Monday, April 30, 2012

How OLD is Old?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Different Views

The traffic was snarled and almost ground to a complete stop as we headed down Speer to the theatre last night. I hadn't been ready on time, making matters a little tense. Matters are always a little tense when a 'let's get there ahead of time' and 'let's get there right on time or a tad late' hit the road together. Different views of how to be in the world.
In addition to all the traffic, there were more people than usual peppering the areas around stop signs and street lights. Lots of people with 'Will work for money' or 'Anything helps' signs along the Speer parkway hoping for responses.
Half way into town, we pull away from a light as soon as it changes to green. I see the bearded guy, the one with the can of Pepsi in his hand, give us the finger for taking off abruptly. Sticks that middle finger up, covering the second 'p' in Pepsi. "Think I'll give him the finger back," I say, acting so age inappropriate I embarrass even myself.
Roscoe asks what I am talking about and I explain. He's stunned.  "You're kidding. He was just waving hello to us."
I ask to borrow the rose-tinted glasses, but they don't fit. Pollyanna wasn't a friend of mine either.

Indeed, there's a metaphor or two creeping around here. And probably enough symbolic deconstruction available to please all sorts of analysts. But, as its my birthday today, I'm going to leave the deep thinking and dissecting behind with vive la difference. Enjoy the weekend.
Oops... will be away next week, so don't know if I'll be posting. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

World Belongs to Humanity

I must admit the the quote from Richard Rohr that "we spend the first half of our lives climbing the ladder and the second half realizing it's against the wrong wall" has kept me pre-occupied. For me, at least, it's true that from 16 - 26 I climbed a ladder ferociously. Got there, and didn't like the wall or the rung I was on.
Saw other people climbing a ladder on a different wall, so hauled myself over there and began that climb.That wall was a bit too textured, and I missed the subtle shading of the first wall.
Precocious in my desire to get to the top rung on the right wall, I would climb, and never quite find what I wanted. I know it's all about being home, going home, finding ourselves - probably at about the ages of 7 - 13 - and saying 'Aha! There she is. The real me.'
You can probably tell we'll be playing this metaphorical chutes and ladder game for a while.
In the meantime, speaking of authentic selves, I am pasting a fairly long article from the Dalai Lama's interview with CNN last night.
How can you not love a man who says the world belongs to humanity, not its leaders?
How can you not love a deeply religious man, a man with great wisdom, humor and genuine laugh, a monk with a vow of chastity, who admits his eye still gets turned by an attractive woman?
How fortunate we are to have the Dalai Lama speaking for all of us.  Enjoy the read.

CNN) -- The Dalai Lama says he supports the principles behind Arab Spring protests.
"The world belongs to humanity, not this leader, that leader, kings or religious leaders. The world belongs to humanity. Each country belongs essentially to their own people," he said in an interview Wednesday on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight."
Politicians at times forget that, even in democratic countries like the United States, he said.
"Sometimes they are short-sighted," he said. "They are mainly looking for the next vote."
Dalai Lama: I support the Arab Spring
Dalai Lama: Bush 'very nice person'
When asked about the Arab Spring, the exiled Tibetan leader said he thought it was "in principle, very good."
"Now they achieved the basic goal, now time come they must be united, all forces, no matter what their political thinking or something, now they must work together, that is very important," he said.
In a wide-ranging interview, the Dalai Lama discussed his thoughts about topics ranging from China's changing political landscape to whether he is tempted by women.
The Dalai Lama is the traditional religious and temporal head of Tibetan Buddhists. He was made head of state at age 15 in 1950, the same year that Chinese troops occupied Tibet, enforcing what Beijing says is a centuries-old claim over the region.
The Dalai Lama held negotiations with Chinese officials on Tibetan self-rule with little success. In 1959, he fled Tibet for exile in India after a failed uprising against Beijing's rule.
As China has deepened its economic, political and cultural influence in Tibet, the Dalai Lama has acknowledged that full independence is no longer realistic. But he has continued to advocate greater rights for Tibetans.
In Wednesday's interview, he said that the dozens of reported self-immolations by Tibetans living under Chinese rule in recent months are "extremely sad."
The Dalai Lama, who last year stepped down from his political responsibilities with the Tibetan exile movement, said Chinese leaders needed to think "more realistically" in order to resolve the problems in Tibet and other restive parts of the country.
And he called for an end to censorship in China.
Chinese people also have the ability to judge what's right or what's wrong. ... Chinese people should know the reality.
Dalai Lama
"Chinese people also have the ability to judge what's right or what's wrong. ... Chinese people should know the reality," he said.
But the spiritual leader also showed a lighter side.
Even though he's taken a vow of celibacy, the Dalai Lama said he still feels temptation when he sees women.
"Oh yes, sometimes (I) see people (and think) oh, this is very nice," he said.
But even in his dreams, he said, he reminds himself of his spiritual role.
"I'm Dalai Lama. I always remember, I am monk, I am always monk," he said.
He said he doesn't watch movies or listen to music, has never taken drugs and doesn't drink. But he recalled one time when he tasted wine.
"I was very young, I think 7, 8 years, very young. One evening, late evening, I'm just playing. Then one person I see carrying two bottles, and I immediately run to him. And then, my finger, (I) put (it) in the bottle. Very sweet," he said, laughing.
When asked what world leaders he admired, he mentioned former South African President Nelson Mandela. He also praised former U.S. President George W. Bush, even though he didn't always agree with his policies.
"Not as a president of America. Some of his policies may not be very successful," the Dalai Lama said. "But as a person, as a human being, very nice person. I love him."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Up Against the Wall

Spent most of my posting time today trying to figure out if I got the Ted video up. It's working for me.

But before that, in the calm of early morning, walking a short trail, I saw what I thought was a snow white rabbit. Turned out to be a robin, carrying and being carried by, a white kleenex. This bird was working slowly and laboriously, pulling along that big white thing. Was this for a nest, a blanket for a sick baby bird, just something that looked interesting? Led me to pondering how we struggle often to accomplish things, and those things turn out to be just what we didn't need to accomplish after all.
That led me to a saying attributed to Richard Rohr.  "We live the first half of our lives climbing up the ladder, and the second half realizing the ladder is against the wrong wall."

Still on my mind...and bet it will stay there. Maybe it is on yours, also.

Happiness and Money Driving me crazy. This Ted video shows up on my desktop but not my IPad. Hope you are having better luck.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Disco Guy

Turned out that most of Denver spent Sunday moving into spring clothing and dividing up the wears and wares of winter into 'Save for Next Year' or 'Go directly to Good Will' piles.
Traffic jam at Good Will....containers filled with clothes lining the front walkway. I'm not sure if I felt better or worse seeing all the other conspicuous, now unwanted, consumption, heaped in bags. Hard to figure whether I was keeping good company or not. OK...not hard to figure; too many of us consuming new things far too conspicuously. If you're looking for something not quite new, this would be a good week to hit the second-hand stores, from what I could see. And not a bad Tuesday to have those spring clothes available in the closet - broke the heat record for this day in Denver at 84 degrees.

But on to more fun things than spring cleaning or politics (yes, we all want student loan interest rates to stay low). This is where you come to understand why this post is called Disco Guy.
I'm attaching a piece by a brilliant writer in my Tuesday writing workshop (no, this is not the person who cannot in any way relate to my writing). Aleta Ulibarri is the writer, and she is one talented woman. And the piece couldn't be more timely for me, because just yesterday I was talking with friends Andrea and Ginni about internet dating, the depressing tv show Girls (depressing, to us, because we didn't go on the feminist journey, rally to support Women's Rights and continue to do so, with the goal being young women manifesting themselves by having random, rapid, repetitive sex with troglodytes). From there it was an easy segue to Fifty Shades of Grey. More on that later.

Enough with the digression: For anyone who is internet dating, speed dating, whatever dating, here's Aleta's Disco Guy.  Enjoy.

His profile said he loved Salsa dancing and that he had a lot of great moves.  We had coffee, I wasn’t impressed, but we agreed to meet at La Rumba for a salsa lesson and then dance to a live band after that.  I was curious and wanted to see his great Salsa moves.
He showed up looking like a bad character, in a Halloween costume, from Saturday Night Fever.  Only John Travolta he was not. I thought I was hallucinating. Smiling, proud of his outfit, and ready to cha cha cha, Mr. Wrong stood before me in a multicolor leather patchwork jacket, a polyester shiny shirt buttoned down low, accessorized with fake gold chains, tight up the crack of his ass trousers and tiny black plastic dress shoes. I didn’t know whether to laugh or slap myself. He took off his 40 year old jacket and that’s when I saw it, a gigantic round woman’s butt, the kind of butt that should not be propped up on a man’s backside.  We took our places in the class and to my mortification the teacher was the daughter of friends and she recognized me immediately.  She politely disguised her surprise.
We started the lesson. He could not dance, he had two left feet, he was clumsy, and uncoordinated. He was a fake, in an anachronistic 70’s costume.  He kept stepping on my feet. Luckily the lesson was over in an hour. The live band started and he told me he had his own unique moves. He had moves, two to be exact, two over and over, repetitious and ridiculous moves.  They were an improvised version from the famous disco movie. He stretched out my arms and we walked or, should I say, stomped around each other holding hands while he starred deeply and closely into my eyes.  Then came the turns. He took my right hand and twirled me around in place four times.  I got very dizzy. Back to the outstretched arm move, four twirls, back to the arms, twirls, over and over.  With a maniacal smile on his face he got the courage to steal a quick kiss from me while going at it yet again, the outstretched arm move. I stayed and danced a few more numbers, trying to show him some of my moves that didn’t require touching each other. He was ok with that for a while but quickly took the male dominant lead and went back to dancing under the disco ball. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to leave. I was nauseous and disgusted.    I
politely excused myself from his attentive clutches;  he  walked me to my car and I never saw him again.  That was my last, ever, internet date from hell.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Cleaning

I had promised myself I'd haul spring/summer clothes, shows, bags and general whatever up the stairs from the basement and schlep the fall/winter clothes down this past weekend. So Sunday at noon I began.
It's the same every year: which clothes presently hanging in the closet or sitting in drawers did I actually wear this past season? How many times does an item come up and go down, unworn, before Good Will starts calling its name? The Good Will pile grows pretty quickly, but still not enough.
It's a small thing, that blue and gold silk scarf, and I haven't worn it in at least eight years, but I remember exactly where I was when I bought it in Istanbul. How can I give away a scarf from Turkey? Who will appreciate it? It's small, so it stays for another year. I'll never wear those saris from India again, but who will appreciate, who will see the faces of the two women who made those for me as a stood in a little shop with Sarika?
How many cotton shirts from Chico's does any woman need?  And the sandals, flat, with tiny heels, comfortable and I'm at the stage of imaging how much money all those things are worth and having a black cloud buyer's remorse cloud hanging over me.
This past winter I invested in a couple of very cool hats and some expensive mittens. Then the sun came out and stayed through winter. Those will still be new items next winter.
And so it goes. This morning I have the big pile of pants that I need to try on and divide into the 'fit' and 'fits no more' category. Going to put that off for a couple of days. Last spring I had lost a ridiculous amount of weight from my bout with cancer and was on chemo. Not on chemo and the weight all found its way back home, so that 'no fit' - what ever made me think I'd stay that thin - pile will be huge.
The conspicuous consumption me can't be avoided. I think I'm pretty modest in the world of purchasing, but these piles make me want to hide my head in shame.
Next will be those food items in the kitchen, the gourmet sauces, the 20 lb. mix for cornmeal bread that I couldn't pass up at Costco....and then there is the trip around the small yard to see what plants didn't make it through the winter and need to be replaced.
With all that said, it still feels good to prepare for a new season, for new possibilities.
Speaking of new seasons: What can be said about Girls? A lot. Mostly, so glad not to be there.
And Veep? A good beginning. And crazy Mad Men? That sums up my tv watching.
A post with no politics? Yea!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Home of Baggott & Asher & Bode: I Want to Age like Jane Goodall. (What about Kelly...

Home of Baggott & Asher & Bode: I Want to Age like Jane Goodall. (What about Kelly...: Stuck in a waiting room this past week, I had the bizarre delight of watching Kelly Ripa get chimpanzee-dominated by Jane Goodall. Ripa had...

Sad to say, I don't know who Kelly Riva is, but Jane Goodall is amazingly beautiful.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rant and Rave

OK..First the rant. What is going on with the Vatican?  Studying the good sisters and then deciding to rein them in strikes me as something the Pope might have put on his low priority list...or no list at all. Here's the take from the Washington Post today: (this is part of a longer article, and there are lots more reporters weighing in).

A Vatican investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an umbrella group representing 80 percent of Catholic sisters and nuns in the United States, found serious theological errors in statements by members, widespread dissent on the church’s teaching on sexuality and “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” a church report released Wednesday stated.
The church appointed Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle to oversee “reform” of the women’s organization.
NETWORK, a Washington, DC lobbying group founded by Catholic sisters in 1971 was singled out as “silent on the right to life”; the organization’s head said the group was not consulted during the inquiry. She said that its focus on poverty, immigration and health care stems from its founding mission.
“I think we scare them,” Sr. Simone Campbell, a lawyer who serves as the executive director of the lobby said of the church’s male hierarchy.
The leadership conference represents the vast majority of the country’s 57,113 Catholic nuns and sisters, who work in education, health care, social services, parish ministries, religious education and chanceries. The spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, is a member of an LCWR order, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.
Although the assessment focused on the leadership of the LCWR, the findings cited “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life.”

Reforming the nuns? We all love the nuns - even most of the remaining folks whose knuckles were crunched by nuns with rulers in the old days love the good sisters. Eliminate the idea of nuns and you eliminate a good part of history where the sick were healed, the impoverished helped, and souls healed. Edit. Take that sentence out of the past tense and put it in present.

Wherever we all come from - the mother of mothers in Africa, Adam's rib, Botticelli's seashell - doesn't matter where - once women become educated, became thinkers, non-thinking and thinking men want to stifle the conversation. Reading these articles yesterday and today made me grateful, more grateful than ever, that Rick Santorum isn't a presidential candidate. With the Pope on his side....or with him on the Pope's side, we'd have a lot of work cut out for us.
By the way, can you tell this is the rant part of the post? Hope so.

All reminds me of a conversation I had in November 2011 in India with Jetsunna (Venerable Master) Tewnzin Palmo, one of the very few Westerners ordained as a Buddhist nun (originally from London).
Visited with her at the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery that she established. We watched the nuns performing debates,  debates with much drama, ritual and concentration. Until the establishment of her very successful nunnery, nuns were not allowed to learn debate.  The usual....women were not considered intelligent enough to participate in rigorous debate. Debate is a huge component of the Tibetan training of monks. Won't go into that history for now. But enough time has passed over the centuries, that women are finally capable of debate.
And one of these days they will be competent enough to interpret and live by theological doctrine as they see it. But a long time coming...

No more ranting. It's RAVE time! Went to a meeting this morning where the Winter Pilgrim unveiled her plans for development of the Camino to Chimayo...starting in Denver. Just remember, you heard it here!
This coming summer will be a pilot program, a pilgrimage to collect data (or is it datum?), analyze, strategize, revamp and launch. The plan is brilliant in its conception, rigorous in its demands, and just plain daunting. Or, it would be daunting if we weren't talking about Pilgrim Ann Sieben who just got back from her five-month pilgrimage from Spain to Jerusalem and last year walked out of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Denver, walking sticks in hand, and made it way past Chimayo into Mexico to another Lady of Guadalupe (in Mexico City). Not daunting to Ann. Nothing is.
Almost makes me think  I could walk eighteen miles a day for eighteen days in the desert. Almost.
So much more to come on all of this. Can't wait to fill in details, show maps, and urge you to join in.
Rave reviews for this vision and the beginnings of implementation. Higher ground.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Is everybody scamming everybody else? Yesterday's news was about the Secret Service, the GSA, and who knows what other public services spending money with abandon, trying to spend their bodies with abandon and just plain corruption. Who's minding the store? Thinking about all of this as I drove down Speer Avenue in the downtown area around 5:00 I watched a couple, each limping along, balanced by their nice-looking aluminum crutch or cane. Stopping at a red light, I watched both of them pick up their canes, walk down the hill and onto the bikeway. Guess work was over and it was time to put the crutches to bed. Sure, I've seen this before...and, actually, most often around wonderful cathedrals in Italy. I've observed the changing of shifts and signs on the corner of CO Blvd and 6th, and that's ok. Far more disconcerting, to me, is the move from limp to saunter.
I can't even comment on the secret service agents trying to hustle a lower fee from the prostitute after the job was done. Can comment on the biggest bust of all in this particular scam: The president's political mission in Columbia was totally undermined by his security. No-one is reading about the discussions, debate, drama of the meetings - just about how many sex workers and what did those guys do.
These workers - from high security secret service to hustlers on the street - need to understand that they are giving their co-workers a bad wrap. If you can't trust the secret service or the handicapped woman on the street who can you trust?  Some cynicism for the day.

To make it even worse, in all their wisdom, the Pulitzer Prize committees in Fiction and Editorial Writing decided not to award prizes this year. Really. Was it just to much hard work to read some wondrous words of fiction and award a prize to one. I could have justified purchasing a new book and reading that instead of the news on line and then boring you with my take on it. And there's not an editorial writer worthy of a prize? Why am I reading that stuff anyway?

Last bit of news for the day:  The AP has approved the modern use of the word 'hopefully' after years of controversy. Big Battlefield. Glad someone is doing her/his work. No sex, no dirty politics, no 'we can't make up our minds.'  A decision. Hopefully the sex and money scandals will come to an end; hopefully the Pulitzer Prize committees will make decisions next year.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Equal Pay Day

Yesterday seemed to be a good time to reflect upon public art and what impact it has on us. Part of understanding that impact is to come to realize what and who isn't visible in public art. What if the committees selecting art for public spaces were made up of only one cultural or ethnic group...or different age groups...gender...socio-economic?  Imagine what would appear in our cities on display or in museums if a law had been passed way back allowing only women to choose the art pieces? or only people below a certain income?  What if all public art committee members were under the age of 21?  I'm just saying.
I love wearing those different lenses.

But today isn't necessarily about art, (although art is certainly part of the topic), no today, April 17th is Equal Pay Day.  It's 'Where's the Money?' Day. Show Me the Money Day.
Yep, it's still on the agenda. Sure, we've made progress. Some would say, lots of progress. I agree. But we have a way to go.  I don't think any of us ever get over hoping, praying, believing that 'Life is Fair' and 'Things will work out.'  My grandmother truly believed that everything would be settled up and fair in the afterlife.
She even had me believing for a while. But my belief was short-lived. As was another belief she tried to instill in me that people who were wealthy were not happy. Didn't take me long to figure out that being unhappy and wealthy beat being unhappy and poor. Being happy was a whole other story.

But here we are on February 17, 2012 still holding our Equal Pay Day forums, trying to pass legislation for the Paycheck Fairness Act.  have to hand it to all of us: regardless of being pummeled, regardless of what we learned in kindergarten, we still have high hopes for fairness. Let's see how our politicians line up for the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Hoping for a fair day, and hoping to treat everyone with fairness.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Public Art

The Isle of Safety, corner of State and Main, was the city’s main hub for public transportation in Hartford CT in the 1950's. Every other week I’d hop on the Hillside Avenue bus, jump off at the Isle of Safety into the lively scene, wait twenty minutes for the transfer bus, and go to the orthodontist.  I was eleven, and my mother made me promise not to move from the Isle during my transfer wait.
But this particular day, a crowd circled across the Isle, settling around the statue of Thomas Hooker behind the Old State House. Watching policemen walking quickly towards the expanding group of onlookers at the statue, I decided it would be worth disobeying my mom to check out the action. And it was past time for me to  meet up with the likeness of Thomas Hooker. Being in the sixth grade, I knew Thomas Hooker was the founder of Hartford, the CT Colony in1636. I also learned that three years later, 1639, the CT colony wrote the first ever document to establish government by the people. That’s why we were known as the Constitution State. Being the good student I was, I had memorized those facts for a test.
 Walking toward the statue and strangers, my eyes wavered between his thick thighs and the growing crowd.  Those legs sure looked sturdy enough to have walked from Massachusetts to CT.  His cape seemed to swirl, protecting his hat in one hand and Bible in the other. Hooker’s face had no discernible expression, other than eyes looking upward, gazing into the future. I scurried between the legs of the onlookers and got closer to the statue. The stench got stronger as I got closer, “Someone must have gotten sick,” I thought. But no, this man with the drool, bubbles and mucus still on his face, flat on his back next to Thomas Hooker in all his glory, was dead. “Some old bum,” people whispered to no-one in particular as the police moved us away to make room for the ambulance.
I ran back to the bus stop in time to catch the transfer up Farmington Avenue. I forgot all about the impending tightening of my upper braces. I had seen my first dead person, up close. Thomas Hooker had given me the opportunity. Yea.  I couldn’t wait to tell my brothers and friends.
Decades later I was to learn that Alse Young, the first woman executed for witchcraft in America was hung at the Meeting House Square (later to become the Old State House) in Hartford in 1647. Same plot of land where the Old State House and Thomas Hooker still stand. No statue for Alse (Alice) Young. No mention of her in those social studies books we read.
The bustling Isle of Safety that once served the city’s transportation needs is long gone. The Old State House, glorious in the renovations for its 200th anniversary as a State House in 1996, stands proudly, as does the sculpture of Thomas Hooker. For me, the face of Death always appeared next to the statue of Thomas Hooker. Now, the vision of Alse Young’s death by hanging hovers over the whole square.
 Been thinking about public art over the weekend. We're hoping to put together a strong 'Leadership and Art' pre-conference workshop on the topic as part of the International Leadership Association's big conference in Denver this coming October.
Simultaneously I have been writing a short piece on the first time I saw a dead person. Writing the piece has led me in a slightly different direction. I've done the architectural gig here, in London, Bologna and other places. So much of what we can know about a culture is demonstrated in its public art. What do we - wherever we are - want our art to tell the world about us?  Imagine counting the number of monuments and statues worldwide dedicate to victorious war heroes. Think of the art from Place X that just happens to show up in Rome or London. A little homage to pillagers?  On the other hand, walk around Florence (in person or virtually) capturing all the artwork dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
I'm not saying - necessarily - that Alse Young, first alleged witch executed in America deserves a statue.
But, to me, she represents all the people and things that haven't made it into the public art arena.  Cultural anthropologists are helping us re-think our definitions of art and culture, always. And that is a good thing, because the invisible or the objects hidden away often are important representations of culture, leadership and art.  More than you wanted to think about, I am sure. A massive topic, but my small thoughts for the day.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

In Character or Not

All that talk about St. Matthew's Passion, God, religion or lack thereof, and just plain intellectual musings I outlined in yesterday's post make even more sense to me.  Why not talk of the ethereal, the abstract, the feelings that music, movement, poetry evoke in this day of soundbites and new headlines every 30 minutes.

I'd rather try to wrap my head around that stuff than the recent headline grabbers, particularly these two:
No Water Guns Allowed at the Republic National Convention and Hilary Rosen's comment that 
 Ann Romney never worked a day in her life.

I acknowledge that the news from FL that George Zimmerman would be charged with second degree murder of Trayvon Martin was legitimate news. People interested in fairness, justice and human rights were waiting to hear if and where the case was going.

The Water Gun issue?  Good stuff for the comics and late night television. And, as you know, it's not really about water guns, but about the fact that one must leave that green plastic water gun at home but can legally stuff that pistol in a pocket. And, if you are female and want to appear stylish (no rumple in those pockets),  I can give you the name of a woman in Denver who sells high class genuine leather handbags designed especially to hold those concealed weapons. According to her, business is booming in certain states. True. She has shown me the brochure and let me know that even if I am against carrying guns, the little classic bags are good for pepper spray, etc.  I am totally against guns of any sort, with one exception: water guns.  No wonder I don't like to read the news. I'm standing my grounds for water guns.
Sure, you need a concealed weapon permit to carry the real bullet projecting pistol, but the permits doesn't apply to water guns.  If only George Zimmerman had been carrying a water gun.

As for Ann Romney not ever working a day in her life... Nice going, Hilary Rosen. Let's set the woman with five sons, MS, and breast cancer who has never gotten paid for any of her work against the 'real' working women in the world.  You may have apologized, but there really isn't any take back on that comment. Indefensible. What is there about women having choice - and choosing what they think is best - that makes so many people so crazed?
I remember endless conversations among many of us who have gotten PHD's and tenure and and and..
Many of us remember 'doing it all,' - kids, jobs, school, social life and sacrifice. I also remember, all too well, many a conversation about the younger women coming up, the 'she's single and hasn't published one article this year,' or 'she doesn't know how easy she has it. Back when I was...'  Was it our responsibility to criticize and condemn those women who had it 'better' than some of us had, or was it our responsibility to try and make things a little easier for those following us?  But I digress. Wow, second time this week I've been on such a roll.  Am I in character or not?
Time to go newsless and listen to music, eat fresh asparagus, smell the lilacs, and pick up some of those whirlygig things that floated from the trees in last night's rain.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

All In Character

I've been a silent partner, in the background, reading e-mails between Roscoe and college buddies/roommates. It's been fifty years plus (50+) these guys graduated from Carleton College with degrees in the arts and sciences.  Something to be said for the liberal arts and what we now call lifelong learning.
Trust me, my old friends and I didn't have conversations like this in college and, alas, we don't have them today. What would I say other than 'music soothes my soul,' 'It's only rock and roll, but I love it,' and  'I love to dance'?  Most important news item for me today was today is the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Epic.
Still...I present this post as a sweet glance into the past and present. More than enough to get the picture..

Sunday, April 8 2012
 Hi Roscoe, and Sheila --

I am thinking of you both as I sit here listening to the St. Matthew Passion, that gorgeous and inimitable piece of music.

I can't celebrate Easter as a full-fledged Christian, but I can access its meaning and joy through this amazing amazing music.

I am recalling that Roscoe and I used to discuss (i.e. argue affably) whether the music would mean more to a believer than a non-believer; being such an aesthete then, I wanted to contend that it made no difference.

 Well, of course it makes a difference. And in some respects if you share Bach's faith fully, you participate in his vision and his insight most fully and splendidly.

 But the other side of that coin is that if you approach it as a non-believer or, in my case, as an agnostic, you get insights you might not otherwise have had, and that creates a kind of counter-weight to the belief issue.

 An analogy, perhaps, might be my recent work translating Basho. His poems are filled with the insights of Zen Buddhism. And that's precisely the reason why a non-Buddhist might find them interesting, i.e. they give us an access that we wouldn't otherwise be able to possess.

 In any case, it's fun to remember old friends and be in touch with them. Knowing that the St. Matthew Passion brings you back to me, Roscoe, should make you happy. And Sheila, I visit your blog occasionally and rejoice in your words and your spirit.

 Perhaps you won't mind if I copy Fred on this. He used to be part of those discussions, and I suspect this will interest him,

 Love, David
Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2012
 Subject: Re: Easter

What a nice Easter treat your email was – better than colored eggs, or even chocolate bunnies.

Fond memories of all those discussions back then. I wonder how many times we have each re-thought those things, changed our minds, and then changed again.

I have taken eight groups of students to India, living and working with Tibetan Exiles up north in Dharamsala. All that exposure to Buddhism has had quite an impact on me, even though I can only be called an "outsider." I like your phrase, "you get insights you might not otherwise have had." And the longer we live, the more important and appreciated are these new insights.

Just eight minutes after your email came, I got an email referring to a blog-post by one of the freshman I taught last year. One of his questions: is "what is a circle?" and "what is justice?" the same question. What followed in the blog were responses from his readers (other students) and his responses to those responses.
The tradition of questioning and back-and-forth responses continues, thank goodness. Hopefully still face to face and not only via the internet.

We are blessed to have had such good years and good exploratory conversations together.

As to Sheila, I can report that she is back to her old self. Chemo-therapy ended last May, and she has since regained all her weight, strength and spirit. She is at yoga often, attends classes, sees friends and walks all the time. Easter morning she walked four miles from our house to the cathedral. But she had me meet her there, attend the service with her, and drive her home.

Love to all,

P.S.  I have added Tom to the copy list, even though he cannot tell me what "mill and muster free" means.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Subject: RE: Easter

Did I forget to tell you? "Mill and muster free" is a corruption of "Million Masters Twee," a politico-syndicalist game played by proto-Republican public school twits under James I. (See Ole Oxenfreed, "How It Was For Us Back Then," J. Jac. Studs. MDMLXVI, 292 (1566).

I have found it, since turning 70, or maybe since having grown sons, impossible to get through a Good Friday service without leaking tears. Geezers cry easily, particularly about tragedies that always end up the same. So it's nice to find you semi-believers getting with the program of Christianity-driven art and music. I missed the Maundy Thurs service this year, being on the road from Auburn, AL to here, and so also missed Fred. And while I was missing Fred, I missed R and Dave too. I hope you are all continuing to surprise yourselves by being less decrepit than we should be at our ages.

On Wed, Apr 11, 2012 at 12:56 AM, Fred
Hi Guys:

Wow, this does indeed sound like our old college days.  Absolutely delightful to hear from all of you at the same time.  So is this the real meaning (and or purpose) of Easter and other holidays, i.e., to reconnect old friends in high level philosophical dialogue and implicit friendship?  If so, not bad.  It's been my observation that most holidays in most religions and calendars are mainly opportunities for families and other groupings of "loved ones" to get together to break bread and schmooze, grow mellow with nostalgia, re-ignore old jokes and debates and fights and then break more bread.  This reductionism makes it possible for me to be tolerant of almost any religion, no matter how absurd.  Even my own atheism.  Because loved ones is what it's all about for me and I no longer mind if others want to bring God into it.  I read that as their sincere attempt to make family connections and friendships something out of the ordinary, something to be grateful for, something special, something that calls for our most precious feelings and valuations.  Anyway, dear old friends/colleagues, Happy Passover to you all.  Passover to me means mostly eating matzos.  But eating them together with loved ones.  The rest of the Passover story is as bizarre and unlikely to have ever happened as most religious stories.  In other words, I don't care any longer what people say they believe, only what they do, how they behave, who, not what, they are.

Now, as to Bach and the St Mathew Passion: One of the truly great works of art ever, though it is not for me separable or distinguishable from most of his well over a 100 other cantatas, not to mention his towering organ and orchestral
works.  As to the question of to whom it means more, the believer, the agnostic or the atheist [sort of our class of '58 trinity], my question would be how could you know, let alone measure, this?  I also have a little difficulty with talk about
the "insights" you get from the St. Mathew Passion.  Dave and I have discussed this before.  He said you have to understand "insights" here as metaphorical.  But even metaphorically it seems wrong - sort of a category mistake.  I don't get any insights from Bach or any other music.  I get (1) music or what is sometimes, also metaphorically, called musical ideas; and (2) feelings.  But insights?  Into what?  Well, perhaps insight into Bach's musical greatness or his musical techniques or perhaps even into the state of Christian religion in Bach's time  But that's all information ABOUT or AROUND the Mathew Passion, not insight into IT.  Perhaps what causes the problem is the metaphor of sight.  You
 cannot SEE music or musical meaning.  It has to be heard and it seems to me that what you hear is nothing like what we usually mean by insight, namely something that yields intellectual information and/or clarification and this is exactly what music is incapable of doing (except perhaps by association).    But enough!  Jeez, I AM regressing to studentt days.  I wrote my dissertation about this subject.  But I still believe it.  Even more than poetry, music doesn't mean, it just is.

Back to non-philosophical reality: Roscoe, the news about Sheila is truly wonderful.  Living at this time through what may well be the last days or weeks of two different of our closest friends [Tom, one of them,  I'm afraid,  is Sid Bolkosky] battling liver cancer, it is inspiring and reassuring to Roz and me to hear about a cure, a remission.  Good for you, Sheila.  And good for both of you.  A blessing in any case, whether from God or from the law of averages.  Joyful news.  We're really happy for you.  It doesn't get any better than this, right?!

So: Happy everything to everybody.  Enjoy your matzos or wafers or colored eggs or gefilte fish and more importantly your loved ones and life itself, including the St. Mathew Passion and, as Tom adds wisely, our less than feared decrepitude.

Love and Shalom,
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
From: Tom 
Subject: RE: Easter

Um... is it OK to mention music's close, close kinship to gesture and thus to dance - not that icky crap that one watches on stage, but the experience of the mass and motion of one's own body - and that there is also a close relationship between "insight" (corporeal metaphor itself) and gesture, and thus that both music and insight have to do with one's physical relationship to the physical environment. So both music and "insight" are grounded in our bodily experience of being in the world. No handmaidenry to that, but a conduit for leakage from one to the other. Bach, after all, wrote some of his best music - the cello suites, I mean, of course - in the form of dances.

Some poet or other once wrote a line, "In a dream of his knowledge, the scientist dances...." thus perhaps unintentionally - the line comes from a very young poet, after all - celebrating the relationship between insight, grace, gesture, and music. Einstein is reported to have been chagrined by being tied to one spot in spacetime (thus unable to see it all at "once") but I don't think he'd have done half as well at physics, as a disembodied Consciousness.



Wed, 11 Apr 2012 09:09:24 -0400
Subject: Re: Easter

Well, we're all in character, more or less
. Something comforting about that. And I must defend, again, my idea about insights and music. Sigh. It's a pleasure.

Pleasure is something we get from music, that's for sure. Does pleasure ever give us insights? One would hope so. But Fred is rightly wary of attributing information or instruction to the wonderfully free and self-delighting activity that is music. So am I. But I don't see how you can divorce the experience of music from your knowledge -- of yourself, of the world, and even of God, if it comes to that.

I really enjoyed James R. Gaines' book, Evening in the Palace of Reason, which is about Bach and Frederick the Great and the Enlightenment. In a recent review I cited this passage, as an analogy to the poetry of my friend Charles Wright:

(In the Goldberg Variations) "the aria's return at the end, precisely as it was stated at the outset, closes the circle: We have listened to an extravagantly various set of variations on a simple series of notes that represents a stunning demonstration of the ideal of identity in variety, analogue of the indivisible presence of God in the manifold, phenomenal world, a feat that was possible only in counterpoint." (216)

(And I go on to say "What if this feat was possible in language?" It's a good review, guys, part of the new FIELD (#86).).

So does "demonstration of the ideal" and "analogue of the presence" satisfy our friend Fred? If so, he's on the verge of admitting that you can get insights from music. But I don't want to push too hard. I too want music to be music, first and foremost, not the handmaid or servant of something else. I feel the same way about poetry.

The April chapter of Seasoning [by David Young] might not be relevant here, but I still like what I said in it . . .



Tuesday, April 10, 2012


"I think I belong in a different workshop," said the commentator.
This after I had just read my five pages that were being critiqued today.
"Why?" I asked, thinking the self-effacing reader might be about to say, "Well, your writing is just so lively, and I'm not at that stage yet."

But, no. Instead:  "Oh, you all have had such dreadful lives. I don't belong here. I had the most unusual childhood of anyone I have ever met in my life. Ever. Or any biography, memoir, or autobiography I've read. My childhood and the way I grew up is simply unique.
And I married a perfect man - still one of the most handsome in Denver. True, he moved me from Paris to Boulder, but that was the only ripple. I have five perfect children, and six grandchildren who also have no troubles, no woes. I just don't belong here.
And I don't really have time to read all these pieces, because I am such a busy person. I already had 43 e-mails this morning."

True, before my reading we had just critiqued a brilliant piece by another woman about her coke-addicted ex-husband. But the description, the language  '...a lifetime romance with cocaine...slathering it on his soul like cold cream' is what makes the story powerful. The words, not the addiction, give the narrative resonance with the reader..
 I had followed with a piece about a turbulent Irish family (yes, that would be mine) and the impending death of one of the big characters.

 The "I think I belong in a different workshop" caught me with my guard down and mouth open.
  "Really? "You know that old saying 'Take your troubles to market to trade them in for someone else's? Well, from what I've read of your childhood, I wouldn't trade mine for yours" was my response.

How terribly adult of me. And I thought this was a workshop on writing, not on comparing lives. "I'll take my verbs over your verbs any day"; "I delete forty e-mails from my box before 8:00 in the morning" and "Oh, how fortunate none of your DNA trickled into your kids or grandkids" were ready to roll off my tongue, but I let it go with her troubles still at the market.
She said nothing else and left early.

Driving home the Dorothy Parker monologue wouldn't stop. I finally rolled the window down to blow some of my tirade into the universe. After a couple of deep breaths and a few seconds of silence, I began to wonder how and why those comments sent me over the edge.  I thought I long ago gave up the 'my life or family is better/worse/ smarter, smarter and funnier than, reflective, diverse, crazier, colorful than yours. Ditto for my friends.'  Yet here I was, madwoman driving Colorado Blvd, thrust into nasty thought, bristling with retort.
Writing this is my catharsis for the day. And I still like my verbs better.

Monday, April 9, 2012

La Pasquetta

aka known as Little Easter. It's an Italian thing, and if we were in Italy we'd be celebrating it.
The tradition for Easter Monday, in Italy, is to take the day and go on a fun-filled picnic with friends.
We did manage to celebrate spring, Passover and Easter in several forms over the weekend. Took Gina Barreca's advice and kept my mouth filled for the most part. Keeps grace and good will on my side if my mouth is shut.

But I've decided, now that the day is almost over, to celebrate La Pasquetta tonight with some friends.
Going to walk a bit first and then end up at a nice restaurant with four friends. Sounds like a picnic to me,.
If you weren't able to celebrate this Easter Monday, just postpone it until next weekend. There's always time for a feast.  Happy extended Holidays.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Springtime regrowth and renewal. Good Friday and Passover. Resurrection. Hope. A good weekend for connecting with one's self, family, extended family, community, world, universe....

T.S. Eliot tells us "April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead, stirring
                           Dull roots with spring rain..."
But, I'll take Chaucer:
                            When that Aprille with his shoures sweete.
                             The drought of Marche has perced to the roote,
                             Then longen folk to goon on pilgrimmages"

(I know you are thinking  'yea I went to school too and was forced to memorize both those intros.') Crazy about both of them, but Chaucer ranks in my top 5 writers of all time, and pilgrimages rank among my top 5 types of travel.  I read The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales several times a year, and add on a couple of  tales with each reading.

Today is about sweetness in April and journeys into openness. As this particular weekend is also a time that lots of people connect or re-connect with 'family,' whatever that word means to you, I thought I'd pass this along from Gina Barreca of the Hartford Post. I love #1.  Enjoy whatever comes your way.

Never Talk Politics With Your Family
If it weren't for our relatives we might never have to be in the company of people we didn't like.
Of course we love them, but relatives are that odd hybrid of those we simultaneously adore and discredit. We either take them too seriously (remembering sarcastic remarks for three generations) or not seriously at all (forgetting they're no longer married, or in the clergy, or both).
Had we met them in a non-familial setting, we'd probably make faces at them. 

Fate gives us relatives for one reason: So that we have to learn how to deal with people we'd otherwise never know. Would you really choose to have in your life the wily cousin, recently paroled, who is the last remaining adult man to drive a red Pinto? Why would you otherwise know the woman, your maternal aunt, whose dual passions in life are composting and the writing of villanelles? On what other occasion might you sit next to a person who, without apology, spends 53 minutes describing his recent gum surgery if not for the times you see your brother-in-law? Only family members inflict this kind of emotional untidiness on one another.
One thing to remember when it comes to celebrating the holidays together: Heaven makes you family, but a new generation of selective serotonin reintake inhibitors, known as SSRIs, can make you friends.
I'd like to offer five suggestions for ways to make time with your extended family easier to manage:
1. Keep your mouth full at all times. That's right. Stuff your cheeks like a chipmunk. The more food you shovel into your craw, the less possibility there is of saying something inflammatory. Most family flare-ups occur when the emotional kindling that's been lying around for 20 or 30 years is lit by an incidental flick of a spontaneous incendiary remark. Because it's impossible to say anything if your mouth is entirely filled by spiral-cut ham, green beans and onions, or tofu tempura, other than "mrmph, mrmph, phuh," it's far less likely that you will be the cause of the family fight that will be remembered for three generations. So what if you end up looking like January Jones in last week's "Mad Men," where she sported a "fat suit" that made her look like an actual human being? You can eat Melba toast when you get home and risk being cranky only to your immediate household.
2. Either don't drink at all, or drink often and early. If you're on those SSRIs, stay away from the Manischewitz or the Shiraz. And if you're the designated driver, do the same. But if you're going to drink, do it in a pleasant, easygoing, non- "Jersey Shore" kind of way. Don't drink in response — drink because you'd like to have a sip of something nice to go with your food. Don't drink because you want to put your brother's eye out with a fork.
3. If you want to put your brother's eye out, stay away from the cutlery drawer. And your brother.
4. Don't comment, even in a subtle way, on what you know to be other people's vulnerabilities. Whether or not you believe people can see you raising your virtual eyebrows, they can. Don't ask the cousin who's on parole, "Isn't it nice to wear something other than orange?" Don't ask the mother of triplets if she's going back to work soon because you've heard "it's hard for women to re-enter corporate life if they're away for more than six months." Don't ask your gay nephew, "Which of the guys on 'Modern Family' would you rather date?" and then frown when he says, "Both."
5. Remember that you will never change anybody's mind about the following topics: politics, contraception, foreign vs. domestic automobiles, country music, global warming, cats vs. dogs, boxing, evolution, high-protein diets, texting, unions, Julia Roberts, religion, Jay Leno vs. Conan O'Brien vs. David Letterman, jeggings, public education, ghosts and primogeniture.
The best parts of any holiday are the serendipitous moments of laughter and connection not caught on video but recorded, indestructible, in our hearts.
If that's not working, there's usually cake; remember suggestion No. 1.
Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and a feminist scholar who has written eight books. She can be reached through her website at

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Those Fighting Irish

taken from Wikipedia

Not easy figuring out how to get the Fighting Irish logo posted without some sort of copyright violation, but I think I've figured it out.  Those feisty, fisty in-your-face Irish.
Notre Dame is on my mind in these days of heightened awareness of gender issues, ethnic sensitivity, and stereotyping. Across the country, for a couple of decades now, high schools, colleges, and universities have been changing their names and logos. No more Native American names, no more tomahawks, etc. Discussion for several years now among some folks at the University of Denver about the appropriateness of the name Pioneers.
Weren't the pioneers oppressors, pioneering into other people's territories, plunging and putting the stamp of victory on the original Americans?  So the story goes, and with new awareness and sensitivities, changes have been made to move us from the world of stereotyping. Just last week a fraternity and sorority apologized - news photo, letters, social media - for having a cowboy and Indian party.

The NCAA doesn't like the 'Fighting Sioux' nomenclature. North Dakota sent the Fighting Sioux dilemma to the state's supreme court: According to the papers, just this past Tuesday the "North Dakota Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday not to tackle the constitutional question in the Fighting Sioux nickname case baffled, disappointed and angered some observers."  I'm just re-telling the news, not commenting on it.

But those Fighting Irish. There may be movements to delete that angry, swaggering leprechaun, but I haven't seen many protests on the streets or through social media. No one has asked me, full-fledged Irish person that I am, to send that fighting leprechaun to heaven, hell or elsewhere.
 I remember Joseph Campbell's depiction of a conversation at a fight outside a pub in Ireland: "Is this a personal or can anyone join?"
Something there is about the Irish that seems to take great pride in the concept of the Fighting Irish (going to fight those Brits forever).  I know Notre Dame has its branding blue/gold ND mark, but that's for the Office of Communications and Development.
Check out a tee-shirt or a cap and you'll find that Leprechaun ready to duke it out with anyone.
Must be the anti-authoritarian in me, but I too love that little guy ready to go into service, fists up, awaiting duty. Refreshing.
 Fists up, I'm ready for the world. Enjoy the day.