Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Thumb Triumphant

Back when I worked in a hospital, I would walk into the nurses' lounge at 3am and find my co-workers text messaging.

How those thumbs flew! How intent and purposeful they were! They could have been texting to the pair of thumbs sitting beside them. Who knew? The owners were not talking to each other, and the only sound in the room was the TV showing dream real estate on House and Garden TV.

And last summer, when I was out visiting, I witnessed another Thumb Fest between a pretty 17 year old, two suitors, and the girl's mother.

One suitor had invited this young woman to a birthday party (hers), and the other one had invited her to a dinner with his mother.

These engagements were on the same night, and mother and daughter were twiddling mightily to prevent a showdown, a scene, and recriminations. What happened I cannot report, for I do not speak Thumb, and no human voice ever told me who triumphed.

In a different time this scenario might have been drama or comedy. Oscar Wilde would have chosen the latter, and his audience would have enjoyed at least two amusing scenes. A Russian novelist would have written a chapter or two, and Jane Austen would have wrapped everything up in a tidy two pages. Raymond Carver would have given it a paragraph, though one sentence would be more likely-

I was thinking about the Thumb's ascendance to human dialogue the other day, and before I knew it I had committed an act of doggerel. Here it is.

The Triumph of The Thumb, by Miss Betsy.

Back when we were apes and lemurs

Killing prey with flying femurs

Thumb and forefinger took a vow.

Through eons,ages,centuries

Never did they work apart.

They aimed the arrow,steered the plow-

They perpetrated Modern Art.

But thumb grew tired

of feeling hired.

Why not strike out on his own?

For he was weary of being cut

By Global knives and cat food cans

Consigned to boredom with the also rans

While other digits took the glory.

And then he saw her-glimmering.

A sly, ambitious little screen

Dressed scantily in silicon.

He touched.

She purred.

"Words are best when they're not heard",

She whispered. Silently.

"You can mummify the tongue!

Make the larynx obsolete.

Show that all that need be said

Is better by a finger led

Than by some vocal, whining bleat

That only ends in Drama.

Once opposed, but now Imposing!

The Future is yours,

Almighty Thumb!"

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Forget the NSA.

If you think someone is watching you-
If you hear footprints behind, you are not paranoid. You have just ordered or are thinking of ordering, or have just clicked on an ad from

Amazon goes where you go, even into the archives of the New York Review of Books. I went there this morning to read an article about Robert Lowell, and every time I scrolled down up came an ad advertising a blue Le Crueset Dutch oven offered at a half price of $149.99.

I clicked on this ad a few days ago,curious about that deep discount. I was not, and am not in the market for another Dutch oven. I have two-one a doppleganger for the pan in the ad. But mine is a Martha Stewart that Miss Betty from work gave me for free because she was too frail to lift it out of her oven.

I would not be worried about this if Jeff Bezos wasn't considering sending out Amazon orders before customers actually ordered. Then, one innocent click of inquiry about a set of copper pans could end up robbing you of your rent money-

And Bezos is also thinking of sending your Amazon orders out via drone. Who will be liable when the drone drops the cookware on the windshield of a minivan full of toddlers? Or on your neighbor's new Escalade-

And apropos of this, I read somewhere on the Internet, and this morning, that drones are delivering six packs to thirsty ice fishermen up in the North country.

Think of it! Beer delivered to your deer blind up in the trees. That might spook the deer,but they were only an excuse anyway to get away with your buddies.