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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Gratitude

[Originally posted on Jan 10th, 2004]

Treppenwitz – remembering something to say after the right moment to say it has passed – is an appropriate theme for this journal, given the sieve which passes for my brain. But occasionally (actually more often than I care to admit), I also experience just the opposite of treppenwitz: The perfect conversation starter jumps to mind, and I blurt it out before having really considered how it might sound out loud. The worst part is that I don’t always notice that the harrowing trip from brain to mouth has transformed the clever thought into something truly thoughtless.

Although our little Yonah has been sleeping more soundly (sometimes 5 hours at a stretch), I still sometimes wander out of the house in the morning with bags under my eyes. This is not to say I have so much to do with him when he comes out for his 3:00 AM curtain call. Zahava has really been quite reasonable about weighing her requests for nocturnal assistance. However, the controlled explosion of activity in our bedroom that surrounds each feeding / changing tends to play hell with my sleep cycle. Even when I technically get a full night of uninterrupted sleep, I miss out on that refreshing deep sleep which the body really craves.

What, you may be asking, does this have to do with saying thoughtless things? Come to think of it, most of you are probably asking what the hell I’m complaining about, since Zahava is the one running laps around the bedroom at all hours of the night. Well, the truth is that I have fallen into the habit of making good-natured jokes about the reason for the bags under my eyes. When asked how the new baby is, I invariably gripe about his sleeping habits (or lack thereof), and make some off-hand comment about looking forward to him sleeping through the night. So far so good, right?

Well, picture in your mind’s eye how these comments and joking gripes would sound to someone who has been trying, unsuccessfully, to conceive a child. Now take a moment to assess the damage these ‘complaints’ would inflict upon someone who has lost a child. Yikes!

Purely by coincidence, I found out that, among my new friends and acquaintances, there are couples that bear the weight of such private sadness. When I feverishly rolled back the mental tape of my recent encounters with them, I am fairly certain I heard the sound of a size 12 penny loafer being noisily munched.

There is little I can do to fix the damage now. They would never dream of pointing out my insensitive behavior, and it would only hurt them again if I were to broach the subject in order to offer an apology. So…I am left to ponder the lesson.

The lesson here is about gratitude. When I find myself trying to sooth an inconsolable baby at 3:00AM, I will walk him another hundred times around our house and thank G-d for the gift of having someone to console. For every time I wake up tired, I will remind myself that there are those who would trade all they have to experience again - or at all – a sleepless night for the sake of a baby. By being ungrateful...I became insensitive.

Note to self: The word to remember is Gratitude.

Posted by David Bogner on August 3, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, August 02, 2004

Here's your sign... and other offenses

[Originally posted on Dec. 30th 2003]

Those of you who know me are aware that one of my pet peeves is people who forward hoaxes, urban legends, bogus virus warnings, and misattributed intellectual property. Anyone who has the ability to commit these transgressions, by definition also has the ability to avoid them. Specifically, if you have e-mail, you have access to the Internet as well!

I know from rereading my old e-mails that I tend to get shrill and strident when dealing with this issue, but I can't help it. With today's robust search engines (google, yahoo, altavista, webcrawler, et al) it takes literally seconds to find out if what you are about to inflict on your entire address book is legit. There is even a great clearinghouse for urban legends called snopes where you can search by keyword or genre for every sort of hoax, e-mail fraud or netlore.

One of the worst offenses (in my humble opinion) though, is attributing one person's work to another. If you forward an e-mail telling me about a bogus phone scam or computer virus, all you have done is waste my time (and perhaps my ISP's bandwidth). If in your haste to send me something funny, sad or beautiful you neglect to tell me who wrote, sang, or photographed it...even that I can almost forgive, since in the process of being passed around it may have become irreparably separated from its creator. There are, unfortunately, a lot of orphaned ideas, images, and music adrift in cyberspace...all well worth sharing.

However, when you forward something attributed to one person that was actually created by someone else - especially if a quick google search would have set things right - well, now you've gone too far.

A famous case that comes to mind is the famous, "Here's your sign" comedy sketch, attributed to Andy Rooney (among others), that has been making the rounds for the past few years. The concept and excecution of this routine was so brilliant, that "Here's your sign" has become a slangy way of telling someone they've done or said something really stupid. The only problem here is that Andy Rooney didn't write it. It is the work of a comedian named Bill Engvall.

Another example closer to my heart is the famous Dennis Miller piece dealing with the concept of news programs that provide a legitimate forum (and by proximity, the kiss of legitimacy) to terrorists. In addition to lampooning Greta Van Susteren, he makes some brilliant observations about the situation in the middle-east. Again, we have a problem because the article was written not by Dennis Miller, but by another talented humorist named Larry Miller.

It is a rare thing to say, do, or otherwise create something worthy of being passed along or quoted. It is rarer still for one's ideas to amass a cult following of sorts. Let's face it...for the few hours, days or weeks that a great e-mail / link makes the rounds, a heretofore unatainable insta-fame is made possible.

In this paperless age, few of us will leave to posterity cigar-boxes full of correspondence. Our great ideas will not turn up in steamer trunks in dusty attics or glued into the back of old picture frames. No...the only shot most people will have at passing along their ideas to the future is if the identity of the creator somehow manages to stay connected with the creation.

'nuff said!

Oh...yes, you can feel free to forward this.

Posted by David Bogner on August 2, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 01, 2004

why this? why now?

[Originally posted on Dec. 22nd 2003]

As the poster child for A.D.D., I have often marvelled at my brain's ability to come up with the wittiest observations and snappiest retorts...minutes, hours, or even days after they have ceased to be even remotely relevent. Worse yet...with most of my family and friends half a world away, I usually get the urge to 'chew the fat' well after most of the western world has gone to bed. Naturally, by the time the sun peeks over North America, my muse has taken a powder.

Therefore, I was amazed to discover that there exists a word that neatly sums up my tardy parries and belated ripostes: treppenwitz.

The English language has no handy word for what the Germans know as treppenwitz: literally, the "wit of the staircase," - those clever remarks or cutting rejoinders that only come to mind once it's too late to deliver them (as one is headed down the stairs and out of the house). *

Now that I had a name for my particular malady...it was only a matter of time before I applied the concept to the A.D.D. sufferer's best friend: The Weblog. With the birth of this 'blog, my muse (who seems to travel with neither watch nor bus fare) will be free to dispense inspiration according to its own schedule, and I can share my thoughts, dreams and experiences with more than an empty stairwell.


* Thanks to Snopes for the working definition I have paraphrased here.

Posted by David Bogner on August 1, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack