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Posts Tagged ‘President Obama’

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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Let’s take a break from the sturm and drang of politics shall we? Do people ask you where you would most like to live if you had nothing else to consider in the world? Let’s just say you won the Lottery and you have no grandchildren. No ties to any coast at all. Which is not my case, but this is a hypothetical.

Well this week I’ve been reminded of my favorite place because our dear friends came from the Berkshires for a visit. When the Bride was little, we would pack up our cars and take the ferry from Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard for a whole month every Spring. Lee is probably my bestest friend, a wild and wonderful woman! She was an Ass’t DA when we first met, at a ballet class, and then opened a private practice in family law. She went to the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Princeton, so we would kid around and say we went to different schools together.

At the Rocker’s Bris in August of 1984, she singlehandedly filled my living room with tall, glorious gladiolas!

Her husband Al is retired and Lee is starting to think about retirement too, though she is a bit younger. And they were smart years ago to buy an investment property in Vineyard Haven; although we always rented a cottage on the wild side of Gay Head, a place that dropped off red clay cliffs to a rocky shore and held center stage in my dreams for many years.

This is the place where I imprinted ruggedly beautiful seascapes and rambling rose bushes on the Bride’s baby brain. We would dig up clams on Menemsha Pond in Chilmark and eat them slathered in butter. Lee would bake bread every morning, then we would visit the fish market to plan our dinner. We would ride on the historic Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs, an old and established Black community on the island. The Bride would reach to catch the brass ring, and our dogs would want to jump up and catch it too.

We flew on clam shell roads with the wind in our hair, our bikes with fat tires, taking showers outside that could never entirely wash away the sand.

So yes, there is no other place I love more than The Vineyard! And our President is taking his last vacay there as Commander in Chief.

On the island, Mr. Obama is expected to play a lot of golf and read a pile of books, if his past vacations here are any guide. He may attend a party or two given by friends who also vacation here, but for the most part the Obamas tend to keep to themselves. Mr. Obama is an avid sports fan, and with the Olympics playing on TV, he may have even more reason to remain in his rented house. After so many years of having the president and his family as summer guests, residents here have lost much of the excitement they once showed for presidential visits. The island is a haven for moguls and movie stars, and the Obamas have become part of the scenery.  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/us/politics/obama-arrives-in-marthas-vineyard-for-two-week-vacation.html?_r=0

I’m sure he can relax this August, knowing the lead Madame Secretary has secured in the race to the White House; knowing his legacy will be assured. Jobs numbers are good, the market seems to be progressing. Maybe he will play some golf and eat a few lobster rolls? Walk into town for some ice cream?

Sometimes I would run into Carly Simon in town and pretend I didn’t know who she was…because that’s what people did before cell phones and selfies. I hope people leave the Obamas alone. I hope they can actually find a little peace on this island paradise. I’d like to turn off all the political punditry for the next few months.

Cause I haven’t got time for the pain…  this was us in 1981. Menemsha Family 20160808

 

 

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Allow me to get on my feminist bandwagon for a minute. Over morning coffee I watched CNN’s Carol Costello interview Mindy Finn, the founder of “Empowered Women,” a right wing lobbyist group trying to co-opt the word “feminist” to include “center-right” women. She was very convincing, until she started saying that the original movement was more about reproductive rights, when today’s GOP women are all about pay equality, and of course getting elected to public office. OK. Just saying that TN women will now have to wait 48 hours before obtaining an abortion, and that’s not because their doctors thought it might be a good idea.

Eroding our rights is a time-honored tradition for the Republican party. How about all those little bills popping up in Southern states involving TRAP law? Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers was just one small slice of the GOP strategy to impose their right-wing, religious agenda on a woman’s right to choose what is best for her life. If they can make clinics close due to regulatory folderol, or increase our wait time, or include unnecessary vaginal ultrasound probes into our bodies, well all the better! Please, explain to me again Ms Finn how women need to join the Republican party. Sure, if you think an old white guy from Alabama has your best interest at heart, go right ahead.

“What do today’s female presidential candidates think about feminism?” This was Carol Costello’s question on Twitter. Really? I almost snorted up my coffee!

Then I read this: https://medium.com/human-parts/how-to-date-a-feminist-4e0fdf48d364 by a young feminist.

You date a feminist the same way you date anyone; you treat them with respect and try to impress the crap out of them. As long as you support equal rights, you got a shot…You hold the door for us and we will most certainly appreciate it. We hold the door for you and hope you’ll say thanks. It’s a door people, no big deal.

It’s a good read. And in case you thought the Republican agenda was just about closing doors on women’s reproductive rights, let’s talk immigration. Remember when President Obama announced a unilateral federal action back in November to reform immigration? We were supposed to give nearly 5 Million undocumented workers a path to citizenship in order to free them from the fear of deportation. And guess who has blocked this by imposing a hold on the executive action? Ding ding ding!

You’re right, 26 states of the mostly Southern persuasion. So this action would include women and children, because it specifically targets illegals who came here as children, and those with children born in this country, so called “anchor babies.” We can let this population grow to fight in our wars, but not make them citizens? The DOJ argues that our immigration system is broken and the federal government needs to fix it. But these Republican states beg to differ. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32893810

I wish I could step through a time travel door, and see what side of the argument history looks back on, which party wins. With Ireland passing their own marriage equality law this week, my ancestral homeland and the first democratic country to do so, I think we may have a clue. Very proud Ireland!

Dublin Doors

Dublin Doors 

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It’s not everyday that my whole family gets to walk around NYC, on a holiday weekend, when anyone with a car has long since left this piece of the Apple. The Bride thought the city looked beautiful in its abandoned state: an older woman was slowly pushing her small dog in a fancy pram; decorated, horse-drawn carriages were lined up in front of the Plaza waiting for tourists who never came; and out on Sue’s upper-East side terrace, where she had planted 35 tomatoes in painters’ tubs, a nest of baby birds was singing to us. It’s one of those strange, paradoxical moments in time. In the midst of grief, sitting shiva in the middle of this concrete canyon, we realize there is still beauty.

And that’s probably what we are meant to do, reflect on my cousin’s life through our own lens. Someone said she wasn’t a political person, but I knew better. Because around Ada’s kitchen table we let our political hair down, and Sue was always in the middle of the fray, leading the conversation. Maybe with her NYC realtor/colleagues she didn’t voice her opinions, but her family and close friends knew she had the heart of a liberal. Which is why my conversation with the cabby of my taxi on the way to Penn Station was apropos.

He was from Africa. He spoke French “officially.” He got his BA from Baruch College in the Flatiron District and was going to get his masters soon. Just as soon as he gets his green card…

And to wake up at home this morning and hear all about President Obama’s meeting with Gov Perry in TX and speculation about Obama’s decision not to have a “photo-op” holding refugee children at the border yesterday made me feel sick. Particularly when I saw Perry quickly swivel his chair out of sight as the CNN camera started rolling at that meeting with the POTUS. God forbid he should be seen like Gov Chris Christie – embracing our President. Of course Perry would like a picture of Obama holding children he is “…about to deport” as one commentator said.

Because to a politician, it’s appearances that count. And the optics of immigration isn’t very pretty.

My cabby told me there is a French saying about things you may want in life. Bit by bit, the bird builds her nest.

Father and Daughter in NYC

Father and Daughter in NYC

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courtesy of Steff's Instagram

courtesy of Steff’s Instagram

The Supremes never fail to surprise me. Kudos to SCOTUS for protecting our cell phone privacy rights during a police search, and unanimously no less, which means really we blue and red states should all be able to get along.  And then they go and rule against buffer zones around abortion clinics in MA.

The court said the state law violated the First Amendment because its “buffer zone” limited speech too broadly, covering 35 feet from the doorway of facilities and including public areas like sidewalks.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/06/supreme-court-massachusetts-abortion-buffer-zone-mccullen-v-coakley-108348.html#ixzz362N9mDxe

So now anyone who would like to speak to a woman, a total stranger, kindly and gently about why she’s determined to do this procedure (not their words) and push graphic floating fetus leaflets into her hands is allowed to approach her on a sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood. The caveat was that the Chief Justice advised MA to consider doing what NY has done – make it a crime to harass anyone within 15 feet of a reproductive health care facility.

In other words, tighten up the language people!

I don’t know, I like the term buffer zone. I remember the buffer from biology 101 many years ago; it’s important in regulating the PH of a cell. Without a buffer zone, changes in the environment of all living things would go haywire. Adding a buffer keeps us all on an even keel so to speak.

I always pictured it as a moat around the castle, the castle might be a liver cell and the buffer moat is protecting its function…if the moat gets to flowing over its banks the liver can’t function. If the moat dries up, bad cells will invade.

Last weekend we had some friends visiting us from MN with their little boy, Opti. First of all, I love his name. And second I love boys in 6th grade, they are figuring out the world and willing to try just about anything. We watched the USA tie Portugal in the World Cup and he explained some of the rules of the game which was great.

But his mom, Steff, had to return to the Minneapple because she’s a commissioner on the Parks and Rec Board and POTUS was visiting the overflowing banks of their rivers and streams. Steff and her family normally ride their bikes to work and school, they keep bees in their urban garden – I like to think if I were younger and living in a city, I’d be as green and ecologically driven as she is. IMHO she is a rock star! And she got to shake the President’s hand, and be up close and personal as he delivered this speech http://www.scribd.com/doc/231560097/Remarks-by-the-President-at-Town-Hall

The President talked about many things besides the floodwaters. And it made me think that maybe the problem with this intractable Congress is their buffer zone, that place where lobbyists and money flow freely into and out of the castle Capital. That space where special interests and corporations get to frame our laws so that the Constitution becomes an instrument of power for some, and not for all.  And instead of suing our President Mr. Boehner, might you consider letting down the bridge over your moat?

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Since it’s a well known fact that humor helps one heal, I’ve been actively seeking the punch lines in my not-so-funny mountainside life. Even if it makes Bob cough up a lung, I’m sure it will be that pesky right-lower-lobe one. So follow along online http://www.funnyordie.com

We watched the latest Hangover movie and agreed with the President on the web series “Between Two Ferns,” some movies are better left standing and not reincarnated with sequels. As much as President Obama was making his pitch for millennials to sign up for Affordable Health Care, I was happy to see that much of what went on with Zach Galifianakis was really good improv – “If I ran a third time, it’d be sort of like doing a third Hangover movie. Didn’t really work out very well, did it?” http://www.vulture.com/2014/03/president-obama-between-two-ferns-making-of.html

But does humor and/or laughter really boost our immunity and help us fight off germs? If we’re talking evidence-based science here, the doctor is out! According to an article in Psychology Today, “Can Humor and Laughter Boost Your Health?” we haven’t thoroughly studied the effects of humor on the body, the research just isn’t there. In fact, humor writers and comedians seem to die younger than other career choices; still pretty anecdotal when we think about all those late nights and before/banning/cigarettes/from smoky bars.

The challenge is to conduct well designed studies which take into account possible confounding variables. One of the main things that needs to be accounted for is the separation of humor and laughter. If humor does have some analgesic effect, the question is, is it due to the cognitive enjoyment of the joke or is it because we laugh? Laughter releases endorphins in our brain and could hold the key for any health benefits. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/humor-sapiens/201202/can-humor-and-laughter-boost-your-health

This morning on CBS Sunday Morning I saw a Harvard scientist light up the brains of people watching Seinfeld in an MRI machine. Now first of all, I wouldn’t call Jerry laugh out loud funny, but maybe that was his point. Like the New Yorker cartoon you don’t get and then, wham! You get it. His finding was that it’s not just the funny part of the brain (in the amygdala) that is stimulated, it’s that pre-frontal cortex where all our critical thinking takes place. So a joke not only has to be wacky, but wise to a certain degree. To hit that sweet spot between silly and serious.

In a world where mud can start sliding in Washington, and the earth can start shaking in Southern California, and when Vladimir Putin just walks into a country because he can, not to mention a post-flu pneumonia that nearly lands your hubby in the hospital, our species needs a little light entertainment. There has to be a Yiddish saying about this. You know, “Man plans, God laughs.” So thanks for that picture on Vogue Kimye, cause the satirical reiterations are hysterical. We’re a ride or die family over here, just sayin.

vague-cover-the-muppets-lead-2

 

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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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