has a very expressive face).  As we shared…

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ON NOT BEING A CULTURE SNOB

I read a post about how dreadful (yet gripping) romance novels can be. It’s true. They are the potato chips of the literary world. Bet you can’t consume just one! Even if you don’t like them (and mostly, I don’t, much), they grab you and won’t let you go, even though you know in advance exactly what is going to happen, pretty much from the opening page.

That’s not the point of these books. If as a girl, you read the back of cereal boxes, romance novels are the next step up. I’m not sure what the literary equivalent is for guys, but I’m sure there is one.

netflix for books

As the former editor of the Doubleday Romance Library, I can tell you our research showed readers of romance novels to be far better educated than average readers. Many have advanced degrees in the sciences. They read romance novels exactly because they are mindless pulp. They aren’t looking to be informed or improved, to have their world expanded, reading-level or awareness raised. They want a book they can pick up, read, put down. If life gets in the way, they can just forget them without regret.

I read each 3-book volume, one per month. It contained three romances: 2 modern with a Gothic sandwiched between. Every novel had the same plot, the same outcome. They sold gangbusters.

Regardless of what we, as writers, would like, people don’t necessarily read books because they are good. Me? I often avoid “good” books. I don’t want to go where the book would take me. I’m not stupid or lacking in culture. I just don’t want to read it.

Why? Too depressing, too intense, too serious, too ugly, too educational. Too real. I read for the same reasons I watch TV and movies. To be entertained. I am not seeking enlightenment. Perhaps I should rephrase that. I am no longer seeking enlightenment. If I ain’t enlightened by now, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen in this lifetime.

The wondrous thing about the world of books is there are so many books. Enough genres, themes, and styles for anyone. Everyone. An infinity of literature so no matter what your taste –low-brow, high-brow, middle-brow, no-brow – there are thousands of books waiting for you. That’s good. I’d rather see someone reading a bad book than no book.

I’m not a culture snob. I think reading crappy novels is fine if you like them. Watching bad TV is fine too. Snobs take the fun out of reading. While I’m not a fan of romance novels, if you are, that’s fine. Since I love reading about vampires and witches, I’d be a hypocrite to act like your taste is somehow inferior to mine.

These days, I’m rarely in the mood for serious literature. Tastes change with the years. Mine has changed more than most. Life has been a very serious business for me. When I read, watch TV, or see a movie, I am happy to escape from reality.

Finally, my favorite professor at university — a man I believe was profound and wise in every way that counted — was a big fan of Mickey Spillane. He said there was a much truth in his books. I believe for him, there was.

ODDLY INDEED

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: Week 39

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Of all of the photos I had lying around my files, these are among the oddest, fitting in nowhere, having been taken between here and there while at a fundraising party for a movie which so far, remains a great idea.

There was a party going on, but I was not there. I was … elsewhere.

ONCE UPON A TIME

Spinning Yarns – What makes a good storyteller, in your opinion? Are your favorite storytellers people you know or writers you admire?


Fear According to Savage Chickens

Last night I dreamed about chickens. After a tooth-grinding review of how badly mistreated we have been by past employers — Garry’s and mine — somehow I slid sideways into an old house in the country.

It looked a lot like it does around here. A bit hilly and lots of trees. There was a movie star living in the house. She was supposed to be young, but her skin looked like the bottom of an old leather suitcase and was a trifle orange. She was going back to California where she seemed to believe she would be better off.

That left me with 200 chickens. The fowl were arriving (shortly) by truck. Healthy, young, hens and roosters. Enough to start a nice little chicken farm. Except I didn’t want to be a chicken farmer and I was pretty sure, neither did Garry. I couldn’t just leave the chickens to die of hunger, thirst, and cold. I’m a responsible person and I love animals. Even chickens.

I was still baffled over the whole chicken conundrum when I finally gave up, opened my eyes, and began my day. Coffee would banish chickens. Garry says it’s from “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and I was just caught in an old movie loop.

Sometimes, the absolutely best storyteller in the world has got to be my subconscious. I would never even consider creating a story involving me and chickens.

Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens

Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens

Not counting authors since this prompt doesn’t concern that … who tells great stories? Garry tells wonderful stories. He has me mesmerized from the first word to the last and that includes when I’ve heard the story before. Our friend Tom is also a terrific storyteller. He makes us laugh. I don’t know if the story is true or maybe just a little true, but whatever, it is great entertainment.

At my best, I tell a good story. I run on too long and I’m not good at wrapping it up and finishing before the audience needs another drink, but I’m good for the yarn’s first three-quarters.

Story-telling is the glue that makes friends want to hang out with each other.

It’s not booze, movies, or video games. Certainly not texting. It’s stories. The tales of our experiences, things we remember, times and places and people we’ve known.

I keep wondering what young people will do when they realize you can’t live forever with just a cell phone for company? They don’t seem to have a clue about having conversations or telling stories to each other. From whence will their stories emerge?

Our stories are our personal mythology. Will our children and grandchildren have stories? Or anyone to tell them?

It worries me. It really does.

OCTOBER COMING HOME

Downtown Putney, Vermont

Downtown Putney, Vermont

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge: 2014 #21

It was as if we spent all of October in the car. It’s not true, of course. We spent most of October on the ground, somewhere in New England.

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Massachusetts to Maine, Maine to Vermont, Vermont to Massachusetts, Uxbridge to Hadley and then once more around. Whoo hoo.

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These are pictures we took while driving through various towns in Maine and Vermont. In Putney, we stopped for lunch at a charming local diner.

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If I could have taken that diner home with me, I’d have packed it into my car and set it up around the corner in Uxbridge.

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BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE!

My Top 10 Cold Weather Songs, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

With much of the nation having already been visited by cold and snow, it seems like a good time to bring on the winter tunes. Songs by any band with “Cold” in their name is not what we mean here.  Nor shall we include song about loves who are as “Cold As Ice” or running “Against The Wind.”  Our tunes are really songs about winter, cold, and snow.  Some are a bit more symbolic than others, but they will do nicely for my purposes.

Let’s be clear, they are not holiday songs, although some of them only get played in the holiday season.  Since the Christmas holiday season seems to start around Halloween and go until New Year’s Day, I guess there is already ample opportunity to hear some of them.  You will discover that there is no holiday greeting included in the cold and snowy lyrics.  In fact, we will give you some instrumentals just because you can already place them in your winter memory.

Let me start you off with an honorable mention from the movie White Christmas.  No I am not sneaking in a Christmas song.  This is strictly two minutes of wishing for snow by four big name performers:

There are a number of other songs about snow that may not be classics, but are good nonetheless.  Track down “Snow” by Harry Nilsson, for example.  Type in “Snow” in a You Tube search and you will certainly see “Snow (Hey Oh)” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.  On second thought, you better type in “snow songs” so you can avoid all those home-made videos of people stuck in a snow drift.

Here’s our bottom 5 with everything from a Classical sound to traditional, rock to rolling “down the streets of town” by a snow man.  There are winter birds of all kinds if you just let it snow:
10. Wizards of Winter – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
9. Winter – Rolling Stones
8. Frosty the Snowman – by just about everyone with a Christmas Album or two
7. Snowbird – Anne Murray
6. Let It Snow – Frank Sinatra, but there are probably a thousand versions of this by now

The next one earns a place here as much for the back story as anything.  This symbolic “A Winter’s Tale” was written by Freddie Mercury from his hospital room overlooking Lake Geneva, Switzerland.  The visions he describes are what he could see from his room.  He laid down the keyboard tracks and vocals in a Swiss studio two weeks before his death.  Queen later finished the song with their parts.  It was released as the second song on a posthumous album four years later.
5. A Winter’s Tale – Queen

Winter imagery can be found in a lot of songs by Paul Simon, especially from the Simon and Garfunkel years. A Hazy Shade of Winter was certainly one of their biggest hits and earns a spot on my songs of the Polar Vortex. You will find an intriguing version by the Bangles from years later, but let’s stick with the original.
4. Hazy Shade of Winter – Simon and Garfunkel

One of the most popular songs of the Christmas season is Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson. Although often played only as an instrumental, the lyrics say nothing of the holidays. There is, however, “a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray.” They are rather seasonal as they “pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie,” but the song really is about a sleigh ride through the snow. Find a version with someone singing, if you must. Nothing says “Sleigh Ride” like the Boston Pops Orchestra:
3. Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson – John Williams & The Boston Pops

If you are not sleigh riding through the snow, perhaps you are walking in a winter wonderland. There are many versions of this seasonal classic, but I could not pass by Tony Bennett singing outside in Rockefeller Center. Tony’s nose is so red he could be Rudolph. Despite the frozen crowd, the musicians somehow manage to play as Mr. Bennett looks appropriately cold:
2. Winter Wonderland – Tony Bennett

When I think of cold and snow outside, this is my song. There is nothing that inspires me to go out in a storm. While I enjoyed seeing Joseph Gordon-Leavitt do this with Lady Gaga, of all people, and nothing compares to Ricardo Montalban crooning at Esther Williams or Red Skelton at Betty Garrett in the movies, the best version is Dean Martin and anyone. He recorded the song with a number of people, here with Martina McBride
1. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Dean Marin with Martina McBride

This Frank Loesser penned tune won the Academy Award for the 1949 romantic comedy musical Neptune’s Daughter.

LIVING HISTORY – THE ASSASSINATION OF A PRESIDENT

It’s a rerun from last year, when it was the 50th anniversary of the assassination. I’m sorry to say it is no less relevant a year later. It would be a better sign of political health for this country if it were less relevant.


Today is the day. Fifty-one years. I remember. Do you?

It’s weird watching the documentaries commemorating events I remember. It’s the Kennedy assassination this month. Just about every station, network and cable, are doing specials on John F. Kennedy. For us, it’s a trip down memory lane. Or nightmare alley.

I was 13 when Kennedy was elected. I watched the inauguration on television, the first of many inaugurations I would watch. It was the greatest inaugural speech. I was naïve enough to believe he wrote it himself. And I was impressed by his hair, the best hair of any President before or since. Especially after 8 years of President Dwight D. Eisenhower who was very bald.

John-F.-Kennedy

In 1963 I turned 16 and started college. Kennedy was shot in November and the world changed. I’m sure every person old enough to know what was going on remembers where they were the day they heard the news. The assassination of John F. Kennedy was a landmark event, a turning point in history, a turning point in our personal histories.

I was in the cafeteria at school. I had a cup of tea in my hand and was about to sit. The public address system in the cafeteria went on. There was a lot of noise, but gradually it grew quiet. A news report. It took a few minutes to recognize what they were saying, to form a context. Someone had shot the President.

A few minutes later, everyone fell silent. Hundreds of undergraduates, sitting, standing. No one moving, no one talking. I stood at the table. Frozen. I never sat. I stood in the same spot for over an hour. Clutching that cup of tea, cooling in my hand. Until the voice on the loudspeaker said “President Kennedy is dead. The President is dead.”

Gradually, everyone drifted away. Subdued or silent. I found my boyfriend and we wandered around for a few hours. We didn’t do anything. Just roamed the campus, dazed. This kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen, not in the United States. Eventually, when it was dark, I went home. My mother wanted to know where I’d been and I said “Just wandering around.” She didn’t believe me. She should have.

LBJ Sworn In As PresidentKennedy was “our” president. He looked good. Young, attractive, different. I hadn’t been old enough to vote for him, but I was old enough to know what was happening. I watched the debates. My friends and I discussed it. It was exciting. My mother kept referring to him as “such a young man.” At thirteen, a 43-year old guy didn’t seem so young. Those were the days, eh?

For the better part of the next week, all the channels on television — there were only seven — 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 — had wall-to-wall coverage of the funeral. Endless replays of the assassination. The subsequent shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald. The beginning of the conspiracy theories that still swirl around this piece of history, though at this point I don’t care whodunnit 50 years ago. There are a many unsolved crimes in history. Just add this to the long list.

I went to hang out with a friend. We took long walks to get away from the endless, morbid reiteration of the life and death of John F. Kennedy.

Gradually, life returned to normal, whatever that is. Lyndon Baines Johnson was in office. It was all about civil rights and Vietnam. I finished college, got married, wound up in the hospital and had my first near-death experience. There would be a lot more assassinations in the near future. Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X. I never got used to them, but I stopped being shocked. Which is shocking.

The 1960s were not about sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. This was the decade of war, the draft, anti-war protests and civil rights. When flunking out of college meant you were going to Vietnam and maybe you wouldn’t come back. Strange how quickly we forget, replacing history with mythology.

November 22, 1963 was the end of political innocence for everyone, Democrats, Republicans, everyone. An abrupt turning part. The beginning of the road we find ourselves on today.

A president — our president — had been assassinated. Kennedy wasn’t the only U.S. President to be assassinated, but he was the first in modern times. The first TV president. A young, handsome guy. Especially important to my generation, a symbol that the torch really had passed to a new generation. We took that call to arms seriously.

It’s hard for me to look at politics today, see how petty we’ve become. Kennedy’s assassination was an end and a beginning. He was the last President to get a pass on his personal life. The first president to use electronic media to win an election. It was the beginning of a political divide that keeps getting deeper with each passing year.

Politics isn’t about real issues anymore. It’s insinuation, innuendo, and rumor. How narrow-minded and hateful we’ve become. It will pass I suppose. All things do. But when? For more than half a century, we’ve been marching down this ugly road to which I see no end.