Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanks, With Spanks

     We here at the Fortress of Crankitude had a truly wonderful Thanksgiving, for which we are as grateful – especially given our current diets – as a Curmudgeon Emeritus and his Significant Other can be. No, the table didn’t groan under the “traditional” overload of dishes. There are only two of us now, so the C.S.O. no longer “goes to town” with the Thanksgiving repast, preferring to save at least a little refrigerator space for something other than leftovers. Also, how can you spend the whole day cooking when there’s so much football to watch?

     Now for a few assorted expressions of thanks, intermixed with occasional spanks for those who are likely to find coal in their Christmas stockings.

     Like all political commentators, I’m grateful that the Sturm und Drang over the elections is dying down. Oh, we still hear plenty about it from the broadcast commentators...those of us masochistic enough to tune in to them, that is. But the “demonstrations” and “protests” are winding down – cold weather puts a damper on pointless open-air activities – and the Democrats are adjusting to having no remaining bastion of power in the federal government. This isn’t an unmixed blessing, mind you; I’m sure that beneath the quiet there’s a lot of skullduggery-in-progress in both major parties. But at least those boils will take a while to form heads.

     I’m really grateful that the Clintons have, at long last, been reduced to marginal players in American politics. We’ve been coping with those two for twenty-four years, and frankly, enough was enough a long time ago. Neither of them is a viable candidate for high office any longer. Neither of them has anything constructive, or even moderately novel, to offer the nation from their new “positions.” So we can afford to ignore them until the Clinton Foundation and #Pizzagate indictments come down.

     And of course I’m grateful for the deer-in-the-headlights looks on the faces of all the major figures in the mainstream media. They’ve deserved a serious whuppin’ for decades – since the 1980 presidential campaign, at least – and now they’ve received it. Their attempts at self-exculpation are amusing to read and hear. Of course no one in their industry likes to admit to having been a hundred eighty degrees off course. Nevertheless, it’s a source of many chuckles among us on the Right to watch them casting about for someone else to blame.

     Enough of politics. A little gratitude for personal blessings follows.

     I’m grateful for the steady improvement in my health this past year. I entered 2016 in a great deal of pain, totally devoid of energy, and wondering if I’d make it to Independence Day. Yet here I am, reasonably sound in body and mind and chipperer than I’ve been for some years, looking forward to my sixty-fifth Christmas. The C.S.O. attributes it to the diminution of tension and strain since I’ve retired. She could be right.

     Am I grateful for the C.S.O.? Well, of course! (You can put the rolling pin down now, sweetie.)

     I’m especially grateful for new friends. In case it doesn’t come through in what I write, I’m a retiring, rather introverted sort. A natural isolate, really. But earlier this year a mood came upon me that I can’t quite capture in words: an unprecedented determination to make new connections and form new friendships. And lo! What followed is exactly that. Some are near, some are far; all are valued additions to my circle of love.

     I’m also grateful that I’ve mustered enough resolve not to view any of the electronic circulars that have arrived in my email. You see, I made a fair lump of electronics purchases in early November. I was satisfied that I got good prices – I’m no one’s negotiator, being far too eager to make others happy – but as Black Friday approached, I knew there would be markdowns, that they would be heavily advertised, and that they just might address a few of the products I’d been enjoying for the previous three weeks. So it was with considerable grinding of teeth that I deleted all those circulars without opening them, despite the appreciable probability that one or more things I still want would be featured therein.

     Finally, I’m grateful that Fidelity Investments hasn’t managed to lose all my money...yet.

     The provenance of a blessing can be hard to determine, even when it stares one in the face. There was a case just yesterday that remains on my mind for that reason, among others.

     It seems there’s a trend afoot among indie writers to solicit reviews of their books by emailing Amazon reviewers who’ve commented on broadly similar books. I’m not part of that trend; indeed, I wouldn’t touch it with the proverbial ten foot pole. However, as I do post a fair number of reviews at Amazon, I get a lot of solicitations from the abovementioned indie writers eager for reviews.

     As I said in the linked emission on the subject, my customary response has been “You do one of mine and I’ll do yours.” The usual reply to that suggestion has been dead silence. “So silence can, according to the circumstances, speak!” What it says is not complimentary to those who’ve bid for my time and attention.

     Most recently, one of those emailers agreed to the bargain. I rather wish he hadn’t, for when I picked up his book it proved to be genuinely awful. The fellow displayed absolutely no feel for storytelling, plainly misunderstood all the imperatives of narrative construction and the rules of character development, and had produced the most wooden dialogue committed to paper or pixels since the publication of the Canterbury Tales. So at about the one-third mark in his deathless tale I sent him an email that said “We have a lot to talk about,” and attached PDFs of my two nonfiction books on storytelling. That’s the whole of it.

     To shorten a long story somewhat, this gentleman replied in about the snippiest fashion you can imagine. Apparently he’s a retired journalist who’s received a number of awards and is rather proud of his writing skills. Of course he included a dismissive castigation of the book of mine he’d selected. (This one, if you care.) What sort of angry reply would it have been if he hadn’t denigrated my work?

     I could have become incensed. I could have replied in kind or worse. I didn’t. The Mass I’d just attended was far too joyous. Instead I replied that storytelling differs greatly from journalism, wished him the best of luck, and let it go.

     For this, I’m twice as grateful as I am for yesterday’s repast. Not only did I manage to restrain myself under provocation; I avoided the personal damage that a fit of anger has always inflicted upon me. However, that having been said, I’m certain none of the credit for restraint belongs to me personally.

     There are people who dismiss prayer and deny its power. I’ve heard it ridiculed as “a conversation with an imaginary friend.” This little vignette is just one of the reasons I don’t.

     One final spate of thanks and I’ll get back to the principal business of the day after Thanksgiving:

Thank you, Gentle Readers, for your patronage and support over the years.

     You’re not only the reason I do this; you’re the reason I can do this. I wish you all a blessed Christmas season and the happiest of New Years.

     (What’s that you say? What do I mean by “the principal business of the day after Thanksgiving?” Why, digesting, of course. What else?)


ligneus said...

Thankyou Fran, Love your blog and your books and I'm glad your health has improved. To me you're a youngster! I turned 80 this year and I love every minute of it.
My two rules for living.
Keep moving.
Stay cheerful.

Which is easy if your health is good though that doesn't seem to help too many.

brinster said...

I like to think that I'm one of the friends you spoke of, even in a small way. You're a light bringer.
As is ligneus, I'm glad your health has improved and you continue to enjoy its blessings.
Prayer? Speaking to an imaginary friend? Let's put it this way-an awful lot of people prayed for the defeat of that wretched woman. Election Day, those prayers were answered.

Many thanks Francis.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Francis for your wonderful blog. It has been a nearly daily treat to read your writings. It has been most refreshing to get a glimpse of the news from the viewpoint of a fellow Catholic.
Keep the faith in all matters!