Another Poem

I must be feeling poetic this morning.

Good Bones

By Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

According to this bio from Maggie Smith’s website, everyone else read this poem back in 2016. Also, the article answers my immediate question about whether Maggie Smith the poet is also Maggie Smith the actress (spoiler: she is not).

Thanks, Part 1

In exchange for all the sacrificed minutes, the Twitter occasionally offers a gift.

Thanks

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions
back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you
with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is
W.S. Merwin, “Thanks” from Migration: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by W.S. Merwin.  Reprinted by permission of The Wylie Agency, Inc..
Source: Migration: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005)
(Don’t know W.S. Merwin? Neither did I. Here’s a Wikipedia link, and better, a New Yorker article written after Merwin’s death in March of this year.

Random Questions About AOC’s Haircut

It’s been a few days since this Washington Times article about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spending $300 on her hair came out. Most of the furor has died down, but I find myself still plagued by questions. 

First, what is this “government-subsidized Capitol Hill barbershop” the article speaks of? Are taxpayer dollars subsidizing Jeff Session’s haircuts? Does he also get food stamps? (And who else goes to this barbershop? Did Obama go? What about Trump? I think I’d like paparazzi pics please!) 

Second, to say the cost is $20 for something “government subsidized” is like saying your co-pay is the total cost for your healthcare. How much is the subsidy? Does Sessions tip on the $20, or on what the full amount would be? Enquiring minds want to know!

Is Session’s barber an employee or a small business owner? How much time and money did said barber invest in acquiring the accreditation hours required (2000 it looks like?) to be licensed in Washington, DC?

And how many $20 dollar haircuts will it take to reach a return on that investment? Because education and jumping through hoops isn’t free!   

AOC got lowlights and a cut for her long hair, which takes hours longer and more chemistry knowledge than a ten-minute clipper cut. Chime in, what is a fair hourly rate for a craftsperson? 

By implying that the cut and lowlights are a frivolous expense, is it also being implied that a woman in AOCs position could rock Jeff Sessions hair with no color augmentation and operate just as effectively in our world? (Could she also forego SMILING?)

Or are we just saying that AOC needs to do everything she does now but less obviously, because women have an obligation to perpetuate the myth that we “just wake up like this” and that living up to society’s attractiveness standards is not expensive and time consuming?

Speaking of which, the article says she could have “save $100” by using the Capitol Hill barbershop. From which I can calculate that services at the morally-superior subsidized barbershop would still have cost her $200 — or TEN TIMES the amount that Jeff Sessions has to spend on a haircut. Can we agree there’s a female tax?

(I wonder what it would cost JS if he wanted to cover the gray. I’m NOT suggesting he should try to cover the gray.)

AOC used part of her salary to support the local economy. That wealth is “trickling down,” is it not? Isn’t that the ideal?

Finally — a little about my life. For years, I’ve been doing my own color and getting my hair cut in K-Town, where my stylist, who I love, gradually increased her prices from $25 to $50. Then she got her own chair in Pasadena and raised her price for a cut to $75… I started reeaalllly stretching out the time between haircuts.

When I decided that going blonde was probably beyond my skill set, I found that my stylists base price for color is $180 (exactly the amount of AOC’s lowlights, by the way.)

As an aspiring writer whose hourly wage is compliments, I couldn’t afford to be loyal. In lieu of a government-sponsored option, I decided to go to a hair school.

Going to a hair school is a real experience!

All said and done, they took about 20 hours to do what I think my stylist would have done in four or five. Because I had to arrange an unforeseen second day (to “fix it”) around work, I spent about three weeks with apricot-colored hair. This wasn’t that bad since I wasn’t getting ANY meetings for work (see the silver-lining there) and also,

I’M NOT A CONGRESSWOMAN.

If you’re my congressperson, I don’t want you distracted by a clogged toilet because you were trying to save $15 bucks on a plumber, or waiting in line at the the grocery store during rush hour to save a delivery charge for dinner.

You have my full support to use service-providers who can do the job in a good amount of time, and hopefully do it right the first time, because your time and energy should be spent running the country.  Thank you for your service.

The First Cloned Cat

A couple years back, I conceived of a series which involved a fair amount of research about clones. I still perk up my ears when I see articles about clone advancements. People have been cloning their pet dogs for several years, but now the the first cat has been cloned.

Of particular interest:

For their pet cloning services, Mi says Sinogene hopes to someday transfer the memories of the original animals to their clones using artificial intelligence or man-machine interface technology, according to the Global Times

Hangin’ Out, Thinking About Partiality

(As promised at the end of my last post.)

Much of the story we pitched for ADMISSIONS is built around three families — all New Yorkers, but with different backgrounds and socio-economic resources — vying to get their children into Ivy League colleges — and making some questionable moral and legal decisions in their pursuits. 

Last year, I wrote a pilot for an entirely different series — one with a sci-fi premise where a tech guru creates an Elysium-type alternate reality and the richest people in the United States pay to transport themselves and their families into this other reality.

What do this two projects– one grounded, and one sci-fi — have in common? They are both about families, and both about family members who exercise partiality. 

Partiality — if it’s not familiar to you, as it wasn’t to me — is basically, liking one thing, person or group more than another.  In philosophy, there’s a whole ongoing conversation regarding whether it can be right to act partially and privilege people who are closer in our affections over those who are more distant.

In both my sci-fi scenario and in the real world scandal, individuals act to procure opportunities for their children.  But in so doing they are are taking the opportunity away from other, random people.

Most of us exercise some form of partiality. We feed our own children and take care of our own families first. We help our friends more than strangers. Generally it’s regarded as honorable to help our families, friends, teams, companies. We talk about loyalty like it’s a good thing — something to aspire to.

But, is it also honorable to give a job to your nephew instead of reviewing applications from other hopefuls?  Is it okay to  vote to fund the parks near your neighborhood and not  neighborhoods where other people’s kids live?  What if everyone in your group made the same choices?

It seems like classism, racism, tribalism could all descended from this type of partiality when it’s not just exercised by individuals, but groups of people.

When I think about partiality, it’s difficult not to selfishly think about how partiality  affects me. I want to be a working TV writer. In order to do that, I need to be hired by a showrunner. It’s no secret that showrunners– not just as individuals, but as a class — are partial to people they know and trust, or to referrals by people they know and trust. Since I am not neither of those things, my chances of catching my dream are diminished.

On the flip side, I’ve been hired many times — to be on film crews, to teach, to work admin — because someone knew me.  In every case, I’m guessing Human Resources could have sent a hundred applicants as good or better than I was, who probably wanted the job more than I did.  Yes, I’m a hard worker, but that’s not what got me those jobs. I got those jobs because: partiality. The people with the power to hire already knew me.

The temptation is always there to help out a friend, to make your kid happy. When is that okay, and where’s the line? If you’re a bouncer at a club, is it okay to let your friends in for free? If you work middle-management at a company, is it okay to highly refer a friend for a job? And if you have a gazillion dollars, is it okay to buy your kid a spot at a prestigious college, or buy your family a new life in an alternate reality?