Thursday, May 31, 2012


Unremarkable. That's what medical tests say if nothing is wrong. I've had those unremarkable blood tests, and just can't figure out why someone hasn't come up with a better term. What's so unremarkable, so  'not worth talking about' when things are going well? Personally, I think there's a lot to remark upon when everything is ok. Who is on that language committee?

In thinking about the news, I started wondering what is unremarkable and what is not. The turmoil in Syria strikes me as remarkable, but most of the Obama-Romney campaign commentary is definitely unremarkable.Not worth a wasted syllable. Still haven't figured out if Elizabeth Warren's heritage, or alleged heritage, is remarkable or unremarkable. John Edwards? the Euro?

I got started on the language of health and medical reports when I received an e-mail from my brother Garrett yesterday. He had had some pain in his side, some swelling, a couple of tests and then  a CT scan. His e-mail was detailed, more than any of you want to know, with, fortunately, several 'unremarkables' on it. But I thought I'd copy a couple of pieces of info that were worthy of remarks:

1. • Hernias--none seen. There is a small metallic density (clip?) seen probably due to prior hernia repair. (I had no previous
   hernia repair, so my guess is this happened when I had gall bladder surgery and they didn't say anything!

   No hernia seen on left side and no mass or nodule is seen in the subcutaneous soft tissue ( think better known as fat). My Dr said
   I was possibly lopsided!!!!! -- and that is where my body's fat has settled!  It still might be a pulled muscle.)
There you have it. Diagnosis: Lop-sided. Maybe a paper clip, hot wheels, safety pin or toy metal gun has lodged in and become a metallic density. No pills for that. I suppose he can just tell people he has LS  syndrome. That should be good enough to get a seat on the train during rush hour.  Second Lop-sided diagnosis I've heard about this month. Earlier in May my friend Linda was in Costa Rica, hoping to get some symmetry between her breasts (bet you didn't know they had that in the rainforest!). Doctor suggested she just might be lop-sided (a sort of 'get over it' diagnosis). Asymmetrical breasts have a lot of potential for remarks.

2• Old granulamatous disease in the spleen with several calcifications.
  (Dr. said this comes from fungi--wondered if I was brought up out west where you see more of it. I think it might be from travels,  living abroad, or backcountry camping. Dr. says that for me, its like having freckles.
Glad to be brought up on the east coast, where these fungi don't hang around much, but freckles do. Remarkable.

  Last Remarks:  Yesterday I had a serious case of agave on the foot syndrome. Thought I'd do some serious weeding in the back patio so put on my crocs. Couldn't get my left foot out of the croc. Apparently a plastic container of agave had been slowly leaking out of its bottle over the winter and on to the floor of the little kitchen cupboard. My crocs were there, apparently eager to pull that agave right in through those little holes and onto the soles of my shoes.
Then I was smart enough to pull my foot out and walk to the kitchen sink area. You try scraping agave off your foot, your floor and the inside of your croc. 
Household hint: keep your containers upright. Do not put your shoes in a food cupboard.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

One of the Big Ones

Do you remember sins? The Seven Deadly - whoops maybe it isn't seven - and I'm just thinking of those dwarfs..Grumpy et al.  For anyone brought up Catholic, practicing or not, the concept of sin is planted forever in one of those brain chips forever embedded in that skull.
I know a colleague who brought up the concept of mortal sin in a class and was met with utter silence. One of those 'thank God someone is googling the term to break the loud silence.
So it was with surprise that I read Gina Barreca's Sloth article on Facebook this morning. Sloth comes knocking on my door all too often, and all too often sits down and settles in. I'm sharing the article with you just in case Sloth ever comes your way. Try to shut the door. This is not a guest you want to entertain very often. She's alluring, appealing, seductive at first. But after a while, cold tea bags on the table, crumbs on the floor, you wish you had other friends. Even when you 'unlike' her she comes back. Re-reading this paragraph, it sounds a tad preachy to me. Sorry about that, but you can see I don't trust her.

Does Sloth=Lazy=Unproductive=No Fun?

May 29, 2012, 1:35 pm
I’m terrified of sloth. More than any other of the cozier and more familiar sins,  I regard sloth as my natural enemy and the embodiment of my biggest fear.
I’m not kidding now. I’d take a festive feast with gluttony, a steamy night with lust, a stuffed purse from greed, a shouting match with anger, a bragging contest with pride, and a beauty contest with envy without worrying about my immortal soul. Maybe I’m overconfident (do I feel a breeze created by heads nodding in unison?), but I still have a feeling that we’ll all be waiting in a really long line at the Pearly Gates only to hear the shouts of celebration when somebody yells from the front of the queue, “Hey! Good news! Sex doesn’t count!”
But what will count, I think, are sins of omission, and I’m afraid these will count big time.
We’ll have to account not so much for all the sins we’ve committed because we’re weak or foolish or scared or needy–they’ll understand all that–we’ll have to explain in detail why we didn’t get around to doing all the good we could have done. Somehow the answers “It didn’t seem worth it” and “It wouldn’t have done much good anyway” or even “I was watching the Weather Channel” won’t cut much slack. It’s my suspicion that there will be a lot of forgiveness for everything except wasting the stuff nobody gets enough of: time and talent.
Sloth is insidious. It whispers that you might as well do it tomorrow, that nobody will know if you cut corners here and there to save yourself some trouble, that the world will be the same in 100 years no matter what you do, so why do anything? Sloth says, “Don’t strain yourself,” “What’s the big hurry?” and “Just give me five more minutes.” Sloth hits the snooze alarm, hits the remote control and hits the road when the going gets tough.
It’s sloth’s job to make you stay up late watching an old movie you’ve seen before when you know you’ll only get all cranky at customers the next morning at work. And it’s sloth’s job to make you assume you know enough to pass judgment when all you’ve done is listen to what others have to say, without doing any thinking of your own.
Sloth cheats on exams, drinks straight from the milk carton, and leaves exactly two sheets on the toilet roll so that it will have to be replaced by the next poor soul who finds out too late that the remaining paper is nothing more than a mirage. Sloth never gets around to RSVPing but shows up at the party anyway.
Sloth slides over to say, “Marry her; she’ll make your life easier, because she loves you more than you love her. After all, they’re all basically the same.” It murmurs, “Don’t contradict him; it isn’t worth an argument. He’ll only sleep on the far side of the bed.”
Sloth does slightly less than the right thing. It doesn’t bother returning something to the lost and found, but pockets it instead; it doesn’t tell the clerk he has undercharged. Sloth has never written a thank-you note, sent a birthday card on time, or entertained angels.
It all just seems to take too much effort, right?
Except that so does life: Life takes effort. Tomorrow is promised to no one and you might never get another chance to say “thank you” or “I’m sorry” or “happy birthday” or “let me help you with that.” And then what happens if sex does count?
You won’t even have these offerings to show when you get to heaven. Plus you’ll have had a far less interesting and far less, well, fun time here on earth. Okay, I gotta go now. I have some cards to send.

(adapted from an essay in The Chicago Tribune)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Declare or Decorate

Not a big thing, but having been around to share many decades of Memorial Day activities and picnics, for some reason I asked yesterday why the day used to be called Declaration Day. Well, it never was, as I quickly found out. Decoration Day, not Declaration. I'm wondering if my now deceased elders used the word 'Declaration' or if I just made it up as a kid and stored it in my untrustworthy memory bank.
My own little linguistic creativity had me supposing that it once was a day to declare we were against war, but drifted to Memorial Day so people would only have to go to the cemetery once a year to memorialize folks, military or not.
But Wiki tells me today that in the olden days, in some places, Decoration Day was the day to dress up the monument, renew contracts with the kinfolks now gone, and have a dinner with the deceased. I like that.
I'm sure Arlington and all other cemeteries don't have room for barbeque grills, picnic tables, and frisbee. Don't forget the potato salad, searing in the hot sun, gathering up its ptomaine possibilities.

Speaking of cemeteries, ptomaine and other miscellany, I'm here to offer my own official Declaration Day - I declare flesh-eating bacteria articles off limits for a while. One victim, minus a leg, foot and fingers, is in recovery, with lots of credit being given to faith. The other still has all her limbs, but is too ill to hold her brand new twin babies.
Two articles too many for the likes of me. I spent an hour at what normally might be called lunchtime examining every bruise, paper cut, thorn cut, whatever appears to be irregular (and there's lots) on my body, hoping and praying the flesh-eaters haven't come my way.
I swear I will not see any movie about flesh-eaters. Several years ago, I did see a play called 'Bug' at Curious Theatre and spent two weeks scratching myself. I will , however, run to the theatre to get a ticket for The Butler Did It at the Vatican, if such a film appears. I'd prefer a book, however.
A lot of drama going on these days.
Segue three:  I've recently seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Dictator, and We Have a Pope at the movies.  I'm not exactly the intended audience for The Dictator, but found good humor in it. The majority audience (under 30) got a big laugh out of some things we thought were plain stupid, but that same majority was relatively silent on what I thought were some hilarious riffs. If you are intrigued by The Butler Did It news, We have a Pope is a great accompanying piece.
Those are my post-holiday declarations, decorations, and memorials.

Friday, May 25, 2012

All About Service

I have never been a Bill Bennett fan, but he did find himself a good commencement speech by Eric Greitens, a US Navy SEAL. How does someone like Eric Greitens, a Rhodes Scholar and humanitarian, take his skills and knowledge to bear on becoming a SEAL? I don't pretend to have an answer, but I am fascinated by the commitment and perseverance  of such people.
Eric Greitens speech at Tufts is a good one, a great one. But Bennett is dead wrong about a couple of things.
Most of all, he is wrong about the fact that serving the greater good and/or serving others is not often a part of the message at colleges and universities. Service-learning academic courses, service-oriented research, community outreach, and making the world a better place is the context in which a great deal of education happens these days at colleges and universities.
One might think it's all lip service, all a part of saying the only thing possible at a time when students are graduating with mega-debt and few jobs. "Oh, go do some public service until the economy loosens up." No. For example, the University of Denver's Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning has grown steadily for the past fifteen has the number of graduate and undergraduate students doing service learning and community-based research. Whether it's Law, Business, Engineering, Humanities, Social Sciences or Education, students are encouraged to serve their communities - local, national or international.
DU isn't alone; its counterparts are also invested in such initiatives.
OK, now that I've nudged Bill Bennett a bit, I still recommend his article today, as found online at CNN.
And I agree with him: good for Tufts...and good for Greitens.

Editor's note: William J. Bennett, a CNN contributor, is the author of "The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood." He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.
(CNN) -- Each spring, I monitor the list of commencement speakers at our nation's leading colleges and universities. Who is chosen, and who is not, tells us a lot about academia's perception of the most important voices in America.
Two of this year's most popular speakers were CNN's Fareed Zakaria, who spoke at both Harvard University and Duke University, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who spoke at both Tulane University and the University of Washington. Perhaps one of the most original choices, and the one who certainly stood out from the rest, was U.S. Navy SEAL Eric Greitens, who addressed the 2012 graduating class of Tufts University Sunday.
It's not often that elite universities honor military service members with commencement addresses. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower once spoke to a graduating class at an Ivy League university and remarked, "Your business is to put me out of business." So I applaud Tufts University for inviting Greitens.
William Bennett:
He is not a household name, but he should be. The 38-year-old Rhodes scholar and humanitarian worker turned U.S. Navy SEAL served multiple tours overseas fighting terrorist cells and received several military awards. Today, he is the CEO of the Mission Continues, a nonprofit foundation he created to help wounded and disabled veterans find ways to serve their communities at home.
To the graduates of Tufts, Greitens issued a unique challenge, one rarely heard at commencements today: to sacrifice, to serve one's country and to live magnanimously. He called students to think above and beyond their own dreams, their own desires, and to be strong. Aristotle called this megalopsychia, greatness of soul, and considered it one of the greatest moral virtues.
" 'What kind of service can I provide? What kind of positive difference can I make in the lives of others?' If you work every day to live an answer to that question, then you will be stronger," Greitens declared.
After dodging bullets, withstanding IED explosions and going days without sleep, Greitens realized the strength he needed to excel as a SEAL was found outside his own physical abilities. In his weakest moments, Greitens was able to find his greatest strength in service.
"The more I thought about myself, the weaker I became. The more I recognized that I was serving a purpose larger than myself, the stronger I became," he told the students at Tufts. He served his country and defended the weak against the rapacity of the wicked.
Fifty years ago, Greitens' remarks would have been the norm. But through the years, the focus of education, particularly higher education, has shifted from selflessness to self-obsession. Many commencement speakers today tell students to "Dream big" and "Do what you love." It may be feel-good career advice, but it's incomplete life advice. Philosopher Martin Buber wrote, "All education 'worthy' of the name is education of character." Greitens gave the Tufts student an eloquent firsthand example.
Greitens said it this way: "The best definition I have ever heard of a vocation is that it's the place where your great joy meets the world's great need. ... We need all of you to find your vocation. To develop your joys, your passions, and to match them to the world's great needs."
Not all men are meant to be Navy SEALs, or even serve in the military, but all men can serve. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow recognized, "The life of man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams but in active charity and in willing service."
We ask our students, what do you want to do when you grow up? Instead, we should ask them, whom or Whom, and what ideals do you want to serve when you grow up? That is a worthy thing to consider at graduation. Good for Greitens; good for Tufts.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Off the Road

Off the road for a while. Let's leave the Memorial Day long-haul driving to others.
Great trip to Taos and wonderful to meander the town and galleries before the crowds crawl in.
Loved Casa Europa, our b&b, where Lisa always has a 5 star breakfast and another 5 star afternoon treat. Total of seven rooms, including two suites, so we managed to have some good breakfast conversation before everyone headed off. The usual sorts of confusion - one man going off for a lunch with llamas. Roscoe assumed he was talking about Tibetan lamas, so it was an entertaining dialogue until it became clear that Tibetan high priests would not be carrying backpacks and lunch for our breakfast partner.
A sweet mom and daughter team, going to catch up with dad in a couple of days. Daughter just finished her third year as a cognitive neuroscience major at prestigious UCal campus. Always thought she'd be a doc, but took a course on global poverty and now wants to follow that path. Good docs can sure help out with global poverty. Mom is from India and had same problems - too many interests and good at all of them Got herself a PhD in linguistics and became a high tech worker in Silicon Valley.
Long discussion about meditation (which the mother practices daily) and the lack of receptivity in the Christian community. From there it was all Roscoe, all Thomas Merton et al.
...and the couple celebrating their 38th wedding anniversary on a motorcycle trip. Lots more, including the woman at a very basic roadside cafe trying to find a job, the tall, lean young man who walked in proclaiming that he had washed both his shorts and himself and it sure felt good after a couple of weeks. Next to him was a woman with a young child, looking at the milk bottle labels for vitamin D before she purchased a drink for her son. Everyone has a story, and most of them are worth hearing. Drove through a town called Bountiful, thinking of the great movie, a Trip to Bountiful. And drove through the town where Jack Dempsey was born. How's that for bringing up a name from the past? And I didn't even bother with the Kit Carson stories. That's my short story for the day.
Whoops - just a tad bit on news. Looks so good, watching the Egyptian women voting. Young, old...all participating in their country's historic moment. And, as usual, feeling fortunate to be a long-time voting woman in the US.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Road Trip

Going to make this short for two reasons: every time I post from my IPad nothing shows up. Can't figure out what happens but something does. Second reason..the type is so damned small that I can't see what I have written and cannot find the editing tab. We did head out of town to Taos yesterday,saw the Stations of the Cross and Mexican martyrs memorial sculptures in the San Luis valley. Walking the grounds made me wonder how many martyrs there really were. Didn't walk away singing "Give me that old time religion... Enchanting New Mexico (brilliant Land of Enchantment branding) chose to enchant. Sweet, sacred sort of b&b and then a glimpse of the solar eclipse. Enchanting indeed. Walked the Rio Grande gorge bridge this morning, looking down on hundreds of thousands of years of nature at work, sculpting, carving, shaping. Does put one's life and self-importance in perspective. On a lighter note, it also makes me want to look at some old cowboy and Indian movies to see how they conquered the terrains...or didn't. Had an exhausting rest of the day visiting galleries and were fortunate enough to meet up with two of the artists who will be showing in Denver at the CVA starting May 31. May even be bringing one of the pieces back to Denver for the artist. Swear I won't touch it. Met Ed Sandoval, well-known artist, standing next to a light blue 1951, with his easel up, totally focused on his painting. Barack Obama used an image from one of Sandoval's painting for a thank you card this past year. The White House didn't have a chance to buy the painting (don't know if they tried) because it had just been purchased. So much more going on..met a woman from Fort Collins who came to Taos and Santa Fe to make some significant life decisions. She feels the sacred and spiritual aura of New Mexico's enchanted space will allow her to listen to her heart in a profound way so she will be guided well. Wishing you some enchantment. More tomorrow, I hope.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Never Too Late to Say Sorry

Looking back, I see many times I could have said, "sorry."  "I screwed up." and..most of all, I was wrong."
True in my professional life, and assume it is in yours. But it's also true in personal relationships. These days I notice how often adults don't apologize or admit being wrong with children. Think I was a high scorer in that category also. But there is always time to change, isn't there? Always time for redemption.

This is a long tale from the NYT, but so refreshing in its way. Not refreshing at all in the way Dr. Spitzer's flawed study became popularized and used by various professionals as reparative therapy for gays, but refreshing in his honest apology. It's refreshing in its acknowledgement that good people do wrestle with their demons and to know that when the question "How does she/he sleep at night?" comes up after another questionable act or decision occurs, the answer is sometimes "He/she doesn't."

Whether you read through this or not, enjoy the weekend. I'm going to try to remember to wear gloves when I pluck a few roses so I don't have the usual blood and roses scene after a foray to the bushes.
Looking for a short road trip. Maybe Taos.

Leading Psychiatrist Apologizes for Study Supporting Gay ‘Cure’

PRINCETON, N.J. — The simple fact was that he had done something wrong, and at the end of a long and revolutionary career it didn’t matter how often he’d been right, how powerful he once was, or what it would mean for his legacy.
Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, considered by some to be the father of modern psychiatry, who turns 80 next week, lay awake at 4 o’clock on a recent morning knowing he had to do the one thing that comes least naturally to him.
He pushed himself up and staggered into the dark. His desk seemed impossibly far away; Dr. Spitzer suffers from Parkinson’s disease and has trouble walking, sitting, even holding his head upright.
The word he sometimes uses to describe these limitations — pathetic — is the same one that for decades he wielded like an ax to strike down dumb ideas, empty theorizing, and junk studies.
Now here he was at his computer, ready to recant a study he had done himself, a poorly conceived 2003 investigation that supported the use of so-called reparative therapy to “cure” homosexuality for people strongly motivated to change.
What to say? The issue of gay marriage was rocking national politics yet again. The California State Legislature was debating a bill to ban the therapy outright as being dangerous. A magazine writer who had been through the therapy as a teenager recently visited his house, to explain how miserably disorienting the experience was.
And he would learn later that a World Health Organization report, released on Thursday, calls the therapy “a serious threat to the health and well-being — even the lives — of affected people.”
Dr. Spitzer’s fingers jerked over the keys, unreliably, as if choking on the words. And then it was done: a short letter to be published this month, in the same journal where the original study appeared.
“I believe,” it concludes, “I owe the gay community an apology.”
Disturber of the Peace
The idea to study reparative therapy at all was pure Spitzer, say those who know him, an effort to stick a finger in the eye of an orthodoxy that he himself had helped establish.
In the late 1990s as today, the psychiatric establishment considered the therapy to be a nonstarter. Few therapists thought of homosexuality as a disorder.
It wasn’t always so. Up into the 1970s, the field’s diagnostic manual classified homosexuality as an illness, calling it a “sociopathic personality disturbance.” Many therapists offered treatment, including Freudian analysts who dominated the field at the time.
Advocates for gay people objected furiously and in 1970, one year after the landmark Stonewall protests to stop police raids at a New York bar, a team of gay rights protesters heckled a meeting of behavioral therapists in New York to discuss the topic. The meeting broke up, but not before a young Columbia University professor sat down with the protesters to hear their case.
“I’ve always been drawn to controversy, and what I was hearing made sense,” said Dr. Spitzer, in an interview at his home last week. “And I began to think, well, if it is a mental disorder, then what makes it one?”
He compared homosexuality with other conditions defined as disorders, like depression and alcohol dependence, and saw immediately that the latter caused marked distress or impairment, while homosexuality often did not.
He also saw an opportunity to do something about it. Dr. Spitzer was then a junior member of on an American Psychiatric Association committee helping to rewrite the field’s diagnostic manual and he promptly organized a symposium to discuss the place of homosexuality.
That kicked off a series of bitter debates, pitting Dr. Spitzer against a pair of influential senior psychiatrists who would not budge. In the end, the psychiatric association in 1973 sided with Dr. Spitzer, deciding to drop homosexuality from its manual and replace it with his alternative, “sexual orientation disturbance,” to identify people whose sexual orientation, gay or straight, caused them distress.
The arcane language notwithstanding, homosexuality was no longer a “disorder.” Dr. Spitzer achieved a civil rights breakthrough in record time.
“I wouldn’t say that Robert Spitzer became a household name among the broader gay movement, but the declassification of homosexuality was widely celebrated as a victory,” said Ronald Bayer of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health at Columbia. “ ‘Sick No More’ was a headline in some gay newspapers.”
Partly as a result, Dr. Spitzer took charge of the task of updating the diagnostic manual. Together with a colleague, Dr. Janet Williams, now his wife, he set to work. To an extent that is still not widely appreciated, his thinking about this one issue — homosexuality — drove a broader reconsideration of what mental illness is, of where to draw the line between normal and not.
The new manual, a 567-page doorstop released in 1980, became an unlikely best seller, here and abroad. It instantly set the standard for future psychiatry manuals, and elevated its principal architect, now nearing 50, to the pinnacle of his field.
He was the keeper of the book, part headmaster, part ambassador, and part ornery cleric, growling over the phone at scientists, journalists, or policy makers he thought were out of order. He took to the role as if born to it, colleagues say, helping to bring order to a historically chaotic corner of science.
But power was its own kind of confinement. Dr. Spitzer could still disturb the peace, all right, but no longer from the flanks, as a rebel. Now he was the establishment. And in the late 1990s, friends say, he remained restless as ever, eager to challenge common assumptions.
That’s when he ran into another group of protesters, at the psychiatric association’s annual meeting in 1999: self-described ex-gays. Like the homosexual protesters in 1973, they too were outraged that psychiatry was denying their experience — and any therapy that might help.
Reparative Therapy
Reparative therapy, sometimes called “sexual reorientation” or “conversion” therapy, is rooted in Freud’s idea that people are born bisexual and can move along a continuum from one end to the other. Some therapists never let go of the theory, and one of Dr. Spitzer’s main rivals in the 1973 debate, Dr. Charles W. Socarides, founded an organization called the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, or Narth, in Southern California, to promote it.
By 1998, Narth had formed alliances with socially conservative advocacy groups and together they began an aggressive campaign, taking out full-page ads in major newspaper trumpeting success stories.
“People with a shared worldview basically came together and created their own set of experts to offer alternative policy views,” said Dr. Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist in New York and co-editor of “Ex-Gay Research: Analyzing the Spitzer Study and Its Relation to Science, Religion, Politics, and Culture.”
To Dr. Spitzer, the scientific question was at least worth asking: What was the effect of the therapy, if any? Previous studies had been biased and inconclusive. “People at the time did say to me, ‘Bob, you’re messing with your career, don’t do it,’ ” Dr. Spitzer said. “But I just didn’t feel vulnerable.”
He recruited 200 men and women, from the centers that were performing the therapy, including Exodus International, based in Florida, and Narth. He interviewed each in depth over the phone, asking about their sexual urges, feelings and behaviors before and after having the therapy, rating the answers on a scale.
He then compared the scores on this questionnaire, before and after therapy. “The majority of participants gave reports of change from a predominantly or exclusively homosexual orientation before therapy to a predominantly or exclusively heterosexual orientation in the past year,” his paper concluded.
The study — presented at a psychiatry meeting in 2001, before publication — immediately created a sensation, and ex-gay groups seized on it as solid evidence for their case. This was Dr. Spitzer, after all, the man who single-handedly removed homosexuality from the manual of mental disorders. No one could accuse him of bias.
But gay leaders accused him of betrayal, and they had their reasons.
The study had serious problems. It was based on what people remembered feeling years before — an often fuzzy record. It included some ex-gay advocates, who were politically active. And it didn’t test any particular therapy; only half of the participants engaged with a therapist at all, while the others worked with pastoral counselors, or in independent Bible study.
Several colleagues tried to stop the study in its tracks, and urged him not to publish it, Dr. Spitzer said.
Yet, heavily invested after all the work, he turned to a friend and former collaborator, Dr. Kenneth J. Zucker, psychologist in chief at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto and editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, another influential journal.
“I knew Bob and the quality of his work, and I agreed to publish it,” Dr. Zucker said in an interview last week. The paper did not go through the usual peer-review process, in which unnamed experts critique a manuscript before publication. “But I told him I would do it only if I also published commentaries” of response from other scientists to accompany the study, Dr. Zucker said.
Those commentaries, with a few exceptions, were merciless. One cited the Nuremberg Code of ethics to denounce the study as not only flawed but morally wrong. “We fear the repercussions of this study, including an increase in suffering, prejudice, and discrimination,” concluded a group of 15 researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, where Dr. Spitzer was affiliated.
Dr. Spitzer in no way implied in the study that being gay was a choice, or that it was possible for anyone who wanted to change to do so in therapy. But that didn’t stop socially conservative groups from citing the paper in support of just those points, according to Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, a nonprofit that fights antigay bias.
On one occasion, a politician in Finland held up the study in Parliament to argue against civil unions, according to Dr. Drescher.
“It needs to be said that when this study was misused for political purposes to say that gays should be cured — as it was, many times — Bob responded immediately, to correct misperceptions,” said Dr. Drescher, who is gay.
But Dr. Spitzer couldn’t control how his study was interpreted by everyone, and he could not erase the biggest scientific flaw of them all, roundly attacked in many of the commentaries: Simply asking people whether they’ve changed is no evidence at all of real change. People lie, to themselves and others. They continually change their stories, to suit their needs and moods.
By almost any measure, in short, the study failed the test of scientific rigor that Dr. Spitzer himself was so instrumental in enforcing for so many years.
“As I read these commentaries, I knew this was a problem, a big problem, and one I couldn’t answer,” Dr. Spitzer said. “How do you know someone has really changed?”
Letting Go
It took 11 years for him to admit it publicly.
At first he clung to the idea that the study was exploratory, an attempt to prompt scientists to think twice about dismissing the therapy outright. Then he took refuge in the position that the study was focused less on the effectiveness of the therapy and more on how people engaging in it described changes in sexual orientation.
“Not a very interesting question,” he said. “But for a long time I thought maybe I wouldn’t have to face the bigger problem, about measuring change.”
After retiring in 2003, he remained active on many fronts, but the reparative study remained a staple of the culture wars and a personal regret that wouldn’t leave him be. The Parkinson’s symptoms have worsened in the past year, exhausting him mentally as well physically, making it still harder to fight back pangs of remorse.
And one day in March, Dr. Spitzer entertained a visitor. Gabriel Arana, a journalist at the magazine The American Prospect, interviewed Dr. Spitzer about the reparative therapy study. This wasn’t just any interview; Mr. Arana went through reparative therapy himself as a teenager, and his therapist had recruited the young man for Dr. Spitzer’s study (Mr. Arana did not participate).
“I asked him about all his critics, and he just came out and said, ‘I think they’re largely correct,’ ” said Mr. Arana, who wrote about his own experience last month. Mr. Arana said that reparative therapy ultimately delayed his self-acceptance as a gay man and induced thoughts of suicide. “But at the time I was recruited for the Spitzer study, I was referred as a success story. I would have said I was making progress.”
That did it. The study that seemed at the time a mere footnote to a large life was growing into a chapter. And it needed a proper ending — a strong correction, directly from its author, not a journalist or colleague.
A draft of the letter has already leaked online and has been reported.
“You know, it’s the only regret I have; the only professional one,” Dr. Spitzer said of the study, near the end of a long interview. “And I think, in the history of psychiatry, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a scientist write a letter saying that the data were all there but were totally misinterpreted. Who admitted that and who apologized to his readers.”
He looked away and back again, his big eyes blurring with emotion. “That’s something, don’t you think?”

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Money and Power, etc. - but Under a Tree?

In 1954, May 17, the Supreme Court,  in  Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, officially brought an end to segregated schools. It's been a long journey, and not always a pretty one, but we're still on the move. As they say, it's rained a lot since then. Economics still drive school choice, and while segregated schools per se don't exist any more, truly integrated schools aren't exactly in abundance around the states. And it was a Black and White thing, at least in the minds of most people, at that time.
No stepping in the same river twice when it comes to education and equality.The news on May 17, 2012 is that racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half the children born in the US these days. So newborn minorities are really newborn majorities. Diversity in ethnicity, languages, economic status is the challenge for schools and the emerging minority/majority in schools.  Hard to imagine what the issues will be in half a century, but I'm hoping whatever emerges will be what we need. Equality of educational opportunity, we hope, is on the horizon.

Speaking of May 17th, apparently in 1792 the New York Stock Exchange had its origins when a group of brokers met under a tree on Wall Street. Excuse my ignorance, but I had no idea those guys have been running the show for so long. I'd say economic equality never raised its head as a topic under the shade of the tree. Money and Power - and Wall Street is hanging on to all the money and power on May 17, 2012 that it possibly can.

Speaking of money and power - pretty good segue I must say - I've been thinking about this Jamie Dimon from JP Morgan Chase for a day. Never heard of him until he made his 'mistake.'  I know Jimmy Dine, the artist,

Jimmy Dine of the fabulous hearts,

but never Jamie Dimon of the false heart. Now I learn that he's made a 2 billion dollar mistake - maybe even three- but said he was sorry, that as the top man at the bank, he's responsible for this 'self-inflicted mistake.'  "I'm sorry."
"Fine with us, say the stockholders. You apologized. You are a good man. We don't care if you used FDIC guaranteed deposits and we know you will never do that again."
I have my mortgage, checking, savings accounts at JP Morgan Chase. True, adding the deposits of people like me could never get you into the millions mark, no matter how long you labored. BUT you still could have borrowed a hundred or so from me for your mistake. And you are on the Federal Reserve Board that oversees the banks? My, how cozy.  Just like sitting under the tree in days of old and figuring out how to make a buck or two.
Things change. And things don't.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

To Read or Not to Read

A year ago today, I finished my post-surgery chemo treatments. I try not to write about or dwell on my bout with ovarian cancer, but celebration of a year free of chemo seems to be in order. Along with the year anniversary I figure it's about six months' anniversary free of the psychic toxicity that ripples through the body after those huge poisonous doses of chemicals. So... celebration for me.
As serendipity and other random creatures would have it, yesterday a woman asked me if I had read Memoir of a Debulked Woman by Susan Gubar. I said I hadn't and she responded "Don't. It's horrible, filled with nasty details and medical descriptions of the debulking process, limited research and limited resources associated with ovarian cancer. I've read several sections of it at The Tattered Cover, and I'm telling you it's the most depressing book I've ever read. And I've never had any kind of cancer."

Don't. You can see it coming, can't you? First I read the NYT review, then read the reviews on Amazon. All mentioned the graphic details. I then saw that Susan had co-authored The Madwoman in the Attic, one of the must read and powerful books of the feminist movement. I remembered the book, but not the author. The memory conjured up all those books that knocked us out, those books that helped us (not saying who we all are/were) figure out we weren't crazy, weren't madwomen, but were maybe in a crazy system.
Should I turn my back on this author now?
The easy answer is 'Don't Read it. You already know the gruesome details.'
Even harder to do now that I punched the one-click Kindle button on Amazon.
The last book I surreptitiously one-clicked on Amazon Kindle was Fifty Shades of Gray.
You don't have to say a word. My defense: heard an argument between a younger and older woman about whether the book was soft or hard porn.  'Hard porn,' insisted the older woman.
'Soft porn,' said the younger.  The truth: I don't know. It's such pitiful prose, aka crap, that I can't make myself read past the beginning chapters where demented young damsel falls for wealthy older man who apparently likes kinky sex. But the prose isn't worth wading through.
Quite a choice I've left myself. To read or not to read....
Maybe not those two books.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Be Kind. . .

Be Kind, for everyone you know is fighting a great battle.

The quote, so profound and so deeply true, is hard to conjure up when it's most needed. Plato, Aristotle, and Philo of Alexandria all get credit for this profundity. For myriad reasons, none of which matter to anyone, I give the credit to Philo of Alexandria. How can you not give credit to someone known as a Hellenistic Jewish Biblical Philosopher operating between 20 BCE and 50C?. Really. Trying to blend Greek philosophy with Jewish traditions around the time of the birth of Christ. There's a man who needed lots of kindness. Not sure if he was able to rely on the kindness of strangers.

Back to the present. I've been struggling with my feelings about someone who is in a group I'm in. I struggle because often she seems to be so half-there, lost in her own thoughts, inattentive to others, and somewhat solipsistic. I know, that could be all of us at given times, but this is a pretty persistent mode of behavior. Today I learned that she has had parts of her brain removed to eliminate some of the longtime, excruciating pain from migraine headaches.

Who knew. Who knows? Who ever knows? When I'm driving I wonder why so many people are on their cell phones - do they have that many more friends than I do or that many more important things going on? Why is everyone under 50 texting her/his way through the world? Why did that person just give me the finger? I
don't know. But I rarely stop to think that call might be a medical emergency, the text a flimsy way of breaking up with someone. I don't know who just lost a job, a house, a child, a lover, a sense of confidence.
So many battles, so many warriors walking amongst us or in our shoes. I need to remember that.

On another, perhaps more cheerful, note, we spent the long weekend in Boca Raton. There's a beach and boardwalk to remember. Stunning. My first day in 2012 listening to the surf and watching the tide roll in and out. Endless beauty, sense of being at peace with the universe.
The walks on the beach, the trails at Loxahatchee State Park where huge, colorful, striped grasshoppers, seemingly painted by contemporary artists, surround us and an occasional alligator gulp stops us in our tracks. The bountiful fruit and vegetable stand with fresh cantaloupes for 50 cents verifies that we are in paradise.
Back to the beach. It's the season for nesting and the nesting places of mother turtles are protected from beachcombers. Legend has it, according to Rob, that only about half the baby sea turtles hatched will make their journey into the oceans. Heard a great folk song by Amy Carol Webb called Turtle Tears - tears of a mother turtle who watches some of her babies make it on the journey and others unable to survive. For me, there is something magical and mystical about the water, the endless process of life evolving that soothes my soul while making me ponder the bigger universes. I do mean plural.
Two days at the beach and another day at the Japanese Gardens, seduced into serenity by the spirits and sacredness of zen gardens, sculptures, trees and rocks. Elena's daughter Amy joins us for the peaceful walk through the gardens.
Ended the FL vacation with a festive traditional Cuban dinner at Elena's mom's house. One opens the door into the house and walks into a small, pristine living room with photos everywhere - on the coffee tables, all side tables, every wall - a gallery that spans Cuban history from the revolution on. Some of the family made it to the US, children on the Peter Pan flights, others went to prison, died, or still live in Cuba.
So much history, but so much pain, so many tears, and early deaths that there is no way to ask questions, as I just didn't know where any one photo might lead. Every inch on the dining room table is filled with Cuban food, plates and platters. Stimulating conversation and much laughter around the table as this feast fit for gods and goddesses. The youngest at the table is 10; the oldest 80 plus. Love, family, friendship. 
With all this ripeness and bounty, it's still good to remember: Be kind. Everyone you know is fighting a great battle.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In or Out?

No, not talking about navels, aka belly buttons, although there was a time in my life when I thought the 'in' folks were better than the rest of us. I think that was back in the day when I thought only aristocrats came over on the Mayflower.
But today's In or Out question is:  Are you counted in or out (for or against) gay marriage? Votes flying furiously but seeming to amount to 'a sound and fury signifying nothing.' Colorado and North Carolina are 'don't count us in as being for gay marriage' and Joe Biden, Arne Duncan and now Barack Obama are in.
I haven't heard the president's comments from today's interview saying he now supports gay marriage, just read the headlines in many online newspaper postings. I think it was the Washington Post that called his decision a 'calculated gamble.'  May be . But it's a big step up for the simple issue of telling the truth.
How has it happened that telling the truth is such a difficult demand in politics. Almost everyone I know has endless commentary or close analysis of 'what candidate X says and what he really means.'  So it's a calculated risk for Obama. Hmmm.  Have to wonder what Joe Biden is doing today.

Back at you, Colorado.

BUT..I'm wondering why the US political world has put its laser eye on gay marriage while paying little attention to all those elections and political frustrations around the world that have a direct impact on all of our lives also. If Austerity is no longer 'In' in places around the world, what does that mean for us? I wouldn't mind understanding correlations or cause/effect between and among the economic waves.
I know France is having its problem with a to-be First Lady who can't really be a First Lady because she isn't officially married to the new First Man. Have to wonder how that Euro is doing today.

Also wondering if it's because spring is here in much of the country, and arms and legs will be showing themselves in the supermarkets and parks, stomachs won't have coats covering them, etc. so we're getting an overdose of Overweight News. Hesitate to call it Fat News, because Fat isn't a nice word. Perhaps enough folks will fall into the 'overweight' category that overweight will become the new normal.  Sort of like the jockeying that got done a while back with SAT scores.
 In my own perverse way, whenever I read about obesity or changes in the size of toilets, seats, etc. I get so disgusted I want to down a bag of potato chips. Maybe everyone else eats junk, overeats and overdrinks supersized whatever because they're disgusted.
Recently I was with a group of people dining in an upscale restaurant serving food that was out of this world. But we had a groupon coupon and had to spend X amount of dollars in order to get the 20% discount. Long story short, we were all called upon to eat the creme brulee or chocolate cheesecake in order to make the required amount of money for the discount. Maybe groupon, social deals and all those other marketing devices are responsible for obesity. Surely there is someone to blame?
Don't know for sure, and am not sure I even want to know, but that obesity thing has to be costing more than cigarette smoking did/does for the health care industry. Food taxes anyone? Would almost be worth it to watch the cheetos black market emerge.
Are you in or out on any of this?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

RIP, Maurice Sendak. Enjoy the rumpus. It's a long article from today's New York Times, but a wonderful tribute to a man who brought us Where The Wild Things Are and so many other great books and illustrations. I'd call him a 20th century - and 21st century - hero.  We seem to have many, many celebrities and so few heroes. Count Maurice Sendak as a hero. Happy Reading.

(hope the NPR interview comes through)

Maurice Sendak, Author of Splendid Nightmares, Dies at 83

Joyce Dopkeen/The New York Times
Maurice Sendak at his Ridgefield, Conn., home with his German Shepherd, Herman, in 2006. More Photos »
Maurice Sendak, widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century, who wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche, died on Tuesday in Danbury, Conn. He was 83.
The cause was complications of a recent stroke, said Michael di Capua, his longtime editor. Mr. Sendak, who died at Danbury Hospital, lived nearby in Ridgefield, Conn.
Roundly praised, intermittently censored and occasionally eaten, Mr. Sendak’s books were essential ingredients of childhood for the generation born after 1960 or thereabouts, and in turn for their children. He was known in particular for more than a dozen picture books he wrote and illustrated himself, most famously “Where the Wild Things Are,” which was simultaneously genre-breaking and career-making when it was published by Harper & Row in 1963.
Among the other titles he wrote and illustrated, all from Harper & Row, are “In the Night Kitchen” (1970) and “Outside Over There” (1981), which together with “Where the Wild Things Are” form a trilogy; “The Sign on Rosie’s Door” (1960); “Higglety Pigglety Pop!” (1967); and “The Nutshell Library” (1962), a boxed set of four tiny volumes comprising “Alligators All Around,” “Chicken Soup With Rice,” “One Was Johnny” and “Pierre.”
In September, a new picture book by Mr. Sendak, “Bumble-Ardy” — the first in 30 years for which he produced both text and illustrations — was issued by HarperCollins Publishers. The book, which spent five weeks on the New York Times children’s best-seller list, tells the not-altogether-lighthearted story of an orphaned pig (his parents are eaten) who gives himself a riotous birthday party.
A posthumous picture book, “My Brother’s Book” — a poem written and illustrated by Mr. Sendak and inspired by his love for his late brother, Jack — is scheduled to be published next February.
Mr. Sendak’s work was the subject of critical studies and major exhibitions; in the second half of his career, he was also renowned as a designer of theatrical sets. His art graced the writing of other eminent authors for children and adults, including Hans Christian Andersen, Leo Tolstoy, Herman Melville, William Blake and Isaac Bashevis Singer.
In book after book, Mr. Sendak upended the staid, centuries-old tradition of American children’s literature, in which young heroes and heroines were typically well scrubbed and even better behaved; nothing really bad ever happened for very long; and everything was tied up at the end in a neat, moralistic bow.
Mr. Sendak’s characters, by contrast, are headstrong, bossy, even obnoxious. (In “Pierre,” “I don’t care!” is the response of the small eponymous hero to absolutely everything.) His pictures are often unsettling. His plots are fraught with rupture: children are kidnapped, parents disappear, a dog lights out from her comfortable home.
A largely self-taught illustrator, Mr. Sendak was at his finest a shtetl Blake, portraying a luminous world, at once lovely and dreadful, suspended between wakefulness and dreaming. In so doing, he was able to convey both the propulsive abandon and the pervasive melancholy of children’s interior lives.
His visual style could range from intricately crosshatched scenes that recalled 19th-century prints to airy watercolors reminiscent of Chagall to bold, bulbous figures inspired by the comic books he loved all his life, with outsize feet that the page could scarcely contain. He never did learn to draw feet, he often said.
In 1964, the American Library Association awarded Mr. Sendak the Caldecott Medal, considered the Pulitzer Prize of children’s book illustration, for “Where the Wild Things Are.” In simple, incantatory language, the book told the story of Max, a naughty boy who rages at his mother and is sent to his room without supper. A pocket Odysseus, Max promptly sets sail:
And he sailed off through night and day
and in and out of weeks
and almost over a year
to where the wild things are.
There, Max leads the creatures in a frenzied rumpus before sailing home, anger spent, to find his supper waiting.
As portrayed by Mr. Sendak, the wild things are deliciously grotesque: huge, snaggletoothed, exquisitely hirsute and glowering maniacally. He always maintained he was drawing his relatives — who, in his memory at least, had hovered like a pack of middle-aged gargoyles above the childhood sickbed to which he was often confined.
Maurice Bernard Sendak was born in Brooklyn on June 10, 1928; his father, Philip, was a dressmaker in the garment district of Manhattan. Family photographs show the infant Maurice, or Murray as he was then known, as a plump, round-faced, slanting-eyed, droopy-lidded, arching-browed creature — looking, in other words, exactly like a baby in a Maurice Sendak illustration. Mr. Sendak adored drawing babies, in all their fleshy petulance.
A frail child beset by a seemingly endless parade of illnesses, Mr. Sendak was reared, he said afterward, in a world of looming terrors: the Depression; World War II; the Holocaust, in which many of his European relatives perished; the seemingly infinite vulnerability of children to danger. He experienced the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in 1932 as a personal torment: if that fair-haired, blue-eyed princeling could not be kept safe, what certain peril lay in store for him, little Murray Sendak, in his humble apartment in Bensonhurst?
An image from the Lindbergh crime scene — a ladder leaning against the side of a house — would find its way into “Outside Over There,” in which a baby is carried off by goblins.
As Mr. Sendak grew up — lower class, Jewish, gay — he felt permanently shunted to the margins of things. “All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy,” he told The New York Times in a 2008 interview. “They never, never, never knew.”
His lifelong melancholia showed in his work, in picture books like “We Are All in the Dumps With Jack and Guy” (1993), a parable about homeless children in the age of AIDS. It showed in his habits. He could be dyspeptic and solitary, working in his white clapboard home deep in the Connecticut countryside with only Mozart, Melville, Mickey Mouse and his dogs for company.
It showed in his everyday interactions with people, especially those blind to the seriousness of his enterprise. “A woman came up to me the other day and said, ‘You’re the kiddie-book man!’ ” Mr. Sendak told Vanity Fair last year.“I wanted to kill her.”
But Mr. Sendak could also be warm and forthright, if not quite gregarious. He was a man of many enthusiasms — for music, art, literature, argument and the essential rightness of children’s perceptions of the world around them. He was also a mentor to a generation of younger writers and illustrators for children, several of whom, including Arthur Yorinks, Richard Egielski and Paul O. Zelinsky, went on to prominent careers of their own.
As far back as he could remember, Mr. Sendak had loved to draw. That and looking out the window had helped him pass the long hours in bed. While he was still in high school — at Lafayette in Brooklyn — he worked part time for All-American Comics, filling in backgrounds for book versions of the “Mutt and Jeff” comic strip. His first professional illustrations were for a physics textbook, “Atomics for the Millions,” published in 1947.
In 1948, at 20, he took a job building window displays for F. A. O. Schwarz. Through the store’s children’s book buyer, he was introduced to Ursula Nordstrom, the distinguished editor of children’s books at Harper & Row. The meeting, the start of a long, fruitful collaboration, led to Mr. Sendak’s first children’s book commission: illustrating “The Wonderful Farm,” by Marcel AymĂ©, published in 1951.
Under Ms. Nordstrom’s guidance, Mr. Sendak went on to illustrate books by other well-known children’s authors, including several by Ruth Krauss, notably “A Hole Is to Dig” (1952), and Else Holmelund Minarik’s “Little Bear” series. The first title he wrote and illustrated himself, “Kenny’s Window,” published in 1956, was a moody, dreamlike story about a lonely boy’s inner life.
Mr. Sendak’s books were often a window on his own experience. “Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life” was a valentine to Jennie, his beloved Sealyham terrier, who died shortly before the book was published.
At the start of the story, Jennie, who has everything a dog could want — including “a round pillow upstairs and a square pillow downstairs” — packs her bags and sets off on her own, pining for adventure. She finds it on the stage of the World Mother Goose Theatre, where she becomes a leading lady. Every day, and twice on Saturdays, Jennie, who looks rather like a mop herself, eats a mop made out of salami. This makes her very happy.
“Hello,” Jennie writes in a satisfyingly articulate letter to her master. “As you probably noticed, I went away forever. I am very experienced now and very famous. I am even a star. ... I get plenty to drink too, so don’t worry.”
By contrast, the huge, flat, brightly colored illustrations of “In the Night Kitchen,” the story of a boy’s journey through a fantastic nocturnal cityscape, are a tribute to the New York of Mr. Sendak’s childhood, recalling the 1930s films and comic books he adored all his life. (The three bakers who toil in the night kitchen are the spit and image of Oliver Hardy.)
Mr. Sendak’s later books could be much darker. “Brundibar” (2003), with text by the playwright Tony Kushner, is a picture book based on an opera performed by the children of the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The opera, also called “Brundibar,” had been composed in 1938 by Hans Krasa, a Czech Jew who later died in Auschwitz.
Reviewing the book in The New York Times Book Review, the novelist and children’s book author Gregory Maguire called it “a capering picture book crammed with melodramatic menace and comedy both low and grand.” He added: “In a career that spans 50 years and counting, as Sendak’s does, there are bound to be lesser works. ‘Brundibar’ is not lesser than anything.”
With Mr. Kushner, Mr. Sendak collaborated on a stage version of the opera, performed in 2006 at the New Victory Theater in New York.
Despite its wild popularity, Mr. Sendak’s work was not always well received. Some early reviews of “Where the Wild Things Are” expressed puzzlement and outright unease. Writing in Ladies’ Home Journal, the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim took Mr. Sendak to task for punishing Max:
“The basic anxiety of the child is desertion,” Mr. Bettelheim wrote. “To be sent to bed alone is one desertion, and without food is the second desertion.” (Mr. Bettelheim admitted that he had not actually read the book.)
“In the Night Kitchen,” which depicts its young hero, Mickey, in the nude, prompted many school librarians to bowdlerize the book by drawing a diaper over Mickey’s nether region.
But these were minority responses. Mr. Sendak’s other awards include the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and, in 1996, the National Medal of the Arts, presented by President Bill Clinton. Twenty-two of his titles have been named New York Times best illustrated books of the year.
Many of Mr. Sendak’s books had second lives on stage and screen. Among the most notable adaptations are the operas “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Higglety Pigglety Pop!” by the British composer Oliver Knussen, and Carole King’s “Really Rosie,” a musical version of “The Sign on Rosie’s Door,” which appeared on television as an animated special in 1975 and on the Off Broadway stage in 1980.
In 2009, a feature film version of “Where the Wild Things Are” — part live action, part animated — by the director Spike Jonze opened to favorable notices. (With Lance Bangs, Mr. Jonze also directed “Tell Them Anything You Want,” a documentary film about Mr. Sendak first broadcast on HBO that year.)
In the 1970s, Mr. Sendak began designing sets and costumes for adaptations of his own work and, eventually, the work of others. His first venture was Mr. Knussen’s “Wild Things,” for which Mr. Sendak also wrote the libretto. Performed in a scaled-down version in Brussels in 1980, the opera had its full premiere four years later, to great acclaim, staged in London by the Glyndebourne Touring Opera.
With the theater director Frank Corsaro, he also created sets for several venerable operas, among them Mozart’s “Magic Flute,” performed by the Houston Grand Opera in 1980, and Leos Janacek’s “Cunning Little Vixen” for the New York City Opera in 1981.
For the Pacific Northwest Ballet, Mr. Sendak designed sets and costumes for a 1983 production of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker”; a film version was released in 1986.
Among Mr. Sendak’s recent books is his only pop-up book, “Mommy?,” published by Scholastic in 2006, with a scenario by Mr. Yorinks and paper engineering by Matthew Reinhart.
Mr. Sendak’s companion of a half-century, Eugene Glynn, a psychiatrist who specialized in the treatment of young people, died in 2007. No immediate family members survive.
Though he understood children deeply, Mr. Sendak by no means valorized them unconditionally. “Dear Mr. Sun Deck ...” he could drone with affected boredom, imitating the semiliterate forced-march school letter-writing projects of which he was the frequent, if dubious, beneficiary.
But he cherished the letters that individual children sent him unbidden, which burst with the sparks that his work had ignited.
“Dear Mr. Sendak,” read one, from an 8-year-old boy. “How much does it cost to get to where the wild things are? If it is not expensive, my sister and I would like to spend the summer there.”

Monday, May 7, 2012

Catching Up

Thought for the Day:

 “Engrave this upon your heart: there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you heard their story.”  
                                                     attributed to Benedictine nun Mary Lou Kownacki.

Beautiful thought, and so true. I am constantly reminded what a difference it makes to me to hear a slight slice of someone's story. It's so easy, so second-handedly convenient, so almost natural to objectify people. "I can't stand her because she never stops talking about herself" or "He just thinks he knows everything."  And then some small piece of truth, of authenticity emerges from that person and I am transformed. The person is the same as she/he always has been, but I am different.

Good to be back in town and on the blog. I just realized the "How Old is Too Old?" posting somehow never made it to the page. Actually, it was a mini-rant, written a week ago, about the sign at DIA next to the security line announcing that people over 75 did not have to take their shoes or jackets off to go through security. I watched the delight on the faces of those smug 75+ folks not forced to bend over and untie their shoelaces. Then I wondered who decided that someone over 75 wouldn't have a shoe bomb? Would it be because it took too much time for elders to tie and untie their shoes? Or would it be that they'd leave the bomb on the kitchen counter and put the car keys in their shoes?  I don't know the rationale used for picking the age. And the jackets? Did experience show that the 75 and over folks left their jackets behind more often than not? What kind of age bias is this? I don't know how many extra people have been hired by TSA in order to accommodate the 'shoes and jackets off' regulation. Bet it has cost lots. Number of potential terrorists or bombers stopped at any given airport?  What else could we be doing with the TSA salaries (and I know, unemployment would rise if we eliminate those positions)?  Guess those of us older than 7 and younger than 75 are still potential terrorist material.

So many interesting moments, hours, days in D.C. last week. Reading proposals from around the world for potential presentations at a conference was truly inspiring. So much thoughtful research, so many intriguing workshops, interdisciplinary papers.....just plain great thoughts out there circulating in the universe. Feels good to be a part of the cultural conversations of the times.

Many reminders of how easy it is to slip into our own language about the world, assuming others use similar containers, analogies, or descriptions. Several proposals addressed generational divides and differences. Are the baby-boomers ready for the millenials, Gen X, Gen Y, etc.
We all know who the baby boomers are (you might see one in a nearby mirror). But does the phrase have meaning in South Africa, in Sweden or Cuba?  "If the writer used pre or post apartheid, I'd know the time frame," said a reader.  ditto Bay of Pigs, etc.  Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the terms, but a not-so-subtle message to be cognizant of context.  I love it when something like this comes to me....

Also spent a day with Garrett and Jane, attended the Mindfulness Meditation Center, a loving and joyous community to which they belong, and heard their teacher's talk and guided meditation; went to an engaging and thoughtful yoga class taught by Jane, saw the new MLK statue with Garrett. Alas, alas, I was quite disappointed in the statue. Just not what I would have chosen. But - and good thing there are buts - a joy to see a statue of a peacemaker so visible and in such a perfect location. The statue is a big, big statement that speaks to Peace and Justice and it's hard to complain much about such a monument.

At the National Gallery, saw Annie Liebowitz's show Pilgrimage. She has a book, same title, of course.
For all of us in love with Liebowitz's portraits of women (one of my favorite shows) and photographs of famous people it's an adjustment to look at a show of hers that does not contain one person photographed by Annie Liebowitz. Instead, the show focuses on twenty places or people who had significant impact on her life. She took pilgrimages to the twenty sites and took photos. So, for example, Freud being one of the people who affected her greatly, there is a photo of Freud, 'the' couch,' and other Freud memorabilia from his house in London. There are photos of photos of Virginia Woolf, Charles Darwin, Elvis Presley, Alfred Stieglitz, etc.  Of course, great landscape photos.  Was going to list the 20 people/places, but can't remember them all. Have most of them, but don't want to leave any one or thing out, so guess we'll all have to google.  Maybe it's time for all of us to take some inner pilgrimage and seek the 20 people (really representing the thinking of those people) and the places that have had a profound influence on us. Then comes the external pilgrimage. What do you think?