Blah Blah Blog by Jessica Harper by Jessica
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#smartypants

July 25th, 2014

Lumosity2So, I left my retainer in a cup by the kitchen sink to soak. Then I went to adjust the AC but I couldn’t remember where my glasses were. By the time I found them, I’d forgotten why I needed them. I decided to do an alternate task while waiting to recall why I had my glasses on, so I loaded the dishwasher with dishes clustered around the sink, forgetting that the retainer was in the cup.

Still later, in a frenzied search for the expensive retainer, I found it in the bottom of the dishwasher. Luckily I’d forgotten to switch the cycle from ‘Rinse’ to ‘Sanitary’ so the retainer retained its shape, but this episode and many like it inspired me to sign up for Lumosity.

Lumosity is an online brain-training outfit. After sign-up, they send you a daily package of games designed to improve memory and mental flexibility and, you know, just make you smarter. They take you on as a dull blade and sharpen you right up.

To me, the first brain teaser was, why did they call themselves Lumosity when the word ‘luminosity’ is actually in the dictionary and would fit the bill nicely? Why further confuse those of us who are under the weather mentally by dropping a crucial syllable?

I suspect they named this program before they themselves had trained. Anyway, it doesn’t seem to bother the other 2,999,999 other users besides me so I am moving on.

Day 1: In the first game I was asked to remember the names of five people and what they ordered for lunch. Not even when I was a waitress in Provincetown for one month in 1969 were these skills demanded of me, but I guess there’s no time like the present to acquire them.

I did not do well on this game, but frankly I thought Maria looked just like Cathy, precluding accurate identification, so I think that one’s on Lumosity. Also I got too worked up judging their menu choices: Who orders fries and water for lunch? (Someone whose name I can’t recall.)

Day 2: Today started poorly. Not only was I still unsure about the Maria-slash-Cathy thing, but there was also the question of which was John and which was Bob, not to mention the third guy.

Also there was a new game where you have to feed (click on) and keep track of seven constantly swimming fish. If you double-feed a fish you are made aware of it by a most unpleasant buzzer.

All I will say is, it’s a good thing I don’t work at a zoo.

Day 3: I forgot that the piano tuner guy was coming this morning so he interrupted me in mid-game—the fish again—but I’m pretty sure that I’d have done very well had I played undisturbed.

Things went less well after that when I had to guide different colored trains to their matching-colored stations via tracks that intersected and—oh, it’s too hard to explain. Suffice it to say that if you mess up, the train explodes and an alarm goes off, as if to alert passengers that their lives are in the hands of a nincompoop.

I am pleased to report that I saved a few trains from destruction—yes, in the nick of time but still. Others met a different fate but nonetheless I am certain that I am smarter than I was on Day 1.

They asked me again about Maria and Cathy et al (whom I have seen more of this week than I see my closest friends in a month)and I have got this now. I remember their names via outfit details. Cathy favors a cargo shirt while Maria takes a more feminine approach. Next I will zero in on Bob and John and the other one whose name is on the tip of my tongue.

Day 4: Just as I am feeling intelligent re: Cathy and Maria I am derailed by that f—ing train game again, scoring worse than I did before. I think that may have been due to low caffeine levels though. After coffee, I only double-fed two fish.

Day 5: While I was able to congratulate myself for remembering my dentist appointment this morning, my high spirits were dampened by a new game.

Is the purple square the same image as the one you saw one second ago? Or was that maybe a red triangle? Your score is not only based on accuracy but on speed.

You’d think this would be a no-brainer but, easy for you to say, oh, judgey one.

Sometimes your brain just wants to say ‘yes’ when it should say ‘no,’ which, if you have reviewed your past sexual partners you already know.

I know I will get better at this game in time. I also now know who Bob is due to his wristwatch, which John does not wear. I’m solid on the third guy, too. I’ve had no trouble remembering that his name is Richard since I noted his resemblance to Richard Gere.

I’m obviously getting smarter by the minute. By Labor Day? E=mc^2, baby.

By the way, I get that admonitory red line under ‘lumosity’ every time I type it. Spell check’s itchin’ for the real word just as much as I am. Just sayin’.

 




The Feminist Mystique

June 21st, 2014

First I read that feminist icon Gloria Steinem had celebrated her 80th birthday. Then I read that certain young female celebrities were saying in interviews that they were NOT feminists.

I found the juxtaposition of these two news stories mind-bending…read more in my article The Feminist Mystique at Purple CloverLindsayPowerTools_2….

(Also visit Lindsay duPont, whose art you see at right.)




Spring Bombs My Selfie!

April 30th, 2014

Spring!




Thou Shalt Delegate

April 18th, 2014

DiamondCleaningphotoYesterday I saw some online clips of Pat Robertson on The 700 Club, interviewing a rabbi promoting a book.

Introducing him, Robertson said, “What is it about Jewish people that makes them prosper financially? You almost never find Jews tinkering with their cars or mowing their lawns on the weekends. That’s what Daniel Lapin says and there’s a good reason for that and it lies within the Business Secrets Of The Bible.”

This caught my attention.

For one thing, my husband Tom, who is Jewish and prosperous, owns a cherry red ’67 Mustang. This is not the car he depends on to go to work, or anywhere else for that matter. That is because it is utterly undependable. The Mustang requires tender, loving tinkering before every outing. Tom does not perform this task.

For another thing, Tom is obsessed with lawns. Every inch of our property is carpeted, not with sensibly fashionable, drought-tolerant succulents, but with solid green. Tom, however, does not cut grass.

Now, I’m only a mid-level Christian, never a great Sunday school student. I admit it, I skimmed the Bible, so I must have missed its “business secrets.” Tom apparently did not, at least not the one that reads something like, “Thou shalt not tinker with vehicles on Sundays. Summon AAA.” Or the one that was likely in Deuteronomy or one of the other books I skipped: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s lawn mower. Seek and ye shall find a gardener.”

See, Daniel Lapin posits that one reason the Jews are prosperous is that they don’t waste time on irrelevant tasks. As Robertson put it later in the clip, with nodding agreement from Lapin, Jews spend their time “polishing diamonds, not fixing their cars.”

I had to take issue with that remark. My husband is very successful and, as I have said, avoids chores, but I have never seen him polish anything except the hood ornament on his Mustang. Maybe I’d missed something.

I paused the show, took off the lovely diamond studs Tom had given me for my fiftieth birthday and showed them to him. “Tom, if I asked you to polish my diamonds, would you know what to do?”
“Of course,” Tom said. “I’d know exactly what to do. I’d take them to the store where they do that stuff and tell ‘em to do it.”

Pat must not be familiar with that other biblical advice that my husband adheres to: “Thou shalt delegate pretty much whenever possible.”

I resumed watching the clips, to hear Lapin say that God hates retirement, adding, “There is no word in Hebrew for ‘retire.’ The general rule is that if there’s no Hebrew word for it, it’s a bad idea.” He said another example of such a word was ‘adolescent.’

Yeah, I thought, retirement isn’t for everybody. But adolescence kind of is. Who goes from childhood to adulthood without a loop-de-loop through the gnarly phase? Not to offer a word for something so universal doesn’t seem fair.

Reading my mind, Lapin added that there is no word in Hebrew for ‘fair’ either. He feels that it’s fair that there’s no ‘fair,’ that when used in the context of having to “pay one’s fair share” of taxes, the word belongs in the “bad idea” doghouse with ‘retire’ and ‘adolescent’.

I couldn’t help but wonder what that meant for the other uses of ‘fair,’ as in being of fair complexion, like Cate Blanchett or my Aunt Lindsay, or as in fair weather, such as we have ad nauseam in Los Angeles. What about its use in baseball, where a ball is fair if–I’m not sure what, or as in a state fair, a lively gathering in the Midwest where people eat things like fried ice cream?

At that point in the Pat ‘n Dan show I was starting to feel like a Neptunian watching people from Uranus. I switched it off and shut down my computer.

It was getting late anyway. It was time to go polish those diamonds.
.




Flu-flyer’s Redux

March 5th, 2014

Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer From A PumpOn a recent flight to NYC, I acquired a virus as wicked as I have ever had. On the return, I made sure to revisit my personal guide to flu-free flying:

1. Should you by any chance find yourself in one of the ladies’ rooms at the United Airlines terminal, you may hear a chorus of the “Happy Birthday” song floating towards you from the sink area. Do not graciously inform the singers that you were actually born in October. They do not care. They are not celebrating you or anyone else. Their vocalizing is an exercise in flu prevention.

You may have heard on NPR that in order to avoid this season’s swine or bird or bronchial flus, you must not rely on Purell alone. You should wash your hands in warm, soapy water for as long as it takes to sing the birthday song, about 20 seconds. (Although if you can’t remember the words or try to sing it like Alicia Keyes it could take longer.)

2. But let’s face it: the airport is a minefield for the flu-phobic. Even if you wash long enough to sing birthday greetings to everyone in your immediate family, when you leave the ladies’ room you have to deal with the issue of the doorknob. NPR reports that doorknobs are your worst enemies; each one is hosting a virus party.

You can try to open the door with a body part that is not your hands. I’ve used my elbow but found it awkward, and I my feet have limited small motor skills. The thing to do is to wait for some sucker who does NOT listen to NPR to open the door the traditional way (oblivious to the fact that they have just sentenced themselves to a couple weeks of chicken soup and Netflix) and slip out in their wake.

3. But more challenges lie ahead. When you stop at the news stand for your Lucky magazine and Junior Mints, don’t forget that the sales clerk has had hand-to-hand contact with a staggering number of flu-flyers (including the doorknob lady). Give the clerk your MasterCard and it will come back fully loaded. Instead, pick up your purchases, place an adequate amount of cash on the counter and get the hell out of there.

4. Of course, the airplane itself is the worst, each one carrying germs as abundant, varied and aggressive as those in, say, Times Square. NPR says that, on a plane, you are 113 times more likely to get sick than you are in normal life.

They also point out that you should put nothing in the seat pocket in front of you, as that is where all those flu-ish types have stashed their used tissues. (I know, gross, right?) So keep your magazine and mints inside your personal bubble and don’t be intimidated by people who look at you funny when you pull out and put to use the Wet Ones, Neosporin, Airborne, hand sanitizer and Flu-B-Gone.

5. Don’t drink water in flight or you will have to pee. Even if you don’t listen to NPR you know about the airplane bathroom. It’s like a Petri dish in there, and the TSA most likely confiscated your Clorox bottle at security. On a long flight you may have to catheterize but stay OUT of that damn bathroom!

6. In the unlikely event that you get to your destination without picking up the flu or pneumonia or whooping cough or herpes, don’t be smug. Do NOT tell some less fortunate person, someone who DOES succumb that “Prevention is the best cure.” The sick person will find this so annoying, she may even seek revenge. You could wake up with a doorknob on your pillow.

Good luck.




Grey-head Survey

March 5th, 2014

Grey hairIn Los Angeles, older women who do not color their hair to conceal the grey are as rare as leprechauns. I’m not just referring to the celebrities. Take my book club for a random example. In a group of women ranging in age from forty-nine to sixty-four, everyone colors their hair. We are seven shades of brown.

My guess is, if you attended all the book club meetings in all of L.A. County you’d be hard pressed to find a grey-head (or anyone who hasn’t read The Goldfinch). In L.A., we are dyed-in-the-wool dyers.

So when Diane Keaton turned up at the Golden Globe Awards this year with long grey locks, she could not have gotten more attention if she had appeared on the red carpet in her underpants.

Diane’s outing as a grey-head inspired this survey, which is intended for L.A. women or men of a certain age who dye. Please participate (even if you live elsewhere) and feel free to add scintillating personal details. Results will be tablulated and revealed in a future blog.

1. If you did not currently dye your hair, what color would it be? a) The color it was when you were a virgin b) Diane Keaton grey c)Anderson Cooper white d)You have no idea

2. At what age will you consider letting your hair go grey? a)Next week b) When I’m seventy c)When I’m eighty d)When I accept a Golden Globe Award on behalf of Woody Allen or when hell freezes over, whichever comes first

3. What percentage of the L.A. women you know, between the ages of forty and seventy, have untreated grey hair? a) 0-5% b)5-10% c)10-20% d)More than that (if you select d you will be red-flagged for credibility)

4. When you ask your significant other if you should go grey, what is his (or her) response? a)Without looking up from the sports section, they say, “No.” b)They look up from the sports section, examine you briefly and say, “Absolutely not.” c)”Sure honey, that’s a great idea. And no, you don’t look fat in those pants.” d)”Wait, do you dye your hair?”

5. When you see a woman in L.A. with grey hair, do you think she is a)brave b)foolhardy c)a tourist d)way older than you

6. If you stopped coloring your hair, the amount of money you’d save annually would it be enough to buy a)Shoes (at Neiman’s, not DSW) b)A used Toyota c)A Lamborghini Veneto Roadster c)One of the smaller Hawaiian islands

7.If you stopped coloring your hair, the amount of salon time you saved annually would be enough to a)Make lasagna b)Binge watch season 2 of Breaking Bad c) c)Read La Recherche du Temps Perdu in the original French d)Walk to Chicago

Thanks in advance for your responses!




This Week In Birdwatching

January 30th, 2014

OWL-Eagle-Owl-46482007This week in the news there were not just one, but TWO newsworthy, bird-related D.U.I.s.

One drunk perp was a guy who, when the police pursued him, abandoned his vehicle and hid in a tree. When the police approached his hiding place he called out, “I’m an owl!”

It will come as no surprise to you that the cops did not buy this.

In the other case, the drunk driver had his pet parrot in the car with him, who blew the whistle on her hammered owner, squawking, “He’s drunk!” repeatedly. The police did buy this, and made their arrest.

Now, while I would never condone drunk driving, pretending to be an owl is not, by itself, a harmful act. The smarter move, of course, would be to perch in a tree in your own backyard, rather than in one that you need a Buick to get to. But I’m sure the guy learned this lesson and will apply it in the future when he is inspired (or called upon) to impersonate a bird.

But the parrot thing is pretty stupid. I would never go driving with that (or any other) parrot even if I was as sober as Mitt. That is what I call looking for trouble.

I mean, apparently the authorities consider birds credible witnesses. The cops took Polly at her word, without considering that her command of the language might be imperfect. Maybe she says “He’s drunk!” all the time, regardless of her owner’s condition. Did they consider that? Maybe to the bird those words mean the same as “Did you bring the Triscuits?” or “Must you always listen to REO Speedwagon?” Who knows?

I wouldn’t want to risk doing time because of my feathered, so-called friend with a big mouth and a limited vocabulary. When I drive (which I don’t, but if I did) I am definitely leaving my parrot at home (if I had one, which I don’t).




Eyeful Tower Bombs My PariSelfie!

January 1st, 2014

ParisSelfie_1507_2




DMV vs. France

January 1st, 2014

DriversLicenseImage 3One day recently I went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to surrender my driver’s license. This was not because I had one too many DUIs but because, in the ten years since I was last required to renew in person, my vision had declined to illegal status. I knew there was no way I’d pass the vision test; I was DMV toast.

In fact I hadn’t driven in a long time. I kept the license updated for ID, or for potential emergencies such as, say, escaping death by wildfire. (I could drive to safety if I had to, although not without imperiling other vehicles on my route.) Still, it felt sadly final, giving up that little rectangle and the privileges it had entitled me to for forty years. It was in this wistful mood that I entered the jaws of the DMV.

As you know, DMV workers are kind of like the French in that they are notoriously irritable. The French have no excuse: they get to live in France, for God’s sake. The DMV workers do have to sit under fluorescent lighting in an unattractive space for several hours a day. But hen, so do most people, and most people are NOT as crabby as the lady who was delivering information at the Hollywood DMV on that day.

I told her I wanted an ID, not a license renewal, and I explained why. She was almost barking when she gave me a form to fill out and instructed me to “return to the red carpet” when it was complete. As a veteran of many Hollywood award events, these instructions were momentarily confusing. Clarity came when I noticed I was standing on a filthy, maroon square of rug.

“Will do,” I perkily told the woman whom I had mentally nick-named Miss Gulch. (I think that was the first time I have ever said that to anyone outside of an e-mail.)

Finding myself too impaired to fill out paperwork stating that I was too impaired to drive, I pulled a device from my bag that is both magnifier and flashlight in one. Even with this friendly tool visual tasks are slow: it took me twenty minutes to get back to the red(ish) carpet, giving Miss Gulch lot of time ratchet up her impatience.

“So, on the voter registration question,” I started to ask Miss Gulch, ”I already am…”

“Just say NO on line 18, “ she said, her tone suggesting that the top of her head was preparing to blow off. Rather than test her patience further by searching for my reading device and then for line 18, I gave up on the voter thing.

“Now go sit down,” Miss G. said.

“I have an appointment…”

“Yes we KNOW. Go sit DOWN,” she said, at which point she actually lifted her hands and her gaze heavenward as in, “God save me from the cretins.”

My next stop was window 13, which was manned by a guy who had also been trained at the DMV School of Fuck ‘Em. Speaking in the most unctuous tone I could muster, I told him I needed an ID only, as my vision had nose-dived. He checked my papers and informed me I’d put my date of birth on the wrong line.

“Oh, sorry. Where’s the correct line?”

“Top right.”

Without my device, I was lost. “Sorry, where?”

He dropped his head, cradling it in his hands, apparently praying for mercy. (These DMVers talk to God a lot.) Then he took the paper, held it up a couple inches from my face, tapping his finger fiercely on the appropriate spot.

When I had written my DOB close enough to where it was supposed be, he said, “Okay. That’s it. Go to the camera. You’re done.”

“Go…uh…where?”

“TO THE CAMERA. Window 23. OVER THERE.” Poor guy. Only 11a.m. and I’d already given him cause to up his meds.

I just got my new ID in the mail. In the picture, I am smiling like I just won the lottery. That is because, on that day at the DMV, I knew that in three weeks time I was going to be in France, a place where the people are much nicer.




The Goldfinch

January 1st, 2014

GOLDFINCHImage 2If you are a fan of Donna Tartt‘s book, “The Goldfinch,” it’s pretty fun to go see the painting that is the star of that novel, up close and personal at The Frick Collection in NYC. It’s only there for a couple more weeks…

1. Everybody in the book store (including me) is buying postcards (pictured here) for their book club.

2. Tip: don’t check your coat. It’ll take you longer to retrieve it that it did for you to tour the galleries.

3. The exhibit (fifteen paintings by Dutch masters) also features that other picture, you know, the Vermeer with the girl and the pearl, plus a couple Rembrandts and so on. But, as I was immersed in Tartt-land at the time, I was all about that bird…

4. I (emoticon) NYC.

The Frick Collection
1 East 70th Street
New York, New York 10021