Sunday, August 30, 2009

Communication - the long and short of it

The other day I wrote about my new phone, but what I really wanted to talk about was how communication has changed. I continue to be amazed at the new developments in technology and how we use them.

I'm thinking about where I began with learning to write in fine script and moving forward slowly then quickly to Twitter. No, I don't tweet, but I followed someone who was during the Episcopal General Convention this summer. Fascinating to know what was happening moment by moment in a meeting across the country.

I found old letters from partner's great grandmother to a friend - hmm, late 1800s - very formal notes with no personality at all. Short.

Then longer letters, still handwritten, from my Dad during WW2.

Typewritten letters from my brother in the late 1950s.

Received a telegram from my boyfriend in 1964...delivered to my office via a machine that transcribed them...a teletype of sorts.

My first email in the early DOS.

IMing with Donna in 2000 or so.

The blog started in 2005 or 2006.

Skype - I can see and talk just like Dick Tracy.

Facebook - short messages, quotes, film at 11, comments, finding friends

Twitter - back to very short messages, cryptic, and some without personality.

The books I read seem to get longer and longer with more description and characterization. Or else they are only a few pages with lots of blank area.

Television commercials once meant holding an image for at least 3 seconds, 90 words in 30 seconds. Now, I can hardly follow the images at all - and I'm sure some of them are there for miliseconds - subliminally creating an attitude inside me.

My mind was trained before television, and I find it difficult to deal with short sound bytes - I want the whole story including context. But the context is global, and difficult to comprehend the cultural, economic, social, political effects that are the whole story.

Still, I am interested in what comes next. Artificial intelligence is amazing. I look forward to it.

I read the whole book

If you read one of my previous posts, you know that I started "The Help", a novel from the perspective of maids in the 1960s in Mississippi. I was pained by the story and had a very difficult time getting through the beginning of it.

The Help is one of the best books I had read - particularly since I lived in Mississippi during that era.

The pain and fear continued throughout the book. I don't think maids in our little town ever wore uniforms, but they certainly were subjected to segregation. I went to an all-white school - Marks High School. The black school was called Marks Attendance Center. The King Store was a grocery on the other side of the tracks. Blacks did not shop at Piggly Wiggly, but a few ventured into the Kroger store. The only pharmacies were on the white side, but I never remember seeing a black person there.

I remember wondering why I couldn't play with "Ole Joe's" kids when they lived just down the road from us, but none of the segregation fight meant much to me.

Although I spent many early mornings in one of our clinics, I don't remember who was there. Mom could not take off from work to sit with me at the doctor's office; so she would drop me off as she went to work. When I was finished, I would walk the block to the Ben Franklin store where she worked. Sometimes she had to take off an hour to take me home - we lived 4.5 miles out of town - and would be docked for that time. Sometimes I simply slept in the back seat of the car until she got off work.

I was very familiar with the black side of town because my Dad was an alcoholic, the town drunk. He loved to sit in a garage over there and drink. None of us ever worried about my walking through that black-owned garage to the back to get Daddy. They sat on upturned Coca-Cola cases, smoked cigarettes and drank. Sometimes I was with him when he went to the bootlegger to buy more whiskey - that was in the black section of town. Sometimes the black women would give him vegetables from their gardens. He would stop to chat with them. I knew most of their names then.

The book was interesting and sad - so much fear, so much violence that is still present in Mississippi. In 2001 I went shopping for my sister-in-law at the cheap grocery store in town. My new car and my clothing were not the only things that set me apart from most of the people - I was white. They stared at me. A few of them spoke to me. I was uncomfortable wondering what they thought about me.

I was in the rioting crowds at Ole Miss when James Meredith entered there. The following summer, I actually had a class with him; we both struggled with World History, but I never spoke to him. I was too interested in drinking and having a good time.

I worked in Memphis when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed about 10 blocks away. Only then did I really become aware of what was happening...and took an integrationist point of view - one that my kin in Mississippi oppose today.

Back to the book: The Junior League was and still is out of my realm of being, but I've heard stories. I suspect this book is accurate in detail and in pain and fear but also in the loyal and loving relationships. I rejoiced in the freedom of people in the 1960s and in the book. It is well written, and the diaglogue is consistent with what I heard and some of what I still speak when I'm tired. Read it!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My new phone

My new telephone (not in iPhone) will do everything except talk the officer out of a speeding ticket (no, I really haven't tried that yet) or bleep at me when I turn into the Dairy Queen parking lot. Costly little red critter - even more costly for all the do-dads that can be added. Not only do you buy a program for each application (do-dad) but you also pay a monthly fee and with some of them you use your precious minutes.

However, I now have learned to use the QWERTY keyboard with my thumbs as long as I'm sitting still. I have trouble answering my cell phone when I'm driving and, even with good suspension, I don't do well texting as a passenger, unlike my friend who was involved in a major car accident as a passenger. She and I were texting at the time. She texted, "Wreck, wreck, bad wreck" and then nothing for a long 20 or 30 minutes. Rear ended by a large truck, their little Hundai was totaled. The driver has a vertebrae injury and bruises and scratches for my texting friend and their pup.

Back to the phone. The outside has a picture of my beautiful snowball viburnum as a background, and the inside is the creek behind our home. Many people have their pictures appear when they call, and some even have special ringtones. Not that I recognize them yet - hmm, wonder whose ringtone that is?

I can store music, pictures, documents in the phone memory or insert a memory card to carry all my information. I can sync the phone and its memory with my computer. I can download songs, podcasts and even videos from the internet as well as receive my email if I wish - and I don't wish. Can you imagine trying to watch kd lang with all her expressions as she sings "Hallelujah" on a 2 inch screen.

The camera has a flash and a zoom with 3 megapixels. I can send the pictures to my computer via text messaging. And, I understand that I should be able to send text messages to my phone from my computer. Of course, that seems needless. Costs less just to say it to me...and I don't like talking to myself when I can't answer instantly.

For a small fee, I can read my voice mail messages. Of course, I'm curious about how voice recognition programs can translate sounds into words accurately - could be some interesting voice mails. LOL

Mostly, I just want the blasted thing to send and receive phone calls well. Now that Alltel has merged with Verizon, calls aren't going through as quickly - you hear that blip, blip, blip.....all too often. Other than that, it works pretty well. A new toy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Help

You can't look inside the book from here because the image came from where you can not only look inside but also buy the book.

I was born and grew up in northern Mississippi, about a hundred miles from Jackson where this novel is set. We did not have a maid, but we did have a black woman who came in to help Mom with the laundry occasionally - and I think to do my diapers because Mom was not well when I was a baby in the mid to late 1940s. She was much loved by our family. As we went past her house on the way into town, I would often ask if we could stop and visit her. We only stopped once.

No one that I knew had a regular maid though they did exist in my little town. I don't remember that they wore uniforms, but by the 1960s I don't believe anyone except the wealthiest people had maids in our part of the country. Mom's boss had a maid until she died in the late 1990s - a wonderful woman who cooked and served a brunch before my wedding (the boss' gift to me).

I was blessed with Caroline, a black woman whose husband farmed a small acreage down the turn row from us. I visited her often in the summer. She cooked turtle soup and the best biscuits in the world. She never let me eat at the table with her and her husband. I had to eat on a white cloth over the sewing machine in the living room. I always begged to be at her table because I loved her dearly. Perhaps it was Caroline who taught me how to make tiny stitches for mending or how to season food by smelling what was needed or how to get that foot motion just right on the treadle sewing machine.

I am a white woman now in my mid 60s. I was a white child in a poor family. I cannot imagine the conversations of the white women in this book. They are painful to me. Although I've read only the first 100 pages and the last few pages, I can see the plot developing. The same hoity-toity talk continues throughout even if some honesty and devotion does develop.

I'm not sure I can handle the pain of those conversations and the duplicity of both white and black women. Race, money and position were powerful then and now. Empowerment is situational. Mae Mo, the child in the book, may be told over and over that she is good and kind and such, but she will discover that power can make you feel hated and worthless at times - no matter how much you tell yourself differently. Race, money and position still rule the world.

As my previous post mentions: sometimes I'd rather live in blissful ignorance and forgetfulness.

Politics, Church Politics, and Blissful Ignorance

The Dems and the BlueDog Dems are feuding. The Reps have gone bonkers. One of my high school friends is pegging Sarah Palin for something - maybe she needs the "Balls of the Month" award or something.

Churches are pulling together and pulling apart. Rectors are trying to keep everyone happy while they convince people that LGBT people are really human and not perverts or worse sinners than anyone else. Activists are angry that the President and the rector have not taken a firmer stand on rights for LGBT people.

I see the pain, I hear the cries, I read the literature, I Facebook about my latest knitting project.

Some days, you just have to keep on truckin' and forget about the rest of the world.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sad commentary on welcoming the stranger

I wanted to make a point that humanitarianism is not a crime, and water’s not littering.

- Walt Staton, of “No More Death,” convicted in Tucson, Arizona, for littering after leaving water bottles for immigrants along trails in the desert. (Source: Los Angeles Times)

Saturday, August 01, 2009

My brother's 70th birthday

Top - David at Mangrove Bay in Bermuda in 1959
Middle - David at 15 or 16 with Uncle Ralph's red/white Olds 88.
Bottom - David at 21 with his wife, Sue.

Today is the 70th anniversary of my brother David's birth. Of course, he's not around to celebrate - at least not in the body. His spirit may be here somewhere, and I can almost hear him, "What are you doing up? Go back to bed." He said that many times when we were growing up. He would awaken and find me crouched with my face to the window where the cool air came in, my back against the side rail of his bed.

After more than 40 years, I still miss him. He's never aged in my heart or mind. I cannot imagine what he would be like. To me, he's still the wannabe "tough". He was learning a profession - welding - but I absolutely cannot imagine that. He had long slender fingers that were made for music, which he never mastered. I think of him as delicate even though he had good shoulders and body strength.

I cannot imagine him as a father or coming home as a husband after work to his wife, Sue. He has never grown up - Peter Pan.

Belief - like with Puff the Magic Dragon - my belief in him is strong. He was my advocate, my idol, my teacher, my friend. He loved me without reservation, and he put up with me even on dates when I was in 5th and 6th grade. He took me to school with him before I was old enough for first grade. He and his friends played with me and taught me the rules of "brotherhood". You take your licks, you don't rat on your friends, you share what you have, you play close to the edge but safe, you call for help, you give help when needed, you respect your elders and mentors, you have time alone, you have time with others, you dress the part, you play your cards close to your chest.

You clean your gun when you come in from the woods; you hone your knife and oil it; your take care of your tools and your toys. You don't point a gun unless you intend to shoot it. You don't pull a knife unless you know you can keep it. Desperate situations call for desperate measures. Running is better than dying or being hurt. You laugh about the close calls. Quiet means safety.

I don't know if he taught me about winning but possibly - you figure out who has the power and what you can do to use their power for what you believe. You pay back or pay forward for favors received. You are thankful for what you have. You know that God is with you whether or not God is on your side because God may not choose sides. Praying is what you do in conversation.

I never went to kindergarten; so I never learned the rules of life that you're supposed to learn there. But, my brother who died when he was 22 had already learned those rules and thought his little sister ought to know them, too. Thanks, buddy.

Happy Birthday, David.