Friday Five

1. Pavlov was on to something. In my workplace, the cubes and offices surround a center island made up of filing cabinets. It gives us a place to pack and unpack boxes, which we do a lot. It also gives us a place to congregate – our proverbial water cooler. And what do we office drones do when we congregate? We snack, of course. Our center island is a repository for leftover birthday cake, Munchkins, chocolates and whatever else someone wants to share with the group. (Today it is Oreos!)

I don’t know when the bell ringing started. Someone got hold of a Jeeves-type bell and rang it to alert the department when snacks were available. (I mean, the early bird gets the Boston cream doughnut, yes?) When that bell sounds, we move faster than when the smoke alarm goes off. We are always rewarded! Except the one time when a new girl rang the bell by accident. I don’t know what happened, but I never saw her again.

2. If you find yourself in South Carolina this summer, take a detour to the hamlet of Bishopville just off Route 15 and swing by Pearl Fryar’s place. He loves visitors and will gladly give you a tour. All he wants is for you to “leave a little happier than when you came here.” For the past thirty years of so Mr. Fryar has turned his three acres of land into a wonderland of abstract topiaries. Working 12-hour days at a factory and then crafting his trees by spotlight into the wee hours, he had no previous training except a quick demonstration at a local nursery. So you won’t be anywhere near Bishopville this summer? Check out the documentary made about this extraordinary man:  A Man Named Pearl.

3. I hate packing for a trip. With a passion. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been that way. You think I’d be excited to do it because it means I’m going on vacation. Yet I’ll procrastinate like a pro (Man, look at those dust bunnies. I’d better clean under the bed right now.) getting to the point where I end up running around like a crazy person throwing everything into my bag including the kitchen sink  and then speeding like Jeff Gordon to the airport to catch my flight. So now, I sneak up on myself. I’m about a week out from my vacation, so I’ll begin packing in dribs and drabs, not to overtax my brain. Task 1: get suitcase from basement. Task 2: decide which shoes to bring. Task 3: put half of them back in the closet. Task 4: decide which pants to bring. Task 5: put half of them back in the closet. You get the picture. It’s completely ridiculous and true.

4. The recession may be easing, but the New York Public Library is facing the worst budget cut in history. The  potential $37 million loss means that 10 branches will close, reducing staff by 36%, cutting service from six days to four days, and elminating thousands of programs for children and adults system wide. It’s sad when public libraries have to solicit money and peitions just to stay open. We’ll spend millions of public money for a new Yankee Stadium but let the High Bridge library in the Bronx remained shuttered for months because the renovation funds ran out? We’ll bail out the banks, but let the libraries flounder?

Add your name to the list and click on “Write Your Elected Official.” Tell Mike Bloomberg what you think about the cuts.

To lighten things a bit here’s a fun video from the group Improv Everywhere, which just as their name implies, takes to the streets like a flash mob for the heck of it. In this improv, they show up at the main branch of the NYPL (you know, the one with the lions out front) to stop a bunch of “ghosts” from taking over. Man, sometimes New Yorkers are the best!

5. Every now and then I browse the Corriere della Sera, a national Italian newspaper. Last weekend, I expected to see news on the ongoing nightmare in the Gulf. So this headline on the front page got my attention, “Mucche torturate in una fattoria, choc in USA,” (Cows tortured and shocked in a factory in US) subhead: “L’appello dell’attrice Jamie Lee Curtis” (Jamie Lee Curtis appeals to the owner.) According to the article, the Conklin Dairy Farm is a “factory of horrors” in Ohio.  There is undercover video showing workers kicking, punching and shocking dairy cows that are confined to crates in an almost sadistic fashion. I’ll be honest – it made me sick to my stomach and I couldn’t watch the whole thing. People are outraged, as they should be. A petition to shut down the farm began. Facebook groups and blogs came alive. Here’s the thing: When asked, most people agree that animals should be treated humanely, and they find this abhorrent. But guess what? What happened at the Conklin Dairy Farm is not an anomaly, I’m sad to say. It goes on every day all over the country. Now you know. And now that you know, you can’t not know. What are you going to choose to do about it?

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