Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Happy Sad Place

With the police in the U.S. under so much scrutiny from cameras and from commentary, the rank and file might want to watch and learn from Happy Valley -- the saddest but maybe the most dramatically rich place on British TV.  The show follows the chaotic life on the streets and in the home of a hard charging policewoman.  She is living and has seen far too much for any lifetime.  And it is taking its toll.  But she never loses her empathy and compassion when it counts the most.

I usually wilt before tension this strong.  This time, the acting and the story kept me in place.  By the way, no guns.  No shots fired.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

On Your Mark

I saw Mark Cuban on a political talk show today.  His name is being mentioned as a VP choice for Trump OR Hillary.  Mark came across as likeable and reasonable. (Has Trump softened me up for this?  Or made me desperate?)

I've always liked Cuban on Shark Tank and as a basketball team owner with oomph.  He was my vote to buy the Cubs. Cuban said Trump's success may be opening the door to more non-traditional candidates.

I would love a wider choice of candidates but I was thinking of campaign finance reform as the door opener not another set of billionaires with their eyes on the prize. When we were talking about baseball, my friend Rex said:  "There is nothing above first place."  Mark Cuban has already won a Championship with the Mavericks, so maybe for him . . . there is.

P.S.  I like the idea of 400 people running for Congress with a unified progressive message and national internet funding.  They could call it "The Ride of the 400."  (Oh right, nobody rides into battle anymore.)  It's still a fresh idea.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Bigger Picture

One of the powerful elements in the movie Money Monster is that George Clooney, the star of a reality TV show,  wears an earpiece which connects him privately with Julia Roberts, the producer.  In the crisis that ensues, Julia uses the earpiece connection to soothe and calm down George while informing and instructing him at the most dangerous moments. "There are snipers you can't see who are aiming at you."  "Nothing's happening now because we're waiting for them to find the wife."
Thus, George gets the benefit of an expanded experience. It saves his life, and maybe his soul.

And, isn't that what we think would improve our lives -- "an expanded experience"?  Don't we think of it as the key to empathy, problem solving, peace?

Many years ago I took a course on expanding the functioning of the brain.  One of the exercises was to imagine a "guide" who would inform us or provide an imaginary "other point of view."

Kind of like an earpiece.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Friendly Franzen

A few weeks ago I brought the latest Jonathan Franzen novel home from the library.  It sat unopened with my other books and papers and, after about a week, I took it back.  Just wasn't in the mood.  When I saw his name on an article in this week's New Yorker I started reading it immediately and am not sorry.

The piece is about his trip to Antarctica on a luxury expedition.  ("Don't call it a cruise," says the Captain.)  The Franzen who duked it out with Oprah over the "seriousness" of his work doesn't show up here.  This is an engaging travel story of fellow passengers, endless ice, rare birds, blackness and, of course, the penguins. "I had never before had the experience of beholding scenic beauty so dazzling that I couldn't process it, couldn't get it to register as something real."

With warmth and love he also tells the story of Uncle Walt, who provided the unexpected inheritance that financed the trip.  I remembered the time I received an unexpected inheritance.  I was a bewildered young mother.  I didn't sail away.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Am I lonely?

I was talking with a friend who revealed that she was lonely.  I started thinking: "Is that true of me too?"  I live alone and when I think of the times when I didn't, and since I've reached a time when I have a choice, I think I prefer it this way.

To live with others continuously and successfully you have to honor their rhythms, their need for their own story and the space to let it unfold.  I'm so quick with my inner -- and expressed -- opinions.  And yes, as you suspect, they do get in the way.

I recently picked up the notes I took when I was heavy into self-help philosophies.  They revealed familiar struggles.  Too familiar.  "Am I doomed?  Has nothing changed?"  I'll cling to this:  I am more content to live with my own story and the space by myself in which it unfolds.

Is that enough?  I'll never know for sure.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Two Wives

My favorite TV show aired its final episode last Sunday.  Seven years ago, it started when the image of Eliot Spitzer's wife, standing sadly beside him as he resigned his Governorship in a sex scandal, brought the "good wife" into our vocabulary.  The show promised a look at what that "good wife" could be all about -- and delivered with excellence week after week.  A smart woman in mid-life meets the world.

In the end, she remains "the good wife" and in the process loses some of her soul.  We don't hate her.  We sigh.

Now, Donald Trump wants to remind us of the other "good wife" who took up even more of our nation's consciousness.  He wants to rip her for being a fraud;  this woman who moved into her own territory -- lofty territory indeed -- while remaining the "good wife" through the years.   Has she too  lost some of her soul?  Do we hate her?  Or do we sigh?

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Last Bite

My empathy for The Biggest Losers reminds me of one fat man who had the last laugh (or bite).  Ronnie was very large and had a personality to match.  His wife was a marvelous cook who didn't hold back.  Ronnie thought it would be a "piece of cake" for her to make the dessert he found in Vincent Price's cook book of recipes from famous restaurants.  The Whitehall Restaurant's entry came out of her oven as a sad lump.

Ronnie called the restaurant and insisted on speaking to the pastry chef.  He demanded a replacement cake and -- it being Ronnie -- he got one.  Then he sent a picture to Vincent Price of Gloria showing the tale of the two cakes.  A few weeks later, he received an apology from Price himself (accompanied by an autographed picture).  The editors had printed the wrong measurement of a key ingredient.

I lost track of Ronnie so I don't know if he is still large and having his way.  There is a part of me that hopes so.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Eternal Losers?

I like tuning into the final episode of the TV show The Biggest Loser.  When the confetti falls on a face beaming with pride at having lost so much weight I cheer and believe it when they say:  "My life has changed forever."  And I am just as happy for the others who didn't win the big prize but still lost all those pounds.

So today I am filled with dismay reading the article following up on the TV show stars and how much lost weight has found them again.  And it isn't because they are inferior slackers.  Their metabolism will not -- refuses -- to adjust to their new weight.  They simply cannot not burn enough calories.  Maybe they should have lost the weight very slowly, over several years.  No TV show that way.  And who wants to wait for less weight?

Or, does this mean that the genetic Gods continue to laugh at our delusions?  Willpower, guts, determination, the possibility of change -- are all of it a squandered effort?   Science will probably spend billions attacking the metabolism problem, but the patience problem?  That lies somewhere else.

Maybe we can make peace with ourselves very slowly.  I'll start with me.