Monday, May 14, 2007

Dialogue vs Monologue

Well here it is folks: In the ongoing contest of dialogue versus monologue, dialogue has won.

It was my own personal contest, and it's been an interesting learning experience. I am not by nature a blogger, just as I was not by nature a journal-writer. I guess I just want dialogue unless I'm writing my own fiction -- because when writing my own fiction is about the only time I'm really interested in hearing that much of my own voice in my head. I can't quite get past the "who really cares what I think?" factor in blogging.

If there are people who've been coming here because they do want to read what I think, then come on over to, which is where I'll be hanging out some and spending the time, which might otherwise have been spent blogging, responding to some of Salon's posted articles, which are proving to often be on topics that I myself have been mulling over. I'm finding a lot of like-minded people at Salon -- something I enjoy a lot about the internet. Blogging alone, I don't enjoy so much.

This site will remain here until the end of May, and then I'm closing it down.

Many thanks to any and all who have visited here.

Dianne, Curmudgeon by Nature, Compassionate by Choice

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I was just wondering if Bruce Springstein is still proud to be an American....

Which I know is not much for today, but it's what the Inner Curmudgeon is chewing on, or part of it. Provoked I suppose by the impressive dignity of the Queen, as seen on TV with the Smirker.

We have only ourselves to blame, folks. Something, somewhere, has gone very wrong.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Stephen Hawking: The Singular and the Singularity

I have an earlier blog that mentions my life-long fascination with astronomy, the universe, and the mysteriousness of it all, which seems to me to become even more mysterious and fascinating the more we learn with the new, larger telescopes and computers and all. That's my take on the whole thing, just a deep appreciation of the vast unknown -- I'm not a physicist by a heckuva long shot, and any books about the subject are very hard for me to read, though I do try. I've read most of Hawking's A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME, for example, though I don't pretend to have understood or retained a lot of it.

A couple of nights ago I watched a program on the Discovery Channel about Stephen Hawking and his most recent challenge to his fellow physicists re black holes. Hawking first made his reputation in physics about 30 years ago when he delineated a theory on the existence of black holes, and he coined the phrase "the singularity" to apply to a black hole. His theory was proven mathematically and then by observation a number of years later, with the Hubble telescope and even better with the Chandra. Hawing also coined the term "event horizon" which is where, so far as black holes go, things get tricky -- because once anything, even light, crosses the event horizon the gravity becomes so dense it can never escape. There is or was a paradox to Hawking's original theory, paradox because although his elegant equation works, it doesn't agree with one of the basic laws of physics, the equally-elegant one about conservation of energy: E=MC squared. The big question is, what happens to the matter that gets drawn into a black hole, into the singularity, where does it go? Hawking's answer was that the matter that gets sucked into a black hole eventually disappears from the universe, as in poof! Gone forever. Remember this was 30 years ago.

The other physicists did not like this one bit. They proceeded to spend a great deal of time proving him wrong over those 30 intervening years, and one of them (whose name I forget, sorry, no offense meant) eventually came up with an equation that would do it. In a recent survey of physicists as to who among themselves would they consider of importance in the previous century, Hawking's name did not make the list. It seems that he had been sufficiently wrong about his matter being destroyed in black holes theory that they have just dumped him.

Now, in the 21st Century, this Discovery Channel program said that Stephen Hawking has come up with a revision of his black hole theory, and they showed how he did it and what he did about it. A part of that was letting us the viewers know that Hawking was very ill last year and almost died. I think most people know that Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis aka Lou Gehrig's Disease, when he was still a young man. At that time he was given two years to live, but the man is my age and still with us. He is a genuine living miracle; he's also a great mind tragically trapped in a seriously malfunctioning body. By the time he was taken to the hospital with pneumonia his scant command over his muscles had disintegrated to the point that he can no longer reliably control the finger he used to use for typing on his computer. Now all he can do is get maybe one letter he wants, and then his research associate has to guess where he wants to go with it, with Hawking confirming or negating the guess by facial twitches that are themselves extremely hard to read. It is excruciating to watch on television. When Hawking was in the hospital for a couple of months recovering from pneumonia, the program tells us his body was slowly healing while his mind was altogether elsewhere. He was re-thinking his position on what happens when matter crosses the event horizon and enters the singularity.

When Stephen Hawking recovered from pneumonia and came home from the hospital, he began the long, laborious (for both of them) process of communicating to his research assistant all that he had worked out in his head. Then he sent a message to an international meeting of physicists, saying that he wanted to appear and to present a paper to them at their big meeting, and of course they made room and put him on the agenda. What he announced was: "I was wrong. I made a mistake thirty years ago." He now believes that when matter -- which the physicists call "information" for reasons that are too complex for me to really understand all that well much less explain here -- enters the singularity, it may appear to be destroyed in our universe, but somewhere in an alternate universe, that does not happen. The one cancels out the other, and so on the whole throughout all existence, matter/information is not destroyed. Then he challenged his fellow physicists to come up with the equations that will either prove or disprove it.

I frankly do not really care all that much what happens to matter/information when it enters a singularity. But I did and do care enormously that this singular man went before the ultimate group of his peers and said in his computer voice, which is the only voice he has left and even that, tenuously, "I was wrong. I made a mistake." And that is exactly what he said, I heard it with my own ears via The Discovery Channel's videotaping the conference.

Today's physicists seem to me much like alchemists of yore, though they aren't concocting anything, they're only scribbling numbers and letters on a blackboard. They're making equations that prove what's in their heads, instead of mixing stuff in retorts, grinding things in mortars. Because there have been physical discoveries made that confirm their equations -- the existence of black holes being one -- physicists believe they have an exclusive handle on reality. And maybe they do.

But I doubt it.

Here is what I find when I go intuiting things in my head without having the ability to create equations to go with them: Black holes are the ultimate engines that drive the universe; that is why they exist at the centers of galaxies, as has now been observed and photographed. They suck everything in, but they spew it back out at some point in the form of energy. Maybe they spew their energy back out in a different universe, I don't know. Maybe if you were to enter a black hole yourself, you really would come out on the other side of it and be somewhere different, if not better. The one thing I have always remembered best about Stephen Hawking, comes to me in his computer voice: "If we could understand the singularity, then we would know the mind of God."

Now I can add to that, "I was wrong. I made a mistake," in that same voice.

Now that is a great man.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

It's All About the Process

When I used to travel around and talk to people about writing, one of the things I often said was that the best reason to write is a love of the process itself. Writing is by its very nature something that must be done alone.

Or is it?

The ubiquity of the internet has turned -- is turning -- a lot of things we thought we knew on their ear. The writing process just might be one of them.

For example, here I am writing this after having had my usual debate with myself, i.e. To blog or not to blog. That IS the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to keep on with this, or.... etc., with apologies to Shakespeare. To me blogging sort of a continual, ongoing Ego Tango, in which the rub -- as in "Aye, there's the rub" -- is the absence of the dancing partner. Blogging feels like writing, but it's not, not really, because we blog on the internet and the internet is all about communication, and generally speaking communication requires feedback.

Writing fiction neither requires nor allows feedback. I'm a writer. Yet when I get on the internet and start to write, I want feedback, and blogging is not a form that provides it. Of course there are the comments, if any, but many people (including me) read blogs without leaving a comment and I know from my private emails that there are people who have read this one without commenting. [Someone asked me recently if the comments on my blog were hidden, and I don't think so, but just in case they might be I went into the settings just now and made sure I haven't checked anything that would hide them.]

When I was a student and then a practitioner of psychotherapy, we used to talk about "processing" things in our lives, or things that had happened in group. The point of processing is integration. I think what I'm doing now is processing blog writing, because it's new to me and I'm still uncomfortable with it.

I'm uncomfortable because it feels too egocentric. I began this blog because I thought it would be good discipline to force myself to express various concerns in writing, and I knew that if I did it in the more public way of the internet, instead of in a journal kept by hand at home, I'd be more likely to continue it. Why? Because there's always the possibility that someone else might read it besides me -- otherwise why put it out there at all -- and I would feel an obligation to continue doing it for the sake of that other probably unknown person or persons. My record at keeping a journal is dismal, as I probably said in my first post here. I hadn't anticipated the ego problem that has come up.

I'll keep wrestling with it for a while, if for no other reason than that I believe it's connected to the newness of blog writing as a process. The internet is changing the world. It's changing the very way people think. I will give you one example, an experiment I did with myself last week. I bought the Sunday edition of a well-respected newspaper, because I've gone over to reading newspapers online and I wanted to see if I've impoverished my life in any way by doing that. It's a feeling thing, a feeling that I'm missing something by not having a newspaper to hold in my hand as I sit in my comfy reading chair. Turns out, if I am only concerned with content, then no, I haven't got less news in my life by reading it online. Actually I have more news, because I don't confine my reading of it to one print publication anymore. I get different angles on the same news in different places on the net, and sometimes different news items too. Therefore, if I feel that I'm missing something, what I'm missing is the old process of reading that newspaper.

It's a subtle distinction, but it's there. And like most things that have to do with life, in the end when decisions must be made, it's all a matter of time. How I choose to spend my time.

I promise to be here tomorrow, writing some thoughts on a Discovery Channel program I saw about Stephen Hawking, whose best-known book is called A Brief History of Time.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Value of Making Noise

I just read a post to an online group I belong to, in which a shall-be-nameless-for-privacy's-sake person said "I'm mad as hell but there's nothing I can do about it." This was a local political thing she was mad about, affecting libraries, and thus our kind of people (readers, I mean) directly.

I immediately thought: Wait a minute, there IS something you can do. You can MAKE NOISE!

I still believe that forcing things out into the open, talking about them, yelling if that's the only way to be heard, is valuable. I have held to that belief in spite of the fact that I was challenged, hard, on it: A man for whom I had considerable respect tried to shame me into thinking the opposite. I had gone to talk with him as a representative of some good cause, not a political one. But our conversation never got off the ground because of this thing that he said: "Dianne, while I'm inclined to want to listen because you're attractive, and I know you're an intelligent woman, I can't hear a thing you say. Every time I look at you all I can see is that Peace Symbol tattooed on your forehead." He made his point, because I've never forgotten his exact words. This man, who was a newspaper editor and a writer of some well-respected fiction too, had lumped me with my fellow members of the Peace Movement. This was during the height of the Vietnam War. Our subsequent conversation that day, instead of being about the good local cause I was supporting, was about what happens when protestors make themselves obnoxious to people in power. His contention was that it produces a backlash, it doesn't work because the very people who might otherwise be willing to re-think are turned off by the very noisiness of the protestors.

He came very close, within the proverbial hair's breadth really, to persuading me that he was right. But at the last minute, I stood up and left him without further dialogue. Embarrassed, I mumbled something to the effect that we were too far apart, there was no point in continuing to talk longer, and I was sorry he wasn't willing to listen to what I'd come to say. I was, in truth, more comfortable being lumped with my fellow protestors than in the company of this man I much admired, whose approval I secretly coveted. Not to mention that he could have offered me a job (I wrote a freelance column for his paper occasionally).

There IS a time when making noise is important. It's when you are truly powerless to do anything else. The more people you can gather, the more noise you can make, the better the chances are that you will at last be heard. The real mistake is to be quiet and polite.

And maybe that, when you get right down to it, is at the root of some other things I've blogged about here. Maybe our current society is so in-your-face and impolite and just plain noisy because there are way too many things that haven't be heard by the people who make the decisions and who do in fact rule our world.

We writers make noise in a way that is essentially silent, unless what we write is read aloud. But our words are still powerful. I don't need to explain that. It's why I press myself to continue this blog. This is my way to make noise. But I'm going to do my best to be more tolerant of the noise-makers in the future.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


M is for May. As in, month of.

M is for Mother. As in, my mother was born in May.

M is for Mother's Day. As in, because Mother's Day nearly always fell on or around my mother's birthday, I usually wanted to combine the two and give her one present, but she wanted two presents, and was not bashful about saying so.

M is for Memories. As in, mine of my mother: She died last year, in July, the month of my own birthday.

Grief is weird. Don't ever let anybody tell you any different. I first learned about grief in a highly organized way, when I participated in a Death and Dying workshop led by a nurse (a man who later became my Theravada tradition Buddhist meditation teacher -- this was the early 80s) who had been trained by Elizabeth Kuebler-Ross herself. Kuebler-Ross teaches the stages of grief, which range all the way from denial to acceptance. I used to be able to enumerate the stages; I can't do it anymore. There's something about being in the midst of the process myself that has erased all the formal knowledge of it from my head. All I know is, just when I think I've achieved acceptance, evidence of that being that I haven't thought about Mother for a long time, something will happen that bounces me back to an earlier stage. The only one I know for sure I'm over is the first one, denial.

It's no secret that my mother and I Did Not Get Along. I put that in caps because in my life, it sure was written in caps. The truth about my mother appears to have been that she was one of those women who should never have children, due to an inability to grasp the basic concept of mothering. This was no more her fault than the color of her eyes (blue-gray) -- she must have been born that way. My father died when I was six months old, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. My mother took me and went home to her parents; not long thereafter, she was out working and following the naval officer who became my stepfather from one port to the next, during WWII. My grandparents raised me. I grew up caling them Mama and Daddy, and although I knew the pretty woman who came to see me and who was called Mother really was my mother, I was more comfortable with Mama. Way more comfortable. But the war eventually ended, and this and that happened, and by the time I was eight I was living with my mother and my stepfather, and I was pretty much uncomfortable, pretty much of the time, from then on.

The therapist who did the most for me post-divorce once said that I should be grateful to my mother for turning me over to my grandparents for those first seven years, because if she hadn't, I would probably have grown up to be psychotic instead of merely neurotic. Heh. He said it with a smile, but later on when I asked him if he'd really meant it he said Yes, he did.

Fast-forward to late adulthood, when I returned to California after years of being stuck in the East, raising my own sons after a divorce, having two careers and starting a new one (writing novels). I was in my late 50s when I came back, and my mother was 22 years older than I am (just as I myself am 22 years older than my oldest son). But it was not "coming home," because my stepfather died himself at age 48, after divorcing my mother; and she subsequently married husband #3 and moved from the Bay Area to Socal -- alien territory to me. Nevertheless I came back to the same state at least, and one big reason was that I wanted to reconcile with my mother, to do what I had to do so that she and I could get to know each other as adults, the way I've gotten to know my own sons as adults.

Well, it never happened. She died last year at age 90 and one of the final things she said to me was "I don't want you here." (This statement shoud be accompanied by a Letterman-type drum roll: ba-dump-bump.)

My mother did not like me. She may have loved me, but she didn't like me, and the awful truth is that I didn't like her either. I always wanted her to love me, and she said she did, but I never felt it. Never. Not once in my whole life. I loved her, and I told her so more than once in her later years, all to no avail. Maybe she didn't feel it either. And now it's too late. Maybe loving without liking, the one cancels out the other? I don't know. I just know it's over and time to let it all go; I've been trying to do that for months.

This is a heavy load, a bad memory, and I don't know what kind of grief process can ever make it go away. Because of May being the month of her birthday, as well as of Mother's Day, my mother is very much on my mind.

M is also for Mourn.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Lament of the Thin-Skinned Woman

I've known it for longer than I like to admit: I'm just about too thin-skinned to live.

It's not the physical skin I'm talking about, of course, though everybody's real skin thins with age, men too. So I suppose mine is thinning (and it's the only thing about me that is, so I should be grateful for it).

No, I'm talking about the opposite of whatever it is that defines the word "tough" in this day and age. I am not tough enough for today's world. Period. I've been finding this fact discouraging lately, and so I've been thinking about it quite a bit. When did this start? Have I always been this way? Did something happen when I was a child, or a young woman, or is this something relatively recent? Could it, in fact, have been brought on by changes in the world at large and not so much by changes in me? Are there other women of my certain age who have a similar problem, and they just aren't talking about it?

The summary answer to most of these questions is Yeah, I've pretty much always been un-tough, but I'd have just about died before I'd let anyone see it. Including myself. Until now. Or, well, until about 4 years ago -- the truth has been leaking out slowly for all to see, ever since.

I don't wallow in this stuff for hours and hours, you know, but I have been thinking on it more because I just made a decision (yesterday) to put an end to Diana Bane's existence on DorothyL. [Diana Bane is an old pseudonym of mine, and I've been writing book reviews and posting in that name to DL, largely because I didn't want to invoke the author dynamic that might happen if I used my own name.] People on that list were carping and snarking again about reviewers and finally I realized I was totally sick of being anyplace so full of tedious people. But I hadn't reached that realization until I'd had a brush with some offlist ugliness myself, which I would have kept offlist if someone else hadn't posted about it, and that was when I had to admit -- to myself if not to anyone else -- how thin-skinned I've become. It was time to leave, so I've gone no mail on DorothyL for now and will most likely, in time, resign.

I don't know why this is a big enough deal to blog about, except that I don't want to believe it's just me finding it increasingly difficult to plain and simply live. To get through the days. I'm tired of road rage and tv news where argumentative commentators both talk at the same time so that you can't possibly hear either one of them. I'm tired of commercials for reality shows that I would never watch anyhow, but even the commercials make me uncomfortable for the ways the people are treating each other. I'm tired of more things than I want to take the time to enumerate here.

I want to know: Can't we just all get along?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Living With Intensity

It's possible to live with intensity for just so long, and then one must back of and take care of oneself. I hope somebody has told that to the taskmasters who run the network news media reporters. I feel sorry for those people.

I have to back off for a while now, to find some quiet places within myself. Balance is the order of this day.

Somebody forgot to tell that to Mother Nature, though. Outside we have the return of March, and of Winter. It's raining and cold and the wind is blowing so hard it blew down my hanging plant from the porch -- a new plant, pink jasmine. I went out and sympathized with it for a few minutes, making sure it was OK.

While I was out there, I had a couple of balancing-type thoughts that followed from what I wrote here yesterday. One was that I was unfair to my own ancestors by calling them "losers." They were poor people who had worked the land in Scotland, but had had their land taken from them by some English land reforms (I'm fuzzy on the details of my history, sorry about that), and it was no fault of their own. They went to Ireland and tried to start over, but did not fare well there either, and so came to this country and ended up in the Southern Appalachians. That's on my maternal grandmother's side. I don't think you can call anybody a loser who has failed to thrive through no fault of his own. America was founded, and populated, by mostly poor people, and it's the bullying rich who come up with labels like " losers."

The other thing I thought was that no matter what else may be thought of us Americans, we can't be faulted for lack of courage. The courage that it must have taken just to get here across the Atlantic to the New World in one of those tiny ships just stuns me. And the settlement of the West, no matter how crude the men -- and some of the women -- were, is also a record of immense courage. Yes, they were crude and cruel and killed Indians and slaughtered buffalo and created the whole cowboy mythos which today is NOT a good thing ... but they faced, and faced down, conditions that most of us today cannot even imagine. To read their diaries (the original sources) or good biographies of the settlers of the West is a real education into both the paradox and the courageousness of what it means to be an American at that point in time.

We are not all bad.

Friday, April 20, 2007

What We Have Wrought

I feel I should apologize for the errors in yesterday's post. I hit the publish button too soon, and when I tried to go back to edit I was for some reason unable to get there. I'm not great at the tech complexities of this blogging thing yet. I do know how to delete, but I decided to let it stand, errors and all, because even with the mistakes -- maybe especially with the mistakes -- what I wrote was truly reflective of my state of mind yesterday.

I'm a bit better today, thinking more clearly. Maybe I can type more clearly too.

I just posted a comment on Lionel Shriver's commentary at Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, which related to what I'm about to write here. Shriver wrote a novel titled We Need to Talk About Kevin, which centers around a killer not too much unlike Young Cho. In her commentary she said she believed the videos that he sent NBC should not have been aired, and in fact if she could personally repress all knowledge of school shootings and shooters she would, because the publicity tends to engender more of the same. That is, to encourage copycats. In my comment I said I disagree with her, because I think we Americans need to be forced to see and hear the consequences of what we have allowed our country to become. Some of us have allowed, some of us have created -- but we are all responsible.

Yesterday I felt more than a tinge of despair over all this. As was evident from what I wrote here. Today I'm not quite so much despairing as ready to do whatever I can in whatever time I have left. But it's hard, harder than ever before.

My generation was hopeful, we started out optimistic about what we could do in America, with our relative wealth and our liberty and our democratic way of life. Some of us became diverted down the drug path during the 60s, but most of us remained optimistic even after JFK was assasinated, and then RFK, and finally MLK. I would add to that Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and author who has now been very nearly forgotten; Merton was said to have died in an accident while on a world tour for peace, but I've always thought he was killed too, because he represented a reconciling element and he had the power of words and religion both behind him.

Needless to say, I am not optimistic any longer. I doubt any of us are. I cringed -- literally, physically cringed -- yesterday when I was driving on a street near the court house and passed a woman on the sidewalk who was a certain type. She could have been me when I was just a few years younger. I knew before I could even see her clearly that she had been at the court house to protest something, just from the gray of her streaming long hair and her jeans and long jacket and the assertiveness of her walk. I cringed because I felt she had been wasting her time, that we have all wasted all our time, all these years. What did we do wrong? Why couldn't we prevent the situation we now have from developing? Didn't we try hard enough? Did we put our efforts in the wrong places, go about them in the wrong way?

The facts are staring us in the face: In the United States we have created a culture of incivility, of violence, and of greed. I wrote as much to one of my wise friends -- the one who suggested that violence comes from fear. If ever there was a direct illustration of how right she is about that, it's in the videos Young Cho left behind. Yes, his mental illness had progressed to the point of psychosis, which sets him apart from the mainstream. But the way he chose to deal with his psychosis was purely, entirely American. Do they have school shootings in any other country? I don't think so.

Last night, trying to blank out a bit and get away from the news coverage, I watched a movie titled The New World, which was about the Jamestown Colony. I'm a little fuzzy on this period of American history, but I think Jamestown happened before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock. At any rate, it was early in the 1600s. This movie - - too Hollywooded Out to be called a film -- was more historically accurate in its costumes and setting than most. They even managed to find a young actress who physically resembles the portrait we have of Pochahontas, when she went to England at the invitation of the King and Queen. When I was watching the movie's depiction of the settlers squabbling -- hell, they were killing each other -- as they struggled to get their fort and houses etc built, this thought came into my head: "What can you expect from a country that was settled by petty criminals and losers?"

Is that our problem? Do we have ugliness here, now, because of that? I don't really think so. I hope not, because my own ancestors on both sides of the family were here by the middle of the 17th century and so, are among those earliest settlers. On one side they were Scots, who came here via Ireland, having been starved out of both places; on the other side they were English who somehow got to the Outer Banks -- I've thought they might have been pirates who jumped ship. Anyhow, they were all losers and maybe some of them were criminals too.

At this point in time, none of that matters anymore. What matters is that we look our present situation squarely in the eye and acknowledge that things have gone too far. Are we going to be able to face this reality?

I changed the title of this blog to The Compassionate Curmudgeon for a reason. I am not psychic, I didn't have a vision of the Young Cho's existence or what his plans were; no more had I a vision of Don Imus (now there's a scary thought) doing his foul-mouthed thing when he did it. But my timing has proven fortuitous. There's not much I can do as only one person, and a person, at that, who no longer has a current book contract or a website except for this one. (Though a few days ago I purchased the right to my old domain name,, and could put up a website if I want to.) But I can keep opening my cyber-mouth in whatever forum I find myself, I can post comments that are both compassionate and consistent with my belief that we must take these things as signs that change is more than ever necessary. We must see with clear eyes, listen with open minds, and find still the love in our hearts. And we must not be silent.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory...

I can't believe the last thing I wrote here had a keyword "amusing." Nothing even vaguely amusing has happened since then. I'm no longer even sure how many days have passed since a 23 year-old man named Cho shot and killed 32 people, and then himself, at Virginia Tech. I've blogged about this on Crimespace, and commented on other people's posts about it. I have in fact become so saturated with the poison of this stuff that I believe it's made me physically ill.

I wonder how the news anchors stand it. I can no longer turn on CNN, which is difficult because CNN has become sort of a lifeline for me, my connection to the big wide world from here, behind the redwood curtain. The excessiveness of the coverage of "the massacre" has made me close to physically ill. I mean that literally. Either it's that or I'm coming down with something viral, which I seriously doubt.

But the excess has also given me some perspective. I woke up this morning with this in my head:
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,
He is trampling down the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored,
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword,
His truth is marching on.

Why would the first verse of the Battle Hymn of the Republic be my first though upon waking? I think the key is in the second line.

I think, taking a very long view of the massacre and all the tragedy surrounding it (including the tragedy of Cho himself, a wasted individual who was mentally ill and never got the help that might have saved him and his victims) the time has come to trample down the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.

We need an end to violence, wherever it is found. Period. Full stop.

It has long been obvious that we need an end to the War in Iraq. But we also need an end to videogames in which characters are blown away routinely by boys too young to understand that if you shoot a person they don't just pop back up, like in a game. Those are the two ends of a continuum -- we need to change everything in between, too.

We need a culture in which compassion and kindness are valued in everyone, not consigned only to wimps and the Dalai Lama.

Monday, April 16, 2007

amusing thought

I don't really know where this came from, but as a break from all the seriousness, here's a thought:

the phrase De gustibus (non disputandem) means basically the same thing as Whatever.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Enough With the Hating

Today, April 14th, Bill Maher has a good piece in Salon (sorry, I don't know yet how to post live links here, but you can find it if you go to the main page) titled Say It Loud: I'm Elite and Proud. I promised myself I wouldn't get into politics much here, but I never said that about religion -- nor would I, because religion is very important to me. And during this current US administration, religion and government have become unfortunately intertwined. I say unfortunate because this is America where constitutionally we have separation of church and state. I never have understood how politics and religion could become anathema to good manners in dinner conversation, or nowadays forbidden to some internet discussion groups. How can you live and not have opinions about these things?

The thrust of Maher's piece concerns a little-known fact: The Justice Department is being run by graduates of a place called Regent Law School, who are mostly female and in their 30s. And Regent Law School is a part of Pat Robertson's university.

But Maher, as much as I think his heart and brain and therefore also his tongue are in the right place, is not perfect himself, and I didn't like the way he said what he had to say. I think he's been infected with the same germ that finally brought Don Imus down. Further, Maher made one statement that's flat wrong, and I don't think he made it tongue-in-cheek. He said "that eye-for-an-eye stuff that Jesus was always in a flap about" -- that's not an exact quote, but close. Fact is, Jesus wasn't in the eye-for-an-eye camp. That was Old Testament stuff. The new stuff that Jesus formulated had to do with cheeks, not eyes. Turn the other cheek, that was Jesus.

The Christian Right has consistently distorted what Jesus said and did, even while they cling to the Bible as the Word of God. Jesus, if he were alive today doing the same kinds of things he did in his own time, would probably be in trouble with any government. He was kind of anti-authoritarian, to say the least. But mainly, he was for love not hate, he was for everybody gettting along with everybody else, he was the ultimate uniter of people, not a divider. He was into forgiving, not punishing. And as for pre-emptive strikes, remember what Jesus said about "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

Regardless of which side of the political or religious or cultural or socio-economic spectrum one is on, I think the time has come to put away the hate, and the language of hate. We have to learn how to be confrontational, when necessary, without being destructive. That's a tall order. I'm not even sure how to do it. But for starters, in my own daily life, I'm going to try.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Dark Matters

As promised, a few words on dark matter.

I mean the kind of dark matter the physicists and cosmologists now say may make up a very large percentage of the universe, since without its existence, the galaxies we've discovered via the better-seeing new telescopes like Hubble and Chandra etc. would fly apart. There is not enough gravity, as in from Newton's Law of, to hold them together. Or something like that. I am neither a physicist nor a cosmologist so it's hard for me to read about this stuff much less explain it.

A word or two of background as to how and why I got interested in this stuff in the first place. For starters, it's "dark matter". How could a mystery writer not be intrigued? And there's the fact that astronomy has always interested me, from earliest childhood. I don't know how old I was when I used to pull the National Geographic magazines off the shelf in my grandfather's study and sit there on the rug looking at pictures of the stars, but for certain it was before I could read and I learned to read at 5, so .... The one I remember best was called the Spiral of Andromeda. Now I know that's the galaxy nearest to us; then it was only the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, and I was vastly disappointed when I couldn't see it myself up there with the Big Dipper and Orion and all the rest, that I'd need a telescope. I could go on with memories of this nature because I have many, but you get the idea.

Well, a couple of years ago I thought I might write a book about the year 2012 and tie it to dark matter somehow, so I did a lot of research. I read a ton of books - - maybe I should say I tried to read them because none of them were easy going, and I about broke my brain over string theory. (Anyone reading this who has ever read any of this stuff yourself, please note I said I broke my brain not my brane. ) This is a most intriguing thing, is it not, to think that not just some but most of the universe is composed of stuff we can't see?

Here is what I propose, having read all the scientific stuff to the best of my ability: WHAT IF (you know the author's what if, don't you) the stuff that there is so much of but we can't see it is spirit, not matter? What if there is a whole spiritual realm so vast that it has cumulative weight?

If you think about it for a while with something like an open mind, and can get past the fact that we live in such a science-dominated age that all of us tend to have caught the scientific bias of needing visible, repeatable proof, then you have to admit it's possible.

What if there really are beings of individual personality and intelligence that have never had bodies and don't even want them? What if these beings are the origin of our belief in angels, which is almost a universal belief among humans of all cultures and all periods of history? I tend to believe that things that have often been repeated in mythology, especially mythologies that have formed the basis of religions, are there because they do in some form actually exist and we human beings have a sort of race-memory of those elements embedded in us somehow, maybe in our very genetic codes. We all have some ideas of things invisible that are nevertheless real. It's just that the true nature of those things eludes us, so that many of us end up denying their existence.

I am not really going anywhere with this proposal that dark matter is spiritual stuff, though I played with it for a while in terms of a novel. Some of the ideas I played with, the ones related to 2012, I'm putting into the book I'm working on now, which may or may not ever be finished. Even while I was reading and formulating my ideas, I had a hunch that these physicists and cosmologists were over-thinking the whole thing. From a commonsense point of view, I couldn't help but wonder if perhaps Isaac Newton, smart fellow though he was, might not have come up with a law that works in our solar system but not necessarily outside of it. The existence of dark matter isn't necessary to postulate within the solar system, it's only when you get to those galaxies -- and I guess within our own Milky Way -- that you need dark matter so that Newton's laws will continue to work.

Small moment of digression: I continue to be blown away by the fact that we call our galaxy the Milky Way, and one of the great wall sculptures at that ancient temple in Cambodia [whose name escapes me but will probably come to mind as soon as I get away from the computer] is called Churning the Sea of Milk. It's one of the great Hindu myths about the creation of the world. That's an example of what I mean about the truths being in the great old stories. And that temple is Angkor Wat. I didn't remember it, exactly, I remembered it's in Graham Hancock's book Heaven's Mirror, which is a lovely book even if he is a bit of a kook. So I looked it up. There's a whole chapter on Churning the Sea of Milk in there.

Now bringing this up to date and to a close: In yesterday's mail, after I'd said I was going to write about dark matter in this blog, I got something from Scientific American, a Special Report (their caps) titled Does Dark Matter Really Exist? It seems there is an Israeli physicist named Mordehai Milgrom who proposed, all the way back in the 80s, that Newton's Law of Gravity doesn't work at vast distances. He came up with something called MOND, Modified Newtonian Dynamics, which makes the existence of dark matter unnecessary. The more the new telescopes discover, the more his MOND is proving out -- though there are a lot of people in his own profession who won't accept it.

And so it goes.... (with apologies to Linda Ellerbee, who was smart to grab that expression for her own).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

new attitude, new url

I've also changed the url for getting here, to

But I guess you'd know that or else you wouldn't be here.

Which reminds me, I'd better send a notice to people, just in case....

More tomorrow or whenever.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

new name, better attitude

As you can see, I've changed the title of my blog. For this title, I'm indebted to a friend who said curmudgeonly thoughts were welcome, but compassion should be in there somewhere, Or words to that effect. So with thanks to my friend we'll proceed, and it will become clear shortly why I've changed of my sometimes-rumbly musings.

Whenever there's an overwhelming lot of something around, there's a reason for it. And you can probably be sure there's a deeper reason behind the surface one, the one that first comes to mind. Take the current Epidemic of Incivility, which exists along a continuum that goes all the way from Nobody Has Any Manners Anymore to Pre-Emptive Strikes, which are the ultimate invasion of space, whether it's personal or another country's. This is all part of In-Your-Face-Behavior. And it's all a form of bullying.

Why is this happening so much now?

You can't understand it if you go at the whole continuum, you have to take just one small part. For example, bullying. Bullies have always been around, but I don't think they've been emulated and even admired as much in recent past history as they are now. Why are so many young middle class white guys wanting to have the vocabulary and the moves of the young black rappers? If there's any group that gets in other people's faces, whose very presence is designed to intimidate, any more than these kids I certainly haven't seen it.

So, why do they do it? If you ask them, they'll say "It's cool." Maybe there's a more up to date word than cool, but that's the idea, the concept. Well, why is it cool? "So nobody don't mess with me." It's survival in a culture where bullying is accepted and tolerated and even expected.

Aha. The way to get rid of a bully is to hit first and to hit harder. This is, you might well say if you were a talking head, "pre-emptive behavior."

The other way is to turn your back, to walk off and leave the scene. In fact, both of these behaviors are pre-programmed into us as the fight-or-flight thing.

My personal preference when dealing with anybody anywhere along this continuum, all the way down to the ones who just have really bad manners, is to simply leave. But while I'm walking away I might try to figure out what, exactly, it is I'm walking away from. Especially if I might have preferred to stay.

I have another friend, not the one who suggested that curmudgeons should have a compassionate side, but one equally wise, who says that violence comes from fear. I think she's right. And I think our Epidemic of Incivility has its roots in fear too, though it's a little harder to see on the less consequential end of the continuum. Picking one's nose in public, for example.
It's easier when you're talking about a pre-emptive strike on Iraq.

The bully is basically a coward. Even little kids know it. That's why hitting him first and harder means, in most cases, that he'll henceforth leave you alone. He's really afraid on some deep, inner level, perhaps of something he can't even name himself, and so he picks on you or your kid. But hitting first and harder doesn't always work; sometimes the bully regroups and the next time will hurt you really bad. The deeper the bully's inner fear, the more that's likely to happen.

So here's what I think is going on now, why there's so much incivility around: As a whole society, we are afraid. I forget the exact figure, but something like one percent of the world's people hold 98 percent of its wealth. And the rest of us are afraid, to varying degrees, of what may become of us as a result. It is glaringly evident that the one percent with the wealth do not care what happens to anyone but themselves.

Personally I think we should get God to ship them all to Dubai ... but I digress.

We have a situation where neither fighting nor fleeing really works all that well anymore, yet we're pretty much stuck in the fight mode. We've toned it down to the in-your-face behavior, by and large, most of the time. As long as the person doing it isn't high on meth or something worse, I guess with understanding the reason behind the behavior, I can ignore it. But I think there needs to be a third way of responding

The third way is to acknowledge the fear behind the bad behavior, and by our own behavior to offer an alternative. This is going to be pretty hard to practice, on the level of the kid on the skateboard in my right of way to whom I want to give the finger. But to go from the ridiculous to the sublime, I think of the Dalai Lama. Sure, he didn't fight, he's like the ultimate flee-er. But if he'd fought, his whole country would have been obliterated; instead he moved the center of his religion to India, which is where it has roots anyway, and much of the Tibetan Buddhist culture has been preserved. What would the Dalai Lama do with the kid on the skateboard? Most likely he'd just wait, and smile at the kid while waiting.

It will be interesting, along this line, to see what the Rutgers basketball team does with Don Imus. Will they meet with him, and if they do, what will the individual girls say to him. I saw Al Sharpton with him on CNN last night, and Sharpton -- who can get up in anybody's face with the fiercest of them -- was unusually restrained. He was, actually, fairly close to what I mean when I say we need a third way to handle bullies, a way that quietly acknowledges the root of the bad behavior and shows, by example, that there's a better way to handle your fear. Imus is afraid of those female basketball players? You bet he is, no matter how long or how hard he might deny it.

And that's enough of this for now.

Coming soon: The Dark Matters

Sunday, April 8, 2007

A Tough World Out There

In my own rumbly, griping sort of way, I'm trying to understand this world we live in today. It's kind of gotten away from me.

Case in fact: The internet exploded during the three years I was intentionally away from it. Or so it seems to me. That would be between 2003-06. At least I now feel firmly seated in the 21st century, and can even think of the 90s as "the previous century." Which is a start, I guess.

But some things about the internet don't change. It's a place where you can get ripped off in the blink of an eye and it's happened to me more than once. I lost my internet innocence a long time ago, largely thanks to domain grabbers. I won't go into the details here, but at present my second website's domain name,, is owned by someone who is not me and who has put up a website with my books and an old interview and a Contact Me link that does not link to me at all. I just found out about this a few weeks ago, and now, thanks to research done by someone more savvy about these things than I am, I have a name and physical address in NYC and an email address that's in Russia -- but there's little I can do except wait until it expires, which is in August of this year. Meanwhile my first domain name,, was available again (it was grabbed up too, by Russian porn vendors, years ago) and I just a little while ago purchased it through GoDaddy for $25 for two years, automatically renewable.

I posted about this on Crimespace, and one of the members who read it gave reasons why the Russians and Chinese and Nigerians and so on like to grab the domain names of known authors. It's because they know the authors have fan bases who are likely to visit and they hope that among the many hits they may be able to attract one tiny bit of business to whatever it is they redirect the traffic toward.

My curmudgeonly mind linked up that information with the content of a Prime Time tv program (I think that's NBC) about identity theft, in which the reporter tracked purchases of identity thieves all the way to an African country so tiny I never heard of it (nor has much of anybody else, which is why the thieves like to use it), located right next to Nigeria where so many of these internet scammers reside. The reporter interviewed two of these people into identity theft and other sorts of computer crimes. When the reporter said to the man pretending to be a lawyer, "You lied to me", the man replied, "Of course. Everybody lies." Later on he said "You're American. You have so much, we have so little, of course we want to deceive you."

That's a large part of what's going on in this world that I'm trying so hard to understand.

We are out of balance, globally. Too much of the wealth is concentrated in the US. We consume a disproportionate amount of the world's goods, especially the oil. One way or another, this situation will not be allowed to continue -- and as it slowly falls apart or is blasted into correction, individuals like me will have problems like Russians taking over our domain names. I'm lucky that's all it is. At least, so far.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Curmudgeon Lives On!

Well you just never know, do ya? I decided not to give up too soon.

The Inner Curmudgeon has been rumbling again. This time, it's about bullying behavior.

I've noticed increasingly there's a trend to think it's OK to bully, or to behave in a way that I would consider is bullying. For example on last night's Law and Order, a new episode, there was a suspect who at the end accused the Sam Waterson character of thinking he was guilty because he "had attitude". Yes, he was black, and he was a recording studio owner for rap artists. These are the very group often emulated by white performers these days, and performer wannabes -- and in fact in my very own little isolated part of the world, the North Coast, there are many, many of these wannabes. The local paper's Thursday Entertainment section is full of nothing else but this type of "music". In the tv show, the character admittedly had reasons that seemed to be good ones for his behavior, which consisted of basically not taking any shit from anybody anywhere any time, and the way he showed he wouldn't take it was to come on strong at the first glint of assertiveness from anyone else, to get right up in their face with strong language and threatening looks, and stay in their face until the other party backed down.

My question of the moment is, Is this sort of thing really necessary, except in extreme circumstances?

There are two tv commercials that seem to think bully-type behavior is enjoyable to the point of being able to inspire people to buy things. The worse one is for my regional cable tv company, Suddenlink (a successor to Cox Communications). This is done in cartoon form and frankly I find the commercial so offensive that I would have gone to another cable company if there were one available. In the commercial, there's the Suddenlink name logo on the screen, and along comes an icon-character, hopping across the screen right-to-left, which represents the Dish Network. It looks like a stick figure with a dish for a head. When this dish-icon gets midscreen, the l from the Suddenlink name comes hopping out to greet the dish-icon. The l bends as if kissing the dish on each cheek, and then quickly grabs the dish-shaped part of the icon and puts it on the l's top or head, like a hat and hops away with it, back toward the rest of the Suddenlink lineup of letters. From there the l tosses the dish like a frisbee to some of the other letters, while the dish-icon, without its own head, tries desperately to get its dish back. In the end it falls down dead. And that is the end of the commercial.

The second one that offends me uses people. It's a commercial for AG Edwards, an investment company. There's a sort of pudgy, soft-looking 40ish man gathering up his belongings from a desk in a typical office, putting them into a box, obviously moving on either to retirement or to a new job. His colleagues say a warm goodbye and he goes awkwardly out the door. You get the feeling this pudgy guy probably does most things awkwardly. He gets down the hall and realizes he's forgotten something, so he goes back to his office, where meanwhile his colleagues are gleefully taking the place apart, laying claim to his desk lamp, his keyboard and so on, obviously delighted that he's gone. The poor guy looks slapped in the face. But he gets himself together and goes to a cabinet, opens the doors and takes out his Nest Egg, which is quite large, and leaves with it. So in this commercial the underdog wins because he has his big nest egg, but really, was that other demonstration necessary? It's like being threatened to make you save money.

I deplore this kind of thing. I'd like to know why it's so pervasive now. Really.

-- DD

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Final Curmudgeon?

I'm not so sure about this, but it is entirely possible that my blog experiment is at an end. It has been valuable, though, for helping me to understand at long last why I've never been able to keep a journal for very long. I seem able to do it only if it's related to a particular goal, such as the long time it took me to decide to relocate myself from the East Coast to the West Coast, where I spent the most meaningful years when I was growing up. Other than that sort of journal, I've been a flop at keeping them.

The reason, it has become clear to me just this morning, is that what I value most is not having ideas, but exchanging and discussing them with others. The internet is a wonderful way to do that, when one lives alone in a relatively isolated place, as I do now.

Of course, I haven't advertised this blog's existence; if I did, more people might come and read it but even so, that's not a real exchange of ideas. So, I need to rethink.

-- Dianne

Friday, March 16, 2007

my last word on the dress thing

OK, any comments I might make on how young women dress today(as in yesterday's entry) would be incomplete without taking note of the wide difference between how American females dress and how females dress in the Muslim tradition, even in this country. But before I start out, a caution: I'm speaking here of the deeper psychological and cultural implications that I think exist behind the way we choose to dress.

About ten years ago, maybe a bit longer, I gave a talk on being a published writer at my old high school, which is a Catholic school for girls. It's still for girls only, but there have been a lot of changes since I went there in the 1950s. Now you can't tell a nun from a lay person on the staff. The girls still wear uniforms, but their skirts are apparently not regulated as to length -- certain girls had them so short it kind of took my breath away. And they sit on the floor without regard to what we so quaintly called modesty, and not a single teacher so much as blinked. I wonder if that word even exists anymore, or if it does, what they think it means.

Amid all the display of young legs in the room where I spoke, there was a Muslim student. She wore, I suppose, her own version of the school uniform. The colors were consistent, a soft blue-gray and white, and the fabric seemed the same as the skirts. But the Muslim girl wore a white, draping headscarf that covered even more of her face and neck than the wimples the nuns used to wear, her dress reached her ankles (as our old 50s uniforms did, or near enough), and her sleeves covered her hands except for the fingers. When she raised her eyes and looked straight at me, I saw she had an astonishingly beautiful face.

Years later after that visit to my old school, during the time after 9/11 when it was still possible to believe that at least some good might come out of American involvement Afghanistan, and GWB hadn't yet committed insanity on Iraq, I saw on the Independent Film Channel a doctumentary produced by an American woman in Afghanistan. It was about Muslim Afghan women who are forced by their husbands and their culture to remain at home, uneducated, and to cover themselves when they go out of the house for any reason. The Muslim woman who participated kept her entire head, eyes included, covered in a dark scarf the whole time. She showed the film maker the difference in how she dresses when she goes out -- in a voluminous blue burkha (however you spell it) that covers absolutely everything and has a kind of window-screen thing to see out of -- and how she dresses at home. At home, generally she wears dresses that look very much like most women wear anywhere, sleeves and buttons and average length skirts. But when she dresses for an evening with her husband, in outfits that he chooses, it's fantasy time. And his fantasy looks to Western eyes like something out of Victoria's Secret catalogues. The woman, who gave her age as 40-something, had a beautiful body. Even in this slightly grainy black and white documentary, you could tell she took good care of that body.

I thought it was more than just mildly disgusting, the whole concept that her gloating husband would have her dress that way for him alone. That it is his Allah-given right to see his wife's body, which nobody else can see.

I don't need to go on at any length about this -- I think most Americans, especially women, will be able to fill in the blanks for themselves.

As much as I deplore the way the teen girls are dressing now, I'll take it over the Muslim concept. I guess.

But I remain troubled. I think the girls and boys of today may be in trouble a few years hence, if their clothing reflects what I think it does about the values they are growing up to hold.

-- Dianne

Thursday, March 15, 2007

We Are What We Wear?

I've been thinking some more about this thing of why kids, and others, wear what we do. (Not thinking for three whole days since the last entry here, I grant you -- I just wasn't in the mood to deal with my recalcitrant e-connection, which has been giving me trouble.)

For example, I still have a whole section of my closet taken over by clothes I probably will never wear again, because they're my city clothes. My author-appearances clothes, which at the time I bought them I had assumed I'd have use for at least once a year for some time to come. My entry into retirement really did take me by surprise, and there sits the proof; but I keep those clothes well back in the closet where at least I don't have to look at them every time I open the door.

A friend offered, in response to my question Why do the kids dress the way they do, the suggestion that peer pressure and celebrity example has a lot to do with it. Given the clannishness of teens, which is an unavoidable part of growing up, I'm sure she's right.

But there's a deeper answer, and that's the one I'm after, the one I've been pondering ... even if I can never verify it. It's a cultural answer, just like the clothes I now wear myself are a cultural thing, and a sort of protective coloration thing. I live where I live now and so I want to look like it. I do not wear the smart black blazer over everything anymore, the way I did most days when I lived in San Francisco. In fact, I had more than one black blazer -- a linen one for summer that I clung to for years in spite of the fact that it wrinkled if you so much as breathed on it, and not just one but two winter ones, one of higher quality than the other. I still have "the other", but the linen one and the good wool one have gone to the thrift store, where slowly, slowly I am sure all the rest of my city clothes will go when I can bear to part with them.

Where I live now is a rural, geographically isolated place, and the majority of people who've lived here a long time by choice are very happy with both the ruralness and the isolation. There's a phrase to describe it: "Behind the Redwood Curtain." We here on the North Coast do not feel connected to the rest of California, and we like it that way. Except when we need money to fix the roads and such, at which time we are forced to recognize that the rest of CA doesn't much notice we're here ... but I digress. The way most people around here dress reflects the isolationist attitude. We wear jeans and t-shirts in the summer, and jeans and sweatshirts in the winter. We do not wear raincoats in the rain, we just get wet -- though the oldest among us will sometimes stoop to opening an umbrella. Only female clerks in banks and retail stores wear dresses. I thought we'd become subject to a bad influence when the anchors on the local tv newscast started wearing blazers. I'm not kidding about any of this. A "well-dressed" person is invariably a tourist, and will be treated like one.

So how does that apply to my ponderous ponderings over the kids among us, the boys with their voluminous black garb and the girls with way too much skin and cleavage on a daily basis? It applies in the sense that, just as there's a reason for my adapting to the jeans-and-t-shirt outfits, there must be a reason for the girls going mostly naked, at least above the waist, while the boys cover themselves to the point of ridiculousness. The boys are hiding their masculinity. They are even hampering themselves from freedom of movement in those things they put on. Can you imagine if Billy the Kid had had to pull off a fast draw in such an outfit? And while the boys are hiding, the girls are flaunting. After centuries of repression the girl-women are saying "You can look but if you touch I'll cry rape and you'll be sorry!"

That's the Inner Curmudgeon's interpretation. And I'm sticking with it.

Next up, if my e-connection allows: The Muslim angle on the above.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Grumping right along...

I mentioned yesterday that my generation doesn't really have a label, and suggested we might be called the Silent Generation or the Between Generation. We never really got the attention like the Baby Boomers, and we don't have a collective identity.

Yet the women of my generations have been pioneers, we have broken ground. We can't all be Gloria Steinem (what I wouldn't have given, once, to look like her!), or even Nancy Pelosi, both members of my generation, but I'm sure there are thousands of us who muddled through our conflicts about being nice vs being effective and managed nevertheless to make a dent in our own ways. Once upon a time I had a job no woman had ever held before me, as a hospital administrator in a major teaching hospital where for a long time I was the only woman in administration. It was tough, but I needed to support my sons after a divorce and I needed the money that working in administration provided. Later on I nearly cracked up in that job, due to the fact that the years of experience and the contacts I made in the health admininstration profession convinced me that our healthcare system was on the way to being something I considered immoral ... but that's a story for another day, perhaps. For now, it's worth noting that I managed not to crash until my youngest was able to drive and was living with his father instead of with me. By the time I left that profession a couple of years later, no one was financially dependent on me anymore. We did what we had to do, we didn't expect it to be easy, or to be handed anything for free, the women of my generation.

If there's a name for the generation that's now in high school and college, I don't know what it is. Probably there is one. But if I had to name them, I'd call them the In Your Face generation. These young people seem to be so blatant about everything. They are the very opposite end of the spectrum from my youthful-becoming-lifelong conflicts over being nice. What is going on with these people?

I was noticing yesterday, just driving around doing errands, the difference between the ways the boys dress and the girls dress. Both sexes are over-the-top but in different directions. The boys I passed on the sidewalk, on their way home from the high school, were wearing huge trousers with crotches down to their knees, hems draped over the tops of their shoes -- how they can walk in those things I have no idea -- and roomy hoodies with the hoods up to almost completely cover their faces, in color their clothing almost universally black. A person just about couldn't be more covered up than those boys. Yet the girls, most of them, were in these little tops they call "shirts" -- would someone please tell them that a shirt has sleeves and a collar, which look more like lingerie or something you might sleep in -- and low-slung skin-tight jeans, usually with navel visible. Talk about inappropriate for the weather, not to mention whatever else! But here's the thing: Even their clothing is In Your Face.

Where are these young people going with their choices in clothes? What is it they're trying to express? Why do they do it?

My oldest granddaughter is 13. I wonder if she dresses like that. I'd say, if I had teenagers I'd forbid them to dress that way, but I know it wouldn't do any good. When I myself was that age I wore a school uniform, but by the time I was in college I wasn't above taking an extra outfit with me to the city and changing out of my everyday, more acceptable clothes for a night of tramping around North Beach, to the Purple Onion etc. I'm talking San Francisco in the late 50s, when the Beats were thriving. I wore black on those nights, myself -- I think I was 18 when I began hanging out in North Beach on weekends. I guess kids too will do what they gotta do, and I know that. What I really want to know is WHY these today act and dress the way they do?

One thing for certain: They aren't going to grow up conflicted about whether they should or should not say what's on their mind. And I seriously doubt they even have the concept of being "nice" the way I was taught to be nice. Most likely that's a good thing, in your face or not.

-- Dianne

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Why Curmudgeon?

I was born at the time when Hitler was beginning to take over Europe, a couple of years before the US decided to get into WWII. My generation has no handly handle, like Baby Boomers, or the Me Generation. We have no group identity that I know of. Some of us became The Beat Generation, but I think on the whole we were more the Silent Generation. Or maybe the Between Generation. Most of us grew up with that war hanging very heavy over our heads. It's astounding to me now, to know that our country has now been in Iraq for about the same length of time that we were involved in bringing WWII to an end.

I graduated from college in 1959, a year ahead of most people my age because I skipped the fourth grade. I got married the day after graduation and had my first child slightly less than two years later, while my husband was still in grad school working for a PhD. My second child -- both boys -- came about nine months after he got the degree, so you can see how that worked out. I didn't go back to grad school myself until my youngest was 3 years old and I had inherited a bit of money that allowed me to get a babysitter and to pay the tuition. By that time it was the 60s and I was able to be involved in the civil rights movement on campus, which I did in a big way, and that was how I more or less joined the world again. That was when the adult in me really began to grow. Motherhood was still just an extension of who I thought I was supposed to be, and that idea was planted in me not by my own mother but by my maternal grandmother.

My grandmother was a bit of a rebel, but she was also a thoroughly Southern woman, a "lady", and I grew up with a consciousness of needing to be a nice person first, and a good person second. I think it was hard for me, always, to see that there even might be a difference between being nice and being good.

It was an immersion into the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War protest movement that taught me the difference, because being nice wasn't getting us anywhere. Yet I still have the conflict, still feel it every time I get riled up about something.

I have been in a more or less continual state of rile, if there is such a thing, since George W Bush began doing the things he has done after 9-11.

And I might never have been aware that I even have an Inner Curmudgeon if these things hadn't happened. Who knows, I might have even slid into aging gracefully, or something similar to it.

When I was getting my master's degree in psychology I had a very wise teacher who told us that growth never occurs when a person's inner self is in a state of balance and peace. It's the turmoil that makes us grow.

More tomorrow.

(Oh, and just so you'll know, I've promised myself not to edit what I post here, so here it goes, typos and all.)

-- Dianne

Saturday, March 10, 2007

And we're off....

The beginning of anything is always hard, always feels a bit like jumping off a height of some sort, even if not exactly a cliff.

So where am I coming from with this title for my blog -- which I would have preferred to call a journal but I guess that was not to be, considering as how I had problems with the site that would have allowed me to create a journal and so I turned to good ole google, where the word is blog.

Where I'm coming from is this: I am of a certain age, and have decided to fully acknowledge my age and to write from the inside-out of it. This means that what I have to say may not be of any interest to people who are younger, but in fact it may not be of any interest to anybody anyway. So I'm doing this primarily for myself, to make myself think about things that I seem otherwise to be continually pushing to the back of my mind. I am calling my blog Chasing the Inner Curmudgeon because that's the part of me that I'm always pushing away ... yet that part of me does have quite a bit to day. And let's face it, I'm running out of time in which to say it.

So for today, that's enough. More will develop here over time.