Saturday, June 27, 2009

A neighboring Republic

I'm working my way through an interesting book about the formation of the company and brand Republic of Tea.

Nearly a blog of sorts, the book is literally comprised of the correspondence (faxes - a technology that must please go away now) between the collaborators, a finely-aged entrepreneur who built and sold Banana Republic and a young, energized business-hippie. I met the hippie in a business meeting. He's still an interesting guy, but not so much the youngest anymore.

Incidentally, I believe these kind of hippies are called Ecopreneurs now. So says the friend of mine who wrote another book Build a Green Small Business (I'm such a bookworm today - spectacular). And yes, my author friend is definitely a modern hippie, right down to the day he disappeared on the Appalachian Trail and came back as Rip Van Winkle. He did eventually buy a razor.

Part of the beauty in the eponymous Republic of Tea book is the honest passion these guys have for their product -- to their mind their calling -- to improve and spread the word about tea. I do understand. I certainly admire the passion. But the person who loves tea tends to do so with an audible slight towards those of us married to a darker lover.

As one of the authors starts off:

Fueled by coffee, life moved very rapidly for me in that other Republic, so fast that I began to sense I was missing something quite grand along the way. The sensation grew until I could bear it no longer. I was compelled to defect. Fleeing the race-to-nowhere that had been my life, I tasted the joys of existence in a new way - sip by sip rather than gulp by gulp.

I hear you. It's about pace and appreciation. And quality. Most of all quality. But is coffee so incapable of that? Sure, coffee and coffee savants are fused with a certain kineticism that makes tea drinkers uncomfortable. And I can't promise to french press oily beans every morning -- though oh so nice when I can. But to say that we cafiends don't appreciate quality is simply flawed and short-sighted in its own right. Like a ceviche fan disparaging an aged prime rib.

Frankly, it sounds like they were drinking bad coffee too. Bummer. That too can be mended.

So I take umbrage sirs. But I do enjoy your book. And it seems that you've left a market of premium beverage lovers unserved by your fanaticism for leaves alone. Perhaps it's time for me to explore development of a republic of beans.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fear of silence

Because again of my unusual work, I've spent a good amount of time thinking about mental cognition. And the deterioration of it. So literally, about losing your mind.

As it turns out, losing one's mind is one of the most feared and least talked about of all concerns. Short of Nancy Reagan promoting it now, it's the Voldemort* of diseases and fears, the unspoken creeper most likely to attack those actually looking for it.

*Honestly, I find the use of Voldemort foolish here, almost as comedic as Beetlejuice, though I'm sure you understand my pop-culture Bloody Mary reference either way -- and I suppose it seems current even if now a ruined distraction as a reference tool. In this case, my personal stalker is the slasher flick Candyman, which I saw at the perfect time and place to have it seared into my mind as three times more frightening than it ever was. It's horribly out of date for fright-night now, but I still don't talk to my mirror much.

Anyway, losing your mind scares the hell out of people like almost nothing else. I understand. Unless we each find our way to a catastrophic event (personal, regional or global), we should all fairly well expect to *lose things* as we grow old and older.

Effort, exercise, and purchases to the contrary may slow the process, but our grip on the precious will loosen either slowly or suddenly. And while the physical decline looks painful and frustrating, the mental fall is sheer terror.

I won't suppose to know why that fear is so true for others. But I fairly well understand why it cowers me.

I don't want to be alone. Not that much alone.

The same logic that makes solitary confinement an ultimatum and a Texas funeral the consummate theatrical threat makes going dark and muddy in the head outrageously frightening.

We spend more than enough of our lives pushing past the fog of distraction, addiction, misunderstanding and laziness to connect wholly with the ones we love. To cover that clarity with wet sand of undeserved doing is the home-wrecker of all time.

Surely there is punishment enough in the loss itself -- and we will all suffer loss -- but cognitive theft comes hardest because you must watch the fog roll in. You must watch your feet cross the planks. And you must watch the waving loss of love's grip as your ship slowly sails out, and the shoreline recedes into the murk.

It seems fair to be afraid of that. So I am.

And then not to think about it further. So I won't.

No reason to call the Candyman now.
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Reading (aloud) list

One thoroughly enjoyable part of having a three-year-old is reading her bedtime stories. Most nights.

There's nothing but positives about finally getting a previously frenetic child clean, calm, and tucked in. Cuddled up and sharing the same moments I shared with my parents; reading with my father in fact was a favorite, one of the rare very clear memories I have from being quite that young. I even still have a few of the books, A.A. Milne poetry and Dr. Seuss, all too dog-eared to read but safely tucked in the main room shelf with the relics and "literature" -- but their modern twins ready-for-action among the living books in my daughters room.

I love how she jumps in completing the phrases, asks questions, and offers analogy to the continuously evovling social ties of a pre-school world.

You're right, the Grinch's dog Max probably is very much like when Aladesia didn't like having sticks on her head. I hear you Aladesia. I don't want sticks on my head either. Wait, you didn't put the sticks on Aladesia's head did you?...

Good stuff. But here's the catch. Some of these books aren't the blissful little masterpieces I remember (and brought) from my childhood. Some of them are crap. Some are just a little boring. Some were badly translated (let's hope that's the problem anyway). But we have a few, special gifts of course from family members who really must read the books first next time, that are absolutely fucking painful.

Seriously. My loving wife of 10 years, and mother of this beautiful only-child, will literally turn tail and sneak out of the room if our daughter reaches for a prize few of these literary treats. I just try negotiation or delay. And "accidentally" losing the books has been a serious pillow conversation. Haven't had the stones for that. Yet.

Book choice is important. Not surprisingly, you read the book more than once. Possibly more than 100 times or more. Aloud. So a writer that can keep a decent cadence is appreciated. Rhyming is nice but surely not a rule. Emotional range critical. And humor a plus. Isn't it always?

With that in mind, I'll relay a few of my favorites:

1. When We Were Young or Now We are Six by A.A. Milne.
Sure, Pooh bear and Piglet are tremendous also, but you already know that. These were two of the books I read with my father. Certainly something to pass down. My daughter would be subjected to them even if she didn't like them but fortunately it all works. And The Sailor is the motivational speech we all need.

2. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.
The classic. By far my favorite for multiple readings, and amazing to see a small child get the point over time. Fans of Dick Cheney will feel a little knot in the belly here. That's okay, as the book points out, there's still time for you to help repair. Just get to it.

3. Olivia Saves the Circus by Ian Falconer.
We have several of this Olivia series, and they're excellent, even on the 124th read through. I do feel like I'm seeing this guy's whole family though. Except they're pigs. I hope they are all cool with that.

4. 365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental.
I have no clue where we got this story, but it's spectacular. Except for the preachy part at the end, which I typically skip and my daughter doesn't seem to know or mind -- she's too busy counting the penguins. A hilarous story of math and global warming.

5. Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Conner.
Undoubtedly, this book will be better loved by little girls than boys (yeah, you can get all PC on me... but you try to read it to a 3-year-old boy and tell me then). But as a dad reading to a girl, I am quite certain this has earned me some street cred on picking out the right clothes for school. Previous to regular readings of this book, Mommy was consulted as second opinion on every freakin' sock. I make this a must-read for that reason alone.

6. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst.
There are days when I need this book as much as she does. It's like the soulful blues and the therapist's couch of the toddler. Some day you'll grow up to Old Yeller and Shawshank, but for now let's just listen to Alexander and his wistful dreams of Australia.

Good luck with those.