We Have Reached The Jump Zone: A Rhapsody New Year Special Edition

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Full photo credit below. And I would like to point out that he is wearing flippers.

Can you believe it, readers? The New Year has not even begun, and Rhapsody is already at work, digging up serviceable information and thinking useful thoughts for you, the growing community of friends who gather in our salon. By spring there’ll be enough of us to crowd the small private jet I don’t have! And if you still don’t know quite who is talking at you now, please read All About Me, and be reassured.

This post is a look back at our valuable contributions in 2013, plus an award to boost the ratings, and of course, Rhapsody’s New Year Resolutions.

If you feel inspired by my resolutions (or this fine Tanqueray) to pen some resolutions of your own, you’ll find pen and paper on the sideboard, and a roaring fire in the hearth to chuck them directly into.

Begin as you mean to go on, I always say.

* * * *

In 2014, we’ll have more fun with catalogues (Sundance, consider this a warning shot) but I’m not going to specialize. There are already plenty of talented journalists on this beat, and while taking a hatpin to the balloons of others is fun and extremely worthwhile, it would grow tiresome 25 times a year. That’s assuming we gather in the salon every other Tuesday, with the odd week off for tax-time and spa retreats. We began at a  brisk pace, but blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. (While micro-blogging, it appears, is just several shots of espresso and an amphetamine chaser.)

I wanted to give you some idea of the schedule so you won’t arrive early and find the bar un-stocked. On occasion I may show up ahead of schedule with posts that couldn’t wait, and I’ll be here alone, speaking my beautifully accented Italisize to the four walls, but not to worry. By the end of 2014, Rhapsody in Cool will be the blog everyone—or at least someone—wants to get into.

We may even hire a bouncer.

* * * *

Things I’ve already done for you in 2014:

1. I went to see what tumblr is all about, so I could share its uses and interesting features, which are none. You’re welcome.

2. I re-found blogger Ragen Chastain’s valuable Underpants Rule, which, as guidelines for living go, is as good as any you will find. This rule is frequently broken at Rhapsody in Cool, but we aspire to be better. Here is the main of it, and it is worth your time to go see the full post, with examples: “The Underpants Rule is simple: everyone is the boss of their own underpants so you get to choose for you and other people get to choose from them and it’s not your job to tell other people what to do.”

Beautifully put, Ms. Chastain. We have nothing to add.

3. Lastly, during my family’s holiday travels, I wrote a comprehensive guide for parents called “Creating Pleasant Air-Travel Experiences with Young Children.” The text, in full, is this: “You can’t. So don’t try.”

We’re often tongue-in-cheek here at Rhapsody, but please believe me when I say that there is no experience, save un-medicated childbirth, that will make you more heartily, if temporarily, regretful of your decision to have children, than taking a trip with them on an airplane.

Yes, there are a few pain relieving tips that might help, and you can go find them on other websites if you wish. You might try the visualization exercises you learned in childbirth class, to help you through “transition” – the interval between take off and landing. I have no doubt that imagining yourself atop a rainbow-colored cloud will bring exactly as much relief as it did during labor. More useful may be a spinal block—from the waist up this time. That’ll take the edge off until they roll by with the mini bottles of merlot.

I don’t mean to discourage you. No flight is endless, unless it’s trying to land at O’Hare between the months of October and May. And you can rest easy in the knowledge that you are reducing the carbon footprint of all the other passengers by convincing them that they don’t want children either.

* * * *

Let’s put holiday misery behind us now and move on to the awards ceremony!

The First Annual Rhapsody in Cool Antihero of the Year Award goes to… Mr. Jonah Lehrer.

We give this award to Mr. Lehrer for two reasons. The first reason is that, in 2013, Lehrer has given the world a fascinating example of prodigious talent and baffling hubris. By 2014 he will merely be annoying, so I’d like to honor him now, while any of us still care.

Lehrer needs no introduction, but in case you don’t know him, here’s the stinging Wikipedia entry exactly as it appeared at press time:

“Jonah Richard Lehrer (born June 25, 1981) is a disgraced American author, journalist, blogger and speaker who writes on the topics of psychology, neuroscience, and the relationship between science and the humanities. He has published three books, two of which, Imagine and How We Decide, were withdrawn from the market by publishers after it became known that Lehrer had fabricated quotations. This led to his resignation from his staff position at The New Yorker following disclosures that he had recycled earlier work of his own for the magazine.”

And don’t forget Wired magazine—he cocked everything up there as well. And now, anything that Lehrer published anywhere is being combed for plagiarisms, overgeneralization, manipulation of facts, and misuse of indefinite articles. In short, it’s a feeding frenzy. That is another reason we wanted to give him an award—so he would have something to take home that can’t be retracted, because he didn’t write this and I do not (routinely) plagiarize (anyone but myself) (and only when I have every right to) (but more on that in a moment).

Imagine being just 33 years old, and having the third word after your name in your Wikipedia entry be “disgraced.” It’s impressive, in a terrible way. Most people will do far less in a lifetime than Lehrer has achieved and ruined before he even started to go seriously bald.

Perhaps his most surprising crime was to put words in the mouth of Bob Dylan—that’s Bob “Not Exactly An Obscure Figure” Dylan—in the apparent belief that this would go undetected. To which we can only say, along with Dylan himself, “Jonah, you have got to be kidding me!”

The second reason for our award is that Lehrer is a trailblazer in the art of the reblog, and I do not mean the sort that WordPress encourages us to do for each other as a good turn. You may have thought that the “Press This” button below was a place to leave dry cleaning, but no—it’s an invitation to share this blog on your blog. The Lehrer re-blog, on the other hand, is far dastardlier; it is to copy material one has sold to Magazine A and provide it, as new material, to Magazines B, C and, if you’re really pressed for time, D. At this, Jonah Lehrer is a Jedi master.

I can’t blame him for being confused, which he claims he was. Blogging does feel like throwing the whole pot of spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks. Is a posted word a published word? Is anyone looking? Who on earth can read as many blogs as Jonah Lehrer was at one time responsible for writing? I don’t even read this blog that carefully.

All of which is to say: I’m planning to do a bit of the Lehrer re-blog myself in 2014, and I’m telling you so that if you stumble across what seem to be stolen words from another blog (or Bob Dylan) you won’t fret. I’m only making pirate hats out of my own newspapers, which are mine exclusively. In other words, the editors of The New Yorker and Wired are fine with it, and have said so in the undocumented interviews I had with all of them.

When the news broke about Lehrer’s disgrace, I was right in the middle of reading Imagine, and about the only thing I felt as I dropped it in the return bin at the library (where an editor from Houghton Mifflin soon snatched it up for the book burning at HQ) was pleasure. That little twerp, I thought. Who does he think he is?

Well, it seems Mr. Lehrer and at least a couple of people at Simon and Schuster still thought that he is God’s gift. The arrogant little twat is writing a new book in which he chronicles the experience of lying and being caught! Oh, and love—the book is also about love, apparently. He has a wife, who I’d wager is re-reading every letter and email Lehrer ever sent her, and wondering of he really did think up all that stuff about “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” while working as a lifeguard.

Oh, why do bad things never happen to bad people?

Mr. Lehrer, your books may not deserve any more praise, but this kind of chutzpah should not go uncelebrated. I am honored to present this heavy pair of brass balls to your representatives from Simon and Schuster. We were very sorry to hear that you could not join us in person tonight, as your lawyer advised against it, and also because you are not of drinking age.

* * * *

And finally, before you go, the Resolutions.

 Be it resolved that in 2014:

1. I will stop saying I feel “manic” when what I actually mean is, “I have more than one minor, relatively easy task to complete today.” Let’s all be mindful in 2014 that having to pick up the dry cleaning AND the children in one afternoon doesn’t make you manic; it makes you middle class. In 2014, I will leave psychobabble in the DSM-5 where it belongs.

2. When I encounter any sort of rude behavior or long stream of abusive language, I will adopt Siri’s coolness of tone and simply say, “I don’t understand you.”

3. As for the final and most personal of my 2014 resolutions, a little back-story is needed. In 2013 I made what seemed in the moment like a very, very bad mistake.

It happened innocently enough. While reading a Halloween picture book called “Working Mummies” to Brioche and Tannery, we came to a page depicting a mummy who is a writer. Tannery pointed to the mummy-writer’s laptop computer and said, “That’s like you!”

And quite without thinking, I said, “Yes. I’m a writer.”

Well.

It is true that my work is, basically, to sit at a desk and write things: nonprofity things, short articley things and sometimes (sweet Jesus it’s boring) policy-and-procedurey things. And while it is also true that I have made limp gestures toward the practice of writing for many years, I’ve always felt that calling myself a writer would feel appropriate after I won the Man Booker prize, but otherwise would seem a trifle overreaching.

And now I’d just gone and glibly told my children, those beautiful little bullshit-detectors, that I am a writer. (You may confirm here that the Man Booker prize went to a child prodigy from New Zealand this year, and not, in fact, to me.)

“So,” Brioche asked, “you write books?”

Ah. Uhmm…….let’s see…….errrrr…. No.

 I meant to?

 But I forgot?

 I wish I could?

 I want to but I’m afraid to discover I can’t?

The trouble, dear readers, is that so many people want to write and will never succeed, even though they will try very, very hard. Or they will wish for the courage and won’t find it. Or they will find it and they’ll still be lousy writers.

They will fail. And I could join them. Failure is very embarrassing. To want things that are out of one’s grasp and to reach haplessly anyway—how awkward! And yet, Brioche’s question and eager little face reminded me that there is something potentially more mortifying than failure.

The most shaming possibility of all is that, in the eyes of my children, I am the chicken-shit who to took the class, strapped on the parachute, got on the plane, and is now standing in the open door, directly over the jump zone… refusing to jump.

And so, I have made a resolution. Will one of you please top up my tumbler of gin and courage? I have resolved that in 2014 I will exit this plane, shouting loudly enough that at least a couple of editors may hear me,  “Why, yes, I am a writer!

I am a writer who writes things and either publishes them myself on the great vanity press of the Internet or, more respectably, submits them to periodicals where they are almost certainly “not what we are looking for at this time.”  I will do this cheerfully so that on career day at school Brioche can say, “Yeah, my mom’s a stupid writer. That’s why I can’t have an American Girl doll.”

Pride in our possible failures, readers: that is the thing for this New Year! We must resolve to make our jumps! It may be an arms-wheeling, bloody-hell-screaming, emergency-chute-doesn’t-deploy, smeary mess of a landing, but damn it: I’m going. 

Just as soon as I finish this G&T.

Happy New Year, friends, and may all your jumps be thrilling.

XO,

Rhapsody

P.S. The first Rhapsody Flash-Mob rehearsal will be here in the salon, during our Presidents Day Weekend Blog-a-Thon & Sleepover. Wear jazz shoes.

[Photo: By U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

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