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shameless pleading





February 2012 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


One question: am I really supposed to mow the lawn in February? It certainly seems to be growing. And when I took the dogs out yesterday, I was absent-mindedly brushing away a fly circling me for a full minute before I realized that a fly was circling me. That ain’t right. I’ve also just realized that my computer is operating, for some unknown reason, with a UK dictionary and wants me to spell “realized” as “realised.” I must fix this, as I have lost a big chunk of my formerly crackerjack spelling ability in recent years and thus may not notice subtle changes in the colour of my prose.

Speaking of losing my mind, right after I was diagnosed with ms a few years ago, I came across a book called something like “Cognitive Impairment in Multiple Sclerosis.” Cheery, right? Bad enough you can’t walk and can’t see half the time, but it turns out you can’t even sit quietly and think convincingly. The book had been written by a guy with ms and proved to be absolutely unreadable, which sounds like a joke, but I think it was because he was simply a horrible writer, not because he had cognitive problems. I also tried to read “Blindsided” by Mr. Meredith Vieira (Richard Cohen), who has ms and seems like a really nice guy, but I had to give up because his writing style reads like the voice-over on a network news report, bland, shallow and impersonally descriptive, which makes sense since he is/was a network news producer.

I had, back then, gone through six hours (!) of cognitive tests at OSU, the verdict of which was that I had developed some quite peculiar gaps in my mental hedgerows. I am unable, for instance, to add long columns of two-digit numbers in my mind, something I used to do routinely in my job at the Catplex. My short-term memory is dodgy, and I tend to misplace the dogs. I also tend to get turned around downtown, which is pretty scary since our town consists of a gas station, post office, one traffic light and not much else. I can never remember which way the high school is. Thank heavens I don’t go to high school.

Sunday in the Park with Treacle.

All of which brings us, inevitably, to Downton Abbey (not to be confused with Downtown Abby, who hangs out in the high school parking lot on weekends). I swear to god that if there were anything else on TV I would never watch this show. But Storage Wars and Shipping Wars and Hoarders have all started to blend together quite disturbingly in my dreams, so we tivo Downton and watch it in small chunks during the week. I think we’re about two weeks behind at this point. I don’t want to flog this thing too badly, because the only alternative is Dog the Bounty Hunter, but someone in the Guardian the other day called it “the Epcot Center version” of England, and that seems about right. In a bit of classic Disneyesque all-your-tie-ins-are-belong-to-us behavior, PBS apparently tried to open a tawdry online gift shop (“Lady Mary knotted pearl necklace and earring set”) on the coattails of the show without permission of the producers and got itself smartly slapped down.

The New York Times runs about one article per week about the show, the most cringe-worthy being one on the rage for Downton-themed viewing parties among the Manhattan elite. (Small world, indeed. I went back to look at that article and noticed that the accompanying photo features John-John ex-squeeze Christina Haag, with whom I worked many years ago.) Now that the huffy Brits have put the kibosh on cheesy Downton swag, I’m sure there are already clandestine tiara-parties on the Upper East Side where far pricier baubles are traded like Tupperware in Des Moines. It’s nice to know the 1% haven’t lost their childlike taste for dress-up, isn’t it?

So, anyway, a biggie in the ms cognitive whammy department is emotional lability, which means that your emotional reactions to small things tend to be hugely out of proportion. Some people, for instance, foam at the mouth and throw things when it rains. I, on the other hand, weep at stupid things on TV. It’s totally involuntary, and the weird thing is that I often don’t feel especially sad, happy, melancholy or even mildly moved when it happens. But if there’s a kid giving his mom a handmade card in an insurance commercial, I start blubbering. It’s mortifying. And infuriating.

And it’s especially infuriating when I watch Downton Abbey, because the show is shamelessly wrenching your amygdala at every possible opportunity with soaring strings and portentous little speeches embedded in a plot so cornball and dialogue so stilted that the part of my brain that still has some standards is begging me to change the channel to My Name is Earl. But no, there I sit, sniveling over some improbable subplot involving implausible characters whose names I can’t remember from week to week. It makes me want to foam at the mouth and throw things.

Onward. In addition to the TWD Facebook page, we now have a TWD Google Plus page, which can be reached by clicking on that big red thing in the right column. Bonus points for anyone who can tell me what G+ is for. It seems to be a cross between Usenet and Twitter.

As always, we depend on the kindness of readers for our kibble, so please consider subscribing. Think of it as a tiara for your mind.

6 comments to February 2012 Issue

  • Sam

    Well, if it’s any consolation, your writing is as adroit and venerable as always!

  • G+ , or Google+, is a mechanism on something called your Google “circles” page for grouping friends and colleagues with whom you share information. By the way, you are always fun to read even if you are going through tough problems.

  • Denise D Simon

    If it’s any consolation, menopause seems to be having much the same cognitive affect on me, only I cry at the Simpsons. You know, when at the end of the show, Homer finally does the right thing and all is forgiven. I lose it every time.

    • admin

      This is the 70th anniversary of Casablanca, but I’m afraid to watch it again (for the 1400th time) because I’d probably end up locked in the basement.

  • Greenwick

    I know Google Plus is some kind of social network. But for its purpose, the only sense I’ve been able to make of it is that G+ is for people who like G+. And the people who sign up for it are those that think G+ is nifty and useful. Apparently its appeal is meant to be self evident.

  • May I say, most kindly, that this viewer of Downton Abbey doesn’t get it. Our family is crazy about other British drama, too. One series worth seeing is Monarch of the Glen — Julian Fellows stars in that. He is a brilliant writer/actor. He wrote Downton Abbey screen play, which you are watching on PBS. We love the characters, but think Elizabeth McGovern could be a little less condecending — She smiles too much! But we give this series a 4-star rating. We love British drama; can’t get enough. Who in the world can compare this kind of entertainment with all the other GARBAGE on our American TV cable. The only really funny show is the new show, The Middle. Have you seen it? But you know, different strokes ! We are all very different in our tastes for TV.

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