Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Big Data Sings its Song



Last year my friend Myles gave me an ECHO for Christmas.  I appreciated the gift, but it sat for several months unplugged because I couldn't think of anything I really needed to ask "Alexa" -- the friendly humanoid voice attached to big data.

Then, when the bad reception in my living room made it almost impossible to enjoy my radio, I decided to see what ECHO could do.  Alexa got me connected right away.

I'm sure Amazon was listening too.  A few weeks later I received an offer of three months of unlimited music for $.99.  I fell into the net.

"Alexa, please play Tchaikowsky Piano Concerto with Van Clybourn the pianist."  "I do not understand that request."  I tried another approach.  "Alexa, please play Tchaikowsky."  "Playing Tchaikowsky songs," came the voice.  Immediately the concerto began.  So now I have no trouble asking Alexa for my favorite composers.

Concerto.  Symphony.  String Quartet.  Life is but a song.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Before Black Friday



Before there was Black Friday, there was J.R. Hudson's, the retail palace of my years in Detroit.  So, when I noticed one Thanksgiving that the store was promoting an early a.m. opening on the day after the holiday, I asked the gals if they wanted to do a little shopping and some deli eating after.
We had so much fun that first year that we looked forward to it as a new Thanksgiving tradition. 

Then, as is true of so many commercial ideas, it morphed into a monster.  Families were robbed of their day off.  People fought and grabbed.  Now, it's not even a one day event.

What's wrong with us?  That's what I was thinking as Christmas music was playing in my garage -- a full week before Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2018

A Timeless Tale


I was chatting with a friend recently who mentioned a man we both know.  "He asked me out,"  she said.  "I mean he asked me to go for a walk and have coffee."  "How did that go?" I was curious.
"He got all romantic and I told him to back off."  "Really?"  I was impressed by her resolve.  Man/woman opportunities don't come up too often in oldster land.

"I don't want any man eventually telling me what to do," she said.  "But then he kept showing up so now I am seeing him.  But not all the time.  No, not all the time."

My mind wandered to the battles of the sexes on the big screen.  Bogie and Bacall.  Tracy and Hepburn.  Rosalind Russell.  These gals knew how to hold their own.

Yes, I've learned that actually the Hollywood studio system kept their stars pretty nailed down.  In a way, they were just as constrained in their lives as were the housewives who loved them.

Still. . .  we don't want anyone eventually telling us what to dream.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Insight on Anger



It's not because for a brief time I was married to her father that I always pause to read Laura Kipnis. She is worth it for her provocative style leading to deeper than the usual insights.  She writes a lot about sex and power.

Today's topic in The Atlantic magazine is about the current explosion of womens' rage.  Never moving from how appropriate that anger is in the face of outrageous male behavior on the casting couch or in the executive suite, she quickly points out that this anger needs a more fundamental focus.

When Kipnis reminds us about "shelling out an exorbitant percentage of your already unequal salary for day care" she is urging us to take hold of this #me too moment and expand its focus.

The moment of rage deserves nothing less than a reordering of priorities directed at womens' lives.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Stepping Up



It was a dark and stormy night and I almost called my friend Jim to tell him I couldn't make it to the book signing.  Boy, am I glad I decided to go.  It was really because of Dave Zirin, the sports writer for The Nation magazine and one of the friendliest "public" people ever.  He was out with his latest book about John Carlos, the track star and one of the Olypians who had suffered for raising their fists from the podium in 1968. 

When Jim and I spotted Dave at a coffee shop, it was just like him to make room for us at his table.  That's how I got to meet and be with John Carlos.

When athletes talk about "standing on the shoulders of those whose courage came before", they are talking about John Carlos and Tommie Smith and the late Peter Norman, the Australian who stood in solidarity with his two colleagues.

We are celebrating the anniversary today.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Interesting Rides

I love riding the elevator of my condo in the sky.  There are so many opportunities to observe and engage with the parade of people randomly available for a moment of my day.  And, since my building is home to every age and demographic, there's often someone who sparks my interest.

Yesterday, when the door opened, a young man dressed in a suit and tie but wearing athletic shoes and carrying a back pack, was leaning against the wall next to a skateboard.  I joked: "Is that your transportation?"  "Yes! I use it to get to work,"  he offered enthusiastically.  I'm thinking a few blocks, but then he says: "And I work downtown."

Maybe in January I'll see him with snowshoes or skis.  I'll be waiting with interest.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Feeling Comfortable


Yesterday, I decided to attend the Meetup of the Chicago Philosophers Group.  There were a few food-stained, and probably formerly tobacco stained academics; a beautiful young woman with enormously long hair; a Vietnam vet; and enough attractive young men and women to spark my interest.

While chatting with the man next to me, I asked:  "How did you get here?"  (I was thinking: car, train, bus?)  He replied, "In what sense?"

I knew I had found my natural place.

Photo:  Only one guess needed, right?