Monday, December 31, 2007

Out With the Old

Wishing you all a healthy, happy, productive, prosperous New Year filled with rich rewards, fun surprises, and an opportunity to serve others.

Let’s make it great in 2008!

E – enlightened
I – intuitive
G – gracious
H – humble
T – tolerant

E – [politically] engaged
I – independent
G – generous
H – helpful
T – thoughtful

E – eager
I – inquisitive
G – good-hearted
H – hopeful
T – tenacious

E – empowerment
I – imaginative
G – God
H - harmonious
T – transformation
(thanks to S.S. in Roseville, CA for this one)

E – equality
I – inspiration
G – groovy!
H – holistic
T – tantalizing

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas to All!

Twas the night before Christmas
(also called “A Visit from St. Nicholas”)
by Clement Clarke Moore (1779 - 1863)

Twas the night before Christmas,
When all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mirror, Mirror

This photo of Hillary Clinton was recently posted on the right-leaning Drudge Report blog, ostensibly to illustrate the toll the campaign is taking on the Senator – but I don’t think I’m paranoid in believing it was also a deliberate, cheap shot (as in: see how old and ugly she is?? – please!). That might have been the end of the story, but the picture motivated a controversial radio monologue by Rush Limbaugh, which has prompted mucho buzz on blogs across the land. On those sites where Clinton is routinely called Shrillary and Her Thighness, the posts have ranged from really mean to absolutely hateful. In blue-state territory, the tables have been turned on Rush with the bloggers assailing his looks (English translation: fat! fat! fat!). My head is throbbing from the idea that I’m about to defend Limbaugh, but even though he’s a mega-conservative asshole, he’s also a fat, middle-aged man who knows what it’s like to be reviled for his appearance. So, in fairness, it's important to note that what he said is that we are a beauty- and youth-obsessed culture; he cited the innumerable ways that women, especially, suffer in our society in this regard; and he posed a timely, albeit rude, question about the appeal and presidential electability of Hillary Clinton, to wit: “Does Our Looks-Obsessed Culture Want to Stare at an Aging Woman?” (For the transcript of RL’s remarks, click here.)

Limbaugh aside, as we approach the first really plausible candidacy of a woman for president, it is not unreasonable to address the issue of her age and looks, because we are a beauty- and youth-obsessed culture and there are registered voters who will actually take her looks into consideration when making their voting decision. I would scoff derisively at this, except I remember that back in 1960, people who watched the televised debate between Kennedy and Nixon regarded the young, handsome Kennedy the winner, while those who listened to it on radio (and therefore didn’t see the 5-0-clock shadow move across Nixon’s grimacing, sweaty face) believed Tricky Dick had won.

Jackie Kennedy set the exalted standard for White House beauty and every First Lady since has been assessed in dim comparison, including Hillary, who developed a rep for never quite figuring out what to do with her hair and wearing charmless outfits that didn’t flatter her chunky legs. When she ran for the Senate, she was teased mercilessly about her black pantsuit uniform, and from the moment she threw her pill-box hat into the presidential ring, she hasn’t made a single stylish move, according to the ever-watchful fashionistas.

Needless to say, this is all very irritating – and alarming. Edwards was taken to task for his $400 haircut, but that was about economics and class, not style. Nobody says boo about the looks and couture of the men in the race, which is as it should be. Yet when it comes to Hillary, the double-standard waves its freak-flag high. Every facial wrinkle and fly-away hair is occasion for nasty comment. But this most recent assault by the blog-posting public is really beyond the pale, because it’s not gossipy nit-picking about cleavage or eye shadow color, it’s an outright assertion that Hillary is too old and ugly to be president, which is positively outrageous!

In my none-too-humble opinion, 60 isn’t too old for anything, let alone national leadership, and while Hillary may not be a classic beauty, ugly is not an apt or reasonable description of her. Ugly isn’t about being fair of face or not, it’s about being hateful, mean, violent, envious, vindictive, and any other kind of relentless awfulness of character and spirit. To not support Hillary Clinton because you disagree with her politics or even dislike her seemingly-cold personality is one thing. But to rake the woman over the coals because she isn’t young and pretty is breathtakingly shallow and really frightening!

Limbaugh said the wildly superficial standards of Hollywood and television have brought us to this sorry juncture and he is correct. But is it really possible that we as a nation have our Botoxed heads so far up our buff, toned asses that we can’t tell the difference between electing a president and selecting America’s Next Top Model? Are we so ignorant, so superficial, and so out of touch with genuine human values and social imperatives that we are unable to make sober political decisions? Have we learned nothing from nearly eight years of George W. Bush – who, by the way, bears a striking resemblance to the moronic Alfred E. Newman of Mad Magazine fame. When did it become okay to look stupid, but not old? Whether or not Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic candidate and, subsequently, President of the United States, one can only pray that our decision will be based on substance instead of fluff – unless, of course, we really do think Jennifer Love-Hewitt is the right man for the job.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Re-Imagining John Lennon

For me and many others of my generation (I’m a mid-50s Boomer), our childhood was defined by the assassination of President Kennedy; we were radicalized in our teens by the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy (just two months apart!); and as 30 slapped us upside our heads, our hearts and spirits were shattered by the assassination of John Lennon.

Keep in mind that just a month before his death on December 8, 1980, Lennon released his first album in five years (oh joy!) and Ronald Reagan was elected to his first term (oh no!). I found an old movie still of Reagan in full cowboy regalia and put it on my refrigerator captioned: This man is President of the United States. Nothing I had experienced on psychedelic drugs came close to the mind-boggling notion of “President Reagan.” I was speechless with horror and fury.

Then, on a calm December night, a sick young fuck shot John Lennon in the back and everything ended: the 60s, the Beatles magic, the Lennon/Ono romance, the whole-hearted belief that love was all we needed. To paraphrase John, death was a concept by which we measured our pain. The assassinations of the 60s were at least comprehensible as political acts. But the murder of an artist – albeit a political one – defied reason; it was the universe shitting in our mouths. Accordingly, I’ve always felt that the money-loving, glamour-sucking, cocaine-snuffling of the 80s were, at least in part, a nihilistic tantrum in response to Lennon’s death. Meaning didn’t have much meaning anymore.

As time has hurtled forward over the past 27 years with all the majesty, misery and mystery they contained, I’ve often wondered how John Lennon might have grown and changed. He had gone from lofty legend to stay-at-home dad; having just turned 40 and returned to his music, where would he have gone next? What would he have done in response to AIDS, global warming, terrorism? How would he have integrated computers and the Internet into his fine art, music, writing and social outreach? How would he have used his money? What would John Lennon “going green” have looked like? Would the Beatles have reunited just one last time? Would he have recorded with Julian and Sean? Would he have made more movies or ventured into reality TV? Would he have stayed with Yoko, or tossed her over for Angelina Jolie?

I believe that, unlike many of us, he would not have become bitter or jaded or passive, although he would have outgrown his naiveté. He would have been angry, concerned, wounded and wildly imaginative in taking on the key issues of our time. He would have been generous yet guarded, increasingly public yet determinedly private. He would have benefited from anti-depressants, probably have joined PETA, might have designed a clothing line, could have opened a restaurant. He would have evolved. He would have been funny. He would be 67 now, surely a little wrinkled, possibly bald. He would have helped us age and helped us hope. And I think he would have continued to be happy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

When a Body Meets a Body

The following post is about a significant change in my health that I both want to write about and share on this blog. Forgive me if this seems too clinical or personal, but we’re all grown-ups here and my desire is to explain things as clearly as I can, because I’m certain that I’m not the only one out here coping with these matters. I hope you find this interesting, readable, and if necessary, helpful.

From the time I was 12 until I had a hysterectomy at 46, I knew I didn’t want children. I also had awful menstrual periods all my life that culminated in several huge fibroid tumors that nearly bled me to death for ten years until I couldn’t take anymore and had the surgery. So you can imagine how surprised I was when, as my recovery began, I felt a sense of loss as deep as that accompanying the death of a treasured loved one. I didn’t regret not having children, but I felt a peculiar sadness knowing that the issue was closed. And much to my astonishment, I missed my period and felt a palpable emptiness where my uterus used to be. It was like the kind of silence you hear when all the water in a large apartment building is shut down, the absence of a low, dull whoosh through miles of pipe that you don’t even know is there until you realize it’s missing.

It took over a year before I felt like myself again and it wasn’t my old self I returned to, but rather a familiar me who was somehow oddly different. Besides reaching puberty, which I don’t remember all that clearly, this post-hysterectomy recovery was the most stunning physical and emotional change I had ever experienced. Until now. And it feels like déjà vu all over again.

Early last month I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and put on daily oral medication to stabilize my blood sugar, as well as pills to lower my too-high cholesterol; it was a double-hitter I’ve never been hit with before. My doctor told me this over the phone during a short conversation in which he also blithely told me, essentially, to stop eating virtually everything I had eaten my whole food-obsessed life: enormous quantities of starch, fat and sugar occasionally garnished with fruit and vegetables.

If you are someone who eats to live rather than lives to eat, you may not get what this means to me. But literally from birth, I was a voracious eater and food was my raison d’etre. My parents called their new baby “our little ravenous doll.” Eating for pleasure, comfort and congeniality is a big part of both of the cultures I was raised with and the joy, indeed the imperative, to be constantly surrounded by whopping portions of wonderful food defined my world from Day One. And I had a lot of help.

My maternal grandmother was a retired professional cook who never quite got the hang of cooking for fewer than 25 people at a time, and who was convinced that I was skinny and on the verge of starvation. When I was in elementary school, every afternoon I went home to my grandparents, who provided childcare for my working parents. One of my most frequent after-school snacks was three large, chocolate-covered, custard donuts. This afternoon repast was just to tide me over until dinner, which always consisted of humongous amounts of whatever was on the evening’s menu. That barely held me until my mother came home later in the evening, when I ate again while she had dinner. Every holiday, every special occasion – in truth, every day – was reason enough for fabulous food. I loved it all and some of my fondest memories, most, in fact, are of great meals I’ve had with family and friends, not to mention a lifetime of hours of contented, solitary eating. Now everything’s different.

As a diabetic with high cholesterol, I can no longer eat whatever I want, in whatever quantity I want, whenever I feel like it. Most folks would say I never could do that, since the result was that I got very fat. I never wanted to be fat, so I tried to lose weight and did, very often, a great deal of weight on several occasions. But like 95-98% of all people who diet, I always gained the weight back, with interest. After repeatedly fighting this battle from ages 9 to 40, I surrendered. I resigned myself to the fact that I would never be thin, never even be an average weight for my height and build. Once I really made my peace with that and finally accepted myself as I was, my weight was quite stable for several years. Then, from ages 43 to 50, a lot of shit happened in my life and, as a result, I got considerably fatter. I dieted a few times during that period but it only made matters worse – as did stopping smoking for five months (that alone added 40 lbs.).

Indeed, my only experience with attempting to alter my diet has been in relation to weight loss; it was never about health. Now health is all it’s about. If I knew for certain that my old eating habits would simply lead to quick, sudden death, however prematurely, I’m not so sure I’d change my ways. But the very real prospects of blindness, amputation, kidney failure, or a stroke that wouldn’t kill me but instead leave me a drooling vegetable abandoned in some heartless institution…these are prospects much more unpleasant than straightforward death! So, I’ve embarked on a new adventure. I’ve done quite a bit of online research and each day I apply all my creative cooking talents to the creation of yummy low-sugar, low-carb and low-fat meals and snacks. I need to start exercising, too, which in my case means daily walks, but I haven’t gotten there yet. For now, I’m concentrating on what I eat, feeling okay about it, and reconstructing my emotional relationship with food. I’m not trying to lose weight, but weight loss will occur, since my new way of eating makes that inevitable; it’s already begun. Only time will tell where I level off, but wherever that is, it is. I’m more concerned with a different set of numbers – and a different way of life.

I’ll keep you posted.

This post is illustrated with the Two of Cups because the number two is regarded as the prime feminine number and symbolizes dichotomy, transformation, self-awareness and perception. In the Tarot, Cups is the suit of emotions and the Two of Cups traditionally signifies lovers presenting themselves to each other in a spirit of profound connection and on an equal footing. But during a number of readings I’ve done for others, this card has come up as a clear indication of the two halves of the self at odds and needing to merge into one – and because the Tarot is in essence a language, over time the cards “speak” to you as you perceive them. This is certainly a time of inner conflict that I have to find a way to resolve.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving in the 21st Century

I now know several people who don't celebrate Thanksgiving because of America’s subsequent annihilation of the Indians. I also know people who hate or avoid this holiday because their dysfunctional family gatherings are the antithesis of the Norman Rockwell/Hallmark Card stereotypes that were held up to us as normal when we were young, even though our celebrations (or families) didn’t look like that.

And I’m aware that there is a growing food-humorless population that rejects Thanksgiving as an occasion of food used as over-indulgent amusement. The wonderful but regrettably-fat-hating Bill Maher, for example, speaks with horror about Thanksgiving because we’re such pigs that we “stuff food into other food” (as if Thanksgiving were the only time for stuffing!). And he brings us full circle when he observes that Thanksgiving commemorates “the one nice moment we had with the Indians” and is (and I paraphrase slightly here): “like a date rapist saying, ‘Let’s remember the lovely dinner we had earlier in the evening and forget about what happened later’.”

However, politically incorrect though it may be, I have always loved Thanksgiving and I still do. When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was the only major holiday that wasn’t the sole province of the Christians or the Jews, so it was the one family gathering that wasn’t fraught with religious/cultural tension. I also loved the food, and I liked the mythology of sharing and friendship between the Pilgrims and the Indians. Later, in my teens, when I discovered Buffy St. Marie and read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, I still loved Thanksgiving, but was genuinely appalled by the revelation of actual American history.

Over the years, Thanksgiving went from neutral to melancholy as our immediate family circle died off and our extended families wanted no part of us. For my parents and me, Thanksgiving was often just the three of us, sometimes at home, more often in a nice restaurant; my Jewish mother preferred to save her cooking energy for Christmas dinner.

As an adult, I have come to appreciate that Thanksgiving isn’t really an Early American construct, but just another variation on the Autumn Harvest Festival celebrated in many ways by cultures around the world for thousands of years. Indeed, in earliest pagan times, farmers believed their crops held spirits who made the crops flourish or fail, and who had to be killed before they took revenge on the farmers who harvested those crops; the festivals honored defeat of the spirits. Numerous harvest festivals and celebrations of thanksgiving were also held by the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks, Romans and Hebrews, some of them paying homage to Corn Goddesses with sacrifices of fruit and animals, and enjoying games, parades and a thanksgiving feast (sound familiar?).

What I think gets lost in all this Thanksgiving dissent is the simple idea of giving thanks for the good things in our lives – whether to a deity, one another, or the tender mercies of a mysterious universe. We can’t change history, but we can give personal and contemporary meaning to this holiday by sharing, caring and re-charging our gratitude. For the record, I hereby give thanks for:

* my home – safe, dry, cozy and private;
* my reasonably good health – all five of my senses (and the sixth…) work well, I have most of my marbles, I can walk, I experience very little physical pain and I don’t have to endure horrible medical treatment;
* my independence – I’m not physically dependent on others and financially I'm holding my own (by the skin of my teeth, but still...);
* my friends and colleagues – I’m truly rich in people who like, love and appreciate me;
* my gifts – intelligence, language, intuition & Tarot, humor, music, critical thought, cooking and a few others I’m too modest to list here...;
* my history and memories – the dearly departed, the places I’ve been, the things I’ve done, the people I’ve met, the things I am;
* my toys and tools – computer, television, books, (and a few others I’m too smart to list here...).

There are moments – sitting down to a nice meal I’ve cooked myself; snuggling into a bed with clean sheets and a fluffy quilt; sitting in the quiet with a good book, strong coffee and cigarettes; looking out the window early in the morning, watching other people go to work – when a wave of gratitude washes over me and I realize that despite all the things that hurt, anger, worry or frighten me, I’m a very fortunate person.

So, however you do (or don’t) celebrate the day, I wish you a healthy and happy Thanksgiving, and a joyful awareness of the blessings in your life.

And a candied sweet potato. Trust me, it won’t kill you.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Misplace

I think I’m losing my mind. For the past couple of years, I’ve been avidly reading and watching the news, posting on political blogs, and generally feeling engaged with the insane world in which I live. Indeed, except for the blogs, I’ve done this most of my life, with minor exceptions – namely, those occasional periods when I was an emotional wack job. But over the last few months, I’ve noticed that I’m not keeping up. I used to watch The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer faithfully at 7:00 p.m., then relax with Emeril Live at 8:00 p.m. (unless there was a really good old flick on Turner Classic Movies). But awhile back they moved Emeril to 7:00 and without making a conscious decision about it, I gave up world affairs for new things to do with chicken. Bam!

I’m not really reproaching myself; anyone who isn’t going nuts in this day and age is crazy! I want to do what I should to stay in the know: watch the Presidential debates, try to understand WTF is happening on Wall Street, stay current on environmental matters, and keep up with what George W. Numbnuts is doing to destroy America as we know it week by week. But I can’t. I hate the campaign, hate it! I hate that the Democrats are responding to nearly eight years of disastrous, unconscionable idiocy by walking on eggshells and playing it safe. I hate that they’re wasting time dumping on each other when they should be united against that man! I hate that the Republicans are still kissing the Christian Right’s ass instead of saying “Uh, this isn’t working; you people are bonkers and we have to get back to running a conservative secular state.” I am not a conservative – but I would rather contend with real conservatives than the holy rolling psychos we’re dealing with now, including the one in the White House.

I hate that TV news is, for the most part, dedicated to C-list celebrity gossip, unspeakable crimes, and stories about global warming, the economy and the dearth of adequate, affordable healthcare that are all so awful, I can’t watch anymore. I hate that blueberries were $2.99 in July and are $6.99 now (at least in my Manhattan neighborhood supermarket); I need blueberries! I hate that I’m being deluged with telemarketer ghost calls, even though I’m registered on the Do Not Call list. I hate that New Orleans is still a disaster area and southern California looks like a cookout run amok.

And I hate that there is more active slavery today than at the height of the transatlantic slave trade that trafficked in Africans hundreds of years ago. Today it’s a $12 billion international sexual slave industry literally built on the backs of 30 million desperate people, 80% of them women and children – but that’s for another post…

In my defense – which is to say, in defense of my escapism, appalling memory loss, and failure to be busy 24/7 working to right horrendous social wrongs – it’s been a rough few months. I need thousands of dollars worth of dental work and can’t afford a filling. I was recently diagnosed with diabetes and high cholesterol, which turned my world upside down – but that’s for another post, too. My aging body is a mass of aches, pains and alarming symptoms that literally propel me to hide my head under the covers. My house looks like a storage room. I’m not being as helpful to others as I should be. And I’m broke. Stinking broke. I really am grateful to have what I do, but it's not enough and insufficient is exhausting. Broke sucks.

Both my dreams and waking hours are filled with fears about the future: what will become of me? What will become of everything and everyone? I’m so scared most of the time I can hardly breathe. I tell myself to calm down, to not worry about what hasn’t happened (yet), to just dread one day at a time. But I feel like I’m slipping. Sometimes I find myself watching something or listening to someone talk, and I realize I have no idea what they’re saying, even though I recognize that they’re speaking English. (It’s the same feeling I get listening to Shakespeare; I hang in for a spell, then it just fuzzes up like static.) I feel like a character out of one of those movies where someone wakes up hundreds of years in the future (for some supposedly plausible reason) and just can’t adjust. I’m not adjusting. I’m not well adjusted!

I could go on complaining, but I trust you’re getting just as bored as I am with my whining. I wish I could be one of those people who smile and keep a stiff upper lip (as well as their own counsel), never letting others know their tale of woe. But I’m not. I’m me. And I feel like I’m losing my mind.

And you? How are you??

Thursday, November 01, 2007

`Tis Not the Season

It’s November 1st, which means it’s the official start of the Holiday Season, the generic term for Christmas – not the religious or social or fanciful Christmas, no – the Christmas of people buying things for each other in an atmosphere of stress so heavy it crackles like a live wire blown into the rain by an angry wind.

Actually, Christmas began with the Labor Day weekend, a traditionally busy shopping time but less so this year, because folks are freaked out. Lots of people didn’t start their shopping early and a lot of us still aren’t ready to begin. The mortgage crisis. The lead-embellished toys. Gas prices. The Fires. Food prices. The hateful, tedious campaign. The horrible news of strife and death everywhere around the world. There was an Earthquake in California. Robert Goulet died. I once heard someone describe the poinsettia as the Robert Goulet of botany… which is funny and true, and brings us back to Christmas.

I used to love Christmas when I was a little girl, even after I found out Santa was an urban myth. For one thing, it didn’t start until after Thanksgiving – the day after, yes, but no one tried to steal Thanksgiving’s thunder. Right after we took down the construction paper pumpkins and skeletons and ghosts from the school windows, up went the turkeys, Pilgrims and Indians and they stayed up for a whole month. I was in many a Thanksgiving school play. Once I recited Hiawatha in Assembly.

The weather was cold and got colder still. Within a week of Thanksgiving, those little swags of garland and lights shaped like stars went up on the avenue, linking lamp posts on opposite sides of the street, creating a low-tech fairyland. The alleged Santa held court at Macy’s and parents didn’t think a thing of letting their kids sit on his lap. Ladies began to wear Christmas corsages on their coats, little clusters of glitter-covered pine cones and holly leaves dotted with tiny, shiny Christmas balls, tied up with a red bow. We would send Christmas cards out and Christmas cards came in, dozens and dozens of them. I was sent to Woolworth’s to buy a few of the economy-size boxes of 50 assorted cards; it was something like $2.79. My father thought those people who went to the card store and spent $5.00 on boxes of 20 fancy, matching cards were crazy.

Around December 15th we got the tree. They were tall and plump when I was a child, but by the time I was in my teens, they had been downsized to pathetic little Charlie Brown trees. My father thought those people who spent $30 and $40 on more hearty Christmas trees were crazy. But whatever it looked like, we decorated it with old ornaments in muted 50s colors, and colored lights that looked like gurgling thermometers, and aluminum foil icicles that used to slip off the tree and turn up in my dust mop in April.

As Christmas Day drew closer, we played carols on the record player and drank eggnog with rum, and people would come to visit us and we would visit them. My friends and I exchanged little gifts – mugs and earrings, candles and scarves. I bought my parents sleepwear and books. They showered me with toys and clothes and money. But by the time I was in my 30s, they had simplified their gift to me. It was always the same: a bottle of Anis Anis cologne, a carton of Marlboros and a check for $100. Years later, a girlfriend laughed and said it sounded like a hooker’s Christmas haul. I don’t know; I was happy…

It’s all different now, so frantic, actually mean, and joyless. When Thanksgiving finally rolls around, a full month of false seasonal mirth and relentless sales pitches has already passed. Everything on TV, from commercials to programs to station breaks, paints a Hallmark/Rockwell/Currier & Ives portrait of Christmas that has never existed for anybody, but nonetheless makes millions of people feel cheated, dysfunctional and miserable. And broke. Because it’s all about the presents, the stuff.

I don’t mind that they took the Christ out of Christmas; I think it makes the holiday more accessible to more people as a secular party-time (and anyway, a lot of folks have begun putting the Christ back in... which is a double-edged manger). I can even accept that the message of peace, love et al is entirely seasonal. What I can’t bear is that whatever specialness and sweetness Christmas had left has been smashed down by a commercialism so insidious that each year, I want to escape to some pagan isle where the winds are balmy and there isn’t a ho-ho-ho to be heard. Meanwhile, I’m not shopping. Shsssh! I’m just trying to keep my head down and my spirits up. God willing, the season of miracles will be over before I know it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Stop Destroying Women

Almost ten years ago, I had the privilege of working with the event production company that coordinated a special international video conference at the United Nations. It was sponsored by UNIFEM, the UN agency devoted to women’s issues around the world. It was the first such conference of its scope and status exclusively about the many forms of violence against women and girls, and the first to be held in the UN’s majestic General Assembly.

Hundreds of women attended in New York and thousands more at participating sites on every continent. Political celebrities and brave survivors spoke, live or via video messages. They talked about honor killings, rape as a tactic of war and terror, sexual slavery, female infanticide, suicide, genital mutilation, and the societal ingredients that facilitate these behaviors: longstanding social/political conflicts, poverty, lack of opportunities for education, and a lack of access to contraceptives, abortion and health care in general.

The conference was a great success, which is to say it generated a lot of attention in the circles of “civil society” (the UN’s core audience of non-profit charities and non-governmental social service organizations). But as far as attention by the mainstream media was concerned, it didn’t even raise a blip on their radar.

So it’s not particularly surprising that women in virtually every country on Earth, but most especially in countries twisted by war and destitution, are increasingly the victims of the most vicious kinds of brutality, the sort that when you hear about it is simultaneously unimaginable and unforgettable. Man’s capacity (and I do mean man) for indescribably sadistic violence against women is demonically ingenious and apparently boundless.

Against this backdrop, I draw your attention to an article by Jeffrey Gettleman that appeared in the 10/8/07 New York Times, “Rape Epidemic Raises Trauma of Congo War.” I beg you to click on this link and read it:

As this article explains, the thousands of female victims range in age from three to 75. Many of the perpetrators are former members of Hutu militia forces who fled Rwanda in the 90s after torturing and murdering 800,000 Tutsis. The rest are home-grown forces known as Mai-Mai, who, armed to the teeth, stalk the countryside. The 17,000 UN Peacekeepers are no match for them.

Gettleman goes on to say that horrified medical personnel, social service providers and humane government representatives are non-plused by the quantity and ferociousness of rape that has been ratcheted up to an unprecedented level – even worse than in Rwanda during the genocide. He quotes a Congolese doctor who works in the epicenter of Congo’s rape epidemic, South Kivu Province:

“Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair. We don’t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear, they are done to destroy women.”

Destroying women has been S.O.P. since the dawn of time. At the dawn of the 21st century, things are much better in some places than in others, but nowhere on Earth are women free from the possibility (or probability) of rape and other violence – from fathers, brothers, sons, boyfriends, husbands, neighbors, strangers and soldiers.

What can we do in the face of such heartbreaking, overwhelming destruction of women? Nicholas D. Kristof, in a 6/25/07 op-ed in the New York Times that he wrote while in Congo, offered some good suggestions:

“There’s no simple solution to the conflict, but we can lean on Rwanda to stop supporting its proxy force in eastern Congo, and also to work harder to repatriate Hutus who have destabilized Congo since they fled here after the genocide in 1994. We can push a peace process. We can support the U.N. peacekeepers. We can help with the reform and training of Congo’s security forces. And a six-hour visit by Condi Rice would help put the crisis on the map.”

I’m writing to Secretary of State Rice asking that she make such a trip and specifically speak out against what many are calling Congo’s “rape industry.” Won’t you please join me?

Unfortunately, emails for the Secretary and other staff members at State are not available to the public (!). However, you can snail-mail or fax as follows:

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice
U.S. State Department
Washington, DC 20520
Fax: 202-261-8577
(no street address necessary)

In addition, I’m sending a copy of my Rice letter to:

Ambassador Jendayi E. Frazer
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 “C” Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Tel: 202-647-4000 (24-hour service)

I would welcome receiving any further information about this issue and what others are doing to address it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Faith and Reason

In an episode of the classic 70s sitcom, All in the Family, bigoted and conservative Archie Bunker has an argument about religion with his liberal son-in-law Michael (aka The Meathead). After fracturing chapter and verse to make his point about the existence of God and the literal truth of the Bible, Archie blurts out in exasperation: “Faith is believing what nobody in his right mind would believe!”

Around the world, we are in the midst of a great social divide about religion, a grudge-match between the Rationalists and the Believers. The Believers are represented largely by fundamentalists of various religions who accept the poetry and mythology of their sacred texts as literal gospel instead of fables and metaphors intended to illustrate prescribed values. In parallel contrast, the Rationalists eschew all aspects of religion, embracing instead a combination of history, science, civics and cynicism that omits any aspect of belief in universal mystery.

Before I continue, let me explain where I stand. I am a cultural/intellectual Jew who was raised in a religiously-mixed home (Jewish and Episcopalian) by parents who side-stepped all doctrine in favor of common sense, common decency, cultural literacy, honor, honesty, kindness and assorted holidays featuring nifty presents and great food.

I became a Spiritualist as an adult because I believe that all life is energy and energy doesn’t die, it’s transformed. I believe the essence of personality survives after physical death and that it is possible to commune with spirits. I don’t believe in a personified deity, in heaven or hell, or the seven levels of existence put forth by traditional Spiritualists. I bypass all the pretty, pat ideas that are intended to make the unknowable manageable. Instead, I accept that there are many things I will never know or understand and that I believe what I believe because it feels right to me and comforts me. I don’t know if it’s true and I don’t care. I also don’t care what anybody else believes. I have no need for others to believe as I do. I claim no justification. I make no apologies.

Lastly, I became an Interfaith minister for three reasons: I was spiritually curious; I wanted some measure of legal protection as a sincere Tarot counselor in a culture that regards everything occult as bullshit and bunko; and I wanted to supplement my income by performing weddings. My ministry, which I admit is currently under-used, is about communication and service. It feels right to me and comforts me – and through it, I try to comfort others who ask to be comforted.

Over the last several millennia, billions of people have believed in a burning bush, a man living inside a whale, immaculate conception, happy meals for thousands made from a couple of loaves and fishes, and everyone’s favorite: the 71 eager virgins who await martyrs in heaven. I wouldn’t have a problem with these or any other religious fairytales if it weren’t for the fact that millions of people have also been killed for not believing one or another of these stories. I also don’t like the blurring of the secular and the spiritual in politics, science and the collective constructions that support a pluralistic society.

So I find myself on the fence between the Rationalists and the Believers, recognizing the importance of resisting coercion by missionary believers in things that nobody in his right mind would believe, while still seeing the value of an unstructured sense of spiritual wonder to counterbalance our sensible pragmatism, as well as our soulless materialism and worship of mediocre celebrity.

The universe often communicates with me through television (because the wisdom of the ether seeks you out where you spend the most time). The other night, I saw the Sandra Bullock movie Premonition, which wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, but which featured an interesting exchange between the Bullock character (a young wife plagued by premonitions of her husband’s death) and a priest. In trying to explain what might be happening to her, the priest talks about a concept called “the dangers of the faithless.” “It’s based on the idea that nature abhors a vacuum, even a spiritual one,” he says, adding that without faith, one is an empty vessel and susceptible to being taken over by forces greater than oneself. “You have to believe in something beyond yourself, even if it’s just hope,” he says. The woman is not consoled. “I don’t know what to hope for.”

In these very frightening times of global violence, radical climate change, economic crises, enormous social upheaval, and the general feeling that it’s all going to hell in a hand basket, it’s not hard to understand why many people are grasping for the most simplistic of religious beliefs. They’re scared shitless, reaching out to a reassuring God like a frightened child crying for its mother. On the other hand, it’s equally easy to understand why the voices of secular reason are screaming to be heard above the din of illogical religious fervor.

Any way you look at it, if we are to survive in safety, sanity and freedom, each of us must find an assortment of reasonable things to hope for and a cushion of private faith that is personally sustaining.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pardon Me, My Head’s Exploding

Here’s another one from the “You Can’t Make This Shit Up” file: The Skinny Website (conveniently available at is described by its creator/moderator, Rian, as a site for “celebrity gossip and trends pertaining to weight, diet and exercise.” Rian says that for many folks, “celebrity weight-watching has become a hobby” and the site is “just for fun.” Uh-huh, a veritable measuring cup of malnourished monkeys.

In practice, catering to this hobby involves Rian providing a couple of dozen links to photos and commentary on Hollywood’s full roster of Ashleys, Britneys, Jessicas, Jennifers, Kates and Kellys et al, followed by the considered opinions of site faithfuls. There’s no learning curve to slow down newbies, since the pix, plugs and pans are also divided into such categories as celebrity diets, celebrity eating disorders, celebrity skeletons, celebrity cellulite, celebrity baby weight, celebrity flab and bulges and, my personal favorite, celebrities eating.

This last item leads to such shocking food porn as “Hayden Panettiere Eats a Sandwich,” “Kristen Kreuk Eats Ice Cream” and for especially heavy breathing, “Anna Kournikova Eats in a Bikini.” They comment on the celebs and they comment on the food, frequently wishing they could have some of it. I wish I was making this up.

Every day on The Skinny Website, those posting comments discuss such weighty issues as Lindsay Lohan’s ass (too big), Angelina Jolie’s “pencil-thin” arms (too small?; the vote’s not in) and Sophie Monk’s hip bones. I’ve never heard of Sophie Monk. Or her hip bones. As a public service, Rian points out celebs who are “scary skinny” and reminds readers that there is such a thing as too thin, and good health is what matters. Most of them don’t care; it’s all about thin, by any means necessary.

And these folks are harsh! They label numerous 23-year-old starlets as “old and tired,” call cute chubby chicks like Jennifer Hudson “disgusting fat pigs” and express concern that women who are a size 6 are becoming “overweight.” Indeed, it seems that anyone above a size 2 is deemed overweight and needs to stop “letting herself go.” Just yesterday, I read a post in which the writer said if she looked like Beyonce (a disgusting fat pig), she would kill herself. Understandable. Beyonce is not “toned.” She is not “buff.” She is not a “fat-free lady.”

For those in pursuit of self-help, there are handy reference categories, including Fat Loss 4 Idiots, Negative Calories, Master Cleanse and Pregnancy Without Pounds. By the way, pregnant celebs are watched closely so fans can see their “baby bump.” There was a picture of preggers Nicole Richie leaving a gym; her baby bump looked like a small, bad case of gas.

There are a few voices of quasi-reason who champion being fit and healthy instead of tin-rib skinny, who challenge the idea that anyone who is a size 4 can possibly be fat in any way, and suggest that a size 0 (yes, zero) may be a little too small. Radicals! But I did learn a new term I like: body fascism. Those who resist the anti-fat crazies call those fat police body fascists. I love that.

Needless to say, as a fat activist and firm believer in body autonomy, I am aghast at the tone and content of this site. Rian may say it’s all in fun, but this is the kind of crap that promotes fat hate and its attendant behaviors. More important, this site is emblematic of a large segment of public sentiment, not just about stars and size but everybody and size. Those posting on this site constantly spew forth all the standard anti-fat propaganda: fat is deadly, fat people are lazy/ugly/stupid, it’s easy to not be fat (just shut your big fat mouth), thin is the only form of beauty, health is a social responsibility. And on. And on.

I’ve given alot of thought to what I could say to this fat-hating audience that might encourage them to see things in a different light – even just a little. It’s not that I want the whole world to love fat, to approve of it, to praise it. I’d just like to help stop the meanness and the anger. It actually pisses these people off that anyone is fat, even people who aren’t really fat. But to them, anyone who isn’t scary-skinny and hard as a brick wall is fat and fat is about the worst thing you can be, just a notch above pedophiles and double-agents. What a lonely, difficult thing it must be to live and work as a young actress today. How hard it is to be an ordinary person more afraid of fat than a pandemic disease. How painful it is to be fat, even a little fat, in a culture that despises you for it. Why can’t the fat-haters see how much this harms us all?

How can anyone talk to these people about discrimination and false values and a shocking lack of human kindness? They’re on a completely different wavelength and their frequency is more closely attuned to the general public than it is to me. I’ve noticed recently that everything I see on TV, everything – movies and sitcoms from every era, talk shows, newscasts, cooking shows, stand-up comedy, commercials, shopping channels, even documentaries – includes some kind of anti-fat comment. How do you fight that?

When I think about what the fat acceptance movement wants to achieve juxtaposed against rabidly anti-fat public opinion, I’m winded with defeat. I don’t know where to begin. But I’m going to keep thinking about it and talking about it with other fat-friendly folks. Many entrenched social ideas have been changed; it isn’t necessarily hopeless. Maybe. Meanwhile, this whole unpleasant business has made me hungry. I’m going to make a sandwich.
I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Word For Word

I’m not sure what made me suddenly realize it – maybe it was a bad movie (so many of them are), or a stupid TV show (is that redundant?), or surfing the too-often-mediocre waves of the worldwide yada-yada, but it suddenly hit me that the American vocabulary is being reduced to a handful of dull words, dumb phrases and clumsy constructs.

To wit (or lack of it), it is almost impossible to hear or read today’s language without being assaulted by innumerable repetitions of: like, wow, do, OMG (or the full OhMyGod), so, totally, man, fat, thick, ugh!, dude, bitch, all, shit, buzz, fuck, shut the fuck up, really, what up, word, buff, baby bump, way/no way, retro, up (as in: “this dude was all up in my face”), out (as in: “change this out”), hottie, amazing, fug, signify, represent, WTF, LOL, IMO, BTW and all the other texting abbreviations. There is, of course, the ubiquitous whatever, hello and duh! and, leading the pack, the now-rendered-meaningless icon and awesome. The controversial nigga still abounds, but I prefer that to the infantile N-word. And I don’t care what anyone sez (er, says…), there is no car, no item of clothing, no post-adolescent hunk that is to die for.

As if this weren’t enough to give one, like, pause, there is the matter of contractions (the kind that don’t precede childbirth). You’re seems to be dying a fairly swift death replaced by your for all occasions, while its, dont, cant, wont, etc., have been stripped of their apostrophes. under the heading “type faster, not smarter,” everywhere i look, people are writing entirely in lower-case letters – not as an homage to e.e. cummings, as was the case in the 60s, but because they’re too lazy to periodically press the Shift key. Re-reading the previous sentence, I’m reminded that the distinctions among there, their and they’re are becoming a dim memory and too is apparently too much trouble to be bothered with, to.

Malapropisms are making a big come-back, even though few people know what a malapropism is anymore or recognize one when they hear it. Not long ago, I heard a woman compliment another by telling her she was “just superfluous” and another woman describe her kitchen as the hub-bub of her home. Indeed, a house has become a home and even when walls and doors are involved, we no longer have rooms, we have areas.

Furthermore, when it comes to fashion and interior design, we no longer have colors and fabrics, we have colorations and fabrications – adding confusion to insult and injury, since people want their homes to have a classic contemporary look filled with casual elegance. I call this the jumbo baby shrimp devolution of American English. The only new phrase in the décor vocabulary I really like is mid-century modern, since it refers to the 50s and 60s, which is where I am firmly and unapologetically rooted. I am not a 21st century person!

I know language is a living thing that must change as cultures change; I know that for hundreds of years, the printing press has made language more stable for much longer than it ever was before and that it’s reasonable for digital technology to have its own impact now. But I love language, its nuances and subtleties and variety, and seeing it truncated in a charmless way as an ode to ignorance and speed just breaks my heart.

Finally, there is this: we seem to have dispensed with the past tense. Apparently, past is just too old to deal with. So we end up hearing a mixed tense that I don’t know the name of (but which makes me tense) that goes like this: Jennifer and Sean were so totally bummed out by their parents’ reaction to their marriage that they steal Sean’s dad’s car and drive out west. They stay with Sean’s friend Brad in Denver and Sean gets a job waiting tables in a ski lodge while Jennifer finds herself behind the fryer at Burger King. What the hell is this called – and how can we kill it?

It looks like having a passion for Harry Potter hasn’t been enough to make kids want to read anything else, and their older siblings (as well as their folks) don’t read anything more challenging than fanzines and tabloids. As a writer and a reader, I am way dismayed. If I knew how, I’d give it all the bomb.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

To Everything a Season

In a few hours, when the sun sets on the East Coast, North American followers of two of the world’s primary religions will begin the observance of their holiest time of the year: Judaism’s spiritually sober yet celebratory New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Islam’s month-long period of sacred reflection and daytime fasting, Ramadan. These holidays are, in tone and intent, akin to Lent in Christianity.

As a Jew, Rosh Hashanah has personal meaning for me, a rich blend of childhood memories and comfortable ritual that enriches the importance of this holiday. As an ordained Interfaith minister, I regard the confluence of these two holidays as a powerful divine command to take stock, reassess and atone, as well as reflect, rejoice, renew and restore. And coming on the heels of the September 11th anniversary, I appreciate the equally-strong secular imperative to slow down and look within, instead of zooming about in our usual frantic manner of behaving like human doings rather than human beings. This is a time for sincere beingness, lest we lose sight of who we are and what we’re doing.

As a Tarotist, I enjoy the fact that both the Jewish and Muslim holidays are based on the lunar calendars that chronicle these religions. In the Tarot, the Moon is the 18th card in the Major Arcana and, not incidentally, 18 is the number that corresponds to the Hebrew word chai (life) and Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (and 2 x 9 = 18…). The Moon represents the life of the soul in darkness and in light; it stands for what is hidden and the necessity of revelation. Ramadan calls for “the spiritual cleansing of the soul through restraint” (by fasting and sexual abstinence); Rosh Hashanah, which literally means “head of the year,” initiates a period of spiritual growth and redemption.

It may be a cliché to say that true faith and humanity should express itself through peace, forgiveness and unity, especially at this time of the year, but cliché or not, that is what’s so and it’s worth repeating until it sinks in. Whatever your faith (or lack of it) may be, I hope you will join me in expressing a heartfelt wish that all of humankind will use its beliefs and intelligence to make the spirit of Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan a functioning reality every day of the year.

Monday, September 10, 2007

September 11th Continues

I was depressed on that crisp blue morning, so I slept through the most horrific enemy attack ever to occur on American soil. I slept through the dozens of police cars, fire engines and ambulances that roared down the boulevard under my window to Ground Zero. I slept through the collapse of both towers; ten seconds each that turned 110 stories of steel, concrete and glass into eight stories of rubble and fire and evaporated people. Once I did wake up in late afternoon, I, like most of America, sat limp and riveted to the newscasts, watching the assault and the fall, over and over again, far into the night. I was very sad and very mad and really scared.

Six years later, I’m still beside myself – not just about the nightmare of that day, but also about the outrages that have followed. I don’t hold with the conspiracy theorists who think the government either let it happen or made it happen, but I do believe that Bush & Co. have callously, brazenly, used the events of September 11th to achieve their money-grubbing, fear-mongering, power-ravenous goals. In the name of national security they have robbed us of basic civil rights and Constitutional protections. They have squelched anything resembling a loyal opposition; to them, there is no such thing. They have lied and connived the American people into the most stupid, expensive and totally unnecessary war in our history, and themselves into untold additional wealth. They are pirates and devils and couldn’t have been worse for this country if Osama bin Laden had hand-picked them to continue his demented plan.

Every time I see a movie or TV program that offers a glimpse of the towers in all their skyscraping glory, I involuntarily gasp and a vibration of crippling loss shakes within me. I wince for those who died, the loved ones they left behind and the lesser nation that we have become since the attack. I know we’ll never go back to the confidence – or complacency – that existed when those towers stood. And I fear that we may never reclaim the freedoms we lost.

I read in the New York Times last week that many people are “annoyed” with the annual day of mourning, the bagpipes and drums, the reading of the names of the dead; they think it’s time for us to “move on.” My God, that is so us: shit happens, get over it! We fear grief as much as death itself. I do think we would do well to find other, perhaps more meaningful, ways to remember the dead and uplift the living. But we don’t dare forget what we lost that day and in the years that followed. Our survival, our humanity and our democracy depend on our not forgetting – or sleeping too deeply on a crisp blue morning.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Laboring Under a Delusion

Millions of hard-working Americans are in the middle of frenzied Labor Day Sale shopping today. Some of us will notice that almost everything we buy was made in China, or some other country that isn’t ours. Some of us will care, many will not. It is not my intention to put down American workers; we’re underpaid, overworked, and function in an employment infrastructure that provides little or no security or support, including a general lack of health insurance and the constant threat that our Social Security will disappear. However, I do want to point out that very few of us classify ourselves as workers. Nobody wants to think of themselves as working class anymore. The term (and its “low-class” implications) has become disreputable. This is very seriously unfortunate, because our failure to identify as workers – at the same time as we struggle just to make ends meet – prevents us from seeing the need to band together, as well as identify with workers around the world. Just as important, we resist recognizing how we have been manipulated into helping to exploit them by relishing rather than questioning ridiculously cheap goods.

There is no such thing as $5 jeans and $7 shoes without the use of abused labor somewhere, here or abroad. A recent New York Times article (“Wages Up in China as Young Workers Grow Scarce,” August 29th) would have us believe that China’s medieval labor conditions are undergoing broad scale change. They are not. In another article, published by The Nation in June (“The Last ‘Competitive Advantage’: Letter From China”), writer Jehangir S. Pocha explained that the “power imbalance between owners and workers in China means that almost 200 million Chinese workers go to bed every night in overcrowded dormitory rooms after having worked eighteen-hour days in Dickensian factories where some employees are literally worked to death. The phenomenon has even added a new word to the Mandarin vocabulary: guolaosi, or overwork death, where fatigued workers fall off their stools bleeding from the ears, nose and anus.”

The other big story is child labor. According to ASHA for Education, a non-profit organization, 246 million children worldwide are child laborers, 127 million of them in the Asia-Pacific region alone. Seventy-three million working children are younger than ten, and 22,000 children die in work related accidents each year. Children are also bought and sold. In India, kids are cheaper than buffalos: the animals can cost as much as $350, while the kids are a Wal-Mart bargain at $12 to $45 apiece.

In many parts of the world independent labor unions are illegal and those who attempt to unionize workers are often beaten, jailed, tortured, even killed. Here at home, some unions still wield some clout, but many are paper tigers. From the time that Ronald Regan decimated the air traffic controllers union in the early 1980s, the labor movement in America has devolved into a dim memory – and not a widely-recalled memory at that. Besides a few old cranky liberals, who still knows about the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City that killed 146 young women because most of the sweatshop’s exits were blocked? Who knows that in days gone by, more than 400 Americans were shot or lynched by the powers that be simply for protesting appalling working conditions?

My father was a union man. He spent his working life as a merchant marine, a waiter and wine steward on the great trans-Atlantic liners, and a skycap for TWA. He had been with TWA for 25 years when, in the early 80s (the Reagan era, remember?), TWA fired all of its skycaps, then re-hired only some of them from the smashed-up union at a slim fraction of their salary and benefits. My father’s spirit was broken; he loved TWA, was proud of working for them, believed that this company would do right by him for all his years of service. When he retired in 1988 his pension was just over $92 a month. My mother was a non-unionized office worker for 40 years. She spent the last 17 years of her career with a small publisher, and when she took early retirement at 62 due to ill health, her boss was so pissed off he didn’t even say goodbye. And she had no pension at all. As a poor, non-union writer, I cannot disrespect my family history by not speaking out on this matter.

A disturbing majority of American workers have allowed themselves to labor under the delusion that everything will eventually work out somehow. They cushion their worries and weariness with mad consumerism and fantasies of a star-studded, red-carpet life. They think unions are corrupt (and some of them are) and see no value in the power of collective bargaining. Citizens and undocumented immigrants view each other as the problem, ignoring the downright evil perpetrated by massive corporations that would sooner lay off thousands of employees at a clip and outsource jobs to even more desperate workers overseas than pay Americans a living wage. We’re angry and scared and don’t know what to do with those feelings, so we shop, as if we can pile up our stuff against the door and keep out the boogey-man: poverty. But we’re kidding ourselves. Working Americans will be doomed to ever-increasing hardships unless we wake up to the true source of our difficulties, launch a meaningful, global 21st century labor movement, and demand that our elected officials serve us instead of their own money-grubbing interests. And we have to be willing to pay truly reasonable prices for the products we buy. By this alone, we will be supporting the existence and dignity of workers everywhere. Happy Labor Day.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Diana, Revisited

I remember Diana’s death ten years ago as a fascinating Rorschach test of the fundamental difference between men and women. Virtually every man I know thought the car-crash death of Britain’s People’s Princess was a sad thing, especially for her children, gave the matter a sincere 30-second tisk-tisk and went back to whatever it was they’d been doing. Virtually every woman I know felt as if she’d been kicked in the stomach and was riveted for days to the spectacle of flowers and keening that followed. The men didn’t get what the women were so bent out of shape about, and the women didn’t understand how the men could be so cold.

I was never what you’d call a Diana freak, but I liked her very much. I thought she was sweet, genuine and a snappy dresser. I liked that she went out of her way to physically touch people with AIDS at a time when the general public viewed them as lepers. I liked how fierce she was about protecting her boys from the media, and the way she goosed the royals with her openness and independence. And I fondly remembered her fairytale wedding, which I watched on a tiny black & white TV in the Third Avenue office of a small investment company I worked for back then. The one man in the office didn’t pay much attention. The other two women and I sat together and cooed

Of course, as the years passed and the continuum of Diana gossip painted a nasty portrait of the poor-little-rich-girl reality that hid behind the façade, women everywhere were forced to acknowledge that the fairytale was just that. Diana was indeed a real-life Cinderella, but she never got to live happily ever after. All of us who, much to our surprise, wanted to believe that at least one woman had gotten to live the classic fantasy, were crushed when it all went sour. When this hoodwinked innocent, this tender mother, this hungry lover, was killed trying to escape the relentless public eye, well, we cried for our own flattened dreams as much as for her grim end. And we were shocked by the depth of our own sadness. The men didn’t understand why we cried, because they hadn’t been raised on the scripture of ridiculous girl dreams.

Now, a decade later, only a shade of that sadness remains, at least for me. So much else has happened since 1997; lost fairytales seem the least of our problems. But I still feel moved to note this melancholy anniversary. True fairytale princesses don’t come along very often. I’m glad I had a chance to watch Diana shine. I wish she’d had the chance to make a better dream come true.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Remembering New Orleans

Two years ago today Hurricane Katrina eviscerated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, creating the worst natural disaster in American history and adding yet another page to our President’s massive, mind-boggling book of shame. Things are quite a bit better on the Coast, but conditions in New Orleans continue to be a tragedy and an outrage. Thousands of people have worked diligently to repair the damage, but the government – city, state and federal – has been useless as tits on a bull in these efforts. Indeed, disinterest and negligence have been surpassed only by greed, fraud and the imperatives of the almighty free market. Many of those who called New Orleans home have been unable to return and many of those who have come back face enormous difficulties. The city that gave birth to jazz, blues and Zydeco is being gentrified faster than you can say “You want granite countertops with that?” and essential goods and services are being lavished on the nouveau gumbo but withheld from poorer city veterans. President Bush visited the area today and announced that he saw hope in New Orleans. Right. Brought to you by the man who thinks The Surge is working. God Bless New Orleans. She needs all the help she can get.

Confessions of a Tarot Floozy

About ten years ago, I was honored to be an active member of an e-mail discussion group called Tarot-L. It was the place to be for Tarot people back then; many of the leading authors, scholars and readers participated, as well as plain old Tarot enthusiasts. During that time, a joking conversation with a Tarot friend motivated me to write the following little piece of Tarot humor. As I said when I put it out on Tarot-L, this was written with great affection and no disrespect is intended. I believe God has a wacky sense of humor; I certainly think the Tarot gods are just as amiable. If you don’t know the Tarot well, this piece probably won’t mean much to you – but if you’re a true Tarot aficionado, I think you’ll get a kick out of it. Enjoy!

People talk about the Tarot and how wise and wonderful it is, and how it can foretell the future and all. Yet no reader could have told me what my life would be like after I first got involved with those cards. In the beginning it was a thrilling new WORLD, an 8 OF WANDS of kicks and surprises. Then a dark side was revealed. I got myself into Major trouble, even though I was still a Minor. I had climbed high up the tree of life. But soon I had the DEVIL to pay and fell to ruin. I had spread myself too thin. Oh, if only I had foreseen the outcome!

It all started out innocently enough, right after I moved to Tarotown. I was having a few laughs with the MAGICIAN. I thought he was Aces. He’s an infinitely dynamic guy and before I knew what was happening, he laid his cards on the table. He loosened his snake, pointed at me and said “Do you want it Above or Below?” and I just lost my head!

Afterwards I felt so 9 OF SWORDS that it was months before I got involved with the EMPEROR. I’ve always had a thing about older men. He’s very commanding and I felt so safe with him. I was still new in Tarotown and I didn't even know about the EMPRESS until she and that harpy, the HIGH PRIESTESS (there’s more behind that veil than meets the eye!) cornered me at the salad bar in the Red Lobster near one of the local covens. They told me in no uncertain terms to 8 OF CUPS out of town. So it was bye, bye EMPEROR.

I was really shaken and I went 6 OF SWORDS up to New England and just hung out for awhile with the Motherpeace cards. They were so comforting, so nurturing; I really got my 2 OF PENTACLES back. But I couldn’t stay there forever. First of all, there were just too many damn Pages all over the place. And for another, I found myself willing to kill for a hamburger and a straight-back chair – I mean, how much tofu and sitting in circles can a girl take?

So I came back to Tarotown. And one day, I met the HERMIT over at the library and was so taken with him: quiet, shy, hooded... I felt this was someone who wouldn't exploit me. Yeah, right! I won’t even begin to tell you what he wanted to do with that staff and lantern once he got me alone!

I was very depressed after that and went on a sort of Lost Weekend, picking up Knights in bars without evening knowing their Suits, and letting some of those husky Pentacle types have their way with me. There was even an orgy with the 5 OF WANDS (hell, what do you think they’re fighting about!). I tried to have a serious relationship with some of the other Wands and a few Swords, but talk about emotionally unavailable men! Then there was a really ugly encounter with the 7 OF SWORDS. I don't want to call it rape, but he was very rough with me and made off with all my cash and credit cards!

That really set me back and before I knew it, I’d lost my job, my home, my self-respect. I was working the streets of Tarotown, jumping into any CHARIOT that slowed down along the avenue, holing up in a crack den in the TOWER, playing those pathetic 8 OF SWORDS bondage games. I was strung out on herbs and aromas and let myself get hooked up with that creep, the 6 OF PENTACLES, working for whatever pennies he saw fit to dole out to me. Oh, the shame!

I’d hit bottom. Miss 5 OF PENTACLES, that was me! Then a few of my girlfriends – maybe you know them, the 3 OF CUPS? – did a full-court intervention with me and I realized what a FOOL I’d been. They sent me out west to stay with the Medicine Wheel cards for about six months. After a few sessions in the sweat lodge and some really intense drumming, I was right as rain!

So I came home to Tarotown, my town, the town I love. And I’ve started a new life. It’s not much. I’m living in the TEN OF PENTACLES halfway house and just started a new job with the 3 OF PENTACLES (really, really nice people...). I still have dreams of meeting the KING OF CUPS, getting 4 OF WANDSed and living 10 OF CUPS ever after. But I'm trying to keep my eyes open and my expectations reasonable. Who knows, maybe someday I'll meet a nice, steady 8 OF PENTACLES and settle down. For now, I'm just taking it a day at a time. Lord, give me STRENGTH!

This post is illustrated with THE STAR because she, like this sweet little recovering floozy, represents openness, hope, generosity and good cheer (a Trump with a heart of gold)!.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Listen Up!

If you're having trouble making comments on this blog (or other blogspot blogs, for that matter), please note the following: If you click directly on the word comments to get to the message box, you will probably encounter a jiggly, kind of spastic screen that won't let you do anything. But, if you click on the little comment icon -- the one that looks like a cartoon speech balloon just to the left of the word comments -- you'll get to a nice calm page where you can register your opinions. Hope to hear from you soon!

Donuts and Stupidity

Today's New York Times offered a blog for reactions to a story that combined new "facts" about the increase in obesity with news that Dunkin Donuts is taking the trans fat out of its goodies. Forget the fact that trans fat is a heart-health issue, not a fat issue, the anti-fat brigade was out in full force to bemoan the existence of fat once again, and to offer a few offhand insults to us fat pigs. I posted the following comments in response -- not as cordial as I should be (more friends with honey than vinegar and all that), but they caught me on a pissed off afternoon...

This is getting so tired… In just the first nine comments, the proverbial Man in the Street has declared that stupidity = obesity (honey, thinking fat = dumb is what’s stupid – and prejudiced), losing weight is “simple”: just say no (thank you, Nancy Reagan II), people eat to make themselves feel better but don’t realize that’s what they’re doing (no, we eat to make ourselves feel better because it feels better!), the government should play a larger role in what Americans eat (anything else you’d like those Bozos to have a say in?), and my favorite: obesity is the fault of selfish feminists who aren’t home to cook good, healthy meals.

Folks, obesity is a very complicated matter and food is only part of the story. In addition, as anyone who’s been on a diet can tell you, weight loss isn’t permanent and yo-yo-ing up and down is genuinely damaging. Finally, and I know you won’t believe this because you’ve been brainwashed to believe otherwise, but obesity per se is not unhealthy. Being unfit is unhealthy. Living with great stress is unhealthy. And being obsessed with every morsel of food you put in your mouth is unhealthy - and nuts!

If people would pay more attention to the war that is bankrupting the nation, the Big Brother policies that make communism look like wild abandon, the chemicals and pharmaceuticals that are poisoning us, and the fear of everything that colors (and stresses) our lives, the mere sight of fat people might not send you over the edge. There’s a very big difference between something that’s dangerous and something you just don’t like. But like it or not, fat is not your enemy. Get over it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

In Memoriam, Grace Paley (1922 – 2007)

It was announced today that Grace Paley, one of this country’s greatest writers and most dedicated social activists, died on Wednesday at the age of 84. Paley was a beloved hero. To me, she was the epitome of true womanhood, beautiful without the artifice of glamour and unashamedly passionate. She was politically savvy and courageous, profoundly Jewish without a fear-based kind of faith, and the quintessential New York intellectual, unstudied yet immediately distinctive.

I met her once when I was 20-something and my mother (who introduced me to her work) and I went to hear her read at the 92nd Street Y. She was completely present, a woman at ease in her own skin, and therefore, not surprisingly, mild mannered and soft spoken. I mustered all my courage to introduce myself after the reading. She was very sweet and took my hand in both of hers. Like a schmuck, I hadn’t thought to bring one of her books to autograph. Opportunity lost.

Paley’s language was clean and plain yet remarkably evocative. She made New York’s Lower East Side almost holographically vivid, documenting a time and place of what the New York Times obituary spot-on called “secular Yiddishkeit,” flavored with the scents and sensibilities of the Italians, blacks and Puerto Ricans in her midst. Her short stories explored a women’s world of little money, broken hearts and promises, guerilla motherhood, and the myriad complexities of coping with men. And as an activist, she was always on the old left side of civil justice, human rights and war resistance.

As a Spiritualist, I believe that the essence of Grace Paley will continue on some other plane of existence that I don’t pretend to comprehend. But as one of the many living left behind, I mourn the loss of this strong, true, exquisite voice. I send my deepest sympathies to her husband and family, and empathetic greetings to her friends and colleagues, and my fellow readers. It feels a little dark right now, but we’ve all been blessed by the warmth of her light.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Word About Choice

It seems that one of the most contentious ideas put forth by the fat acceptance movement is “fat is not a choice.” Millions of fat people know this is true; our own histories tell us this is true. Important, legitimate scientific research tells us this is true.

But on the other side are millions of people who do not believe this. These are primarily non-fat people who make a second job out of staying non-fat. They all think they’re "fat"; they spend their lives pushing back the same five or ten pounds that completely color their existence. Even when they’re not dieting, they eat far less than they want to. They eliminate favorite foods. They exercise compulsively.

As a result, non-fat people manage to stay non-fat. They don’t believe that fat people have no choice, because they work at not being fat, they routinely suffer to not be fat. Most non-fat people cannot eat whatever they choose and stay non-fat – and since they believe that being ten pounds overweight and 100 pounds overweight are the same thing, just a matter of degree (aaaagh!), they reject the idea that fat is not a choice. They buy into the guilt. They buy into the false promises. Most of all, they buy into the infuriating “If I can do it, you can do it” message with which the anti-fat propaganda machine constantly bombards them.

So, there we are, the size equivalent of the Hatfields and McCoys, feuding forever, throwing our experience and science at each other, creating nothing but more resentment and resistance between us. And it’s futile. We will never convince non-fat people that fat is not a choice. Never. Ever. It is for this reason that I contend that the lack of choice should not be the factor we primarily cite to justify fat acceptance.

Indeed, in the larger, more important and more inclusive picture of individual rights, choice is not the point. In combating fat hate, prejudice and discrimination, choice is not the point. Whether or not fat people choose to be fat is irrelevant to our right to not be discriminated against or otherwise punished by fat hate and prejudice.

We have a right to be who we are, whether or not other people approve. We have a right to be visible, to be employed, to be parents. We deserve the same opportunities to dress well. We deserve equitable access to health care, health insurance and life insurance, because whether or not we choose to be fat, everybody – fat and non-fat people alike – brings their own particular baggage to the process of distribution of social services and protections.

Until we feel a sense of entitlement to be fat people – choice or no choice – we will never convince society to treat us with respect as fat people.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

As I See It

I’m at a point in my life – past middle age – where I will not voluntarily be a part of something that doesn’t allow me to be myself and speak my mind. Accordingly, I have the following to say:

The Fat Acceptance movement has been around for decades and relatively little has changed. I don’t mean this as a slight against the many women and men who have worked very hard to advance the true facts about fat. But the prevailing ideas, feelings, myths and misunderstandings about fat are so deeply rooted in most of the cultures of the world (parts of Africa and the Middle East are the primary exceptions) that fighting against them is a virtually insurmountable task. Add to this the fact that America’s annual $40 billion diet industry is busy 24 / 7 / 365 reinforcing anti-fat beliefs (and fears) and it’s a miracle that any shred of a movement exists.

The fact is, we spend most of our time commiserating with each other. Our efforts to communicate with the non-fat world fall on deaf, hostile ears. I believe that a good part of the problem is that what we say flies smack in the face of most people’s experience. And it’s not what we’re saying that’s the problem so much as how we say it.

“Fat Acceptance” is a very off-putting term. Most people, women particularly, would rather accept a cyanide pill than fat. Most people don’t even want to hear the word fat. They think it’s a slur – and we throw around the word fat the way contemporary gays use queer – as a deliberate confrontation, meaning, “we reclaim this word so you can’t use it against us.” We would be better served by the alternative terms already in place, like body acceptance, size acceptance and body autonomy.

One of our main battle cries is “diets don’t work.” I believe a battle is lost every time we say this, because millions of people, the ones keeping the diet industry flush, the ones who live on salads and rice cakes and cabbage soup and no carbs and no fat and all fat… they know full well that diets do work. What doesn’t work is maintenance. The strongest, truest statistic on our side is “98% of people who lose weight gain it back within one to three years.” Everyone who diets knows that regaining weight is a fact, it’s just that they’ve been made to believe that the fault is theirs: they didn’t try hard enough, they didn’t have will power. So they continue the cycle of yo-yo dieting that creates the health problems they’ve wrongly been taught to attribute to being fat. We would be better served by a term like weight loss isn’t permanent. That will, hopefully, resonate with most people long enough to continue the conversation.

Also in this category is “Fat Rights Now!” This sounds more humorous than serious, particularly since we don’t have an established, broad-based constituency. Rather than demanding, we should be imploring. I don’t mean begging, I mean helping people to see things differently – just that, for starters. Slogans like Fat Hate Hurts Everyone, Fat People Are Not the Enemy, People Come in All Sizes and Fat is Not a Crime would serve us better.

Then there is the message that obesity is all about genetics and other physiological factors and has little or nothing to do with food. This is preposterous and challenges the direct experience of everyone who watches the scale rise and fall with french fries one week and celery the next. Obviously, what we’re trying to communicate is a complex piece of information that doesn’t lend itself to sound bites and slogans.

We’re talking about factors such as genetic predisposition to obesity, compounded with yo-yo dieting that generates new fat cells that never leave, set points that will not be over-ridden for long, and very real thyroid and metabolic malfunctions, not to mention the fucked-up internal “thermostats” that don’t let us know when we’re not hungry, and interpret the hours between meals as starvation. And, there’s the wealth of missing knowledge that science has yet to accumulate. In truth, very little is known about how weight operates.

This is all very involved and extremely difficult to articulate. But by taking the short cut to “fat isn’t a choice” and “we can’t help it,” we immediately lose credibility among the millions of non-fat people who see us chowing down at the mall. They don’t know that the heavier you are, the more fuel you need, or that some of us can eat like birds and still gain weight. They don’t know and they don’t care. They’re hungry! And as far as they can see, they’re depriving themselves and we’re not. We would be better served by slogans such as fat isn’t just about food, or food is only part of the story, something that might motivate a reasonable person to listen to what we have to say next.

Finally, speaking for myself, I love food, I love to eat. I love to shop for food, I love to cook, I love to watch the food network on cable, I love to talk about food, I love to eat with other people who love to eat. I will not undo years of struggling for self-acceptance and become a closet eater again. Since I no longer diet, I’m not obsessive about food the way I was back in the day. But I won’t deny my passion for food. Food is one of the few great joys of my life. If people – fat and non-fat – are put off by this “excessiveness,” that’s just too bad. I pay for my own food. I’m not ripping chicken legs out of the trembling hands of starving children. When this country ceases to be a decadent food court, wasting more food than most nations consume, then we can talk about having a food system of equitable shares. Meanwhile, the market is open and I’m going shopping.

Voice of the People

Have you seen the site Overheard in New York? ( It’s actual comments made by people around town, offered for distribution on this site by the eavesdropping passersby who overheard them. These people are hilarious, often coarse, and frequently shockingly stupid. It’s quite a commentary on how people think and the surprising openness they bring to public conversation these days. I guess private is out and uncensored is the new status quo. If you’re in the mood for Metropolitan Diary on acid, check it out!

For more real-life humor, enjoy the two lists posted below (courtesy of friends who share via e-mail).

* * *
These are real notes written by parents in a Tennessee school district. (Spellings have been left intact.) Most of them are funny, but some are just sad…

1- My son is under a doctor’s care and should not take pe today. Please execute him.
2 Please exkuce Lisa for being absent she was sick and i had her shot.
3- Dear school: please ecsc’s John being absent on jan. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and also 33.
4- Please excuse Gloria from jim today. She is administrating.
5- Please excuse Roland from p.e. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.
6- John has been absent because he had two teeth taken out of his face.
7- Carlos was absent yesterday because he was playing football. He was hurt in the growing part.
8- Megan could not come to school today because she has been bothered by very close veins.
9- Chris will not be in school cus he has an acre in his side.
10- Please excuse Ray Friday from school. He has very loose vowels.
11- please excuse Pedro from being absent yesterday. He had (diahre, dyrea, direathe), the shits. [Note: words in parentheses were crossed out.]
12- Please excuse Tommy for being absent yesterday. He had diarrhea, and his boots leak.
13- Irving was absent yesterday because he missed his bust.
14- Please excuse Jimmy for being. It was his father’s fault.
15—I kept Billie home because she had to go christmas shopping because I don’t know what size she wear.
16- Please excuse Jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch, and when we found it Monday we thought it was Sunday.
17- My daughter was absent yesterday because she was tired. She spent a weekend with the marines.
18- Please excuse Jason for being absent yesterday. He had a cold and could not breed well.
19- Please excuse Mary for being absent yesterday. She was in bed with gramps.
20- Gloria was absent yesterday as she was having a gangover.
21- Please excuse Brenda. She has been sick and under the doctor.
22- Maryann was absent December 11-16, because she had a fever, sore throat, headache and upset stomach. Her sister was also sick, fever an sore throat, her brother had a low grade fever and ached all over. I wasn’t the best either sore throat and fever. There must be something going around, her father even got hot last night.

* * *
These are from a book called Disorder in the American Courts and are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and now published by court reporters who had the torment of keeping a straight face while these exchanges were taking place.

ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?
WITNESS: No, I just lie there.

ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.

ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
WITNESS: I forget.
ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?

ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
WITNESS: He said, “Where am I, Cathy?”
ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you?
WITNESS: My name is Susan!

ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
WITNESS: We both do.
WITNESS: Yes, voodoo.

ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn’t know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?

ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the twenty-one-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: Uh, he’s twenty-one.
ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?
WITNESS: Are you shittin' me?

ATTORNEY: So the date of conception [of the baby] was August 8th?
ATTORNEY: And what were you doing at that time?
WITNESS: Uh... I was getting laid!

ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?
WITNESS: Are you shittin' me? Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney. Can I get a new attorney?

ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
WITNESS: Now whose death do you suppose terminated it?

ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.
ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?

ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.

ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All my autopsies are performed on dead people. Would you like to rephrase that?

ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?

ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy on him!

ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
WITNESS: Huh... are you qualified to ask that question?

ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

* * *
I think the popularity of all this real-life dialogue is an extension of the popularity of reality TV, which has helped the culture realize Andy Warhol’s sage prediction that eventually, everyone would have their 15 minutes of fame. These blogs are an extension of that idea as well, although almost all reality television is less than mediocre, while the blogs, at least some of them, represent a revolution in intelligent, articulate self-expression and what used to be called “vanity” publishing. I feel that all these trends are a response to the need people have to see themselves reflected in the mirror of society, an image that has grown dimmer and less familiar in the ever-brightening glare of celebrity worship. Well, mirror, mirror in the media, who’s gonna make it into Wikipedia?!