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Archive for January, 2014

No, I’m not talking about a Bush presidency. And I’m not talking about being over the “hump” which was what we called the age of forty, before we knew better. What needs to be seriously talked about is that Roe vs Wade turned 41 last week, and nobody mentioned it.

Except this writer, Caitlin Moran, the best selling author of “How to be a Woman,” who absolutely gets it! She wrote an article for The UK Times titled, “Why is Abortion Under Threat Again?” She reminds us that world-wide, 40 Million women seek abortion services every year, and that these women do not “…have abortions recklessly.” Moran continues to say that Europe seems to be blindly following suit with America in trying to restrict access to reproductive health for its citizens, citing a law passed at the end of last year in Spain that would restrict a women’s right to an abortion.

Following recent controversial abortion restrictions across America, it seems two otherwise progressive, First World countries are now framing abortion as some relatively recent, morally licentious activity that blew in on the same wind as disco, homosexuality and Dallas, and which must now – in more sore, sober and reflective times – be curtailed once more. The only abortions are these modish, legal abortions, and now they must be stopped. http://ge.tt/3cnPGjD1/v/0

Rolling Stone has an article in this month’s issue titled “The Stealth War on Abortion,” that illuminates some of the incremental, state by state restrictions that GOP legislators have been passing long before Wendy Davis stood her ground in Texas. I’ve certainly talked about them here, the TRAP laws and personhood bills, from time to time. The “War on Women” is alive and well folks. The party that dismisses government as abusive and overbearing just loves to get into our panties.http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-stealth-war-on-abortion-20140115

What I like about Moran’s take is her historical and global perspective. We women have been trying to abort for just about as long as Neanderthals mated with Homo Sapiens. Before we tried coat hangers, candles and blood letting with leeches, there was “…pennyroyal, tansy, (and) hellebore. Silphium was the remedy of the Ancient Greeks – the main export of Cyrene, demand for silphium was so huge that it was harvested into extinction, but not before its image was imprinted onto Cyrenian coinage.”

Today half of the 40 Million abortions are performed safely and legally, but half are illegal. Think about that. Here’s the kicker, many who abort illegally end up dying – from sepsis most likely. That means about 47,000 women die annually around the world. Some of that can be connected to that 41st President and his son #43 who tied global aid to women’s health clinics that would not perform abortions…yes, religious zealots writing international policy. That’s just the way it is, everybody thinks they have God on their side.

The problem is impoverished women around the world are suffering. If we stop to consider that one in every three women we meet have had an abortion – 1 of every 3 – we may find ourselves thinking differently about choice. I’m glad the Right to Lifers have stopped killing physicians, but we need to have more men and women stand up for our right to choose. And young women in particular, we cannot go back to the back alleys.

http://www.upworthy.com/an-avenger-talks-about-the-hell-his-mom-went-through-back-when-women-had-no-choices?c=cur1

Illustration by Victor Juhasz for Rolling Stone

Illustration by Victor Juhasz for Rolling Stone

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We lost a legend today, banjo pickin folk singer Pete Seeger died at the age of 94. We grew up on his songs: “Where Have All the Flowers Gone;” and “To Everything Turn Turn Turn, there is a season;” and “If I had a Hammer.” I remember hearing the Byrds play “Turn Turn Turn” live at MIT in Boston in 1967. Before the Beatles invaded, Seeger had been singing about the plight of Everyman and because he was a Communist, he suffered the economic consequences of poverty first hand. His band, the Weavers, was banned from the airwaves of the 1950s.

“Pete Seeger towered over the folk scene like a mighty redwood for 75 years. He travelled with Woody Guthrie in the 1940s, stood up to Joe McCarthy in the 50s, marched with Dr Martin Luther King in the 60s. His songs will be sung wherever people struggle for their rights. We shall overcome.” Billy Brag via Twitter.

Seeger’s legacy is a lesson to modern musicians. You don’t have to just reflect history, you can change it if you stay the course. UnknownDid you watch the Grammys? I turned it off, and not just because Downton Abbey was about to start, though that was a perfectly good reason. You know I love Mrs Carter (aka Beyonce), but her Flashdance chair opening left me wanting to channel surf. First of all they bleeped half the lyrics, and then the production took over. I love that she’s a feminist, that she dropped her own album on the world, without benefit of a major label, but only a star with Beyonce’s following can afford to produce a record, only a star who is worth 850 Million with her rapper husband JayZ.

It seems that now behind every hit song, including “Roar” and “Wrecking Ball” is a magical mogul named Doctor Luke. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/10/14/131014fa_fact_seabrook  Sometimes I cringe knowing that a catchy pop tune is just a template that some con artist dreamed up. At least Beyonce and JayZ collaborated with a group to come up with “Drunk in Love.” And awarding the Best New Song of the Year to a young singer, Lorde for “Royals” — Joel Little & Ella Yelich O’Connor, songwriters – was a step in the right direction.

Since the Rocker’s been in the business, I got  a close and personal look at how the music industry has changed. I understand why Prince is suing 22 people for 22 Million for pirating his music http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25927363 The only way for young musicians today to make a living is to hit the road, to sell merchandise and build a fan base, Because they get just pennies on the dollar of every download, and most people are listening to Spotify and Pandora for free. Album CD sales are lagging, technology is pushing the change, but a ray of hope can still appear.

New Jersey artist Nicole Atkins has decided to fight back. I wrote about her before, when she was dating a member of the Rocker’s band and driving cross country in a van. Called a female Roy Orbison, when she appeared on David Letterman last year, he actually walked up to her and shook her hand, “That was great, that was beautiful, wasn’t it boys,” something he rarely does with an artist. Her voice is as smooth as sea glass and her moods as gritty as Jersey sand. She went ahead with the help of a crowdfunding site, Pledge Music, to produce her new album, “Slow Phaser.”  It’s scheduled to be released next month and you can pre-order on iTunes here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/slow-phaser/id778534906

President Clinton called Pete Seeger an “inconvenient artist.” IMHO, we need more of them!

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Tonight on “60 Minutes” our VA Senator Creigh Deeds will address candidly, for the first time, the events that led to his son’s attack and subsequent suicide. He’ll talk about the plight of the mentally ill. Every month Bob, and I’m sure many other ER physicians in our state, must discharge one or more patients because their psych unit cannot access a psych bed in ANY VA hospital. But I wonder if he’ll address guns.

The following is an essay from a father, an anesthesiologist who trained with the Bride and Groom at UVA. A friend of my daughter’s. He was at the Maryland mall yesterday with his almost 2 year old daughter. I thought it was “funny” that I learned about the shooting incident via Twitter, and then went to CNN’s website to read many of their sources were Twitter. And then I moved on, because it is too heartbreaking to feel for EVERY SINGLE ONE of these senseless acts and because I’ve become cynical. After all, it seems nothing can change, no bills for background checks can get past the NRA…and yet, we turned our state a darker blue…so maybe, one state at a time? These are his words:

“I spent most of yesterday feeling scared and shaken up. When I heard the gun shots so close to me I had so much adrenalin pumping through my body that as I ran out of the play yard with Meenakshi I couldn’t even see properly and I grabbed our stroller on the way out with all Meenakshi’s food, diapers, etc and in the process spilled hot coffee all over my left leg. I didn’t even feel it. As I entered the store I was frantically running, trying to keep Meenakshi as concealed as possible, knocking over clothes as I pulled the stroller behind me and hurtled down the aisles. I started to crouch behind the checkout counter when two women who were employees of the store were screaming for me to come deeper into the back of the store. So I kept running. There was so much panic in their eyes that I thought for sure the shooter was behind me but I had to keep moving. Later I learned that the person who was shot in the foot was not more than 200 feet from where Meenakshi was playing. Once safely inside the store and after making contact with Radhai and assuring myself that she was out of the mall Meenakshi and I sat and waited with about 20 other people. Then a man came to the closed gate at the H&M entrance and started yelling. We couldn’t see him and he couldn’t see us. In hindsight I think he was a mall patron trying to get to safety, but I don’t know. There was a box of cups next to me and I ripped the cups out and stuffed Meenakshi into the box, thinking that if someone came in to start shooting at least she would be out of sight. Finally a swat team let us out. They had body armor, huge guns, and there were a lot of them. I looked around the mall as we were being escorted out and it looked like the apocalypse. There were abandoned strollers, food trays with half eaten meals, coats, spilled drinks, a random shoe here and there, children’s toys strewn about. There were armed officers at every corner. My hands were shaking. As I approached the mall exit I realized Meenakshi’s coat was somewhere buried under the stroller so I took of my coat and wrapped her in it while some kind soul held the door open for me and patiently waited for me to bundle her up. I met Radhai outside and we hugged for a long time and left.
We finally made it home safely. And after coming home and hugging my family and crying I felt confused, grateful, scared, but mostly shaken up. Today, I feel angry. I feel angry that some 19 year old boy wielded a weapon of such destruction so irresponsibly and made me and hundreds of other families feel so frightened that they might lose their children, spouses, or their own lives. I feel angry that a day of fun at the mall turned into a chaotic war zone with bullet riddled walls left behind as evidence. I feel angry that now when we go out I view it as a calculated risk that something like this might happen again because somebody is having a bad day and has easy access to a gun. Guns belong on the battle field, not in the mall.

This boy had an overwhelming amount of ammunition and home made bombs on him. The prospect of what might have happened is horrifying. I am most of all angry that in spite of all the events over the last decade that have happened in this country, nothing will change. Clearly it doesn’t matter whether adults or children are murdered, we still need to make sure that everyone can have a gun.”

The shootings, which also left five other people injured, ended a violent week which saw shootings or gun scares at American schools or shopping centers — ordinary places where people once felt safe.dition.cnn.com/2014/01/26/us/maryland-mall-shooting/

Schools, movie theaters where a dad is texting his babysitter, malls. So the question remains, are we willing to give up our freedom to congregate and walk freely in public for the narrow interpretation and political might of the gun lobby? What kind of freedom is that? Let’s get money out of politics, and the NRA out of our politician’s pockets.

0125_US_MarylandMallShooting_full_600

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Bob was driving yesterday when we happened to catch the last half of Ann Patchett’s interview on NPR with Terri Gross. She was talking about how her life changed when she moved back home to Nashville, because it was her husband’s home too. Most of us do dream of leaving home and making our way in the bigger world, and she certainly did that. I thought about how our lives can pivot at times, we think we’re going one way and suddenly we find ourselves in a different place entirely. And we wake up, look around, and decide to embrace this new place…

You just roll up your sleeves and you do the job that’s in front of you and that’s what people do. And you know what? It’s easy for me to say this now that I’m years on the other side of it, but it’s a privilege to see someone through that time in their life. And the trick of it is to love them for who they are that day…”http://www.npr.org/2014/01/23/265228054/patchett-in-bad-relationships-there-comes-a-day-when-you-gotta-go

Patchett was talking about taking care of her grandmother as she was dying. It was supposed to be her sister who stayed at home, in Nashville, and would be the family’s caretaker. But instead, tables turned and her sister moved away just as Patchett agreed, after an eleven year courtship, to marry her boyfriend Karl. She was still smarting after a brief early marriage. That essay too is included in her new book, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. I’ve yet to read her new book of essays, but after listening to her interview, I’ll have to wait until I return to the Love Bug so I can purchase her book in her bookstore, Parnassus. And no, she wasn’t pushing her bookstore with Terri Gross, but she was extolling about her love of independent bookstores. And I found myself agreeing with her.

I thought about meeting my husband again, after many years apart. I too had been burned by a bad first marriage at nineteen. The kind you know never should have happened, the kind you are second guessing while you’re saying “I Do,” and thinking “What If.” Young feminists at the time called these “starter marriages.” I sometimes think in discovering our own strength, the strength to leave, we started a revolution. I knew it was over when he told my sister Kay he could never be vulnerable. And I think we raised boys who were not afraid of vulnerability. https://medium.com/religion-spirituality-and-philosophy/838b400fe2a5

I had returned home and was keeping watch at my foster father’s dying bedside when my MIL Ada found me and pulled me into Bob’s hospital room. He was recovering from some minor surgery and thought he was hallucinating. His vulnerability matched mine. We met at fourteen, and married at thirty. And so our story resumed, the he.went.to.woodstock  (meets) she.went.to.westchester story.

I’m glad Ada kept most of my newspaper articles, faded yellow paper over the years. There was no Cloud to store and collate all my writing, but my MIL who will be 90 this year, became my biggest fan and super star archivist over the years. I may have to scan all those essays for posterity. They are like all the pictures stored away in boxes, waiting to be digitized on some rainy day. But first I’ll catch up on all things Nashville on Parnassus’ new blog  http://parnassusmusing.net it’s for anyone who loves to read – period!

“Let go of who you think you should be, and become who you are.”

another reason to call Nashville

another reason to call Nashville

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As parents of young children, we try to make every game, see every recital, soak up every bit of our child’s life while we can. We know deep down it doesn’t last long. In no time their friends will take our place; there will be sleepovers and soon some boy who looks like he’s 12 will show up at the door to drive them somewhere. If we are lucky, we may still hear about a bit of success along the way. Some children tell us of their failures, most will keep their own counsel, not wanting to worry us.

I thought it was funny this weekend when I “heard” via twitter that my son the Rocker played on the same stage as the Boss. Maybe it’s boys. Boys don’t chatter on about relationships, they don’t usually dissect their friends’ love lives. I remember reading once if you wanted to talk with your son, first engage them in something physical. You know, wash the car together, or clean up the garage. I remember long car rides to his hockey games where we did manage to talk. Back then, it seemed like his duffel bag filled to the brim with his ice hockey gear was bigger than he was.

Since my son’s band, the Parlor Mob, broke up, I only hear about bits and pieces of his working life. The Bride can always call Bob to discuss some course of medical treatment, the latest emergent intervention for stroke patients or whatever. We Facetime quite a bit with the Love Bug. But with the Rocker, I hear about his music as an aside; “I’ve got a deadline on this commercial,” or “I’m doing a PBS film about a photographer you might have heard of?” I learn what can be included in his IMDB status, and what can’t, and I know that he’s always playing guitar in one or another of his friends’ bands.

So living just a mile away from Bruce Springsteen in NJ we’d often cross paths. At the gym, at the drug store, or at the movies. But I was never formally introduced to him, he wouldn’t know me even though I wrote a weekly column about our town in the local paper. There was no picture on my byline. There was no online access. I knew people who “knew” him personally, but it just never happened. Which is kind of weird, cause like people who read my column religiously, I felt like I knew him. His music was ingrained in my soul.

This past weekend the Rocker and his friend Sam, who was the drummer from Parlor Mob, played for his friend Nicole Atkins at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, NJ. I’ve talked about Nicole before, she has an incredible voice, and a new album “Slow Phaser” about to drop. http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/nicoleatkins/updates/31296?utm_campaign=project6348&utm_medium=activity&utm_source=twitter

It was the “Light of Day” concert to benefit Parkinson’s Disease.  http://www.nj.com/entertainment/music/index.ssf/2014/01/nicole_atkins_to_enliven_light_of_day_in_asbury_park.html

And the Boss was in the wings watching their set. As they were leaving, he was introduced to Bruce who shook his hand and said, “You’re a great guitarist.” Since I follow Nicole on twitter, I knew the Boss was there, so I called my son.

And now, I can die happy.

The Rocker with Uli

The Rocker with Uli

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Birds do it, bees do it. But apparently if you happen to be the next single woman to serve as a university president in some parts of these Southern United States, you won’t be allowed to do it – that is, live with a partner in the usually big, beautiful, university-provided campus president’s house.

Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd, is leaving Johns Hopkins, and is slated to become the first Black female president of her alma mater, Alabama State University in Montgomery, next month.

“Her contract requires the 58-year-old engineer to move into the president’s home…(one) clause states ‘for so long as Dr. Boyd is President and a single person, she shall not be allowed to cohabitate in the President’s residence with any person with whom she has a romantic relation.'” http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/01/17/263484808/no-cohabitation-for-alabama-states-first-female-president

She seems to have no problem with this clause, after all she signed the contract. Still, it makes me smile to think about the “scandal” happening in France right now. President Hollande jets around at night on his scooter, disguised in his helmet to visit his lover, a film actress. He is only discovered by the fashionable French press because of his shoes! It’s all over the papers, but knowing some French people as I do, and listening to the interviews on the streets of Paris, his citizens could care less! Alors, Les Liasons Romantique!

Fidelity is over rated in France. “When it comes to extra-marital affairs, the French are the most forgiving nation in the world, according to a recent study. The U.S., however, is still as unforgiving as ever, ranking 27th on the list, right between Brazil and Ghana.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/16/infidelity-study_n_4611674.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009

What I didn’t know until I read the above article, is that President Hollande is simply cohabiting with his First Lady, Valerie Trierweiler, who was his previous mistress. Yes sirree folks, they are NOT married, but have been together since 2007. I am trying to imagine this arrangement in the USA. My brain just cannot do it, sorry. But let’s try…it would be like Bill living cohabiting on Pennsylvania Avenue with Gennifer Flowers, and then seeing an intern on the side. You can see how the first part just wouldn’t work!

If there’s one thing I learned from moving South, it’s that things move a lot slower down here. We talk to strangers, we help each other in airports, we drive slowly in the left lane. In fact, I’m pretty sure our Governor would never close any lanes in a grudge match, after all we can snarl traffic just fine by stopping to talk to a neighbor on the road. And no Virginian would think of honking their horn!

So maybe this cohabitation clause wouldn’t work at NYU, and it certainly wouldn’t be considered at any French university. I doubt that the clause would have appeared on a male president’s contract. But I’ve got a feeling that Dr Boyd has bigger fish to fry. Might I suggest she give our single female UVA President Teresa Sullivan a call? After all, somebody always gets hurt when all those glass ceilings shatter. http://www.virginia.edu/presidentsreport/

Here is the Bride with Great Grandmother Mamie and some of her great grandchildren after a lunch at the MSU President’s gorgeous historic home that honored my brother and sister-in-law last year. And The Love Bug with her cousin, Frankie.IMG_1554IMG_1558

 

 

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There’s good news and there’s bad news this week. On the good side – Our do-nothing-Congress has passed a 1+ Trillion dollar budget deal that should keep our government humming along for the next nine months. On the bad side – Congress has defunded ALL portrait painting, which is pretty stupid since I understand that every single Treasury Secretary or Secretary of Defense doesn’t need an official oil-based portrait painted costing taxpayers thousands of dollars each.

But no more Presidential portraits? Are you kidding me? Even I have had my portrait painted, by my sister mind you! This may have started my fondness for hats.

The Author, age 15 in Oklahoma

The Author, age 15 in “Oklahoma”

You know that gallery at the Smithsonian with all of our Presidents hanging regally along its walls in a continuing line of American history? Well, it’s about to stop short. Someone on the blogosphere somewhere said it’s because we can’t have a “president of color” up there with Lincoln and Roosevelt and Kennedy and really? I suppose this means no more First Ladies either.

The horse-trading was done by only about four dozen of Congress’ 533 members, working in private. What’s supposed to be 12 separate spending bills was combined into one mammoth stack that finances the government through Sept. 30.http://www2.macleans.ca/2014/01/16/5-things-to-know-about-deal-to-avert-shutdown-of-u-s-government/

It’s the “working in private” part that bothers me, behind closed doors in a secret session, along with the sheer lunacy of stopping a tradition that deserves to be maintained. I tend to think very forest for the trees about art. Artists are really doing our society a favor. They reflect back to us what’s going on in everyday life, with a different spin, giving us a new perspective. Enlightening, illuminating and just plain enriching our thirsty souls. Sometimes art can even change history. Think of the photograph of a child about to be shot in Vietnam. Think about the mini-series Roots. Think about a little Goldfinch.

Today the Oscar nominees were announced. Nothing new or unusual except Ms Oprah was denied again for her role in The Butler. A movie about a man who served how many presidents through sweeping social changes in our country. A true story, but one obviously overlooked in Hollywood. Instead a movie about a real political shakedown in NJ in the late 70s, the Abscam scandal, was the basis for the big winner, American Hustle.

“…today offering bribes in exchange for legislation seems almost quaint. The lobbyists do the same things we did, only to a much greater degree,” said John Good, a former FBI supervisor who oughtta know.http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/to-the-players-in-abscam-the-real-life-american-hustle-the-bribes-now-seem-quaint/2013/12/26/d67648c2-6c15-11e3-a523-fe73f0ff6b8d_story.html

I wonder who’s writing the Chris Christie biopic now? Maybe we need to get some art lobbyists up on the Hill. You know, bring in the big guns – the owners of auctions houses and film industry moguls, maybe a few museum directors? At least we need to appoint a Secretary of Culture, every other country in the free world has one! We don’t need to paint their portrait either. But we DO need President Obama’s portrait painted.

“I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization,” President Kennedy once remarked, “than full recognition of the place of the artist.” http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/07/should-the-us-have-a-secretary-of-culture/277409/

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