Bibbledy, Bobbledy, Boo

I’m having an exceedingly good, very silly day.  And that bothers me.

Am I the only one who gets worried when things seem to be going well? Too well, maybe?  I get convinced that I’ll be all happy and the next thing I know, something will go terribly wrong.  I know, I’m nuts.  You don’t have to tell me that.

There used to be a TV show called “Murphy Brown”, with Candace Bergen.  One ep was about the family of her friend and co-worker, Frank Fontana (sorry – can see the face of the actor who played him, but can’t remember his name).  Frank doesn’t want to go to his folks’ house for some event — their anniversary, I think — because his parents always think the worst.

IIRC, Frank and his siblings go in together on a cruise for his parents. And sure enough, they start talking about all the things that are going to go wrong and Frank loses it.  His parents, taken aback, explain that they feel that if they have too much good luck or good feeling, that life will punish them for it.  That may not be exactly what they said, but it’s the gist of it.

I don’t  believe that, not really.  And I know a lot of my anxiety is based on the day my dad died.  I was kind of drifting at that point and I was selling Tupperware.  There was a sales rally that day (you can’t imagine what these things were like unless you did them, and you may not even be able to even if you did).  I had always thought these rallies were silly, but that day I was in a good mood and just thought “Oh, heck, why not? Let’s just lose all the rest of my marbles and have a good time.”  About thirty minutes later, the secretary came to get me for a phone call (from my mom) and life as I had known it to that point changed forever.

I’ve never forgotten that rollercoaster sensation.  I doubt I ever will. And it has colored my life for me — sometimes for good reason, even if the changes between happy and sad weren’t quite so catastrophic.

So while my rational mind smacks me like Cher slapped Nicolas Cage in “Moonstruck” and says “Snap out of it!” I will continue to feel guilty about being happy.  Even though I know I shouldn’t.



Au revoir, M. Pierre

WARNING: This may be a long, rambling post. Bear with me.

To save money, my husband and I go to the library and take out movie and TV DVDs. On one trip, while trying to find something we hadn’t watched to death. I remembered him telling me that he was a fan of a show called “Combat!” which I mostly knew about due to Vic Morrow’s untimely death.  So I found the first set of the first season and took them home.

Talk about not knowing how something small could wind up being so much bigger.  At first I sat and “watched” the episodes (while reading or doing crochet or cross-stitch). Then I started really watching them and eventually, I was the motive force for us watching, even when my husband might not have been as enthusiastic.

In the course of watching them, I realized I had a favorite character – “Caje”, the reliable, quiet and deadly Cajun scout, who Saunders relied on for point duty and silent killing.  I didn’t know much about Pierre Jalbert, the actor who played him, but as someone who knows their way around a search engine, it didn’t take me long to find out.  I also got connected to a surprisingly large Combat! fandom.  I even began writing fanfic.  To this day, I have no rational explanation as to why this TV show (and I’m a Trekker, a LOTR fan and a Narnian from way back – I’m no stranger to fanatic fan bases) meant so much to me.

In July of 2010, the particular group I belonged to met in Burbank, California for a “Recon”.  As part of this, I had the very great fortune to meet M. Jalbert and listen to him tell us stories. I was allowed to sit in one of the two seats of honor (although that may only have been because M. Jalbert changed the seating arrangements without warning! 🙂 ) He was a lovely man and quite charming and polite. It was a pleasure to meet him.

Yesterday (January 23, 2014), one of the members of our group who was friends with Pierre and his wife of 53 years, Joy, sent out an e-mail to let us all know that  Pierre had died. I found myself grieving for him with an intensity that surprised me. I think I had always hoped to meet him again; I had told him at the Recon that if it hadn’t been for him, and Caje, that I might not have started writing again after a very long hiatus.  I wanted to tell him, too, that because I wanted the French in my stories to be right, I started learning French on my own.  That has developed into a severe case of Francophilia – I got back to following the Montreal Canadiens (in French, on RDS), watched French movies, read French newspapers (I’m hoping to tackle at least one book very soon) and my favorite music on my Sansa Clip are the songs from France (Joe Dassin, Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour and Django Reinhardt), Quebec (Ima, Coeur de Pirate, Les Trois Accords, Boom Desjardins, etc., etc., etc.) and Cajun Louisiana (D.L. Menard, Iry LeJeune, Jo-el Sonnier, Beausoleil and Zachary Richard, among others).

I’ve made French-speaking friends – mostly in Canada – and I owe Paul, Louise, Laura, Vivan, Roz, MaxHabs (on Twitter), Ryan, Fred, Jonathan and even Marc (who keeps talking to me in English – I’ve always wanted to ask him if that’s because he wants to practice his English or because my French is so bad 🙂 ) for correcting my mistakes and encouraging me to get better.  (If I left anyone out, blame my memory – je ecris sans vouloir vous offusquer.)

That’s a lot of impact to result from fandom and from a meeting with M. Pierre that lasted an hour or maybe two.

As I read through the messages people are leaving on the Combat! group and the fan page for Pierre on Facebook, I’m moved by the affection people had for Pierre.  He mentioned in different ways how surprised he was that people still remembered him and Caje, nearly 50 years after the program left the air.  He accomplished so much – he was an Olympic caliber skier and captain of Canada’s 1948 Olympic ski team  (1)   After years of competition and championship at many venues, sadly, he didn’t get to compete in St. Moritz because he fell during a training run three days before the Games started and broke his leg.  He was a sound and ADR editor with MGM and he worked on some big projects. And of course, there was Combat!, along with a number of acting roles on TV and in movies. M. Pierre led a full life.

Reposer en paix, M. Pierre. Nous allons tous vous manquez beaucoup. And thanks for the hug.

“Y” is for (mellow) Yellow

Since I missed doing this when I did “D”, this is my chance to celebrate Donovan getting into the R&R Hall of Fame.

I don’t remember all of his songs from my childhood — mostly “Hurdy Gurdy Man”, “Wear Your Love Like Heaven”, “Sunshine Superman”, “Catch the Wind”, “Jennifer Juniper” and of course “Mellow Yellow”.  Actually, that’s quite a few of his songs, come to think on it.  I liked him a lot — being a kid and not much into politics (of music or otherwise), I didn’t know about his fuss with Dylan (who I also liked).  I just knew his songs appealed to me.

Stephen King liked him so much that he used “Atlantis” as the basis for his book “Hearts in Atlantis”.

“Sunshine Superman” in particular has an actual day tied to it as a memory.  My mom, a child of the Great Depression, tended to be a bit frugal.  I came to understand why and if I told you what her childhood was like, you would too.  However, she had a thing about stuff that was different — unusual tourist sites, strange food, different stores (some time, I’ll tell you about the realio-trulio general store we went to) and off-beat beverages.  On the day in question, we had driven to Canton to buy Kickapoo Joy Juice (a kind of off-brand Mountain Dew).  We also (my sister and I) talked her into buying us Batman and Robin t-shirts.  So in honor of that cherished memory, here’s Donovan and “Sunshine Superman”.  (I know — it should be “Mellow Yellow”, but I like this one better.)

I will remember you… (RIP Steve Jobs)


Back in the dawn of time, when dinosaurs still walked the earth and computers filled an entire room (i.e., 1977), I was  a student at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, toting a big box of punch cards to FORTRAN class.  In those days, most computers were mainframes or midranges (like the DEC VAX or IBM’s System/3x) and what few “personal computers” existed weren’t seen as much more than toys.  That was also the year Apple Computers released the Apple IIC and it gained some popularity in secondary education, but no one would have based a career on using/supporting them.  The more widely used Commodore Color Computer (known to the cogniscenti as the “CoCo”) and the Timex Sinclair wouldn’t come along until the early 1980s and the IBM PC wouldn’t be generally available until 1981.

That was then.

In 1985, I went to work at a company doing spreadsheets in Lotus 1-2-3 and Symphony. They had an early IBM PC with a monochrome (green) monitor, two 5 1/4″ floppy disk drives and no hard drives.  Everything was stored on floppies and to start the computer, you inserted a DOS disk (3.1, if I recall correctly) and then put in a key disk to get Lotus to run.  You used the other drive for the disks that stored your data.  As much as a revelation as it was for accounting, it wasn’t much help for anything else.  Word processing was done on a Wang system.

About three months after I started, the engineering department suddenly had this odd little oblong box, sitting upright.  They told me it was a Mac Classic.  I didn’t know what that meant, but it had an immediate impact on my professional life.  Previously, making a bar chart meant using cardboard cutouts and rulers to draw what you needed, and if anything was wrong, or the numbers changed, you had to start over again.  Very annoying.  However, this “Mac Classic” had a piece of software on it called “MacChart”. With MacChart, you could build your graphs on the computer, and if anything changed, it took a couple of keystrokes to make the changes. At that point, you still had to leave space in your document, cut the chart out and paste it in (the origin of the term “cut and paste” :)). But not having to start over from scratch was a major breakthrough. These Macs were something else!

As I look back over the past twenty-plus (nearly 30!) years from the vantage point of the present, I see what a profound impact Steve Jobs’ vision for Apple and his subsequent successes had on all of us, but especially veterans of the IT industry.  What ever you may think of Mr. Jobs and Mr. Gates personally, there is no doubt in my  mind that their “anything you can do, I can do better” battles resulted in more, better and faster improvements to personal computer operating systems, hardware and apps than would have happened if either had stood alone. In my humble opinion, Windows (whatever its failings) would be as good as it is if Bill Gates didn’t have Steve Jobs upping the ante, as it were, by his ongoing improvements to Macintosh.

And then there are the changes provoked by the post-Mac iNnovations (sorry, couldn’t resist) of the iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple TV, and so on. Each of them kicked off new technology in their respective areas and spurred other innovators to create competitive products.  Technology thrives best when there’s competition, and Apple provided plenty of that, due to Mr. Jobs’ ideas and forethought.

If you look at the current status and past history of personal technology, the road is littered with once-thriving companies who are barely more than peripheral these days (Lotus, WordPerfect); companies who had their day, weren’t willing or able to evolve, and died; companies that made a big splash and then sank without a trace; and the up-and-comers whose destiny has yet to be determined.  Then, there are the survivors and major players: Microsoft, Adobe, Google — and Apple. I expect Apple to be a part of that select company for many years to come.

Rest in peace, Mr. Jobs. You had a major impact on the 20th and 21st centuries, bigger maybe than even you knew.  You will be missed.

Where were you when the world stopped turning?

Yes, I’m a day late with this.

I cried yesterday when they played “Taps” before the Browns game, but I’d been upset before that, watching the video someone made with video and photographs to Alan Jackson’s song. Today, I have what a friend of mine called a “9/11 hangover” and this post is the result

If anything should come of the aftermath of the events of 9/11, even ten years (and one day) on, it seems to me it ought to be a reassessment of what’s really important to us. Over and over again, I’m brought to a realization that no one who died that day is likely to have woken up thinking, “Well, this is it. I don’t get any more mornings after this one.” I doubt they did anything majorly different from the things they normally did. They fed the cat/dog/fish/bird, thought about what they’d make or get for dinner that night and tried to organize their work day, setting priorities and deciding what to tackle when they hit their desks.  Some of them went to vote — but most of those folks didn’t make it back to the office in time to be victims of the terrorists.

Not that I think we ought to spend our whole lives focused on death, but it might not hurt to occasionally realize that now is all the time there may ever be. No one is promised one second more than the one they’re in right now. It’s a good idea not to defer the kindness you mean to do, to tell a loved one that they matter to you, to do whatever it is you can do to improve the world in your immediate vicinity.

Forgive me for saying this — I’m sure it will come across as morbid — but I have always wondered what passes through someone’s mind when they realize that THIS time, there won’t be any second chances. I don’t think it’s possible to die without regrets. I don’t think anyone’s life is so perfect that there isn’t at least one thing they wish they had or hadn’t done — unless they’re really deluding themselves. I do think it’s possible to reduce the number of regrets. And maybe that’s the ultimate gift those 3,000-plus people give us; to honor their memories by making whatever difference we can.  It has to be a more positive legacy than hatred and war, don’t you think?

Do you remember the time …

In Remembrance of Things Past, Proust is brought to recollection by the taste of a madeleine dipped in lime-flower tea. I can’t say that flavors do all that much for me. But scents, now, ah … that’s a different story.

I used to spend a lot of money on perfume. I rarely wear much makeup, but I did wear perfumes — different ones, depending on the season or occasion. I liked Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion, briefly had one I really loved called Gilda by a Parisian parfumeur named Pierre Wolf (sadly, no longer exists), and for a time wore Givenchy’s Amarige, until my mother-in-law decided she liked it. My favorite, though, was Trésor, by Lancôme. It was my “summer” perfume, and I wore it a lot.

Yesterday, when I was waiting for Eyemasters to finish my glasses, I walked around Macy’s. The perfume counter is right by the door, not far from the opticians. Initially, I had decided to go there because I had a character in one of my flash fics wear “Bellagio for Men”. I picked it off a list and had no idea what it actually smelled like. They didn’t have it — either it’s no longer popular (which is okay, because the character in question was dead) or it was too expensive for them. I walked around and looked at the women’s scents, trying a couple. This exercise taught me that I didn’t like Amarige any more, no matter who wore it, and I tried a newer perfume I already knew I liked — Vera Wang’s Princess. Then I stopped by Lancôme and tried on Trésor.

Just the first whiff of it, and I was back in 1986. The memories were so strong! As I’ve posted before, the early 80s were not a good time for me. But I would have liked to be back there — my mistakes were unmade then and (like a lot of people) I would give so much to change the choices I made — to choose not to do things I did, and to do the things I should have.

One of my “rainy day”dreams is that I could go back and inhabit myself, and guide myself away from the choices that were bad, all the while keeping the good things I would still like to keep. The feeling is even deeper, as I approach my 50th birthday. There are so many things I won’t ever be able to make right.

This morning, the strength of the perfume has faded, so I’ve turned to another way of triggering memories — music. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to a playlist of Sade’s songs. This is music which reminds me of that same era, and brings back many of the same feelings.

How I wish I could turn back time …

For Remembrance Day …

Remembrance Day Poppy IN FLANDERS FIELD

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army