Forty years ago, Bo Derek modeled a certain standard of beauty in the movie “10.” Svelte and tanned, she sported Caucasian cornrows and a thin, sculpted body below her blonde Northern European features. Sixty-five years ago, it was another blonde, Marilyn Monroe, who was the poster girl, though her figure was much larger and hourglass-shaped rather than willowy. A hundred years ago, it was the Gibson girl, though she was an artistic rendering rather than a real person; also hourglass shaped with a body exaggerated by a corset. These beauty ideals have all shared common features: they represent a look that is unattainable, reflecting either wealth, lucky genetics, or a figment of the imagination.
Consider the French Age of Enlightenment. In the 18th century, before Louis XVI’s head was lopped off, the aristocracy and the arts reigned supreme. French fashion is still splashed across hundreds of portraits in the average museum, displaying on white faces, giant hairstyles, and massive gowns overflowing with fabric. Those faces were painted to make them look unblemished since the average French face had scars and discolorations. Unfortunately, the huge amount of lead in the ceruse paint often created the very scars it was designed to hide. Eyebrows were also supposed to have a certain look – different from however they normally grew — so they were shaved and mouse hair was glued on instead, in a more ideal place or just different from wherever eyebrows would normally grow. Beauty marks were added, even according to a certain code. Continue reading “Not the Same Perfect Ten”
This is a week to reflect on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the history of nonviolent protest, and the impact of the civil rights movement on our national character. It also is a week where we look towards a fairly dramatic change of government; no better time to consider messages of resistance, urgency, and inspiration.
But I am having a little trouble finding the right frame to make my comments meaningful. Saying that Dr. King was a visionary leader whose words compel us to fight injustice is like saying a rose is beautiful or that cool water quenches thirst on a hot day. These things are known and so familiar as to almost be mundane. Writing what should be an uplifting post has started to feel like telling people they should eat kale. As we all know, kale is not edible unless it’s deep-fried and covered in Cheetos dust. I would not want to have to cover the “I have a dream” speech in Cheetos dust.
If everyone likes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, does that mean I agree with the ideas of everyone who says so? Politicians from all sides of the spectrum have issued positive press releases lauding Dr. King. Does that mean I agree with all of them? Or, if I say that Dr. King’s ideas are revolutionary because they apply to everyone fighting against injustice, does that mean I am minimizing the work he did to advance the destruction of racist institutions? I am worried about pandering; I am worried about offending.
Continue reading “Dr. King and the Universal Truth”
I didn’t plan to devote so much of my Second Act to writing. I thought I’d spend a lot more time watching old movies or re-reading Dickens. I always thought I might start writing someday, but when retirement came, I didn’t think that was Someday yet.
When I was a kid, I did think about “being a writer,” and I did study Literature in college. Unfortunately, I found the actual act of writing to be exceedingly painful, whether writing papers about Faulkner and Woolf or, later, trying my hand at fiction. I always got As on the papers, and everyone who’s read my fiction tells me it’s pretty good. But it didn’t want to come out without a fight. I agonized so much over every description. I couldn’t get the hang of dialogue to save my life. So I gave it up and in one instance worth sharing, I even gave a pretty good Star Trek fan fiction book, abandoned at 250 pages, to my writer spouse who used it as the plot for her outstanding science fiction novel, Night Vision.
Meanwhile, I contented myself with lengthy fascinating analyses in my corporate job and was constantly whacked on the nose for being unable to limit myself to short, subject-less bullet points. No one who formerly worked with me is surprised that I am now so prolific. Except me, apparently.
This 52 weeks does come as something of a surprise, though. When I retired a year ago, I did put “Writing” on my Things To Do plan. But I also put brushing on my piano skills and taking classes, and though I can mash through a couple Bach inventions now with fewer errors and I can expound with great expertise on Opera and Philosophy, I wouldn’t call either an avocation. Nevertheless, I started writing every week, with a voice that was neither fiction nor drily analytical, and it seemed to flow. By now, this writing bug seems to have gotten into my blood. Even worse, I want to do it. Continue reading “A Year’s Worth of Blogging”