Monday, January 22, 2018

Broken Hearts, Broken Jokes, and Broken Snow Drifts

No need for a trip out to the cemetery this week; the Vikings did what they do best: they broke out collective Minnesotan hearts. Not just broke them....those would-be gladiators ripped them right outta our chests and stomped the little buggers into mush. That wasn't a game; it was a shondeh, a travesty, a complete and total embarrassment. That said, it means Ziggy is still where Ziggy is supposed to be, not clawing his way to the surface to get to the Stupid Bowl. Had he been here watching that debacle, things would've flown through that horrid big screen TV that dominated our family room. 'Nuf said.

On to bigger and better (?) things: SNOW.

It used to snow like this went I went to Skidmore in the Adirondacks. It used to snow like this when we lived in Poughkeepsie in the Catskills. But I don't remember snow like this in the middle of winter for a really long time in Minnesota. It's not Minnesota Winter snow. This is more like Minnesota March snow: wet, heavy, clingy, heart-attack inducing. I am so glad I didn't have to deal with this at the old house. I'd be out there with the snowblower, loving every noisy minute of it while thinking I'm way to old to be out there soaked to the skin through layers and layers of winter gear. 

I'm parked  nose out, wipers up.
The weather was cloudy but okay this morning. As I left minyan for work, there was a flake here, a flake there, nothing much to bother with. By noon, it was a different story. Looking out the office window, I was breathing a sigh of relief that I had the foresight to park nose out.  I was glad I put the wipers in their locked and upright position. By 3 o'clock, you could no longer see the road that runs along our parking lot. I didn't dare go look out the other side where I-494 heads toward the airport. Speaking of airport, we're in the flight path and things were eerily silent overhead.

One side dug out. See how clean my car is!
It sparkles!
By the time I left at 5:30, people were digging out and getting stuck in the parking lot. The snow had compacted onto the driver-side of the car to a depth of about a foot, more on top on the car. The passenger-side was almost clear. It took me about 20 minutes to clear enough snow to make driving legal. I could see out the windshield and the front side windows. The defroster on the rear was doing a bang-up job. When sat down, the seat was warm. No complaints there.


my footprints
I managed to get stuck and freed trying to go up our drifted in communal driveway, and ended up parking out front off to the side where I figured I was less likely to be hit and slogged my way to the front door. When I finally heard our plow guy, I suited up, marched through drifts over the tops of my barn boots (yeah, still wearing the same ones) up past my knees to flag him down.  I point to the car, he plowed a little path for me to get out, and I was able to get up the driveway to the garage, only to be greeted by a 4' snow drift. against my wall. Undaunted...and believing the power of the Rogue, I blasted right through it and slid gently into the garage. Thrilled to discover I still had a snow shovel, I  set to digging out enough of the drift so I would be able to get out in the morning, make it to minyan, and start all over again.

And if that was not enough excitement for one night, the drift dispatched, I went into the house to throw the sacred sweatshirt collection in the dryer...which vents into the garage and will melt /he rest of the snow on top of the car...only realize I locked myself out. 

This is one of those make or break moments, when you can either have a total meltdown while you're standing there in wet socks and no coat....or you can take a deep breath and remember you put a spare key in the traditional family hiding place so this moment would be no big whoop. It was there, crisis averted with only a minor oops. Like the Vikings. Not a big deal in the greater scheme of things.

In that greater scheme, there's stuff out there right now that's larger than the snow drifts. Snow eventually melts; it does go away. It's a nuisance, but it's temporary. The bigger scheme, however, continues to be the never ending prestidigitation and necromancy as performed by the Oval Office Company. Their basic assumption that we are too stupid to notice flies in the farce of statements like "Covfefe" and his latest impenetrable statement on the rights of the unborn:
Right now, in a number of states, the laws allow a baby to be born from his or her mother’s womb in the ninth month. It is wrong. It has to change.                                                                                                                   (January 19th, 2018)
Change to what? C-sections for all? Yeah, yeah, we all know he was trying to talk about late term abortion, but even the few facts he had were so far from reality it's hard not to take that statement seriously. Of course, he will claim the lame-stream media is making this up, just like they made up him saying:
A shutdown falls on the President’s lack of leadership. He can’t even control his party and get people together in a room. A shutdown means the President is weak.                                         (On Obama's shutdown in 2013)
But they didn't, he said this stuff, and the jokes are, as usual, on him. If anyone believes what comes out of his mouth or twitching fingers, they deserve him.

Y'know, the jokes stopped being funny a while ago. Today, he slapped a 30% tariff on imported solar panels. I get the "Made in America" part; in fact, I was supported that position for a very long time. But those jobs that went overseas do not instantly materialize on these shores because someone wishes they would. There is a process to bring them back, and a 30% tariff is not going to stimulate that industry. Who, exactly, is that punishing?  

I'll tell you: people who wish to be ecologically responsible. He is punishing people for disagreeing with his pseudo-science. 

I swear to G-d, his role model is Stalin. Every day, he sounds more and more like Joe. Go read some Joe Stalin quotes. You'll figure it out. Just to get you started, here are a couple of my personal faves:
Life has improved, comrades. Life has become more joyous. (November 1935)
The people who cast the votes don't decide an election, the people who count the votes do.


I don't know about you, dear readers, but I rarely think of joyous and Stalin in the same context. Such a friendly lookin' guy.



Folks, this is what a scheme looks like: It's premeditated, it's planned out, and it's executed in such a way that while you're looking for the pink elephants the flashing neon sign said you'd see if you look to the right, your civil rights, your national parks, and your compassion are being sold to the highest bidder on the left. 

I think I'll go fold laundry.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
For fluffy sweatshirts, wash them inside out
and dry them the same way on low heat.

Monday, January 15, 2018

SKOL, VIKINGS?

I am not a football person. In fact, I would go so far as to say I abhor the sport. College football is nothing more than a farm system that shows little progress from the days of enslaved gladiators. Professional football is nothing more than gladiators in tight pants running up and down a field, crashing into each other, all the while voluntarily damaging their brains. And just like the spectators at Circus Maximus, the crowd cheers endlessly for blood, guts, and gore. And I don't mean Al Gore, either.

Ziggy was a football kinda guy even though he hated to admit it. My guys can tell you stories about Dad sitting on the couch in the family room screaming at the television. He called them the Viqueens because "they play like little girls," and he would clutch his heart every time they lost a close game...which wasn't all that often because winning wasn't always their thing. But watch them he did, grumble he did, and happy dances he did occasionally. More often than not, he would bemoan how "they are breaking my heart. Again." 

Last week, he would've said, "They have three more weeks to break my heart." 

And Sunday's game woulda given him the BIG one. That's a fer sure. 

In a play that defied all imagination, the Vikings won on Sunday with less than a single second on the clock. Ziggy woulda keeled over. In fact, I think I will go out to the cemetery this week just to make sure he's still there. 

The Vikes will face the Eagles next week, which pits me against my bro in Philly. He's an Eagles fan. So much so, I called him Saturday night after they won to wish him mazel tov. And now, we will have a Minnesota-Philadelphia match up. 

I will admit, this is all very exciting, what with the Vikings having only two more weeks in which they can break the collective heart of Minnesota. We've had a tough year. We lost Senator Franken. Senator Klobuchar turned out to be a huge disappointment. We've been living in Antarctic conditions for the last few weeks. And now the possibility of a hometown Super Bowl. Well, if that's doesn't lift the spirits....and the wallet right outta yer pocket.....

The Stupid Bowl is a whole lotta aggravation, money, and inconvenience for an afternoon of guys in shiny knickers running up and down the field...even if half of 'em are wearing purple and gold. From the safety of Mendota Heights, I watch the gyrations going on across the river, thankful I don't work downtown in Minneapolis.  

They've closed off streets. They're installing a zip line over the Mississippi River ..G-d knows how much they're going to charge poor, unsuspecting tourists for the chance to slide over downtown in 20F...but don't plan on going because it's already sold out. The Chapstick concession is probably worth a fortune! Oh, the humanity as tourists pour into Minnesota for an experience of a lifetime, and I don't mean the Super Bowl....I mean their faces freezing in the five minutes taking selfies with the Mary Tyler Moore statue. Ja, sure you betcha, the weather dweebs says it's gonna be in the +20s for that weekend although no one has mentioned windchill, but they've not been right about anything else this winter, so I'm putting little stock in their prognostications. 

1886 St. Paul Ice Castle
Never to be outdone, St. Paul's annual winter fun-fest, the 132nd Winter Carnival, is set to kick-off (pun intended) on January 24th. There's always stuff for Winter Carnival, but that's an annual event and has its own crowd. We, the People of St. Paul, will have a 7-story ice castle in Rice Park. That ice palace is kinda a regular thing. It's really cool. And it's not a football game. The ice sculptures in Mears Park are always brilliantly worth the trip to see. 

Harvesting ice from Green 
LakeErica Dischino / Forum News Service


This year, they sold blocks of ice to pay for  the ice palace.  You get a certificate and  everything. And yes, I bought a  block of ice  for Little Miss. Hey! We're St. Paul people  over  here, okay? (I'll post a picture after we  go see it. )



In spite of all the brouhaha, over in Minneapolis..and the rest of the country, it's still about football. Yeah, the hotels are full for that weekend. Yeah, a lot of money comes waltzing into the Twin Cities. Yeah, having the Super Bowl here is a seriously big deal. I get it. I understand it brings people in and maybe brings people back. Whatever. For me, that's not enough of a reason.

Football is nothing more than a gladiator fight. People volunteer to be physically abused. The amount of brain damage that will take place over the next few weeks is incalculable. The long term cost to the players, their families, the communities is inestimable. As a nation, we choose to allow kids and grown men alike to play a sport we know damages brains. It even has its own name: C.T.E. - chronic traumatic encephalopathy. We do nothing to discourage or prevent this type of injury. Is this some kind of macho thing? Apparently so because there are little kids all over the country suiting up to play.

One might think in this age of re-examination of our actions, we might question violent sports like football and boxing. We might think about what we're telling our boys about how to be men when we send them out on the field to annihilate another team. Do we really need to be supporting a kill-or-be-killed mentality in our kids? Is this what we want to teach them?

There is a bigger question to ask: Why are we still instilling belligerence in our children? We pretend to be teaching them to be less sexually aggressive, to respect and regard others with respect, to be aware of the people around us. How does football fit into a model that is changing? There is a difference between being competitive and being combative.

Years ago, someone told me football was a metaphor for life. I don't think so; I think it's a metaphor for death and destruction. If you cannot rape, pillage, and destroy in real life, here's a place to do it on the field. That's not life; that's vicariously watching others maim and destroy while imagining yourself in chain mail wielding a sword.

That probably is not that okay.

As I write this, I am acutely aware that today, January 15th, is Dr. Martin Luther King Day in the US. Would he find the treatment of African-American student-athletes reprehensible? Would he consider the elevation of the game a betrayal of the reason one goes to college in the first place? Would he think the athletic drafts nothing more than a slave-trade made legal? If he were alive, would Dr. King have spoken up against voluntary brain damage? And would he have forced the issue of BREATHING WHILE BLACK and changed the national conversation about African American kids? 

These are not separate issues: they are part of the greater gestalt. We cannot address gender inequality without addressing racial inequality. We cannot talk about sexual harassment, abuse, and assault without also talking about  hate crimes. We cannot delude ourselves into believing we are making viable changes to our society unless we are talking about all those things. They are Venn diagrams: circles intersecting circles intersecting circles. Each sphere touches another sphere; you cannot change one without ultimately changing the others. 

If we want to talk about football as a metaphor for anything, it has to be the place where all things wrong go to meet: bullying, violence, discrimination, racism, elitism, harassment, sexual abuse, and narcissism amongst others. if you want to change what happens to those kids before they become victims of C.T.E. and begin to behave accordingly, you have to start having this conversation in grade school. Waiting until some semi-grownup locker room is not a viable option. 


I will admit a Viking win on Sunday would be nice...even if my big brother the Eagles fan just sent me this: 



A Viking win on Super Bowl Sunday would be downright scary...what with hell freezing over and all that. But if they told me they were calling off the games due to premeditated violence. I would not mind one bit.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
There is no rule, law, statute, or even local suggestion that 
is binding when it comes to the Super Bowl.
You are NOT required to watch it. 

BONUS TIP:
If you want to read a really good book instead, 


Monday, January 8, 2018

OPRAH FOR PRESIDENT!

Or not.

Well, that should get your attention. Welcome to the elevated cult of celebrity

If you did not hear Oprah's powerful speech at the Golden Globes, take a moment to read it. It's not long, and it certainly speaks to an adjusted reality for women: 
"Thank you, Reese. In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother's house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history:" The winner is Sidney Poitier." Up to the stage came the most elegant man I ever remembered. His tie was white, his skin was black—and he was being celebrated. I'd never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people's houses. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney's performance in Lilies of the Field: "Amen, amen, amen, amen."  
In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille award right here at the Golden Globes and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award. It is an honor—it is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them and also with the incredible men and women who have inspired me, who challenged me, who sustained me and made my journey to this stage possible. Dennis Swanson who took a chance on me for A.M. Chicago. Saw me on the show and said to Steven Spielberg, she's Sophia in 'The Color Purple.' Gayle who's been a friend and Stedman who's been my rock.  
I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. We know the press is under siege these days. We also know it's the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To—to tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I'm especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story. 
But it's not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It's one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They're the women whose names we'll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they're in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They're part of the world of tech and politics and business. They're our athletes in the Olympics and they're our soldiers in the military. 
And there's someone else, Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and mother walking home from a church service she'd attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the NAACP where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case and together they sought justice. But justice wasn't an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died ten days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. 
But their time is up. 
Their time is up. 
Their time is up. 
And I just hope -- I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks' heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery, and it's here with every woman who chooses to say, "Me too." And every man -- every man who chooses to listen.  
In my career, what I've always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave. To say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere and how we overcome. I've interviewed and portrayed people who've withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say "Me too" again.
Transcript of Speech, no edits or corrections.  
It's a good speech. It might be a great speech. I don't know.

In that brief, shining moment, Oprah spoke for many of us when she thrice said, "Their time is up." 

But there is a tremendous difference between performing and presenting performers and managing national and world policy. Just in case no one noticed that's a current problem, let me assure you that it is.

Winfrey is larger-than-life. Hell. she's larger than the planet. Her resume is as astounding as it is long. She has put her money and her efforts where her mouth is and she has had fair amount of success doing just that. 

But not so buried in her long history of self-promotion, Ms Winfrey has glommed onto some pretty weird stuff. She touted Suzanne Sommer's hormones-injections-in-the-vagina quackery and she's been a huge promoter of Dr. Oz, undoubtedly the world's greatest snake-oil sale salesman. And let's not forget her unwaivering support of Jenny McCarthy and the anti-vaccination movement. Just like Feckless Leader today, McCarthy believed vaccines cause autism. Oprah gave all of them a forum to promote not simply bad ideas, but dangerous ones. Where was her research team? How inattentive do you have to be to let any of those cockamamie ideas out in public...much less promote them to an audience of devotees who will follow you like lemmings off a cliff?
"... the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility." 
William Lamb, Lord Melbourne ~ 1817
Oprah has not always exercised that responsibility as wisely as one might hope. She is well aware of the power she commands. She has out Martha'd Martha  Stewart. She is her own brand, her own network, her own whatever...everything Feckless Leader aspires to be...but is not. That's pretty heady stuff.  

One cannot really compare Oprah Winfrey and Feckless Leader. Winfrey is civic minded and interested (at least on the surface) in the good-and-welfare of real people. She has been proactive and a leader in every sense of the word. She can put a thoughtful sentence together.  She has proven herself to be a participant at many levels of philanthropy. These are great things to recommend her. 

Eva Peron
That's not to say an actor/performer cannot be a politician. Reagan did it. Schwarzenegger did it. Al Franken did it for a while. Eva Peron did it. Not all actors are mindless twits. Some are very brilliant and effective civic leaders. And surely, Oprah would be one... in Congress. 

But not as president.

The cult of celebrity can only go so far. While I am certain she would surround herself with great thinkers and wise advisors, I cannot help but worry about her lack of political expertise. After Feckless Leader, I want one who understands how the UN works and how agreements are made. I want someone who sees the bigger picture and can envision a United States where We, the People are active participants in the democratic process. I want a governor or a major city mayor or a senator to lead this nation, not someone who will have a basic political learning curve. We need someone to hit the ground running, someone who knows how to build a coalition. 

I am tired of amateur hour. I want a qualified CEO for this nation. Right now, we are way too close to nuclear disaster. Someone who brags about the size of his nuclear button is neither sane nor qualified to be in the same room as said button. 

If Oprah wants to put a toe into politics, she should start with Congress. I am certain she would rout any other candidate. Then, if she wants to run for President, I'll listen. Until then, she is nothing more than another celebrity dilettante. And the last thing We, the People need. 

The WIfely Person's Tip o'the Week

If your face is cracking because of all this sub-zero stuff,
try applying moisturizer while your face is still slightly damp.
**This especially applies to men who, if they're not using something on the face, 
should be.**

Need a good book with which to curl up?
LINGUA GALACTICA goes great with a fire and a glass of wine. 
Now available in paperback!


Find S.J. Schwaidelson on Good Reads!

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Things That Do and Do Not Matter in 2018

For the last 8 years, I have taken a few moments out of my hectic (not) New Year's Day schedule to close the books. Used to be, it took me a whole lot more than a few minutes, but an accordion file and an Excel spread sheet has turned this into a no-brainer. It took me less than a half- hour to reconcile the entire mess, line up the charitable receipts, and check the medical EOBs against the bills and  voilà, I am ready for the tax forms to arrive and the appointment with the accountant. I didn't used to need an accountant; for six years I did it all myself. But now, circumstances have changed and I have succumbed to calling in the big guns. 

Still, going through a year of expenditures was enlightening. I traveled. I replaced broken stuff that really needed replacing. (No, I have not yet found a new espresso machine, but that's another story and for the moment, old reliable is back to working. One day, I'll write about that, but not today.) I made a few more donations. I joined the JCC. Besides the travel thing, the rest is little stuff that just made life a little more pleasant. I remain pitifully frugal.

I continue to look to a future where I might retire. I am coming up on being able to collect on Ziggy's Social Security, but not quite yet. Soon. Would that be enough to sustain me without a job? Maybe. Do I want to not have a job? No, I still want to be working. Do I want to leave this job and its health insurance and hard-earned vacation benefits? Yes and no. 

In the space of the last 4 months, two friends have walked away from jobs they found to be abusive and no longer customer-oriented or employee-supportive. Another has turned in her retirement papers for the spring. A fourth friend is sitting on her resignation until she meets with her boss this week to see if her 20+ -year-career can be salvaged before she tells that woman what she really thinks of her. All four have been deeply unhappy for a while. All are in the over 55 range. Three of the four will absolutely have to find another source of income. All of them are terrified. 

Just as I was digging myself into a rather somber hole, I heard about the plane crash in Costa Rica. Two families were among the dead: the Steinbergs and the Weisses. I did not know either family, but the Steinbergs are cousins to a friend and fellow playwright here in Minnesota, and the Weiss family was active in United Synagogue. The kids were both  USYers, the organization that gave me a leg up in so many parts of my life. Their son  Ari was currently chapter president, and their daughter Hannah, a student at List College at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, was interning at METNY (Metropolitan New York region of United Synagogue) the place where I spent much of my own formative years. According to the NY Times, both the Weiss kids played the ukulele, the same habit I picked up in USY. If I did not know these two families, I could've. They are just like mine. And in the blink of an eye, they, along with their guide, Amanda R. Geissle and the plane crew, are gone. Poof. Not coming back. Not posting on FB from the World-To-Come. Gone. 

I think about my own family. I think about fragility. I think about what matters and what doesn't matter. Families are complicated, delicate things. They can disappear in an instant. None of us go on forever. Not everyone gets to have a sentient long good-bye or time to prepare. We assume that they...whoever they are...will be with us forever, but the truth is none of us have guarantees. The older we get, the deeper should be our appreciation for living, not an endless grouse about who-did-what-to-whom or be-mad-at -______. Fill in the blank of whatever relative most recently pissed you off. Being mad is pointless. If you don't like 'em, don't hang out with them. It doesn't mean you have to start a flame war. Be kind. Be tolerant. Be forgiving. It doesn't cost anything.

In that blink of an eye, though, we should also be damn sure we're busy fixing what we can. Sitting around moaning is not an option. If you don't like your elected representative, work to change them. If you don't like what's happening in your neighborhood, get out there and be present. If you don't like what you're doing at work, either work to fix it or work to get out. Just don't make everyone around you miserable because you're unhappy. 

Here are my resolutions for 2018: 
  1. continue going to the gym three days a week...I just feel better when I do.
  2. stop being scared of what the government is trying to do to We, the People. That's giving in and that's what they want. I will not buy into their version of domestic terrorism.
  3. continue writing this blog. There are days I don't want to, or even know if I can, but the emails I get tell me people are reading this and I'm hitting a nerve here and there. 
  4. Go to LA to hear Gustavo Dudamel conduct Beethoven's 9th Symphony. 
  5. Smile at strangers, laugh more in the supermarket, and help an old lady...other than me...across the street.
May this year bring relief, joy, peace, and stability to your world. 


The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week:

Help the WP retire: buy a copy  LINGUA GALACTICA
Kindle is up now, paperback should be available by week's end.
Read it! You'll like it!



Monday, December 25, 2017

A Big Send-Off to 2017...And Hope For A Better 2018

Another massively challenging week has ended, and I am glad. It was really getting to me. BIG time.  

On Thursday, I published my second novel. Getting this one out the door was, for reasons I cannot explain, harder than the first one. But it's done. Sorta. the Kindle version is up, and the paperback will follow in a week or so. So, let me tell you about LINGUA GALACTICA

This is science fiction. It was written because Ziggy dared me to write a book better than the one he had just read.  The story was not bad, but the writing was terrible. Ten days later, I handed him a manuscript. Later that night...or more like the next morning, I woke up because the bed was cold. Figuring he fell asleep on the couch, I went in search of the bed-warmer and found him sitting at the kitchen table, like 5 empty Coke cans in a row, and an overflowing ashtray. He looked up from about three-quarters of the way through the stack of pages, and said, 'I hate your guts."

I just smiled and clapped, "Hey! He likes it!" and trotted back to bed.

For years we had another name for the book...which I won't mention here...but after we worked on an initial set of edits, mostly technology stuff, I set the book aside because it was, after all, kinda a gag gift. I never had any intention of publishing it. But sometimes stuff happens even when you don't pay attention. See, a friend had asked to read it on ZIggy's recommendation, so I sent a PDF. and without my knowledge, that PDF got passed around. 

After DREAM DANCER came out, a few people took me aside to encourage me to prep JEWS IN SPACE....okay, that's what we called it, only when we said it, we said it like the announcer on the MUPPET SHOW....happy now? Anyway, I never intended for that one to see the light of day, but it turned out it already had a following. Seriously. For a book no one was supposed to read, all these people are telling me they read it and it has to be next. Honestly, I was amazed. So I picked it up, got some people I actually trusted to read it, and with some excellent input and advice, began the slog of editing and rewriting the damn thing. 

A couple of interesting things happened along the way. First, We, the People elected a moron to be our Feckless Leader. And in the landslide of garbage that came down the pike with him, "Me, Too" happened. Second, my ambivalence toward the protagonist dissipated with the re-writes and I found I liked her a whole lot better. 

For good or for bad, I had to closely examine the relationship between two of my characters for any specter of inappropriate behavior. That scared the shit outta me. It was like editing for censors. Two people whom I had come to admire and respect suddenly were under a microscope the likes of which I never imagined. I had to make absolutely certain there was no hint of victimization or intimidation between them. I hated searching through an incipient romance with the eye of this new, unhappy lens. 

And that made me go back to DREAM DANCER and read it for the first time in over a year. Yes, the relationship between those two characters is commenced through the lens of what would be acceptable in his society, and how that does not translate outside his world. And it is addressed in the book, too. Quite directly. But is it enough for some people? The rules of that game have changed since the late 80s when the story takes place. One has to recognize that some behaviors were acceptable in some time periods and people acted accordingly. I really dislike anachronisms. Denying history is revisionist. You can't pretend stuff didn't happen. We read stories about other periods and we expect them to be, if not completely historically accurate, at least honest about societal norms. Ignoring how things were does no one any good. 

Remember what I said last week about artistic expression? This reminds me of what my cousins told me about artists in the Soviet Union and how they could only produce works that were acceptable to the Party. Is this the direction we are headed? I don't know. But I know as I start editing work on the next book, I'm already considering "Me, Too," revisions.  And, as a writer, this is uncomfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, 
You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.

Meanwhile, DREAM DANCER and LINGUA GALACTICA are already out there for your reading enjoyment. The protagonists of the two books could not be more different: one is an anthropologist trained to observe, the other is a fleet officer trained in communications and defense. Each has a unique approach to problem-solving. Only one of them I would want to meet in a dark alley. Please read....and please review on Amazon. Love it, hate it, it sucks, whatever. If you don't tell me, I don't know. And anyone who know me knows I hate not knowing. 

So there.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year! May 2018 bring only good things.



Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
The midterm elections are coming. Time to get busy.

Monday, December 18, 2017

How Deep the Morass?

Eve-Ray-Forever by Bruce Conner
I was wandering around the Milwaukee Art Museum with the senior son the other day, and came across an interesting video installation with a "R" rating posted outside...for mature audiences. It's by Bruce Conner, 1965/2006, and is called Eve-Ray-Forever. It's installed seemingly all over the place, including the Whitney Museum in New York.

Like any good art, it got me thinking. Some of it is very violent, some of it borders on pornographic, but it is all meant to shock. But it was the juxtaposition of female nudity...no male nudity that I noticed...and the violence which immediately make me think "Me, too." Not meaning me as in myself, but the whole objectification-of-women piece about which we are finally hearing so much.

And that's where it all gets murky for me. 

Ashanti fertility fetish
If art glorifies the human body and shows it in a variety of states, does that instantaneously render those pictures to be now something other than art? And what, exactly, is the definition of art?

Venus Rising from the Sea  
Is the creation of a statue that is meant to be symbolic of fertility now to be deemed unacceptable? Does Botticelli's rendering of Venus arising from the scene become obscene because there is a nude woman in the picture? Or does the time and place of creation enter into the discussion about how this can be discussed? And what do we tell our granddaughters about these depictions? Aren't they all objectification of women?

Pedro Berruguete-16th century
I can hardly see deep south US not getting upset about a picture showing where Mary pops out a tit for her kid. This is shameful behavior. And last year, New Hampshire's GOP state senate guy Josh Moore said,
"Who doesn’t support a mother’s right to feed? Don’t give me the liberal talking points, Amanda. If it’s a woman’s natural inclination to pull her nipple out in public and you support that, then you should have no problem with a man’s inclination to stare at it and grab it. After all .. it’s ALL relative and natural, right?"
Really? If you are nursing in public, it's an invitation to grope? Whoa!



What about these? Picasso on the left and Matisse on the right. Anyone want to talk about objectification here? Georges Braque, André Derain, Picasso, Czobel, Othon Friesz, Herbin, Metzinger and Matisse's foray into Cubism were not without controversy. The Cubists all got slammed by boards and even the public. They were called shocking and obscene. Is there a proper to confront the paintings, drawings and sculptures so that they remain in the canon of art, or must be they excised? 

JonBenét Ramsey
If you want to change the culture, change the conversation, or even change the expectations for women in tandem with the behavior of me, can you keep some of this stuff or does the baby go out with the bathwater? And speaking of babies....what about this? What message do we send young girls who see this stuff on TV and think it's real? Yes, that's JonBenét Ramsey.We don't know who killed her or why. There are lots of theories. But the one I cannot shake is the one about how are males supposed to address her; as a child, as a proto-woman, as a painted object? I don't know. In the end, did that matter in her murder? Has anything changed in the last 21 years? Not really. Hell, we even had reality shows about little girls dressing up as whatever: TODDLERS AND TIARAS. 

But then there's art. How do you give up Bottecelli and Rubens, Houdon or even Picasso? Is there a line we should be drawing in the alabaster to say  anything before this date is okay. Anything after this date is not so okay?

Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741–1828)
Diana the Huntress, 1776–95
Art may be universal, but criticism is not. What is beautiful, stately, and elegant can be someone else's butt ugly and inappropriate. There is no accounting for taste. And isn't that what it really is? A matter of taste?

If we want to change the social mores and change the question at the same time we have to figure out a way to allow our collective past to be our collective past. The social condition of the 18th century is vastly different from the social condition of 2018; those differences have to be recognized. Since you cannot change the past, you can't expect someone from 1776 to act like someone from 2017, either.

The "Me, Too," movement is already descending to a pathetic punchline. I don't want that to happen. I want the "Me, Too " movement to be at the head of a conversation that makes the new awareness the usable, functional, and practical. It's all well and good to say this is about sexual abuse, misconduct, assault, and objectification, but without a time-frame of parameter for judgment, what we become like Madame Defarge endlessly knitting while waiting for the guillotine to fall. Truth has nothing to do with it. 

Is that what we really want?

I don't like Madame Defarge. I don't like knitting. I like art. We, the People have way too much on the table right now to get derailed on this one issue. It's not going to go away any time soon.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you've not been to Kennedy Space Center at Port Canaveral, 
Go before the troglodytes dismantle it.
It's just that simple. 



Monday, December 11, 2017

Due Process, Alternate Reality, and Who Cares?

I am sitting in my room at the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando. Let me just say that I am having a really good time. I loved Diagon Alley and all the shops come to life. Didn't buy a thing, although I confess I was really tempted to get a wand. However, everyone knows the wand chooses the wizard, and there didn't seem to be a wand that chose me. Alas.

I know it's the night before the highly anticipated Panorama in Alabama. I know, too, that tons of money have been pouring into Alabama for Mr. Jones. And I know this is going to be ugly no matter what happens. But I also know this is a bellweather election for these here United States, and that no matter who the people elect, they will own that choice. They have the right to send anyone they want to the Senate. 

That's the beauty of democracy, and the curse. I don't know how much longer We, the People, will be able to preserve this union. The moorings and the underpinnings have taken a few severe hits in the last 6 or so months. We are no longer standing on such firm ground. And it breaks my heart.

And it breaks my heart that Senator Klobouchar betrayed the trust of the people of Minnesota by joining the warlock hunt demanding the resignation of Senator Franken. Senator Franken was denied due process despite his call for an ethics investigation. He was denied the right to answer their questions. 

And it breaks my heart that the Democrats of the Senate not only betrayed their own colleague, but they betrayed any woman who has suffered violence and serious trauma at the hands of a rapist. They have equated a fanny pat with full-blown, forced, violent, vicious sexual intercourse. Anyone who has experienced that violence knows there is a difference. A BIG, WHOPPING DIFFERENCE.

Funny thing, Senator Franken was castigated for saying:
Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently.
But when Sarah Huckabee said,
As the president said himself, he thinks it's a good thing that women are coming forward, but he also feels strongly that a mere allegations shouldn't determine the course. And in this case, the president has denied many of these allegations....Look, the President has addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations.
we were expected to take his word for it even though there's video tape where he brags about forcing himself on women. Okay. Why not? Lots of people also believe the Palestinians want peace. 

And y'know, none of it means squat. We are too far off the road for redemption. 

What matters is that I went on THE TRANSFORMERS ride at Universal Studios today and it was the best ride ever. Escape from Gingrott's was good, and RACE THROUGH NEW YORK was pretty exciting, but TRANSFORMERS RIDE was amazing.

Tomorrow, we start with Hogwarts, then later in the day we move to Cape Canaveral. 



Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Coming soon to your neighborhood...as in any day now.....