I’m starting this on Saturday, October 17, a day proclaimed by the organization Vote Forward as “The Big Send.” I, along with many, many others, have been writing short, inspirational (we hope) messages about why we vote on letters we have printed out. Each of the letters has been placed in a hand-addressed envelope, stamped and now sent to a low-propensity voter in battleground states around the country. Who knows how many letters were dropped in mailboxes today — in the millions, I’m guessing. It was tedious work, but gave my nervous energy about the election a focus for the hours it took. Now we wait, and hope.
I didn’t realize it had been a month since I last posted. The letters took a fair amount of time, and I know that some days in there felt crazy busy, but I don’t remember what I was doing. One thing I do remember doing (because I’m still doing it) is eating just about anything I feel like eating. This started (at least this instance of it started) while we were in Flagstaff the third week of September. I was surprised to find when we returned that I had not gained weight — so all bets were off. I have as a consequence been developing a fat deposit on my front side. I remind myself of an untrimmed brisket, but unlike with brisket, there’s no way to simply have a butcher slice off that layer. This is not my typical pattern of weight gain. The phrase “I’m acquiring a following” has often run through my mind when I put on pounds. Oh well, it’s a pandemic, right? I have often cooked briskets for Hanukkah dinners and have used both trimmed and untrimmed; the latter is much more succulent. Thus, I console myself. If cannibals were to catch me, I would provide them with several delicious meals.
In other news, I had another instance of what my kids Sam and Katie have dubbed “benign idiopathic chimp face” the first weekend of October. My first blog post in July, an inauspicious start, chronicled the first time it happened, and this was pretty much exactly the same. I was assured by Sam, who might as well have a degree in entomology, that attributing it to a spider bite was ludicrous: “Spiders have no reason to bite humans; they are not bloodsuckers, and are not aware of our existence in any case.” [See this source for more information.] When I contacted my doctor, he agreed and since it has now happened twice, he referred me for allergy testing. That’s tomorrow. . . we’ll see.
So, inner grousing. I have had a post on the back burner for a while about people mispronouncing or speaking ungrammatically. For example, when I hear a podcaster say “ek cetera” for “et cetera” (which seems to have become pervasive), or “a huge amount of people” for “a huge number of people,” I verbally correct them, despairing that the rules I learned and follow compulsively are so contemptuously ignored. I’ve been holding off on finishing and publishing the post, tentatively titled “misspoken words that delight/incite me,” because when I think too much or write about the examples that “incite” me, I get irrationally smug and self-righteous. In my better moments, I can see my pedantry as ridiculously laughable, but when I dwell on it long enough to write a blog post about it, I get on a metaphorical soapbox and end up tapping into an elitist, condescending, judgmental headspace that nauseates me. I’ve never considered William F. Buckley to be a role model, so when I get a whiff of his superciliousness in my own thoughts, it gives me pause.
Today, I became aware that a subconscious running commentary of dissatisfaction is going on in my brain on a daily, even hourly basis, despite my extremely fortunate circumstances. It’s not just my habit of invariably noting others’ ignorance of “the correct way to speak” (hence sometimes losing the thread of what they’re talking about); there are other triggers as well. When my calendar is anything but completely clear, even when the events scheduled are mostly ones I will enjoy, I tend to see each committed block of time as a curb on my freedom. [I don’t, by the way, see wearing a mask as one, I assure you.] There are times when I enjoy getting busy and checking items off my to-do list, but all too often, each task weighs on me and I procrastinate. It’s not that I truly put them aside and forget about them; they are always nudging at, almost mocking me. Again, let me stress that this has been, until now, going on at a subconscious level, but I see now how it keeps me from relaxing and enjoying myself.
My thoughts are, and have been since I learned to speak, composed of words, not images. Maybe that’s true of everyone? I don’t know, but I’ll tell you what. . . this particular kind of self-talk is exhausting. I wrote a post a while back about growing accustomed to my face. I felt self-conscious about spending that amount of time looking at and including photos of myself, but doing so and writing about it had the effect of desensitizing me, turning down the volume on my constant self-criticism. I can now see myself in Zoom and mirrors and not feel critical, not even pay that much attention, because I know and accept what I look like — this is kind of a miracle. I’m hoping that bringing my inner grousing to a conscious level will do something similar. If I can finish and publish the “misspoken words” post with a lighter touch, I’ll know it has worked.
what it’s like to teach online and in person at the same time
As you’ll see in the “from the mouths. . .” section below, I’m still tutoring a couple of long-time students. Bruce, the one mentioned below, is doing assignments for his under-challenging online school quite well without me, so I’m planning my own curriculum to help him catch up. I’m enjoying seeing him so much, even on Zoom. The other student, Mason, is now doing “hybrid” school, part online, part in person, which must be a nightmare for teachers. I find Schoology, the platform that his school is using, to be very confusing, but the technology allows teachers to post assignments to their virtual students and for the kids to submit them even when they’re not seeing each other in person. Can you even imagine how hard the teachers are having to work to make all this happen? This analogy goes some way towards giving us a sense of the challenge.
I subscribe to a newspaper for kids, Newsela, and recently chose this article to read with my student, Bruce. It’s about a cellist named Jodi Beder who has been offering front porch recitals during the pandemic. As often happens, it sent me into a rabbit hole that led me to the discovery of a wonderful Klezmer ensemble, the Classic Klezmer Trio, composed of violin, cello and accordion. Here’s their performance of the soulful “Der Gasn Nigun.” And here’s the more upbeat, exciting Shalom Alechem from the Barcelona Gipsy Klezmer Orchestra Live. I need to listen to more MUSIC, fewer words!
old film footage “DeOldified”
Here is some footage of an 1896 snowball fight, modernized and colorized with a soundtrack added. There are many more examples of old footage from all over the world. Be sure and click the speaker icon on each to hear the sound. It’s magic! If you like these and are on Twitter, you might want to follow Joaquim Campa (@joaquimcampa) and Jason Antic (@citnaj), creator of DeOldify. Good name.