?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.


It wasn’t his political opinions or his bravado that brought him down.  Heck, it wasn’t even the complaints about and pay-offs for harassment.  It was money, plain and simple.

When approximately fifty advertisers pulled their support for his program, Bill O’Reilly was done. Personally, I won’t miss him although I doubt he’ll be sidelined for long. Some other network will wrangle a deal with him and his no-spin zone.

I assume “no-spin” is code for straight talk. I’ve never really heard the term explained, although I did a cursory check on the Internet to see how it was used. Mostly I found disgruntled commenters complaining about the abundance of spin in the no-spin zone.  But maybe they were liberals.

O’Reilly was a master of the use of statistics.  He frequently said 85 percent of this or 63 percent of that felt a certain way.  Most often, it was the same way he felt. I have no objection to using statistics – Two other women and I once wrote a book on the topic that was used as a college text — but I do object to their being pulled from thin air. O’Reilly never cited where his numbers came from.

He was remarkably glib with the spoken word, and at one time in his career urged letter-writers to be “pithy” if they hoped to be read on-air. Toward the end, pithy didn’t seem to matter as long as the comments enabled O’Reilly to critique the correspondent. He also deplored “pinheads,” whatever those are.

He had the ability to persuade candidates, activists, lawyers, judges, and just about anybody else in the public eye to come on his show although I’m not sure why.  He rarely let any of them complete a sentence without interrupting. I promised myself if I ever ran for president I would decline his invitation.

And so one part of the nightly ritual at our home is changing. I’m not sure what Earl will do for the eight o’clock hour, but at least I can keep the doors to his office open. Thanks for that, Bill.

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Spring Flowers

We’re almost to May, so most of the spring flowers have bloomed; and Old Man Winter is about to sneak off for good.  He might have one or two more windy grumbles left, but that’s it. Flowers now rule the day.

Some people prefer the surprise of crocus or the yellow of daffodils.  But not me. My favorite spring flower is the tulip.  So last fall I planted almost 200 of them and am now marveling at their hardiness, gracefulness, and color.

I think part of their charm comes from first grade where Sister Mary What-Was-Her-Name taught the class a simple way to draw a tulip for our Moms for Mother’s Day. “Draw a giant letter U,” she said.  Once we all complied, she gave the next instruction. “Now draw a W at the top of the U,” and she demonstrated on the blackboard.  (I understand they don’t use blackboards anymore.)  All we had to do was add a squiggly line for the stem, and we were done. I went home and drew tulips for days.

Granted, once the real ones have bloomed you must wait until the stems and leaves turn brown and soggy before cutting them off. Granted, spent tulips get in the way of mulching and other planting. And, granted, that was never a problem with the paper kind.

Still, I wouldn’t trade today.

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I Went to Boston

One week ago today I flew to Boston to meet my sons, Kevin and Keith, and Lonna, Kevin’s girlfriend. And although it was Easter Weekend, that wasn’t the reason for our gathering.

Kevin had qualified for the 121st running of the Boston Marathon, and the rest of us were his support team. We’d done this three years ago – the year after the bombings – and it was the most emotionally charged public experience I’ve ever had. One of the mottos that year was, “Take back the finish line!” Another was “Boston strong!”

This year’s event, the day after Easter, was no less impressive. Thirty thousand runners took the starting line in various “waves” in Hopkinton and raced through another seven towns and cities to finish in downtown Boston in front of the public library. I believe every one of them, plus the half million spectators who lined the route, felt a psychic connection to 2013 (the year of the bombing) and 2014 (the first year after).

Runners came from ninety-nine countries to participate. The number of countries represented by spectators wasn’t recorded, but obviously this was an event of international attention.  We cheered Kevin on at Heartbreak Hill in unseasonable heat and had our own race to the finish line to be there when he arrived. He beat us.

All week I ignored my emails, didn’t blog, and forgot about the news. What was happening to Bill O’Reilly? North Korea? Ivanka and Jared? It just didn’t matter.

It was the best week since 45 took office.

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This Day in History

Every day of the year probably has significance attached to it sometime in the world’s history. But if you’re interested in what happened on April 13, here are some examples.

In 837 A.D., there was the best view of Hailey’s Comet in 2000 years. This is the most peaceful of all the events I could find that occurred on this day.

Once the Crusades started in the thirteenth century, things took a turn for the worse. There was the Battle of Theiss in 1241, the defeat of the seventh Crusade in 1250; and, in 1556, Portuguese Marranos who reverted to their original Judaic Judaism from Christianity were ordered burned at the stake by the current Pope.

Granted, Handel’s “Messiah” was performed on this day for the first time in 1742; and John Philip Sousa’s “El Capitan” premiered in 1896. But in between, we have had dictators and dire consequences.

Which brings me to today when the United States dropped the Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) on Afghanistan to destroy various tunnels where ISIS hides. The MOAB is the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used, and time will tell what this means historically.

For me, it’s a black mark on Thursday, April 13, 2017.  Next year, it will be Friday, April 13, 2018. And I shudder to think what could happen.

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Sean Spicer

Because I’m leaving for Boston in two days, I spent most of this afternoon at my beauty salon. Got my hair colored and my nails done. Felt pampered all the way.

At the same time, Press Secretary Sean Spicer fielded questions about his comments comparing Hitler of Germany and Assad of Syria in terms of gassing their own peoples. I was utterly amazed at Spicer’s lack of knowledge about World War II and what Hitler did. I also felt embarrassed that I was being pampered while this travesty of facts occurred.

Alternative facts are a narrative of the current administration, and Mr. Spicer certainly is on-board with this approach. So I expect nothing less than what Spicer showed as the mouthpiece for 45.

Still, I’d like to think someone in the employ of our government has done his homework. Hitler gassed his own people, most of them Jewish.  But there were Christians, gypsies, gays, and other dissidents as well. Assad seems to have gassed his own people as well.

I paid for my haircut and nails and left the salon. I’m pleased with the outcome of my afternoon at Reva. But I’m saddened that my experience is so far out of the reach of others in such dire circumstances.

Can you imagine a Syrian refugee enjoying a pedicure? No, neither can I.

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The Age of Hyperbole

You’ve GOT to read this! Watch this to the end and you’ll cry! The best invention EVER!

These are teasers that have come across my radar lately. They’re everywhere.

The BEST improvement in history! Redbox on crack! (I didn’t make this one up.) What will YOU buy with your $50 Easter gift?

If you use the internet or have email, you’re bombarded with messages like these daily. Mostly they’re advertisers trying to get your attention. But the thing is that everyone uses language so over the top, that the promises can never be meet. They can’t even be verified.

When someone says, “You’ve GOT to read this!” I mentally ask myself “Why?” If I break down and read it, I still ask the same question at the end. When I’m told that if I watch to the end of the video, I’ll cry, I know I probably won’t. I don’t watch at all. And when I’m told it’s the best invention EVER, I want empirical proof? Not only that, the proof must be verifiable too.

Other synonyms for ‘hyperbole’ are: exaggeration, overstatement, magnification, embellishment, excess, overkill, and rhetoric. Granted, these all fall short of lying, deceiving, alternate facting, cheating, and being unethical.

Still . . . as a nation it’s sad that we’re addicted to such language.

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Bar Lines

This blog is not about the line for a cocktail at a wedding or an awards banquet. It’s about those vertical lines in music that break it into measures.

You’re probably wondering how this blog came out of left field, but bar lines have given me considerable pause for thought during my piano studies. And since I just finished my daily practice, I’m in the mood to share.

Bar lines help the pianist or trumpeter or banjo player identify a certain place in the music, as each measure has a number. If your teacher says you need extra work on measures 12 through 18, you know where to find them.  Bar lines also help with the time signature in that each measure meets the requirements for the particular signature involved.  For instance, if the time signature is ¾, the music student knows the quarter note (the number on the bottom) gets a full beat and that there are three of them (the number on the top) in every measure. Unless, of course, there’s an anacrusis (an incomplete measure — and a subject for another time).

Bar lines come in various types. There is the standard bar, the double bar, the end, the begin repeat, the end repeat, and the begin and end repeat. They all mean different things and are helpful guidelines in navigating the music in question.

The thing is that while bar lines help with the mathematics of music and avoid pages of repeated measures, they do not help with the dynamics of a piece.  This is because the phrases of played music ignore the bar lines as they move along.

Imagine a sentence like this: Annie loves coffee, but joe loves seltzer.  In English, there are five syllables in each sentence joined by a comma. But in music, in 4/4 time, there are only four beats to a measure.

So, if the above sentence were in musical notation (assuming all notes were quarter notes . . . and often they’re not), it would read like this in 4/4 time.  Annie loves coff/ee but Joe loves/ seltzer. “Seltzer” would be in a different measure; and while the mathematician in me understands that, the musician in me struggles to leap the bar line for the sake of the music.

If you don’t understand any of this, that’s fine. You probably didn’t understand diagramming sentences either. Or maybe you never took music. Just know that standing in a bar line for a cocktail is far easier.

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Lazy Afternoon

In years past, Earl and I would often spend Saturday afternoon sharing some trivial activity.  Like going to the grocery store together.  Or getting a hot dog. Or visiting an antique shop.

I don’t know what happened to that habit, but somewhere along the way – as we became busier with our individual interests – it disappeared.  I admit it was probably replaced with Date Night, that one evening a week when we go to dinner together and I admonish Earl if he checks his cellphone.

Still . . . a casual Saturday in warm, sunny weather is a wonderful thing.  And, spontaneously, that’s what we did today.

First, we slept in with no alarm reminding us that the sun had risen. Then we enjoyed our separate morning beverages – I’m working on trying to appreciate tea – and decided to go out for a couple hours, agreeing to meet at the door at Noon.

From there, we visited a fireplace shop to learn about options for that cozy home addition. We like ours, but it really needs an upgrade. Then we went to Target for lingerie (for me, not Earl) and finally home where I began to make chili with whatever I had in the pantry.

Now it’s pushing 10:00 PM.  We’re both back in our separate worlds: he’s watching television and playing solitaire while I’m reading and writing. But our lazy afternoon still makes me smile.

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A week from today I fly to Boston to meet my sons. One is running in the Boston Marathon the day after Easter, and the other – like me – is coming for moral support. We’ve done this before.

No, we weren’t there the year of the bombing; but we were there the year after. I can still hear the announcer at the starting line yell, “Take back the finish line!” And I still tear when I remember standing at the eight-mile mark and seeing runners who were injured the year before come by to cheering crowds.

It was an experience like no other in terms of community camaraderie.  At the end of the race, Kevin received a medal as did every other finisher. The next day he and I were walking downtown near the now deserted finish line — he wearing his medal — when a homeless man came up to us, telling Kevin how great he was. That man gave us something, instead of the other way around.

With or without the circumstances of recent years, Boston is like no other marathon. It’s historic, treacherous, designed to batter the runner. And bring elation to those who finish.

I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

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Executive Decision

I’m the executive in this headline, and I’m making a decision..

I’ve blogged on and off – but mostly on – since 2004. Back then, my goal was to write every day as a way of keeping my skills honed.  But sometimes I’d fall behind and write four or five blogs to post and catch up. I’m already in this place again, and I was going to post a blog tonight for the missing April 4 and April 5. Then tomorrow I was going to post for April 6 and April 7.

After a four-month hiatus from annebrandt.com, I really want to write about other things than the publishing company I started or my children’s picture book that came out last year. Spending so much time on those projects means I haven’t created new material.

But I don’t want to be tethered to a schedule either.  So I’m telling myself there will be no more catch-up.  If I fall behind, so be it. If a day goes by, there is no second chance. Which means if you read this blog – and really not many people do – don’t get frustrated if you don’t hear from me every single day.

This time around, blogging is for fun. And for me.

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