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.