Quirky.

Throwback.

This photo was taken in early 1993 in Lexington, Mass. I was staying with a friend I had worked with at Digital back in 1990 and I had gone back to visit friends from the BGLAD (Being Gay or Lesbian at Digital) Employee Resource Group.  Groups of this nature in the workplace are fairly common these days; back in the late 1980s and early 1990s it was quite progressive. Digital (or DEC, as it’s commonly called today) was a great corporation to work for. Once in a while I’ll have a dream where I’m working at Digital, trying to do the work I do today on my old VT330 terminal hooked up to a MicroVAX II. I have no regrets, but I wonder where I would be today if I hadn’t left the company in late 1990. My husband says, and I agree with him, “everything happens for a reason, and it was so you could find your way to me”.

 

Obscure.

I occasionally have flashes of TV shows from the late 1970s and early 1980s that no one has probably thought about in years. Once such show is a promo for a pilot that I can’t remember the name of, but aired after the cancellation of “Rhoda” and had either Julie Kavner and a dark haired man (who was shirtless in the scene) or it was David Groh (Joe on “Rhoda”) and a dark haired woman of Julie Kavner’s build. I remember when seeing that promo connecting it to “Rhoda” because that show had been cancelled. To this day I can’t figure out what the name of the show was.

But this got me scouting around for obscure shows from that era and I came upon “On Our Own”. A show that seemed destined to fill a “Laverne and Shirley” gap for CBS, this show was about two best friends that worked for the same advertising agency in New York. In fact, the series was filmed in New York. It lasted only one season, had a funky opening theme song, and was recorded on video tape instead of film.

The two leads were played by Bess Armstrong and Lynnie Greene, the latter having played “Young Dorothy” throughout “The Golden Girls” in the 1980s.

While poking around on Amazon Prime Video, I found “On Our Own” and a whole bunch of obscure TV series, available for ad-supported free viewing.  The complete series isn’t there, there’s a few episodes missing, but nevertheless I was very surprised to find such a short-lived show available on digital streaming services 45 years later.

I took a gander at a couple of episodes. It’s basically your typical, late 1970s sitcom. What I absolutely did not remember about the series was the supporting character April played by Dixie Carter. She’s more Suzanne than Julia in this series, but still a hoot with her Southern accent.

It’s worth a watch if you have a few moments. Here’s the link: “On Our Own” on Amazon Prime Video.

Saturday Morning.

Around this date in 1975, my sister and I were hyped up on ”Super Sugar Smacks”, stationed in front of our black-and-white Zenith TV in the family 10×50 mobile home with 8×40 addition. We would always tune into ”Shazam!” and “The Secrets of Isis” as we chowed down on the cereal with milk from the farm down the street.

In this screencap from “Funny Girl”, Cindy Lee, Rick, and Andrea have a picnic lunch on the front lawn of their high school. Cindy Lee brought egg salad sandwiches and Andrea brought along fried chicken. Rick didn’t bring along anything because he figured the ladies would provide the lunch. It was the ’70s. When Andrea called him out on this, Rick said he’s going to marry a woman that looks like Isis but can cook like Andrea. Andrea gives him a look, and tells him he’s going to be a very old bachelor.

She then gives a quick side glance to the camera to thank the audience for keeping her superhero secret. She did this often throughout the series and I always liked that as a kid. It’s hard to see in the second screen cap, but this was a few decades before HD video.

As a quick aside, even in 1975 at age seven I had a crush on Brian Cutler as Rick Mason.

Joanna Pang as Cindy Lee, Brian Cutler as Rick Mason, Joanna Cameron as Andrea Thomas/Isis.
A little wink to the camera from Andrea. Thanks for keeping the secret of her secret identity!

Same.

I was recently reading a sci-fi story about the U.S.’s first adventure to an extraterrestrial planet. The expedition took a group of Americans to a nearby star, where they interacted with the native population in an effort to learn about them. The natives to the planet had an average estimated IQ of around 165. Life was much different than anything here on Earth. There was a uniformity amongst the population. Daily life was highly organized for everyone. All homes had the same design and floor plan. The civilization was successful because of the people’s dedication to productivity; everyone contributed to the well being of everyone else.

At the end of the story the Americans were shocked at what they perceived as a “lack of liberty” and were subsequently determined to teach this civilization how much better things are for Americans on Earth.

I couldn’t help but think of the Americans’ shortsightedness.

There’s a belief among many that the American way is the right way and any other way, regardless of how successful it is, is the wrong way. Happiness is measured in American societal ideals. We have other cultures right here on this planet that seem so very foreign, yet you can’t help but see happiness and fulfillment in their National Geographic captured images.

I’m reminded of an article I read years ago in a local paper of how a group of well intended folks wanted to liberate children from their Amish schools because they couldn’t possibly be happy without football and band practice and the PTA sanctioned practice of going door to door selling candy bars to pay for all this frivolity. Their happiness and contentment didn’t meet the measure of our standards of happiness and contentment, and therefore it must bad and/or wrong. It must be abuse.

But it’s not. It’s just a different way of doing things.

There is no doubt that our neighbors find happiness in ways that are unfamiliar to us. I have no right to tell them that whatever they’re happily doing in their home is wrong because I would find the same activity agonizingly tedious. So if we take that to the next step, why would I travel to another country or planet and judge the natives on their attainment of happiness?

I don’t know where I’m going with this rambling. Respect one another? Of course. Live and let live? Of course. Someday we’re going to be in the position of meeting beings from another world. It will be a glorious moment for mankind.

Let’s hope no one tries to tell them they need to soup up their spaceships with political stickers or something.

Productivity.

I’ve been messing around with to-do lists, email programs, and other related fun and frivolity in this technological world. As a Mac and iOS user, I tend to lean toward “it just works” and go with stock Apple applications when I can, but sometimes they just don’t seem to be enough.

I’m a little paranoid about online privacy, so anything that squelches tracking is preferred in my book. Apple’s Safari web browser does the vast majority of this with features baked right into the experience, so I like that. However, Apple’s Mail app does not block hidden pixel-trackers in email messages. For those that aren’t aware of these things, many mass email outfits like to put a hidden element in their marketing emails so they know if you’ve read the email or not and confirm the validity of your email address. I never respond to “Wanda has requested a read receipt” prompts, so I really don’t want hidden elements tattling on my email management habits. So I’ve opted to use AirMail on my devices because it automatically blocks this pixel-based reporting back to the sender.

My other struggle is with my to do list management system. For over a decade I’ve used OmniFocus, but I’ve never been comfortable with the locking of data into the OmniFocus platform. I’m relying on their syncing between devices, their file format, and their addition and deletion of features. I like being able to automatically schedule tasks, for example, telling my to do list “I have a flight on Saturday”, and it builds all the tasks, and times them appropriately, for everything that’s needed to get ready for the flight. As I get older, the holes in my Swiss cheese brain get bigger and I rely on my productivity app to keep track of my life. OmniFocus let’s me automate, but it’s not the smoothest experience in the world.

Lately I’ve been bouncing back and forth between OmniFocus and plain text ToDo.txt, which I can control, read, and automate with ease.

The bouncing back and forth takes more personal bandwidth than just getting things done.

I need to make a decision and stick to it. I’ll have to put that on my todo.

Wherever it may land.

Realness.

Writing a blog post on the iPad:

  • Open the WordPress app
  • Touch/click “Add Image”
  • Touch/clock “Upload Image”, find image in the finder. The image has been magically synchronized between my iPhone and iPad, courtesy of iCloud
  • Write the entry
  • Touch/click publish

Writing a blog post on the Linux desktop:

  • On the iPhone, make sure Dropbox has uploaded all the photos considered for the post
  • On the Linux desktop, navigate to the Dropbox/Camera Uploads folder
  • Wait for Dropbox to finish downloading, find photos that were just downloaded, copy them to the Desktop
  • Right click on each image, choose from the list of image editing applications available (Shotwell, GIMP, ‘Image Editor’, ‘Image Viewer’, etc.), open the image, resize to an acceptable size for upload
  • Export image as JPG file
  • Open web browser, navigate to the site’s admin page
  • Click New Post
  • Click Insert Image, drag each photo from desktop onto the web browser, wait for upload
  • Write the entry
  • Click Publish Now

One of these approaches has less “user friction” than the other. Why is it that I occasionally lean toward the process that takes more steps? A desire to set myself apart to show that I’m different. I have a driving urge to prove I’m different.

You already know that. I already know that. At age 52, I probably don’t need to demonstrate this as often as I did as a kid.

This is not the way to demonstrate this. The end result for the reader and/or viewer is the same; they have no way of knowing which method I used to compose this blog entry.

Thank you for attending my therapy session.

Farms.

We’ve been taking a lot of rides in the rural parts of Illinois since this whole pandemic thing started and subsequently let us out in anti-social activities. Being tucked away safely in the car with your loved one, sheltered by metal and glass from other humans, seems like the best way to see the world without risking Coronavirus infection from others.

The game during our latest ride is to avoid the Interstates, U.S., and State Routes, opting for county roads and other locally maintained roadways. This has taken us through plenty of prairie (corn on the left, beans on the right; beans on the left, corn on the right), small towns, and surrounding farm lands.

I pulled over somewhere around Genoa, Illinois as I liked the framing of the shot above; the ComEd “cat ears” power lines passing behind the farm, bisecting their corn fields and probably adding an extra challenge for the crop dusters we see from time to time out there, all looked interesting to me.

I love simple landscapes, and my geeky interest in power lines, make them extra interesting.

Freeze Frame.

Cable didn’t come to my parents’ house until after I graduated high school and was off to college. Short version, my parents’ did not have cable when I lived at home. However, my grandfather had a huge satellite dish in the field next to his house and with the right amount of voodoo we could tune in MTV by whipping the satellite dish around to face the right position in the sky. This was before the days of scrambling the signal so that you had to pay for it. You just grabbed it as the signal blanketed the planet. I once landed on a Russian satellite and heard some screeching noises that nearly blew up the television but I’ll save that for another blog entry.

It was 1983 when Tracey Ullman came out with “They Don’t Know”, a remake of the Kirsty MacColl song from the late 1970s. It was unique on Top 40 radio, reminding us all from the brashness of the “Wall of Sound”, er, sound, from the 1960s. It’s a great track all around.

My grandparents were on one of their month-long trips across the country when I was in their house after school watching MTV, after whipping the satellite dish around trying to find the signal. The first few frames of Tracey’s video for “They Don’t Know” literally took my breath away.

I was a sophomore in high school, already kinda sure of which way my life would be headed as far as a life partner, but after seeing this man bang on the chimes I suddenly had absolutely no doubt that I was 100% certified gay beef.

The sight of this man literally took my breath away. All of sudden everything fell into place and life made sense. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, but I knew someday I would snuggle up next to a man and be very happy.

Of course, hormonal lust was fueling my attraction to this particular guy banging on the chimes, my taste would vary quite a bit to this first gasp of losing my breath, but I knew from that very moment, who and what I was and destined to be.

All because I whipped around a satellite dish in the right direction.

Random.

This quarantine thing is really ramping up the parsing of random information in my head. Tonight my husband and I sat down to watch a couple of episodes from my favorite television series of all time: “Bewitched”.

Among the numerous reasons I love the show is the “cultured” accent used by most of the witches and warlocks on the show, including Elizabeth Montgomery’s “finishing school” way of speaking. Lizzie could make her speech sound a little more middle class when she wanted to (or when the script called for it), but the vast majority of the time everyone of the witchcraft world on the show spoke with a refined accent that was just a few steps to the side of the Trans-Atlantic accent that was invented for entertainment in the early 20th century. When I hear my Central New York/Syracuse accent blended with the even flatter tones of Chicago in my speech, I sometimes think I need to get a more refined sound to the way I speak. In my natural accent, “Mary”, “marry”, and “merry” all sound the same. My husband makes fun of me because of the way I say “elementary” (el-eh-men-terry). It’s a Central New York think.

The more formal approach to everyday dress on “Bewitched” has always been, well, bewitching to me. I *love* the way folks dressed up for even the mundane chore of going to the market. It reminds me of the way both sets of grandparents dressed when I was a young lad. Point of trivia: Grandma Country never wore slacks or even a pant suit, she *always* wore a dress, usually something she made herself.

I like it when people showed a little more care in their appearance.

I’m not a “work in my sweatpants” kind of guy, even though I always work from home. I still dress in a business casual manner and I feel good doing so.

Having watched “Bewitched” relentlessly for the past 52 years I pretty know Samantha’s family tree like the back of my hand. There are some inconsistencies as to who was an aunt and who wasn’t. While Reta Shaw (from “Mary Poppins” and “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”) was the most well known to have played Aunt Hagatha, and in the first season, Bertha, in the fifth season Doreen McLean played Aunt Hagatha and she pops out to fetch Aunt Bertha (who we never see). There were two other Aunt Hagathas beside Reta and Doreen, but it was Reta Shaw that came back in the last season to play her for the last time. I always found Doreen McLean to be a close second in her small chance to play the role.

Before Darrin met Samantha, he was engaged to Sheila Sommers (played by Nancy Kovak). Sheila was featured in the pilot episode and then again in a couple of episodes in season four. In the late 1970s through early 1990s, the syndicated package of “Bewitched” included ONLY the color episodes (seasons three through eight). This always bothered me because I vividly remembered black and white episodes of “Bewitched”, and friends at the time would say I was crazy and tell me that we were seeing them colorized, even though the only thing that had been colorized at the time was pretty much “Gilligan’s Island” and that colorization was awful.

In the fourth season episode “Snob In The Grass”, there’s a flashback to the first time Samantha met Sheila Sommers and it’s a black and white clip from the very first episode in the show. I remember exclaiming to my boyfriend at the time, “SEE! I told you there were black and white episodes”. He shrugged me off and told me I was crazy, it was in black and white to make it look like a flashback and then he dumped me a few weeks later. When Nick at Nite finally started showing the black and white episodes again I was vindicated and I refrained from calling him up and saying, “neener neener neener”.

That last season of Bewitched recycled the scripts from the first season on several occasions, almost word for word. However, there was an interesting exchange that happened several times, usually when someone wanted to make Samantha feel uncomfortable:

Catty woman: “Do you know Dr. Hafner, dear?”

Samantha: “I beg your pardon?”

Catty woman: “Dr. Hafner. He’s a plastic surgeon. Does wonderful nose work.”

Samantha: glaring. “No, I don’t know him”

This exchange pops up several times during the show. I always wondered why Dr. Hafner got so many shout outs.

And finishing this up, “got so many shout outs” probably does not fit into the cultured speech I’m always striving to achieve.