Archive for October, 2016

In local Blue Ridge news, the Rolling Stone “Rape on Campus” trial is winding down. UVA Associate Administrator Nicole Eramo is suing the iconic rock magazine for 7.5 Million in a defamation lawsuit. Our little Cville courthouse has been hosting lots of Yankee traffic this week because Eramo, who was the person in charge of coordinating the school’s response to students claiming sexual assault or harassment, would like to prove the reporter and editors acted with malice.  

“Actual malice is a legal standard, loosely defined in this scenario to mean that Rolling Stone knew that information they were publishing was false, but they proceeded to publish it anyway.” 

Yesterday Sean Woods, an editor at Rolling Stone for 17 years, took the stand. And we learned that he meant to add an addendum to the original article, stating that the other witnesses refused to be interviewed in person for fear of reprisal (meaning their corroboration of “Jackie’s” statements after the alleged rape were hearsay). He really meant to add this, but he forgot!

This would seem unlikely. I might forget where I left my cellphone, but every editor I ever knew would never forget something like that. You must be a little OCD to be an editor; in fact, you may have to be certifiably OCD to do that kind of work. However, Woods stood by his criticism of the administrator, stating Eramo was a public figure and therefore subject to scrutiny…which is almost like saying, “Yeah we screwed up, but so did she, nah nah nah.” Oh and he also tried to resign, but they didn’t let him.

I wonder if being forgetful is the same as being malicious, only in a passive aggressive way?

Now y’all know I’m a card carrying feminist, a proud “nasty” woman, and if a woman cries rape, or “He kissed me against my will with a mouth full of Tic Tacs,” I will tend to believe her. But when the Columbia School of Journalism investigated this infamous rape on campus article and found it to be riddled with problems, I had to think twice. Or, as the Flapper always said, “Believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.”

The problem of confirmation bias – the tendency of people to be trapped by pre-existing assumptions and to select facts that support their own views while overlooking contradictory ones – is a well-established finding of social science. It seems to have been a factor here. Erdely (the reporter) believed the university was obstructing justice. She felt she had been blocked. Like many other universities, UVA had a flawed record of managing sexual assault cases. Jackie’s experience seemed to confirm this larger pattern. Her story seemed well established on campus, repeated and accepted.   http://www.cjr.org/investigation/rolling_stone_investigation.php

Journalists everywhere have learned their lesson from this case. Just because someone sounds like they are telling you the truth and only the truth, and you want to be sensitive to a rape victim, you must still verify the story. Even though independent news outlets have been gobbled up by mega media corporations, and so many beat reporters have been eliminated from courthouses and borough halls, and the world of “putting to bed” a story at midnight in newsprint, has changed to an online rush of clicks and scathing comments…this one basic truth remains. 

I was taught to get at least 3 corroborating interviews on any story. Fact checking is a basic technique that we the readers must demand, particularly considering our own confirmation bias, in this world of Trumped-up half-truths. I thought you might enjoy some of my old campaign buttons.  http://www.poynter.org/2016/its-time-to-fact-check-all-the-news/426261/  img_5487

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Almost every day I notice something about technology and its intrusion on our species.

The feeling leaves me twitchy, which is the opposite of feeling groovy. Feeling nervous, even jumpy about the upcoming election might be normal, but here’s where it gets downright “nasty.”

The new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll — conducted among 1,999 registered voters Oct. 13 through Oct. 15 — shows that Trump’s repeated warnings about a “rigged” election are having effect: 73 percent of Republicans think the election could be swiped from him. Just 17 percent of Democrats agree with the prospect of massive fraud at the ballot box.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/10/poll-41-percent-of-voters-say-the-election-could-be-stolen-from-trump-229871#ixzz4O6sJNgAE

Now I always thought we could trust in our electorate to bring us the best democracy, with a capital “D,” in the whole wide world. I thought the Trump supporters, fully one third of the voting public, were just delusional about the system being “rigged.” Sure it’s rigged when the polls show their candidate losing, and fine when he was neck and neck. And if somebody says something enough, some people are bound to believe it.

But then I read about bad technology, via a Katie Couric Twitter link to US News. Granted it’s an opinion piece, and Jason Smith uses the word “could,” but it made me think. Maybe it’s not mass hysteria, maybe there is something rotten in Denmark?

U.S. elections offer scant assurance of accuracy or security, and our nation would fail recognized international election criteria that we impose on emerging democracies. This November, millions of Americans will cast their ballots on unverifiable paperless voting computers. These machines incorporate flawed, buggy software that would not pass a college freshman computer science class.  http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2016-10-18/our-election-could-be-rigged-because-of-bad-technology

Today 32 states employ some type of internet voting, and let’s face it, the computers they are using are dinosaurs – think the kind of behemoth we lugged into the Bride’s dorm room almost twenty years ago! Even when I was studying Technology in the Classroom at the Master’s level, we were always told to keep a back-up lesson plan IN PAPER at hand because you never know. Modems can get hit by lightening. Russians or a middle school student could hack them!

And to top it off, after a delightful dueling chef’s dinner last night benefitting “Georgia’s Healing House,” Bob and I sat down to a PBS episode of “GerryRIGGED.” A documentary film featuring politicians from both sides of the aisle, including Tim Kaine who probably didn’t know he would be the Veep pick at the time, explaining how legislators in both houses can redistrict their state to ensure their reelection every few years.

Gerrymandering is the enemy of representative government. It deliberately manipulates the system to take away from voters the very choice that should be a hallmark of our system,” says program producer William Oglesby. “We hope with this documentary to help citizens understand that this isn’t the way it has to be; that the voters have a right to choose their representatives rather than the representatives choose them.”

Needless to say I was up and wandering about at 3 am again. Our country is just like Great Britain drawing lines in the sand of its post-Colonial empire.  Let’s get a few more Republicans over here in District 12 shall we? And VA had a chance at reform, but who would vote for their own demise? Certainly the Old Dominion didn’t.

If you need a respite from politics, and all the mud-slinging of this election, I have a Netflix show to recommend from England. “Black Mirror” (a trope to our attachment to the smart screen) is about how technology is changing the course of human history in a very scary, sinister and smart way. I’ve only seen the first few episodes of Season 1, created by Charlie Brooker, but if you are wondering where our dystopian obsession with devices is going, tune into the future.

Parental warning, the first episode of “Black Mirror” involves a pig in a compromising position. Like any great science fiction writer, the truth isn’t too far off.   http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/10/black-mirror-nosedive-review-season-three-netflix/504668/

Forget the myth of voter fraud, put your feet up and your devices down, talk to your children about kindness and nastiness, and maybe go leaf-peeping this week!   img_5481

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Last night I had the pleasure of meeting Beatrix Ost, http://www.beatrixost.com, a surrealist artist, theatre producer, designer and fashion icon. It was like meeting a haiku, elusive yet familiar. One cannot help being drawn to her. Wrapped in a long silk, printed sheath, her hair in a turban, she wore pointy toed yellow boots from another century. It seems she divides her time between a farm in Cville and an apartment in NYC.

Ost told the group at her book signing that she had wanted to interview several interesting people – such as the war photographer who lost three limbs in an IED explosion – and she asked each person one question:

“What is the marrow in your bones?”

And so she began to tell us all what drives her to continue creating art. She grew up after the war in Germany, with very little. Hardship is a fine anvil when coming of age. She remembered an aunt who lived outside the city, on a farm. This woman had taken an American officer as a lover, and so she would drive into the city to visit Ost and her mother in a Jeep. Cars were also very rare at the time. Out of the Jeep stepped a magnificent  creature; her aunt was wearing the officer’s jacket, belted tightly around her waist, epaulets at the sleeves, and cork espadrilles. She was stunning.

A sense of style and the meaning of adornment, of creating beauty in the midst of chaos was born. And just recently she met Camille Hautefort, a young woman who was making jewelry out of salvaged bombs from Laos. The woman handed her a weightless spoon one night, it was made from the ordnance found in the highlands of Xieng Khuang province, in the village of Ban Naphia , and Ost said she was so moved she nearly cried holding it in her hand. She knew she wanted to collaborate on jewelry design.

Now this company, Article 22, is helping artisans in Laos and clearing unexploded bombs from fields. Ethical jewelry. And I thought of all the bombs our country has dropped, all over the world. Of how women and children suffer in war-torn countries because men like to play at war. Of how our local candidate for Congress, Jane Dittmar, recently tweeted:

There is an armed man outside of our Fluvanna office intimidating volunteers – if you feel uncomfortable please contact 911 immediately.

Here is a film of Ost’s “Wild, incredible paradise” in the Virginia countryside: https://www.nowness.com/story/no-sour-meadows And you will find her book ,“The Philosopher’s Style,” along with this transformative jewelry at Lynne Goldman Elements, downtown Cville. img_5437


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You all know the story of the dentist who didn’t get into medical school, well our little 50th Reunion Big Chill Drama Club couldn’t get tickets to Hamilton, soooo last Sunday we all went to see the Carole King musical “Beautiful” instead. What a prolific songwriter she was – born in 1942, her generation was where Beats and Blues met Rock and Roll. This is a very short list of her early hits:

Will You Love Me Tomorrow – the Shirelles 1960

Take Good Care of my Baby – Bobby Vee 1961

Some Kind of Wonderful – the Drifters 1961

The Loco-Motion – Little Eva (who was previously her babysitter) 1962

Up on the Roof – the Drifters 1963

King was actually a Klein, a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn. Like a lot of us in that pre-birth-control generation, she found herself pregnant and married at the ripe old age of 16. Her husband turned out to be her lyricist, and together they wrote the songs that topped the Billboard list year after year. She was a classically trained pianist with the talent to thrive in a cut throat industry, and a mother who took care of her kids.

“Beautiful” is about King’s early life and career, and it’s about what it took for her to strike out on her own; her divorce from that first husband was the spark that led her to try out her own lyrics and find her gorgeous singing voice. Later writing 25 solo albums, including Tapestry, and winning four Grammies, being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The “Beautiful” soundtrack won the Best Musical Theatre Album in 2015.

The same week we were reminiscing with old classmates from the 60s saw another singer songwriter win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Bob Dylan holds a special place in my heart, for his anti-war lyrics and his raw vulnerability. Sometimes I just smile when I think back about my generation – we may not have been the “greatest” like those WWII vets, but we had the BEST music!

A lot has changed in the Theatre District since I used to drag my kids to Broadway musicals. There are painted naked ladies behind white lines in Times Square and two Minnie Mouses cruise the street arm in arm between other characters dressed as Lady Liberty. A few homeless men were getting rich carrying cards that said “Give me a dollar and I won’t vote for Trump!”

I’m not good in a crowd, and the last time I was in the Big Apple it wasn’t that jam-packed; people would leisurely window shop porn stores in Times Square and try to avoid the police. The porn is gone now but that prickly sensation of teetering on the edge of something either horrible or wonderful was still there.

If I learned anything over time, it’s not to have any regrets and to follow my spidey sense. We will never get anywhere if we fear taking that leap into the unknown. After all, I married Nathan Detroit didn’t I?!

“If you grow up in (or around) New York City and you’re paying attention, you have a better spidey sense than anyone. It prepares you well for the rest of the world. You learn to listen to the hair on the back of your neck.”


the Castmates of Guys and Dolls

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It’s been 50 years since my Class of 1966 graduated and the gang’s all here. The cheerleaders and football players, the drama club and the band, the freaks and the geeks! Although back then it was more like Greased Lightening and now it’s more like Ben Gay. 

We compare joint replacements and admire grandchildren. We fall into a comfortable patois, “Where did the wind take you?” “Whatever happened to …?”

Some of us live in the Sunshine state, and some are in South Carolina. A few outliers moved to upstate New York, while many stayed put – commuting to NY or running a family business. Lots of us have retired and traveling fills a void; one of my very best friends is about to take a Viking cruise on the Danube, and I wish that Bob and I could pack up our bags and hitch a ride with her. 

We really had a great class. The first in the state to stage a walk-out to protest of all things the dress code. The administrators had no idea what to do with us. 1968 was in our future with its turbulence and tragedies, some of us went to Woodstock while some went to Vietnam. 

We competed in a NY radio station’s Principal of the Year contest, spending many months creating and signing thousands of  3 x 5 cards in every class with our teachers’ permission, and sometimes without. 

Bob tells me we actually submitted 798,000 cards! 

We almost won too, honest it was soooo close that Cousin Brucie flew out to congratulate us in a helicopter. 

My life since then would make Miss Adelaide proud. I didn’t get the picket fence or the rose garden, but I’m not complaining. I married my Nathan and ironically he has a cold at the moment. 

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It’s that time of year again folks. Jews everywhere will be repenting their sins, asking God’s forgiveness, and fasting for a whole day, from sunset tonight until tomorrow night. Lots of hangry people walking around. 

Something we lapsed Catholics used to do every Friday. “Forgive me Father for I have sinned…” Only at least we could eat fish sticks mind you. 

So I was wondering what Donald J Trump’s confession might sound like. If he had, as Mike Pence seems to think he does, one iota of grace. 

Would he be sorry he listened to his Son-in-Law and collected a panel of four women to bad mouth Bill Clinton? You know that other old guy with charisma and charm who is NOT running for President.

Would he be sorry he ever met Billy Bush on a bus? He might just blame Melania because you know she wanted him to do the interview and it was supposed to be great. 

Would he wish he had never owned and run the Miss Universe pageant? Even though it gave him pimp access to all of the world’s most beautiful women, especially those Eastern European types with the big breasts. 

We all know his preference for certain parts of the female anatomy. 

This past week we also learned what rape culture sounds like. We saw what white male privilege looks like. Donald J Trump took us to church and paraded his well coifed adult children in front of us as if to say, “See how viral a man I am, my seed shall last for generations.” 

I doubt we have any more undecided voters left, and if we do so be it. 

Today I will walk to the park and throw away my sins in a lake. Dear God, forgive me for thinking ill of this candidate for President. This boastful, narcissistic, orange kumquat. He is just a man with a lot of ego and money. Or not. 

Here are some strong, accomplished young women who know a con when they see one. It’s good to be back over the Mason Dixon line. 

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“Do we have any plans?”

A simple question yes, but I’ve been hearing it alot lately. At the end of this month my husband Bob will retire. You heard me correctly, he will hang up his stethoscope for maybe the last time. And like most American housewives of the newly retired, I am beginning to wonder what the rest of my life will be like.

Our cousin Anita tells me that men who golf do much better in retirement. Her friends are not complaining so much. They don’t require lunch, they make dates with their friends and get their manly fix swinging sword-like putters on the golf course, returning home from their natural habitat conquering (or quivering) heroes.

Bob doesn’t golf. But he does fly.

Unfortunately, someone is flying up from Florida this weekend (we shall see how Hurricane Matthew affects this plan) to buy his little Arrow four-seater. It’s been on the market since his surgery last year; so hanging in the hangar so to speak will be off the table.

Our friend MJ tells me that when her husband retired, at about the same time her daughter’s family moved out of her second floor and into their new newly built home, she was trepidatious. After all, her husband was a businessman who travelled the world frequently. But men in the business world can remain as consultants, and that is exactly what her husband has done. Plus, he can drop in on his grand daughter anytime he wants.

Bob’s always been the leader of his pack, the director, the owner.

Bob’s grandkids are in Nashville with my grandkids and doctors rarely consult after retirement. When we visited his UVA doctor this past year for a check-up – a man about the same age who is cutting back on patients and teaching more – he swiveled away from his computer and looked Bob right in the eye, saying bluntly.

“What are you going to do? You’re not the kind of guy who goes to Lowe’s every day.”

True. And do doctors ever really retire? I’ve known some to work right up into their 80s, but these are usually Internists, GPs who sit and swivel mostly. Not ER docs who run around the clock moving all sorts of serious and semi-serious emergencies in and out the doors like a Roadrunner…24/7 every day of the year…

It’s hard to imagine my husband doing nothing, literally. And to be honest, there are a few new things he can dabble with in medicine. After all, he’s been doing telemedicine his whole life with our family and friends. Rashes are sent via text, foreign objects in the eye are discussed. But the cord to a hospital will be cut for good.

He doesn’t do laundry, even though he likes folding. He is an excellent sous chef in the kitchen, when asked. And strangely enough, I didn’t think this whole retirement phase would bother me. After all, he never worked a 9 to 5 job and often works weekends and holidays; I am used to him puttering around the house, mowing the lawn on good ole John Deere, editing medical journals in his office and catching up with charts. Once upon a time he would cut down trees for firewood and tend a garden…

Long ago I put my foot down – I don’t do lunch. So when Bob’s home during the day, we often go out to lunch, or just “pick.” That’s one of those generational things, like Ada makes lunch for the world should they stop by. That greatest generation would leave a cooked dinner covered in the fridge for the hubby if they happened to be out one night. Millennials order food online and cook it together.

My generation was stuck in the middle, fledgling feminists feeling the need to hunt and supply a “home-cooked” meal every night. Last night I made bangers and mash. WHY? Because sausages were on sale at Whole Foods, and I was thinking about those beer gardens in Eastern Europe since a friend is posting her travel pix on Facebook! Thank God I didn’t Instagram it.

Last night I politely asked Bob to stop asking me about plans. He said he thinks maybe he should get another job! Will we travel more? Take long walks on the beach? Talk? Make more vegetable soup? To quote Disney’s Chef Gusteau:   793759230-f6b3178ce351ee8f3901fe91febe95fb

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Did you know there’s a “Creepy Clown Craze” going on around the country? Thanks to YouTube, killer clowns have been popping out of bushes and scaring people for years – wait, I should say “pranking” people. Because that was the intention, a social media joke for adolescent minds, not criminal…but then, somewhere along the way, children reported clowns lurking around schools, trying to lure them into the woods.

While none of the social media threats have been credible, there have been arrests made tied to these creepy clowns. These include two clown-masked teenagers who were arrested for chasing children in Virginia, where it is illegal for anyone over the age of 16 to wear any mask or hoodie that hides their identity.
According to a Sept. 29 report from the New York Times, there have been 12 arrests made across the country tied to these hoaxes.
– See more at: http://www.techtimes.com/articles/180672/20161003/what-creepy-clown-craze-unmasking-scary-trend.htm#sthash.6J6QrIsI.dpuf

Our Master of Horror, Stephen King posted on Twitter:

“Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria–most of em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh.”

Now I know what you’re thinking. She’s going to compare the Donald to a clown, right? Not exactly. But the mass hysteria that can force one state to say there will be NO clown costumes allowed out on Halloween this year, or even make a hill near our first house in NJ a Virgin Mary sighting (God’s truth), could be what’s driving the Trump train – uh, campaign.

I found a funny (as in that’s really ironic kinda funny) poster on Facebook and had the audacity to share it. It compared Trump’s performance at last week’s debate with how a woman might be perceived using the same tactics. This is a great feminist strategy: “Imagine a woman unprepared, sniffling like a coke addict…5 kids with 3 men…multiple bankruptcies…” etc.  All facts mind you. The poster showed Donald’s head looking like Mrs Doubtfire.

Humor has long been a strategy to combat extreme right-wing movements around the world. Think Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. But we need to remember this can backfire, like a commenter on my Facebook page told me. He thought this poster was “childish.” Lest we forget, the GOP thinks they have the ear of God, only they know what the truth is, and only they have the courage to say it like it is! Absolutism at its finest. And of course my thought was nobody can do “childish” better than Trump.

He mocks the disabled, and he mocked Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia. He brags about his wealth and his women. He calls people names, even today. Remember his fondness for Elizabeth Warren,his biggest critic, calling her a Native American princess? And this week he implied that Hillary Clinton was most likely disloyal…because every jab that is thrown at him, and he has been disloyal many many times ladies…he throws one back even harder. He would not back down on Miss Universe, he just goes in for the kill and attacks her character. Like a schoolyard bully, the truth really doesn’t apply to him. Chivalry, nah, not so much either.


Photo: Alison Jackson for Vanity Fair

Either he is having one big mental breakdown in public, or we are all buying the Kool Aid, this hysteria that a narcissistic/millionaire/man-baby could become the Next Commander in Chief. I would not make too much fun of this PT Barnum of Clown’s Candidate. Like rain on a cloudy day, it would not be ironic if he won.   ____white_flour



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