The ‘International Language’

Some people may think the only international language is love.   Wrongo, punks.  What kind of person loves someone they can’t even talk to?

Nope, the real international language is art.  Some of it is international because without words it expresses a deeply held belief or invokes a powerful emotion.  Some of it is international because it has value and meaning to a wide variety of cultures and countries around the globe, even if that meaning is not exactly the same everywhere.  Some of it is international because no one really understands it, in any country.  Regardless, art serves to connect us, whether through response to it, esteem for it, or rejection of it.

A more specific  example can be seen here, relating to the specific art of classical music.  Now, whether or not you are a fan of classical music (or of the NY Philharmonic), the idea of a symphony being a bridge between two very different and often opposed cultures is inspiring to me.  it reminds me of that famous World War Christmas, when both sides stopped fighting and just sang carols back and forth in their disparate languages.  There is a respite, a gift, and a connection we share in music that has power and deep meaning, something of significance that I hope we can learn to develop.

There are studies that show calming effects due to music, and it is also thought to improve brain function in the elderly by stretching parts of the brain that are not typically or as frequently exercised. There has even been some success in the area of music therapy and Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.  Finally, this article paints an even more hopeful picture of the relationship between sound and better health.  Too bad I didn’t see this long one first.

Though it seems like similar types of music are processed by various people in similar ways, musical taste remains a hallmark of individual personality.  Why is this?  Is preference in some way linked to who we are, or who we want to be?  Does the emotion/memory/endorphin rush sparked by music look the same, or mostly the same, in all of us?  Or is some part of that response to music colored by our own preferences, or tastes?  Could music, over time, affect who we are, and if so, does it provide some evidence to a true ‘generation gap’ due to what type of music is popular in our culture at a given time?

Game playing at the glacial level.

So I was reading one of the happy blogs I like, shape and color, (definitely check it out if you have not – there’s always fun stuff there) and discovered yet another wonderful little toy – tetris ice cube trays.  Wha?  How cool is that?  Silicon shells make them flexible for popping out even at low temperatures, so there’s less risk of breaking off one of the ‘legs’ of your little game piece.  While I’m not sure how cool these will actually look in your drink, they are fun melting on the table beforehand.  Besides, who wants ice in their drink?  Ice is obviously for playing with.

So, what other gamable ice is there out in the wide world?  Well, there are the obvious shaped varieties that have always been with us – rounded, rectangular, square, or, for the wildly minded, giant punch-ring bundt-cake shapes.  And those are fun.  Kinda.  Or, in a slightly new iteration, these little various shapes add a bit of fun.  But what can you really DO with them?  Not much.  Also in this vein are the newly popular ‘jewel’ ices.  Can we say pretty pretty princess?  But again, these are really only useful in the drink (though maybe sometime soon some clever diva will turn them into ice ring pops).  There is at least one more step up from mundane ice with these frozen shot glasses – useful, quaint, and fun.  They are highly functional, so you can do something with them.  But they aren’t nearly as playful as Tetris – once they’ve served thier one (or two or three or four, gulp) purpose, they can only be left to melt away.  Or maybe placed into another, larger drink.

Enter the king of playing-with-your-ice:  the indomitable LEGO.  True, thus far there are only the two-by-four varieties, but I see a day in the not-so distant future when every lego shape will be available ‘on ice’ and the world will glow with ice-playing.  Leave your chainsaws, picks, and other ice-sculpture materials at home – I gots lego.

Miss Mumble

Some of you may be familiar with the game ‘Is Miss Mumble Home’.  It involves a group of people (typically children, though not always, especially in my ‘special’ friend group) sitting around and talking to each other.  But like the also-popular ‘Telephone’, it’s about not communicating.  The game goes like this – one person starts by saying “Is Miss Mumble home?” to the person next to them.  The next person replies with “I don’t know – let me ask my neighbor”, proceeding to ask “Is Miss Mumble home?” to the next person in the circle.  And so on.  The trick is this – you can’t show your teeth.  So when you talk, you cover teeth with lips and end up speaking like a toothless geriatric.  If you show your teeth, you lose.  If you crack up so hard that you can’t pass along the message, you lose.

While the game may be good practice for  all of us who plan on living to a ripe old age (and who still wish to converse, listen, and be understood), on some of us it has a different effect.  For me, perhaps it helped fuel my ambition to be a crazy old lady, possibly one with cats.  For others, it may have helped them in daily brushing once they realized they will always want their teeth.  The unfortunate side effect for me was that I can no longer distinguish when I’m talking like a normal person.

My family would say that I’ve mumble from a young age.  However, their definition is slightly skewed.   What they mean when they say ‘mumble’ is not that the words I speak are incomprehensible and unclear.  Instead, the words are completely clear, but the meaning of the words, when placed together, becomes blurred or too long.  When they say mumble, they mean ramble.  Personally I think they just have short attention spans – I know I’ve needed every word I’ve said.  More disturbing however, are recent effects.  Evidently, now I  mumble.  Evidently, now I get tired and talk into pillows.

I know I have a problem.  I know I need help.  But with time (and possibly a few mouth exercises) I will triumph once again.  But  others out there, beware!  Parents especially, please realize that games like ‘Miss Mumble’ can have a lasting and possibly detrimental effect.

I’m still a hick.

So this morning, I was particularly delighted by an old man.  He said ‘hello’ to me and waved as we passed on the sidewalk.  True, he didn’t make eye contact as he passed, and didn’t really smile, but it was still exciting to me – I smiled and waved and said hello back.  See?  It’s nto so hard to be nice, even for cold New Englanders.  Maybe there’s hope for this dreary place after all.

Maybe it was because of the old guy that I noticed people being polite everywhere I went today.  Some mother on the bus said sorry when her bulky stroller was blocking my way, and another one said thank you when I held a door open for her. Some other girl let me get off the train in front of her.  Some guy said sorry when he crossed the sidewalk directly in front of me, cutting me off.  What’s up with that?  Where’s all the gruff coldness I’ve come to know and expect for my time in the icy north?

I guess a part of it is that I see what I expect.  I expect coldness, so I don’t notice when people are polite.  I’ve even caught myself being prickly towards others I don’t know since I’ve been here.  But I’m glad to know I haven’t been completely turned to the dark side.  I’m glad to know I still occasionally do the bumbly-friendly thing and smile broadly at complete strangers.  It’s warming.  I hope I don’t ever lose that.