Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Unfortunate news

I had planned to post my thoughts about the plight of Barnes and Noble, pretty much the last standing bookstore chain in the country. If you are from CO, you pretty much know the hard times the ever-determined unique Tattered Bookstore is experiencing.
But that's either tomorrow or something you can read or re-read on-line from Sunday's New York Times. That would save you from having to read my opinion on it all.
BUT...before going to this blog, I stopped by my e-mail account and opened an e-mail from my U.S. rep, Diana DeGette. Stop Komen was the title.
One thing led to another and another, and here's some really bad news - in my opinion, at least.
The Komen Foundation has succumbed to political lobbying. Doesn't it have better things to do - like raising money for research that might lead to the end of some cancers? But here's the article from this afternoon's Washington Post on-line:

The Associated Press reports that Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s leading breast-cancer charity, will cut off its funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates, where the foundation has traditionally paid for preventive screening services.

According to the AP, the move will mean “a cutoff of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, mainly for breast exams.”Planned Parenthood confirms that Komen is the first, and only, organization to cut off funding since the Congress began debating the issue in earnest last winter.

Komen said it could not continue to fund Planned Parenthood because it has adopted new guidelines that bar it from funding organizations under congressional investigation. The House oversight and investigations subcommittee announced in the fall an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s funding.

Planned Parenthood has been at the center of a lot of heated political battles lately. Most center on whether the group, as an abortion provider, should receive government funds for other services it provides, such as offering contraceptives and preventive screenings.

So far, plans to curtail Planned Parenthood’s funds within government have been stymied. Both the Democrat-controlled Senate and President Obama, for instance, stood in the way of House Republicans’ attempts to end Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. Similarly, when a handful of states passed laws that would have barred abortion providers (such as Planned Parenthood) from receiving federal dollars through Medicaid, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services stepped in. The agency has warned states that they could lose all of their Medicaid funding if they implemented such a policy. Those defensive moves have allowed Planned Parenthood to weather various political attacks.

In some ways, the Komen decision isn’t particularly surprising. The group has been under pressure from anti-abortion rights groups not to fund Planned Parenthood. It also hired a vice president last year who had previously advocated for the group’s defunding in her run for Georgia governor. With a congressional investigation underway, Komen pulled its support. And when private institutions move to cut off Planned Parenthood’s funding there’s not much Democrats can do.The only possible backstop here might be pressure from Planned Parenthood supporters pushing back in the opposite direction.

Let's see: I don't like abortions; therefore, women who are getting life-saving breast exams from an organization that supports abortions should be cut off from funding. Hmmm...I took Logic long ago, and even today this little piece still remains a flawed 'IF A, Then B.' Time to get those PROTEST fingers and feet walking and talking - keyboard, phone call, any which way.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Who Has My Numbers?

For the third time in three months, someone has hacked into my financial accounts: November, one credit card got used across the company for expensive Skyping (still don't know what one can do on Skype for $600 a clip; in December, someone managed to cash a large check from me twice; this past Saturday, someone used my only other credit card, and walked away with an Apple computer from CA. In both incidents, I had my credit card in hand while talking to someone from the 800 number. I did get a new credit card this morning, and just in time for the beginning of the month, I have to figure out which bills are automatically paid by the now dead credit card and change to the new one. What other numbers of mine does someone have? Unsettling, for sure.

This leaves time for posting pretty limited, so I'm going to post a one-page paper I just wrote for a workshop. The assignment was to write a page about an external experience that caused internal change. I love writing workshops and can't imagine when I won't be part of one.

But before that, just want to make sure you know some of the facts from this day in history:

1649: King Charles of England was beheaded. They loved those rolling heads in England.
1798 - A brawl broke out in the U.S. House of Representatives and Matthew Lyon of Vermont spat in the face of Roger Griswold of Connecticut. Spat...Now there's a YouTube opportunity missed. Those East Coast men.
1948: Mahatma Ghandi was shot and killed in New Delhi.
1972: Bloody Sunday. Thirteen Irish civil rights marchers were shot by the Brits in northern Ireland.
In that context, the spitting seems pretty minor, doesn't it?

External to Internal. Here it is:
Leaving behind the safe, upscale suburbs of Glastonbury – home of Pratt and Whitney engineers and their families – I maneuvered the car into the scum and slums of Hartford. I parked the racy red Porsche blocks away from my destination to make sure it would be secure. I was on a ‘do good’ mission to save my brother.
As I briskly walked the blocks, head down and pocketbook hidden under my coat, the odor of urine became stronger than the smell of tobacco. Wiping uncontrollable fat tears, blowing my nose, and peering up at street signs, I followed the stench to Seyms Street. I heard raucous adult laughter and the shrieks of joy from children as I turned right onto the block. The lilting voices and Island accents seemed to be calling me to a festival or celebration in a city park. But this wasn’t the path to a party, it was the way to Seyms Street jail, the huge red brick building with two-hundred locks, a holding place for minor criminals who had walked one too many crooked paths.
The line into the jail was rambling and unstructured; people wove in and out, cracking jokes or catching up on gossip. Those with proper identification, a few at a time, were allowed into the visiting room. The happier people appeared to be, the more I cried. Who were these people and why were they having fun on Saturday morning, waiting to see a family member in jail? What was the big joke? Cigarette butts and coffee cups littered the ground. As they got closer to the entrance, the women borrowed one another’s lipstick and ran their fingers through their sassy hairstyles. I had prepared myself for weeks to make this visit, choosing a conservative suit and white blouse to wear, and practiced what I’d say to my brother. I scoured libraries and bookstores to come up with creative, but realistic, ideas on how he could turn his life around. I was armed with Dale Carnegie clich├ęs and robust intentions.
The guard looked at my tear-stained face when it was my turn to enter. My brother, standing behind the locked door, said to the guard, “Don’t mind her, she’s overly emotional and weird.” It was not a good visit; I saved no-one. My lofty ideals and grandiose ideas led to a nasty argument between my brother and me. I didn’t belong with these people. I detested my arrogant, nasty brother.
It took weeks, maybe months, for me to figure out that the other visitors were far more insightful than I. They had left their judgments and lectures behind, carrying instead tales of everyday life that brought a slice of normalcy to the men they were visiting. They offered reprieves, and the gifts of humanity to an inhumane situation. I had brought my sanctimonious, self-satisfied self to a manchild in captivity.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Shout Outs

This past week included the 39th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade and one hundred years of Girl Scout. Both the organization and the Supreme Court decision have had a huge impact on my life - and the lives of almost everyone I know. Here's a shout out to both.
I didn't last all that long in the Girl Scouts, but it is the first place where I ever engaged in community service. Somehow I managed to sign up to read at the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, CT - or maybe it was just to be there and talk with kids my age - I'm not sure. But I am sure I walked from our two-family home on Monroe Street in Hartford to Hillside Avenue. Hopped on a bus and rode to the downtown Hartford bus station; from there I transferred and took the bus to No. Main Street in West Hartford and did my service, such as it was. I must have been in fifth or sixth grade. I remember being proud of that badge and several others. I remember being somewhat horrified for actually taking the 'sewing' badge. I think my mother or aunts must have helped me complete that one.
This is Girl Scout cookie sale time. I've ordered from my granddaughter in West Hartford. I feel quite ancient when I think of walking door-to-door, taking orders, making change, trying to get around the block before my girlfriends did. Still have a little scar where my sharp lead pencil fell through the little hole in my winter coat and stabbed my thigh as I knelt down to get some cookies for someone.
That's so long ago, so mid-twentieth century like.
Here in the States, young kids rarely have the freedom (or necessity) to hop on a bus, transfer and go anywhere. But my parents never had to worry I'd be kidnapped. I'm not sure why, but that wasn't a worry. And if I got lost, I sure didn't have a cellphone. Oh, there were neighborhoods and areas off limits, but that was it.
My mother, father, grandmothers never sold a Girl Scout cookie. I sold them door-to-door. It's pretty amazing to be in a position to write a 'remember when,' 'good old days' tale. Actually, they weren't such good old days, they were just different days.
These days I keep learning from women involved in developing Leadership schools for girls, that the Girl Scouts Organization has moved into a great model of developing leadership in girls. Glad to hear that. AND a special shout out to Girl Scouts of CO, who recognized a transgender girl as a girl and welcomed her in. Been some people boycotting Girl Scout cookies this year because of that, but to me it's all the more reason to cheer and buy those mint cookies.

As for Roe vs. Wade - that changed all of our lives. The Women's Movement surely took a hold of us, and the pure freedom of knowing one would not ever have to think of the horror of getting pregnant, being sent away, or having an illegal, scary abortion changed our lives. Remnants of Catholicism kept me and lots of others on a fairly even path during high school, and those stories of women having abortions with clothes hangers weren't too appealing. So much fear.
But Roe vs. Wade brought options, and who is there that doesn't want an option?
To me, these are times to stand tall for women's right to choice and to defend thinking women.
St. Patrick - St. Anthony's, a Catholic Church in Hartford CT, recently held a mass for anyone who has suffered because of abortion. Wish I could find the posting, because it was a mass of forgiveness - not a mass of choosing to or not to, not a mass to forgive those who made allegedly wrong decisions, just a mass for healing.
I doubt there was papal approval for that, so here's a shout-out to you also.
Hope for the future.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fairness and Class

Didn't someone tell us we were supposed to learn in kindergarten that life is unfair? I certainly agree with Obama's call for economic 'fairness,' but not sure that we all define fairness the same way. I've never thought that life was particularly fair or unfair, but then I don't think that people 'deserve' what they get -- good or bad. Actually I don't even like the word; don't like it any more than I care for the term 'level the playing field.' I suppose it would be nice to level things if everyone were allowed to play, but what about those who don't get to play?

Reading various news articles, journals and blogs I find the talk about class warfare a bit absurd. We must be the only country that believes it is classless (I thought that was part of our foundation), while simultaneously seemingly always involved in class warfare.

Decades ago, my good friend from Massachusetts was encouraged by her mother to only have friends and date boys whose last names were one syllable. "That's how we can tell they are one of us, darling." Not our people. In public, it was all unspoken but well understood. Detente.

But times have changed, haven't they? Class is complex. In the 50's, Joe Kennedy had bags of money, but couldn't purchase class. Impossible. Fifty years later, it seems to me that buying class has become a bit easier, not based on family background with a sterling resume of good deeds, but purchasable on credit.
Money can buy middle class and upper-middle class in this country that has no class structure, but there's still a difference between being wealthy and being upper class.

In the meantime, who is really fighting in this class war? I hear politicians talking about 'blue collar workers'? Do they exist anymore; and, if so, what are they doing in their blue collars? I don't think the poor are fighting the wealthy or the lower class fighting the upper class. Speaking of class, do you remember when the term underclass hit the sociological structure? I think the term came into being in the 60's to describe those people who were truly, truly poor. Beneath the structure, swamp rats swimming in the sewers. Haven't seen the word around much, so perhaps it's been eliminated from the classifications.

I ramble. Rambling is a side effect of watching too much news, worrying about who's in charge and who is going to be in charge. Counting on calming down tonight when I see The Whale at DCPA, a play about a five-hundred pound man. That's a diversion.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What's Happening Here?

Solar storm has come and mostly gone, probably leaving some invisible and undetectable effects on us. I'm choosing to think something positive has come from this storm.
Back to reality and waiting for a miracle from tonight's State of the Union address. Personally, I'd like to see and hear Obama's 'I'm still in love with you' again. Looking for some soul in this election year.

On a totally different note, and a puzzling one for me. I've been having an e-mail conversation with my sister-in-law.  Here's her description of a class she was in last night. I'll follow it with my response, but want to know what you think:

"So I was in class last night and the teacher was going thru the power point and actually made it somewhat interesting.  We were going over good qualities for medical office managers/specialist and one of the points was leadership. She said she could tell who the leaders in the room were and then proceeded to point to the front row-there were 4 women sitting there. hmmm.  When two of those women first walked in they headed for one of the middle rows but then figured out they couldn't see the board very well so they moved up front. hmmm.  and then proceeded to interject answers and cuteness EVERY time the teacher asked a question or made a statement. The woman sitting next to me in one of the apparently loser middle/back rows (where we could both hear and see better) asked me if I noticed she never looks at the rest of the class and then of course us losers in the middle/back rows had a few snarky remarks among ourselves.  After the shout out to the leadership icons in the front- the very back row were not at all shy about yawning out loud and answering their texts. They were pretty good til then. hmmm. Just so you know -the following power point subject was about self-esteem. Really."

So, in between a powerpoint about leadership and another one about self-esteem, the teacher, second day of class, identifies the leaders (the 'you know one when you see one' school of leadership, I guess)? No. Couldn't happen.
I'm convinced this is the teacher's clever experiment - a variation on the Blue Eye experiment. 'Good move,' I thought. One of those experiments to help students understand how certain behaviors can have such a powerful impact. So many experiments, so much to learn.
My sister-in-law is convinced that this particular teacher meant what she said, believes that the teacher really believes those four women in the front row are real leaders.  I still think it must be an experiment. No-one (or no-one I know) teaching a course on leadership, or anything else for that matter, would say such a thing.
 I'm not sure we'll get the answer, but I hope we do. If I'm wrong I'll be taking my already cynical attitude to a higher level.  What do you think?
(Here's a quick synopsis of Jane Elliott's Blue Eye-Brown Eye experiment in case you have forgotten it)

On the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in April 1968, Jane Elliott's third graders from the small, all-white town of Riceville, Iowa, came to class confused and upset. They recently had made King their "Hero of the Month," and they couldn't understand why someone would kill him. So Elliott decided to teach her class a daring lesson in the meaning of discrimination. She wanted to show her pupils what discrimination feels like, and what it can do to people.
Elliott divided her class by eye color -- those with blue eyes and those with brown. On the first day, the blue-eyed children were told they were smarter, nicer, neater, and better than those with brown eyes. Throughout the day, Elliott praised them and allowed them privileges such as a taking a longer recess and being first in the lunch line. In contrast, the brown-eyed children had to wear collars around their necks and their behavior and performance were criticized and ridiculed by Elliott. On the second day, the roles were reversed and the blue-eyed children were made to feel inferior while the brown eyes were designated the dominant group.
What happened over the course of the unique two-day exercise astonished both students and teacher. On both days, children who were designated as inferior took on the look and behavior of genuinely inferior students, performing poorly on tests and other work. In contrast, the "superior" students -- students who had been sweet and tolerant before the exercise -- became mean-spirited and seemed to like discriminating against the "inferior" group.
"I watched what had been marvelous, cooperative, wonderful, thoughtful children turn into nasty, vicious, discriminating little third-graders in a space of fifteen minutes," says Elliott. She says she realized then that she had "created a microcosm of society in a third-grade classroom." 

Watch the program in full in Windows Media and RealMedia

Read more: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/divided/etc/synopsis.html#ixzz1kQXJcbAK
 Final note:  How can you not like a president who can do this:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bouncing and Blasting

So glad I posted my political rant on Friday before the Gingrich Victory in South Carolina. Big victory. I ask again, 'What are those people thinking?' Let's not think about Newt for a while, not even think much about  those weekend football games. I'm pretty psyched it will be a New England/New York game, even though it leaves some of us compromised or conflicted about picking a winner. Let's talk about storms....Big storms.

I'm talking about the biggest solar storm since 2005, a storm far greater than a nor'easter, a midwest ice storm, or a west coast blizzard. This gigantic storm will have a world-wide impact, peaking tomorrow morning.

Rather than posting long articles here, let me just post five sentences from one
Washington Post article by Brian Vastag today:

1.  "...the sun released an even more energetic blast of radiation and charged plasma overnight that could disrupt GPS signals and the electrical grid Tuesday, especially at high latitudes, space weather experts warned Monday morning."

2.  "Already, the storm could be disrupting satellite communications as streams of radiation from the sun bounce across the Earth's magnetic field, which extends above the surface into space.

3. "It's not going to be a catastrophe, but there could be noticeable geomagnetic current induced on the electrical grid," says Michael Hesse of NASA's Space Weather Laboratory.

4.  We expect moderate to potentially strong geomagnetic storming that can cause pipeline corrosion effects and power grid fluctuations, says Doug Biesecker.

5.  What's special about this event is the coronal mass ejection that erupted is by far the fasted Earth-directed event of this solar cycle," according to Bisecker at the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder.

Let me be the first to admit that I don't really know what is going on here or in other articles about this super storm. I don't know what a 'coronal mass ejection' is, don't really know what a plasma cloud is, and don't know what a radiation storm looks like.  But I love the images and can imagine the movie that could/should come from this concept. (guess it's more than a concept, as the storm is apparently happening right now).
How can one not love the image of "streams of radiation from the sun bouncing across the Earth's magnetic fields"? 
The closest I can come to all of this is the experience of being in the ocean during high tide. Standing there, waist high, using all my energy to keep standing as the water pulls the sand and itself from under my feet I know the tides exert enormous influence over the earth.  When the waters rip from under my feet and the sand pull away, I feel physically more connected to the Universe. And then my mind merges with the bodily reaction, and I become, simultaneously, more 'one' and more connected with it all. Imagining the effect of the tides on my brainpower, my thinking, my feelings makes me more alive. How can I not be affected by such power?  Of course I am, but I just don't know exactly what the effect is. Will I be more irritable or more creative, more fearful or courageous?
Today calls for us to imagine streams of radiation from the sun bouncing across the Earth's magnetic fields. Surely those bounces are having some impact on me (and you)...how could they not?  Vastag informs us that 'tomorrow a speeding cloud of plasma and charged particles will blast path Earth.'  Where will we all be when the blast rips by?
It's a rather comforting thing, this thinking about the vastness of it all, how much we don't know, and what we do know. Pretty powerful images, all this bouncing and blasting in the cosmos. Solar storming coming our way

Friday, January 20, 2012

Political Debate Depression

I sure wouldn't want to occupy one. Why didn't I watch Colbert-Cain instead of watching the Republican Reality Roust? 
I justified watching that R debate because I had just gone to the kick-off of Diana DeGette's campaign. and was filled with relief and confidence that the amazing Diana would be re-elected to represent us in CO again in 2012. That wasn't enough. I would have needed a Valium the size of a hockey puck, as Woody Allen once said, to maintain any sort of calm or levity for the two-hour debate.  Truth is, I didn't last two hours. Listened to most of the last half upstairs, where I could hear the sound, but not watch the body language of those guys. Maybe I should have silenced the audio and just watched the facial and body gyrations. But then, without the audio, I could not have heard the audience reactions, and would have missed the real show.
I know I'm from another planet and thankfully I am from another state. Are there Democrats in South Carolina? Are there what we used to call 'moderate' Republicans?
I'll take my chai in CO amd leave the Tea Parties to someone else.
I detest the hysterics in both/all parties right now. Most of my life I've known Republicans who have opinions that are different from mine, and most of my life we've just agreed to disagree and let it go (sounds like one of those 'Some of my best friends are _____.'  But what I heard last night left nothing about which to agree to disagree.
No, I don't think life begins at the moment two people even think about having sex/making love/fornicating.
No, I don't think gay/bi/transgender people should be denied basic human rights.
And, oh, those immigrants ... illegal aliens, as they were called last night....
No I don't think the deportation buses should start up this morning, or that everyone without papers should be given a new pair of hiking boots and sent off on a Mexican, Guatemalan, or other one-way camino.
        I, too, can be hyperbolic.
A long time ago, I declared my blog would be rant-free.  I lied. Sometimes it just feels so good to rant.
Don't get me started on Citizens United.  I'm going to let it all go for the weekend. Hope you do also.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What are the Chances?

Hadn't heard from Winter Pilgrim, Ann Sieben, in a week, so checked out her blog before going to yoga this morning. Here's her post.. sent from somewhere.in Egypt, walking her way to Cairo:

Day 112: Bedouin Bedfellows
"Wandering around in a strangely lawless post-revolutionary society has its challenges of course, but I'll find the silver lining in any situation - I've had many glimpses at ancient monuments, pre-Roman even, and all to myself. The police are gone and the military guard the shoreline... there's general immorality in the towns and when I get frustrated at the young boys throwing rocks at me, the mothers only say boys will be boys and if there are no police to stop them, then that's what they'll do. Every other society I've visited has had the parents stepping up a bit more actively in cultivating their son's behavior. Odd. But the Bedouin families have been taking me in with open hospitality and smiling friendliness under their black face-covering veils. The desert is nice when I can find it and the shoreline duney and tranquil, though absent gulls, seashells, or fishermen. Unexpected. I've passed through Alexandria and am heading toward Cairo visiting the oldest Christian sites I've seen. Otherwise, lots of date palm farms and fig orchards and noisy tuk-tuks careening along sand roads. Computers are hard to find... I'll look again in Cairo in a short week or so. Safe and sound and occasionally up to my ankles in da Nile =) "

Still meeting up with the kindness of strangers, but getting a few hard knocks from the kids. Oh, I'm sure there are tales embedded in that short posting. Under those veils are caring people. Reading this makes me late for yoga, so I stumble in to Dancing the Soul, complaining about my sore knee to no-one in particular:  "My friend's walking through Egypt right now and I'm complaining about a bum knee caused by a short date on a treadmill."
You have a friend walking through Egypt? I'm leaving for Egypt this weekend, on a work assignment for seven weeks," drawls good-looking tall Tony from Texas, just back from a month visit to his kids and grandkids in Texas.
"Oh, I thought you were retired because you and your wife seem to show up here when you are in town."
Texan smile and drawl: Oh no, I'll be meeting over one hundred archeologists when I get there. It's not a well-known site, not a tourist attraction, but it's an important place.
You are an archeologist?
No, I'm an architect. I help figure out how a site is set up, how it might have been constructed. Then the archeologists begin their work.  There's another site, a Ramses space, that we'll be working on next. It's wonderful work.
 It's just 9:00 a.m., time to roll out the mats and stretch those limbs. I've had two Egyptian Encounters and only one cup of coffee.  And a reminder that I never know with whom I might be bending my torso or trying to maintain a downward dog. What are the chances?
Tony slips out of class early, two stretches away from completion. I have two days in which to track him down to get his e-mail to send on to Ann. What are the chances?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How Much Money Does It Take?

To play basketball, baseball or football? How much money does it take to heal an abused child, heal an abused mind, or heal a broken heart? 
I don't know the answers to most of the above, and won't bother looking them up, because Wikipedia has gone blank on us today (hope you are protesting SOPA and Pipa). SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act) was proposed, allegedly, to eliminate internet piracy, but seems to blur some distinctions between piracy and censorship.
But I digress...this post is meant to be about money - specifically about salaries for football players; more specifically, about salaries for football players on the Denver Broncos. Those are the only salaries listed in Monday's Denver Post, so they are the only ones I can talk about with any degree of certainty. It's all Greek to me, and looks like the type of budget I'd think might exist in Greece today.  For some reason, some poor buckled up and padded guy only makes $8000 a year. Hope he's not getting pummeled very often and that he has a weekly job to supplement his income.
On the other hand, there's someone making over $15,000,000 a year and another guy making over $10 millions. And others making millions and half millions.  That doesn't count endorsements or whatever else these players do on the sixteen days they aren't playing football on television.
"Well, their careers are so short and their bodies so ravaged by their 'work' that they need to make that much to support them after their short careers are over. Champ Bailey, at 34, is old for the game."
Champ Bailey's salary is $10,500,000, according to the Denver Post. So, let's give him $20,500,00 for total  two-year career (and his has been a lot longer than that) plus endorsements, etc.
Do you know how many times I'd have to be reincarnated to have made over $20,500,000? All with good karma. What about you? How long would you have to work to earn a salary of $10-15 million?  I know, I know, these are exceptions, but then aren't all the 1% exceptions?
I'm a sports fan, and a fan of entertainment. I'm a Denver Broncos fan.  It's not about them - it's about us. How and why have we allowed such disparity to emerge? I know that an Occupy Sports and Entertainment Protest wouldn't draw many people, and, truthfully, I'm not sure I'd show up, but I still don't get it. Do you?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Float like a Butterfly

 Sting like a bee. Happy Birthday, Muhammed Ali. Seventy years old, and an icon most of his life. He's one of my all time favorites - was a favorite when he was Cassius Clay.
Won a million hearts, not with a punch, a knockout, a funny poem, but by refusing to be drafted for the Vietnam War.  "Ain't no Viet Cong ever called me nigger," that was the line that won him hearts and souls (oh yea, lost him a few also).  No way his war was far away; it was right here, day and night. He did his piece, fighting valiantly, fighting in the ring, but fighting for a bigger prize. 
Several years ago, strolling around DIA, waiting for a delayed flight, I saw a man sitting alone, huddled over some papers and writing. There he was, surrounded by no-one, in the vast new airport. Autographing his name on some 'Five Pillars of Islam' brochures. Walking softly, I tapped his shoulder, bent over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Utter spontaneity. Doubt I could have thought about it and followed through. He handed me four of the autographed brochures. Still have mine, and so do my sons.
I watched Ali on television today, not speaking, looking sadder, older, more bewildered.
Yesterday, we thought of a conversation between MLK and Obama. As good friend Patrick reminded me, what a nightmare for King had he been around for the debate in South Carolina on the day named in his honor. Don't think Muhammed Ali would have considered it much of a birthday celebration either.
I've tried to download "When We Were Kings," a great, great film, apropos of Muhammed Ali's birthday. If it doesn't show up here, try to rent it somewhere.


Monday, January 16, 2012

What Does Equal Mean?

I recently learned from my son Rob that he and his brother thought their dad meant equal in numbers when he said 'All People are Created Equal. Equal as in 4 + 4 = 8.
As the story goes, the kids remember they heard the comment when one of them said something about a Black person on a street in Hartford.
Ian, Rob's best friend, and his sister Jessie thought the same thing. Among the four of them they were tiny babies or yet to be conceived when Martin Luther King was assassinated.
For years, according to Rob, he and Ian would wonder where all the Black people were. Were they in New York or California? Why weren't they in equal numbers where we lived? What did 'equal' mean?
Soon enough they learned what 'all people are created equal' meant and soon enough realized that if all people were created equal something strange happened along the way to make some less equal than others. As young children they marched along in the Freedom parades with little context. They kept protesting once they got the context. Still do.
I love this anecdote for so many reasons. Most of all, it's just a wonderful example of how we, as adults, try to be so clear in our messages to children and how often we all interpret words differently. They were just little kids learning what the equal sign meant in arithmetic and, ever so brightly, transferred what they knew to the present situation. They were sure prepared for 'some pigs are more equal than other pigs' when they got to Animal Farm in high school. Context was crystal clear.
I love the anecdote because it shows how we all learn: we hear something, we question, we talk, and, with luck, reflect, and then maybe move to action, if action is necessary. I love it because it reveals that we never stop learning from children.
All these years later we, as a people,  are still trying to teach and to learn what 'equal' means. It's so simple in arithmetic, so complex when it comes to living.
Thomas Jefferson, maybe borrowing some of the phrase from a friend, gets the nod for first speaking the phrase 'All men are created equal' and Ben Franklin tweaked the text just a tad and Martin Luther King issued the wake-up call, the call to remember and live up to the words of our Constitution.
It's been a long march, from and through civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, disability rights (both physical and mental), athletic rights, transgender rights, animal rights, planet rights,  and more to come.
Martin Luther King once said the work will never be done. It won't, so that's why we have to keep on working.
I don't know what Martin Luther King would think if he showed up these 44 years later. If he got here after the statue of him was revealed in Washington DC, but before some misquotes were rectified (within the next 30 days), he would surely be happy to know the statue is there and the words will be edited within the next thirty days. What would he and Barack Obama talk about? What would he think of our current political situation? We can't know of course, but we can do something today and every day to keep the dream alive, to keep on the path to Equality.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Who Is the Character?

Yesterday afternoon, I took my first acting class. No, I don't think Steve Spielberg or the Coen Brothers are looking for an old, short, white woman with white hair to playing a leading role - an ingenue, if you will.
But life requires us to play many parts, doesn't it? I want to make sure I play all mine as well as I can.
Actually, I thought it would be a class about reading (silently) plays at home and talking about them in class.
Turns out we will read some plays and take some roles and read segments out loud. Acting. I'm flexible. I can read and I can talk.
Having never read one Agatha Christie play, I, of course, am assigned the role of Molly in The Mousetrap. Not only have I never read a Christie play, but I absolutely refused to see the long playing, beloved Mousetrap while we lived in London.
So that you can join me, here's a summary of our first handout on acting, taken from Uta Hagen's A Challenge for the Actor.  The Six Steps
      1.  Who Am I?
      2.  What are the circumstances?
      3.  What are my relationships?
      4.  What are my goals?
      5.  What is my obstacle?
      6.  What do I do to get what I want?
Is it possible that I will be able to answer those questions for Molly when I can't answer them for myself? Who am I?..It's a daily question. I don't know Molly; haven't ever heard her speak.  Couldn't I be Molly Bloom, with one of the most famous soliloquies in the western world?  I would practice those seven words, 'yes I said yes I will yes' all weekend long and not have to wonder who Molly Bloom is. But here I am with Mousetrap Molly and me, trying to figure out who we both are.
What roles will you play for the weekend?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Those Lying Eyes

"You can't hide those lying eyes and your smile is a thin disguise." I can hear The Eagles singing right now.
The song has been stalking my brain ever since last Thursday. Within ten minutes of meeting two friends for coffee, after a couple of sips of double shot lattes and non-fat chai, we couldn't interrupt one another fast enough with our varied stories about lies.  Actually, it was like a Three Bears scenario - one had stories about children lying (otherwise known as not quite separating reality and fantasy), another about adolescent lies (bountiful, defended by a sense of self-justification) and huge adult lies (felonies, embezzlement, business fraud). BIG LIES, not those piddling 'oh, you look great' or 'I handed in my homework or 'the check is in the mail.'
I know, some people would say a lie is a lie, but once I learned about venial and mortal sins as a little girl, once I realized I wouldn't go to hell no matter what, I found it justifiable to rank order types of lies and other misdemeanors.
What is it about lying and why do people, even little kids, tell tall stories, make things up, i.e. lie? What makes some people continue with the big lies and cheating all of their lives and other grow out of that temporary inability to separate the real from make-believe, the fact from fiction?
True confession: I think I lied a lot when I was a teenager. Not mean lies, just "Oh, Can I please sleep at Judy's house tonight?" which meant "Judy is telling her mother she is sleeping here, and we are all going to the beach overnight." Most of the time I got caught, because my mother was no fool. But it never dawned on me, not for a nano-second, that I hurt her feelings when I lied to her. Never. Her feelings never came into it. Getting to the beach was all that mattered. Don't know as I even considered those exchanges as lies, just a sort of bargaining to get what I wanted.
But, the big adult lies? I just don't get them. I sort of get the lying political schmucks, and I get the 'if you are stupid enough to believe that this pill will knock twenty pounds off you' or 'this $50 cream will wipe those wrinkles right off your face'  liars. But I've just bumped into and been jostled by a big-time fraud. Spent time in prison for big lies. Still lying. Just seemed like a nice friendly guy to me. Learned otherwise, and learned the hard way. But that's another tale, that sooner or later I'm going to tell. In the meantime, I still don't understand how and why someone becomes a first-rate, big-time liar. Those lying eyes. But that discussion about cross-generation liars somewhat opened my eyes.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Catching Up

Yesterday's guest post set in Miami on a sunny day seems like a mirage on this snowy day in Denver.
Before figuring out that it was snowing this morning, I figured out pretty quickly that I was a recipient of that 24-hour 'thing' going around. At least I'm hoping it's twenty-four hours or less.
So, with time on my hands and brain operating on slow to lazy, I scanned through a couple of articles that had moved from my printer to the floor in the last couple of weeks. Dave Barry's Year in Review: The 2011 Festival of Sleaze was a quick reminder of what a bizarre year it had been (go to The Washington Post if you haven't read the whole thing).
From what I can figure, the Occupy Movement was the best thing that happened all year. I'd count the Arab Spring in there also, but there's a great deal of good that has to follow in the Winter and Spring of 2012. Oh, and the fact that the world didn't come to an end, as prophesied by Harold Camping.
Oh yea, there was a royal wedding to remind us all of romance before Anthony Weiner reminded us of what romance isn't. And so it went.
The reality of corporations as people reared its ugly head and presented us with Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. And Herman Cain. Pepper-spraying went viral and the euro almost collapsed, along with a couple of countries.
Caught up on the past and looking to 2012. Leave it to The Washington Post to help us past the review and into the preview. Have to love The 2012 In/Out List.
Apps are out and Naps are in. Must have surveyed the over 70 crowd for that factoid. And then gone to the disappearing middle class to find out that Lululemon gear is out and hand-me-down sweat pants are in.
Pippa's bum is out and Kate's uterus is in. How quickly romance turns to practicality.  And I'm not telling how many of these Ins and Outs I don't know. Skipped right by me while I was growing a year older.
I'm for Stephen Beatty being in and like even more that the Supreme Court is in. Long may that last. I already have a crush on Elizabeth Warren so am ahead of the game and so hoping lobbyists are out, as well as supercommittees. And to those in the know, that corporations as people will be replaced by immigrants as people. Someone has taken his/her optimism pills.
You get the drift. I'm catching up in one day to get ready for the coming months. Maybe I'll replace the back patio with a tilapia farm.
Note to writers of the list:  Tebowing is still in here in Denver - and I suspect lots of other places.
On to Maureen Dowd's 'Oedipus Rex Complex' in the NYT this past Sunday and I'm caught up with my trivia on this snowy, sluggish brain Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Miami and Mocking White Ibis

 Guest post in the new year.

Miami and the mocking white Ibis
It was a classic Miami experience, full of paradox.  Angst and nerves, followed by a slow but steady march towards contentedness.  The night started with a rapid ride south from Fort Lauderdale, early Friday evening, right into Miami, 28 miles in 25 minutes.  Then the hard part, traveling west into the urban core with seemingly half of Florida on every side of me.  Though on a "highway" three lanes wide, the next 10 miles were an agonizing crawl of almost an hour's length.  In times like this you start to wonder, what the hell am I doing?  Is this worth it all?  A raspberry and cantaloupe sunset began melting over the horizon.  A white Ibis glided through a goalpost of silhouetted palm trees to the left.  On one hand I felt mocked by this bird, my boredom interrupted only by near slow-speed crashes with other cars jockeying for position, as he swooped overhead.  On the other hand was a sense that maybe there was something good waiting at the end of this road after all.

Elena's uncle, Tio Gilberto, was to be surprised with a celebration of his 90th trip around the sun.  A Cuban by birth and a proud American by choice and circumstance, you could easily picture this supposedly 90 year old man climbing up a coconut palm if need be, the years having hardly taken a toll at all.  Once, on another occasion, Gilberto walked over to the side of the house and took a cell phone call, then announced he had to be going.  Elena asked if he was taking his girlfriend out, and without hesitation his brother interjected, "which one?" 

The main event was a live performance of a band playing punto guajiro, a mash of rural Cuban folk music with a "knock 'em out the box" lyrical competition.  Given a sheet of paper with some handwritten notes about guests at the party, and taking a quick read of the participants, the band members broke into a lively, acoustic, Latin song.  One singer took the microphone and began an improvised verse about someone in the crowd, telling a seemingly personal story based on nothing but a few notes and observations.  When finished, the next singer stepped forward and tried to outdo the former, with a combination of humor, charm and sarcasm.  As in a poetry slam or a hip hop street battle, winners are not announced, but recognized by the loudest cheers.  This went on for an hour or more uninterrupted with different members of the crowd being featured in the improvised verse.  Far from a hackish party band playing a well-worn set of favorites, this group did what only great artists can do, convince the audience they were part of something special.  Unique.

At the end, Gilberto got up and began to speak, "Yo tengo muchos recuerdos de la familia en Cuba . . . " and you could see in his eyes an equal amount of happiness and sadness as he looked back.  By then the January moon was well overhead and almost full, the air crisp and cool.  The signs of the end of la fiesta were near.  Cigars were mashed out into ashtrays.  The ice from the now-empty drink cooler was tossed onto the lawn.  People lined up to buy the band's CD.  Everyone but the kids, who ran happy circles around the yard throughout the entire night, was beaming about the performance.  Goodbyes and tentative plans for future gatherings were in the air.  We drove off onto Calle Ocho, and stopped at CVS around midnight, and as usual in Miami, it was packed with people all with their own reasons for going to a drug store at midnight on a Friday.  Back at the place, a satisfied exhaustion took hold.  The mocking white Ibis was a distant memory.  But we had to get some rest, because we had plans the next day.  Gotta beat the weekend traffic.
 Written by Robert C. Wright, DelRay Beach, FL

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tebow's Moon Rising

No Clearance Creedwater bad moon rising, but a big fat Tebow moon showed up over Sports Authority Mile High Stadium in Denver, setting the stage for an eleven second overtime. Tim Tebow's moon was rising and he responded. Tebow threw to the moon,  Demaryius Thomas reached for that moon and ran with the speed of light towards victory. Eleven seconds under the full moon in overtime and the game was over.
I'm not one of those crazy sports fans who depends on a good game somewhere in the universe to make me happy. But I was at the Broncos Stadium last night and participated in a victory and fan celebration the likes of which I've never seen. The stadium rocked, the box rocked, individuals rocked and the tide turned.
 Sweet, sweaty joy and pandemonium. The world was good. Yes, it was football and the redemption or resurrection of a hero, if only for a game or season; nothing changed and everything changed.  Sports does that to us and for us. "It'll break your heart," Bart Giametti said once of baseball, and it's true of all sports. Sports breaks our hearts, but also lifts us up, bringing us to the angels on occasion.
 All that joy and all that juice rejuvenated us all, helping us to remember the joy the Arab Spring had brought us, helping us to forget, if only momentarily, that there were dark suits blathering in New Hampshire, the Arab Spring had come to its winter, and too many people in the world were starving. A game, a victory, a reprieve from the world.
Who'd have thought a football victory could feel so good?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Joan Didion

This morning I saw a woman who looked just the way Joan Didion looked in her thirties. I know what you will look like when you are 65, I thought.
Joan Didion's been back on my mind (and in my dreams last night) since I read an article about her in The Atlantic before going to bed. Joan always comes and goes, depending on what she's writing, but never leaves those of us who fell in love with her in the '60's and '70's, after reading her collection of essays in Slouching Toward Bethlehem, especially "On Going Home."  The late 60's and the '70's were the years of falling in love with Joan, her prose, her ability to understand who we were and what we were feeling.We fell in love with Joan Didion the way she fell in love with New York City, "I was in love with New York. I do not mean "love" in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again." We all loved her that way.
Caitlin Flanagan, author of the article in The Atlantic says, "Didion is the writer who expressed most eloquently the eternal-girl impulse, the one that follows into adulthood: the desire to retreat to our room, to close the door, to spend some time with our thoughts and feelings." And Flanagan remembers Joan Didion's words on Joan Baez, another Joan who captured us and held on to us during those times. "Above all, she is the girl who 'feels' things, who has hung on to the freshness and pain of adolescence, the girl ever wounded, ever young."  Joan D on Joan B; Caitlin on Joan D.  Joan Baez, Forever Young.
But Caitlin, in reviewing Joan Didion's latest book Blue Nights and talking with contemporary critics says, and I so painfully quote:
"Ultimately Joan Didion's crime - artistic and personal - is the one of which all of us will eventually be convicted: she got old. Her writing got old, her bag of tricks didn't work anymore."  My oh my. Caitlin Flanagan has a bit of the Joan Didion in her ability to penetrate the heart directly. Penetrate. Pierce. Convict.
I can still see the moment, can capture the picture of me, leaning against the table in the University classroom, hair long, jeans fairly tight, teaching "On Going Home."  Joan is writing about returning to her parents' home with her baby daughter; her husband a bit bewildered by and estranged from this family, the 'old' home that is Joan's.  Joan writes, "I fall into their ways, which are difficult, oblique, deliberately inarticulate. Not my husband's way.  We talk in code about people in mental hospitals and being arrested for drunk driving..."
You will understand these sentences soon enough, I thought, but didn't say to the students. You, too, will deliberate where 'home' is, will fall into old behaviors when you open those trap doors soon enough.
I hear myself, wrapped in enthusiasm, hands waving, words tumbling out, refer to Joan's prose, saying 'no vue'' instead of 'new vo' for neau voux.'  An older male student does an immediate 'gotcha' on that, but I keep going.  I spare two syllables for 'sorry' and fall back into the essay immediately.
The essay is still used as an example of great prose in writing classes, but it's seen as a period piece, a piece about the anti-war movement, changes in culture, etc. It's all that too, but to many of us, especially women, it was about the contradictions, the pain, the nuances of family and home.
My old, old copy of Slouching Towards Bethlehem, blue cover, is long gone to some library's used book sale. Maybe I'll buy an old copy on Amazon's used books. Maybe I should read something more by Caitlin Flanagan, whose essay on Didion smacked me on the side of the face with its prose.
My Favorite Joan Didion quote from Slouching:
"I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4:00 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends." Amen.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


I always play this little game at the first of the year; I don't count the new year as beginning until the week of New Year's Eve and Day is gone. So, this year, January 8th is the day for me to honor a resolution or two.
I keep reading and having conversations about the differences in 'quality' of resolutions, of firmness, of ability to stay resolved. I do like the difference between the results resolution and the action resolution (I know, all that business jargon ends up everywhere).
So a Results Resolve would be: I will drink more water, otherwise known as hydrating in fancy circles.
The Action Resolve would be: I will drink a glass of water in the morning when I wake up and one before I go to bed....and anytime in-between, of course.
Results Goal:  I will be more patient in the new year.
Action Goal:  I will breathe slowly three times before saying, 'drive faster,' 'east slower' 'get out of my way,' etc.  I don't think that one is going to fly.
There's always the food thing. Give up, cut back, slow down, eliminate, cut, add, subtract, chew, swallow more or less, refrain from, stop thinking about.... Refrain from eating gummy bears or olives? Too many choices.
But I need some big goal, I think.  Guess it's Ann's walking into Libya on this pilgrimage that has me re-assessing my goals.  Really, what have I done of significance in the last 98 days?  Name four things, I dare you.
I still have a few days before nailing down the big resolution. What if I decided to write a page of fiction every day? or chronicle some family history, or?  Stay tuned, and, in the meantime, I'd love to know what you resolve to do or not do.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hurrah! Libya

OK...So an almost resolution for this year's blog was to not be so derivative - to not post so many other people's postings. But here we are, two posts into the new year and I'm doing a copy and paste. But it's such a good one. Ann (winterpilgrim.blogspot.com) made it to Libya, the shores of Tripoli, and was granted a visa.
You just have to read her entry - so uplifting, so heartfelt, so hopeful for the Libyan people. I've been smiling most of the day, just thinking about the triumph of the visa. Well, the rest of the day I've been thinking about the scam artist who is causing me troubles. I needed this reminder that most of the world is populated with good people. Hope this entry makes you smile also, and feel a bit more hopeful about peace among people.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 96 To the Shores of Tripoli!

And I'm in =)
Lots of negotiations at the border, hours and hours of champion-building, finally, an unrestricted stamp in my passport free to travel through Libya for up to 3 months. I'm one happy pilgrim. The people have been terrific - scores stopping to take their photo with me, happier to find out I'm an American. All the men telling me 'I'm your brother' in a warmly protective manner. It's been terrific. The only trouble has been getting internet service as the country transitions from free service for all to privatized capitalism. So, I apologize for the delayed update. I've been walking for three days, mostly along the quiet beach, popping out to the road from time to time, but to do so is to be politely and tactfully approached for a photo op. People calling out to me 'welcome to Libya!' 'thank you for coming!' 'tell the world we're free!'. Really, though I've only got a minute here on an i-phone, it's been a grand three days... yes yes yes, I'll be prudent in the unpopulated stretches, but be assured civil order exists, no violence, calm commerce, everyone's getting on with life. I'll try to update at least once a week, but the reliability of the internet service isn't a sign of bad tidings, just positive transition. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Healthy, Happy, Hopeful

The 3 H's of 2012, thanks to Cheryl Curtis. I'm feeling all three right now and hope you are also.
As many of you know, a year ago today I was incredibly unhealthy, woefully unhappy and not hopeful of making it to my April birthday. Surprised myself and lots of other people, and am here a year later, feeling great.
It's been a strange segue into the new year. Spent Christmas week in Florida again this year, with family, and more than made up for last year. As they say, 'A good time was had by all.' Fabulous family, family friends, food and festivities. And some pretty great gifts. Watched Emma and Colin ride the waves on boogie boards and graduate to stand-up surfing for a couple of minutes. Engaged in a family card game that would have been a first-rate sit com had someone been there with a camera. Didn't matter that the stakes were wooden skewers, chocolate Santas, fake candles and bells - something about the mere notion of winners and losers stirs our individual juices into a frenzy. Family feud over chocolate Santas? You bet. And to make it even more ridiculous, some of us had eaten our chocolate Santas, and craftily re-shaped the Santa tin foil into appearing to still have that chocolate man tucked inside.

Back to CO for new year's eve and new year resolutions. No resolutions yet. I want something specific, but keep coming up with generalities. Should I stop eating so much bread or give up fake food? I think those are leftover Lenten ideas from long ago. I actually have two resounding New Year Resolution victories: many, many years ago I gave up smoking for NYE and never smoked a cigarette again. Many years ago I gave up cheese for the year. Cheeseless and cheesy for a year. But that's it.
Just one thing on the table for this year: pay closer attention to my checkbook and bank accounts. In November, you may remember, someone somehow made a copy of my credit card (which was never out of my hands) and scammed over $2000 around the country all to something called PILOT.
In December, I was so busy looking for PILOT on my statement that I missed the fact that someone cashed a significant check of mine twice - once in November and the same check (I swear..I have the photocopies sitting here from my bank statement) in December. Don't know how the bank let that one slip by. Ironically, I didn't notice the big hit to my checking account because (again, I swear) on the same day as the check hit my account for a second time, I transferred $$$'s from my savings account into my checking account to make sure I could manage the holidays.  And it was one of those transfers that I really didn't want to register in my brain, as it was not terribly responsible, so I didn't. But this morning it all came back to me.
Stay tuned for more on this auspicious beginning of 2012.  Speaking of staying tuned, should we tune in to the Iowa primary tonight? More on that also.
Hope you've left behind anything that didn't bring joy to you last year, and have your eyes on joy for this year.