Wednesday, October 29, 2014

One Post to Update Them All

If you follow me here–or anywhere–you’ll have noticed that, despite having all the usual channels, I don’t post much at the best of times. When you’re a slow writer, like me, there just isn’t time. It’s tough enough to juggle novel-writing and making a living with maintaining contact with the humans I love. Over the last year, having been not-so-gently nudged from salaried employment to contract work, I’ve been scrambling more furiously than ever.

 And now, I’m heading into NaNo. The book I’d been working on has run over by about five months and is still 2 chapters shy of a complete draft (and several hundred hours shy of a final one). And even so, I’m heading into NaNo. That probably sounds counterproductive to you. Unless you’ve experienced NaNo the same way that I have. As I blogged back in 2011, "NaNo is not to be missed.” It seems somewhat ironic (in the classic, not the millennial, use of the word) that the “jolly little workplace comedy” I was kicking off that year is the same bear that I’ve been fighting to finish off (it turned out to be neither so jolly nor so little after all).

This will be my fifth consecutive November writing marathon. I look forward to it with a mixture of excitement and dread. I expect a particularly difficult run this year, a combination of escalated time pressures and a project that is fraught with emotional baggage. The book I’ll be working on, Chasing Fireflies, is something I’ve been waiting my entire adult life to write. Waiting and preparing. In my mind, the novels I’ve written before–whether completed or not–have been training to write this one. Am I finally ready? No matter how much you prepare, you never feel as ready as you’d like to be. Even if I am ready–enough–is NaNo the right engine to kick it off? NaNo is relentless; it’s brilliant at pushing me forward by not allowing me the luxury of deliberating over every word. But for this novel, I want to deliberate; I want to write with the beauty and fluidity of a much better writer than I am. I know (and yes, I understand it’s probably a self-fulfilling prophecy) that if I manage to push through and “win” another NaNo, I’ll end up with mostly dross.

And yet, I’m doing NaNo. Because the focus and the confidence it gives me are a gift to be treasured. I write nearly every day of the year, but it’s the month of November, National Novel Writing Month, when I feel most like A Writer. On the other hand…don’t expect to read any of my work anytime soon!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

You want to violate the Do Not Call List? Alrighty then...

Every day this week, the message queue on my landline included a string of messages from a company that calls itself Card Services. Note that name well, please: #CardServices.

You know this call. The one that tells you "this is your last chance to lower your credit card interest rates." Positively the LAST. Even though a few months ago you got the same series of calls. Well, maybe it's your last chance this quarter.

I try to ignore these. But when the messages keep rolling in all week, and on some days they call twice, my tolerance wears really thin. Especially seeing, as you probably inferred from the title of this post, this phone has been on the Do Not Call List from that registry's inception.

If anyone from Card Services reads that last sentence, they'd probably laugh themselves silly. My waving around a piddling little infraction like that is like a mosquito bite to a rhinoceros.

"Why so cynical," you ask. "How do you know this isn't a genuine service organization, generously trying to help me lower my credit card interest rates?" Okay, Devil's Advocate. Just because I knew you'd ask, when this morning's call came in, I didn't let it go to message. Instead:

  • I picked up the phone and pressed '1.' 
  • I was the 13th caller. In a mere 2 seconds, I was the 8th. A second later, an operator picked up my call. Either they have a customer-operator ration of nearly 1-to-1, or most calls last no longer than mind was about to. 
  • The representative identified the company as Card Services. I repeated this name to him, and it was confirmed. I asked "which cards." He answered "all of them," going on to list Visa, Master Card, etc. 
  • I asked where Card Services was located. Yes, that was all I asked. A very basic question, I would think.
  • Rather than answer, the operator queried back: "Are you responding to a call?" 
  • I said "I'm responding to the eight calls your company has left me this week. My phone is on the Do Not..."
  • And that was it. I didn't even get to complete the sentence before he hung up. 

Note that this wasn't my first attempt at getting these people off my back. Some months ago, during a similar flood of calls, I tried responding to one of the messages in my queue. The operator gave a similar description as the operator with whom I spoke today: that they served "all cards." When I pressed for more details, she stated they "are not affiliated with any one bank," and implied a kind of debt consolidation service. In that instance, when I said they were in violation of the Do Not Call List, she laughed and said smartly "Excuse me, you called us." It was only when I asked to speak with someone who would take my name off their call list that she hung up.

If Card Services was really providing a service, whether from altruism or for a big kickback from some link in the transaction chain, they would have tried to keep me on the phone and win me over. Or else, like the organizations that are exempt from observing the Do Not Call List, their operators would be taught to simple say so (politely, one hopes; I never understand why operators remotely think it'll help them get my money if the stick out a virtual tongue over this point).

You may have read my posts about a similar encounter with a company wanting to lower the power bills I don't have.  Since I made those posts, those calls have stopped.

So let's try this again. Okay #CardServices? Stop calling me and I'll stop posting about you!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Dream: The Future Depends On It

George Takei shared this Neil deGrasse Tyson speech today on The clip is a couple of years old, but it's important to keep this circulating. Because, as Tyson said, we've stopped dreaming. 

Don't "like" or "share" this. Listen to it. Read the transcript that's been posted on Upworthy.

Especially those of you who are young enough to expect to have a long future. Especially those of you who have children or grandchildren. 

The loss of dreams should terrify you. It's a deep ache to me. I grew up in a country that was filled with dreams. Also poverty, prejudice, inequality; economic and political uncertainties... When in human history has all that not been around? But dreams moved us forward and dreams gave us hope. Not dreams about winning the lottery or losing 15 pounds in two painless weeks. BIG dreams: dreams that create community and build worlds. 

When we stop dreaming, we stop. Period. And if this doesn't scare and sadden you, then it's already too late.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

QOTD - end of the line

"Tomorrow is now." Eleanor Roosevelt, US First Lady
This isn't the first time I've been glad of words of wisdom from Eleanor. 

If you've been following this quote-of-the-day thread, you may have noticed that I've skipped the last few days. There's no excuse, except apathy. Whatever initial irritation I felt at the vacuous messages that pervaded my Keep Calm and Carry On calendar has been replaced by a lack of interest. It just doesn't matter enough to be worth the effort of daily commentary. Much easier to stop turning the pages of the calendar!

I'm quitting this pointless exercise, and returning to my previous sporadic and  random posts. Because, as Eleanor reminds us, life is short. There's no time to waste. Tomorrow is now.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Monday, March 31, 2014

QOTD - a l'heure

"It is not enough to run, one must start on time." French proverb
Not only that, but one must wear proper shoes. And decent coffee and bread can only help.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Sunday, March 30, 2014

QOTD - cheer up! It can only get worse!

"We will sail pathless and wild seas..." Walt Whitman, American poet

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Saturday, March 29, 2014

QOTD - rugged individualism

"You can't climb up to the second floor without a ladder." Emil Zátopek, Czech runner
Congratulations Calendar! A quote that admits that one might need assistance in order to succeed.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Friday, March 28, 2014

QOTD - in other words, carry on

"Never despair, but if you do, work on in despair"  Edmund Burke, 18th century British statesman

I doubt this is inspirational to anyone. But to people like me who already believe this, it's kind of nice to hear that someone quotable said it.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Thursday, March 27, 2014

QOTD - Peace

"Peace hath higher tests of manhood than battle ever knew." John Greenleaf Whittier, 19th century American poet

Is there a longer conflict in human history than the conflict between those who believe in the strength of war and those who believe in the power of peace?

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


"Just because someone has fancy sneakers doesn't mean they can run faster." Jon Bon Jovi, American musician
This reminds me of something from many years ago, while I was still pursuing a career as an actor.

At the time, like most actors, I spent much of each week in class (acting class, dance class, singing lessons), in rehearsal for class, waiting on line for auditions, knocking on the doors of agents, taking "workshops" that were said to guarantee meetings with agents, pooling with other actors to stage "showcase" productions that we hoped would attract agents…I'm sure you've seen enough backstage movies to know what I mean. 

One day my college roommate mentioned that a mutual friend, who was also an actress, wryly described this as "being employed full time looking for work." I thought it was extremely well put. But I couldn't help but point out that for the other woman, this was at least her only job. She was paying for all of this with a trust fund. I, on the other hand, was working a series of office jobs, often on the overnight shift because it paid better, and running up credit card debt for expensive things like head shots and professional hair dye. 

To bring this back to Bon Jovi's sneaker remark, this woman and I were both in the same race and she didn't finish any better than I; we neither of us got very far. However, she was a lot more comfortable in her fancy sneakers that I was running barefoot. And, thirty years later, I'm still dealing with the damage to my unprotected feet. So yeah, while fancy sneakers don't guarantee the finish, they sure make the race a whole lot easier to run.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Monday, March 24, 2014

QOTD - inexorable

"History knows no resting places and no plateaus." Henry Kissinger, US diplomat

And I am only an ant, among many ants, along this march of time. 

This doesn't inspire me. It simply reminds me how exhausted I am.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Sunday, March 23, 2014

QOTD - paying the piper

"We all pay for our choices, and whatever life we choose determines the kind of payment we make." EL Doctorow, American writer
An interesting quote from Ed Doctorow. Certainly food for thought.

I would embellish this (don't I always?). "Whatever life we choose, and the context of the society in which we choose it, determines the kind of payment we make." 

I chose to try to live with honor and integrity. In my youth, in the late-20th century in the USA, I made a pair of idealistic choices that were bound to rebound. I chose to pursue the arts rather than go to law school or Wall Street and, not surprisingly, paid with a battered ego and massive debt. I chose to hold out for a "soul mate," and paid by living an unshared life and never having children. Two major gambles, and both lost. 

So then I put away childish things. I chose to pay off all my debts, and I chose to work hard on behalf of those who hired me. My employers and my government did not make the same choices as I did. They all seem to be thriving; but the result of my choices is that I face every day with worry and uncertainty, and my future is tenuous. In the context of my own place and time, I would have to say that I chose wrong.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Saturday, March 22, 2014

QOTD - the thing with feathers

"Hope spurs humans everywhere to work harder to endure more now that the future may be better." Dwight D. Eisenhower, US President


Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Friday, March 21, 2014


"No spring -- no summer." John Ruskin, 19th century British art critic
No spring indeed! Today I hit the one page where the Keep Calm & Carry On people seem to have channelled the Farmer's Almanac. I doubt Ruskin was alluding to an endless winter like the current one we've been weathering in my part of the world (the East coast of North America), but it makes the quote seem no less apt.

If, as seems more likely, Ruskin was nodding to the beautiful interdependence of seasons, I'm right there applauding, too. I treasure the cycle of changing seasons. Spring is so much more wondrous because it follows winter. Summer would be insufferable (to me!) if it lasted all the year long, but in it's fleeting form, I can enjoy and even cherish it. Though, if this is the point of the quote, it might be better to say "no winter -- no spring."

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Thursday, March 20, 2014

QOTD - Catching Up

"Happiness is the child of sweat." Lugbara proverb

If the QOTD is correct, then I must be happy as a clam these days. After a couple of weeks of riding the temperature roller-coaster, from balmy to frigid (or the other way 'round) in 18 hours, I wasn't surprised to catch a whopping seasonal cold. When it comes to colds, I've learned I get through it best by going old school: plenty of fluids; no dairy or chocolate; and early to bed, with a gulp of aspirin and a slather of Vicks. That last bit explains the sweating.

And the whole having a cold thing explains why I've missed a couple of days of posting. I apologize to my regular readers; but I know you'll understand (having had many a cold yourself).

Just for the record, here are the two quotes I missed posting:

Yesterday, March 19:
"If you don't blow your own horn, there's no music." Mario Cuomo, American politician

and Tuesday, March 18:
"I see thee better -- in the Dark." Emily Dickinson, American poet

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Monday, March 17, 2014

QOTD - Merrily merrily merrily

"Nodding the head does not row the boat." Irish proverb

I assume the calendar folks wanted something Irish for St. Patrick's Day. Considering all the wonderful possibilities, this is what they came up with?

And, while it is unquestionably true, it doesn't seem to stop the head-nodders from prospering.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Sunday, March 16, 2014

QOTD - Labor day

"Not all the labor of the earth is done by hardened hands." Will Carleton, American poet
Less and less, as it happens. But I would say that none of the labor of the earth is done by hardened hearts. Anyone in that state tends to pass of the labor to others, while assuming all credit and/or benefit.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Saturday, March 15, 2014

QOTD - to go where the brave dare not go

"All men are preparted to accomplish the incredible if their ideals are threatened." Hermann Hesse, German-Swiss writer

I wish this were true. But I don't think it is. Which says nothing about Hesse's statement, but everything about the devaluation of ideals in the society in which I live.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Friday, March 14, 2014

"No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There's too much work to do." Dorothy Day, American activist.

I mostly complain about how poorly the quotes in this calendar fit the Keep Calm and Carry On motif. But I read today's page with a big nod of agreement. I'd never heard this quote before, but the sentiments are very much in keeping with what I tell myself on a bad day. It's not about not feeling hopeless, you understand. I often feel hopeless. Hopeless, angry, frustrated, dismayed. But I hardly ever sit down and fall into it. I tell myself that's a luxury I can't afford. There's far too much that needs to be done. After so many years of fighting, I've learned that I draw strength from action, from taking back even a shred of control and refusing to be beaten down. This isn't hope, but it is endurance. There are many shades of darkness. Action may not lead to light, but it can push back against the worst.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Thursday, March 13, 2014

"You have to be like the pebble in the stream, keeping the grain and rolling along without being dissolved or dissolving anything else." Joseph Jourbet, 19th century French essayist

Keep the integrity of your own self, and do no harm to others. While continuing to roll through life.

Yes, this pebble in the stream idea appeals to me more than being a candle in the wind.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

QOTD (and a plug for Cosmos)

"If we don't watch what we're doing, we can make great troubles for ourselves." Carl Sagan, American astronomer

In honor of today's quote (with which I cannot quarrel), I decided to post this link to a YouTube channel where you can watch episodes of the original Cosmos.

And don't forget to watch Neil deGrasse Tyson in the new Cosmos.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

QOTD - so what else is new?

"Still fisheth he that catcheth one." George Herbert, 17th century British poet

Well of course he does. Because nothing succeeds like success. But why should those of us who haven't caught so much as a minnow keep fishing? We're the people who need the inspiration, Calendar People -- not the people who are already reeling them in.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Monday, March 10, 2014

QOTD - nicely nicely

"Nice guys finish first. If you don't know that, then you don't know where the finish line is." Garry Shandling, American comedian

Maybe so. But for some reason, that finish line is the one without the applause. Or ribbons or silver cups or giant checks.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Sunday, March 9, 2014

QOTD - the Way of love

"If thou wish to reach the perfection of love, it befits thee to set thy life in order." Saint Catherine of Siena, 14th century Italian theologian

Though Saint Catherine no doubt means Heavenly and not earthly love, those of us whose thoughts dwell yet on corporeal existence might prefer this re-shaped as, to be loved, you must first love yourself.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Saturday, March 8, 2014

QOTD - hold your head up high and don't be afraid of the dark

"The manner in which one endures what must be endured is more important than the thing that must be endured." Dean Acheson, American statesman
This quote implies a great deal about Dean Acheson's personal experience. Could one say this if one had been raped? tortured? enslaved? forced to shoot one's own parents and join their enemies? It's reasonable to think that Acheson meant to encourage dignity in the face of adversity but, as an isolated sentence, this comment trivializes evil by implying that it pales by comparison to the manner in which the victim suffers it.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Friday, March 7, 2014

QOTD - Long term goals?

"Keep swingin'. Maybe you'll give them a cold." Gordan Bombay (Emilio Estevez) in The Mighty Ducks, screenplay by Steven Brill

This quote is actually encouraging -- if you're playing a long game. Okay, a very long game. But if you are...

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Thursday, March 6, 2014

QOTD - the scorpion and the frog

"Men's natures are alike; it is their habits that carry them far apart." Confucius, ancient Chinese philosopher

What place does the Confucian version of the "nature vs nurture" argument have in a "Keep Calm & Carry On" calendar?

But since the calendar people tossed it on the heap, I will take the opportunity to take exception to it. Yes, I'm disagreeing with Confucius. I'm also disagreeing with Anne Frank, who wishfully expressed the opinion that all men are good. Because I don't believe all people have the same nature.

I believe that we are born with our own natures and, as we make our way through life, these core natures color how we react to challenge and acheivement and adversity and anything else we wander into or that the world hurls at us.

Two of the similar nature who face different challenges and rewards in life will have their characters diverge. Not because of their "habits" but because their experiences will deliver different results from those habits. One who is trusting by nature but whose trust is betrayed will diverge from one of the same nature whose trust is validated. As the same challenges and rewards will bear different fruit to those of different natures (consider the old glass-half-empty-glass-half-full).

When it comes to whether we all have the same nature, I'll have to stick with Aesop.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

QOTD - a spoonful of sugar

"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine." Proverbs 17:22

Indeed. The stumbling block, however, may be finding the medicine that will create the merry heart.

And so, I will set this recommendation aside in favor of an entry from the book of Poppins.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

QOTD - let it go, let it go!

"The greatest happiness is to transform one's feelings into actions." Germaine de Staël, 18th century Swiss writer

Despite her origins, isn't it traditional to consider Madame de Staël as a French writer? 

And how much do you covet that turban?

Bien. Having, by these statements, transformed my feelings into actions, I am surely one gesture nearer to happiness. Though I really don't think Madame could have imagined social media. In this landscape, where every frisson of emotion is parent to an epic rant or rhapsody, there may be greater happiness in merely observing.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Monday, March 3, 2014

QOTD - Ain't it a kick in the head?

"To be alive is to be kicking." Studs Terkel, American writer and historian DON'T Keep Calm! Kick it! Kick it good! (well, if Studs said so...)

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Sunday, March 2, 2014

QOTD - the quote cometh cross-gartered

"Thou art made, if thou desir'st to be so." William Shakespeare, English playwright, Twelfth Night
In the actual play from which this is quoted, the line appears in a letter that promises Malvolio that "greatness" awaits him, if only he is bold enough to seize it. As he does desire to be so, he follows the instructions in the letter and utterly humiliates himself. Because the letter is a forgery, and the promise of greatness is false. 

Today's quote of the day is part of an elaborate falsehood, designed to destroy a man's life. See what happens when you pull your content from a collection of quotations without checking the original source material?  Nice work, calendar editorial team!

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Saturday, March 1, 2014

QOTD - stop picking on that scab!

"Try not to make it worse than it already is." Russell Baker, American writer
Kicking off March with some good common sense from Russell Baker. This is the kind of simple advice that tends to slip through the mental cracks, simply because it's simple. 

It's hard to improve on this idea. Bad things happen. No amount of positive thinking or wishful ignorance is going to change that. But when we find ourselves in bad situations, the one thing we can do is our damnedest not to make it any worse than it has to be. This might be as simple as accepting that bad things happen, rather than tying yourself in a knot looking for a "why" that doesn't exist, or blaming yourself for something you could never have avoided or changed. And sometimes it means turning the other cheek, because negative emotions fester; which only hurts you, not the target of your anger.

If you're having a hard time Keeping Calm, it couldn't hurt to remember this one.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Friday, February 28, 2014

QOTD - this makes everything groovy

"I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself." DH Lawrence, English author
And so, if you're being devoured by a lion, just keep calm and let the lion carry on??

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Thursday, February 27, 2014

QOTD - it has to be juuuuuust right

"As much is lost by a card too many as by a card too few." Miguel de Cervantes, 16th century Spanish writer

A card. An hour. A mile.

Yes, this is so. And, once again, has squat-all to do with either Keeping Calm or Carrying On! Can anyone explain this calendar to me??

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

QOTD - Managing Expectations

"I don't expect to be happy, but it's gotten beyond that, somehow." Anne Morrow Lindbergh, American aviator
"it's gotten beyond that, somehow." Somehow how? 

As in: a terrible thing happened to her (which we know did). After which, merely not being happy would be an improvement? 

As in: she'd thought she knew what happiness was. And didn't necessarily expect it. But now she knows of something so beyond happiness (something spiritual, perhaps?) that wanting to be happy seems minor? 

As in: with so much warring against happiness, she never expected it. But, in the end, she became happy beyond her wildest imaginings?

Maybe if I knew "somehow,"  I could decide how to feel about this quote.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

QOTD - blame the victim

"Nothing is easy to the unwilling." Thomas Fuller, 17th century British historian

Oh, dear! How very "shame on you!" this sounds. Like an admonishment given by a teacher to a student who, the teacher is convinced, is only failing because of laziness.

This is not to say that the statement itself doesn't hold a grain of truth. However, it does not follow that everything comes easily to the willing. For example, how many people in the USA are currently unemployed, not because of willingness to work but because of a shortage of jobs? 

Rather than encouragement, this quote resounds with judgement. I find its presence on an "uplifting" calendar quite objectionable.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Monday, February 24, 2014

QOTD - Call the Darkness Light

"The dark is light enough." Christopher Fry, English playwright
I was glad to see something by Christopher Fry. His isn't a name you hear very much these days. 

I used to use a speech from The Lady's Not for Burning, for which I have a special fondness, as an audition speech. 

Today's quote is the title of a different play. My mind's ear hears it spoken brusquely, with a grim satisfaction that proves the speaker to have a Stiff Upper Lip. For some reason, it reminds me of Stevie Smith's casual allusion to the alternative to carrying on: "Things may easily become more than I choose to bear."

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Sunday, February 23, 2014

QOTD - And You're Not

"Break as few bones as possible and make as much noise as you can." Chevy Chase, American actor
I have a hunch that this was Chevy Chase giving a glib tip for succeeding in physical comedy. I fail to see it's application as an "affirmation" in any other context. It sure doesn't do much as a general philosophy of life. Even if it worked for him, he's Chevy Chase. And I'm not.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Saturday, February 22, 2014

QOTD - Traa-laa-laahh!

"Steady as a clock, busy as a bee, and cheerful as a cricket." Martha Washington, US First Lady

OMG! The first First Lady was a Disney Princess!!

Not much of a dose of Keep Calm, but sure was good for a giggle!

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Friday, February 21, 2014

QOTD - and then there's the one about the sparrow

"By perserverance the snail reached the ark." CH Spurgeon, 19th century British preacher
Spurgeon's snail isn't about pererverance. Aesop's tortise is about perserverance. 

Spurgeon's snail is about faith.For this quote to mean anything to you, you have to believe in Noah and the Ark. Otherwise, where is the snail going? And why is it so important and/or wonderful that it got there?

Faith can't be forced, and you don't catch it off a calendar. You either have it or you don't. Me, I don't. And exhorting me to it only pushes all my contrary buttons.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Thursday, February 20, 2014

QOTD - or 42

"The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit." Nelson Henderson, Irish rugby player
Even as someone who will have no descendants to enjoy the shade, I honor this sentiment. It is a hallmark of civilized cultures, and I mourn its disappearance from my own.

It's not that my country is lacking in individuals who continue to plant trees for future generations. It's that our shared culture dismisses or even mocks such actions, because they lead to neither money nor power. 

Somewhere in the mid 20th century, the USA stopped considering future generations. The reasons are no doubt complex. My own thinking attributes the change to McCarthy/Nixon/Hoover Communist witch hunts, which cast a cloud over any secular act that smacked of altruism, followed by Regan/Trump/celebrity-bling glorification of greed and excess. The result is a ruling class who would not plant a tree for its unachieved shade unless they could make an immediate profit selling futures -- and then they'd want an award for humanitariansim. We are led by people who think taxes that build bridges and maintain roads are a form of theft, because people other than the,selves will use those bridges and roads. We are led by people for whom the meaning of life is to take everything the world has to offer and, as even they apparently have to eventually die, dying with the most toys.

Such unabashed narcissism is poisonous for a culture. History has proven it, time and again. On some deep level, even our own ruling class senses this, a fact made manifest by the virulence with which they attack any proposition that other nations are thriving beyond their own. But acknowledging this would mean conquering the very character traits that have brought them the power they cherish. 

When rulers decide to steer their barges down denial, what is the eventual result? Shipwreck. The excavation of which ruins will, no doubt, provide a bounty of fodder for future scholars from lands rich in old and well-tended shade trees.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

QOTD - Happiness is...

"The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so." Robert G. Ingersoll, 19th Century American politician

If this quote came from Mother Theresa...or from Walt Disney or Milton Hershey, I might be more likely to consider the formula. But from a politician?? 

Certain the "others" who modern politicians flock to make happy are the ones with deep pockets. I assume it has ever been thus -- at least since the model shifted from pandering to those with the sharpest swords. So, from a politician's perspective, this formula states that the way to be happy is to seize the day and kiss up to those who will make your life easy. Kind of devalues happiness.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

QOTD - Getting it Backwards

"The only substitute for shouting is substance." Juanita Krebs, US Secretary of Commerce
Did Krebs live in Bizarro World? Because in this world substance is always blotted out by shouting. How could someone become a member of a Presidential Cabinet without and not noticing that loud and frequently-repeated "talking points" trump scholarship, analysis and conscience every time. Mobs rule the internet by bombarding social media, smothering reasoned arguments with oceans of passionate sound bytes. Squeaky wheels get not only the grease, but a pack of other things they don't need but figured they might as well ask for while they had the power.

In the face of all this, it's not so easy to Keep Calm and Carry On. I'm boiling mad much of the time. But unless I can figure out how to shout louder, my pleas for substance will never be heard. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

QOTD - Dear John

"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." John Adams, US President
As Adam's old frenemy Thomas Jefferson might have said, I hold that truth to be self-evident. To pin it down and stare it squarely in the face seems typical of Adams. 

From a calendar perspective, I'm failing to get the pep talk. So Keep Calm and Carry On because things are what they are and you can't do anything about them? Oh, goody!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

QOTD - Finally! A Philosophy to Live By!

"Give up the quest for perfection and shoot for five good minutes in a row." Cathy Guisewite, American cartoonist
This is the first quote in this calendar that might actually help me Keep Calm and Carry On. Just reading it triggers my lungs to take a deep and cleansing breath, and I can already feel the knots dissolving in my shoulders. 

Five good minutes. I can do that!

Thank you, Cathy Guisewite! 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

QOTD - and then what?

"Do a common thing in an uncommon way." Booker T. Washington, American writer and educator
If you interpret this as "build a better mousetrap," it's a happy sentiment and a rule of thumb for adding a pleasurable measure of creativity to your life. However, rather than helping me Keep Calm and Carry On, it describes a really good reason why it's so hard to do just that! 

Doing things in an uncommon way is bound to ruffle more than a few feathers and throw up a lot of roadblocks. It's difficult to Keep Calm while fighting endless turbulence. The best you can do is try and block it out, which isn't so much Keep Calm and Carry On as Fuck Them and Carry On. If you're incredibly successful at whatever it is, I suppose of some sort of calm eventually comes with success. But for the rest of us, not so much. 

If you truly want to Keep Calm and Carry On, I'd recommend doing a common thing in a common way. Being ordinary is very calming! Or, if you really need a challenge, stay hidden in plain sight: find an uncommon thing that you can do in the commonest possible way. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

QOTD - Yoo-hoo!

"What you seek is seeking you." Rumi, 13th Century Persian poet

And..."Every move you make, I'll be watching you." Sting.  

Sorry. Something about the juxtaposition of the Rumi quote with Valentine's Day made me think of that.

All snark aside, this QOTD makes me sad. Once I believed that somehow someway  the things I sought were seeking me. And to me that meant that someday we were bound to come together. That helped me to stoutly Carry On throughout my childhood and for much of my adult life. But I kept seeking and seeking, and I never was found. And I reached a point when I decided I must accept that I never would be. 

Some will say that I've missed the subtle point, that one's purpose is in the seeking and that finding is irrelvant. Others might determine that my mistake was in seeking what I was never meant to have, and that some entirely unsuspected goal would have brought me happiness or, at least, completeness. People with such perceptions are nobler than I. I am not made of such admirable stuff and freely admit that I find it exhausting to Carry On to no purpose. And so, this quote from Rumi makes me nothing but sad.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

QOTD - goodness greatness

"Goodness is not tied to greatness, but greatness to goodness." Greek proverb
If I'm understanding this proverb, possessing goodness does not necessarily lead to greatness; but one cannot attain the stature of "greatness" unless one is also good. If we no longer hold this to be true, then our definition of "greatness" has eroded. 

I don't find it Calming to contemplate this; it's sad. As for the Carrying On part, well, I learned long ago that the only reward for goodness (or integrity or whatever you want to call it) is whatever inner peace comes from having done what feels right. That's Carrying On by default. Not much joy in it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

QOTD - Happy Birthday, Mr. President

"I walk slowly, but I never walk backward." Abraham Lincoln, US President
A very Lincoln-esque take on Carry On. I don't know that would inspire anyone to keep going. But, when obstacles are many and progress itself seems infinitesimal, there is Calming consolation in remembering that there is value in any effort made to progress.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

QOTD - the opposite of Keep Calm

"Before Man made us citizens, great Nature made us men." James Russell Lowell, 19th century American poet
Context is everything with this one. Being unfamiliar with this quote, my first thought was that JRL was describing a social evolution, from natural animal state to the more refined sensibilities of responsible citizenry. But that didn't seem Important enough to make a calendar (even though, as I've previously illustrated, this particular calendar sets the venerability bar pretty low). 

After reading the quote a few times, and reminding myself of the political atmosphere of 19th century Cambridge, I realized it was more likely to be a call for equality. That JRL was implying that, before the law of Man started breaking humanity into "citizens" and non-citizens (at the most extreme, slaves; but also, in the context of 19th century laws, men without land and all women), Nature made us all, equally, human.

Which is truth nobly observed. But surely JRL means to inspire the reader take risks and shake up the unjust status quo, NOT Keep Calm and Carry On

Monday, February 10, 2014

QOTD - tick tick tick

"Do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of." Benjamin Franklin, American diplomat
I'm not surprised to find the exceptionally quotable Franklin on this calendar. But, since assigning him some wrong-side-of-blanket descendants in my alternative history novel I take an extra delight in his ubiquity.

Today's sentiment was certainly one Franklin applied to his own life. He doesn't seem to have squandered a minute!

Of course, contemplating this doesn't provide much Keep Calm. But it's a brisk reminder that Carry On is an active compound verb. It takes a great deal of energy, and often much creativity, to not squander time. And it's salutary to bear in mind that, for good or bad, one's tenure on this earth is finite. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

QOTD - blame the victim

"You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf." Jon Kabat-Zinn, American doctor and mindfulness expert

Typical assumption of the successful, —that if it worked for me, it will work for everyone. What if you can't learn to surf?

No, I'm not being too literal. Let me translate this to my own life. I keep learning to surf, but I'm having a hell of a time trying to stay afloat. Despite talent and lots of hard work to perfect my crafts, I spend years floundering in the waters of acting and writing careers and never managed to catch a wave. Eventually I went back to shore and sought out more tameable waves. I gradually built a career in User Assistance documentation for SaaS technologies. Just when it seemed I was surfing, the waters began to rapidly dry up. I was beached again. Now I'm clinging to my board, learning new strokes as quickly as I can, but the waves keep crashing over me and wiping me out.  There's nothing here to Keep Calm with, only a reminder that life is an endless cycle of Carrying On.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

QOTD - Don't Be It, Seem It

"Chin up! Chest out! Back Straight!" American military slogan, circa WWII
Aha! So POSTURE is the key to success and happiness! I suppose this falls into the same category as "dress for the life you wish you had" and the research that shows that smiling actually changes one's mood. My own experience in all these areas shows that, while they rarely lead to the desired successful outcome, they do make the daily seem a little less grim. So, okay. I will Carry On with my back straight. If nothing else, it'll make it easier to reach the overhead bar when I can't get a seat on the subway.

Friday, February 7, 2014

QOTD - Excellence does not factor

"Excellence is doing your best at what you do best." Cathleen Black, American businesswoman
Okay. I can accept that. But, in considering this from the Keep Calm and Carry On perspective, I think this quote must be annotated with the observation that excellence is neither a guarantee nor even a condition of success.

Also, it should be noted that "excellence" applied to a negative context is not laudable. For example, I give you the slice of history recently dramatized as The Wolf of Wall Street. The people whose lives are the subject of that film were surely "excellent" at sales, at understanding the financial market and at taking the emotional temperature of their time and place. The hundreds of others whose money they stole and whose lives were damaged or even ruined by this can hardly be expected to applaud that excellence. 

Interesting. This has just made me notice how often Scorcese and DiCaprio use their own artistic excellence to shed some light on historic characters whose excellence was negatively diverted. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

QOTD - true but not consoling

"You must be prepared for good luck." Edward Kennedy, US Senator

I can remember hearing variations of this from several acting teachers. Their point was always that there is no such thing as overnight success. Behind every apparent "instant" change of luck are years of preparation. Yes, there is almost always a trigger moment: the leading lady breaking her leg; the chance meeting of eyes across a crowded room; the conductor telling you to move to the back of the bus. But those moments of opportunity won't count for anything unless you're equipped to take advantage of them. So one must absolutely Carry On, just in case!

On the other hand, being prepared will never guarantee you the good luck. It's as important to remember this as to remember that it is the pursuit of happiness that the Declaration of Independence considers to be an unalienable right, not the achievement thereof.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

QOTD - sigh

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Psalms 30:5

Indeed. And lasts at least until you brush your teeth.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

QOTD - caesura

No quote today, because I found myself on the horns of a dilemma and decided abstaining was my most comfortable option. 

Pity, because I found today's calendar page to be food for positive thought. However, I don't want to put up a quote without proper attribution and hence the dilemma. 

Google has made a bragging point out of the organic flagging capabilities of Blogger and G+, that it's unnecessary for a writer to add tags to a post in order for proper keywords to be picked up by the search engine. In the case of this particular QOTD, the keywords certain to be picked up would be the name of the author and would result in providing additional media to someone who is heavily trending just now. 

I refuse to give even minor additional support to someone who is making great twisted capital of social media for an agenda that I do not support. 

BTW, this decision is nicely emblematic of my customary tendency to prioritize integrity. If only I were different in that way, I'd probably have far less need to Keep Calm and Carry On.

Monday, February 3, 2014

QOTD - Cheer Up, It Will Only Get Worse!

"Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem." Henry Kissinger, American diplomat
In other words: Keep Calm and Carry On, bearing in mind that, should you push through the current difficulties and conquer them, you are only going to be earning your way to worse. 

Is this a rueful comment on his own career? If it is, instead, an example of diplomacy, it must have been in aid of something rather grim.

Rather than bolstering me, I find it discouraging to think that someone as successful as Kissinger should have lacked a degree of satisfaction in accomplishment and seen only bigger mountains demanding to be climbed.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

QOTD - Wrong day?

"Labor is life! 'Tis the still water faileth." Frances S. Osgood, 19th century American poet.

Is it just me, or is this a rather contrary choice for a Sunday meditation?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

QOTD goes "Huh?"

"If you're going to be a bridge, you've got to be prepared to be walked upon." Roy A. West, American writer
I read today's calendar page and thought "huh?!"

So you're saying that if I choose to be a bridge—a role I envision as being rather positive, with its intimations of peace and cooperation—I will essentially be trampled? 

Not really inspiring me to Keep Calm and Carry On, calendar people.

I looked at the author's name, hoping for a clue to context that might change this reaction. I wasn't familiar with Roy A. West. Naturally, I was abashed at my ignorance. Surely, in order to be quoted on a page-a-day calendar, one must be a person of some note. I went to Amazon to look for his books, but nothing turned up. Perhaps, I thought, Roy A. West is a journalist; or perhaps he was a well-known professor whose writings are distributed more in academia than commercially. So I googled him. It took several tries, and I had to include the word "writer" in order to turn up a result. It was only one result, leading to a Goodreads page with a single 5 syar review of a 1976 book (no description, but the title made me think it might be Christian philosophy). I suppose this was temporarily inspiring, because my new book already has two reviews on Goodreads. I also bring up a much healthier search engine result. But my moment of uplift was fleeting. Roy A. West, with his one result and one review, had impressed someone to the extent that this rather awkward proclamation had made it onto a mainstream commercial calendar. So then I felt like crap again.

I hold to the faint hope that perhaps Roy—or a family member—might have been involved in compiling this calendar. Which would explain his QOTD entry in such a way that QOTDI might be able to Keep Calm and Carry On after all.