February 28, 2010

Bliss and the Art of Cat-Adoring

Filed under: About The Animals — Ann @ 4:38 pm

Bliss: one or two times a day, Geronimo lets me scoop him up in my arms, and he stays perfectly still while I hold him close and stroke his silky back and whisper love-lines into his kitty ear. Then, in one wiggle of a hind paw, he tells me we’re done, and I gently place him on the floor, thanking him for letting me love him.

February 18, 2010

Global Weirding is Mine, Thomas Friedman!

Filed under: Rants! — Ann @ 8:17 am

Long ago I coined the phrase “global weirding” to describe climate change issues, maintaining that “global warming” is misleading and causes doubters to point at, oh say, Washington D.C.’s current snow barrage and sneer, “Ha ha!”

This morning a friend, aware of my coinage, sent me a link to Thomas Friedman’s 2/17/2010 NY Times column in which he proposes the very same term:


“Global Weirding Is Here”

You’re right, Tom. Global weirding is here. It’s here because I brought it. I invented the phrase sometime in 2009; in fact, I mentioned it again just recently (February 10) in a post to friends who were debating the global warming issue. I wrote: “Can’t we all agree to use the term I made up — ‘global weirding’? I really like it and I think it says it all! –Ann”

Listen, Tom. You already have a bunch of cool phrases to your name in the form of book titles, like “The World is Flat.” But “global weirding” is mine — copyright Ann. Of course, I’ve long been a fan of yours and if you’re coming up with things in your Thomas Friedman brain that I first conjured up in my Ann Clark brain, I guess I should be flattered.

I’m also grateful that you have a somewhat larger readership than I do — maybe now “global weirding” will go viral. Sure, I invented it, but I don’t mind if you popularize it. Just tell ‘em Ann thought of it first.

February 7, 2010

Timing is Everything

Filed under: MiscellAnnia — Ann @ 6:43 pm

The other day my friend Alana wrote, “I hate daytime TV.” I assume that nighttime TV, on the other hand, is just jake with Alana. And, although I confess a fondness for afternoon “Law and Order” reruns or one of the better cooking programs (when choosing, observe the Cleavage Rule: the deeper the plunge, the better the show — think Giada and Nigella), I do understand the implication that when it comes to entertainment choices, timing is essential.

For example, I’ve long maintained that listening to blues music in the morning is just plain wrong. And Thrashcore on a Saturday morning is only okay if you’re still listening to it from the night before. On the other hand, Sunday morning and jazz go to together like cinnamon rolls and cream cheese frosting.

Theatre has its appropriateness as well. Yes, you may attend a Sunday afternoon matinee of a sappy, cheerful musical; do not spend that time watching a three-act drama. I can imagine myself leaving the City at 5 pm comfort-humming a Rodgers and Hammerstein tune; I do not want to be driving home late in the weekend with dialog from “12 Angry Men” echoing in my mind. Get the picture?

Days of the week matter immensely: Monday is just begging for good old-fashioned 1960s British invastion tunes, but I can’t hear the really interesting genres (rock sureño, anyone? that’s 1970s rock from Andalusia with Flamenco influences) until later in the week — say Thursday. Classical music is appropriate seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and is probably the only category which knows no boundaries. Of course, that’s truer of Beethoven than it is of Faure, and don’t ask me to explain.

As I write this, my husband is making Chicken Corn Chowder while cranking out Creedence Clearwater and that raises another appropriateness issue. Certain music goes better with certain activities. Cooking and rock and reggae, yes; cooking and country and Christmas carols, no.

And remember — no time and no activity is perfect for pop music, unless of course it’s pop melayu (Malay pop music with dangdut overlay), pop mop (Mongolian), or pop sunda (Sundanese mixture of gamelan degung and pop music structures). And those are best played very softly at 3 a.m. And listened to only with very good friends, trust me.

February 6, 2010

The Silent Treatment

Filed under: Ann the Columnist:Essays — Ann @ 8:22 am

In the 1980s I was working at a small law firm; the other assistant and I sat at desks just a few feet away from each other in an area adjacent to reception. In other words, we were pretty much in each others’ faces. Mostly, this worked out well because she and I got along really well. In fact, I adored her. But one day I did something to annoy her. I don’t remember what it was; she probably doesn’t either. However — perhaps because we were both young and not yet fully versed in the art of effective communication — instead of telling me about it, she simply stopped talking to me.

There we were, eight hours a day, five days a week, in a tiny space and, except for absolutely essential utterances like, “Are you using the printer?” she said not a word to me — nor did she look at me, smile at me, or even say “bless you” when I sneezed. It drove me crazy. That’s the idea of the Silent Treatment — to drive its victims nuts. The one who stops talking has all the power over the one who is not talked to.

You’ll be going about your business and suddenly you notice that the atmosphere has grown chilly. At first you think it’s your imagination, but as time goes on you know it’s not. If you’re feeling gutsy, you may ask, “Are you okay?” or “Did I do something to annoy you?” The Silent One does not like these sorts of questions because to open up is to lose that power. So be careful about inquiry — the resulting angry outburst may make you long for a return to The Silent Treatment (which may be intentional manipulation by the perpetrator, who may purposely make your efforts to break the silence more wretched than the silence itself; therefore the perpetrator maintains control).

This leaves you to contemplate what you’ve done “wrong.” It’s a long process: first you have to think back to the last time the person spoke to you. “Hmmmm….I know things were okay yesterday at noon because I told that joke and the Silent One laughed at it. Okay, now, what could I have done between noon yesterday and now?”

So, in your tortured mind, you recount hour by hour….did I forget to say “thank you”? Did I say something in a teasing manner and accidentally offend? Did I insult a relative? And so on.

Zipping around the Internet yields some interesting comments on TST. A blogger named Ken Savage [http://www.kensavage.com/archives/silent-treatment/] writes: “Probably at one time or another you have been either on the giving or receiving end of a silent treatment, otherwise known as the cold shoulder. What you probably didn’t realize is that the silent treatment is a form of ostracism. When someone is ostracized it affects the part of their brain called the anterior cingulate cortex. Do you know what the anterior cingulate cortex does? The anterior cingulate cortex is the part of the brain that detects pain. When you give someone the silent treatment you are causing that person physical pain. Simply by ignoring someone else’s existence you can inflict pain on them.”

I haven’t checked Mr. Savage’s credentials (this is a blog post, not an academic research paper), but his hypothesis sounds exactly right to me. In days gone by, ostracism from one’s community was one of the worst forms of punishment. And remember, when the friar tells Romeo of the prince having decreed banishment, Romeo responds that he’d rather be dead than banished. To be declared invisible can literally be a fate worse than death.

In fact, at suite101.com we learn from Professor Linda Roberts of the University of Wisconsin that “…verbal withdrawal can be just as destructive to a relationship as actual violence. Psychological abuse is abuse.”

Karen Stephenson, writing for suite101, cites Kip Williams, Ph.D. on the effects of being ignored: “…[T]here are detrimental effects to physical health as well as the mental health. Those who have been ill-treated on a repeated basis report a sense of not belonging, loss of control, low self esteem and unworthiness. They also have increased stress levels, headaches and depression.”

And my power theory is confirmed: “Abusers will often withhold conversation and acknowledgment of their spouses’ existence to gain control.”

As in my example with the co-worker, TST isn’t inflicted exclusively by spouses. Parents, siblings and friends have been known to turn a cold shoulder as well.

If you ever give The Silent Treatment — stop it. And if you are the one who is made to feel nonexistent then, at a minimum, recognize that it’s not your fault. Most important, if this is happening in your own home — where you are supposed to feel safe and loved and supported — then you may have some difficult decisions to make.

Because no one deserves The Silent Treatment. Do you hear me? You, yes, you — I’m talking to you. There are too many warm shoulders in the world for you to settle for a cold one. Declare your visibility.

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