Premium soap may not be the first place to cut corners
Yes, I am one of the people who ordered premium French hand-milled soap for about $8 by the bar through Amazon Prime. (There are only a few brands that you can still order this way on Amazon.) So early in the history of the membership free delivery model, I learned that even Amazon has its limits.
After a couple of times ordering a bar of soap, even very expensive soap, you could get cut off. But showering and washing my hands with good soap has meant a lot to me over the years. For a period of almost 36 months I used nothing but Aveda’s Caribbean Therapy. (For a long time I comforted myself with the thought that Caribbean Therapy lasted longer than just about any other soap I had ever used. Not a lot of lather, but that never bothered me.) The $20+ sticker shock eventually got through to me somehow and I finally managed to wean myself off of it through a judicious application of spa resort soap. But, to be perfectly honest, I don't go to resorts that much anymore.
Stephan Wanger was lately in Natchitoches, Louisiana discussing a Bead Town promotion in honor of the city’s status as the oldest city in the Louisiana Purchase. Natchitoches was established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, who diplomatically named the town after a local Indian tribe. But before he gets to that project, he’s back in New Orleans, where his home and gallery (Galeria Alegria) are located in the French Quarter, talking with me and Robert Hanrahan, who is managing the promotion of Methodist Hospital Foundation’s Mardi Gras-themed fundraising efforts which culminate each year in mid-February with a masked ball. (The prize for the head of the Krewe raising the most funds for the foundation is to get to be King and Queen at the Methodist gala. Also at the fundraiser, there will be a drawing for a trip to the real Mardi Gras, which officially occurs on Tuesday, March 4th.)
Stephan and Robert met for the first time by chance at the Fat Tuesday celebration last February. Stephan Wanger’s Bead Town projects were already locally famous by then. Although Stephan arrived in New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, his project of creating works of large, publicly displayed, destination pieces of art out of recycled beads, took several years to get going and longer than that to have an impact.
Working with recycled beads was labor intensive so Stephan would typically take five or six weeks on a commission “to pay the rent,” as he says and then move on to the next job. Gradually he got opportunities to work with schools and other civic groups but 2010, when he created NOLA’s Resilience was the big breakthrough for Stephan. “I got a local actress to put on this veil and makeup and created this piece,” a mosaic of her head, with two tombstones in the background one for Hurricane Katrina and another for the BP Oil Spill, measuring six-by-eight feet.
I have two grandsons now. They’re brothers.
In certain ways they are already different. One is 25 months older than the other. The younger one has longer legs, a longer nose and a larger forehead. The older one was born in a hospital so he had to deal with much more post-traumatic birth stress than his little brother who was born at home.
The younger brother met a lot of his relatives the same day he was born. The older brother had to wait to go home before he could meet everybody in person. The baby’s California grandparents spoke with him by Face Time on iPad Minis. Actually, his parents borrowed his brother’s iPad Mini so they could see the new brother for about five minutes while he was having a diaper change. His California grandfather was the first to notice the long legs.
In the pre-high maintenance world everyone's Mom got her hair done once a week. Kind of the standard perq for washing the dishes by hand, peeling potatoes three or four times a week, ironing men's dress shirts and keeping the household budget on track, the checkbook balanced. Sounds grim, but on the bright side the format was simple and undramatic.
Professional services, like everything else, became complicated. Baby Boomers are predominantly blonde today for one reason: When we were 12 years old we could easily get the money to buy hydrogen peroxide, or if we were really industrious Summer Blonde by Clairol, and start lightening. Children dyeing their hair was a much bigger deal in those days. If you asked your parents if it was OK, they were going to say no. But mothers wouldn't notice right away. And by the third or fourth week, when your hair was bright orange and black at the roots, it was too late for home remedies.
That's when a professional had to be called. Or not.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: Forget about being in the audience, staring at the tube, you are now part of the show
Last night I was watching “The Newsroom” on HBO and thinking about the way the drama is written by Aaron Sorkin and edited for the modern episodic television series. Scenes taking place simultaneously flow through seamlessly, as the participants move across the screen in blended conversations which range from poverly long monologues, through witty reparatee and down to one word mouth gapes.
The form is altogether new and though it is a version of how people might talk with each other, it's not really how people talk in newsrooms or anywhere else on the planet. That's because the conversation has to move the action as well as give insight into the characters. Oh, and in some cases it has to be spoken in the code of the genre. Put another way, the words have a lot of work to do, especially when compared side-by-side with the broadcast setting where the words are only half the story, maybe less.
Another element that comes into play on “The Newsroom” is shared messages on social networks—photos, posts, tweets, downloads and texts—dozens of them in just minutes. The unfiltered free-for-all that everyone experiences every single day is a chronic and incurable disruption. The audience only learns about the stuff the characters initiate or respond to in the Newsroom world, of course. But the social networking that goes on around the characters also explores and creates a window into the world of the fictional newsroom's fictional audience—numbering 1.5 million.
This started out as a story about Morgan McCabe, a wife of a colleague who is also a friend of a friend who used to have a job in the communications department at Purdue Calumet, before my other friend Corya had the same job who I met because her actor-director-playwright-collaborator-boyfriend is a friend of my actor-director-screenplay-writer-friend-friend Tim, because Tim and Jon were in the Police Academy movies together.
Corya Channing and Jon Lisbon Wood live in my neighborhood and once when I went to a party at their house I found out that they are kind of in-laws of my other friends who live somewhere up the Lake Michigan coast and I should know where but I mostly talk with Susan Wilczak about her work making public art. Susan also teaches in Holland, Michigan. Just about everyone who is an artist also teaches because you can't get by in life being an artist and not a teacher unless you have been in Police Academy movies...maybe. But I doubt it.
Then there is the Professor Tom Roach thing: which is that Morgan McCabe has known PUC Professor Roach since she was 10 years old. He is one of the greatest teachers of all-time whose class in Rhetoric and Mass Communications at Purdue Calumet was one of the best classes I've ever taken at any college anywhere in my life. (That was 2010.) I did a lot of very good work in that class and learned much more than I expected to learn.
Some people read the death notices. I’m more interested in the life notices—birthdays. Olivia de Havilland turned 97 July 1st. Quite an accomplishment. If you go on Google maps you can see the neighborhood where she lives in Paris is one of those nice ones halfway out from the Arc d’ Triumphe, near a modern Congress building. (I’ve only been to Paris a couple of times but it’s not that hard to figure out there aren’t that many bad neighborhoods. They used to wash the streets every day in Paris.) So I posted that link on my Tumblr blog. Then I found a photo from when she played Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, did the arithmetic and figured out she was 23 years old when that movie came out, so I posted that too and I put four tags on it. (Olivia de Havilland is the sole surviving star. Vivien Leigh, who was 25 when she played Scarlett O’Hara, died in 1967.)
“Olivia De Havilland played Melanie Wilkes in Gone With the Wind in 1939. She was 23 years old.” That was probably the shortest thing I ever posted on a blog. Although, considering how much I wondered around the Internet, I probably spent a half hour writing two sentences. I was pretty surprised to find out the next morning that a dozen people had commented on my post. Seven liked it, three reblogged and two commented. Jauquettirivers said “Happy Birthday to my favourite actress!!!!” using the English spelling and Chalchok: The Night Stalker said, “I feel like her being only 23 is kind of a big deal. And one that rarely gets mentioned. You star in one of the greatest movies of all time, get nominated for an Oscar, and you’re only 23.” The Night Stalker has a point. The female movie stars of that era were all in their 20s. The male stars were at least 10 years older. (Clarke Gable was 38.) But a large percentage of people died in their 50s then.
I went to Chalchok’s blog to follow her comment and found out that she suffers “from generational confusion, aka the belief I was born a generation or two too soon (damn you 1986). I'm an old person trapped in a younger person's body-and we both agree that I need to start running again. Or really, I'm a strange mashup of Virginia Cunningham, Catherine Sloper, and Charlotte Vale. Intrigued and/or confused? Good. Think of this as a fantastical extravaganza of epic proportions about my obsessions. Or someone with a very heightened sense of self.” I don’t know who Virginia Cunningham, Catherine Sloper, and Charlotte Vale are. So I decided to let this whole thing rest there at least for the time being, though I continue to blog at my semi-professional level.
Everything came together last year. First I read Mark Twain's recently published autobiography. For the benefit of a few of you young'ns, Mark Twain, aka Samuel Clemens, was the first genuine celebrity author in America. He basically got rich the same way that David Sedaris does. By writing books that made people laugh and then going on lecture tours to support his writing habit.
When he got old and didn't have to go out on tour so much, he went to Europe and when he returned he visited his friends, agents and publishers in the book business in New York. One of his very good friends was former president Ulysees S. Grant, who wrote what is regarded as the best autobiography every written. Most of the book was dictated to a secretary while Grant was living in a beautiful greystone building near Central Park. Twain's autobiography explains how the book was written and why in his autobiography. Grant and Twain had invested with the wrong person and both lost a lot of money, although Grant lost everything. At the time, there was no pension provided for former presidents and so Grant, who was in poor health, determined that he had to establish a reliable income for his wife and children. That all worked out in the end. Twain goes into the gorey financial details in his book.
The gorey details were the reason Twain stipulated that his autobiography should not be published until 100 years after he died.
Most people marvel at how much our lives have changed. We have our own personal phone numbers (assigned to us by employers or phone services), that we respond to 24/7 by voice or in writing on tiny keyboards embedded in hand-held computers that are so miniscule and so frequently lost that most of us have insurance policies in case that happens. Everything we do is documented in photos and/or videos, sometimes with unfortunate and life-changing results. Robots do lots of factory work now. (A recent auto industry report says that American car makers are 39 percent more productive than just five years ago. You may have noticed we don't have 39 percent more jobs.) Researching anything from the price of a food processor to the banality of evil takes a couple days instead of two weeks to life.
Many experiences that used to be horribly inefficient are amazingly easy --- you can make an appointment at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles --- you can take a class at Stanford University Engineering Everywhere in the Artificial Intelligence Department for free. If you suddenly decide you want to see a certain television show, or read particular a book or build a scale model of your house in 3-D and assign color and furniture to it—even if it's three o'clock in the morning, it doesn't matter—you can just do it. I don't miss writing checks or balancing a bank account or keeping track of little scraps of paper organized in a shoebox, who would? (Although my handwriting is unbelievably awful.) You can wear a bracelet designed by one of Apple's main design vendors that tells you how well you slept, how much exercise you got, where you need work and encouragement and who your friends are waiting to help you. Or you can stay up all night to binge-watch an entire season or two of your favorite television shows like Kathy MacNeil has. Or go on Skype like Carrie Steinweg suggests to spend an evening with your spouse who's in another city on a consulting job for a few days.
Innovation and change have done nothing but improve my life. One of the biggest changes I've lived to see is our culture becoming more transparent and arguably more honest. As much as I look forward to taking my grandchildren to see their first Shakespeare play, I also look forward to the possibility that their schools may not have desks, but table top computers that teach through some combination of critical thinking, manipulation and visual presentation magic. I just got on Tumblr. I love it now, but social networks are sort of like hot new restaurants. After a few years, they are unbearably crowded, overly-intrusive and just not worth it. You get restless and find the next best thing.
The Verizon people put me on this road with the wrist band-bracelet UP by Jawbone by providing the tried and true, surefire, car-dealer-endorsed test drive. I had a free 30 days to figure out if I liked this device or not. I wasn't exactly jumping at the chance either. Like most Baby Boomers, I had toyed with this food and exercise diary concept before.
There were two apps that I had used fairly extensively to record my daily calorie-carb intake. The first was MyNetDiary Pro and the second was MyFitnessPal. Both are free and each has its own little unique skill set to recommend it. MyNetDiary Pro was very easy to use entering foods and searching foods and maybe that's just because its library had built up over time and has more stuff listed.
The name brand dump both apps use is kind of a distraction if you don't eat much processed, frozen or carry-out restaurant food. (I am hereby exempting Amy's Frozen Pizza from the category of junk food. Not only has it been blessed by my husband Jeff who could eat pizza every single day of his life even if he lived to be a hundred, Amy's has been endorsed by my vegan and very health-conscious daughter-in-law Annalise. I'm sure there are other exceptions.) The analysis, a running commentary on how you were doing eating too much or too little, explaining why this could be a problem or not were very good on MyNetDiary Pro.