Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Well, here we are deep into On Hold Week, the static period between the big stars, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. It has its own bland traditions.

For one, we're treated to TV and newspaper roundups of major figures who have died in the past year (in the words of a long-ago Utah radio personality, those who have "shot on over.") These quickie features are always good for a brief jolt: either a sincere "Awwww," or the less positive, "Hunh! I thought he had died years ago!"

For another, the Food Channel gears up with increasingly hopeless ideas for "Celebrating Turkey Leftovers." We just won't face the truth: the Turkey stars on big feast days because it looks impressive, it smells wonderful, and it makes lovely gravy. Nowhere in that list do we find the words, "tastes good." So, yes, we have to deal with the leftovers, but no, we needn't be hypocrites, pretending that something that was blah to begin with becomes gourmet grub with the addition of raisins, crumbled rum-soaked fruitcake, or stale paprika.

And surely one of the inevitable two-star hits during On Hold Week is the Predictions List. Everyone seeking 15 minutes of fame gets in line to forecast what the year ahead will hold. Doesn't matter the subject: fashion trends, number of hurricanes, stock market thrills, re-arrangement of sexual partners in Hollywood--someone will forecast the future for us.

My own history of predictions is unlikely to threaten Nostradamus. Still in high school, I passed through the living room one evening to find my parents watching the Ed Sullivan Show. I rolled my eyes, as required of adolescents, and glanced at the act in progress. Some musician was singing mournfully while squirming as though someone had dropped a community of red ants in his tight-fitting pants.

"Well, there's one we'll never hear from again," I sneered. Elvis Presley. Man is more popular now, years after his death, than he was while alive. Strands from a recently discovered hair brush of his were auctioned off for enough money to buy West Texas.

A few years later, just out of graduate school, my roommate and I wanted to buy a television set of our own, instead of continuing to make do with some rabbit-eared reject we had bought at Goodwill.

"Should we maybe get a color set?" Anne asked.

"COLOR! Color TV? That is absolutely decadent! That's just a passing fad to jack up the price! Why would we shell out for some silly indulgence like color!" Um-hum.

About five years later, the word "VISA" began to be heard in the land. A plastic card. Someone's idea to replace "layaway," whereby you gave the store so much money each month and THEN,when it was paid for, you got your winter coat or the striped sofa.

"Do they really think people are going to CHARGE things on this plastic card and pay these VISA folks huge interest? It will never happen," I assured anyone within the sound of my voice. (As it happened, "the VISA folks" drank toasts every year for about fifteen years to my hefty interest payments.)

As for cell phones, well, of course I was wrong on that one, too. Not only wrong, but short-sighted. Dense though I was about color TV and credit cards, I certainly got the knack of them rapidly and indeed avidly. But the simple cell phone, which tiny children now use successfully to call "Gamma" and instruct her to "b'ing cookies," is still pretty much a mystery to me. Mine has about fourteen functions, two of which I understand. (Never the same two in a given week.)

But I did predict one advance correctly.

Perhaps twenty years ago, I was serving on a university committee having something to do with what we then called "correspondence courses." These were courses students could take by mail, doing the work at their homes wherever they might be, mailing in papers and tests and receiving in turn comments and suggestions from the instructor. At one point, I said to the committee, "You know, computer access is increasing everywhere. If we were imaginative and offered courses by computer that would be help college dropouts finish their programs, I think we'd do a great service. In particular, women who were raising families, or working women who had never gone to college, might really benefit from such opportunities."

Frowns. Heads cocked to the side in puzzlement. Slow, deep sighs. ("She's at it again. Women's issues!") A totally unconvincing "maybe." Two "ummm's." And the agenda rolled off on its own course.

Yesterday I checked online. The university mentioned now has five hundred
"distance learning " computer courses--including middle school, high school, and university classes plus others of a non-academic nature and a number of free courses. Hundreds of women have obtained high school diplomas through these offerings, and more have finished college work they began but interrupted. I didn't have a thing to do with any of that, but at least my crystal ball was unclouded for once.

Happy New Year to us all!

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