Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Mother Effect

No matter how much or how little you want to acknowledge it, I bet there are a few things about your Mother that stick.  The one that immediately comes to my mind is the hair and make up thing.  I don't ever remember seeing her without both done to perfection.  I heard that she went to the beauty parlor on the day she died.  If that is "fake news" or "alternative facts", its essence is certainly true.

I made sure to pack my cosmetics kit before going to the emergency room.  The doc told me I was having a heart attack but that I looked damn good.

My Mother was a great cook -- American style.  Baked ham, parker house rolls, apple pie, roast beef, chicken salad.  As in all things, she created her own rules.  She loved a good corned beef sandwich.  On white toast with thousand island dressing.

Sounds good to me.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Lead Up



Casual observers are paying scant attention to the NBA finals so far.  Why should they?  It's just the undercard to the inevitable meet up between LeBron and Steph.  I say: "Listen.  There's a lot going on right now.  Last night the Wizards beat the Celtics with a three point shot at the buzzer.  Can't get any better than that."

And then there are the stories.  The up close and personal stuff.  The Spurs won the series against the Rockets despite being complete underdogs because of injuries to their star, Kawhi Leonard, and their vet Tony Parker.  Jonathon Simmons played the mythical understudy role.  The unknown who steps up and steals the show.  He started out undrafted, bounced from team to team, even paid $150 of his own money to secure a tryout. When his moment came . . .

Steve Kerr, the Warrior's coach,  (don't forget he was a Bull) is watching from a hospital bed somewhere because of botched back surgery.  His father was murdered in Beirut when Steve was in college.  (That generation of terrorism.)  Steve deserves the best from life.

Games Sunday and Monday.

Friday, May 12, 2017

What Remains



Years ago, my great friend Beverly suffered a severe stroke and went into a nursing home.  Inexplicably, and to my dismay, I learned that she didn't want any visitors.  It was difficult for her to talk on the phone, so I was reduced to writing her little notes.  At one point, I called her rabbi.  I thought I was calling to ask how she was doing, but I realized I wanted to vent about being cut off and how sad it made me feel.  The rabbi, a very loving man, gave me advice about letting go.

The other day my friend Marilyn told me how disturbed she was that her friend Paul was dying and she wasn't able to see him for one last time.  I wrote back.

Don't be concerned about Paul and his caretakers.  When his soul leaves his body, he will leave knowing what a great friend you were and how you were there for him.  He is beyond your reach now, except for his place in your mind.  You are in charge of that.

Bev remains alive in my mind.



Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Out of Service



I wanted to tell you about the extraordinary driver of bus no. 4125.  It was last Wednesday morning on the 147 express.  It's usually crowded and there are always opportunities for people to get testy, or noisy, or whatever happens with "the public."

This time there were two mothers with babies and strollers.  And, an old black man struggling with an enormous suitcase.  The seniors were angry about losing their seating area.  The driver stopped.  He helped the mothers collapse their strollers.  (First time I had ever seen that.)  He help position the suitcase. The seniors took their seats.

As the bus moved on to the express run on Lake Shore Drive, a very excited young fellow cried out:  "I missed my stop!  I missed my stop!"  The driver calmly told him to wait.  He turned off at Lawrence, let the man out, and immediately got back on the Drive.  (First time I had ever seen that.)

When we got on Michigan Avenue and the mothers needed to get off, the driver helped with the strollers.  By this time a passenger was willing to help by holding one of the babies.

When I got off at Washington, I saw a CTA dispatcher.  I told him I wanted to pass along praise of the driver to the higher ups.  He grumbled:  "Call this number."  When I got home, I called.  "This number is out of service."

"Well", I thought:  "Bus no. 4125 wasn't out of service.  Not today."

Monday, May 1, 2017

From A to A



The Lost City of Z is a good old fashioned movie.  Old fashioned because it is about exploration when earth was a mysterious place upon which it was still considered bold for man to leave his mark.  Not the exhausted planet over which we weep today.

And, it is the classic story:  Travel into the unknown excites the imagination, fosters ambition, attracts glory. Then, the ultimate discovery is revealed.  It is the hidden place inside.  From ambition to acceptance.  Some find that "lost city."  Some never do.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Tokens


Why am I so disappointed that ex-President Obama has entered the "star" speaking circuit at $400,000 a pop?  And, that his first gig is with a Wall Street firm?  Some say:  "We're only mad when the black guy or the woman (Hillary) want to cash in."  And that makes some sense, but doesn't make me feel any better.

Maybe the disappointment comes from an overblown estimate of him (and us) in the first place:  decent, well meaning, determined to prove that our better instincts of fairness and inclusion can reach all the way to the top.  Could his inner dialogue now be:  "They disrespected me at every turn, so now I'll take from them the only thing that matters to them -- amassing the big bucks."

I suspect that Obama is smarter than that.  He knows that the $800,000 (so far) and what Michele can add is just a token.  Small change to the big boys.  And, I suspect that this decent man knows he was a token too.  He'll make his bank deposits as he watches his accomplishments "blowin' in the wind."


Sunday, April 16, 2017

No is Not Enough



I saw a video of Naomi Klein on Facebook.  She was talking about "brand jamming."  She referred to a book she wrote years ago, No Logo, where she explains that if a brand is designed to convey a certain image or message, the alternative message can be just a powerful.  For example, Nike was damaged so severely by sweat shop images that it had to change its policies. ( I know you're thinking right now that United Airlines inflicted the brand jamming directly upon itself.)

Turning her attention to Trump, she says he is an ideal candidate for brand-jamming because brand means everything to him.  She has a lot of ideas on how to make the Trump name toxic wherever it appears.

Naomi Klein's brand is super intelligent creative thinker who can lead us to some innovative actions. At a time when the brands of diversity, empathy, and community have been jammed almost to oblivion, she is worth listening to.

Her new book is No is Not Enough.

Friday, April 14, 2017

My Spartacus Moment




Here is my fantasy about the recent incident aboard the United Airlines plane.  When the doctor (a.k.a. everyman) was singled out for removal against his will and against all notion of a rational universe, all of the other passengers, perhaps led at first by one brave soul, would have unbuckled their seat belts, rose as one and declared: "I am Spartacus!"

What if the "security" people had said: "Hey United, that's your problem.  Sorry, not our job."

These fantasies have a tendency to go on and on, don't they?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Billionaires Forever



The billionaires on Wall Street and Silicon Valley are at it again.  Remember when I wrote a few weeks ago about how, looking for safety,  they are turning abandoned missile silos into luxury bunkers? And are buying up property in remote areas of New Zealand?

Now, according to a flurry of articles in the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, they are employing A.I. and other possibilities, to attack death as if it were a company ripe for a hostile takeover.

"I want to live to 150!  200!  Forever!"  Sounds like how they squeal about quarterly profits.

Even Vanity Fair is addressing this hot topic in an article about Elon Musk.  Of course, this mag is delighted to include a shot of his knockout gorgeous mother.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

We'll Always Have. . .



As I was channel surfing a few week ago I came across CASABLANCA and I stayed right through to the "beginning of a beautiful friendship."  So much has been heaped upon this film that it's remarkable how it bears the weight and remains its beloved self.

Maybe I'm being too sentimental about the stars and the story:  the best character actors ever surrounding the iconic Bogart and Bergman; fleeing refugees released to freedom; underground resistance; cynicism conquered.

And maybe that's because it feels so immediate.  Rick calls out from the archives: "Someday you'll understand."  And here we are all over again.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Just Dreaming




Last night I had the strangest dream I ever had before.  Bernie was able to get Donald on the line.  "Hello Mr. President.  I have a feeling you would really like a "win" right now.  You sensed what to do about health care in your campaign when you promised great health care for everyone.  There's a way to get that win.  Forget that we've been calling it "single payer."  We'll let that go.  Let's call it the Trump Plan.  You don't have to work on it yourself.  We've got the details already lined up.  It will be HUGE. People will love you."

"Let's get together at Mar-a-Lago and talk it over . . . That's great!  See you Saturday on the golf course."



Saturday, March 18, 2017

Amazing and Unhappy










The people I listen to on the radio and the people I read are talking about it.  A class I took last year examined it in depth.  I see it everyday in my elevator, on the street, at the theater.  It is our attachment to our electronic devices.

Two quotes stopped me in my tracks.  One was from the comedian Louis C.K. in an article by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker:

Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.  Each citizen carries on her person a computer more powerful than any available to a billionaire two decades ago, and many are using their devices to express their unbridled rage at the society that put them in our pockets.

The other quote came up in a discussion between Terry Gross and Adam Alter about his book "Irresistible.  The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked."  His research shows that addiction to video gaming and electronic devices has the same effect on us as does heroin.  In commenting on this he says:

"These people have less of an attention span than that of a goldfish."

Gopnik's essay examines the crushing re-examination of liberalism and capitalism.  Alter's book lays it out pretty clearly in his title.

Two authors. Two Adams. Is the "original" Adam trying to tell us something?






Friday, March 17, 2017

Deep Purple




My team, Northwestern, made it into the NCAA tournament for the first time ever.  And, they won their first game by two points.  The other team made a mistake in the final seconds while the Wildcats kept their poise.  The stands were a sea of purple, dotted with the many famous alums from TV and radio.  Now they face one of the powerhouse teams.  We have until Saturday.  And then . . .?

At a moment like this it's easy to understand why the dark side of the NCAA is so hard to address.  Who wants to think about the moveable money and the exploitation when it just feels so good to win.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Another March Madness



Orr Academy, a high school on Chicago's west side, won the Illinois State High School Basketball Championship last night.  I watched because I had become captivated by Rick Telander's five part series in the Sun Times.  Rick, the long time sportswriter, spent time with the boys and their coach Lou Adams.  The series was titled:  A Season Under the Gun.  Everyone in Chicago knows what that means.

As I was cheering, I thought: "My best hope for these champs is that this isn't the best moment in their lives.  That they will have a good life to grow into.  Of course you know what's behind that thought: "I hope they don't get shot like so many of their friends and family members."

March Madness indeed.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Creatures From the Past

My friend Sue takes a pill when she wakes up in the middle of the night.  I listen to the radio.  I used to like Art Bell and his gaggle of conspiracy people, cranks, and survivalists.  Reputable scientists like Michio Kaku would come on too.  Those were the best nights.

Now I listen to BBC News.  When they are not covering all the wars and other misery, they have fascinating programs about how creative we can be.  Last night I learned about "genetic rescue" and "back-breeding" as ways of fighting the extinction of so many species.  Turning around the Darwinian clock can also be used to restore lost forests.

Yesterday my friend Myles sent me one of those cute internet posts about nostalgia.  Scientists are using our healthier "good old days" to -- maybe -- save our future.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

An Illusion?


One of my favorite contemporary philosophers is Daniel Dennett.  (He looks the part, doesn't he?)  He tackles the problem of illusion this way:  We experience a world full of other people, plants, animals, home runs, problems, opportunities and mistakes.  To scientists, the world is made up of molecules, atoms, electrons, gravity, and all that Steven Hawking stuff.  Dennett seems fully aware that most of us will say: "Okay. So what?" and move on with our day.

So, for us complex creatures, he introduces the idea of competency without comprehension.  This was the genius of Steve Jobs, et al.  Make it easy to use and carry around, and the mind-numbing complexity of the systems behind it all are of no concern.  Thus, illusion keeps it going.

What about our subjective inner lives?  Are we ready to see them as illusions? Are we ready to succumb to the furniture vs. the molecules?

I agree this is eye-rolling stuff, but these are the kinds of questions we will have to deal with politically now that the robots are among us, taking over our work,  and maybe being in the process of developing minds of their own.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Singing the Illinois Blues


No, I'm not talking about the sorry state of the Bulls and the Bears.  Their ownership deserves our contempt.  It's just so sad to be a fan.  I'm talking about other "ownership" deserving of our contempt -- the politicians.

It was good "pol-watching" at Gibson's a few weeks ago.  George Ryan looked fit and happy.  I guess a few years out of jail gets your bounce back.  The Illinois Blues goes like this:  first we vote for them, then we hate them, then we jail them.  And they just keep their big fat pensions through it all.

Jesse Jackson stopped by to schmooze with George.  Everyone's a pal at Gibson's.  And, we're around to pick up the check.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Who will Survive?



One of my favorite experiences was when Bill, Natalie and I went from Melbourne to Phillip Island.  The lure was the arrival every evening at sunset of hundreds of penguins.  They would emerge from the ocean, cross the beach and climb the slopes to their natural nesting place.

The Australia tourism people -- always in good taste --had erected stands where we could watch the penguin parade but not interfere.  We were instructed politely to maintain quiet and no cameras.  It was magical.

The recent article in The New Yorker about the survivalist billionaires reminded me of my "back to nature" moment.  Despairing of our institutions, or maybe fearing a revolt, they are "getting away from it all" by burrowing down in bunkers in Kansas.  Or, buying up property in remote New Zealand at such a rapid pace that the natives are feeling invaded by nervous Yanks.

I don't know if there are penguins in New Zealand.  But I'm sure there are other sea creatures who eye the shore.  Maybe they see the panicky humans searching for a nesting place. Making sure "I've got mine."  Maybe they just turn around and return to the sea.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

What a Day



Oh yes.  It got to him.  It got to him good.  On a day when every inch of space was occupied by people expressing their disgust (no more dismay!) he noticed.  So he sent his little underling out to have a tantrum for him.  He sent him out to squeak: "The media is to blame!" None of this is happening.  Women?  Oceans of women?  We don't have to see them.  They don't exist.

What next? When one woman in Hawaii can start a global stampede,  there is going to be a "next."
People don't turn off these feelings when they put their signs down.  So yes, it got to me.  As my friend Marilyn said yesterday: "Doesn't this feel good again?"

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Medal for my Freedom



When President Obama presented the Medal of Freedom to Joe Biden yesterday it seemed a uniquely personal act.  More like a precious gift from the family vault than a bow to history or the gold watch at the retirement party.

The President, in his final days in office, has been emphasizing how much he loves his Vice-President.  "I found a brother,"  he says.  I was reminded of Ta-Nehisi Coates' insightful essay My President was Black.  He looks at Obama's "audacity" and success by looking at the boy raised by loving whites rather than by the history of the whip or fear of the uniform.

So, maybe Joe Biden, the scandal-touched politician, visited by early tragedy, was again the improbable white presence that gave us this special time.

When it's over next week, I wonder if Barack Obama and Joe Biden will stay close or go their separate ways.  In either case, the connection belongs to history.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hidden Feelings


President Obama is giving his Farewell Speech here tonight.  I saw the movie Hidden Figures yesterday.  Deep feelings of astonishment are welling up in me.  Of course I knew all along that Obama was a "once in a lifetime" presence.  But now it is getting to me.

When I was a young girl and my mother was away working, we had black maids who took care of us.  They looked and acted just like the computer programmer in the film.  Comfortable in her heavy set body and always nurturing.  Competent.  We were safe.

One scene in the film was especially powerful.  The blond department head says something like "We don't mean any disrespect."  The reply?  "I'm sure you believe that is true."

Could one of those loving women who helped get me through my childhood taken us to the moon?  I'll never know . . . and neither will they.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Being Girls


I heard via my wonderful alumnae news chronicler that a high school classmate has died.  I remember her so vividly.  She was the pretty, petite, popular one.  The ultimate wannabe of the ungainly girls like me.  The girl who kept us in a perpetual state of longing.

She wasn't my first.  There was another one in fourth or fifth grade. Several years ago I was at a business event.  I was chatting with a woman and when she told me she grew up in Detroit, I knew.  I expected if she opened her coat I would see her smartly starched dress.  The frilly one that dazzled me then and still appears in my dreams.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Listening Tour (Part Two)



When you invite comments you should be ready for whatever may come your way.  My favorite doorperson is a funny, friendly pro.  We've been chatting for years.  When I asked her how she was greeting the Trump presidency, she spouted some pretty strong racist stuff while embracing Trump.  When I asked her if she worried about eventually losing medicare or social security, she said:"Oh, that will never happen."

I thought about the literature surrounding domestic violence.  There's a lot of false optimism among those who choose to stay.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

My Listening Tour



Now that 2017 is upon us, I've decided to conduct a "listening tour."  The objective?  At a minimum, to gather ideas about how to survive the Trump years; and, (oh, please) find out how I can help stop him and his cronies.

Friday, I had lunch with the ever-energetic Trudy.  She says: "keep writing to your representatives on every issue.  Protest, protest, protest."  She was at the March of the Crosses on Michigan Avenue on December 31 and is going to the Women's March in Washington during the inauguration.

Tomorrow, it's lunch with my friend Margaret.  She is an historian and professor.  In touch with students and academics.

I'll keep you posted.  We need ideas!  We need energy!  No depression allowed.

Happy New Year



You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one

HAPPY NEW YEAR