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Archive for January, 2017

The bitter cold is back, so I bundled up in my pink pussy hat and gloves. Today was our first day of action as a couple, and Bob and I wanted to stay warm in the wind chill of minus freezing. But first maybe I should back-up.

After the Women’s March on Washington, I was commiserating with Great Grandma Ada about the day. She really wanted to go, but I’m glad she didn’t. Being packed in like sardines for almost eight hours, in a wheelchair, would have been a bit much at 92. Or 82 even. So she listened to my excitement, then calmly told me what her book club was doing about Mr T’s agenda.

She had me Google “Indivisible,”and told me about this movement across the country to basically use the Tea Party’s strategies to further the Progressive agenda and stop Mr T at every turn. You know, the same way they stopped immigration reform in its tracks. This was way before Mr T instituted a Muslim Ban, or kicked the Joint Chiefs out  of the National Security briefings, plugging in his favorite conspiracy theorist, Steve Bannon.

You know the guy, the one who said “Islam is not a religion of peace, it’s a religion of submission.”

Well I submit to you, Bob and I liked what we saw on https://www.indivisibleguide.com so we downloaded the entire manifesto and printed it out. We also joined their Google group; and that’s how we found ourselves sitting in a packed church this past weekend. Bob turned to me and said, “Do I really have to be a revolutionary again?” I said, “Yes!”

Which brings me back to today. I wrote a letter to our GOP Representative, Tom Garrett, about not wanting Congress to throw out the ACA without fixing it, or replacing it. I told him how the Rocker’s old friend had been diagnosed with MS and had no health insurance. Obamacare saved his life. I told him that I knew how local government works, and that health care in this country should not be politicized. We joined a few hundred in front of Mr Garrett’s office, and I hand-delivered my letter to his secretary and spoke with his Outreach Director who declined to come outside..

Meanwhile the Mayor of Cville, Mike Signer, was holding a rally on the Downtown Mall against the latest Travel (Muslim) Ban. The Gold Star father, Mr Khizr Khan was there too, as were hundreds of people to protest the ban on seven primarily Muslim countries. It was a glorious, sunny day when the Mayor proclaimed Charlottesville, VA the “Capital of the Resistance!”

Bob and I just saw ourselves on the local TV news during dinner. I must say that was weird. But I’m proud of our city, the one once called Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village, and hopeful about the future. We have a real bully in the White House, and he poked the wrong bear.

ps – The Bride and her family marched in Nashville and they are planning on feeding a homeless shelter in April. The Rocker and Ms Cait are planning their wedding, and also visiting LAX. Thank you Grandma Ada, you raised us right.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/03/how-to-build-an-autocracy/513872/

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The photographs I have left of my Father, who died when I was a baby, are in black and white. As are my baby pictures, stuffed into a bag in an album that has lost its binding. The Flapper gave me to her friends, my foster parents, after her automobile accident because her only other choice would have been an orphanage. My sister Kay was already taking care of my two brothers, and they had to go back to school, so who else would take care of me?

Nell only had one child, and her daughter was in nursing school when I arrived in Victory Gardens after the War in 1949. And so I was raised by a grandmother figure, as Nell was already in her 50s. And she catalogued my childhood lovingly, pasting black and white pictures with tiny black paper edges onto every page. Only my memories conjure up the white and pink explosion of the dogwood tree outside our kitchen window, the red and white tile in the one bathroom, the green grass under my feet with the white sheets billowing above.

Our TV was in black and white, and after school I would walk home from the bus in my maroon plaid Sacred Heart School uniform, to catch Nell watching Art Linkletter on Kids Say the Darndest Things. A small piano stood in a corner with brass feet and hard white teeth. Our first dog was black and brown, I remember sitting on Daddy Jim’s feet while he read the black and white newspaper, and smoked his pipe after work. I would lean back on his knees and stroke the dog’s fur, listening to his critique of the day’s news. Maybe this is when I thought I might have something to say about world events? clr-on-tricycle-20170127

When we view history through a black and white lens, we lose something of the nuance. The tone is off, and it becomes harder to relate to something that happened so long ago. It creates the distance we need to survive certain tragedies, like my Year of Living Dangerously – my psychologist brother Jim’s description of 1949. Which is why finding this photographer, Marina Amaral, is like finding a jewel in the coal dustbin of time.

Amaral’s passion is restoring and colorizing old black and white pictures. And I found a picture she posted online of a child, a Czechoslovakian girl who was the same age as my sister Kay in 1949, when she died at Auschwitz in 1943. Her name was Czeslawa Kwoka; and I remembered Nell’s given name was Kosty, which was probably changed at Ellis Island. On Amaral’s webpage, you can move a line back and forth over the child’s face, and bring color to her cheeks and blood to the cut on her lip.

“Color has the power to bring life back to the most important moments,” http://www.marinamaral.com

Today more than ever, on Holocaust Memorial Day, we must remember that the Holocaust started with the rhetoric of hate, and the silence and indifference of the rest of Europe and America. And we must vow to resist in any way we can, and we must say her name, Czeslawa Kwoka.

Photograph courtesy of Marina Amaral.

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Months ago, a friend’s daughter mentioned that she had stopped taking Adderal, a drug that was prescribed years earlier for Attention Deficit (ADD). She was proud of weaning herself off this stimulant and started looking at the world, and her career differently. I was happy for her, since as y’all know I am NOT a pill person – well except for vitamins – and I recommended she read this book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman who won the Nobel Prize in 2002 for Economics, even though he is a psychologist.

A therapist friend recommended this book to me, and Bob just finished reading it on our Kindle App, so now it’s my turn. It’s easy enough to say that men are from Mars, but this non-fiction book doesn’t try to explain male vs female minds. In fact, gender has nothing to with it. Instead we find out that our instinctual, fast assessment of any situation is the hero of our cognitive world, and the slower, analytical mind is rather lazy!

System 2, in Kahneman’s scheme, is our slow, deliberate, analytical and consciously effortful mode of reasoning about the world. System 1, by contrast, is our fast, automatic, intuitive and largely unconscious mode. It is System 1 that detects hostility in a voice and effortlessly completes the phrase “bread and. . . . ” It is System 2 that swings into action when we have to fill out a tax form or park a car in a narrow space. (As Kahneman and others have found, there is an easy way to tell how engaged a person’s System 2 is during a task: just look into his or her eyes and note how dilated the pupils are.)  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review/thinking-fast-and-slow-by-daniel-kahneman-book-review.html

When we speak about the “tone” of a conversation, as we have been doing about Mr T’s recent attempts at a Press Conference, we are engaging System 1. It is the nuanced way we communicate with others, the reason we may meet someone and feel an immediate kinship. I was actually thinking that System 1 may be a higher evolutionary adaptation to an increasingly complex and interconnected technological world. Making a diagnosis of ADD more of a plus, than a minus.

Now Bob’s opinion of an ADD diagnosis is that your environment isn’t sufficiently stimulating. As the student who sat in front of him in French class in the 60s, I know this to be true – his legs were always moving behind my desk, so much so that I felt as if I was on a Disney ride. I am positive he would have been medicated as a child. And our son had a similar level of energy in high school, similar to a race horse in the gate, one very hard to contain in a “normal” classroom. I can already see this fast level of relating to the world in the Love Bug. I can almost see her mind racing to keep up with us; at the age of two she was asking us to teach her how to read!

So the inner-linguist-in-me was delighted to read this morning that in fact, our thoughts may have been shaped by the kind of crops our ancestors grew! http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170118-how-east-and-west-think-in-profoundly-different-ways

 

Growing rice requires far greater cooperation: it is labour-intensive and requires complex irrigation systems spanning many different farms. Wheat farming, by contrast, takes about half the amount of work and depends on rainfall rather than irrigation, meaning that farmers don’t need to collaborate with their neighbours and can focus on tending their own crops.

This BBC article explains how so many social science experiments are biased toward the Western world, more specifically American graduate students who participate in these studies. The idea of Western thought being more frontier in nature, valuing the individual, John Wayne, self-directed approach, as differentiated from Eastern thought which values the whole, group achievement, socialist model over the individual is a narrative based in reality, and not alternative facts.  “…our social environment moulds our minds. From the broad differences between East and West, to subtle variation between US states, it is becoming increasingly clear that history, geography and culture can change how we all think in subtle and surprising ways – right down to our visual perception.”

And I would add Red and Blue states to this mix. I once asked a group of women knitting together in a room if in fact every US citizen didn’t deserve to have health care. This was early on, when President Obama was being blocked by every single Republican legislator from passing health insurance reform. And the one Republican knitter in the room said very defiantly “Absolutely not!” She was thinking like a pioneer, and not like someone on the Titanic.

The Flapper loved everything Eastern, including Buddhism, and believed in mindfulness before it was ever trending. Since I received the results of my Ancestry DNA, I realize that my cells are all Irish, with unfortunately no Asian influence. But ever since I was a girl, wearing my Catholic school uniform, my environment taught me to share and think collectively…and maybe now we need to think faster than ever. We need to be the first Jedi.

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”

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Yesterday I met a woman from Maine, who came to Washington, DC on a bus with her service dog. She was a German Shepherd dog, and reminded me of Bones.

I met a family of sisters and their daughters from Boston, who wore black knit caps embroidered with “Nasty Women.” And they reminded me of my first march in Boston, when Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated.

I met a Grandmother from Oregon, and I saw women sitting on curbs nursing their babies in the cold. And I thought of the Bride marching in Nashville with her babies.

Because we were not allowed on the National Mall at first, we were herded into Independence Ave where we stood shoulder to shoulder. And we listened to speakers.

And we said their names.

We could not march because we had no room to march. There was precious little police or emergency personnel anywhere, although there were plenty of National Guard at the RFK Stadium where the sea of buses from all over the country were parked.

So we stood in solidarity for over three hours, between fences. And we listened to celebrities and politicians. And now we know what we must do.

We women must run for office. ANY local office. We need to call our legislators Every. Single. Day. We must support those who will speak for us, for the vast majority of people who did not vote for Mr T.

Like Tom Perriello, who is running for Governor of VA and rode with us from Cville yesterday. https://www.tomforvirginia.com

And coming home in the dark last night, after telling us that two women donated $25,000 to hire our buses, our bus captain mentioned a non-profit near and dear to their hearts: The Legal Aid Justice Center https://www.justice4all.org

It’s the morning after, and it’s time we took our country back. Resistance to this movement of strong, smart determined women is futile. The DC cops who gallantly opened side streets and allowed the Mall fences to come down were wearing pink pussy hats yesterday. Our little cat feet made a mighty roar in the fog of this inauguration weekend.

Women are the wall, and Trump will pay. c2ujs8wweaeo048

 

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You are either a reader of books, or you’re not. You might pick up a magazine now and then, or skim some article while waiting for the barber. You may be that young lifeguard years ago who told me, “No thanks, it’s the summer. I don’t read in the summer.” Meaning, if it’s not on his Fall reading list for school, it’s not happening. Reading became a chore somewhere along the way, and reading for pleasure an oxymoron.

As you already know, I’m a Reader. I like to read everywhere, especially on a beach. I can read on a train, a plane or even a boat. This type of reading makes Bob sick; if his body is in motion, he cannot read. I’ve been known to read while sitting on the floor next to a baby in a bathtub, though I couldn’t read while nursing. I’ve made some of the best friends through book clubs. So yesterday, I eagerly picked up the NYTimes article at the gym, “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books,” by the book critic Michiko Kakutani.

I really love reading on the bike, while everyone else is plugged into some TV or work-out music playlist. And I love Kafka’s quote on reading: “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”

And what I took away from Obama’s love of books, is that books were a refuge for his childhood. He grew up a Black child in a White world, and even when his mother moved him back to Hawaii, he felt different because he had come from Indonesia. He always felt different. And I could relate to that, because I was the child with a different last name from my foster parents, I was the girl with flaming red hair who stood out in a crowd when I so wanted to blend in.

President Obama could time travel through books and find that all cultures touch on some of the same human conditions. And he learned to fit into whatever world he found himself in by reading about other people, that included Shakespeare, and forging his own unique identity. Because knowledge was portable in the form of a book…”from his peripatetic and sometimes lonely boyhood, when “these worlds that were portable” provided companionship, to his youth when they helped him to figure out who he was, what he thought and what was important.”

To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. He recently gave his daughter Malia a Kindle filled with books he wanted to share with her (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Golden Notebook” and “The Woman Warrior”). And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction.”                    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/16/books/obamas-secret-to-surviving-the-white-house-years-books.html?_r=0

I love the idea of a Kindle as a graduation present! We gave Great Grandma Ada one for her birthday once, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving – since every book she downloads, we pay for! She told me I must read “A Man Called Ove,” for fun and diversion, and I’m planning on it.

President Obama recently invited a number of authors to the White House, including Michael Chabon. I just finished his novel, “Moonglow,” which was mailed to me by my favorite place in Nashville, the One and Only Parnassus Bookstore, since Bob has signed me up to their First Editions Club. It’s a book of the month club for Literary Nerds like me. Moonglow is one of those books you never want to end, you savor the last pages, drawing them out over many nights. And it made me think about a new approach to the Flapper, because he was dealing with his grandfather’s hidden history. http://www.npr.org/2016/11/19/502581929/moonglow-shines-a-light-on-hidden-family-history

You see my Mother was a gun moll, who went to prison in the 1930s, and my book is very much about her. My writing is like taking an axe to my family history.

If I am arrested on Saturday, Bob swears he will bail me out, but if you don’t hear from me next week, I may just be reading in jail! Here I am reading Emily Dickinson during lunch:   “I have no life but this to lead it here.”

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Imagine coming home, after nine days with no news of any sort, only to find out that our new political reality has become dissecting Mr T’s Tweets. So you naturally tune this out of your consciousness. You might tune up your classical music that magically erupts from a radio station in Seattle via your wireless Sonos speaker and an Ipad App.  http://www.sonos.com/en-us/products/wireless-speakers

You could probably get Radio Free Europe on there?!

And then, by reflex, you tune into NPR in your car. Big mistake, because you hear that all hell broke loose yesterday in a Mt T press conference over a sex tape that either does or does not exist! Let’s say our Intel thought it was important enough to brief both POTUS and PEOTUS last week.

In a climate that sends a shooter to a pizza place in DC over some far-fetched conspiracy theory about sex trafficking; and when Rolling Stone is taken to task over a fake rape allegation, it would behoove us to decipher what is real and what is fake news, dontcha think? Critical Thinking skills were all the rage when my kids were in high school. Young people today are better at reading #RealNews on the Internets than most of our peers.

I was taught in Catholic School that we received First Holy Communion at the age of seven because that’s when we could tell the difference between right and wrong, true and false. Monsters are not real. There is no Santa Claus, no unicorns, no pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. But then we are supposed to believe that little wafer we’re about to eat is the body and blood of Christ, so the margin of reality becomes fluid. And a lot depends on what particular belief system we inculcate from our parents…

Still, lawyers can build a case in support of a theory by proving a “pattern” of behavior. Courtrooms love this stuff, people are convicted on their patterns all the time. Maybe this guy was nowhere near his wife when she disappeared, BUT here are all the pictures and phone calls and witnesses to prove that he liked using his wife as a punching bag for years.  You don’t always need a body to convict a murderer.

So let’s look at all this shall we:

Mr T said he liked going backstage at the Miss Universe Pageant, and he was in Moscow for that event in 2013, the year an “alleged” tape in question was made. In fact there are pictures of him there, smooching the contestants.

An ex-MI6 operator, Christopher Steele, who prepared the dossier on Mr T’s tape has left his home and is in hiding. Mr Steele runs a London-based security and intel firm that deals mostly with Eastern Europe. Among his allegations, which are unsubstantiated because this tape has not surfaced, “…are that Moscow has a video recording of Mr Trump with prostitutes and damaging information about his business activities.” http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-38591382

Last April the CIA Director was shown evidence of money flowing from the Kremlin to the US Presidential campaign – it worried him enough that he convened “…six agencies or departments of government. Dealing with the domestic, US, side of the inquiry, were the FBI, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Justice. For the foreign and intelligence aspects of the investigation, there were another three agencies: the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Agency, responsible for electronic spying.”

And in other #RealNews, Mr T’s business partner, Tevfik Arif, in the early 2000s was a Turkish citizen, born in Russia, with some very interesting ties.

In 2010, Mr Arif was arrested in Turkey on charges he helped arrange an orgy on a yacht that had once belonged to the country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. In 2012, the charges were dropped, a company spokeswoman says. Today, Mr Arif is believed to be living in Turkey. His spokeswoman said he was the “sole owner” of Bayrock during the time it did business with Mr Trump. She declined to provide details, citing litigation and confidentiality agreements.  https://www.ft.com/content/549ddfaa-5fa5-11e6-b38c-7b39cbb1138a

That yacht secured teenage “models” from Russia and the Ukraine, as “singers and dancers.” Google it.

This morning I heard that Mr T said CNN trafficked in fake news, because they reported about said dossier that was published on Buzzfeed. He also said he would only discuss his grandkids with his sons over the next four years. And yet, Republicans looked askance when Mr Clinton said he had only discussed his grandkids for 20 minutes on a plane with the AG! I sometimes think that indeed, Mr T could get away with saying and doing anything he wants, which is downright chilling. After all, we have the Billy Bush/Pussy Gate tape, and that didn’t mean a thing.

Let’s hold all journalists to the same standard. If this tape does exist, we have just elected a Manchurian candidate. We actually don’t know the truth, yet… It’s true, US Intel was not involved, the Brits started this fire and we are now obligated to put it out.

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“Be Honest Truthful and Warmhearted. Make compassion the basis of your determination”

This is the message that greeted me this morning, after Bob slammed into my still open carry-on at 4 am. It’s a little reminder from the Dalai Lama to keep it real, be mindful, and all that other old/new age stuff. It reminds me of Viola Davis’ performance in The Help. You know the one, where she is holding her young charge full of blonde curls by the shoulders and imprinting these words on her:

“You is Kind; You is Smart; You is Important.” 

Well, Viola introduced Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes the other night, and I thought, ‘poor thing.’ She could barely speak, she had lost her voice and I strained to hear her accept the Cecil B. DeMille Award for her life’s work. You see, Meryl is my age, she grew up in NJ and went to public schools. I’ve always loved and admired her work as an actor. I always thought, There. But. For. Fortune…

They gave me three seconds to say this, so. An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that — breathtaking, compassionate work. There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

In her elegant way, she eviscerated Mr T, and she didn’t even have to speak his name.

Bob and I had just seen LaLa Land, and being old musical comedy nerds we adored the movie. Two young people chase their dreams, in a sumptuously saturated set. An actor, playing an actor in Hollywood. A musician finally plays the jazz he loves; and I thought about my son, packing up his life and moving to LaLa Land. The kind of bold determination and passion it takes to pursue art as your career.

The movie dominated the Golden Globes – a pure escape from the reality of this past year. And while this was the backdrop, Meryl called us back to the Here and Now. She called out our POTUS-Elect as a reality-star-in-chief. The kind of juvenile, pompous person who would make fun of a disabled reporter. His electoral victory giving rise to the mean, underbelly of racism and hate still present in our country.

A couple feels free to write “We don’t tip Blacks,” on a waitress’ check in VA.

A number of bomb threats are phoned into Jewish centers in NJ, SC, FL and Nashville

This hits too close to home. This is unacceptable. This is why we march. 

I will not listen to pundits decipher Mr T’s Tweets about Meryl’s acting abilities. I will not read about his appointment of his son-in-law to a West Wing post.

This is why we march.

We believe in loving kindness. We believe in fact-based science. We believe that every person has a story, and we are all equally important.

And just as Republicans in VA feel free to constrain our right to assemble, by introducing legislation upping the charges of not obeying orders by the police – you know that non-violent assembly thing that MLK Jr was so fond of – from a Class 3 to a Class 1 misdemeanor…  http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?171+sum+SB1055

This is why we march.

Because all the world is a stage, and it’s time for all of us to pry the hooks out of our hearts, and pull on our big girl boots. If I am arrested, it will be an honor and a privilege.

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