On March 27 I began logging my day’s activities into my now-useless appointment calendar. For the time being, there would be no luncheon dates, no concerts, no coffee meetups, no flights to visit grandchildren, no weddings, no visit to Mexico City with friends.
But how was I filling my days? They seemed to be drifting — without recollection of where I’d been, what I’d accomplished, where I was headed — from one gray fog-bound sea to the next.
“Naps,” seemed to be the only achievement that I recalled with any clarity. That, and pointlessly angry and condescending posts on Facebook. I had to be doing more than clicking “Like,” “Angry, “and “Love” buttons, right? Oh, and “HaHa.”
To my surprise, I was doing things — mostly things like listening to music and podcasts, reading, writing, meditating, and now, ZOOMing with family and friends.
So, I began logging in each day’s highlights.
I find that I am spending far less time contributing to the “algorithmic echo chamber” that is Facebook and YouTube. I find myself using them for specific reasons — not letting them use me.
Sometimes, I will allow myself to go down the “rabbit hole” — that is, begin to research a specific thing — and then letting the Internet take me to unanticipated places, on unexpected detours.
“Unexpected” is probably an illusion. The internet’s Weapons of Mass Distraction now calculate how long you spend on a specific topic, then shovels more of the same into your face. Seriously, the more time we spend on social media, the more we are being manipulated by sophisticated algorithms that only want our undivided attention.
Also referred to as your soul.
I find that logging my activities lifts me up from the mindless scrolling, the knee-jerk responses to click-baiters, and the useless arguments with the other extreme of our bi-polar society. Not always. But mostly.
I’ve found that people like the logs. They trigger something in the readers, they give them ideas of their own, they even inspire imitation, which is a beautiful thing.
So, I think that I — and hopefully you — are ready for Phase 2: The annotated log.
Well, don’t everyone clap at once …
I’m going to start with yesterday, the April 16 log — mainly because it was shorter than usual and kind of illegible because of ink bleeding through from the other side of the page. In the annotated log, I’ll be able to add a little context and commentary.
And if you are so inclined, you can access quickly some of the things that catch my attention.
Let me know what you think, and add stuff of your own in the comments section below!
Well, let’s begin then, shall we?
#1 Rose slips out early in the morning for grocery shopping at La Comer and bread from Panio, perhaps once a week. We are getting many groceries by ordering online and recently ordered a case of mixed wines from Cava Sautto. So many places here have adapted to home delivery to keep people working and revenue flowing.
#2 Podcast: “Sugar Calling” Author and help columnist Cheryl Strayed has revived her “Ask Sugar” persona in this NYT podcast in which she calls prominent authors and taps into their singular wisdom about coping, thinking, living, etc.
Face it, a lot of what great authors do is think a lot.
Today, Strayed had a sublime talk with Pico Iyer who lives in Japan. They discuss dealing with loss, among other things. Among the names that come up — Alice Munro, Leonard Cohen, Thomas Merton, Dali Lama, Pope Francis, and Emily Dickinson.
#3 There are two kinds of people — Ask Culture people who ask clearly, directly and bluntly for what they want and Guess Culture people who try to anticipate what the answer might be and then strategize accordingly.
I had no idea. Ask Culture people expect rejection as much as they expect compliance. Guess Culture people learn to cope with their lowered expectations and seek out less confrontational strategies to get what they want.
There is tons of stuff written on this and I thank my nephew Timothy Hawkins for pointing it out. This is literally one of those things that can change your life, once you figure out where you are on the spectrum.
So, which one are you?
#4 Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with soloist Hilary Hahn.
This piece was mentioned as I was reading an incredible novel “A Luminous Republic” by Andrés Barba. (More on this later.) The main character’s wife is a violinist and teacher and she is having great difficulty learning this piece. I can see why. It is demanding to perform and exhilarating to hear.
Richardson is a Harvard-educated political historian who teaches at Boston College and daily is providing insightful and intelligent perspective on Washington’s toxic political cesspool.
The author and radio host Keillor is ensconced in Apartment 12B in Manhattan with his wife and daughter and periodically provides his own gentle perspective on life in the Age of Pandemic.
#6 Podcast: The Daily’s Sunday Read: Wierd Al Yankovic’s Wierdly Enduring Appeal. The Daily is another New York Times podcast, this one posted every morning and, usually, it is a deep dive into a key news event. On Sundays, a piece from the glossy magazine is read. This week’s profile of Yankovic was delightful. Think of it: For 40 years he has been creating exquisite and often hilarious parodies of major pop songs. He is a true cultural subversive and all-round nice guy. And to think, he got his start in a bathroom (for the acoustics) at CalPoly San Luis Obispo, where he earned a degree in architecture.
#7 Finished “A Luminous Republic” by Spanish author Andrés Barba. I discovered an excerpt of this novel on an e-mail newsletter called Lit Hub Daily. Lit Hub is a must-bookmark site for people who love to read literature.
In my humble opinion, Barba is a more-cerebral version of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In “A Luminous Republic,” a government official recounts the story of the sudden appearance in a small Argentina city on the edge of a jungle of a band of 32 feral children and the tragedy that befalls them.
#8 Movie: “A Letter to Three Wives,” written and directed by the great Joseph L. Mankiewicz. I’ve watched it before but this was the first time I felt that it has not aged well. The acting, cast, and writing are spot-on and the scene in which school teacher Kirk Douglas unloads on a pair of commercial radio cultural bloodsuckers is priceless. But imagine this premise today: Three well-off suburban housewives are handed a letter saying a fourth has run off with one of their husbands. They spend the day reminiscing and reconciling behaviors because the answer won’t be known until the annual country club party that night. It would be a very different story today, I imagine.