Saturday, November 26, 2016

Happy Holidays

I don’t plan on posting again for a while – until I'm in a better frame of mind.

Meanwhile, I hope ya’ll had a pleasant Thanksgiving

and I wish all of you a continued wonderful holiday season.

Merry Christmas

Happy Chanukah

Festive Interfaith
Joyous Kwanza

Happy New Year

And a lovely Sugar Plum Munchkin Day
(that’s from an old Robert Klein joke…)

May 2017 be a good, healthy, happy year for us all and not live up to my worst fears!


Monday, November 21, 2016

Seeking The How of Now

Tomorrow will be just two weeks since the country turned upside down like the ocean liner in The Poseidon Adventure and we’re hanging desperately from the floor that just became the ceiling. Only two weeks and so much has happened. I was personally going through a difficult period before all this, and I still am. Maybe that’s why I can’t figure out what to do now. Or maybe it’s a separate response to the election on one hand and the tragic death of Gwen Ifill on the other, as well as all the turmoil, nastiness, and unimaginable weirdness. Maybe it’s a combination of the two. I don’t know; my feelings, like those of so many others, are bruised and confused.

For a week before the election, while the pollsters told us Hillary had it in the bag, my intuition told me that by some maniacal miracle Trump would win – which he did, thanks to the outmoded, exclusionary-by-design Electoral College. (Can you picture the “This system is rigged!” tantrum Trump would have had if he lost despite getting 1.5 million more popular votes than Clinton?) In addition, on several occasions I got a vague mental image of Hillary Clinton dressed in purple, making a speech.

Under the circumstances, these confirmations that my ability as an Intuitive is still functioning even though my heart and mind are off-kilter, were of no comfort. And no new veils are dropping, except – and of course we’ll never know if this happens – I have the feeling Trump will secretly turn to Clinton for advice on certain matters. I also have visions of the Electoral College reversing the decision, but that’s not a premonition, just a delightful fantasy that sometimes cheers me up.

Basically, I’m on the proverbial horns of a dilemma. All my life, given what I am and how I was raised, I’ve had strong feelings about politics and the social/cultural issues that have a life-altering impact on them – and vice versa. Always alert and concerned and active in whatever way I could be, on many fronts. I believed the few drops I added to the social bucket would make a difference and perhaps they did. In my professional endeavors too: I know I’ve done high-quality, worthwhile work in some of my projects as a business writer, and as a Tarot reader/ordained spiritual counselor. I know I’ve been a good, supportive, useful friend to a lot of people. Despite my personal  insecurities, past and present, I know I’m a good person and have functioned as a good citizen. But I fear something fundamental in me has snapped. I’m completely deflated. I still care, but I don’t believe caring makes a difference now, even though I recognize that concern and action are needed now more than ever.

Almost everything of collective importance has changed for the worse since the 21st Century started with the Y2K scare.  That turned out to be nothing. What actually has happened in less than 20 years, worldwide, is real, and mostly really bad. In addition to the violence and oppression that have killed/displaced millions around the world, we have a bunch of other appalling problems. The globalization we thought would unite and enrich the world is actually dividing us instead. Economic inequity is creating desperation and craziness. The insanity of terrorism is in some ways succeeding, breeding a true sense of terror and irrational responses. Old hates, prejudices, and their accompanying brutality and injustice have rejuvenated. Plus, the communications technology and social media most people live by have taken a dark, dangerous turn that’s only now being noticed – barely – thanks to fake news and hateful cyber incivility.  I could detail all the issues and recent incidents, but you know what they are.

In the face of this real-life horror movie/political satire, I don’t know where to find the strength to move forward, keep hanging tough from the new floor-ceiling. I feel like a sick, hardly-mobile, old woman – which I am. I feel disconnected and isolated – which I am. Since the start of 2000, I haven’t been able to acclimate myself to the aspects of the New Normal I despise. I was happy about the social progress made during the past few years. But I didn’t trust it, because I knew it could be reversed in the blink of a conservative eye – and now I’m afraid some or all of it might be. There are several categories of people I’m very frightened for.

I’ve been reading insightful columnists and watching the news, press conferences, and discussions among smart, right-thinking (in my opinion) people: artists, writers, activists et al, speaking with positive determination about the urgency of fully populated, well organized, peaceful/legal civic action. They’re sad and scared too, but unwavering about being vigilant, uniting, and fighting against anything Trump tries to do to Make America Mayberry Again. I want to emulate their hope and courage. I want to be who I’ve always been. But I can’t muster my usual fortitude. Maybe as time warps along and we have a better understanding of what’s really happening, maybe after this unprecedented, muddled, shocking, conflict-of-interest-ridden transition becomes an actual administration with a definite stated agenda, I’ll have more clarity and be able to marshal greater energy. I hope so.

I apologize for being in bummer mode instead of posting here as an encouraging cheerleader. And you? How are you coping? What are you doing? What’s keeping you going? If it’s the future for your kids and/or grandkids, don’t tell me: I get that obvious drive. Love, family, and community are what generally keep people forging ahead. But I don’t have that, and feel socially obsolete and estranged as well. So where is the motivation supposed to come from? I’d much rather be a civic soldier than a heartsick sad sack but I’m losing my grip on the floor-ceiling. And I just heard on the news that a massive earthquake nearly turned Japan upside down.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I Love You, Bob Dylan

I was about 12 years old when I fist saw and heard Bob Dylan on the tiny black & white TV in my room; some obscure little show, it was sheer happenstance that I saw it. And he instantly became the poetic and politically musical love of my life. Plus I thought he was really cute, and I think he’s gotten even sexier with every odd and interesting phase he’s gone through over the years, including now. I still love Bob Dylan, craggy old buzzard though he’s become (I’m a craggy old buzzard myself, so it fits). He still has that sweet, sour, vulnerable, thorny, inaccessible-but-please-don’t-leave-me-alone magic about him.

Unfortunately, I think he’s a tormented genius and in many ways a very unhappy man. So I’m feeling bad for Bob Dylan because I suspect he’s feeling sad and confused about having been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He’d been nominated for it repeatedly over the years. I don’t know why the Committee decided this was the year, but the reason given for the award is "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” So said Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Nobel Academy, at a news conference last Thursday. She said there was "great unity" in the panel's decision. "Bob Dylan writes poetry for the ear, but it's perfectly fine to read his works as poetry." For the record (no puns intended), the honor comes with $927,740. Monetary coal to Newcastle, I know, but he could do something meaningful with that.

I’m proud of and happy for the scrappy troubadour who one of the Nobel Committee members called "probably the greatest living poet." But, not surprisingly, the Committee can’t locate/communicate with Dylan directly. He’s made no public statement nor sent any private word to them. Someone described as his “closest collaborator” (?) is painting a positive picture of Dylan’s response and the Committee is minimally hopeful the recipient will attend the December 10th ceremony and accept his award. He did show up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, the Kennedy Center Honors in 1997, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, but as soon as he could he fled those events with the speed and stealth of a cartoon super-hero.

I don’t think he wanted those awards and I don’t think he wants this one, because part of him feels unworthy and another part of him thinks it’s meaningless. That’s the sad and confused part and if it’s so, he’s wrong on both counts. Also, it seems some noted novelists are voicing their displeasure. Clueless, sour grapes, I say.

Part of Dylan’s appeal, I think, as well as his personal misery, stems from the fact that he’s never seen himself as a genius let alone the Voice of His Generation (he first said so to Rolling Stone decades ago). He knows he’s got something special and he’s certainly aware of where it’s taken him and what it’s meant to others. Like most artists he has some measure of ego, so I think he somewhat enjoys all that.

But my intuition tells me he also feels it’s ill-gotten gains for a talent that was, as time went on, just kidding – but everyone took it to heart. He once implied during a 60 Minutes interview that he had made a deal with the Devil to get what he got. Maybe that’s why so much of his post-folk and post-folk-rock stuff – the wildly disparate music that came out (and sometimes got lost) amidst all the “Best Of” and bootleg records – was a series of musical searches for God. I think the core thing to understand about Bob Dylan as an artist and a man is that to his great surprise and discomfort, he’s been treated like a God, when all he’s wanted is to find God himself. Dylan talks a lot about God, when he does talk. What spiritual irony!

Bob Dylan spends most of the year touring. When he’s not on the road – which is only for a few weeks here and there – he lives alone in a house in California. I can’t imagine what it looks like. He has a big family but I know nothing about his relationships with them, or his friends, or if there’s presently a woman in his life, or what his hobbies and pleasures might be. He seems to just want to keep moving and keep singing whatever it is he feels like singing at the moment, and try to feel like a real person instead of an icon. His problem is, he is an icon, a real one, and that must be a hell of a burden.

But what do I know? My observations come from a combination of articles and interviews read, and intuitive conjecture voiced. Whatever. Congratulations Bob wherever you are. I hope you’re in better shape than I fear. I hope you’ll go get your prize, make a nice speech, and feel good when you get back to California. Because like it or not, you are one of The Greats – and still needed and wanted and loved. You have been the soundtrack of my life and millions (maybe billions) of others. You told us you (yourself, we, all of us) “gotta serve somebody.” Thank you for your ongoing service.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Political Power of Pussy

After this post I’m not going to say anything more about The Campaign before Election Day, because there’s nothing left to say. I just want to go on the record as being both horrified and amused by the political and media reaction to Donald Trump’s celebrity-entitled pussy grab: his stated attitude and alleged actions. I do have a few things to say about that.

First, I didn’t know pussy was a dirty word; I thought it was slang. So imagine my surprise when the media felt compelled to say “p-word” and spell it “p***y.” Are you kidding me? I suppose I should be grateful they’re not using the moronic “va-jay-jay,” but truthfully, it’s no comfort. I wish we as a culture would (a) grow the fuck up, (b) call a spade a spade, and (c) stop being afraid of language and re-learn how to use it well.

But what you call “it” isn’t important. What’s important is that Trump, for all his exaggerations, distortions, whopper-sized-lies, and overall 18-month-long rant of insults as well as inappropriate and ignorant and evasive statements, was not incorrect about what men who are regarded as “stars” can get away with sexually.

And, there are two separate but equally disturbing/ revealing aspects to PussyGate. The first is: as Donald Trump has repeatedly said of himself (and as the media has said about him): he is not a politician, he is a businessman and a celebrity. Accordingly, I’m less than shocked by his personal sexual history. And if he weren’t within a dick’s-reach of the American Presidency, I wouldn’t care less.

I spent over 30 years in the entertainment business. Most of the men in it, both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, would never make the kind of coarse, charmless overtures Trump described in the now-infamous Access Hollywood tape and revealed in his actual behavior – new allegations about which are coming forth every minute. However, these men are very aware that some women find rich, powerful, famous men extremely attractive, and some men use that fact to their sexual advantage. For their part, some conventionally-beautiful women, both in and out of the business, are more than willing to be public arm-candy and private sex partners. That’s the fact, Jack.

This is the world in which Trump was formed and still lives and works. This is where he gained his sense of self as well as his view of women. Trump is one of those Masters of the Universe that Tom Wolfe wrote about in Bonfire of the Vanities. In that world, you can kiss at will, with or without tic-tacs, you can even grab a pussy. In some instances you’ll get what you want, in others you won’t – but you don’t know until you try.

So while in perfect 21st Century politically-correct mode, those outside this world cry Foul! and Sexual Assault! the truth is that the casting couch and the tour bus can lead to the red carpet, the limo, the private jet, the 5-star hotel, and the jewelry store. Giving pussy can sometimes get you diamonds; easier than paying your own American Express card. There are few victims here – just players of both sexes. So spare me the shock and awe.

The every-man-for-his-political-self politicians, as well as the mediocre mainstream media, say “But this is coming from a man who wants to be President.” Yes. A Master of the Universe – a wealthy real estate developer, reality TV show host, and beauty pageant producer who comes from a world where you can grab pussy with impunity and who’s now trying to grab world power. That’s who he is. You (Republicans, media) let the gorilla out of his cage and called him a joke – and now he’s throwing his shit at everybody.

So what’s with the disgusted surprise? This isn’t news. The Master of the Universe spoke inappropriately about sex and women – that filthy act: with blessed mothers and sisters, wives and daughters, decent women who don’t even have pussies, they have va-jay-jays. Trump being a dumb, hateful, racist xenophobe with no policies, no plans, no class, no common decency, and no qualifications whatever, wasn’t enough to rule him out of the running. No, it took sex to make them back away. Give me a break.

Listen. I am not saying that Trump’s language and behavior is okay simply because it’s commonplace. I am not condoning sexual assault, or the disrespectful treatment of women. On the contrary, in a world where millions of women are treated like chattel, marketed like toys, viciously abused by sex traffickers, and have to constantly fight for the most basic rights – to go to school, to make a living, to drive a car, to choose their own life partners, to not be maimed or murdered in the name of someone else’s twisted sense of honor – none of this is a joke. None of this is harmless or unimportant. What I am saying is that, once again, it took a sex scandal to (perhaps!) turn the tide. We are a nation still steeped in our Puritan roots and it pisses me off.

In the final analysis, what powerful men find offensive is the concept, let alone the fact, of a powerful woman. Donald Trump can’t grab Hillary Clinton’s pussy because she’s got him by the balls. If you think Trump’s outrageousness is less objectionable than Clinton’s email…well…what can I tell you? As I write this, I’m listening to Donald Trump say “The Clintons are criminals.” Really? Okay, there’s your choice. Going forward, no matter what else happens or is revealed on either side is going to make the decisive difference. The diehard Trump and Clinton supporters are in place. Now it’s a matter of what all the other people do.

Will those among the incomprehensibly “undecided” manage to reach a decision? Will the Millennials, a remarkable percentage of whom claimed in a recent poll to see “no tangible difference between the two major candidates” (!?) and “just want change” suddenly perceive the difference and vote like grown-ups, or will they release their inner teenagers and vote for the erudite Gary Johnson? Or will they just stay home in scale-tipping numbers? Similarly, will the Blacks and Hispanics who pushed Obama over the top in 2008 and 2012 come out for the stiff white lady in 2016, or will they stay home in equally scale-tipping numbers? Lastly, will The Traditionally Republican Suburban White Women, freed by the privacy of the voting booth, take a chance on the old broad they don’t really like and vote for her instead of the King of Stupidity and Sleaze (Inc.)?

We’ll see. I don’t care what the polls say: this game ain’t over and it can still go either way. You can bet your pussy on it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Musical Interlude

A little break from politics (in a way…somewhat…).

I stopped listening to music for years (which isn’t a healthy thing, so don’t do that). My old stereo has been in a box for 15 years and the only other device I have is a classic boom-box (double-cassette/radio) that belonged to my mother and for which I have limited options (I don’t know where most of my cassettes are). I know one can listen to music online and I did (do) some of that, but sitting in front of my computer for music isn’t one of my favorite things.

That said, I’ve been listening to music online a lot lately (and sometimes watching the videos) because, The Presidential Campaign That Dare Not Speak Its Name is so brutally rattling my already-jagged nerves. So I’ve been motivated to seek out old favorites (artists, songs, the two combined) for comfort, inspiration, understanding, a little wallowing, and some just fine and fond entertainment.

In this spirit, I’m playing Blogging DJ and offering a selection of YouTube links to some of the songs I’ve been listening to. Play some, play all, or play your own. But I highly recommend listening to something you like – especially if, like me, that isn’t already part of your daily life. It “takes the edge off” much better than repeatedly banging your head against a wall.

Some of these videos are preceded by a commercial, others have pop-ups on the screen that you have to click the X-box to remove – musical buzz kill, I know – but some videos let you skip the ad, others don't trouble you with one. Anyway, be patient and (I hope) enjoy!

Aerosmith (with lyrics) / “Crazy”
Meredith Brooks (with lyrics) / “Bitch”
The Rolling Stones / “Wild Horses”
Don Henley / “New York Minute”
Bruce Springsteen / “New York City Serenade”
The Wallflowers / “6th Avenue Heartache”
Bruce Springsteen (9/11/01 Memorial Concert) / “My City of Ruins”
Coldplay / “In My Place”
Macy Gray (with lyrics) / “I Try”
Sia (with lyrics) / “Breathe Me”
Joan Osborne and The Funk Brothers / “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?”
Aerosmith (with lyrics) / “Cryin’”
Annie Lennox / “Why?”
Gipsy Kings / “Tu Quieres Volver”
Blues Traveler (with lyrics) / “Hook”
Lynryd Skynyrd (live in Florida 2015) / “Simple Man”
Neil Young / “Southern Man”
David Bowie (with lyrics) / “Life On Mars?”
Jeff Buckley / “Hallelujah”
Aerosmith (with lyrics) / “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing”
Puff Johnson / “Over and Over”

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Why The Debate Changes Nothing

This is an instance in which "I couldn't have said it better myself," so rather than try, I offer you this reprint from The Week, which I feel compelled to bring to the attention of my readers. Please do read it. Thanks; warm regards; and political prayers and best wishes.
-- MizB

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Careful, Don't Hurt Your Eyes

I am so indescribably weary of fat hating, fat shaming, and the anti-fat everything that shapes Western culture and successfully makes women feel unattractive, unworthy (of love, professional success, affordable housing, whatever...), and, most of all, obliged to focus on making their bodies a fantasy-football size instead of addressing reality-based political and economic imperatives. In other words, don't think, just diet. I marvel that I've managed to live this long without killing myself or others. But hey, Happy Fashion Week! Welcome O army of unsmiling, size-0, 14-year-olds clomping around in ugly clothes that only the infamous 1% can afford. And remember what Oscar de la Renta said when he was asked why he didn't have a plus-size line: "I am a fashion designer, not an upholsterer." Right. And I am a fat woman, not a legitimate human being. Just click/smear here, please. I can't make up this shit.

Saturday, September 17, 2016


I recently heard a political pundit on MSNBC’s Morning Joe say that in politics, “style always wins over substance.” Is this true? If so, beat the November rush and panic now. I remember the famous 1960 Kennedy/ Nixon debate that prompted very different reactions. Those who saw it on TV, who saw the handsome, cool JFK vs. the sweaty, nervous Nixon, said JFK won, and those who heard it on the radio thought Nixon won. Which is to say, for all political intents and purposes: perception is reality. Apparently, what is actually so is less important to voters than how candidates appear and how they make us feel. In 1960, stylish and substantive prevailed over unappetizing and incompetent. But it was a very close race. So is this one.

Which brings me to transparency. Both Trump and Clinton are accused of not being transparent about different things: his taxes, business affairs, health, foundation, etc.; her health, veracity, the emails, foundation, etc. However, this does not reflect the most accurate use of the word transparency. In the instances just mentioned, the candidates don’t seem to be forthcoming with information.

But as people and candidates, they are glaringly transparent. He is clearly unhinged, dishonest, uninformed, bigoted, and uniquely unqualified to be the leader of the free world. He personifies “inappropriate” and takes it to a shocking level by any political measure. She is clearly an old-school politician with a Scrooge-length chain of political sins tied to her, stiff as a board, and talks like a lawyer. But she’s extremely intelligent, disciplined, experienced, well-informed, and completely capable of being the leader of the free world without blowing it up. In short: he’s dangerous and she’s flawed. Take your pick.

If you choose dangerous over flawed, it’s probably because you crave change of any kind at any price – which in my opinion is immature, impatient, and ill-advised. You believe our admittedly dysfunctional political system has let you down and done you harm. Fair enough. You’re also charmed by Trump’s appearance of brute strength as well as his conversational demagoguery. You think he’s protective, entertaining, exciting. You actually like him. I get it and accordingly refer all readers to my 12/17/15 post, “Who’s Your Daddy?” and hasten to remind Trump supporters that this is a presidential election, not a search on Match.Com for your next boyfriend.

If you choose flawed over dangerous, it may be that, as I do, you genuinely like Hillary Clinton and forgive her alleged transgressions. If that’s not it, then it’s because you’re not willing to risk unnecessarily additional national and global danger. The world is dangerous enough without an American Putin at the helm. You’re willing to settle for same-old and unexciting in the name of competence and sanity. You may not like her, but you acknowledge her intelligence, experience, restraint and toughness. As Robin Williams once said of Hillary and past formidable female heads of state, chiefly Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi (Angela Merkel wasn’t on the radar yet), “You may not want to fuck them, but you sure as hell don’t want to fuck with them.” You may think that’s sexist. I think it’s funny, but I make no effort to be politically correct.

He’s not stupid, he’s shrewd. She’s not shrewd, she’s smart. Shrewd is style. Smart is substance. The difference is clear – although it seems a lot of people don’t see it. Indeed, what a lot of people on both sides don’t seem to see as they over-react to every word, cough, gaff, and convoluted remark that comes out of both their mouths, is that both of them are victims of language being decimated in the 21st Century. People speak poorly and often use words incorrectly – and “people” includes political office-seekers of all stripes.

He just casually lies, gets things wrong, speaks without thinking, and gives new meaning to chutzpah. She calls him out on his buffoonery, bluster, and bullshit. In the course of doing that, she said half his supporters were a “basketful of deplorables.” I thought she was engaging in word-play: you know, deplorable vs. deportable. The basket thing, once it registered with me, reminded me of Mitt Romney’s binders full of women. Democrats jumped all over that, remember? But that was excessive (and humorless). Romney was obviously referring to folders of résumés, he just spoke poorly. There was enough wrong with Romney that was undeniably transparent. Why break a sweat over “binders”?

I also didn’t care that Romney was prepared to dismiss the “47%” who were never going to buy into his millionaire-mindset about what many Americans are and want. And he was right. That’s why he lost. Similarly, Clinton is right when she dismisses many of Trump’s supporters as racist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc., but as with Romney, being right doesn’t ipso-facto get you the win. Only if Democrats, Independents, and some Republicans all turn out in droves and vote for her will she win – baskets, emails, and pneumonia notwith- standing. So ignore what the candidates say. As Bernie Sanders advises, focus on the issues and look at what the candidates have and have not accomplished – and toward what ends. The difference is transparent. And urgent.

Friday, September 16, 2016

MizB Tries To Be Cooperatively Digital

I’m trying to be calmer about and less resistant to today’s digital reality, I really am, but they’re… you’re… something is making it very difficult – harder than ever – and it’s everywhere. On a nearly daily basis, I’m confronted with a broadband? marriage of classic bureaucratic stupidity and corporate hubris with whiz-bang digital magic that might either drive me to an early grave (in a driverless car, of course) or a public act of impropriety or violence – like running over an inattentive, phone-focused yuppie with my mobility scooter, then backing up and running over him again. Perhaps repeatedly, until the implants pop out of his head. I’m being pushed to my limits here.

For example, I went to the doctor yesterday, my “Primary Care Physician,” formerly known as “the doctor.” He’s been my doctor since 1992. But I can no longer call him. I also can’t phone his longtime assistant, or anyone on my “care team” in this group practice. I don’t know the members of my care team – and believe me, I’ve asked. I’ve never been given a sensible, comprehensible answer to this question, even though there’s a photo on the website of a whole team of healthy-, professional-, caring-looking people. I think my “team” may be a stock photo of “food insecure” actors, but then again, I’m hostile and paranoid, so…

Anyway, when I call my doctor’s office, I get a recorded instruction to go to the practice’s website, then the recording hangs up. I don’t take it personally; I assume it hangs up on everyone who calls. When you go to the website, there’s a place where you can make an appointment (this works) and another where you can see your medical history (this doesn’t). I went there. There’s nothing there. When I asked about this at my doctor’s office, they…explained…that there were three separate somethings-or-other they use that contain the records. But none of them are on the site. I have no access to my history. I asked if my hospital-of-record could access these records. I got a long answer that I can’t really recall, but I think it amounted to “No.” Just for the hell of it, I asked what my blood type is. It isn’t in my medical records in any of the three systems I don’t have access to. I mentioned that I was 64 and would kinda like to know what my blood type is. No reply.

I used to love email. Email has become a misery. Besides being presented with a brand new menu of action icons that I don’t comprehend, I keep getting messages from people, places and things I don’t know. They tell me I can unsubscribe. I unsubscribe. The messages keep coming anyway. I get other messages from official entities that tell me I can’t reply. I wouldn’t mind per se, but, just as another example: since the end of August I’ve been getting the same “donotreply” message from a city agency telling me they can’t do something I already told them (in writing) I no longer want them to do, until I submit certain information by September 1st – at 15:41:25. I love the :25. We don’t just get deadline dates for things now, but deadline times – to the second. Which in this case is both irritating and hilarious when you consider that today is September 16th and I’m still getting the same automatically generated email that I can’t reply to with an information-demand deadline of September 1st. FYI, earlier in the week I called this agency to explain the situation. They wouldn’t address the email part, they just told me to write a letter about what I’m not asking for. I told them I had written a letter. They told me to write a letter. I did not reply.

Also in August, I decided to try the music site Spotify and signed up for their 30-day FREE TRIAL of Premium service, “Premium” meaning that if after the free trial I pay them ten bucks a month, they won’t torment me with visible and/or audible ads when all I want to do is listen to a song. Okay. They asked for my payment information. This should have tipped me off and stopped me in my analog tracks, but I’m trying to join the fucking future that is happening now, so I provided the info. Then I went on the site. A message box came up saying my computer isn’t equipped to handle the site, and indeed, when I tried to (a) figure out how to use the site then (b) use the site, I couldn’t. So I contacted Spotify that very same day to cancel the free trial and close my account. I explained why. Within several days, I started getting emails with Tips on How to Use Spotify. I contacted them again. They had canceled my free trial but not my account. I replied. I said close the account. They replied. They sent a series of emails asking for different details I’d provided when I gave them my payment information for the free trial. They have sent me follow-up emails congratulating me on providing the accurate details they need to close my account, which is just a “click away” from being closed, but they haven’t clicked yet. If they ask for my blood type, I’m screwed.

I’m also screwed if I want to use the new same-day-delivery service being offered by my next-day-or-later delivery online supermarket. There’s an app I can download –  however, as I learned when I called them (and they replied), the app can only be downloaded to the smart-phone I don’t have, it can’t work on the old desktop computer I use to successfully place orders for their over-priced food. I suggested they fix that since those of us with older equipment would like the option of same-day delivery too. There was no reply.

So, to recap: we can send out some messages, sometimes, but we may or may not get a reply. We can get messages, but we’re often not allowed to reply. If we ask to unsubscribe, the senders may or may not comply, it’s their call and there’s not much we can do about it. If we open an account and then want to close it, we have to take a quiz. If we have a medical history, nobody really knows where it is, and if they do know, we’re not allowed to know too: not where it is or what it is. We also don’t need to know our own blood type. If there’s a medical emergency and we’re taken to whatever hospital the ambulance our health insurance/Medicare won’t pay for feels like taking us to, our blood will be tested and they’ll know the type in a minute. A minute :25.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Contemplating Anger

As you may have noticed, I’m a very angry person. I think the things that make me angry are real and legitimate, be they political, cultural, technical, social, personal, or just plain fucking infuriating. Getting angry – or pissed-off, annoyed, irritated (all of Anger’s little cousins) – is what I’m hard-wired to do. It’s tied to being sad. I’m a very sad person, too, and have been since childhood, since for as long as I can remember.

Mad, sad, lonely and confused. That’s me. Indeed, in the words of the great William James (1842-1910, American philosopher, psychologist, physician, and brother of novelist Henry James): There are two kinds of people in this world: those who take things easy and those who take things hard. Guess which one I am. Fortunately for me, I also have an expansive, in some ways twisted, sense of humor. I laugh heartily throughout the day at people, situations, and things that I find ridiculous or just plain funny. I’m sincere when I say that if I didn’t have a robust sense of humor, I’d be dead. But I digress…

Getting legitimately angry and expressing that anger in a non-violent way is, I believe, often a healthy thing. It shows you’re (a) alive, (b) thinking, and (c) have strong feelings about things that are intrinsically bad, ignorant, insensitive, dangerous, or any combination thereof. My day started just a few hours ago and I’ve already been pissed off by the news, a bank, a city agency, and a stupid person at my local pharmacy.

However, I’ve been going through a new stage of life and state of thought recently. I think I’ve finally been imbued with the wisdom I’d heard comes with age, but which I, frankly, don’t think I had a lot of until, perhaps, now. I’m very smart, but intelligence isn’t the same thing as wisdom. The latter combines freestanding intellectual smarts with experience, compassion, [good] character, a more holistic view of life, a greater appreciation of the importance and speed of time, and a deep desire to live in a state of inner peace.

All of which is to say: while it’s good to get angry, it’s not good to live in a constant state of anger. It’s physically and emotionally enervating, decreases the peripheral vision of one’s humanity, creates immobility, causes bad decision-making, and only changes something if channeled into positive action – and in recent years, I’ve engaged in less positive action and more unnecessary shopping, because shopping (or retail therapy as it’s sometimes called) is a kind of comfort food, especially for angry women.

I believe my wisdom-that-comes-with-age is developing now because Mother Teresa was made a saint; I’ve been watching re-runs of Lewis Black comedy specials (and while I continue to share his outrage, I’m concerned his head and heart will explode); and I’ve weaned myself off of Big Pharma anti-depressants that I suspected were only making me feel worse (in addition to exhausted and dizzy) and I am feeling better without them.

I hasten to add that if anyone reading this is taking anti-depressants, DO NOT STOP based on my feelings and experience. There are different kinds of depression, different kinds of drugs to treat them, and each of us, with our individual chemical response system, reacts differently. So if you want to change your meds, work with your doctor (imperfect though he or she may be). I’ve done my weaning off with my doctor and strongly advise you do the same.

Now to return to anger and wisdom… I think my wisdom is seeping in and constant anger is being minimized because I’m finally keenly aware that my time is limited and I want to spend it more calmly, peacefully, productively, and pleasantly. I will continue to feel angry, I want to do that, but I also want to be able to let it go, an emotional bowel movement, if you will. I don’t want to be anger-constipated.

And I think my sense of humor and the absurd will help me do that. For example, it still upsets me very much that I was robbed years ago by a young man who I allowed into my home to help me. He thought himself a person of high spiritual and moral ideals. I was kind and generous to him. Which is why it’s hilarious that among the things he stole was a gold and pearl pendant that belonged to my mother and was very precious to me. It was a pendant of Moses holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments. This little shithead stole a pendant of the Ten Commandments! Now hurt and angry though I may be, that’s funny! And that I can appreciate and laugh at it: that’s wisdom.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Sitting is the New Politically Pointless

I pay close attention to actual news but none whatsoever to sports, especially football, because I find it incomprehensible and dull as a box of rocks. It therefore took me a while to notice that one Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, was causing quite a stir because he didn’t stand up for the national anthem before a game last week, and is now being criticized for wearing socks with images of cartoon pigs wearing police hats during team practice sessions.

It took a little research to discover that this white-looking young man is in fact biracial; was adopted and raised by white parents; has friends and relatives on assorted police forces; and professes genuine respect for proper law enforcement. But he has become so increasingly outraged by the violence against blacks by some cops that he felt he “had to do something” to express his distress, as well as contribute to general awareness of the problem.

Being a paleface biracial person myself, as well as equally disgusted by the systemic racism that is an undeniable element in the majority of American police/sheriff departments, I understand the quasi-guilt and sense of responsibility to “do something” that Colin feels.  However, as someone who spent decades employing non-violent efforts to effect social change, I have to say I think his action is lame, ineffectual, and lazy.

I don’t know why all major sports events begin with a patriotic ritual, and I can see why Colin felt, given his stature, that he was making a statement. I hear there’s another “big game” tonight and he may do it again. Big deal. To those who’ll cheer, he’s just preaching to the converted. To those who boo, he’s not getting through, he’s not making a whit of difference.

Colin, you’re no Rosa Parks. When she refused to stand up on a bus in the deeply segregated south in the 1950s, that was a political act. And, what most people didn’t know then and still don’t know now, is that she wasn’t just some tired, anonymous little black lady who spontaneously decided she was equally tired of the racist status quo. She was a schooled, committed activist who had agreed to keep her seat in order to get arrested and help launch the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott.

What you’re doing is essentially performance art. What you should be doing, Mr. Many-Multi-Millionaire football player, is using some of those millions to make a real difference: help support re-training and community policing programs; pay for a bunch of police body cameras; pay the medical bills of some victims of police violence who didn’t die, or give some meaningful money to families of the deceased.

You might also want to put up a few billboards in major cities, make a TV commercial, or write an op-ed for a major publication to get your message across. (If you need a ghostwriter, I can recommend someone… .) Contribute to organizations that are already working on this problem; visit the unfairly incarcerated in a few prisons; put a few black kids through college, kids who don’t have the skill to get a sports scholarship. Think outside the box and do your part to make a statement and help make a difference in a meaningful way.

But when you’re on the field, stand up (thereby encouraging people to hear and respect you, rather than jeer and reject you) and play the game you are being paid an obscene, ridiculous, amount of money to play. When you’re doing whatever it is a quarterback does, nobody gives a damn about your politics.

Monday, August 29, 2016

On Aging

Bette Davis famously said “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” “Resistance is futile. Your life, as it has been, is over,” said The Borg when they (it?) first encountered the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Both sentiments precisely describe how I feel about getting older, being old. Actually, I don’t mind being old per se. I’m 64 and don’t let anyone tell you 60 is the New 50, because it’s not. Sixty is what it ever was: old. No, what I mind (besides the aches & pains and genteel poverty) is feeling obsolete, disrespected, and not knowing, liking or understanding (or all three) the young and the new.

I know that not everyone who’s 60+ feels this way. Lots of older people – those who’ve kept themselves fit, saved enough money to have disposable income, and have younger  people in their lives (e.g., kids and grandkids) feel very differently. Neither do those “oldsters” who are still working and/or have made a successful effort to form new relationships, find (or create) new endeavors, and especially embrace new technology and social media. But that’s not me. I’ve spent over 15 years feeling generally mad (angry not crazy), sad, and fearful of the outdoors (which is why I rarely leave the Tower).

With only a few exceptions, everyone I’ve ever loved (family, friends, and men I had resembling “partners”) have either died, relocated, or rejected me. I’ve rejected quite a few people myself, so I guess you reap what you sow or what goes around comes around or whatever. I’m able to accept that – not always graciously – as what happens when time marches on.

What I can’t seem to do is forget the pleasantries and civilities of the past, accept the speed and crassness of the present, and emotionally feel my age – which is to say, in my head I feel like I’m still in my 20s. I also don’t recognize a lot. For example, I don’t know today’s “celebrities.” I’ve heard some of their names, but for the most part I wouldn’t know them if I fell over them on the street. It’s my own fault, because I don’t watch reality TV or network TV, go to (or rent) new movies or listen to new music. I’ve tried a little harder with the music, but I have no patience with these breathy-sounding girls, mediocre melodies, and very poorly crafted lyrics (when I can make them out), and I didn’t like Rap/Hip-Hop when it first reared its angry head in the 80s; I sure don’t like it any better now.

I have an especially hard time with TV commercials. Most of the time I don’t know what they’re selling and all cars look alike to me. There are so many ads between snippets of Show that I literally forget what I’m watching. And except for the ads for medical alert systems, mobility scooters (both of which I have), medications with dangerous and ludicrous side effects, stair chairs, and incontinence pads, none of them are directed at my “demographic.” If I were a man (or had one in my life), I’d include the commercials for erectile dysfunction pills. Other than that, nobody wants old people’s business.

Nobody speaks my language either – or any language for that matter, really. Everything is an acronym or an emoji or slang. When things go viral that’s a good thing. When you give something a thumb-up/”like” that’s important. So are images. Images are everything. Words largely don’t matter – except for a few. Apparently anyone who does anything, especially in front of a camera, is an icon and almost everything is iconic, awesome, and genius. But there are double-meanings I don’t understand. I know that to hack into a technological system is a bad thing. But then there are “hacks” to do things – genius hacks for scrambling eggs, putting on your shoes, etc. I don’t get it.

I also don’t know what people are – particularly hipsters. I know they’re not hippies and they’re certainly not the hipsters of the 1950s. I don’t even know if being a hipster is a good or bad thing to be. I do know what a helicopter parent is (obnoxious and ridiculous), and I know what their children are (obnoxious and doomed). I also know that tiny houses are the big new thing, that all homes should be open-concept and have areas instead of rooms (and everything else is “outdated”). I know that sitting is the new smoking (and here I am, sitting and smoking), quinoa is not pronounced key-no-na, açaí is a berry that didn’t previously exist, and lots of things are “aspirational.”

In irritating addition, women who are a size 10 are fat and should be aspiring to be a size 0 (which no one seems to see as anti-woman, but women don’t want to be called feminists anymore, so who cares?), that phones are smart even though you can’t hear a conversation on them, and it’s perfectly alright to go out for dinner with a group of people and have everyone be on their phones instead of talking to each other.

I do know that, like me, having buttons on “devices” is obsolete; you’re supposed to smear screens with your fingers. I also know that life isn’t worth living unless one has many devices, although I don’t know why one needs a laptop and a tablet, but then I don’t really know what a tablet is for, how streaming works, or why some folks say TV is also obsolete even though they’re still getting bigger and bigger.

All I know is I’m very confused, and this aging thing is hard. I could go on, but this post is already very long and any more than 140 characters for anything is…well, unnecessary – like paper and wires and shopping anywhere except on the Internet. And in the final analysis, I know that resistance is futile and my life, as it has been, is over. But as Maurice Chevalier sang: I’m so glad I’m not young anymore. If you don’t know who he was or where he sang that, smear one of your screens and do a search.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Overview From The Tower

There’s an expression in AA: “Going to the hardware store for milk. It’s about reaching out to someone in your life for something you fervently want or urgently need – usually the romantic partner who’s wrong for you and incapable of providing what you need, but it also applies to dysfunctional families and bad friends. When you do this repeatedly – with the same wrong person or same type of wrong person, that’s an emotional/ psychological issue I’m not going to get into here.

What I am saying is that this expression explains why some people misguidedly support Donald Trump. Now, given their legitimately strong, desperate, understandable desire for major political change and substantial economic improvement, I could address the pathos and confusion that has led to their pointless trip. But since we’re confronted with the very real possibility of an ignorant, arrogant, prejudiced sociopath being elected President of the United States, I really don’t have time for such compassion.

There’s also the sobering fact that many people are going to precisely the right person for what they want: someone who will empower their assorted prejudices as well as undo the social changes they find repugnant and threatening. This is the issue we not only do have time for, but must confront if we want America to be [relatively] sane, current, and both nationally and globally functional.

It’s ironic but true – and I’ve said this before: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were flip sides of the same coin. Both of their followers want a political revolution, economic equity, and significant social change. It’s just that one team wants it progressively, inclusively and lovingly, and the other wants it regressively, exclusively and hatefully. And in this instance, the latter won the candidacy and the former didn’t.

I’ve always admired Bernie Sanders’ ideas and courage as an Independent senator, even though he was often the sole voice of reason and solution, only dimly heard (and frequently ignored) through the raucous din of a complete lack of political bipartisanship and remarkably uncreative, highly compromised “leadership.” I was a Bernie Presidential supporter for about five minutes but gave that up because I knew that this country was never going to follow-up The First Black President with a Socialist Jew. Most Americans think democratic socialism is communism by another name, and anti-Semitism in America is still very much alive and well.

So that leaves us with Hillary Clinton, who I’m perfectly happy with, indeed increasingly happy with. It’s really a mystery to me why so many people dislike and distrust her. I  know she’s done things in the course of her political career that weren’t on the up-and-up, but our political system has never been on the up-and-up – and she learned how to function within it. What makes her so especially terrible? She lied? She stood by her philandering husband? Benghazi? Her high-priced speaker’s fees? The fucking emails?

(Not for nothing, but government communications technology is so bad, so outdated, she could have opened an AOL email account, let alone use a high-tech private server and still not done any harm.) Now she’s a “bigot,” as well as allowing the Clinton Foundation to have [unspecified] politically influential super-power? Are you kidding me? Do Democrats, Independents, and rational Republicans (okay, that’s an oxymoron,  but still…) not see that in the tradition of Great Lies Repeated Often Enough, Trump’s signature “Crooked Hillary” rant has seeped into their heads?

Listen. We have two choices. A shrewd, dangerous madman or an imperfect but highly intelligent, experienced, basically decent woman who in fact has been positively influenced by Bernie Sanders. She’s not a political revolutionary, but she also won’t sail us off the edge of a flat earth. The Green Party’s until-recently-unheard-of Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson are diversions we can’t afford this year.

Not voting is a political petulance we also can’t afford. For many Americans, the ability to vote has been severely compromised or outright eliminated by Congressional redistricting, State-established voter suppression laws, and a Supreme Court that decided this would be a good time to decimate the Voting Rights Act.

Everyone in their right mind who can vote must vote and we must vote for Hillary Clinton, because not allowing Donald Trump to become President is the only issue that matters. You can go to the hardware store for a progressive political revolution another time. And while you’re there, you can pick up some milk.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Political Memory

Sorry for not posting for so long. I’ve been pre-occupied with pressing personal matters.

There are many variations on [Irish author/statesman] Edmund Burke’s famous (and wise) quotation, “Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it.” What I find more discouraging as we slog through our current presidential campaign, is that those who don’t properly understand the present and very recent past are destined to make really bad decisions in the near future. But I concede we’re low on good options.

Thanks to our commercially corrupt, 24/7/365 television (and Internet) news cycle, political campaigns have become endless, boring reality shows and poll-driven horse races – and we wonder why the U.S. has the lowest percentage of voting citizenry among all industrial, “First World” nations! Maybe if our campaigns took six months (preferably three) instead of two years (!) and our media spoke truth to both power and the powerless, people en mass would think smarter, be better (and truthfully) informed, and therefore more motivated to vote. (Getting rid of the Electoral College might help too.)

I’m just a smart person and a political animal, not a professional pundit. But I’m amazed by what I hear the official pundits do say and don’t say.

For example, the media talks about President Obama as if he were just another president – rather than the first black president. I’m an [old school] liberal, but it was always my ardent wish that the first black president would be a very light-skinned Republican so that White America might possibly get used to the idea. Instead, we got a darker-skinned Democrat who campaigned as a progressive, then governed like a centrist in an effort to get White Government to work with him, but he was and still is being blocked, derided and shockingly disrespected at every turn.

Conservative white people have been saying that because a black man was elected twice, it shows that racism is a thing of the past. But the truth is, Obama’s presidency has actually brought this country’s entrenched, systemic racism gushing to the surface. This is not the President’s fault, but it is the truth. If you haven’t noticed that…well, the best I can say is you haven’t been paying attention.

Now, we’re confronted with the very real possibility of a completely unqualified, angry, uncouth white bully on the Republican side (Trump or Cruz, take your pick) and a choice between a male Socialist Jew and a female old-school politician on the Democratic side.

Young people and weary Baby Boomers love Bernie – who is unquestionably saying all the right things about all the wrong things going on in this country. But even if he manages to get the candidacy and then win the election (both of which are highly unlikely because Americans think Democratic Socialism is the same as Communism and anti-Semitism is still as alive and well as racism), he’ll be given the Obama treatment and barely be able to function.

If  Hillary – who a lot of people just plain dislike and distrust – wins the day, she’ll probably stand a better chance of functioning, even though she’s a woman, because she’s tough, knows how to play the game with the boys, and knows where a few crucial political bodies are buried. But she too will be thwarted wherever/whenever possible and the best we’re likely to end up with is essentially the status quo. (Personally I'm for Bernie but I'm voting for Hillary because I think she has the best chance to win and be somewhat effective.)

Believe me when I tell you that I wish with all my heart I could feel more positive about this election. But what I’m seeing is an oligarchy in power, an angry barely-working-class that used to be a reasonably contented middle class, and a déjà vu of my naive 60s youth that only led to Nixon, Reagan, social/political/economic collapse and entirely too much religion and abuse of technology being brought into what, Constitutionally, should be a secular, human system. I’m very mad, very sad, and more than a little afraid.

Aren’t you glad I’m back?!