MISS MANNERS HERE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Good Morning, Miss Manners

I am 72 years old and I still don’t know which side of the plate one puts forks versus spoons and knives. My son knows because his father taught him, but in my house, my mother — who hated cooking and refused to spend money on paper napkins (she used tissues which stuck to your fingers – yuk!) — basically threw eating implements on the table. We had no manners at all and whatever I’ve learned since childhood is at least good enough to get me through most dinners without everyone staring at me and giggling.

Manners tend to be species oriented. My dogs are very neat and always eat all the stuff they drop on the floor. Birds and squirrels too. None of them worry about where to put the forks and spoons.

On the other hand, I’m pretty persnickety about verbal manners, as in being polite, civil, and not shouting except with enthusiasm. Funny how different we can be about the same thing in different places, isn’t it?

It’s just that being a klutz at dinner will embarrass you, but being an uncivilized nasty asshole — you know, like our President — hurts a lot of other people. I’m not in favor of hurting people’s feelings unless they’ve really gotten under my skin. And it’s not easy to get that far under my skin. In the physical presence of others, I try really hard to be kind and polite. I even try to do it when writing, though I think I’m better in person. Wit can be hurtful and when I write, I too often go for “wit” when maybe I shouldn’t.

The trees are wearing their best manners today too. Our maple tree has a bunch of red leaves on it this afternoon which weren’t there yesterday. If not for the incoming storm, I think another week and the trees would be stunning and definitely better than civil. Downright glorious!

Tell me I’m not the only one who can’t set a table properly, please. I always feel like a total dunce when I’m trying to make the table look “fancy.”

THAT POOR HORSE! – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Jaded

A poor tired horse looks jaded. That’s the origin of the word. It has come to mean “worn out” or “bored with everything.”

Lately, it also means fed up. Exhausted. Too much news, too much hassle, too much of everything.

I’m jaded with the news, jaded with the tragedies we seem to promote and then deny. It used to be that when you got like “this,” you could flee to some deserted part of the world. An empty beach on a warm sea or ocean maybe. But where is there a deserted anything anymore? Is there anywhere to go where you don’t get the news? Short of going back to live in a dark cave which, I admit, isn’t awfully attractive, I’m not sure there’s anyway “out” for anyone.

We live in a world where privacy and peace are banished. Between social media and more television channels, radio stations, and Alexa, there’s no escaping.

Phones

It’s why I loathe mobile phones. Who needs to be in constant touch with everything and everyone? Don’t we get to have a little quiet time or is that forbidden?

This morning I saw a new SimpleHuman invention: Alexa linked faucets for your sink. you can make your kitchen sing from anywhere in the house and if that’s not enough, you can adjust the sound levels at your bathroom mirror while your electronic toilet device measures your output.

The toilet? The sink? The mirror? All of them will all give you the news, too. It somehow fits that the toilet will give you news. That’s pretty much where it’s coming from anyhow.


“Hey, Alexa? Tell the toilet to give me the news. Then, when it’s done, please flush!”

HUMAN ACHIEVEMENT? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #44

From Fandango:

“You’re probably familiar with this quote from philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist, George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.“ In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill changed the quote slightly when he said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.“

Or my favorite version of this particular saying:

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” ― Michael Crichton

So, speaking about what you remember about the past or have learned from history, how would you answer this question:”

Achievement? By the human race?

Right now, I’m having a lot of trouble crediting the human species with any significant event. I suppose it depends on what you think is significant. Would it be something that makes a life for people better? Or for a specific part of the human species better? Even if that “advancement” decimates or destroys other important aspects of the world in which we live? Like, for example, when we learned to plow and created the Sahara desert? And eventually killed ever last living mastodon? Was that an improvement?

Or how about when we broke the sod in the west and created the Dust Bowl? You know all those westerns where the sodbusters are the Good Guys and the ranchers are the Bad Guys? You know — the ranchers were right. We destroyed the prairies.

How about the invention of the government? After the Black Plague, the central government that was created produced giant grain silos and thus managed to feed the starving people after the plague wiped out the serfs — aka, farmers.

So the central government enabled people to rebuild after the worst (known) 100 years of human life or at least the worst time we still know about. But the deep plowing of the soil essentially was the beginning of what we are now experiencing: the ending of the world as we know it.

Will we take from that lesson that few have understood and somehow avoid total annihilation? Shall we yet come up with a world in which we can all live? Not just the human race, but all creatures?

Was the world better when we foraged for food and hunted our meat? I suspect it was. Were humankind’s invention of the railroad, automobile, and the airplane an improvement or was it the beginning of our end?

Do I live with any substantial hope that we will find a way out of this disaster we are in and rebuild a world in which we can live at peace as a part of nature and not its murderer?

I don’t know. Do you know?

We aren’t going to live long enough to see the end result of this madness and I’m not sorry about that. I love this world with its birds and bunnies and squirrels and eagles. With its tigers and lions and the elephants that crush the crops — but they were here before me and they have the right to live, even when it makes our lives more complicated.

Doesn’t every living thing deserve the right to survive? And our grandchildren — do they deserve the right to survive too?

We came out of our caves as killers and so we have remained.

And here’s my answer:

The most significant thing we ever invented were weapons. Significant isn’t, after all, the same as “good.” Or positive. 

PROVOCATIVE QUESTION #43 – WHO AM I? WHO ARE YOU? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #43

Fandango’s question this week is nature versus nurture, a frequently asked but never entirely answered question. I was personally firmly in the “nurture” camp for many years. I simply didn’t see how our genetics could be responsible for so much of our behavior.

The question:

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of studying about this and it turns out that much more of “who we are” is based on our genetic makeup than on our “training.” Training is like a very thin shell. It tells us how to behave. How to act in a social situation.

This shell doesn’t tell us who we are. That thin exterior aspect of us is personality while inside,  the yolk and the white are mostly DNA and genes. We may “act like” one parent and “be” like another. Our “guts” so to speak are powered by a double helix which defines our intelligence, our bones, our muscles, our ability to focus, our tenacity, our ability to deal with pain. Our willingness to put up with disappointment and failure. Stubbornness. Flexibility. The speed at which our minds work. The shape of our heart and our immune system.

These aren’t things we define as “personality,” but they are the fundamentals that make us who we are. We can look like anyone in our family tree and BE nothing like them. We can BE just like them and look entirely different.

No, I didn’t want to believe it either, but study after study after study has shown the same thing: the “face” we show to the world is mostly nurturing, but what is inside us is almost entirely nurture. You don’t have to argue the point with me. All those studies are available online these days.

Talent tends to be inherited. Our willingness to fight for what we believe is handed down. It may not “look” the same, but functionally, is IS the same.

Too confusing?

I’m confused too, but over the years I have come to believe it. Even when I don’t like what it tells me is true. Even when the resemblance is to someone I don’t much like and who I would like to not be associated with.

As for elaboration, I got a lot of my mental tenacity from my father, who I loathed and I got absolutely none of my mother’s ability to enjoy sports. My mother was very physical, very active, very ‘just do it.’ I’m almost the exact opposite — except mentally, maybe.

I was nothing like my brother, except if you scratched the skin, we were very similar. Different manners, similar reasons for being who we were. My sister and I were nothing alike, but we had the identical voice and vocal patterns.

Our helix is very complicated and we carry strong inherited traits often from very long ago. Nothing is ever simple.

FLIPPER WAS FLIPPANT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Flippant

I am one of those animal weepers that cry at anything when an animal gets hurt, dies, or is just so cute I can’t stand it. I’m pretty sure I was the only woman who cried while watching Flipper. Each time he clapped those flappers I shed a few tears. Little did I know that those tears were not wasted.

Flipper and friends

My birds are back. The big birds have returned. There are some big gray birds with white stomachs that almost look like “generic” birds, but some have a hint of pink or red on their stomachs, so maybe they are off mating season robins?

We haven’t had many robins since Monsanto told everyone to poison the weeds — and thus kill all the robins. We used to have flocks of robins. They were probably our most common birds. Maybe ten years back, we had a plague of grubs in the front yard. One morning, about 100 robins came by. They ate every last grub. It took them two full days, but they were the fattest, happiest robins ever.

Ready to go!

The next year, Mr. Poison sprayed his weeds and the two sets of robins nesting on our back porch fell over their bright blue eggs and died.

Since then, there are been very few robins. Monsanto has a LOT to answer for. Now their midwestern storage tanks are exploding and the local people are saying, “Monsanto says we shouldn’t worry but the air is nearly black and everything is covered in slimy soot.” They are definitely worried.

We aren’t learning much and we sure aren’t learning fast.

Sea lions at the Central Park Zoo, New York

I’d rather think about Flippant Flipper on television or the charming sea lions at the Central Park Zoo. They had a big beach ball and they bounced it out into the audience — and there was always an audience for the sea lions.

We’d all scurry to get the ball and throw it back. Kind of the reverse of playing ball with your pup.

SO WHY DON’T I HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Verbose

So this morning, when Bonnie went into her barkathon, I knew one more night of no sleep was going to knock me off the ledge into a deep, pit. I would be in a coma from which I’d never wake up. Garry actually got up and went to sleep in the living room and I got to sleep.

I’m really grateful. I also feel guilty, but I don’t feel like I’m falling apart. It’s the first time in weeks I haven’t felt on the edge of collapse. Most of my parts don’t hurt (much) either. Golly whizzaker!

But I also don’t have anything to say. I’m all spoke out. I’ve been chatting it up for weeks and months and years and I don’t seem — at least for now — to have any chat left. I’m sure it will come back, but right now, I’m SO happy to be sitting here, coffee on the left, Garry on the right, dogs soundly asleep on the sofa.

Why can’t they do that in the morning when I’m trying to sleep? Is this one of those Murphy Laws?

Have a great day! I’ll be fully ready to chat tomorrow. Or maybe the next day. Hard to tell.

TAKE YOUR UMBRAGE ON THE ROAD – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Umbrage

I always wanted to take an Umbrage. I wanted one in British Racing Green with a 5 on the floor.

That way when anyone said “I take umbrage at that,” I could respond by saying, “Hey, my umbrage is parked right out front. Let’s take a drive!”

No? Why not?