Monday, March 25, 2013

Zirin the Siren

Dave Zirin, my favorite sportswriter and commentator, spoke yesterday at the Heartland Cafe.  He is on a book tour for his latest entry, GAME OVER.  Dave is the clearest voice I know for explaining how sports, politics, race, and power operate on a global scene.  His insistence on fairness and decency -- and his winning personality -- are what makes him unique.

 He's just such a friendly guy.  Here is a man who appears on TV, has his national radio show, his blog Edge of Sports, and, of course his many books, and yet, remembers me from the last time I saw him in Chicago.  "Hi, Joan.  Thanks to you and the other Nation people, I got booked on their cruise."
Now, there's a guy you can love.

P.S.  Buzz Bissinger, another of my favorite commentators on sports and life, (remember Friday Night Lights?), wrote today on Dennis Rodman's trip to North Korea (it's at the Daily Beast web site).  Great insight.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Happiness is a two letter word

Occasionally, Elsa asks me to edit something she is writing for her marvelous web site Art is a Way .  The other day, she was writing about happiness and pain.

Happiness is not  tangible.  You cannot touch it, you cannot measure it, you cannot put it in a box and keep it in a safe place. That is because happiness is a concept, a creation of the mind, something invented. I believe that happiness is up to each of us. What makes someone happy could make someone else sad . Happiness is a personal experience that belongs to us alone.
The opposite of happiness is pain, physical and emotional. But I want to focus on emotional pain. Emotionally  painful experiences have endless sources; some come from childhood and some from adulthood. They come in all sizes and colors. Some create deep scars and some don’t leave scars at all. But all of them shape us to be the person that we are, depending on how we interact with them. When pain owns you, you become a victim and it is hard to move forward from that position. But when you do the opposite and own your pain, then you become the object of the experience, so it is easier to establish some distance, evaluate the situation and find solutions.
 The filmmakers of NO, the captivating movie from Chile, created a great depiction of Elsa's profound ideas.   In 1988, responding to international criticism of the strongman dictator Pinochet, a referendum was held in which people could vote "Yes" or "No' about the current regime.  Each side had equal time on TV during the campaign. Everyone expected that a "Yes" vote was as inevitable as the military might behind it.
A young, ambitious advertising man was called in as a consultant for the "No" campaign.  The "No" people wanted to make a compelling case against Pinochet for his human rights abuses.  The deaths.  The torture.  The disappearances.  The ad man (a Don Draper as man of the people?) had another idea.  "Let's talk about a bright future for Chile.  Let's talk about a rainbow coalition.  Let's talk about happiness."  And, that's what the winning ad campaign achieved.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Philip Roth is going to be 80.  His hometown, Newark, is celebrating his birthday with a tour of places associated with the writer and his works.  No, to my knowledge, this is not the latest heroic act of Newark's irrepressible Mayor Cory Booker.  But, it might as well be.  We don't notice Newark too much and, when we do, it's not for literary excellence. (I wonder if New Jersey's other high profiler, Chris Christie, will partake in the festivities.)

Recently, I wrote about the book,  Gone Girl.  The more I think about it and discuss it with my friends, I'm convinced that it's not just a manipulative page turner.  It's an important work that captures our time in a thoughtful and significant way.

Which reminds me of American Pastoral, Roth's masterpiece.  I'm not putting Gillian Flynn up there with Roth, but they both give us lots of insight.  And, lots of great reading!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Death...Death...and Now Life

My friends have been asking me why I haven't been writing lately.  I'm not sure why, but what came to mind is sadness stopping my pen.  Sadness that every time I look at the news, someone I admire, or remember fondly has died (Van Cliburn, Dawn Clark Netsch, Chavez).

So, I was thrilled last night when my friend Margaret called to tell me that she is expecting a new grandchild in July!  And, it's a boy who will be a great cousin to her other baby boy born last year.

And, since I'm in a good mood now, I can laugh at the goofiness of Dennis Rodman becoming our "diplomat of the day."  I say, with things going the way they do in Washington, Dennis was inevitable. Kind of like when Rodney King broke through with "Can't we all just get along?"