Monday, October 23, 2017

The impermanence of texts, and everything really

I am reminded of the impermanence of life as I go through the agonizing process of cleaning out my old iPhone. Its text messages--sometimes the only written communication I've had with people in the last five years--did not transfer to my new phone. And so, before handing the old phone off to the child whose even older phone is dying, I am reading through old texts to see if there is anything worth keeping.

Based on these communications with my husband, our marriage seems composed of an endless quest for grocery items. Lists are sent every few days (eggs, bananas, milk, coconut oil, rice) without  any voicing of affection. From these you would never know that ours is a happy marriage. Occasionally there is the exceptional day where not-good things are noted, like this text: "At pediatricians. E-girl has a fever and pink eye. I-guy is in the bathroom throwing up." Is it worth remembering that moment at the pediatrician's, on that particular date, or would it be better to forget the specifics and move forward? To ponder this is to ponder what composes a life--is it a series of days/events or is it the intelligence and feeling that evolve from all these experiences?

I couldn't ponder this question or this particular day too deeply since there were so many other messages to get through. Overall, most of the messages between my husband and me were mundane and not worth remembering. I took a deep breath, put my finger on our last message there and, with a flick, all of them were gone, as if they had never been. Then it was on to the next cache of texts.

Erasing our messages was a fairly easy decision. He is here with me and texting composes only a small fraction of our communication. Not so with my son, who moved 3,000 miles away more than a year ago. Sometimes a text once a week is the only time we communicate directly. It's not surprising, then, that I have saved his texts for last. Less mundane than the texts with my husband (at least, there are no grocery lists), there's still probably not much worth keeping here either, at least in what we've expressed or how we've expressed it. But still. If I wipe them out, those moments will be gone--just like all the moments of his childhood, which get further away every year.

My memory for specifics fades a little each year as my brain refuses to take on too much more information. Without these texts, how else will I remember what day he wrote about the fire a mile from his house, which almost triggered an evacuation?  Or the July day this year that he successfully cooked his first full meal?

Yet, if I keep the texts from this phone, they will probably take on just another impermanent form, compiled into Word files or inserted into long email messages. And then--where will they really be? Of course, there is always paper. The messages could be copied and printed out, stapled together, and shoved into a file. But having cleaned out my mother's home after her death a couple of years ago and throwing out most of the greeting cards she had saved over the course of a lifetime (along with her correspondences with people I didn't know), I know that eventually, even that will be lost.

Those last few messages need to be gone through. My daughter's phone is dying. Let me just jot down a few of these first. Let me not have to let it all go, at least not yet.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Dirty, Disappointing Dancing

I could not stop watching the trainwreck that was Dirty Dancing 2017 (though I only watched it in fits and starts while washing the dishes). I was never a huge DD fan, but I mostly watched it because I wanted to see how someone would update/alter it.

The problem with DD for me has always been that the heart of the story is kind of icky, if you think about it: Teenage girl helps a pregnant dance instructor after her botched abortion and then, on that same evening, even though she has just witnessed this horrible thing, rushes to Johnny Castle's cabin and begs him to sleep with her (without any discussion of birth control, etc.). And yet, the original was still somehow charming and was campy (like the old ladies who try to dirty dance in the last scene), which took away the ick. This version was stilted and at times grim. And it emphasized the original’s icky elements: Abigail Breslin (despite being 21) looked like she was in middle school while the actor playing Johnny looked like he was in his late 20s. Yes, Baby is supposed to be innocent, but this made it look almost indecent. (Patrick Swayze's Johnny was sweet and vulnerable, which made it easier to see him with a teenager.)  And in the original, Johnny mentions having older female clients paying for private lessons, but it’s mostly implied. Here it shows him with Katie Sagal in a negligee more than once (with whom he had a lot more chemistry than with Ms. Breslin).

I didn’t mind the parent’s marital problems being added in (I assume to help extend the thing to a 3-hour broadcast), mostly because it took time away from seeing Baby and Johnny interact. I also didn’t mind Ms. Breslin’s limited dance skills, as some on the Internet have complained about, because I thought it was a more truthful representation of what someone would actually learn in a week of lessons. But I was hoping she would improve by the end—the last dance was pretty unimpressive and it's supposed to be the wow number.

The worst thing was the La La Land ending. What? The whole idea is that love triumphs. We don't need to be reminded of reality in the last shot.

Oh well, I cleaned my kitchen, etc., so I lost no time on this.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The blog is dead! Long live the blog!

In case you haven't noticed, I've mostly quit blogging. And I'm only blogging right now because I handed out my business card at a conference this weekend and noticed I still had my blog address on it. (For those checking it out because of the card, Welcome!)

I don't think I'm the only one lately to neglect her blog. Blogs are so last year (or two years ago). What are we doing/reading instead? Posting pictures of food on Instagram,  tweeting 140 characters, writing quips on our Facebook pages: more succinct and visual forms of communication. When I'm online, I am so used to scrolling through tweets and pictures and posts now that it's hard to linger on a page with more than one paragraph. (She said in paragraph two).

And we're (OK, I'm) binge watching TV in my spare time. There is so much good TV right now that it's hard to turn it off for even one night. Last week I finished watching "Victoria" on my PBS App. That's the wrong form of the verb--I didn't "finish watching," I "watched" all eight episodes of Victoria in one week. I watched it when I sat down in the recliner after a long day of work and chores. I watched it while I ate lunch alone on a break from at-home work. I like being swept up in historic dramas--the set design, the beautiful costumes and actors, the gorgeous scenery, all contributing to a feeling of resonant immersiveness. And now I'm watching "The Crown" on Netflix, worth watching for no other reason than to see what the $5 million spent per episode bought (e.g., setting up a state dinner party with what looked like 100 place settings of china and silver, and an orgy of flower centerpieces).

As the day get warmer and the yard/garden calls, I will be pulling myself away from electronic forms of communication and entertainment in the next few weeks--but I'm not sure where this will leave this blog. Is it an electronic form of communication, as well?