Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ghosts Arrive

Yesterday, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  The ghosts of the three civil rights workers, who were murdered in Mississippi during Freedom Summer, were allowed to mingle with today's luminaries: Meryl Streep, Stevie Wonder, Marlo Thomas and more.  The half-ghost Ethel Kennedy received a medal too.

They say that the three dead young men received the biggest applause when their names were called.  That's what we do.  When enough time has passed to make it okay, we lionize the ones we treated so horrifically when it would have counted. 

I wonder in what year the names of today's dead boys will be called.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Middle of the Night

Maybe it was the countdown to the new century.  Maybe it was loneliness.  Maybe it was just an oldster's inability to stay asleep all night.  Whatever the reason, from about 1997 to 2000, in the wee dark hours, I loved to listen to Art Bell's Coast to Coast radio show.

Like Jerry Springer, Art had a knack for taking a calm and reasoned approach to some pretty crazy stuff.  He was a great interviewer.  Guests included the survivalists who were convinced that Y2K2 was going to bring civilization to an internet - crashing halt.  CIA plots and UFO sitings were discussed with the same seriousness as a segment on "60 Minutes."

There was lots of discussion of an alien space ship riding in the wake of the Hale-Bopp comet.  This came to a very disturbing conclusion.  Thirty nine members of a group calling themselves "Heaven's Gate" committed suicide leaving messages that they were going to join the aliens in outer space.

My favorite guest on Art Bell's program was the charismatic physicist Michio Kaku.  He has gone on to author several best selling books and appear on PBS. Looking back, I think he had a lot of guts going on Art's "far out" show.  I believe he just wanted to bring factual thinking about physics to as many people as possible.  I certainly learned a lot.

Art Bell is retired.  Talk radio has been taken over by another set of far less interesting kooks.  And the dark hours are darker for that.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fantasy Football

I'm still mad at Pat Fitzgerald for not supporting Kain Colter's brave effort to bring some equity into the student-athlete situation.  I'm still disappointed at Northwestern's won-lost record this year.  But I'm not going to mention that today.  I'm just going to stand tall with my team for beating big, bad Notre Dame.  And, the way they did it in overtime brings all of us underdog loving fans to their feet to give one thundering round of applause.

And while I'm being sappy about the Wildcats, here's another great story:  Tom Hruby, a 33-year old active Navy Seal made it onto the team as a walk-on.  Tom served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq before donning the purple pads in Evanston.  He plays on the special teams squad.  Perfect spot for him.  Go Tom!  Go Cats!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Remembering A Year

Jane Byrne's death prompts a blizzard of memories.  In the snowy year of 1979 my husband's business was on Ravenswood Avenue and I worked downtown.  Getting to and from work was the challenge. Ravenswood was considered a side street and went completely unplowed after the big storm hit.  Even Sheridan Road and Lake Shore Drive were compromised.  Service was unreliable at best, and huge clumps of commuters shivered waiting for overcrowded buses.

Our plan was to drop Len off as close to his business as possible, the rest was up to him on foot.  I had it easier as I drove downtown and ate (gagged on) the parking fee.  From day one I felt so sorry for the people at Belmont, that I stopped and picked up two of them for the ride downtown.

Those same commuters were there on day two so the ride became routine.  I didn't think of it so much at the time, but later I thought: "Nobody offered me a penny for gas or to contribute to my parking fees. And one man asked me to go out of my way to drop him off at a more convenient spot. Oh well."

If the winter was bad, the summer was worse.  The airplane crash at O'Hare killed five people I knew.  One, Judy Wax, had just successfully resumed her career as a writer, and was on her way to the Los Angeles Book Fair.  Jane Byrne was making a name for herself.  What could Judy have become?

I'm sure lots of wonderful events took place in 1979.  I'll remember them eventually.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Next Best Thing

I've been reading a lot lately about the movie Interstellar.  I haven't seen the film yet so this is not a review; just a comment on the story line.  An astronaut/scientist goes looking for a habitable planet for us earthlings since we have trashed our initial home beyond repair.
Planetary exploration has always been a staple of science fiction, and now there's the added intensity of forced evacuation.

Critics are saying the scientific explanations are accurate and the TV astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson agrees.  Those of us who find out about worm holes by watching The Big Bang Theory are certainly not going to challenge that.

During the great depression we had Shirley Temple, the cheerful child, to help us feel better.  Is Interstellar today's feel good distraction from capitalism's failures and politicians' cowardice?  Can't get together on any plans to save us and our environment?  That's okay.  Move on to the next planet.  

Hope rests not on ourselves but on our imaginary tour of the galaxy.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Bye, Bye Ebola

A few weeks ago I went to my doctor at The Rush Medical Center.  Usually the waiting room is filled with oldsters navigating their canes and walkers around the crowd.  Not this time.  The place was empty.

"Come this way", chirped the nurse before I had a chance to sit down.  I was x-rayed, patted, reviewed, encouraged, and back in my car in 45 minutes.  "What was that?", I mused to myself as I drove home.  "Could it be ebola?"  After all, Rush had been designated as the care center in Chicago should ebola show up here.  So far, no ebola, but no people either.

Apparently, the election being over is the best cure for ebola here in the USA.  The scare-mongering governors have done their work and reaped the political rewards.   Ebola is back in Africa now and will likely draw little attention.  But, since "westerners" contracted the disease, the effort to find a vaccine has been accelerated.  "W", in a belated profile in courage,   thought it was safe enough to visit the Texas hospital that botched the early response. He happily hugged the nurse who was cured elsewhere.

I bet the waiting room at Rush will be crowded again the next time I have an appointment.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Jerry! Jerry!

Jerry Springer was on TV today talking about the election.  Most of you probably know that he was once Mayor of Cincinnati and is now a lefty political pundit and contributor to the Democrats.  

This side of Jerry is not nearly as flashy as his other side:  the ringmaster of the raucous Jerry Springer Show -- now in its astonishing 24th year!  Jerry takes a bemused attitude towards his over the top guests.  And those frequent trips to the bank help too, I'm sure.

They say the show is a favorite among college students.  Maybe that would give him enough cred to inspire some voting among them.  Nothing else seems to work.

Jerry was pretty calm today about the Democratic debacle on Tuesday.  He was in the mood for "the arc is long but leads towards justice" stuff.  I guess so.  Black poverty is better than slavery, and the "right to same-sex marriage" I'm sure will lead to the "right to same-sex divorce."  

Maybe it's all that whoopin" and hollerin" on the show that necessitates Jerry's  zen like approach.  Long arcs don't work too well for oldsters like me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bravo Brittany

Before she went to Oregon to die, Brittany Maynard went to the Grand Canyon.  That's exactly what I would have done.  When my time comes I hope to have images of the Grand Canyon vivid in my mind.

I visited the Grand Canyon twice.  The first time was with an Elderhostel group accompanied by an anthropologist, a geologist and a literary scholar.  Indians took us rafting on the Colorado river and we slept overnight on the beach.

The next time I was with a love of mine and friends.  We left from Scottsdale foolishly wearing flimsy clothing.  When we got to the Canyon it was snowing.  We jumped out of the warm car, over to the railing to take a peek, and then back into the warmth of the running engine.  Just a few seconds with eternity.

Coming down the mountain, the snow was so fierce that we had only the lights of the car ahead to guide us.  It would have been scary, but the Canyon takes away a lot of fear.

So, RIP our brave Brittany.  I hope the Canyon was some comfort at the end.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Up Staged

The movie closed the next day.  The Music Box guy said one of the stars had attended the opening. That was  still not enough publicity to penetrate my tiny world.  Keep on Keepin" On is a documentary about Clark Terry and the young pianist Justin Kauflin.  Even as diabetes hacks away at his legs, Terry's huge heart remains intact.  Justin is just the latest of the thousands of young jazz wannabes Terry has inspired and helped.  Quincey Jones plays a big role too.

If you can find it playing somewhere or if you can rent it, please see Keep On Keepin" On. Go for the music, the history, the camera work.  You'll stay for the stories of determination, generosity, talent,  and love. 

These old jazz lions are way too hip not to be kind.

The week before I went to see Birdman, another film about life on the stage.  Two and a half hours of whining,  self-centered actors taking themselves so seriously to prove they are really important.  You know, we're making art here!

Birdman is getting all the buzz.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The "little guy" pipes up

Every so often an individual is willing to step forward to challenge the political and government "untouchables."  The latest is Kaci Hickox, the ebola-fighting and politician-fighting nurse.  She is convinced that common sense beats hysteria.  According to the polls, the rest of us aren't so sure. I say "three cheers for her articulate effort."
And, she scored a slight victory by depending on the law to sort things out.

Edward Snowdon is convinced that we can, and should, depend on the law as the U.S. fights "terrorism."  Katrina vanden Heuvel and Stephen Cohen of The Nation magazine went to Russia and conducted a wide-ranging conversation with the most famous American in Moscow. 

The Edward Snowdons of history usually get crushed.  We have yet to know what will happen to him.  Snowdon says: "The atomic bomb was the moral moment for physicists.  Mass surveillance is the same moment for computer scientists . . . Being confronted with the realization that work you intended to benefit people is being used against them has a radicalizing effect."

God may not play dice with the universe, but some scientists apparently think they do.