Best Music of the 1950s

by James Wallace Harris, Thursday, June 22, 2017

If you use a subscription music service like Spotify you have access to tens of millions of songs, but there’s a Catch-22 to that wealth of music. You need to know what to try. I have tracked down a number of sites that use different methodologies to recognize the best music from each year, and below is a grid for the 1950s.

1950s-600px

To use this table effectively, pick a year, right-click on it, select “Open in new window.” That way you won’t lose this page, and you can have multiple windows open to compare each site. Those sites have their own methods of ranking the top album and songs for each year. Each site has different extras and unique values. For example, Discogs is best for record collectors. I like Best Albums for just finding albums to try. Tsort is great for its massive collection of hit music charts.

If you have a subscription music service start playing some of these albums. It’s like traveling back in time. When I was young, 1950s music was my parent’s music, the music I rebelled against. Now that I’ve gotten older, I’m starting to like what they liked, and like well beyond their limited musical tastes.

If you don’t have a subscription music service, click on Play Now which will take you to the Tropical Glen site. It’s a radio station based on years.

Discogs 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59
Best Albums 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59
Top Songs 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59
Challenges 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59
Rate Music 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59
Play Now 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59
Tsort 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59
Wikipedia 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59

This is the second version of this post. I worked on it for days and the WordPress system swallowed it without a burp. I’ve done a quick recreation without all my extra commentary. I’m going to publish it out in stages because I fear losing it again.

JWH

Email Management = Mind Management

by James Wallace Harris, Thursday, June 15, 2016

I’ve helped hundreds of computer users with their email. There’s probably a correlation between how a person organizes their email and how they think. Now, I can’t be the person who casts the first stone because of my own sins. I do better than most, but it’s a never ending war. Sometimes I lose battles and even ground, but over time I progress from chaos to order.

I know very few Zen Masters of the Inbox. The trouble is most folks don’t even know they have an email problem, or how they handle email reflects how they think. It’s like that old belief, a messy desk means a messy mind. Most people I helped are embarrassed to let me see their email program. Doctors see you naked, computer guys see your desktop and how you manage folders and email. That can be just as raw.

Email can be a treasure trove of history, just like old letters used to be. Unfortunately, few people make an effort to save them. Also, your email folder organization can mirror your interests in life. Finally, how you process and save emails can reveal how you categorize subjects in your mind. We all have a limited number of interests in life, If you have an email folder for each suggests a kind of mental orderliness.

email-logo

I learned this week that an email account I’ve been using for over twenty years is going away. I’ve been dreading that because I use email servers as external memory dumps. I’ve had email accounts in various forms since the mid-1980s, and I was on the internet with email years before the web. I’ve had to migrate email a number of times to new servers. I even ran an email server for a while for a couple hundred people. Each time I closed an account I saw evidence of my activities and thinking for a period of years. Moving this 20+ year account is a massive task because I have tens of thousands of messages stored in a hierarchy of folders.

Because I correspond with many internet friends those messages represented my only connection with them. Plus, my sent folder documents everything I’ve written in email since the mid-1990s. In six days it will all be gone. I’ve frantically been going through the folders looking for messages I think worth forwarding to my new account, but I’m sure I will miss thousands of emails that I will one day want to remember. I suppose I could do something wild like moving them all into the inbox, mark them unread, and then set up a POP3 client, put I won’t. I’m using this experience to clean out the past.

I wished I had moved to a large international email provider sooner. Maybe I’ll get to keep this account until I die. It’s a shame our society doesn’t have some way of archiving email history for the long term.

I am learning a lot about what I really need to keep. For example, I have folders for my mother and father’s side of the family, with emails from cousins and aunts. Like old letters, they represent a series of events we all shared. If I was to ever write a family history these emails would be invaluable documentation. I moved very few of those emails. That knowledge will now be lost. When my mother died, I had to decide what paper records to keep. I didn’t keep many. It’s just too hard to drag the past along with us. If it was easier, future historians would love us.

Under my old email account, I had numerous folders for organizing my personal interests and business connections. Plus, I used email as a way to remember things I wanted to read later. Whenever I read something on the web that I want to write about I’d send the URL in a link to myself in an email, and then file it by topic in my email folders. Now that I’m being forced to recreate my folder system I’ve decided it’s time to reduce my interests in life. I only forwarded a fraction of these “memory” emails to the new server.

In recent years I’ve canceled most of my email subscriptions. It’s best to avoid email whenever possible. In this current migration, I canceled all the rest, and only signed up for few of those under the new account. I love reading blogs, but easier to let WordPress manage my favorites. For favorite websites, I rely on bookmarks.

I’m making a top level email folder for all my main interests in life, but I’m learning that some of my interests might need to be forgotten. For example, I collected links to photography how-tos and DIY Raspberry Pi projects, two hobbies I wish I had the time to pursue more, but only piddle with from time to time. I might need to just delete those folders.

Whenever I read an essay that inspires me to write I save the link in an email to myself and file it in a folder. These are the hardest emails to delete. Deleting them is like deleting ambitions. But I need to Marie Kondo them too.

Email clutter is harder to manage than household clutter because we only see it when we open our email programs. Otherwise, it’s all shoved under the rug. Some web based email programs don’t even tell you how many messages are piling up in the folders. They seem to expect everyone to be bad at managing their email.

When I had to consciously decide what sparked joy, and what to delete, I realized just how many connections to the world I’m trying to maintain. Doctors, dentists, banks, retirement investments, warranties, repairs, service shops, taxes, library, streaming subscriptions, shopping accounts, etc.

Email represents our connections to a larger world. We used to keep such business relationships in file folders and then clean them out every seven years. Being forced to change email servers is forcing me to clean out over two decades of files. The trouble is I can’t look at most of them. I just have to hunt for the vital files and hope the thousands that get deleted aren’t that important.

It troubles me that most of my business interests have gone paperless and saved emails might be my only proof of transactions. I’m rethinking going paperless in some cases. If I died my wife might not even find some of my retirement accounts.

When I retired I was told I’d have my email account for life, and I organized my files thinking that would be true. That email life only lasted less four years. I hate having this done to me but I’m trying to look at it positively. Yes, tens of thousands of messages are being lobotomized from my virtual brain, but I can also see it as weight being lifted from my shoulders.

It also means I can redesign my email filing system again to match my current thinking. This might be v. 5. I’ve already thought of one innovation I wished I had made. It has occurred to me that I should have separate email accounts for my personal business and writing activities. And maybe even have different accounts for my personal life and my internet life. Would using multiple email accounts lead to a multiple-personality syndrome?

Some people leave all their email in their inbox and just use search to find old emails. If you don’t remember what you have you can’t search for it. Going through folders and looking at old emails reminds me things I’ve forgotten. Often that’s cool, but other times it’s wonderful to be reminded.

JWH

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing and Aging

by James Wallace Harris, Monday, June 12, 2017

Most skills are best learned young. Few people find initial success late in life. I started this blog a few years before I retired and it has been an enriching educational experience. I consider blogging public piano practice for writing. I hope I’ve gotten better, but I’m not sure. Regular practice should make me better, but aging is traditionally a time of decline. I know there are programs that analyze written texts to give readability ratings, but I wonder if there are programs that rates writing ability that could measure cognitive decline?

writing-engraving

We all know our last years are ones in decline, we just don’t know what it feels like until we get there. And even then, it’s subtle. It’s like that frog in boiling water analogy.

You’d think because writing requires little physical effort I could write for hours and hours, but I can’t. The amount of time I can stay at the computer is dwindling. And I assume that’s a symptom of getting older. However, I’m considering other assumptions. I follow a plant-based diet which helps my heart, but it’s a low-protein, low-fat diet. I’ve wondered if that’s contributing to my declining writing energy. The gurus of plant-based eating argue passionately that their diet restores energy in old age. I hope they are right.

I’m also wondering if I might have something else wrong with me, like diabetes. I get lethargic after every meal and need a nap. But I get blood work done 2-3 times a year because of my cholesterol and my doctor says my sugar levels are always perfect.

I do my best writing first thing in the morning and delay breakfast until after 10 am. Unfortunately, I have to spend some of that morning time on showering and exercising. I have to exercise faithfully to keep my spinal stenosis symptoms at bay. I tend to skip my back exercises if I don’t do them in the morning. I’m wondering if it’s possible to retrain myself to follow a new rut?

In fact, I’m thinking about totally changing up my routines just to optimize my energy for writing. I get several ideas a day for writing projects, so inspiration isn’t a problem. I wish I could write eight solid hours a day. Just two or three years ago I could write 3-4 hours routinely and had occasional bursts of 5-6 hours. Now I’m lucky to have 1-2 hours of writing before my mind fogs. A side-effect of this is I start many more unfinished essays. I could plot the number of unfinished essays. That might give concrete data.

I’d really like to know if this decline is due to aging, a health problem, a mental problem, or something else. I feel like I’m trying harder than ever. I’m sticking to my healthy diet, plus I do physical therapy exercises, Bow-Flex, bike riding, and recently restarted my Miranda Esmonde-White classical stretch exercises too. All activities their proponents claim will give me more energy. But to be honest, I felt more energetic eating junk food and avoiding exercise. However, that led to a clogged arteries, a heart stent, and spinal stenosis. Because of eating well and exercise, my heart has stopped nagging me, and even though I have limited mobility because of my spinal stenosis, I don’t have to take pain meds anymore.

I am managing all my medical problems by doing all this stuff that’s supposedly good for me, which leaves me believing aging is the thief stealing my writing energy. HBO has a new documentary “If You’re Not in the Obit, Have Breakfast” about several high-energy geezers. Man do I envy their energy! The show features Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Dick Van Dyke, Betty White, and others, extolling the excitement of 90+ living! Watching those hyperactive oldsters is inspiring. Why can’t I be like them? Is it genetics? If I’m honest, I have to admit I’ve always been on the low-energy side of the activity spectrum, so I can’t expect to suddenly be a different kind of person.

If my mental energy problem is aging, how do I cope with it? I don’t plan on giving up and becoming a TV addict. This seems to be a Destination Moon problem, a 1950 science fiction film about the first trip to the Moon featuring a problem that I often use as an analogy for many problems in life. The astronauts in this movie used too much fuel when landing on the Moon, so they don’t have enough fuel to get back to Earth. The solution is to jettison all the mass they could from their spaceship. We are often stopped from taking off for our goals because of we’re carrying too much crap that weighs us down.

I’ve come to this same conclusion over and over again. Our desires and possessions weigh us down. I want to write about too many topics. I want to read too many books. I want to watch too many movies and television shows. I want to buy too much stuff. All this saps my mental energy.

Getting old is like being a rocket that has a little less fuel every day for taking off. Exercise and diet have given my rocket a bit more efficiency to use with a dwindling fuel allotment, but I’ve about squeezed as much efficiency as I can out of the process. Now I’m down to throwing stuff out the hatch to lower the ship’s mass for the take-off.

Here’s one concrete example. Susan and I have collected hundreds of DVDs over the years. I have a growing collecting of westerns, science fiction, and classic movies that I love. My mind craves more. Should I spend my time searching out new old favorite films to add to my collection, or spend that time on watching the ones I’ve already collected, or spend that time watching new films I haven’t seen that could be just as great or greater than my old favorites, or should I give up some of that movie time to writing?

My days are divided up between active pursuits of writing and body maintenance, and mostly passive activities of socializing, reading, music, movies, television, emailing, book clubs, web surfing, news reading, crosswords, and other fun pursuits. I have to push myself for the active activities, but find it easy to pleasantly wallow in the passive pursuits. I wonder if less wallowing would translate into more active energy?

What I’ve noticed in these past few retired years is a slow mental erosion. I don’t like that. I know it’s inevitable because I keep an eye on folks older than myself. I know each decade means less energy. I’m sure high-energy dudes like Carl Reiner and Dick Van Dyke notice it too. Charles Dickens used to have so much manic energy that he’d briskly stomp miles and miles all over London when not writing, but even Dickens ran down in the end.

We all know that one day our rocket will not have enough fuel to take off. As we age, fuel management becomes critical, even an art. I believe I reached a stage in life where fuel management demands a whole new level of creativity.

JWH

p.s. – now that I’ve written this I can collapse for the rest of the day into a wallow of pleasant passive pursuits.

 

 

 

 

33 Reasons Climate Deniers Can’t Give In

by James Wallace Harris, Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Yesterday, I read a moving article in the New York Times, “Climate Science Meets a Stubborn Obstacle: Students,” about a student, Gwen Beatty, waging an emotional war of words with her science teacher, James Sutter, over climate change. Gwen’s passion for defending her beliefs made me feel for her, but I agreed with her teacher. For years I’ve wondered why climate change deniers tenaciously cling to their beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence they are wrong.

Gwen Beatty’s unmovable emotional stance is a clue to why deniers can’t give in. At first, I thought deniers were being pugnacious for political reasons, and then I realized there was a religious dimension to their stance. Here are 33 reasons why some climate deniers probably can’t give in.

Creation of Adam by Michelangelo_700

  1. To accept climate science means accepting science.
  2. Accepting science means accepting an indifferent random reality.
  3. Science shows reality is explained by evolution and not theology.
  4. There is no room for God if evolution is true.
  5. Without God, there is no need for Jesus.
  6. Without Jesus, there is no salvation.
  7. Without salvation, there is no heaven, hell, or eternal life.
  8. Without all of the above, there is no need of The Bible.
  9. If these things are true then liberals might be right about other things.
  10. If humans are the cause of climate change then we should fix it.
  11. Fixing climate change requires rethinking capitalism.
  12. To fix capitalism requires more regulations and control.
  13. More control requires a larger government.
  14. A larger government requires paying more taxes.
  15. Solving climate change means abandoning old sources of wealth.
  16. Solving climate change means telling businesses how to operate.
  17. Solving climate change means telling people how to live differently.
  18. If science if right about climate change it’s probably right about other issues.
  19. Humans are causing mass extinctions.
  20. Humans are polluting the planet and destroying the ecosystem.
  21. Humans are overfishing the oceans.
  22. Humans raise too many animals for meat consumption.
  23. Humans mistreat animals.
  24. Humans are ethically responsible for the balance of life on Earth.
  25. Humans, not God, decide what’s right and wrong.
  26. All people are equal regardless of their color, gender identity, or sexual preferences.
  27. That we have to think globally and not locally when it comes to human rights.
  28. That the soul might not come into existence at conception, or even exist.
  29. That it is unethical to let people live in poverty.
  30. That everyone deserves an equal education.
  31. That any kind of discrimination is wrong.
  32. That borders are arbitrary.
  33. That theocracy is evil.

I could go on. I wonder if accepting climate change is an uncrossable line some conservatives have drawn because they know crossing it means toppling the first domino that leads to the 33 beliefs above.

JWH

 

Thrown Off the Grid Kicking and Screaming

by James Wallace Harris, Friday, June 2, 2017

Last Saturday, Memphis was hit by a storm that knocked 188,000 customers off the grid. As of Friday evening, 17,514 are still without power. I’m one of them. However, I’m not doing too bad. A neighbor lets me run an extension cord to his carport. When the storm hit I was without power for several hours, and then it came back on partially. Evidently, one of my two 110 circuits coming from the transformer had problems. So I turn off everything that I could. Things that took 220 just wouldn’t run at all.

On Tuesday I got an electrician to look at things and he suggested I shut down all my circuits that weren’t getting a full 110 volts. He checked each at the breaker box. I had fans, TV, computer, and even the refrigerator (but I had to run a cord to an 110 socket that worked.) Then on Wednesday an MLGW guy came by and told me and my neighbor that our circuits were not working right and he had to pull us completely off the grid for safety reasons. I was bummed. Losing my partial electricity felt like being thrown out of the lifeboat. However, I called my other neighbor and he threw me a lifeline. I’m able to run a fan, a lamp, the refrigerator, and my internet router off one orange extension cord coming through the window.

Several of my friends were without any power for days. Back when we had Hurricane Elvis, Susan and I went without power for 13 days in July and August heat. I’ve had the power go out at this house several times for 2-3 day, in summer and winter. I’ve written about these adventures before “Living Like Jane Austen,” “Blogging by Candlelight and Paper,” and “Are You Prepared for a Natural Disaster?

Living without electricity is no fun but very educational. I’m extremely glad to have my lifeline to Ernie’s house. A fan makes all the difference between misery and comfort. I’ve been reading many books written in the 19th century these last few years and I can’t imagine how people survived without electric power. I would never time travel back to their times. I wonder what future Americans will have that they believe they can’t live without but we don’t know about yet?

This time I have LED lanterns, which are much nicer than candles. And I have a smartphone. One time the power was out I got out an old Sony Walkman and played cassette tapes of old radio shows for entertainment. Having an iPhone 6s Plus has made all the difference this outage. I don’t feel isolated from the internet.

I guess I’m addicted to two grids: electricity and the internet.

Having that extension cord means I’m just barely on the grid. It teaches me what I really want most when it comes to flowing electrons. I have chosen four items: a fan, a lamp, a router, and a refrigerator. The fan is the most essential. I’d let my food go bad before I’d give up the fan.

I’ve been thinking about buying a generator for next time. I hear my neighbor’s out behind my house. They are noisy as all get out. I’d want one that’s quiet or could be made quiet. So I’ve been thinking about how to build a little doghouse for a generator that would protect it from rain, thieves and baffle the noise.

26073005

I bought The Grid by Gretchen Bakke but haven’t read it yet, but I’ve read enough about the book to know the grid will be even less dependable in the future.

I know of five times this house has been without electricity for more than 2 days, but that’s over a twenty-year period. However, with climate change, this could happen more often. We’ve been told this is the third worst outage in MLGW’s history. The main problem is trees and straight line winds or ice storms. This will always be a problem because we have lots of trees and power poles. Moving to a newer neighborhood would help. [Note to self – make sure all future living sites have underground power cables.]

During the storm, I worried about trees falling on the house. More than a hundred came down to block roads around the city. I’ve read about people with holes in their roof trying to survive without electricity. I’m thankful I don’t have that problem. I’m surviving okay, but it’s wearing me down slowly. I can’t cook hot food. I’m down to my last pair of clean underwear. It’s so dark I have to take a lantern to the bathroom. But I shouldn’t whine. Much of the world has it worse than this all the time.

We really should vote to raise our taxes to update and renovate the grid.

JWH

 

 

My Favorite Angels and Ghosts

by James Wallace Harris, Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Have you ever wondered why you watch TV? It’s kind of weird to think about how much we stare at screens. Have you ever analyzed what actually entertains you? Last night I had a friend over to start watching season 5 of House of Cards. I had watched season 1 with her but she leaped ahead through seasons 2-4 without me. As we watched Frank and Claire Underwood I was horrified by the show. Those characters were as depressing as Donald Trump, and I’m definitely not entertained by him. Our current prez has turned me off to all politicians both real and imagined. Then I remembered the movie I had watched the previous night, about angels. Now that was entertaining. And, I don’t even believe in angels.

For-Heavens-Sake-1950-1I suppose it’s rather odd for an atheist to enjoy movies about angels, but I do. I had watched For Heaven’s Sake (1950) with a couple of friends. My friends weren’t aficionados of old movies, so it was kind of them to hang out with me while I had such a good time. I had first seen For Heaven’s Sake decades ago and remembered it mainly for one scene and concept. Back in 2008 when I wrote “Angels in the Movies” I remembered that unique take on angels and wanted to see it again. It wasn’t available. Years later I saw it was out on DVD but the price was too steep. I didn’t buy it, but the urge to see it lingered. The other day I was in the mood for an old movie and saw For Heaven’s Sake was two dollars off, and clicked the order button. It really wasn’t worth $18, but it was cheaper than three people going to the movies. And I laughed out loud a great deal during its 87 minutes, so it was entertaining.

Angel-aThe reason why I remembered For Heaven’s Sake all these years is its unique take on angels. (Of course, the most unique is Angel-A (2005).) For Heaven’s Sake is about a little girl (Gigi Pereau) and boy (Tommy Rettig) waiting to be born, and two angels (Clifton Webb and Edmund Gwenn) trying to assist them. Every movie about heaven, angels, and ghosts have a different theory about how the afterlife works. In this one, kids exist in heaven as angels or angel-like beings before they are born on earth. I thought that a neat idea. Sort of a version of reincarnation. However, seeing the film again last night I heard a line that suggests a problem. Evidently, little angels are created in heaven and begin aging before they are reborn in our realm. If they have to wait too long to make it to Earth they mentally develop in heaven. Clifton Webb tells the little girl she doesn’t want to become a child prodigy and compose music at age four as if that was something nasty.

Many anti-abortionists believe souls are conceived when human eggs and sperm hook up. This movie, as does the theory of reincarnation, suggests that souls exist before birth. Most scientists and philosophers have abandoned the concept of the soul. I like to use the word soul as a label of our sentient/self-aware mind, which I believe develops well after birth. Sentience is a difficult concept, especially if you think about animal rights and artificial intelligence. Stories about angels and ghosts are really speculation about non-human beings, souls, immortality, reincarnation, mind transfers, multiple dimensions, and other philosophical questions. They explore some of the same concepts that science fiction explores.

However, most movies about angels are light-hearted and fun, and this one was too. I tend to over psychoanalyze everything, but then that’s entertaining to me.

the-bishops-wifeThere’s a problem with angel movies. Originally, as told in The Bible, angels were another species of beings that existed with God before creation. Often angels are God’s henchmen, doing his dirty work – his enforcers.  In modern times people believe when you die you become an angel. I don’t know when that idea got started. Two movie classics, It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) and The Bishop’s Wife (1947) seem to be in between on this idea. Clarence has to earn his wings, but he remembers Mark Twain.  Dudley remembers a lot of human history, but I’m not sure if it was from human experience.

Here Comes Mr JordonIn Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), are we dealing with angels, ghosts, or former humans now residents of heaven? The film has a hierarchy of bureaucratic workers who manage heaven and its potential residents. Are they angels? Maybe our culture has repurposed any occupant of heaven to be angels. Me, I prefer angels to be different from humans. Movies like Wings of Desire (1987) (remade in 1993 as City of Angels) have angels envying humans because we can experience things they can’t. Isn’t it ironic that we want to go to heaven, but angels want to come to Earth and live like us? I’ve always loved the title of this book PKD interviews, What If Our World Is Their Heaven. Even though there is great suffering on our planet, what if Earth is the hot destination for the advanced soul?

Mr. BrinkAnd what is Mr. Brink in On Borrowed Time (1939)? Is he death? Or an angel of death? Is he related to the specter of death in The Seventh Seal (1957)? I like Mr. Brink far better. He’s far more philosophical and worldly, and not a strange biblical creature that tags us out when our time is up. Death is played even more suavely by Fredric March in Death Takes a Holiday (1934). In it, Death envies us and tries out being human for a while. In For Heaven’s Sake, Clifton Webb the angel is corrupted by taking human form. Dudley, in The Bishop’s Wife, is also tempted to become human because of Loretta Young.

TopperIn the world of Topper (1937) Cary Grant gets to play a ghost. Strangely, he has some of the same powers as Dudley, the angel he played in The Bishop’s Wife. I think that might be why people are confused by ghosts and angels, they often have similar magical abilities in stories to teleport, appear and disappear, and watch people while invisible. Most of the time angels in movies don’t have wings, at least not like John Travolta in the 1996 film Michael. My favorite fun ghosts are Horatio Prim (Lou Costello) and Melody Allen (Marjorie Reynolds) in The Time of Their Lives (1946), where Abbott and Costello are separated by the veil of death. Do Horatio and Melody convert from ghost to angel when released from their curse?

I wonder why I love movies about angels so much? Generally, I’m not fond of fantasies. I prefer science fiction, but as I’ve written elsewhere, science fiction is a modern substitute for religion. When you think about it, religion, fantasy, and science fiction are fun forms of speculation about what’s possible in reality.

Which makes me wonder if House of Cards is too realistic? I loved Breaking Bad, which was also very realistic, and I cared about Walter White, even though he became a monster. Frank and Clarie are monsters I want burned at the stake. We switched from House of Cards to Better Call Saul and I immediately realized why I liked it better. I care about what happens to Jimmy McGill, Kim Wexler, and Mike Erhmantraut. I couldn’t care less about Frank and Claire. In every scene they were loathsome.

Maybe movies about angels are inherently likable because their stories are about caring about people. Angels are usually guardian angels in most stories. Maybe that’s why people like the concept of angels – they love the idea that someone is watching over them. (Of course, if you think about that, that’s an invasion of privacy. The next time you take a moment out for onanism, just think about what beings might be watching. It does help to be an atheist sometimes.)

I still don’t know why I love movies about angels. If you’re a perceptive reader you might have noticed that most of my favorite angel movies are old, and in black and white. If you’ve seen these films you know they have a certain feel. Maybe I just love the vibes of B&W 1930s and 1940s. I’m not sure I find that same vibe with modern shows. When we watched Big Little Lies I was caught up in the mystery and story, but I found the characters revolting, until the very end, when the show provided a feel good ending, and the characters became likable.

I wonder how Big Little Lies would have felt if it had one additional character, Dudley the angel from The Bishop’s Wife to help those women. Were we better people back in the 1940s?

I’m reminded of this quote from Abraham Lincoln:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Maybe just the idea of angels are the better angels of our nature. Frank and Claire Underwood have no better angels in their nature. And do we when we watch them? My wife has always hated many of the modern TV shows and movies I love because I like stories about complex characters which often means unlikable characters. As much as I hate Donald Trump, I’m sure even he has a better angel in him somewhere. However, watching the nightly news I wonder if all our better angels have flown away to another planet.

I recommend watching On Borrowed Time, a richly complex film, showing both our better angels and worse devils of our nature. And then ask yourself, “How much have we changed since 1939?” Maybe not that much. Is Mr. Smith Goes To Washington that much different from House of Cards? Our entertainment is more explicit, violent, and sexual – but have we really changed? Liberal philosophy has made us better people in many ways, more conscious of the diversity and equality of being fully human. And that’s often reflected in our entertainment.

I think something has been lost. I can’t say what. I believe conservatives are looking for it too, but their nasty belief that the end justifies the means suggests they have already lost their souls. What we watch on TV is revealing. Do people love House of Cards because they despise our government? It’s probably Pollyanna of me to suggest that what we watch does affect us.

Even though I’m an atheist maybe I love movies about angels because I believe humans could be more angelic, even without the fear of God.

JWH

Letting Things Slide

by James Wallace Harris, Sunday, May 21, 2017

Recently I told a friend they were letting things slide.

“What a horrible phrase,” they replied, “it sounds like I’m in a death spiral.”

“I didn’t mean you were going down the drain,” I said. “But you do keep pushing deadlines back.”

Psychology Today defines “letting things slide” as procrastination. Dictionary definitions include, “to ignore something, to not pay attention, put aside, write off, negligently allow something to deteriorate, allow something to go without punishment, to not do anything about something or someone when you should try to change or correct that thing or person.” Evidently, it’s a widely used phrase. By the last definition, if I hadn’t said anything to my friend I would have been letting things slide by not telling them they were sliding.

now-later

Often, offering helpful criticism means getting a foot stuck in our mouth. I then pointed out that one of the side-effects of getting older is letting things slide. My friend hates any suggestion that they’re getting older. They got even more annoyed with me. My wife tells me I’m too happy to accept aging. She says if I’m not going to fight getting old, I should at least not admit it.

I started thinking about causes of sliding not related to aging. I remembered that I started letting things slide more after I retired. I assume it was because I was getting older, but what if retirement causes sliding? What if not having a 9 to 5 structure promotes procrastination and delay?

When all your time is free its very easy to reschedule obligations. It’s also easy to choose pleasant activities over annoying tasks. I’ve known this for a couple years since I’ve been retired longer than my friend, so I was trying to pass on that bit of wisdom. Maybe people have to discover it for themselves.

I even wrote an essay, “Overcoming Inertia in Retirement.” I guess my friend didn’t read it. I often study older people when I get a chance to see if I can spot trends I might be following as I get older. And I do think letting things slide is an aging issue. Older folks generally do much less than younger people. We assume that’s because of health and energy, but what if it’s mental too? Life is about making an effort to get what we want.

What if the wisdom of aging is learning that some things aren’t worth the effort? Or is that a cop out? Maybe we just get tired of making an effort. I know I dream of arranging my future life so it requires much less effort. To put a positive spin on things, maybe we just streamline living as we get older.

Unfortunately, I think it’s more insidious than that. As we age our brains shrink, and we lose neurons and neural connectivity. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise can counter that trend. We actually grow new neurons and make more connections with exercise. I do very little aerobic exercise according to my FitBit. And I do feel I’m in a cognitive decline. That’s why I do things like write essays and solve crossword puzzles to keep what little brain matter I have oiled and active.

If we chart our activity levels across our 40s, 50s and 60s, we can probably plot a line that will show our activity levels for our 70s, 80s and 90s. Research shows we can tilt the slope of that line up if we exercise physically and mentally.

If other words, slowing the slide now means we’ll let things slide less in the future.

JWH