Tag Archives: Barbara Stanwyck

And The Beat Goes On*

Have you heard the news?  The Encyclopedia Britannica is stopping the presses (see: changing marketplace.)  No doubt this is quite the blow to Britannica employees and door-to-door salesmen (see: Fuller Brush, Willy Loman.)  But perhaps this is actually not all bad news.

The encyclopedia had a hallowed place in many homes and hearts.  The (wonderful) film Ball of Fire (1941) updated the 7 dwarfs and their mighty leader, Gregory Peck, into encyclopedia wizards.  The quirky little brainiacs toiled for years, documenting every subject known to humankind.  It was a noble undertaking, and one made all the more enjoyable with the arrival of Barbara Stanwyck.  For decades, real-life families across the country paid for one volume of encyclopedic knowledge at a time.  The books; with their hard covers and lush pages, were displayed with pride in living rooms and dens.  For better or worse, schoolchildren used these volumes to complete homework assignments.  Those without (and there were/are plenty of those) made the trip to the library or relied on source material (a.k.a. parents) or turned in homework destined for less than an “A.”

Encyclopedias are a great source for cursory understanding of a subject, but there are now so many more of those.  With a few keystrokes endless source materials are at our fingertips.  Students (and others) can go directly to the U.S. government sites or the American Medical Association.  The very act of searching (a.k.a. researching) broadens the understanding of a subject.

Will some people confuse wikipedia with an authoritative (and fully vetted) source?  They already do.  Does the cessation of printing encyclopedias put disadvantaged students at a disadvantage?  Not in this day and age.  It’s a pretty safe bet that if a library has an up-to-date version of the encyclopedia on the shelves, they have computers and access to the internet as well.  I would posit that the elimination of the printed encyclopedia evens the playing the field a bit for students, if it weren’t for the fact that having them in the home is no longer a sign of special access to information.

Why is it even worth note you ask (assuming you don’t work in the printing or door-to-door sales professions?)  For the simplest of reasons: progress is sometimes quite progressive.  The shuttering of a theatre, restaurant or nightclub to make way for a food court or Sephora, is not progress, it’s just sad.  The erosion of demarcation between public space and private space is not progress, it just means I have to throw my body over my entree as the woman at the next table styles her hair.  The memory of salesmen, diaper service, milk delivery, Sheriff Taylor and his son Opie, fill us with a warmth and sense of safety.  Change (and growing pains) are always just a bit frightening and our instincts are to cling to vestiges of the past.  For proof, one need only witness an adolescent girl’s bedroom festooned with equal parts stuffed animals and mascara.

There once was a dizzying amount of New York (daily) newspapers, some of them having more than one edition a day.  It took awhile, but with technology we have that once again.  The insatiable human desire for information is part of our charm.  As long as our innovations keep pace with that need, we can say farewell to the past without too much angst.  For those who will miss those smooth, hefty burgundy books, just consider how much fun you’ll have convincing children that you used to have to walk to the library (in the snow, uphill, both ways) to learn who invented the printing press.

*Sonny Bono (1967)


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@ Work :( TTYL

Have we all heard just about enough about the dangers, both physical and evolutionary, of texting?  Do we need another article haranguing against smart-phones on dinner tables?  Isn’t it crystal clear to us all that “living in the moment” is now only a behavior for which we pay thousands of dollars to experience in a spa? Technology has changed our orientation to the world around us.  But I don’t particularly care about all that right now.

What I do care about is personal phone calls at work.  (Quaint, isn’t it?  That sentence conjures up visions of Judy Holliday at the switchboard.)  For reasons which allude me, the technology of a “phone call” has obscured the intent of the call.  The fact that people needn’t speak to communicate, or use a telephone belonging to an employer, seems to have blurred the lines for many.  Show of hands, how many times has the clerk at your checkout register been tapping his/her acrylics onto a phone?  Have you ever entered a boutique and not heard the shopkeeper on a personal call?  The last time you frequented a restaurant with a host/hostess, were they looking down and squinting, behind their station in the dark?  There are work situations in which personal communication is not only permissible, it is probably encouraged.  I was recently on a film shoot at which the principals (waiting upwards to 15 minutes between takes) typed away, happily passing the time.  But those particular employees were not actually working while making their personal calls.  Their attention was not expected to be anywhere but on themselves.

Now here’s where the rant builds up steam.  I have lost count of how many of New York’s finest I have seen texting or making personal phone calls while working.  I suppose the traffic officer would argue; “Hey, I can give tickets and text at the same time.”  Perhaps, but you’re in uniform and; a) it is unseemly to be engaged in personal activity, and b) you are an officer, and if you’re not seeing something and saying something, why should I?  I have also seen “beat” officers, standing and texting on a corner, officers in squad cars (thankfully, the passengers not the drivers) texting as well.  Now unless that is how the police department now communicates with its officers (and for all I know, it is) I find this truly distressing.

I am not suggesting that we all don’t have personal emergencies that need attention.  But what I’ve witnessed is far more lackadaisical than an emergency would ever suggest.  Somehow, because we have the technology, we’ve decided that rules of the workplace and common decorum need no longer apply.  I’m no techie wonk, but I’m willing to posit, that we’re only going to get more little sexy toys with which to play.  Perhaps we should engage, now, in the real face to face conversations about what is appropriate and what is not.  Maybe I’m just an old fashioned gal, but I enjoy being looked in the eye, be it by a police officer or dinner companion (or one and the same, if it’s Tom Selleck in Blue Blood.)


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Posted by on November 21, 2011 in Cultural Critique


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Send Me a Postcard

Or better yet, bring me back something lovely.  If it’s all the same with you, I’m going to stay home.  Don’t get me wrong, I find the very idea of travel to be romantic and intoxicating, but that is when it is just an idea.  I love the sense of newness, the unknown and limitless possibility that comes with travel.  I simply just don’t enjoy the travel.
There is nothing quite as dreamy as travel in movies though, is there?  Bette Davis’ breaking heart on the cruise ship.  Barbara Stanwyck’s belly baring dress on her cruise ship.  Even Barbra Streisand’s wilted yellow roses on Nicky’s cruise ship.  Dreamy.
And the accessories!  Do you remember that little Touch of Mink travel ensemble Miss Doris Day sported?  How about those dashing outfits The Women wore on the train to Reno?  L’amour, l’amour.
I linger over the “Holiday Packing” pages in my magazines; marveling at the adorable mini toiletries and dreamy luggage pieces.  I feel the pull of the reinvention through fashion that is suggested in all these layouts.
My bookcase groans under the weight of travel novels.   The Belly of Paris!  Paris To The Moon!  Iberia!  A Movable Feast!  You get the idea.
But yet, travel itself leaves me cold.  For all the very obvious reasons.  Air travel is now barbaric, anyway you slice it.  As I do not have a private jet at my disposal, if I want to arrive in any reasonable amount of time, I must deal with airports and airline personnel.  Oh, and pay for the privelege.  And then there are hotels.  Are they ever as comfortable and quiet as one’s own home?  Exactly how much do I have to pack to try and replicate my bedroom?  Outside of very very few hotels, hospitality is a lost art.  And I am paying for that experience.  Then there is the locale itself.  I find it exhausting to “figure out” a new place, particularly when I don’t speak the language (well.)
I know how seriously unpopular my attitude is.  I’ve received plenty of the raised eyebrow look.  I get that you might think me xenophobic or a hermit (you’d be not so far from the truth with the latter.)  The truth is I enjoy comfort.  There, I said it.  I will watch foreign movies, eat unfamiliar foods, read of far off lands, but do so from my own hometown.  But if you go, do bring me back a little something.

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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Travel


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