Friday, February 29, 2008

What is the sound of one elder not saying anything?

I subscribe to Elder's Meditation of the Day - This was the entry for today, February 29:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Jerzy and Kristara eat donuts.

It's 11 PM and twenty degrees outside - cold for Virginia, even Northern Virginia, that state just above Southern Virginia. Duckie wanted a walk and Kristara wanted a donut. (When did they stop being spelled doughnuts?) Jerzy, as usual, was called into action to take care of all of us - accompany me on the dog walk, make sure Duck keeps moving, and go into 7/11 to buy the dreaded donut. I wore the coat that has the zipper stuck up around the neck. I can't get it on and off without a bit of a freakout, necessitating Jerzy's intervention. We're used to it.

Back home with the donuts I took a bite of Jerzy's with the chocolate frosting. She gave me a steely-eyed look. How did she know I was going to make disparaging comments about how horrible it tasted and what abominable ingredients it contained and how wrong everything in the entire world is. I took one look at her and vowed to keep my mouth shut. My expression turned sour.

Not a word from you Jerzy said. Why don't you just go blog about it. That way I'll be sure to not have to read it. What a wiseass.

Julia can write poetry. Not I.

To Julia

I wanted to write a poem
One that I thought you'd like
I wanted to use big words
Like William F. Buckley did when he was alive
Even though he wasn’t a poet
Smart stuff like Wallace Stevens
Heart-felt like Fleur Adcock
Clever like George Bilgere
Poignant like Carol Frost
Funny like Denver Butson
A good poem
Like so many countless poems
By so many brilliant poets
One that we both would like
A poem so good that you’d read it
And call and say you wanna hear a poem
And of course I'd say yes
And then you’d read it to me
And we’d both be impressed
And happy and feel good in some
Otherwise unreachable parts of our brains.
But it turns out it’s not so easy.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tuesday 9:00 AM by Denver Butson

Tuesday 9:00 AM

A man standing at the bus stop
reading the newspaper is on fire
Flames are peeking out
from beneath his collar and cuffs
His shoes have begun to melt

The woman next to him
wants to mention it to him
that he is burning
but she is drowning
Water is everywhere
in her mouth and ears
in her eyes
A stream of water runs
steadily from her blouse

Another woman stands at the bus stop
freezing to death
She tries to stand near the man
who is on fire
to try to melt the icicles
that have formed on her eyelashes
and on her nostrils
to stop her teeth long enough
from chattering to say something
to the woman who is drowning
but the woman who is freezing to death
has trouble moving
with blocks of ice on her feet

It takes the three some time
to board the bus
what with the flames
and water and ice
But when they finally climb the stairs
and take their seats
the driver doesn't even notice
that none of them has paid
because he is tortured
by visions and is wondering
if the man who got off at the last stop
was really being mauled to death
by wild dogs.

Denver Butson

from Triptych, 1999
The Commoner Press, New York

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

The thing about blogging is that one day you'll not be able to resist a meme.

I've encountered this meme at numerous blogs in the past week. I like it. Here are the instructions.

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open it at page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence/phrase.
4. Blog the next four sentences/phrases together with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig your shelves for that very special or intellectual book.
6. Pass it forward to six friends

There are three books next to me as I lie in bed with my laptop on my lap (There are often more.) - Managerial Economics & Organizational Architecture; The Coming Generational Storm; and The thing about life is that one day you'll be dead. The choice is obvious.

Went to Page 123 of The thing about life is that one day you'll be dead by David Shields. Found the fifth sentence. Here are the next four sentences.
"Earlier this year, it was just the two of us alone in the pool. I was doing laps and flip turns -- my back was feeling weirdly trouble-free for the moment--while he was tottering in the shallow end. After just a few minutes, he got out, toweled off, and headed over to the sauna, carrying the sports page. . .(next chapter) . . . As soon as animals, including humans, reach sexual maturity, many of their functions weaken."

I had no idea this was a new book when I ordered it on Amazon. It was one of the books that popped up as a suggestion based on my previous purchases, the - if you liked that book we know who'll like this one. Maybe it was that other irresistible Amazon trick of bundling a second book with your first choice, buy these two together and save. It actually ends up being buy these two together and spend more, but at the time it often seems like a heck of an idea.

It turns out to be new and reviewed in the NY Times February 24 by Alex Beam, "The Man Who Wouldn’t Die." Here's a snippet:

Here is how Shields defines his genre: “An autobiography of my body, a biography of my father’s body, an anatomy of our bodies together — especially my dad’s, his body, his relentless body.” The 51-year-old author doesn’t mask his mixed feelings for his 97-year-old father, whom he calls “cussedly, maddeningly alive and interesting.” “I seem to have an Oedipal urge to bury him in a shower of death data,” Shields continues. “He’s strong and he’s weak and I love him and I hate him and I want him to live forever and I want him to die tomorrow.”

I haven't read it yet. Gotta finish my assigned reading in the other two aforementioned books first. Can't wait.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Camel Rides

I've been watching old cigarette commercials lately. And thinking. And then I came upon a post by Eric at Scattered Chatter, about his long-standing relationship with Camels. So many of us have our stories to tell. Love/hate relationships. I love the blogosphere.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Remember Clara Peller?

Clara Peller began her acting career at age 81. She quickly became a hit, with her three-word line. (Legend has it that it was ad-libbed due to her being hard of hearing). In the 1984 presidential race, Mondale used her famous line, "Where's the beef?" in reference to his opponent, Gary Hart. Now some are wondering if Hillary will be able to find her own "Where's the beef?" moment.

As for the real beef, I urge you to stay away from it unless it is from grass-fed, humanely cared for cows.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Poem by Carol Frost

I originally posted two
On second glance
I had to separate them.
It didn't seem fair to either one.

Apiary viii (For the ones

who line the corridors and sit
silent in wheelchairs
before the television with the volume off,
whose cares
are small and gray and infinite,
time as ever to be faced    ...
Methuselahs the nurses wash
and dress without haste —
none needed    ...
this one has drunk from the poppy-cup
and drowses in her world of  dream    ...
carnations, wakeful violets, and lilies in vases —
masses of  flowers — wrap
the urine-and-antiseptic air in lace    ...
Please wake up; it is morning;
robins whistle; the bees dance.
Isn't this other one listening
from her shell of  silence,
and shouldn't she smile at the green return
and dappled light through windows?
As earth orbits the corridor
clocks are wound    ...
The last hour is a song or wound    ...
Except in this corridor — mother's —
where finity's brainless wind
blows ash, and ash again
blows through their cells:
So much silence, so little to say in the end.)

Carol Frost, from Poetry (October 2007)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

How Not to Look Old. Er, did she mean How to promote ageism? I ramble.

Have you heard of the book the new self-help book, "How Not to Look Old" by Charla Krupp? Let's start with an excerpt, shall we? It's a bit long but I want you to have the full flavor. -

"Forget Aging Gracefully

All right, I’m just going to come out and say it. Aging sucks. As my generation of women hits 40, 50, 60, we are for the first time discovering things about our faces and bodies that we never noticed before. Icky things such as age spots, crow’s-feet, gray hair, chin hair, marionette lines, saggy boobs, spider veins, bunions — need I go on? I don’t think so. You know what I’m talking about. The question is: What are you—what are we going to do about it? We’re going to fight aging—and we’re going to look great doing it. Whether it’s by our sheer numbers (78 million strong—the largest demographic group in history) or our sheer chutzpah, we baby boomers are pros at shaking things up as we hit each decade. We know how to do this. From rock music in the ‘60s, to “Me Generation” therapy in the ‘70s, to the “Let’s Get Physical” fitness boom of the ‘80s, to the spa fad of the ‘90s, to the green movement of today, our generation has no problem rewriting the rules to suit our needs as we move past life’s milestones. Now that we are going to live to be 100, our mission is to reinvent retirement and the golden years. Although we haven’t nailed that yet (for some of us, retirement is still a ways away), we already know that we’re not going to just stand there like a bunch of Willie Lomans and accept our gold watch with a thank-you and a smile at the retirement party.(If we even get the watch — or the party.) Neither are we likely to be sailing into the sunset spending our days and playing golf or tennis, or sitting around the pool with a cocktail in hand. What else aren’t we going to do? We’re not going to grow old gracefully (or gratefully). We’re not going to celebrate our wrinkles (you’ve got to be kidding). We’re not going to join the Women Who Have Had Too Much Work Done club (like our mothers and their friends). We’re not going to look old."
Where shall I start? We’re going to fight aging—and we’re going to look great doing it? Fight it? How about embrace it! Age spots, crow’s-feet, gray hair are "icky"? Since when! We're not going to look old? We're not going to grow old gracefully? We're not going to celebrate our wrinkles? Why Not! Our mothers and their friends had too much work done? We're not going to stand there like a bunch of Willie (sic) Lomans?

As I remember, Willy Loman was hardly the poster child for the docile retiree who received his gold watch with a smile and walked away. He killed himself, for goodness sake. And he, of all people, was an absolute believer in the ultimate virtues of physical appearance and being liked. In my view, Willy Loman would have applauded "How Not to Look Old."

Natasha Singer didn't applaud Charla Krupp in the NY Times, January 24, 2008, Nice Résumé. Have You Considered Botox?. I applaud her article. Excerpts - (this book) "is the latest makeover title to treat the aging of one's exterior as a disease whose symptoms are to be fought to the death or, at least, mightily camouflaged. . . . .Many people would shun a book if it were titled "How Not to Look Jewish" or "How Not to Look Gay" because to cater to discrimination is to capitulate to it. But the success of "How Not to Look Old" indicates that popular culture is willing to buy into ageism as an acceptable form of prejudice, even against oneself."

Ms. Singer quotes Molly Andrews: "Dr. Andrews is the author of a 1999 paper titled “The Seductiveness of Agelessness,” published in Ageing & Society, in which she argued that encouraging people to mask their age constitutes a form of ageism in itself. “People who are held up as models of aging well are those who are not seen to age,” she said."

Singer and Andrews can speak for me any day. As for Ms. Krupp, I'm thinking maybe she's on to something, a series perhaps - Why stop at How Not to Look Jewish, or Gay as proposed by Ms. Singer. There's a whole world of other choices. Just for starters, How Not to Look Black, or Adolescent, or Fat, or Native American, or Middle Eastern, or Latino, or, in some situations, Like a baby. Talk about icky. As humans go, babies are disgusting. Moist, sticky, whiny, unable to feed themselves, incontinent, and other passengers on airlines hate them. If only there were some way to make them more like us or at least, disguise them.

In case you haven't noticed, "How Not to Look Old" is a book for women. Men, it would seem, are entitled to age gracefully. Ms. Krupp points out that, for women, aging in the workplace can be a true detriment. It's hard to argue with that one. Being female at all in the workplace can still present hurdles, glass ceilings, roadblocks, in spite of the enormous triumphs of feminism in the last century. How many women are running for president? How many have ever run? Count on one hand, with fingers left over for the future. But I guess How Not to Look Female ain't gonna fly.

As for the attached pic, we can't decide if it should be our "before" or "after" photo.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

This picture is worth at least a thousand words.

This is a real photo of somebody's child. Shall we speculate on what he's up to today?

As seen on The House of Odd, from the Best of Olan Mills Portraits.

Elder's Meditation of the Day - February 20, from White Bison.

"When a community does something together, that community is very happy, jovial, connected and unified."
--Larry P. Aitken, CHIPPEWA

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Red State Update. Aging Politics.

Funny Men.

I know there are Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

Wallace Stevens taught me that. Julia taught me that there are 85 ways to tie a tie. I corroborated it on Wiki. Then I found the book. Here's a quote from the back cover:

"In an elegant world, an irreproachable tie knot is an essential part of one's toilette; it does not matter whether the knot is simple or complicated, because the art is what counts. There are some knots which seem casual in appearance, but which have taken considerable labour before the mirror, and many a stamped foot, many an exclamation of impatience."-- Doctor A. Debray Hygiene Vestimentaire, 1857
Authors, Thomas Fink and Yong Mao are mathematical physicists. They examined tie tying, reducing it to (or is that enlarging it to) 85 possibilities, with mathematical notation for each.

Isn't the mind grand?

There. I've done it. I haven't complained about anything.
Talk about off topic. Or as they say, Random.

Kerry Trueman writes an excellent article about cows.

From the Huffington Post - very good article about the mistreatment of cows by Kerry Trueman (website, Eating Liberally), No Cow Left Behind. We all know that factory farming of cows and chickens and turkeys and pigs and lambs in this country is obscene. We've seen the photographs of calves raised in boxes too small for them to move for production of veal. But hamburgers and bacon and pork chops and steaks are yummy, the stuff of our youth. Right?

When thousands of pounds of beef are recalled, it's done in order to protect humans from potential harm from eating meat, not to protect the animals that are being abused. The irony is that abusing "downers" and selling them for meat is business as usual in the beef industry. People eat them all the time, but when the Humane Society exposes it . . .

Perhaps the New York City school children who had to rough it with chicken and fish instead of hamburger ought to see the video. Now that would be an education.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Aging Glass Art

I'm in the midst of hundreds of artists this week. Many I've known for over a decade. Aging is all around me. One of my friends has died. A fellow glass artist. When I saw her last year she spoke about turning 65, she questioned her work, her future. Her husband of forty years continues on in the business.

One of my customers can hardly contain herself telling me the story of an art show she helped to organize for residents of an assisted living facility. Another customer's daughter recently made partner at age 32. She's a trial lawyer, representing nursing homes. Most of the suits are brought by the adult children of residents. She spoke about her daughter's ideals and sense of integrity, of her need to feel good about what she does. We discussed the issue for a long time. It's not as simple as it may seem.

Another friend turned 65 last year. She doesn't need to make much money selling glass anymore. In fact, she can't make much money. She closes the studio for a few months a year now and she and her husband travel. She's always been lovely. She seems incredibly relaxed and happy. Lovelier than ever.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


The other night I walked back to my hotel from Thirtieth Street Station after taking the kids to the train. It was 10 o'clock, a lively Friday night and it was cold and I'd had a long day at work on not a whole lot of sleep. The walk was lovely. Twenty five blocks flew by.

This morning at seven I put my coat on over my pajamas to walk to the next corner for coffee. I was astounded at how far away it seemed.

As Dr. Bill might say, I'm just sayin'.

Not what I want to be writing about.

I logged on tonight and before anything else, as always, checked out the NY Times. Thought I'd take a quick glimpse at the article Would You Like Sick Cows with those Fries?. Careful. There's no such thing as a mere glimpse here. The Humane Society video of cows being abused and beaten is overwhelming. There's a link to, a group that exists because of horrific practices in the meat and dairy industry, in this case, treatment of what are known as "downers"- "animals so diseased or badly injured that they cannot even walk." They can still be dragged and beaten and sold for human consumption though.

I'll say no more. Take a look at the links. I'm only the messenger, and a sad one at that.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Jimi Hendrix didn't get to turn eighty

I just finished reading the novel "Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty" by Tim Sandlin. It's set in 2022. Where have all the hippies gone? Assisted living, that's where. This thing really should be a movie or a sit com, a kind of Tales of the City for old people.

I had low expectations for this book so I can't say it exceeded my expectations and have it be too meaningful. But it did. And it's good. And thoughtful. And funny. And touching. And worth the read. Read a review at Hippo Press if you like.

That's all for today. I'm busy hawking my wares at a trade show in Philadelphia, home of the Reading Terminal Market. Reading Terminal Market = Food. Lots of food, and although I've been known to say, derisively, Philadelphia, the city that always sleeps, it actually is a sweet city with lots of culture and neat qualities, not the least of which is, again, the Reading Terminal Market.

I used to come to the Reading Terminal with my dad when I was a kid. I remember it as being largely wholesale merchants in those days, big hunks of bloody meats, and sawdust on the floor.

It's changed. My daily fresh carrot, kiwi, blueberry juice would hardly have been an option. Same for the Mediterranean stew from the vegetarian stand; and the multigrain rolls and lemon tarts from the Metropolitan Bakery; and the proscuitto-and-mozarella-stuffed peppers that Julia gets at the Italian place; and the turkey sub with everything on it that Moult gets; and the Lo Mien that Jerzy likes; and the strange cream-filled pumpkin patties that Kristara covets.

P.S. I just remembered. I've got bragging rights. I saw Jimi Hendrix in concert. Just him. It was at an outdoor venue, an amphitheater. I didn't know it would turn out to be a big deal, that he wouldn't live much longer and that he'd earn status as legend. Like an antique. Who could have known that your great grandmother's mixing bowl, the one she used to make biscuits and cakes and meatloaf in, would be worth so much today.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Julia's first Albany

I doubt Julia would be proud of this poem, it being one of her earlier ones, when she first started studying poetry. But I'm her mother and I asked her if it was okay to post it and she said okay. In the same phone conversation she asked me if writers need chaos in their lives in order to be creative because she's the most prolific she's ever been right now, and also beside herself with chaos. I thought of Dashielle Hammet and Sylvia Plath and Raymond Carver but I don't think that's the kind of stuff she meant.

Julia's Albany

Remain silent. People make meaning out of nothing. The Jersey turnpike has familiar rest stops. The night sky is brighter by the city. I’m gonna get hammered tonight. In the name of the father. The bird outside my window won’t shut up. Self help books sell the best. State your points succinctly. I ate three tortilla chips and a latte. Unable to stand, she crawled through. Who are the inhabitants of these domestic spaces. This is just great. And I’ll probably sleep the whole way. I haven’t had my period since August. It disclaimed “results may vary”. Lots of kids hate reading. Everyone is getting robbed of something. This whole thing was a mistake. If you haven’t called by then. We died fighting for the two day weekend. Do you have change for a dollar. Copious. I forget all of my dreams. The purpose was educational. My sister “needed" ice cream. People get a busy signal calling 911. See. You should have the right to.

I sent a Valentine yesterday.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Google's Valentine

Old Love. Or is that Boomer Love.

Six Words Too Short For Memoir

This is more fun than life. (note, six words) Six word memoirs. Here's how SMITH magazine describes it.

"Six-Word Memoirs: The Legend
Legend has it that Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Last year, SMITH Magazine re-ignited the recountre by asking our readers for their own six-word memoirs. They sent in short life stories in droves, from the bittersweet (“Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends”) and poignant (“I still make coffee for two”) to the inspirational (“Business school? Bah! Pop music? Hurrah”) and hilarious (“I like big butts, can’t lie”)."

You can go to SMITH and read others, add your own.

Mine: Raised on island. Moved to city.
Jerzy's: Dude, I suck at this shit.

Mine: Had a life. Then found blogging.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Day the Tree Fell Down. A Poem by Jack LaZebnik

The Day the Tree Fell Down

crumbling. It died of old age,
I tell you, like a man. We wept.
We had worn our time upon it, put
our arms around to touch fingertips
and we measured ourselves, our feelings
on the years. We made our calculations
pay, then. Now, the fears, age,
daily mathematics. The tree held
the green. Birds, squirrels, coons
made memory there until the day it fell.
They got out. It groaned for twenty minutes.
I tell you, it sighed as it bent,
its branches catching the dull fall,
the soft turning in wet dissolution.
The body lay exposed: a gut of grubs,
a lust of hollowness. We wept,
as I say, more than it was called for.

by Jack LaZebnik

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Remember how we made fun of Marshall McLuhan?

I can't write anything today. I just can't. There's just too much to say.

That said, I've been thinking about Marshall McLuhan. I don't know about you, but for some reason, we felt compelled to make fun of him when I was young. I recently was reminded of him when I encountered one of his many quotes. If you haven't thought about him in a while you can read about him at the official website and, of course, wiki. This isn't meant to be an advertisement, but, I gotta say, he was one smart man. I would be proud to have come up with these:

"I don't necessarily agree with everything I say."

"I think of art, at its most significant, as a DEW line, a Distant Early Warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it."

"I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't believed it."

Monday, February 11, 2008

I remember smoking.

Remember when everybody smoked? I miss smoking. I suppose it’s not exactly the smoking that I miss but all the stuff that went with it. Edward R. Murrow smoked. My mother revered him for being smart and intellectual. It seemed to me that there was some mystique of the intellectual in which smoking played a part. All the smart people did it. In the 1970s, my analyst smoked during my fifty-minute hour routinely. It was weird when he quit, as if he somehow wasn’t there anymore.

In boarding school sneaking cigarettes was both fun and sport. We’d smoke in the lounge of the girls’ dorm, our heads stuck into the fireplace flu, stuffing our cigarette butts down the ash chute, occasionally setting it on fire.

After lunch we’d run down the hill behind the dorm to catch a quick one in a little lean-to that was equipped with a bench and a coffee can filled with sand for our butts. It was on a property that was adjacent to the school. We spent a lot of time in that yard. We never once discussed why the structure was there or what the owners thought about us being there. How odd. But we were kids and we were entitled, invisible and immortal.

Afternoons, in those precious hours between end of classes and dinner, we’d go to the Red Bull Inn and sit on spinning stools at the counter and eat English muffins dripping with butter, drink black coffee and smoke cigarettes. Our crowd. The smokers.

Miss Berry was our gym teacher. My lesbiaphobic mother told me to stay away from her, but, then again, my mother said that about all my gym teachers. Since I played field hockey and soccer, staying away from Miss Berry was impractical, and besides, she was a nice woman. Take the night I smoked a cigarette on the ten-minute break at study hall. I walked too close to Miss Berry afterward and she smelled smoke on me. Rather than have me thrown out of school for the offense, she screamed at me for being so stupid and told me to stay the hell away from her after I’d been smoking.

Once Miss Berry’s brother came to stay with her for a few days. He was retarded, the term we used for someone like him in 1964. He was an overweight kid, real clumsy, nothing like his sister. It was touching to see her with him, protective and sweet, qualities she didn’t exhibit with us, hard-ass that she was. She brought him to the gym every day. She let him jump on the trampoline and mess around with the gymnastics equipment. One day he was trying to swing on the rings and I looked over to see him fall off, thump, flat onto the hardwood floor. At least that’s how I remember it. Chances are I didn’t see him fall off at all, memories being what they are, but I distinctly remember the look of pain on his face, and his flaccid arm turned purple. Broken. And his powerless, guilt-ridden, horrified sister by his side. It was one of the saddest things I’d ever seen.

It’s been twenty-five years since I last smoked a cigarette. I can still remember the click of my stainless steel Zippo lighter, the smell of the lighter fluid, the feel of my brown leather cigarette case. And the nights sitting around smoking and talking. We all did it. It would get later and later but we’d carry on, eating potato sticks out of a can and drinking cokes. We’d finally get too tired to stay awake but we’d always decide to have one last cigarette before going up to bed. We’d light up and have a smoke and then get talking again until twenty minutes later when we’d decide to have one last cigarette before going up to bed.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Sexism, Racism, Ageism, Oh My.

I don't watch MSNBC's David Shuster, nor the Tucker Carlson show, but apparently, last night on the show, Shuster asked whether Chelsea Clinton was "being pimped out in some weird sort of way" by the Clinton campaign because she was working to support her mother's candidacy. You tube clip here.

All the surrounding talk about sexism brought me back to January 8, when I posted a comment about and a link to an article in the NY Times by Gloria Steinem, Women are Never Front-Runners .

If you haven't read the Steinem piece, I suggest you do. If you don't want to, here's most of it:

"THE woman in question became a lawyer after some years as a community organizer, married a corporate lawyer and is the mother of two little girls, ages 9 and 6. Herself the daughter of a white American mother and a black African father — in this race-conscious country, she is considered black — she served as a state legislator for eight years, and became an inspirational voice for national unity.

Be honest: Do you think this is the biography of someone who could be elected to the United States Senate? After less than one term there, do you believe she could be a viable candidate to head the most powerful nation on earth?

If you answered no to either question, you’re not alone. Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House. This country is way down the list of countries electing women and, according to one study, it polarizes gender roles more than the average democracy . . . .

If the lawyer described above had been just as charismatic but named, say, Achola Obama instead of Barack Obama, her goose would have been cooked long ago. Indeed, neither she nor Hillary Clinton could have used Mr. Obama’s public style — or Bill Clinton’s either — without being considered too emotional by Washington pundits.

So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects “only” the female half of the human race; because children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman; because racism stereotyped black men as more “masculine” for so long that some white men find their presence to be masculinity-affirming (as long as there aren’t too many of them); and because there is still no “right” way to be a woman in public power without being considered a you-know-what. . . . .

The abolition and suffrage movements progressed when united and were damaged by division; we should remember that.

I'm supporting Senator Clinton because like Senator Obama she has community organizing experience, but she also has more years in the Senate, an unprecedented eight years of on-the-job training in the White House, no masculinity to prove, the potential to tap a huge reservoir of this country’s talent by her example, and now even the courage to break the no-tears rule. I’m not opposing Mr. Obama; if he’s the nominee, I’ll volunteer. Indeed, if you look at votes during their two-year overlap in the Senate, they were the same more than 90 percent of the time. Besides, to clean up the mess left by President Bush, we may need two terms of President Clinton and two of President Obama.

But what worries me is that he is seen as unifying by his race while she is seen as divisive by her sex. . . . ."

Did you catch the line - "Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life . . ."

Is it? What about the restricting force of age?

What worries me is that I'm gonna get all het up about sexism and racism and ageism. I don't want to. I just want things to be all better.

Fleur Adcock poem about Things


There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public.
There are worse things than these miniature betrayals,
committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things
than not being able to sleep for thinking about them.
It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in
and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse
and worse.

"Things" by Fleur Adcock, from Selected Poems. © Oxford University Press, 1986.

from the Writer's Almanac.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

OMG. Will it never end?

Read on Our Bodies, Our Blog: and I quote:

"Bush's 2009 Budget Request Includes Health-Related Cuts, Increased Abstinence Funding

Earlier this week, President Bush released his $3.1 trillion 2009 budget request, which includes freezes and decreases for the budgets of many health programs, alongside massive defense spending. The budget documents are difficult to sift through, but a few health-related proposals are worth noting.

Among the cuts and lack of increases:

No increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health, which funds a vast amount of medical research

A $412 million (~4.5%) decrease in program funding for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An $995 million (~14%) reduction in program funds for the Health Resources and Services Administration, including flat funding for Title X family planning and decreases in funding for healthcare workforce development.

A $198 million (~6%) decrease for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Flat funding for child welfare and child abuse prevention under the Administration for Children and Families

Nearly 30% reduction in international family planning and reproductive health funding

The kicker? The budget includes $191 million for abstinence-only education through the Administration for Children and Families, a $28 million increase (~17%)." Bold mine.

I'm speechless.

Suicide. Not a catchy title but what else can I call it?

According to the November 27, 2007 NY Times article by Jane Brody, A Common Casualty of Old Age: The Will to Live ,

"Suicide is more common among older Americans than any other age group. The statistics are daunting. While people 65 and older account for 12 percent of the population, they represent 16 percent to 25 percent of the suicides. Four out of
five suicides in older adults are men. And among white men over 85, the suicide rate — 50 per 100,000 men — is six times that of the general population. . . snip . . .Contrary to what many people think, depression is not a normal part of growing older. Nor is it harder to treat in older people. But it is often harder to recognize and harder to get patients to accept and continue with treatment."
Apparently old people read The Times too. And some of them write. Therefore, a follow-up article, A Heartfelt Appeal for a Graceful Exit February 5, 2008. I quote:

After reading the Personal Health column on Nov. 27 on preventing geriatric suicide, Gloria C. Phares, a 93-year-old retired teacher in Missouri, wrote:

“I was healthy until 90, and then Boom! Atrial fibrillation; deaf, can’t enjoy music or hear a voice unless 10 inches from my ear; fell, fractured my thigh and am now a cripple; had a slight stroke the day after my beloved husband died after 61 years of marriage.

“I’ve lived a happy life, but from here on out it’s all downhill. Is there any point in my living any longer? I’m not living — just existing. I very much want to die, but our society doesn’t let me.
Oh for a pill to ease myself out and end my pain, pain, pain.”

Assisted suicide. It's not just for the young.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I know nothing about Ron Paul but I do love Harper's Index

When my New Yorker arrives the first thing I do, after checking out the title of the cover art, is read the comics. When Harper's arrives I read Harper's Index.

Read in Harper's Index, January 2008.

Amount that prostitutes at Nevada's BunnyRanch have contributed to Ron Paul, according to the brothel's owner: $15,000.

Number of customers who have gotten the two-for-one special by saying "I'm pimpin' for Paul": 58

Don't ya wanna know what the two-for-one special is?

And one more entry in the Index -

Ratio of the total square footage of the world's Wal-Marts to that of Manhattan: 9:7.

Change. Apparently we've heard that one before.

As it turns out, change is always in the air in election years. The Museum of the Moving Image, a very cool place, produced this video.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Mom and Politics

My mother loved this sweater. She wore it for nearly 25 years. Same with the thin gold bracelet that I gave her for Mother's Day in 1978. She wore it every day until she died.

My mother also loved politics. She'd watch all matter of political television shows; sit for hours watching the returns on election night (She also watched the Ball drop every New Years and the Oscars.); could recognize any "famous" person on the street.

Unlike me, she was outspoken about her views. She had a particular dislike for George H.W. Bush and almost seemed personally offended by the very existence of his wife. It was with Mom in mind that I "came out" just the tiniest bit yesterday, indicating that my vote would be cast for the woman of my choice. I toyed with the term Obamanation, not because I truly think Obama is a bad choice at all, but because I was proud to have made it up. I'll most definitely vote for him if he wins the primary. I suspect I may be voting on issues of gender, age, innate intelligence, experience, and demonstration of my unflagging commitment.

I called my sister in California to see who she'd be voting for today. It turns out she'd already voted by absentee ballot - for Richardson. It was some sort of statement vote, she said. She asked a colleague if it was wrong of her and he said it wasn't nearly as bad as what he'd done a while back. He voted for Al Sharpton - He said, "Sharpton was the only candidate who mentioned poor people at all. Everything he said was crazy, but at least he mentioned them."

I don't know which one my mother would have voted for this year, Hillary or Obama. I suspect, as I do, she would have agreed with Chris. Either way, I think the choice would be okay.

About the bracelet I gave my mother. I removed it from her wrist when I took her to hospice. Four days later, I wore it as I lay in bed next to her, holding her hand, while the patient in the next room played loud rock music, on the last night of her life.

Monday, February 4, 2008

What's age got to do with it?

See the NY Times Magazine yesterday? There's a chart that accompanies the article Back-Room Choices - GENERATION GAP. Ages of the major-party presidential candidates, 1984-2004.

It shows that in 1984 Walter Mondale, Age 56, lost to Ronald Reagan, Age 73; In 1988 George H.W. Bush, Age 64, beat Michael Dukakis, Age 55; 1992, Bill Clinton, 46 at the time, beat George H.W. Bush, then 68 . . . up to W.

As I write this, I hear a variation of the fabulous song by Tina Turner - What's Love Got to Do with It? Enjoy the youtube clip if you like.

Except in my version, it's not What's love got to Do with It?
It's What's Age Got to Do with It?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Chris Jordan Photographs. Unbelievable.

"Cans Seurat", 2007
60" x 92"

Depicts 106,000 aluminum cans, the number used in the US every thirty seconds
by Chris Jordan

I have a thing for cans. And I like to walk. I've always been an urban walker, although I'm learning to enjoy hiking, the kind where you drive in a car to some hour-away beautiful location, hike on a blazed trail and drive home. I used to walk for hours in New York. Now I walk in Northern Virginia because that's where I live. How odd that I raised my children here. Imagine, my own children are from Virginia. I just mentioned this fact to Jerzy who said, "Did you have to rub that in. I wanna be from New York."

I walk my errands. I'm not much for idle walking. Unlike in the city, on the side of the road are cans, flattened cans, all kinds of cans. Do you ever look at them? The diversity is amazing. They're beautiful. Sometimes I can't resist picking them up and taking them home. I collect them. There. I've said it.

What Chris Jordan does with cans is astounding. Same for photos of cell phones, valve caps, paper bags, prison uniforms, Barbies, plastic bags.

Running the Numbers An American Self-Portrait
As Chris Jordan describes this incredible body of work:

"This series looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 410,000 paper cups used every fifteen minutes. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. The underlying desire is to emphasize the role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.

My only caveat about this series is that the prints must be seen in person to be experienced the way they are intended. As with any large artwork, their scale carries a vital part of their substance which is lost in these little web images. Hopefully the JPEGs displayed here might be enough to arouse your curiosity to attend an exhibition, or to arrange one if you are in a position to do so. The series is a work in progress, and new images will be posted as they are completed, so please stay tuned."

~chris jordan, Seattle, 2007
Go to the site and see depictions of 32,000 Barbies, equal to the number of elective breast augmentation surgeries performed monthly in the US in 2006; 60,000 plastic bags, the number used in the US every five seconds; an 8.5 feet wide by 10.5 feet tall Ben Franklin made of 125,000 one-hundred dollar bills ($12.5 million), the amount our government spends every hour on the war in Iraq. And others - hand guns, cigarettes, SUV sales.

Art that speaks. Loudly.

By the way, wanna see a close up:

Friday, February 1, 2008

Right to Folly? or the beginning of thoughts on freedom to live

Chris comments on my January 30 post, Proof that Aging Hurts Decision Making?:

"The problem with the researchers' conclusions that the older one gets the less "good" decisions one makes is that it ignores myriad other criteria for evaluating choice.

What is a "good' decision? What makes a decision "bad"? Should all decisions be judged (evaluated) on the basis of "objective" criteria? Who decides what the objective criteria are? Or can a subjective perspective be as valid? Does the perception of risk change with age (perhaps?)? And the fact of risk change with age (health, longevity, ability to find love or comfort or adequate financial resources)?

How to take into consideration that an young person's brain isn't completely developed until he or she is 25 (based on growth of neurons as well as moral capacity -- whatever that means)?

Judgment is a function of context, both external and internal. Choosing from a "sucker" deck may reflect an emotional sense of security with a first choice that provides much more reward than any financial payoff. After all you can't take your money to the grave.

If we fear that oldsters are being bilked of their money by unscrupulous crooks, then we ought to impose higher
penalties on those kinds of crimes when the victims are older people. Bilking a 50 year old should perhaps not be as heavily punished than bilking an 80 year old.

The eighty year old person has a fundamental right to make
decisions. Whether you and I judge them to be bad judgments is irrelevant. See my post on "The Right of Folly" on Epiphytic Notions."

Read the more on the subject in the March 1, 1989 article in Money Magazine by Denise M. Topolnicki, Beth M. Gilbert and Teresa Tritch:
The Gulag of Guardianship The legal system that is supposed to protect our frail elderly is a national disgrace. All too often it strips them of their rights and leaves them open to financial abuse.

Better yet, read the wisdom of Elias Cohen in Growing Old in America by Beth Hess, Chapter 16, Civil Liberties and the Frail Elderly:
Elias Cohen recounts the story of Walter Tyrrell, age 85, who was found incompetent after fifteen-minute examinations by two doctors. Apparently he'd been extravagent with his money, spending it on a woman, negotiating an excellent, below-market price on a ring (same for his negotiations on his own grave) - behaviors that were totally consistent with his own personality. Elias Cohen points out that if Mr. Tyrrell had been 45, with the same set of behaviors, no one would have suggested his need for a guardian, the issue of his competency would not have been raised.

In other words, a young person can squander their money. An old person, whose years are limited, can lose the right to the use their own money. The 93-year-old man who has 3 million dollars in the bank, money he has earned and saved and amassed, should not have his freedom denied by a conservator, who deems a $3,000 gift that he wants to give someone inappropriate. He just shouldn't.

What is the role and right of a conservator? Is it to provide protection or deny freedom and happiness? What can one do when the values of the conservator are inconsistent with and in opposition to that of the person they are charged to "protect"? What if the 93-year-old with 3 million dollars wants to spend a million, give it away, travel, whatever? Why not? He is not dead yet. And when he is, what's left after the tightly protected 3 million dollars is used to pay conservator's fees, estate taxes, legal fees, etc. will be passed down to heirs - heirs that will be free to spend it as they like. Grrrrrr.

Speaking for myself, there's no doubt that my memory has changed. When searching my mental data base for what once was a readily available four-syllable word, I often give up and use four one-syllable words - "Refrigerator" becomes "the box that keeps food cold". I often slow down in conversation, but considering how fast I used to talk, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Is it a loss or an opportunity to see things differently, more creatively? I have to think it's the latter. And about finances, I may be a bit loopier, but I'm a heck of a lot more financially responsible than I was when I was younger.

Comments on my original post - Thanks, Sharry at Embodied Aging, for noticing the house of cards that accompanied it.

I subscribe to Elder's Meditation of the Day from White Bison

Elder's Meditation of the Day - February 1

"You can't just sit down and talk about the truth. It doesn't work that way. You have to live it and be part of it and you might get to know it."
--Rolling Thunder, CHEROKEE

"We all read books that have much information in them. Often we pick up on little sayings that we remember. Inside of us is the little owl, the owl of knowing. It talks to us- guiding us and nurturing us. Often when we get information, it's hard to live by, but it's easy to talk about. It's living the Red Road that counts-Walk the Talk. If we really want freedom in our lives, if we really want to be happy, if we really want to have peace of mind, it's the truth we must seek."