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.