Wednesday, March 31, 2010

makes you think

Last Saturday at church, typing info into the bulletin, came to the Cycle of Prayer: they list things and people to pray for...

I noticed -- in between -- this:
"Is our life together marked by the kind of love Jesus showed us?"
and This:
"Pray for the wisdom to see the world through the eyes of God"

was THIS:
"Speak up for the innocent who pay the price for the sins of the powerful."

Holy Toledo.
(Or -- Holy Church of England, Batman!)
Those Episcopalians mean business.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

got clout?

Having "clout" is something you cannot say about yourself.
Like -- handsome, beautiful, etc.
(If someone else says it about you, don't argue with them -- just say thank you.)
But we can hardly say it about ourselves; it would sound arrogant or vain.
Someone asked me once, if I had clout, and it was like -- There's no right answer to this!

When I started lobbying, at the state level, for an association of small schools, my first year at the legislature I introduced myself to each of the 70 representatives and 35 state senators and told them who I worked for, in order to begin building an awareness of the organized small schools and their priorities and issues.

The first step was simply meeting people, which was easy, and I love -- of course you don't start right out askin' for stuff!

One day in the Capitol, I was in the copy room -- small room with a big copier; it felt crowded even when there were only three people in it, and there were usually at least 8.
Scrunched in line for copies behind a big representative from the south-central part of our state, it seemed to me a good time to meet, so, standing there in one of my best outfits which I hoped said, "The small schools mean business," I introduced myself to him and shook his hand.

Representative S. was tall, big like a former football player, with a big, heavy face and thick white hair -- he was older -- looking at him, it was easy to compare him to Tip O'Neill.
Rep. S. towered over me, leaned forward, looking down at me and demanded gruffly,
"Do yah have-any-CLOUT?"

Standing there, as each of us took our hand back, after the handshake, it flashed in my mind, I may have a stylish, slim, black briefcase with a strap that looks Professional, and I'm Registered as a Lobbyist, and it's all terrific, but I don't have an answer to this damn question - !!

If I say "Yes, I have clout" it will sound like I'm over-confident.
If I say "No," it's like telling the representative that he never needs to listen to me; no lobbyist wants that.

So I said -- "Well, I represent 85 small schools in our state."
Rep. S. said, "Eighty-five! I didn't know we had 85 schools in the state."



Monday, March 29, 2010

love and clout

My whole life, I've been aware of the name Senator Robert Byrd. He's been in Congress since before I was born. I never lived in his state, but his name and some sort of something about him is just in my consciousness. He's like Johnny Carson -- part of the "wallpaper" of our background.

A guy who got elected to the U.S. Senate in (I think) 2004 wrote this about Senator Byrd:

...As I made the rounds to their offices, their advice usually related to the business of the Senate. They explained to me the advantages of various committee assignments and the temperaments of various committee chairmen. They offered suggestions on how to organize staff, whom to talk to for extra office space, and how to manage constituent requests.

...My meetings would end with one consistent recommendation: As soon as possible, they said, I should schedule a meeting with Senator Byrd -- not only as a matter of senatorial courtesy, but also because Senator Byrd's senior position on the Appropriations Committee and general stature in the Senate gave him considerable clout.

At eighty-seven years old, Senator Robert C. Byrd was not simply the dean of the Senate; he had come to be seen as the very embodiment of the Senate....Raised by his aunt and uncle in the hardscrabble coal-mining towns of West Virginia, he possessed a native talent that allowed him to recite long passages of poetry from memory and play the fiddle with impressive skill. Unable to afford college tuition, he worked as a meat cutter, a produce salesman, and a welder on battleships during World War II. When he returned to West Virginia after the war, he won a seat in the state legislature, and he was elected to Congress in 1952.

In 1958, he made the jump to the Senate, and during the course of forty-seven years he had held just about every office available -- including six years as majority leader and six years as minority leader. All the while he maintained the populist impulse that led him to focus on delivering tangible benefits to the men and women back home: black lung benefits and union protections for miners; roads and buildings and electrification projects ....

In ten years of night courses while serving in Congress he had earned his law degree, and his grasp of Senate rules was legendary. Eventually, he had written a four-volume history of the Senate that reflected not just scholarship and discipline but also an unsurpassed love of the institution....



Saturday, March 27, 2010

wait a minute

*** Sometimes I think something is one thing when it's actually not, it's something else. It's something else which is Good, also.

*** Sometimes something is so good, so admirable, that a person experiences an impulse to do something about it -- and some of those impulses can be correct, and some of them can be off. Off-base from what's needed, or real.

Like -- a sofa could be very lovely and comfortable in the furniture store, and you have an impulse to buy it, but it's too big for your living room.

Or -- a person can be so highly competent, helpful, positive, good, admirable, that you have an impulse to be in love with them. (For example, Bob Dylan is The rock-and-roll-poet-force-of-nature and that's great. That's enough -- that's plenty. He doesn't have to marry me. We're good.)

Or -- tennis seems like such a classy game, and good exercise, so you have a desire to play it. So you do. But you develop "tennis elbow" and you have to stop playing. It isn't your game. That's OK. Do something else.

~ ~
The Grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.
-- Allan K. Chalmers
~ ~
Three passions have governed my life:
The longings for love, the search for knowledge,
And unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.

Love brings ecstasy and relieves loneliness.
In the union of love I have seen
In a mystic miniature the prefiguring vision
Of the heavens that saints and poets have imagined.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge.
I have wished to understand the hearts of people.
I have wished to know why the stars shine.

Love and knowledge led upwards to the heavens,
But always pity brought me back to earth;
Cries of pain reverberated in my heart
Of children in famine, of victims tortured
And of old people left helpless.
I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot,
And I too suffer.

This has been my life; I found it worth living.
-- Bertrand Russell
~ ~
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
I Corinthians 13:4-8
-- The Bible


Friday, March 26, 2010

crime time

If love is a crime, baby,
I'll do my time...



Thursday, March 25, 2010

journey / adventure

Constantine P. Cavafy, a Greek journalist and civil servant who lived in the late 1800s, wrote this poem, titled "Ithaca":

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber, and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca on your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what these Ithacas mean.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Solid impermanence

As you go along in Life you reach a point where some people who were in your life are -- not so much, in your life anymore. Some die.

I was unused to this.
I knew very few dead people.
I'm still trying to figure out how to deal.

A friend I knew in 80s & 90s was a World War II veteran who lived through the Bataan March and three or four years as a POW of the Japanese.

He was an adventurer. He liked to see the world, and know its people. He had a billion stories -- and the way he told things made them seem like Adventures. He could keep you riveted like Paul Harvey.

It was this character -- my friend "T" -- who said, "There's no feeling in the world like being shot at and missed!"

T's smart & literate wife wrote the story of his life, the largest portion concerned with his experiences in the war. I typed it. Twice.

Before T passed, in early 2002 in his late 80s, I read his book -- the story of his life -- aloud to him -- once, for sure, maybe twice, after final edit. He couldn't see to read anymore.

He would sit tilted back in the recliner with a blanket. I would sit in a chair next to him, and read the story of his life to him. Sometimes he would be so quiet, and his eyes would be closed, and I would silently wonder if he might have fallen asleep. But then I would mispronounce a Philippine word, or a Japanese word & he would promptly, kindly, correct me. Just letting me know which way was right.

And I darn well knew he was awake.
(There wasn't one foreign word I could verbally butcher without hearing from him!)

And since he's been gone, no one else replaces that presence in my daily experience and existence.

I don't care for that.
I don't like death. I'm opposed to it.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

now I'm lost

Well, see, now it's not giving me the option for the other browser.
This is how fast the Internet gets the better of me.
Google can sock-it-to China, but they don't have to worry about me.
I'm no match for 'em.

new browser, nervous

Questioning whether to blog-post on different browser.
Will I get lost on the internet?
Like Alice, going Through the Looking Glass?


I am titling this post "adventure."
I never used to think very much about "adventure" -- didn't consciously seek it out, or think of experiences that way.
In recent years, as I'm practicing Writing -- three screenplays that never started a bidding war in Hollywood (joined that club!)-- as I think and feel through Writing more than when I was younger, I think of things as "Adventures" more.

One of the best times was the autumn of eighth grade. I worked as a volunteer on a presidential campaign. It was so exciting, to me! And all I really did was sit in a poorly-appointed room on the second floor of a building in Kent, Ohio, and fold various forms of campaign literature, put them into envelopes, and address them.

Is that exciting? Is that "adventure"?
To me, it was.
Where did I get the idea to do volunteer work for a political campaign? Think it may have come from my best friend Robin. Her father worked for Chrysler and the union supported the same presidential ticket that my parents planned to vote for. So Robin and I were "for" that candidate & though too young to vote, we could "stuff envelopes"!

And I remember being introduced, as a new volunteer, to the person who was running that campaign office. Another volunteer, probably a college student, brought Robin and me to the woman's office. Cannot remember her name, but I remember her -- she was different from any woman I had ever met before. She wasn't like anyone's mom, or any teachers, or my aunts.

She had platinum blonde hair -- with bangs, she was very casual -- casual slacks and short-sleeved top. She sat behind a desk, and there were papers and books and magazines, newspapers, campaign literature, whatever -- all kinds of office stuff, all over the desk, lots more information or research-oriented paper on a nearby cabinet. Things on the wall -- I don't know, maps, maybe, statistics, whatever -- can't remember, but I had a sense of thick crowdedness of that office.

The woman had a cup of coffee and a cigarette going on -- and she seemed relaxed, confident, on one level and rather intense and "strong" on another level. Like -- tough.
If I had seen a character like her on television I wouldn't have been so impacted by the image, but in real life it was unusual to encounter someone like that up close.

And I still remember even though it's been a long time.
Was that an "adventure"?
Look it up, on-line Dictionary:

ad·ven·ture   /ædˈvɛntʃər/ Show Spelled [ad-ven-cher] Show IPA noun, verb,-tured, -tur·ing.
–noun exciting or very unusual experience.
2.participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises: the spirit of adventure.
3.a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.
4.a commercial or financial speculation of any kind; venture.
a.peril; danger; risk.
b.chance; fortune; luck.
–verb (used with object) risk or hazard. take the chance of; dare. venture to say or utter: to adventure an opinion.
–verb (used without object) take the risk involved. venture; hazard.
Use adventure in a Sentence
See images of adventure
Search adventure on the Web

1200–50; ME aventure < AF, OF < VL *adventūra what must happen, fem. (orig. neut. pl.) of L adventūrus fut. participle of advenīre to arrive; ad- ad- r. a- a-5. See advent, -ure

"Hazardous action of uncertain outcome" is really the only portion that applies: the outcome certainly was "uncertain": our guy didn't win!

I was totally and unpleasantly surprised on Election Night when our candidate did not win. (I hadn't been following polls: I was only in eighth grade; I was enthusiastic about the election, but what I wanted was to participate, not prognosticate.)

That's all I know, today.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Importance of Dialogue

I have this theory: the Dialogue of every relationship will help define the relationship.
In a workplace; in a marriage; in business relations; short-term relationships, long-term relationships, whatever-you-got.

Friend J told me once that her husband would never say the things that were good, he would only pick out the things that needed work -- about the kids, the house, her, whatever. One could make the argument that there isn't time to spend with happy-talk; you gotta find the damn problems, fix them, & keep moving.
One could make that argument, but -- those people wound up divorced.

Someone else I knew said her parents had advised her to be nicer to her husband; she said to me, with frantic, in-a-hurry tones, "...But -- there isn't time!"
She was so in overdrive, trying to make everything perfect, and make everything go.
And -- first thing you know, husband had moved in with cocktail waitress he met at a local casino. (Raising money for State through Gambling has been so "Good" for our quality of life and social issues in our state. [!?! Great. Ugh.])


What I'm struggling to express -- probably can't do it right -- is, Dialogue is powerful and in every aspect of our life we can use it to create the frame of mind --and attitude -- that we want. I'm not nearly as talented at doing this as some people in the world -- but I can see the usefulness, and the possibilities, and that gets me psyched.

{an excerpt from Donald Spoto's Jackie Kennedy biography relates to this --}
...for Jackie -- her concern with excellence as the route to happiness for herself and others...
(someone I know said every person in a Company should want to excel and take pride in their work, from the lowest-paid to the "Top" and all in between -- that coincided with something I heard either from my father or my seventh-grade English teacher, I'm not sure -- that "there's dignity in all work" and doing, and being your Best has intrinsic rewards which benefit the individual and, obviously, the workplace that's peopled with workers feeling good about their work, coming in proud to be the best, or their best, daily....)

[back to my excerpt which appeared relevant this morning, let's see if it holds up...]
Jackie's sense that her own career was a vocation, not just a job, is directly related to what another of her authors, Olivier Bernier, called the "informed sympathy" of her critical work. She worked on five of his books on French social and political history. According to Bernier, she had "a rare ability to make an author feel that what he was doing mattered. She cared enormously about books -- not only about their content, but also the way they looked. The world is full of self-important people, [but] no one could have been more self-effacing than Jackie when she was working with her author...[and] she helped improve the book without ever being intrusive."

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, whose novel "Poet and Dancer" she edited, found that Jackie's "empathy was so total...I felt I could lean on her strength, [which] came from her own vulnerability: she as aware how you felt because she felt it herself and knew exactly when and how you needed her support."

[Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life,
by Donald Spoto. "Chapter 13, 1980-1992." Copyright
2000, St. Martin's Press, New York, NY.]

"Support." That's the key word. Call it team-work. Being on the "same side." Being "supportive." Whatever you call it, my belief that this is the most important factor of any kind of successful relationship whether it's work-place or wherever, is becoming even stronger.

Being Supportive.
having a
Positive Dialogue.

What's right about things?
And how are we going to fix what's wrong?
Let's go!
(It's not me against you. It's Us Succeeding.)

I think every Person can find his or her "Inner Jackie."


Saturday, March 20, 2010

questions, wondering

I wonder if I write differently when it's quiet around me from when there's music on. I wonder if that factor affects your thought process and what you say about it. OK, it's quiet; I'm alone. Part-way through today's post I'm going to play "Woke Up This Morning" ("The Sopranos" theme song) -- "for a change" -- you know, something "different" -- and see if my tone or attitude shifts.

Off and on, through recent years, I've wondered if I should do something the opposite way around: when I encounter people, in various life situations, I pretty much trust them and like them, up front, until --and if -- they give me a reason not to. I realized this about myself, and then in relation to one particular situation, but then branching out to include all, I thought, maybe I should do it the other way around.

Automatically withhold liking, and trust, and wait and let the person earn it.
(Hello?! -- some people probably think that's a no-brainer....)
People who meet me start with a "savings account" with "money" (figuratively speaking) in it. Then if they work down my trust and affection, then they've "spent the money." The account's empty.

I've wondered if maybe a person would get hurt less often if they let people start with an empty account, instead of the way I do it.

Another thing I've been contemplating is how people stereotype things. None of my friends would have recommended by current job for me -- they wouldn't be able to "see" it. They could "see" (imagine) me working in a women's clothing store (most boring job I've ever had -- and I'm a person who doesn't get bored -- but in that case had to make an exception....).

The other thing is, with regard to the company where I work, people I've known for a long time have stereotypes but no facts about this type of business -- I'm not putting them down for having stereotypes, just recognizing what appears to be true.

And the thing is, the older and more successful people become in Life, the less information they really need.
When I consider some of the men these people encouraged me to date, it should come as no surprise that they have no accurate perspective on jobs - !

Try this theory:
When it comes to Advice From Your Friends, at best it stems from wishful thinking; at worst it's complete crap.


Friday, March 19, 2010


"The ability to simplify
means to eliminate the unnecessary
so that the necessary may speak."
-- Hans Hofmann
"The supreme happiness of life
is the conviction that
we are
loved for ourselves."
--Victor Hugo
"Little minds are interested in the
great minds in the commonplace."
-- Elbert Hubbard

Thursday, March 18, 2010

editing for simplicity

{from Alexandra Stoddard's book, Daring To Be Yourself}:

How To Edit.
The late Van Day Truex, designer, painter, former head of Parsons School of Design and former creative head of Tiffany, instructed his students to "control, edit, distill." Billy Baldwin, until his death in December 1983, was considered to be the foremost society decorator. His clients included Jacqueline Kennedy, Cole Porter and the Washington social leader Mrs. William McCormick Blair. Billy once said, "Beauty is always simple."
Van and Billy were great friends and they were the biggest heroes to American designers and decorators because they shunned pretentiousness. They lived by Keats's famous words from "Ode on a Grecian Urn": "Beauty is truth, truth beauty -- that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." Both men understood that caned furniture can be charming in a New York apartment -- it is simple, not grand, affordable and attractive.
Van and Billy had seen the best of the best and their eye was so strict they only wanted to feast on true beauty. Both of them practiced editing in their work.
(Daring To Be Yourself, by Alexandra Stoddard.
Copyright 1990. Avon Books / The Hearst
Corporation. New York, New York.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Parallel Lives

Think of having the Big Problems and Challenges of the World on your "plate" and in your appointment book every day.

That's your job if you are President of United States.
One of the challenges, I think, would be keeping sort of a normal life for yourself, alongside the Giant and sometimes Scary Issues-You-Have-To-Deal-With.

(When I read about the Kennedy Administration, I get immersed in and fascinated by the glamorous events -- evenings at The White House with poets, musicians, etc. [If I were there I'd invite Bob Dylan - !]
But reality of Pres. Kennedy's JOB was -- Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, steel strike, James Meredith - University of Mississippi - rock-throwing riots - federal troops -- AAAAUUUGGHH!! How do you unwind and have a cocktail with Robert Frost in between stuff like that??)
This week: yesterday In News -- Pres. Obama getting stern with Israel: Prime Minister Netanyahu (sp?) said he didn't know that settlement was being built -- excuse me, hello -- Not good enough. Should have known. You're Prime Minister.

And Today in News -- Pres. B. Obama "fills out NCAA bracket again for ESPN." Obama "predicts Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky and Villanova to make the men's basketball Final Four."

You continue living life, and doing fun things, and family things, even as you deal with Huge Events and Directions of Things in The World.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

up to here

THREE topics.

1. In the relatively small community where I live: two unrelated gun deaths since last Thursday. We're "up to here" in heffalumps. (theory of gossip)

2. Academy Awards dresses. My favorites were the gowns worn by Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Lopez. The "experts" (Joan Rivers et. al.) had Lopez dress up toward the top of their choices, but said the best one was Sandra Bullock's dress.

They rated Parker dress as worst.

I don't support that position. Also -- there almost ought to be separate "classes" or "types" of gown because comparing the Sandra Bullock dress to the Parker and Lopez dresses is -- sort of not worth doing because as I see it, it's apples and oranges.

Sandra B.'s dress was inside the lines of what most of us in real life might actually wear; the Jennifer and Sarah Jessica dresses were either couture (sp?) or like couture, and that's a Different World. In the reality-day of most people, those dresses are more like costumes.

Couture pieces should only be compared to other couture, or really out-there, arty clothes; more traditional be compared to other traditional.

3. George Lopez has a funny late-night show. I select his monologue over that of any of the network hosts.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Hear, hear

Last evening, C-SPAN: "Prime Minister's Questions"!
I like seeing that as much as men like watching football, I think.

(The name of the program, though -- elected reps ask the Prime Minister [Gordon Brown] questions. I feel like those aren't "prime minister's questions," those are representatives' questions to the prime minister....? Must be an English thing; their way of using the words and phrases -- like, they "take a decision" instead of "making" / decision -- and last night Brown said, "There are still real risks to recovery, and we must be alive to them...."
Alive to the risks.
Instead of "aware of" them.
Just how they say it.
And the word "sustainable" was sprinkled through -- like here.)

Tuned in when discussion was robust; there was a guy who wasn't the prime minister -- don't know who he was, Chancellor maybe -- and he was moderating, basically. Refereeing.

One representative was speaking loudly and passionately and getting wound up: The [Chancellor / moderator / ref, whatever) called out to the speaker, and he had a hint of a smile playing on his lips, like he could hardly hold a serious (yet genial) expression and stop from laughing.
He cried, "Mr. Twig! I'm quite worried about you! Calm down!"

And a little bit later the moderator addressed another speaker who was becoming too overbearing: "Mr. ______________! Your heckling is as boring as it is boorish! Stop it now, or leave the Chamber, I don't care which!"

Love that guy.

When tuned in the moderator was calling for order:
"Ohwa - dah! "Ohwa - dah!" about 25 times.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown chided a few members at one point, also: said it was Wrong "to reduce big issues to ridicule...."

He also reminded the assembly of the things they agree on: "it's been agreed that __________... It's been agreed that we must _____________..." (about 10 of those). President Obama does that too -- always reminding people of the common ground they share.

The P.M. addressed the issue of spending money for stimulous during the Recession. He said critics of the spending had said we ought to cut spending in a Recession, "...and they've been wrong, wrong, and wrong again."

Brown also described being in Washington, D.C. to address Congress. He looked bemused as he explained that when you address Congress, they all have already got a copy of the speech, and they've decided ahead of time at which points to applaud.
I got the impression he had been expecting a "cold" audience with whom he could communicate on an immediate and direct basis -- like, "bam!" -- rather than an audience which had already studied his speech and decided about it. I agree with him; can't our guys think on their feet?

(Of course they're sitting down while listening to the speech, but "thinking on feet" is metaphorical -- they should be able to digest information and form an impression spontaneously, even if they are not literally On Their Feet, but rather On Their ...

well you get the idea. ...


Friday, March 12, 2010

power style

A couple of Saturdays ago I saw President Obama on TV, talking about the earthquake in Chile. He came out of a door at The White House and walked toward the cameras on a curving brick sidewalk. He stayed a short time and talked to reporters. ("Made a brief statement," as they say...) and turned around and walked back, on the sidewalk, and back into The White House.

Saw that clip a couple of times and thought, "What's different?"
It was --
No tie.
The president was wearing a suit -- trousers, jacket, and shirt -- but the shirt was open at the neck, and he was not wearing a tie.

Dressed well, and right for his position, but a little less formal.
It was Saturday.

Government inspector where I work commented about a week later that the president had not been wearing a jacket, when he spoke to Congress about health care. I later saw photo from that event, N.Y. Times -- Pres. Obama was wearing a crisp-looking shirt -- and a TIE, this time, but
-- indeed -- no jacket.

The jacket was probably hanging on the back of a nearby chair.

(I hear that was a smokin' speech -- if it had gone longer, the president might have rolled up his sleeves! And then we would have to talk about that.)
The Symbolism of What You Wear.
President Obama is of the generation that lived in blue jeans and founded Casual Fridays.
At the same time, there's a narrow and specific expectation of what a president of the U.S. wears: suit-and-tie-have-a-nice-day.

Sometime during the O.J. trial I was called for jury duty in a local case. (Right away I thought, oh no, will I be forced to stay in a hotel for weeks on end, deadlocked, who will feed my cats...?)
Most trials are not like that.
Ours was one day. An interesting day. I experienced The Process. I thought if you're going to go to court you dress up. I wore what I would have worn for work -- a suit.

I was the only one there wearing a suit besides the judge and the two attorneys.

People here come casual for something they generally consider to be a potential pain in the neck.
I got picked; the sides made their cases; it was interesting.
When we jury members went into the room to deliberate, I was elected Foreman (a woman pointed her finger at me and said, "I nominate her.")
The judge later referred to me as foreperson.

I wondered later if that would have fallen on me if I had not been the only one who was dressed up. It wasn't even a classic "power suit." The skirt was full, sort of drapy, or flowing, and the jacket was unconstructed.
Clothes -- and how you wear them -- make some sort of statement, whether or not you intended it.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

no such thing

This morning on You Tube I watched a scene from "The Sopranos":

Tony's driving his car, his teen-age daughter is in the passenger seat.
You know how when you're alone in a car with someone, you talk? Maybe about something you wouldn't bring up if there were other people around, or if you were at home in the kitchen, or something?
The daughter turns her head to look at Tony Soprano and asks, "Are you in the Mafia?"

He looks surprised; he's actually surprised because he wasn't expecting her to ask that, and he's also trying to appear surprised so she'll think he isn't in the Mafia.
He says he's in waste management, and when you're in that business everybody immediately assumes you're mobbed up.

"It's a stereotype. It's offensive."
("Mobbed up" -- I love that!)

A few moments of silence. He turns his head to look at the girl and says,
"There is no Mafia."
No such thing as ghosts.
I see why people like that show.
In a sense, it's a little like "Bewitched" in that the family lives Surface Life and also Subterranean Life that some people aren't supposed to know about.
"People" mustn't find out that Samantha is a witch.
"People" mustn't know that Tony Soprano is in the -- no, wait a minute, they mustn't know that he's "mobbed up." There we go.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

loaded shotgun

{a description of Princess Diana's paternal grandfather}

> > > Diana's grandfather was the seventh Earl Spencer, an almost stupefyingly neat but pathologically rude man who feared none and intimidated all; for years, he practiced the quaint custom of greeting callers with a loaded shotgun. If the visitors were unwelcome or if the Earl remembered an offense, he simply lifted the firearm and at once watched the arrival turn to a departure.

For all that, the old Earl fancied art and literature and was in fact a gifted museum curator.

[from Diana: The Last Year, by Donald Spoto
Chapter 2, "Of Maidens and Mistresses"
Copyright 1997, Harmony Books, a division of Crown
Publishers, Inc. New York, New York]

I often forget and have to be reminded that unexplainably hostile or negative behavior and interpersonal relations occur in every socioeconomic class. Unconsciously I fall into the habit of imagining that people who live a truly lovely life, a life of ease and privilege, are -- GOING TO BE NICE. !

Donald Spoto, the author of the above-quoted book, has written a flock of biographies -- Jackie, Diana, Hitchcock, Jesus Christ, James Dean, whatever-you-got.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

twist of fate

Road not taken.
Twist of fate.

How do we get to things? What are the things we would have missed, if we had made a different choice? Made an argument instead of giving in? Or vice versa?

Several days ago, typing a blog post, wrote about Robert Penn Warren's novel, "All The King's Men." Then remembered how I came to read it -- and almost didn't. Junior year, high school. My class of 18, in English, each student was required to pick a book from a list, read it, and take a test on it. Each student had to have a different book -- no two or more could have the same book.

Well I thought, think everyone thought, books were all signed-up-for and spoken-for, one each per person in the class. I selected, and read, "The Winter Of Our Discontent," finishing four or five days before the tests were to be taken. Somehow it was discovered that another girl -- Classmate T -- had the same book.

Not good.

She immediately -- and effectively -- lobbied me to pick a different one and read that & take test because, she said, "I don't like to read, and my mom read "The Winter of our Discontent" for me, because she does like to read, and she's going to tell me what it's about before the test. But she's never going to have time to read another book and explain it to me by Friday!"
Untroubled by ethics, Classmate T was just -- Making Arrangements.

What did I do? Did I protest? Did I refuse? Did I say, You should read the book yourself instead of your mom? No no no.
I picked another book and read it by Friday & took the test on that one instead of on "Winter."
And the alternative book I selected at the last minute was -- "All The King's Men," the best book I ever read.

(Almost hate to say one book is the Best One, because so many books [or movies or music or whatever] are good for different reasons, but -- "What's the best novel you ever read?" / gun-to-my-head, I'd pick "All The King's...")

And -- ironic. Had I not been "forced" (Classmate T was extremely "forceful" -- after all, she was a cheerleader!) to pick another novel in the home stretch before the test, I might never have experienced that book at all. Today it might be one of the classics I say I'll "get to, sometime."

And my life would be different. And not better.

There's a school of thought which says I should have "stood up for myself" in that situation. But I didn't. Classmate T had more social clout than I had.
When I think about it, however, if a student who had less social clout than me had come to me with same problem, I'd have done the same thing. Out of empathy, to be nice, and because it was possible, and not that difficult, for me to -- "read-another-book-before-Friday."

What do we learn from this?
Never stand up for yourself, that way you will experience some of the richest cultural offerings. - ?

Always stand up for yourself, thereby avoiding overexposure to great literature. - ?

I think it's "Pick your battles." Or, Discussions.

[excerpt from the book -- in Chapter 1]
(("Willie" is the politician starting out who doesn't have power yet, but will later be governor.))
> > > So I was sitting in the back room of Slade's place, one hot morning in June or July, back in 1922, waiting for Alex Michel to turn up and listening to the silence in the back room of Slade's place. ...
Willie sat down and laid his gray felt hat on the marble top in front of him. The edges of the brim crinkled and waved up all around off the marble like a piecrust before grandma trims it. Willie just sat there behind his hat and his blue-striped Christmas tie and waited, with his hands laid in his lap.

Slade came in from the front, and said, "Beer?"
"All around," Mr. Duffy ordered.
"Not for me, thank you kindly," Willie said.
"All around," Mr. Duffy ordered again, with a wave of the hand that had the diamond ring.
"Not for me, thank you kindly," Willie said.

Mr. Duffy, with some surprise and no trace of pleasure, turned his gaze upon Willie, who seemed unaware of the significance of the event, sitting upright in his little chair behind the hat and the tie. Then Mr. Duffy looked up at Slade, and jerking his head toward Willie, said, "Aw, give him some beer."
"No, thanks," Willie said, with no more emotion than you would put into the multiplication table.
"Too strong for you?" Mr. Duffy demanded.
"No," Willie replied, "but no thank you."

"Maybe the school-teacher don't let him drink nuthen," Alex offered.
"Lucy don't favor drinking," Willie said quietly. "For a fact."
"What she don't know don't hurt her," Mr. Duffy said.
"Git him some beer," Alex said to Slade.
"All around," Mr. Duffy repeated, with the air of closing an issue.

Slade looked at Alex and he looked at Mr. Duffy and he looked at Willie. He flicked his towel halfheartedly in the direction of a cruising fly, and said: "I sells beer to them as wants it. I ain't making nobody drink it."

Perhaps that was the moment when Slade made his fortune.

[All The King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren.
Copyright 1946. Harcourt, Inc. Orlando Austin New York
San Diego Toronto London]

Monday, March 8, 2010

TV Noir

One of my favorite things: film noir.

Found a definition / description on internet (could have written my own, but felt less than confident -- I love it, just cannot describe it).

Literally translated from French, "film noir" means "black film," or "dark film." Dark is more accurate -- and it refers to both themes (dark motives, dark plans, plots, predilections...) and a visual style, with shadows & murky dark places.

professionalized internet Official Explanation of Film Noir:

"genre of film, originally between 1940 and 1960, originating in the United States, employing heavy shadows and patterns of darkness, in which the protagonist dies, meets defeat, or achieves meaningless victory in the end."

[from the web site, ""
by William Marling, Ph.D. Professor of English, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio]

Thank you, Professor.

"Body Heat"
"Key Largo" (I think, don't know whether experts would agree)
"Strangers On A Train"
"Shadow of a Doubt"
(above both Hitchcock)
"The Maltese Falcon"
"Double Indemnity"
(and many more)
The explanation above has to be flexible. Some noirs have happy endings.

I think An Attitude Of or Events Which Create, or lobby for
Cynicism and pessimism
is maybe the common thread you can find in any Noir.

And ironically the picture tube in my TV seems to be going out -- yesterday the picture got darker, all around the edges. You can still see action, but not very well.

So now -- on my TV, everything is noir !!!
Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons was noir.
The Academy Awards were noir.
The damn Pizza Hut commercial was noir - !
We now have pessimistic pepperoni and cynical sauce.


Friday, March 5, 2010

favorite things

To think and feel positive is always possible, sometimes easier, sometimes harder.

Thinking of things we like:
(like "My Favorite Things" in The Sound Of Music!)

You Tube (it has EVERYTHING!)
A very light, gentle rain, a few drops on windshield
Outdoors -- not too cold, FINALLY
A tall drink of water

Made short work of that list of Things! Tonight it's -- easier.



Two of my very favorite books ever have similar titles:

All The King's Men
All The President's Men.

All The President's Men is the one about Watergate. nonfiction
All The King's Men is a novel.
(However, it's based on the story of a real guy, Huey Long, who was governor of Louisiana in 1930s. He is "Willie Stark" in the book.)

In King's Men, Willie Stark gets asked by the party to run for gov. They only ask him in order to "split the hick vote" -- between Willie and the other candidate who is popular with rural voters, so that the OTHER guy can win.

Willie's the only one who doesn't know it; even his campaign employees know.

(excerpt, from Chapter 2):
Willie knew what was happening, but he didn't know why....

...He hadn't pulled out of the sickness he had. He had galloping political anemia.

He couldn't figure out what was wrong. He was like a man with a chill who simply reckons that the climate is changing all of a sudden, and wonders why everybody else isn't shivering too. Perhaps it was a desire for just a little human warmth that got him in the habit of dropping into my room late at night, after the speaking and the handshaking were over.

(from All The King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren, Copyright 1946. Publisher: Harcourt, Inc. Orlando Austin New York San Diego Toronto London)

Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the Washington Post journalists who broke the Watergate story, were borrowing from (and honoring) Warren's novel when they titled their account All The President's Men. On my copy the title is in black letters except for the word "president's" which is in red.
Like: "All The PRESIDENT'S Men". Clearly a nod to the earlier book.

(excerpt, Woodward / Bernstein book)
Chapter 1.
June 17, 1972. Nine o'clock Saturday morning. Early for the telephone. Woodward fumbled for the receiver and snapped awake. The city editor of the Washington Post was on the line. Five men had been arrested earlier that morning in a burglary at Democratic headquarters, carrying photographic equipmennt and electronic gear. Could he come in?

Woodward had worked for the Post for only nine months and was always looking for a good Saturday assignment, but this didn't sound like one.

...Woodward left his one-room apartment in downtown Washington and walked the six blocks to the Post.
The films.
All The King's Men has been made three times, I think. Once recently, Sean Penn--didn't see it. Once in 1949 approx. Broderick Crawford, lead. Very good -- fun to see it dramatized, but the book is just -- a phenomenon. It's hard to translate onto film. And once it was on TV with John Goodman in lead role (I think).

All The Pres. Men -- film excellent. Stand-out. Classic. If a person is interested, then BOTH book and movie, because -- well, I don't know why. But it's worth it.
book -- a private experience, letting your mind engage with it and make your own picture.
movie -- brings the story to life -- you're right IN the 1970s; and while actors play the roles of the main characters, news film footage is the real stuff.

Jason Robards about steals the show, as Bradlee, ed. Wash. Post.
In one scene, he sits on a desk in the news-room and tells Woodward & Bernstein a story that ends with the line, "Then Lyndon Johnson turned to the reporter and said, 'And tell Ben Bradlee fuck you.'"
And the three of them sit there on the desks, laughing.
And the big newsroom behind them is dark.



Thursday, March 4, 2010

theory of gossip

Gossip is a heffalump.

Read this passage; you'll see it.

One day, when Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet were all talking together, Christopher Robin finished the mouthful he was eating and said carelessly: "I saw a Heffalump to-day, Piglet."
"What was it doing?" asked Piglet.
"Just lumping along," said Christopher Robin. "I don't think it saw me."
"I saw one once," said Piglet. "At least, I think I did," he said. "Only perhaps it wasn't."
"So did I," said Pooh, wondering what a Heffalump was like.
"You don't often see them," said Christopher Robin carelessly.
"Not now," said Piglet.
"Not at this time of year," said Pooh.
Then they all talked about something else, until it was time for Pooh and Piglet to go home together.

[From "Chapter V In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump." Winnie-The-Pooh., by A.A. Milne, Copyright, 1926, by E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc. Publishers: New York]
> > > "So did I," said Pooh, WONDERING WHAT A HEFFALUMP WAS LIKE - !!

Therein lies the key to the Heffalump Theory Of Gossip.
Gossip happens, I believe, because of this precise situation -- a person says they saw something which they didn't really see only because, at that moment, they want to be part of the conversation.

The person gets drawn in. Some kind of human thing. Conversational togetherness. Wanting to belong, and to participate. Suggestibility.

When it comes to gossip, some people subscribe to the idea, "Where there's smoke there's fire."

Fire and smoke notwithstanding, I say:
Gossip is a heffalump.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

speaking of

After yesterday's post, thought of this:

The summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I worked in the office of a real estate appraiser named Mr. Wingersky and his partner in the business.

Typing, answering phone (though it was mostly pretty quiet), mailing mail, runnings errands, sitting in Mr. W's car when he double-parked it on the street, in case police tried to tow it, or give him a ticket.

One day, reading paper on subway, Jackie Onassis was in the news -- for what, cannot remember. Maybe -- the fight to save Grand Central Station from being demolished. Or -- could have been when she either went to work in publishing, or when she switched to a different publishing house after a controversy.

It was probably one of those. Something interesting.

Somehow I brought up the topic of this news story, to my boss.
He said,
"I saw her once. In a department store. She's not even that good-looking, in person."

("Really? I see you every day and you're a dork.")

But I did not say it out loud.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010


In several different biographies of Jacqueline Kennedy, I've read this same anecdote:
Sometime during the days right after the assassination, when the First Lady was preparing to move, she had a conversation with White House Chief Usher J.B. West.
She is said to have asked him, "My children, Mr. West. They're good children, aren't they?"
"Yes, Mrs. Kennedy, they are."
"They're not spoiled?"
"No, they're not."
And then she either touched his hand, or got tears in her eyes (something like that), and said, "Oh Mr. West -- will you be my friend for life?"
The first time I read that, some years ago, my initial response was -- "friend for life -- geez, what're you talkin' about -- she probably never saw the guy again..."
Funny how experience changes your perspective.
I think back then, a "friend" was someone I trusted, probably without good reason, and with whom I had lunch or whatever.
Now, though challenges etc. in my life are not as big or important (or heart-breaking, shocking) as having your husband murdered in the car seat next to you -- still, reading that over, I do not have the "what're you talking about" perspective that I had then.
Mr. West answered, "Yes, Mrs. Kennedy, I will."
And today I can imagine how she felt.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Dinner At Eight

Last Thursday night the company I work for had the "corporate dinner." (An annual thing, I'm guessing?)

Word on the street (or actually, in the hallway) that I heard first was "dinner at corporate."

At least, that's what I thought they said; maybe I switched it around in my head. The company has a corporate building (offices, and, I'm guessing, meeting rooms, maybe, and maybe even a cocktail party / dining space, I'm not sure.)

It is a dynamite building. Sort of -- different levels. There are stairs, carpet, really high ceiling in some parts, tall walls. Very expansive, and attractive. And beautiful paintings on the walls, perfectly placed, and spaced.

I'm not an expert on architecture or design, but (as the proverbial tourist from the Midwest said when he visited the Louvre in Paris) -- "I know what I like!"

....So I started imagining and picturing this "dinner at corporate": in my head, people were dressed up, gowns to the floor, some subtle music being played in the background. Social hour; Sit-down dinner... and I didn't really picture what kind of tables, or arrangement. (I was still on the clothes.)

The Evening Of, I found out from someone who was invited, that the dinner-for-corporate folks was at a local restaurant.

I was surprised, (and felt a little less bereft about not being one of the People Invited).

If I were putting it together, it would have been a catered dinner, literally at corporate.
It's a prettier space, by far, than any room that restaurant has to offer, at least the last time I checked.

I asked about the evening and the program.
The Pres./CEO stood up at intervals, during dinner, and told jokes.


At first I thought, "Huh?" trying to picture that.
But then I thought, No, that's good -- instead of making people sit through a "program" of speeches or even jokes, and then sitting down to eat, the light entertainment was blended in.

Seems right.

And I thought -- How DO you entertain people that work at your company? What is a routine that makes it a nice evening for everyone? I recalled two others -- one where I was there, and one I heard about.

1. The one where I was there was an annual "Christmas party" for a smaller company. All the people who worked there were together in one room at a local restaurant -- and the owner of the business came in from another town. We played pre-arranged games. (Mental eye-roll.) But it's one way of doing it -- keeps everyone engaged, and you don't have to deal with hitches in the conversation, or anything inappropriate.

When I arrived that night, I aimed for a chair, then had second thoughts and was going to select a different place to sit because the chair I had touched was right across the table from the owner (owner and manager were at a "head" table). I was going to move BACK. (I am one of those people who will sit at the back, at church, too. Not at rock concerts, though.)

However, the owner said, "No, don't run away -- sit there." So I did. He talked to me through most of the dinner, before the games started, mostly about technical things that I didn't understand. Did my best.

The next day at work, the visiting engineer, who had been at the party, said to me that the owner should have got up and "worked the room" -- it was his opportunity to speak with each and every employee -- there weren't that many; he could have shaken hands with everybody and said Thank You, and expressed an interest. I hadn't thought of it before, but -- the engineer was right.

I said, "Yeah, geez, I didn't mean to monopolize him"; the engineer said, "he was doing all the talking, it's his own fault." He added, "He just doesn't think that way."

He (the owner) has owned businesses for decades; probably not going to learn now. Tin ear.

2. The "Annual Meeting" where I wasn't there but I heard about was a mid-sized, family-owned company -- bigger than the company in Item 1, but smaller than the company where I work now. A member of the family described the day's activities to me; later I heard from an office employee that the central part of the event was a process where employees in one department of the company were praised and honored, and some trophies were given out.

After a Paul-Harvey pause, the person said, "There wasn't anything for the people who work in the office."

Now, unless I'm missing something, that's two tin ears - !

The family member had described to me the speeches, and each different part of the program.

In my opinion, pageantry is OK if you're in a Roman Catholic church. Or in England.
But I don't know if you need it at an annual meeting.

(People who own their own business can get carried away, and lose perspective. Essentially, in some cases, they have a little kingdom, and they're king. It can be good, or not so. You can become like a rock star -- not enough people telling you "No.")

About the time she described the emotional moment when everyone (even, I'm assuming, the Office employees who -- from what I heard -- were probably not in the mood, by that time!) stood in a circle and joined hands -- and something about singing, or praying, or reciting a phrase...

I don't know -- I was nodding and smiling and saying, "Oh, mm hmmh!" on the outside, and on the inside was thinking -- sounds like it was edging toward a Don't-Drink-The-Kool-Aid sort of situation...

Jokes -- at intervals -- during dinner: That is The Ticket, I think.