Thursday, April 24, 2008


You remember Henny Penny. She was that chicken who kept running around warning the sky was falling, because an acorn hit her on the head. “The sky is falling” has come to indicate an alarmist who's lost touch with reality, or a hysterical gloom-and-doomer.

Guilty as charged. Just call me Henny and hand me an umbrella. Lately lots of acorns seem to be raining down. One in four American teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease. Thousands of children in Angola, Congo and the Congo Republic are being cast out of their families as witches and left to fend for themselves, or even killed. An American kid drops out of high school every 26 seconds. A survey of American teenagers by the education advocacy group Common Core found that fewer than half the respondents knew when the Civil War (that’s the War Between the States to my southern friends) took place. Twenty percent didn’t know whom we fought against in WWII, twenty-five percent couldn’t identify Hitler. The U.S. has five percent of the world’s population but almost twenty-five percent of its prisoners. Something like 47 million Americans have no health insurance. Gas is $3.50 a gallon. Linens ‘n Things is filing for bankruptcy. The latter doesn’t seem so serious, but there are widespread retail store bankruptcy/closures across the U.S. which is going to impact a lot of people. It’s damned hard to find good news.

I read to escape inconvenient reality, so of course I picked up Paris: The Secret History by Andrew Hussey. Fabulous book, but talk about thousands of years of blood running through the streets (and you thought it was limited to the French Revolution). Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. "We'll always have Paris" might not be such a good thing, no matter what Bogey said to Bergman in Casablanca.

So, cheer me up---or wallow in the pit of despair with me. What's your favorite funny book guaranteed to make be smile again? Share your good news or your worries about the future. We’re all in this together. Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

The painting is Gustave Caillebotte's Paris Street: Rainy Day (1877).


Kelly Krysten said...

Stephen Colbert's new book was hysterical. Anything by Susan Elizabeth Phillips guarantees me a smile.
I hope you feel better ,Maggie!!

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Oh, I'm really fine, Kelly---just need to stop reading/watching the news, LOL.

Stephanie J said...

I'm not immune to the issues that we're plagued with in this life, but I'm someone who tries to be optimistic. Not that it always works. But it helps me feel like we're making progress in a lot of places and, hey, we're not a perfect civilization and we never will be. I think it's important that we recognize we have issues in this world (duh) and that people try to work against them. Ok, yes, it's very general and doesn't make anything better to say it like this but it helps me feel better...

Stephanie J said...

Oh! And I love that painting. We analyzed it in one of my history classes back in HS. Rainy days are my favorite!

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Steph, I love the painting, too. It looks so clean and modern to me, almost like a black and white photograph that's been touched up with a tiny bit of color. I'm not familiar with the artist but it makes me want to seek out more of his work.

irisheyes said...

Now, Maggie, I'm trying to be a good positive girl and this blog is giving me the equivalent of a glass of Scotch to an AA member!

I try to be positive. As a kid my brother used to call me punkin' puss! I was always dooming and glooming everything. The DH and I always joke about me being the half glass empty one and him being the glass half full one.

I think my positive outlook on life has increased tenfold since I stopped reading newspapers and watching the majority of what's on TV, especially the news. I struggle with that turning me into an unaware self absorbed individual, but I really can't handle all the nastiness out there anymore.

I'm just now starting to get into MSN online where I can pick and choose the stories I want to read about and not get inundated with all the sensationalism out there.

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Irish, I don't want to bring you down. This is what happens when I'm on vacation and find the world bombarding me, instead of teenagers who want to know if we have a three-hole punch in the library. I've learned to limit my consumption of Time and Newsweek (we subscribe to both)---there are fewer and fewer articles I can read every week because I just wind up seeing a totally empty glass, LOL.

Reading this Paris book just triggered how people have been messed up for ages. There might be no happy ending ever, which is why it's so essential to have them in romance novels!

irisheyes said...

You're not bringing me down, Maggie :) What I meant is that I can be a complainer and I'm trying to cut back, but you're giving me a forum for it that's hard to pass up!

Yeah, I hear you on "it's pretty much always been this way". Every time I hear all the doom and gloom I suggest someone pick up a history book and give an example of when the people of the time didn't think the world was going to hell in a handbasket.

The DH and I have been watching the HBO mini-series ROME. O.M.G.! Talk about living in rough times (not counting the occasional view of James Purefoy's cute little hiney! LOL)

Tiffany Clare said...

Oh Maggie... Stop watching the news. Celeste Bradley's books always put a smile on my face. They make me laugh especially the last four books--the royal four. It's a dark world around the spy's but their lives are full of humour that had me chuckle aloud more than once--they are feel good books.

Tiffany Clare said...

And Irish---it's not James' hiney I'm looking at on pause and zoom--though he needs no zoom seeing as he's hung like a horse :) There is that a happy thought maggie?

Janga said...

Maggie, have you read The Pessimist's Guide to History: An Irresistible Compendium of Catastrophes, Barbarities, Massacres and Mayhem from the Big Bang to the New Millenniu by Stuart and Doris Flexner? It supports your theory that life has always been disastrous.

I have some dark days, but I am generally a glass-half-full girl. Some things I have learned today that keep me optimistic:

1. New research suggests that blogging is good for you; it can help you feel less isolated, more connected to a community and more satisfied with your friendships, both online and face-to-face.

2. Research also suggests that one very positive reading experience can create a reader, that is, a child can read one book that really strikes home and become a reader. I suppose that's one of the things the Harry Potter series showed us.

3. Tomorrow is Red Hat Society Day, Sunday is Tell a Story Day, and Monday is Great Poetry Reading Day and Kiss Your Mate Day. There are lots of things for book lovers, word lovers, and just lovers in general to celebrate.

4. The six-year-old grand just completed reading his 50th book in
2008. :)

irisheyes said...

Wow, Janga. Those are wonderful! Especially #4!!!

Tiff - you ain't kidding, girl! The DH keeps laughing at me. He asked me the other day when I was going to stop screaming "I CANNOT believe they are showing this!!!" I'm wondering now if The Tudors is anything like this. That was going to be my next series.

Tiffany Clare said...

I don't remember seeing anything like that in Tudors. And don't get me wrong, I LOVED that episode (season one, ep. 4) That man ain't got nothing to be ashamed of. Wish he'd show more and more often :)

[ducking and running] Maggie is going to kill me, I've turned this into an manly parts rant.

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Damn, Tiff. We don't get HBO. Trust Tiff to go directly to the important stuff, LOL. And I love Celeste Bradley. Didn't she write that book with the hero and his really heroic, um, THING?

Janga, I don't dare to read that book right now. Imagine my next post if I did! You'd probably all think I was ready to jump off a cliff or something. I have been very sensitive to bad news lately, maybe because of all the election carping, but I'm just going to focus on reading 50 books of my own. Tell that little guy he's terrific!

Irish, things sure have come a long way from when Lucy and Ricky slept in twin beds. *g*

Tiffany Clare said...

Yes she did, Dane was his name, I think. They had to find heroic BOBs of the day to help slowly adjust her to his size. But I liked the one where the guy went for a dunk in a pond and got off in like one stroke just thinking about the heroine. I laughed so freaking hard. I love her books. Total feel good, because they are real people in unbelievable situations. But it's the real people that do stupid things that always gives me a laugh. I love CB

Terri Osburn said...

Well Maggie, you warned me about this one. But it's worse than I thought.

The bottom line is, considering how crappy the world has been forever, we're still here. We're still laughing on a regular basis, finding beauty in things like classic paintings, new flowers, and lovable, 4 yr old readers.

I also suggest cutting back on your news intake. I catch things in snippets so as not to overload myself. I understand there are people suffering all over the globe, but I'd be totally depressed if that's all I thought about. It's not denial, it's sanity.

What I do think about is watching my daughter grow into a beautiful, intelligent woman, someday having grandbabies to play with (you lucky woman!), and getting to read all the books I haven't gotten to sitting in my rocking chair on my own front porch.

Each day I'm lucky enough to wake up, I get another closer to all those things. And I get another day with all of you. It doesn't get much better than that.

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Oh, Terrio, beautiful response! Our families and our friends make everything worthwhile, despite the crazy world crap. I do try to stay positive, but every once in a while I let a little reality creep in. I'm going off to beat it away with a stick now. :)

Terri Osburn said...

Maggie - it's all reality! Even the good stuff. You just have to filter and rationalize. LOL!

Elyssa Papa said...

Great blog, Maggie. I've compiled a statistic from my own observations:

Out of a class of 24 students, you will get 5 students who do homework, projects, and any outside work. And the number decreases when they are seniors.

But the good thing about reading/watching the news is that you are informed and aware of what's going on in the world... once you are ignorant of facts or apathetic to others' suffering, well, that's when the real danger comes in.

We're in rough times with everything that's going on from the war to Star Jones filing for a divorce (*g*), but people who care and try to change things (even if you think they're significant) will right the balance once again.

BernardL said...

I always concentrate on personal positives in a world gone mad. I stopped starvation cold: in my family. I stopped homelessness: in my family. Unemployment does not exist: in my family. No one quit school: in my family. It’s not a question of the world be damned, it’s a matter of not obsessing over a world outside my sphere of influence. I can no more stop the Hutu’s and Tutsi’s from massacring each other, than I can stop the teenager at the end of my street from dropping out of school. Don't beat yourself up, Maggie. You did pretty well in your sphere of influence. :)

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Great perspective, Bernard. Thanks for reminding me. I'm reading Boom by Brokaw right now and it's been interesting to see all the activists and what happened to them. So many of the issues of the sixties haven't gone away, nor will they. The most we can hope for is to treat those around us with respect.

Ely, education issues are really big in Maine right now because of school consolidation. I worry about the kids, because they're not getting what they need to be effective, not because it's not available, but they're not interested. I look upon that really as a family issue. Oprah has said she wouldn't waste her money building an academy here because the desire to learn was just missing, and that comes from parental influence, I think.

Tessa Dare said...

Dang. I hadn't been feeling so depressed, but after all those stats and the comments... yikes.

I hardly watch any news, and I think I'm a happier (or just blithely ignorant) person because of it.

Funny books...sometimes I like to read collections of essays when I need a laugh, like Sandra Tsing Loh's A Year in Van Nuys or Firoozeh Dumas' Funny in Farsi. Like Tiff, I like books with real people - in this case, really REAL people - having misadventures that are a slightly funnier version of my own life.

Marnee Bailey said...

I agree about stopping reading/watching the news. I try to keep apprised of major national news, but everything else I just watch sort of on the sidelines. I feel like the media further irritates our social issues, so I try not to feed the beast.

Bernard - your words gave me a very interesting perspective shifts. Thank you!