Saturday, November 22, 2008

HC: My Evening with Emma, Dustin, and "Last Chance Harvey"

On Monday, November 17, I attended a Screen Actors Guild screening of the new movie Last Chance Harvey, starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson (see, for a trailer that gives away far too much!). The indie will be released in the United States on December 26th. The movie was described in Entertainment Weekly as a Before Sunrise (or Sunset, I don’t know the difference) for the AARP set, which, although derisive and dismissive, isn’t altogether untrue. I would describe it as a well-done romance between two intelligent grown-ups. We movie-goers know how rare that is.

After the screening, both stars were interviewed by a writer from Entertainment Weekly. Yes, Hoffman and Thompson trotted out, climbed up on high director’s chairs, and sat below and in front of the huge screen where minutes before the audience saw their faces huge, movie-screen high. It’s a great testament to both of them that they didn’t diminish in scope at all.

Hoffman sat in the middle, slouching and playing with his microphone like a little boy. He was very likable. When asked questions about his craft, he sort of shrugged and said, in his own wonderful words, just do it. The man has won tons of awards since he started acting in the early 1960s, including two Oscars (Kramer vs. Kramer and Rain Man). While Hoffman is a great actor, I’d never go out of my way to see a movie he’s in. Emma Thompson is another story…I simply adore her, and would crawl on broken glass to see her in anything. Also a two-time Oscar winner (Best Actress in Howards End, and Best Screenplay for Sense & Sensibility), Thompson is beloved by many. If you’ve seen Thompson as Margaret Schlegel in Howards End (one of my favorite films), or Miss Kenton in The Remains of the Day (another one of my favorite films), or Elinor Dashwood in Sense & Sensibility (uh, yes, another one of my favorite films), or the nonperiod The Tall Guy or Love Actually (hey! neither one is on my list of favorite films…but she’s great in both, especially the latter, bringing realism and heartbreak to an otherwise cotton-candy film), then you may feel you know Emma Thompson. She is an actress who brings a lot of who she is to each part. Actually an (ex-) friend once commented that that was what he didn’t like about Thompson: that she always plays herself in movies. I do not feel that to be true…hence, the "ex-" (although his opinion of Thompson was only one of many reasons for the end of our friendship). Thompson is not Carrington or Gareth Pierce in In the Name of the Father, both actual people she has played, but she'll make you think she is.

But I digress.

At the start of the Q&A, Thompson teased Hoffman about his use of the hand-held microphone, warning him that if he held it too close to his mouth, he “sounded like God.” Hoffman answered that he’d “always wanted Charlton Heston’s roles.” Hoffman and Thompson first worked together, albeit briefly, on Stranger Than Fiction. It was enough, however, for them to know they loved working together, had the same work ethic, and similar senses of humor. Hoffman has stated “It’s wonderful to work with someone, to have that kind of unusual experience, where the sexual innuendos are exactly the same for both of us at the same moment!”

Thompson talked a lot about the WORK of acting, that it’s hard and you have to work at it all the time. She is simply not impressed with herself at all! When asked about how she managed to write the screenplay for Sense & Sensibility, she said Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, screenwriter of most of the Merchant Ivory films, had advised her about “dramatizing everything in the book” and then seeing which parts worked and which didn’t. Editing, editing, editing down until you got to a filmable screenplay, and that she was never really sure it was “right.” The questioner said, “Well you did something right because you won the Oscar,” and she said, in essence, that that didn’t mean or prove anything, and that’s never why you attempt something. When an audience member wanted Hoffman to sign her 20-years-in-the-making Hoffman scrapbook, and then asked Thompson to sign it, Thompson said, “But this is all about Dusty, are you sure you want my name on it?”

In discussing the making of the movie (no spoilers here), both stars talked about being very impressed with the other one. Thompson made an acting choice that floored Hoffman, doing a line towards the end of the film in a totally unexpected way. Last Chance Harvey was mostly filmed chronologically, but Thompson talked about having to do the very last scene from The Remains of the Day first! She said somehow it worked for her and Anthony Hopkins, and that almost any disturbance or difficulty or mishap can be used within the character you are playing to benefit the film. Both actors talked about collaborating with the second-time director of LCH, Joel Hopkins, who also wrote and directed a movie called Jump Tomorrow. Hopkins was occasionally uneasy about the level of input from these two veterans, but learned to trust their instincts and improvising. Thompson talked about a scene in an airport bar, where, during the rehearsal, she and Hoffman circled around the bar and tables “like cats” until they found the best, most natural, most beneficial places for each of them to sit. Would her character be facing the entrance or would her back be towards Hoffman when he entered, etc. Perhaps minor things, but fascinating to listen to from these aces.

One person asked Hoffman if a scene of him on the phone shot from outside a large-windowed part of the airport was “an homage” to The Graduate. Another asked if his LCH character name “Harvey Shine” was at all a tribute to an early play Hoffman was in called Jimmy Shine. Hoffman said neither thing had ever even occurred to him until audiences brought them up.

Thompson’s answers were well thought out, beautifully delivered, and seemingly from the heart. Onscreen and off—and I can report this first-hand now—she is intelligent, sparkling, funny, warm, and just plain lovely in every sense of the word. After the question and answer period, many members of the audience gathered around each actor. I stood near Thompson and watched as she shook hands, took pictures, and chatted with many of them. She was so present, moving in closer to talk, her eyes never leaving the eyes of the one person in front of her. She was…lovely.

I’ve admired Thompson for years. Did you know she was a part of ActionAid, visiting people in Africa to spread information about HIV, AIDS, and condom use? (See for an interview.) She is also fighting sex trafficking with Public Service Announcements and a planned Times Square installation (see youtube and 

Last Chance Harvey is far from a flaw-free movie. One plot point doesn’t work, and one is thrown in for cheap laughs and wasn’t all that funny. However, it’s worth seeing for two actors at the top of their game, some interesting supporting people (James Brolin, Kathy Baker, Richard Schiff, Eileen Atkins, and Liane Balaban, who gave a powerful performance in the role of Hoffman’s daughter), and for the London travelogue. I admit it was a little hard to concentrate on the film, knowing that at the end of it I’d see, in person, an actress I’ve admired for 15 years! I’m also sure that I’ll like the film even more seeing it a second time at the end of December.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

AV: Perspective from San Diego

From time to time I post the column that I write for the monthly newsletter of the San Diego Democratic Club, which has been fighting for LGBT rights for 35 years and, at present, is the largest club in San Diego and one of the largest LGBT clubs in the state. That said, boy howdy, politics ...

President's Perspectives: Nov 2008

So much has happened since I last sat to write this column and yet, some things haven’t changed. I, like many of you, am still reeling from the aftermath of the election. And, like all of you, I’m heavily conflicted about the results. Torn. Kinda messed up, actually.

On the one hand, wow … President-Elect Barack Obama. Those are words strung together in a crazy wonderful sort of way, aren’t they? It’s almost too marvelous, but I’m catching up quickly to the reality of it. Did you hear he’s doing the traditional Saturday Radio Address on YouTube? President Barack Obama. Nice.

This is the result of a politics of hope that combined innovation with structure and discipline. It’s the ascension of a way of thinking that includes rather than excludes and allows for the idea that maybe there’s enough for everyone. Enough hope. Enough voice. Enough change. Enough equality. Enough.

But on the other side, there’s the fallout of politics as we have come to know … and loathe … it. It’s a politics of fear, of scarcity, and of polarization. It’s a politics that calls to our darker impulses and tells us there’s not enough. There’s only so much to go around. And if that’s true, then there’s only enough for “us” and we can’t let “them” get to it because “they” will take it all and leave us with nothing but our fear for company.

Proposition 8 was won with exactly that sort of politics. It is based on scarcity. There is obviously not enough equality to go around. In the fearful hearts of our staunchest opponents, there’s only one sort of “special” and if we are allowed to share in that specialness – the dignity of marriage – then it would no longer be special for them. Spoiled. Diluted. Not enough.

Perhaps we, as individuals, as a community and as a country, have grown too used to the lexicon of fear and mistrust over the last 8+ years. We have become accustomed to the behavior and spiritual/mental patterns of fear and defense. For some, that fear and defensiveness is in response to the unknown and the perceived danger of the Other. For some the fear is one of the known – the already-experienced – such as the prevailing of discrimination made law with the passage of Proposition 8.

All of this is held together with a dangerous expression of duality. Us vs. Them. If “Us” is good, then “Them” is bad, evil, or at least highly suspect. It becomes about our own tribal affiliation, law, and ultimately it becomes about division.

In the “Us” camp, to continue in the familiarity of our own mythology means to necessarily deny the complexity and humanity of our opponents. But sometimes our “opponents” are simply competitors. Regardless of how far afield or similar our ideologies may be, our tribal mythologies require that “we” form a separation from “them” and furthermore, that the difference must be reinforced, no matter how small.

We experienced this as a nation and as Democrats during the Primary while the Clinton and Obama campaigns spiraled into bitterness and divisiveness – and not because there were substantial differences in policy, perspective, or politics. These were two excellent candidates, both of whom many Democrats everywhere were delighted to have as potential Presidents.

We saw what happened and rather than focus on the weeks and months leading up to the Primary, I think it’s much more important to review what has happened since: a unity among Democrats that many pundits said could not happen. Democrats everywhere stood and listened to our better angels: the progressive values of expansive hope, increased opportunity, welcome diversity, full equality. An end to the politics of fear and scarcity.

And today, a little more than a week after the stunning contrast of one ecstatic victory and one desperate defeat, reports of 20 thousand marching in the streets of San Diego and many multiple thousands across California and the nation in the largest civil rights actions in decades.

Ah, this has done my activist heart good. As a longtime friend remarked to me as we walked the march route last Saturday, I knew barely a handful of the 10 thousand that were there. What a marvelous thing!

So many of those marching, rallying, and standing up have never done this sort of thing before. The organizers themselves are new to this kind of activism, most having never marched or demonstrated for anything anywhere anytime in their lives. How’s that for Democracy?

Next steps? This is surely part of the continuing path to justice for all and to the dream of shared equality and dignity fully realized. We heard many times over the last year that we were standing at the edge of history. How true that was. We just didn’t know it would look like this.

This, my friends, is an opportunity to reframe and reform into the sort of movement that includes, dignifies, and believes without question that there is enough for everyone. This is an opportunity to rediscover and reinforce a new politics of respect, of complexity, and of diversity of approach and perspective. An opportunity for so many more to engage deeply and passionately in all that we and those that came before us have worked for.

This is our chance for change. Hope, anyone?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

AV: Stonewall 2.0

All over the nation, demonstrations took place against the passing of Proposition 8 in CA, an amendment to the state constitution that took away an existing right for one single group of California citizens.

Thousands in cities all over California, and in Las Vegas, Memphis, New Jersey, New York, Washington DC, Dallas, Baltimore, Missoula, Minneapolis, Jacksonville, Phoenix, Anchorage ... and other cities all over the country stood up for equality.

But the largest was here at home: San Diego.
An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people (est by police).

(for those of you who know the city, this is Broadway looking westbound towards the harbor. The marchers are turning from southbound 6th Ave to westbound Broadway.)

The organizer, 23-year-old Sara Beth Brooks, stepped up after seeing, a site started by another young 20-something woman in Seattle. Using the internet and text messages, Sara organized a core group of new-to-all-this activists and as a result, over 20,000 people marched peacefully and energetically here in San Diego.

Ah ... it does my activist heart a great deal of good.

Last week, our march was 8-10K folks organized in only two days. I was honored to deliver the keynote at the Rally, having worked with the also-new-to-all-this organizers to massage key logistics and message clarification. You know, wonky stuff. Boy oh boy. What a rush.

What are you waiting for? This is the next step. History, baby.

and some more media above, a couple of photos from one of today's organizer-type folks, Sachi Wilson (#2, #3)and Rex Wockner, a local (and national) journalist (photo #1).

Saturday, November 8, 2008

WC: Good News All Around

In the past elections I donated money to Gore and Kerry, and after each lost, I said the same thing: "I want my money or my country back."

This year, all four people I donated to won!

--Barak Obama--PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
--Jeanne Shaheen--Senator, NH
--Kay Hagan--Senator, NC
--Betsy Markey--Congresswoman, CO

How lovely to be part of the zeitgeist!

And, after years of turning off the radio the second "my" president's voice came on, I am now basking in Obama's lovely turns of phrase, noun-verb agreement, and actual content!

We have a smart president. Yay!

And I'm, ahem, finally proud to be American.

Yes, hope is the word.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I feel something I haven't felt in so long: hope.

With a dignified, smart, and charming leader, perhaps America can start to heal?

With a person of color at the helm, perhaps America can be brought into the 21st Century?

President Obama will have a tough job. Perhaps the collective hope and happiness of all of us will somehow assist him?

Here's hoping! What a wonderful thing!!

SS: The Morning After (11-4-08)

I saw this sign outside a cafe in Manhattan, and couldn't resist having my own "sailor kisses a nurse in Times Square" moment.

~Sarah "Last shudder of the WASP Ascendancy" Stanfield

Monday, November 3, 2008

WC: President Obama

It has a nice ring, doesn't it?

(konohurrah, knock wood, etc)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

WC: Delusion vs Inspiration

I'm reading Steve Martin's fascinating book, Born Standing Up, and I am once again struck by the fact that hard work can trump talent and skill--and can even lead to talent and skill. At one point Martin says something along the lines of, "Since I had no talent, it was lucky that I was obsessive."

Later in the book, reflecting on a youthful announcement that his act was going "to go avant-garde," he says:

I'm not sure what I meant, but I wanted to use the lingo, and it was seductive to make these pronouncements. Through the years, I have learned that there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.

Personally, I didn't understand the importance of hard work until I was well into my 30s, and even now I battle with resistance and sloth. And I play mind games with myself. For example, I'll tell myself, "It's okay that I didn't work on my screenplay since I've been so busy with my freelance project." Well, that's probably physically, emotionally, and morally true, but it doesn't get the screenplay written!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

WC: Invasion of the Economy Snatchers?

As always, I passed by the New York Stock Exchange today on my way to work. I didn't see the usual military men with their machine guns--perhaps since the stock market lost a third of its value, the Homeland Security people aren't bothering to guard it any more. On this overcast day, there were few tourists, although a very thin, straight, white woman in a trench coat was taking a picture of a very thin, straight, white man in a trench coat. Up on the steps of the Federal Bldg, just to the right of the statue of George Washington being sworn in as president, a reporter, camera man, boom operator, and one or two other people prepared to record a news report. The coat-less reporter flapped his arms and danced around a bit to keep warm. And streams of people flew down Wall Street to get to work.

In the midst of this, four people stood still. They were in a straight line, facing in the same direction as the people passing by, three in a row, then about 15 feet, and then the fourth. They had all stopped as though frozen in mid-step. And they stood still. And stood still. And stood still.

Meanwhile, dozens and dozens of people dashed by, paying them no more attention than they would a fire hydrant or any other inanimate object in their paths. I too was going pretty fast, and I only registered them out of the corner of my eye, almost as a blur.

And had the distinct feeling that they were pod people.

It only lasted a second. It became immediately clear that they were, what?, performance artists? People kidding around?

But for that second, I was waiting for Nicole Kidman/Donald Sutherland/Kevin McCarthy (pick one) to come darting past me, running for her/his life.

It was a cool second.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

AV; HOPE!!! HOPE!!! Give them Hope.

An excerpt from a speech by Harvey Milk, San Francisco County Supervisor who was assassinated in the 1970s.

Harvey got it.

So should you.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Guest Blogger: Krystal C'Costa

I have a cane. It's on loan from my friend, Wendy, and I'm using it to help me get around (which is what canes are for, I suppose) while I recover from a sprained ankle. I hopefully won't need it much longer, but as means of preserving what remains of my self respect (the story behind my fall is a bit silly and a result of me being somewhat clueless), I turned my cane into a social experiment.

NYC subway commuters are known for being cranky--particularly in the morning. We're all sleepy and there is nothing more prized than a morning rush hour seat on the subway, where you can close your eyes for a few minutes and dream of coffee and bagels from the "man in the can" in front of your building. For a healthy person, if you get a seat it's gold, and if you don't, well you stand there kind of grouchily and try your hardest to make people move around you but its not the end of the world. When you're injured though and need assistance to move around, every step requires immense amounts of energy from you. It's exhausting. So getting a seat is the anthropological equivalent of uncovering Lucy.

So here is what I found:
Boarding the train:
On the LIRR, people were more willing to let me board first; they even cleared a little path for me.
On the subway, no one appeared to see me. They averted their eyes and flowed past me in an effort to get the elusive seats.

Adult males were more likely than adult females to offer me a seat if none were available.
Teen males were more lilkely than teen females to offer me a seat if none were available.
Overall, teens were more likely than adults to offer me a seat if none were available.

Exiting the train:
Males were overall more likely to allow me to exit before them.
Males were also more likely to allow me to exit the train before attempting to board the train themselves.

What does this mean? It raised a few questions for me:
(1) Is a there sense of humanity that we lose as we get older? The teens seemed to have more human sense than adults. In addition, I noticed that they were more likely than adults to offer seats to struggling moms. Or is that as adults, we become so self absorbed that we fail to see the needs of others? Now it is reasonable to say that adults are more likely than teens to be tired or suffering from an illness or ailment that is not visible. And if that's the case, and then they are quite fortunate! And by no means should they then be forced to stand unnecessarily. But if its more the case that adults have a sense of "Hard luck" towards the person in need, and intentionally ignore the situation, then at what point does this transition occur? Are we impressing upon our children the need to be kind to other human beings, and then forgetting that message along the way.

(2) Is there a sense that women are exempt from so-called "chivalrous" acts? Finding that men were more willing to give me their seats was also interesting. Is this a holdover from the largely bygone era (now often interpreted as misogynistic) of holding doors open? As women, do we expect that it is the men who will have to act in social situations? I recognize that the male/female distinction I am making may draw criticism, but this is merely an observation and not a declaration on the law of the land. To be clear, I am wondering about the percentage of women I observed who kept their eyes resolutely on their book or newspaper while I swayed a bit precariously before them

I guess the bottom line is what does it take to acknowledge another human being in need? Is it a purely individual feature? Something wired into us that has become dulled through time? Where does simple human compassion come from?

Should we blame technology? Numerous studies have reported a decline in social skills with the growth of social media--to be fair, there is a growing body of research that focused on the emergence of new kinds of social skills needed to navigate online worlds like Second Life. Are we so immersed in the digital that we have forgotten how to interact with one another? Between iPods, portable video players, video games, phones that do everything from letting us check email to updating Facebook statuses, have we lost the ability to recognize reality (until the subway announcer says your stop is coming up)?

I'm not on a mission here at all. I'm lucky that I'm still able to stand so getting a seat isn't a top priority for me, but I've seen very pregnant women ignored and bumped and jostled until someone looked up from his iPod and decided to give up his seat. I've seen men who take up three seats because they can't sit with their legs closed. Wendy suggested that in these situations, you can and should ask (politely) for him to shift. "It takes a village." But I've also seen a man call a woman a "fat***" because she asked him to shift over--and this woman looked beat. She was wearing one of those nursing uniforms that home health aides wear, and she just looked tired. He said, "Your fat*** won't fit." She never sat down.

What is the cause for this seeming social deficit?

Friday, October 17, 2008

DW: Zelda and an Epihany

So Darryl and I were having dinner tonight and we started talking about Scott Fitzgerald, and how he had
read the biography "Zelda" while we were in Prague a few years ago. I read "Zelda" in 1970 when I was very impressionable and became rather obsessed with her story.

We were talking about all of this and then we got to the part where Zelda dies in a fire in Asheville in an institution. I just started crying and I really couldn't speak about it anymore. It didn't occur to me until tonight why I was so identified with their story, and most of all, Scottie. My mother was effectively removed from life when I was 11, after suffering a stroke after brain surgery for Parkinson's Disease. Like Scottie, I had a sick mother, and a father who inherited the parenting of an 11 year-old child who got her period on Christmas Eve. I'm sort of stunned as I write this, and am a bit amazed that I just didn't off myself given the circumstances.

It's amazing how some things stay with us. I am really blown away by the visceral response I had to this conversation. It was like opening up a dark closet, that had another dark closet embedded within it, and then another one, and another one, and another one.

I'm very grateful that I'm not sitting in my room re-reading Zelda and overly identifying with her demise. What continues to amaze me is how as a young person I was attracted to biographies of people who shared many of the same family issues that I did. WIthout knowing it then--they all had narcissistic, seductive fathers and mothers who struggled, but were unable to maintain healthy boundaries.

It's nice we can have "ah ha" moments and not be utterly vanquished by them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

AV: No and Yes

Hey, send this to your contacts! Esp if they're in CA.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Saturday, October 4, 2008

AV: OMG! You're Such A Good Debater!

you can see it here online.
(and you can click the image below for the larger can't-find-my-glasses version...)

(and yes, it's a bit gratuitous, but really ... you betcha!)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

WC: What I Hope Biden Says Tonight

"Governor, I serve with Hillary Clinton: I know Hillary Clinton; Hillary Clinton is a friend of mine. Governor, you're no Hillary Clinton."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

AV; Waddles and Quacks ...

This humble post began life as a comment/reply to Wendy's post about our Brave New Fucked Up Economic World ...
but it got longer than a comment should rightly be.

(when does a "comment" become a "post"? when the author says it does!)

Here goes ... (written after reading all the coverage this morning of the latest economic news in my local rag).

I'm wondering about that so-subtle attempt (see comments to Wendy's post) to directly link the greed of the money managers at FM1 and FM2 with the Clinton administration. This goes way beyond either FM, and lies at the rotten heart of the economic system. It's just a cold fact that not everyone can resist the lure of the "free market" and will take advantage of those that have principles and ethics. I suggest a viewing of the documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room" before you go any further.

(I know that for me, when I was buying a house in mid-2001, that before long the dollars just felt more and more like monopoly money ... how could it be any less "game play" to folks who deal in the billions of dollars?)

The Good News
Today's news about bail-outs, wherein the US Govt is poised to take on faulty mortgage debt, and its acquisition of at least one financial giant - AIG (who a friend says has been recklessly buying its way into the insurance market at low-ball bids for the last 4-5 years ..), at the very least is good for one reason: the term "fascism" can be more easily applied. Fascism is what happens when Government merges with Corporation. This has been happening all along, but at least now it's right out there for the world to see. How can that be a bad thing?

And did you notice the "far-reaching new emergency governmental powers" on the edge of being granted?

But hey, at least this time it's a bi-partisan effort.

Weirder and weirder ...

Friday, September 19, 2008

AV: Still Trying To Figure It Out

Not a long post from me today. I have too much to write about and I just can't decide what it should be. Should it be more videos? Stories about the current administrations dismal failures (yes, I know ... which one?) or perhaps about the surreal presidential campaign. For example, I'm curious where the 527s are about Gov Palin's "I was for it before I was against it" bridge faux pas. Just asking.

I could write about how acorn season has begun in earnest here in the south of the west, where we live at the terminus of two Interstates: one heads into another country and the other falls off into the sea. I kinda like that.

Yes, acorn season. We've been picking em up and checking to see which ones are viable (the sinkers) and which ones might make fine jewelry (the floaters). Cataloguing them as we pick 'em up. I got 441 alone at a friend's house in Escondido - from the "mother oak" as she called it.

But no, I'm sitting here trying to figure out just why so many people are working so hard to make sure that I know without a doubt that I'm not worthy of being equal. What is it that makes some people so afraid that they would spend their money (in THIS economy, fer pete's sakes ..) to ensure that I and my family can never have all the rights everyone else has.

It's just beyond me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

WC: Greed and Stupidity

I work in the Wall Street neighborhood (though not in the Wall Street milieu). I work near Citi and Deutch Bank and AIG, etc. And the 'hood has changed markedly in the past week.

When I pass the Stock Exchange each morning, there are usually hordes of tourists, usually Chinese, all taking pictures of each other with the Stock Exchange in the background. Monday morning, however, there were few tourists, but the place was swarming with media: reporters, camera people, assistants--and trucks decal-ed with familiar logos: CNN, MSNBC, FOX.

Some reporters were trying to get men in suits to comment on the economic situation, but mostly they were getting brushed off. As a woman in jeans, I was not who they wanted to talk to.

Fast forward to this morning, when I stopped into Cafe Wall, where I often get a breakfast sandwich (bialy untoasted, turkey bacon, one egg; Raymond, a cute Hispanic man with a pony tail and an amazing memory, gets it ready without my having to order it, which is very nice). And the place was empty (NY definition of empty at 9:30 am = six customers). I asked Raymond if it had been this way all week and he nodded, and then pointed to the next bldg over, as if to say that people there had gotten laid off.

Lunch was at a luncheonette. (No, I don't eat all my meals out, but I did today, as it happens.) And, at 1:30, when it usually would be close to full, it was about half empty.

And the streets are quieter. It's easier to get around. It's spooky!

While writing this, I decided to get up my nerve and check my retirement funds. I've been saving for retirement since I was 27 years old. I can't say I've suffered horribly to fund my retirement, but there are things I've done without for Wendy-present in order that Wendy-future may be able to eat and have a place to live. Each year I put 18% of my income away into my 401K plus as much as can into a Roth IRA. So, drum roll, what do I have to show for it since Dec 31, 2007? A loss of about $30K. So far.

The future of our economy is truly frightening, and the reasons for our problems are truly infuriating. As a friend and I sort of coined together: who needs terrorists when you have republicans?

Greedy fuckers have stolen billions of dollars from our economy, yet again, and now we have to bail them out, yet again, and worry about our jobs, yet again, and worry about keeping our homes, yet again, and worry about eating cat food when we retire, yet again. And the worst of them got away with it, yet again.

A friend asked today if it makes sense to put money into the market just now. I've decided to stick to the same distribution I've been using all along for my 401K. Does that make sense? Who knows? Suzie Orman says it's a bad time to be investing. Does that make sense? Who knows? Some people say that times like these are the perfect time to invest. Does that make sense? Who knows?

Greed is killing this country.

Well, greed and stupidity.

Monday, September 15, 2008

DW: The Tsunami of No Possibilities

I was having breakfast on Sunday with my cousins Lori and Bonnie. This was a rare treat and not something we get to do very often

We were speaking of the feeling of "dread" and Lori said, "yes, it's the tsunami of no possibilities, isn't it?" I thought that was such an accurate description of the terrible feeling that can envelop us at certain moments. I had it briefly the other day and it felt just like I did when I knew that I was getting an F in geometry, for the third time in a row.

Emotion is the body's response to the mind. I think of that often when I find myself reeling or spiraling. It happens much less often than it used to, but when it does visit, it leaves me feeling like water can run through my body without stopping in my bladder, like there is no warm bed to climb into for refuge, or a favorite food that will quell my hunger. Clearly, it is the mind that shepherds us into such desolate places.

The day before we went out for breakfast we were celebrating my aunt Pearl's 85th birthday. Family has always been a mixed bag for me, ie, always grappling with the "wanna stay/wanna go" kind of thing. I'm not sure why, but my nervous system just suffers a major assault when I come into contact with certain family members. My petals fold, I completely withdraw, and I'm at the bottom of the pool not hearing anything but the sound of my breath struggling to stay submerged for as long as possible. All I could think of is how enormously grateful I am for my life. My struggles are nothing compared to the drama that has engulfed so many of my relatives. There isn't the need to elaborate--suffice it to say that I was in a room that contained a DSM for every day of the week.

See the complex thing here is that for so long, as a child and adolescent, I wanted nothing more than to live in Queens with my life centered around my aunts, uncles, and cousins. My world (as I imagined it) would have gone something like this: 12:00 pm, pick-up my aunt Pearl and go to Alexander's. Drop her off, take my aunt Annie to Waldbaum's. Drop her off, stop at my cousin Karyn's on 108th Street and have dinner, watch TV, and talk about my life--and at least three times a week. It's sort of my version of what I imagine living in Brooklyn was like where everyone revolved around everyone else's lives. Now I just have my own life to revolve around and sometimes it feels weird and un-natural when I think of my genetic predisposition.

It's Monday, and I'm glad to be back to my life and my new kitchen. I can't wait to put away my crushed tomatoes, pasta, rice, and grains into the 80 inch pantry. Much better than chauffeuring the aunts around Queens Boulevard.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

WC: Quote of the Day

From Why Is the Internet So Infuriatingly Slow? By Chris Wilson on on "The Internet owes its success to two pillars of human activity: masturbation and procrastination."

The guy's got a point.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

AV: Karl mentions Chula Vista!

Another gem from Jon Stewart, this time on our favorite subject of late: Sarah Palin.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

AV: I'll Stay Right Here Until You're Fast Asleep

I wish I had a better photo ... or rather, I wish I had a photo of my mom from inside my head. A photo where she was laughing or something. Instead, all I have is a photo of a photo of a glamour shot she had done because she both felt and wanted to feel beautiful.

My mom passed away on September 3, 2005 with three of her children by her side. That would be me and two of my brothers: Richard, the eldest and David, the youngest boy (but still older than me, the "baby" of the family). The middle boy, Mark, wasn't able to make it there in time due to transportation issues and severe dysfunction. But that's another story.

My mom lived in Oregon for the last years of her life, having moved there (following her parents and younger sister) from San Diego in the early 80s. I never dreamed that I'd be there when she died, but it all worked out that way. I always expected that I would simply get "the call." I really didn't think I would have the chance to say goodbye.

My mom died of complications from Hepatitis C, contracted through a needle stick that occurred during her over two decades as a Registered Nurse (15 of those years as an ICU nurse). My brothers and I had moved her into an assisted living apartment within the few years prior to her passing and had been travelling as able to be with her, meet with her caregivers, and do our best to manage her growing needs.

And so, living so far away from her, I never thought I'd have the chance to be with her. When I did get the call, it was to her bedside in the ICU of an Oregon hospital where she never fully regained consciousness.

We - my brothers and I - stood at her side as, after we removed the breathing mask, her spirit moved swiftly from her body. I felt it go fully two minutes before the machines did that thing they do on all the medical shows (which are frauds, imho).

If I could do anything differently, I would go back and hold her hand more tightly, and remind her that while it was okay to be afraid ... that she really had nothing to fear. I would have helped her make ready.

Darel, godspeed and save some of that cheesecake for me.

     Her apt door, with memorial notice.

   Memorial table
     My brothers at the mouth of the river to the sea, where we scattered her ashes. This happens to be the perfect capture of both of them and is a favorite photo for me.

Monday, September 1, 2008

WC: Cynicism vs. Class

Andrea, "The Pain of Progress" is a great title that sums things up very very nicely.

And now it turns out that Palin's daughter hasn't exactly been abstinent, and Obama has called the topic off-limits. Obama is right, and gracious, and classy.

But could you imagine if it had been Chelsea? Could you imagine what Fox "News" would have had to say about that? The far right would have managed to make that story last many news cycles and overshadow Hillary's accomplishments, just as they made the notorious blow job overshadow Bill's.

I'm glad to be on the side of the person with ethics. But I have to wonder, in a little tiny voice, if maybe Dems need to play hardball too? I mean, it's kind of tiring voting for the ethical people who lose, you know?

But I still think Obama is handling this the right way.


AV: The Pain of Progress

I agree with all that has been said about Sarah Palin.

Yes, I agree that it is progress. And I especially agree with WC's friend Dennis when he said that what we really want is for the same opportunities for mediocre gay people as for mediocre straight people (my paraphrase, of course). Goddess knows I'm working my tukus off out here in California for the rights for every queer couple to get divorced in the same average 5 years after marriage as any straight couple. Now that's equality! And I'll give my last for it.

All that is true. Sarah Palin is a woman and she's done a damn good job of climbing through one of the "Old Boys-iest" Networks in local government that one can find in the state. She did it through a talent for opportunism, charm, and intelligence. She also did it by picking up on the fact that the populace at large doesn't seem to care about policies and "all those notecards" and stuff. They want to be entertained and led. She's smart. She sees the cracks in the door ... or ceiling, in this case.

And that's a good thing. A woman running on the highest ticket in the land. And, as has been said many places, one that could land her in the President's seat. Don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled about this. In the abstract.

I was tremendously thrilled about Hillary running and thrilled about the very real possibility of her getting elected. I loved the idea that girls everywhere were seeing every day the power and potentiality of their gender, and that it was hot -- and not in the conventional sense, necessarily. But HOT as in "on fire." I love that. I still love that. It won't -- can't be undone. Even by all the egregious sexism from both sides. It can't be undone and girls and women have learned something that cannot be unlearned. We're moving on up, sisters, and it's about time.

So yes, Sarah Palin has succeeded in her world and has been chosen by the GOP (whether or not it was McCain himself remains to be seen) and it's a horrible choice for the county.

I am applying the same thought processes here to Sarah Palin and her potentiality as co-pres or maybe even President that I would apply to anyone else at all. No softballs. No handicaps. Because in my mind she is a candidate, just like Joe Biden is a candidate. Let's acknowledge the history and the shattering of gender assumptions in America and then let's move the genitalia issue to the back burner now, shall we?

On a purely political field, her ultra-conservative values are anathema to anyone remotely middle-to-left of the social conservatives who have been striking at the heart of this nation for years. Her anti-choice, pro-oil, anti-environment stance is enough for me to realize, regardless of her gender, that I don't want her anywhere near the White House. Heck, I don't want her near the statehouse in AK, but she was elected in a time of sweet opportunity.

Did you know she lobbied to remove the Polar Bear from the endangered species list? Did you also know that the North Slope, one of the last purely pristine places in her state, is now the site of a multi-billion oil pipeline (builder: TransCanada) and that her husband is an oil worker on the North Slope?

Did you know she has no education policy, no infrastructure, state services, health policies? She's a picture and as progressive as it is to see a woman on the ticket, we should all be disappointed in this choice. There are other qualified ... and steely conservative ... women out there in the political world who could have captured the percentage of voters he's looking at.

And honestly, I don't see how anyone who voted for Hillary could consider voting for the McCain/Palin ticket. Why were they supporting Hillary? In any case, based on my conversations over the last several days within the party and with independents, social moderate repubs, etc, I believe that the instances of Hillary supporters who support the GOP ticket are grossly overreported. Heat vs. light.

And, BTW, if the GOP is soooo besotted by her "tough gal maverick" image, why are they shopping her around to voters wearing a blouse unbuttoned to her bra, hair soft and down ...and not in the image she says she chose for herself (and hasn't departed from in years): skirt suit, blouse buttoned to collar, hair up ... "school marm". What, is she not sexy enough for them? Not "accessible" enough in the way only an unbuttoned white blouse and long flowing hair can imply?

There's more to say on this, of course.

But let's return, shall we, to the historic and jaw-dropping, ceiling-busting, taboo-breaking potentiality of a brilliant black man to the highest office in the land. Let's have a few words about the cultural movement there.

And don't tell me he hasn't got any experience.

WC: And Yet . . .

I agree with everything that AV said below about tokenism and how Palin is pathetically underqualified. And yet . . .

The fact that someone is being chosen just because she's a woman is still progress. Compare her to Dan Quayle. They're both terrible choices in terms of their ability to govern. They're both laughable. I knew JFK, and neither of them is JFK. But, if we can have a stupid, incompetent, embarrassing male VP nominee, why not a stupid, incompetent, embarrassing female one?

Tokenism is a step--an annoying one, but a step. I've been a token many times. When I had my column, it was often the only thing remotely female-oriented in sleazy gay-male-sex-oriented publications. Was it infuriating? Yeah. But it was also an opportunity. I got my point of view out. Maybe someone listened. And when the checks arrived, I cashed them with only a whiff of rue.

Palin is also a token in terms of her being of the far right. That part's frightening, because she may well pull in votes for being mega-conservative. But, even there, they still picked a reprehensible female.

I know this is a perverted view of progress in many ways, but it's also a realistic one. Politics will always be politics, and cynicism will frequently reign. Why shouldn't women get to play that game too?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

AV: Aha!

Just found this while surfing around the LA Times website: the latest of Sarah. See anything different?

(please scroll down and read my immediately previous post for info on what I'm talking about)

AV: The Last 8 Years in a Nutshell

From a story in the LA Times this morning about Sarah Palin (which, by the way, was extraordinarily objective and even complimentary, lest anyone out there in bloggyland question the message because of the messenger) -- emphasis mine:

French said he thinks that Palin has a "sort of Reaganesque, kind of Teflon quality," due to her charm and "force of personality."

Indeed, Halcro said, those qualities meant that debating Palin was an exercise in frustration. The day after a debate in Fairbanks, they found themselves in conversation at a breakfast in Anchorage.

"She said, 'You know, I go to these debates, and I'm just amazed at your grasp of issues and facts. You show up with no notecards; you just kind of spurt it out. But I look out over the audience, and I wonder: Is that really important?' " Halcro said. "And you know, I'm a policy guy, and I'm thinking, 'Yeah.' But people didn't care. She has a way of walking in a room and filling the room with her presence, so people suddenly forget about their concerns about healthcare or education or anything else."


So there ya go, sports fans.

Oh, a prediction, when Joe Biden takes game to her during a debate, he gets socked in the mouth by the McCain campaign. They're already floating spin about how he's likely to be "ungentlemanly." I think he should take it to her like she's any other candidate and if she can't keep up, he can - respectfully - leave her far far behind sputtering.

Also, the "school marm" look she says she cultivated to escape the beauty queen image? A friend of mine think she's already with Cindy McCain's personal shopper. Look for great shoes, softer hair, new (or NO) glasses, and of course ... pearls. Of course, he's a sucker for pearls and good shoes.

I'm willing to be wrong about that last bit. And I hope Biden is a gentleman every time he slam dunks a question and makes it apparent she's got no business out of Alaska.

AV: Phyllis Schafly Is A Woman Too

So, wondering what I think? I'll bet you already know.

I think that the choice of Sarah Palin was a desperate attempt to sway supposedly disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters towards the GOP ticket.

How sad.

How is this any better than being asked to join some group because they need some "diversity" at the table? How many of you have been the single woman, lesbian, latina, jew, etc etc etc in a situation like that? Did you feel special? Maybe. Did you feel used? Maybe. Did you begin to feel as if your authenticity as a person wasn't exactly what was wanted? Think about it, won't you?

Would Sarah Palin be on the ticket if she didn't have a vagina? Dollars to Oil Pipelines she wouldn't be. And that's just bullshit, IMHO.

I considered launching into her deplorable politics and the fact (that no one could possibly miss) that she is NO Hillary Clinton. Her politics are spoiled-wilderness miles to the right of Senator Clinton's and she hasn't got a nano-second of experience even on the phone with the Congress, let alone the folks who happen to be in charge of the countries whose policies include screwing with us as a nation.

Yeah, she's a mom ... and a good one at that. Great. She's got some drive and competitive spirit. Great. I love that. She's willing to speak a little truth to power and what's not to like about that?

But she's the former mayor of a town of 6000, and the Governor of a state whose population isn't even half of California, AND less than two years into her first term in state elected office, she's under investigation for firing the guy who wouldn't fire her former brother-in-law (during his nasty divorce from her sister).

Geez. And THAT'S supposed to make Hillary supporters pick up the torch? I've spoken to more than one who have picked up the companion pitchfork as well. It's an ugly mob, sisters.

Again, it's just sad to me. It's a token that the GOP will parade as change. Sure, it's a woman, and no matter who takes the prize, it'll be a first. But just because it's a woman, doesn't mean it's a change. See the subject line of my post.

And besides, did Elizabeth Dole have something BETTER to do? Did they even bother asking?

Friday, August 29, 2008

HC: Why I'm Glad It's a Woman

With the United States next election, history will be made. Either a black man will be president, or a woman will be vice president. After 230 years, our country will no longer be helmed by white men.

That is progress. 

I'm hoping that whichever party wins, the glass ceiling is finally and forever broken.

WC: Why I'm Glad It's a Woman

Just had a conversation with a friend that made me realize I should probably explain why I'm glad McCain's choice for VP is a woman.

Years ago, when I was coming out of the closet, my good friend Dennis (now gone 13 years sadly) mentored me in the process. And he said something (well, many things) that really stayed with me:

We're not fighting for the best of us to have the opportunities other people do--we're fighting for mediocre gays to have the same opportunities as mediocre straights.

Similarly, although I hate the fact that some women (gays, blacks, Jews) are republicans, I cherish that an asshole female republican can maybe have the same opportunities as an asshole male republican.

Women's political clout has definitely grown in this election cycle. McCain's choice may be a cynical attempt to entice disaffected Hillary voters (may they not be that moronic!), but how nice that women are now a group to suck up to.

I swear, it's a form of progress.

(Dem Club Pres AV: I'd love to hear your take on all this.)

WC: Okay, I Admit It

I'm very pleased that McCain picked a woman for his VP nominee. I hope they lose. I hope they are completely humiliated on election day. But, still, it's kinda cool it's a woman.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

WC: My First Movie (Well, My First Movie Not Related to a Medical Condition)

A few weeks ago, I spent a very fascinating few days watching a movie being made of a script I wrote. But we need to start with a flashback:

About four years ago, my short play You Look Just Like Him was performed at the Estrogenius Festival at the Manhattan Theatre Source in New York. The story of a young man meeting his biological mother for the first time, You Look Just Like Him is my favorite thing I've ever written, and I'm glad to say that it was very well-received (it didn't hurt that I had an excellent director, two very good actors, and one brilliant one, Nancy Sirianni).

Enter Jason (aka Jake) Kaminsky. Back when YLJLH was done at Estro, he had wanted to audition to play the son, but the timing didn't work out for him. Move forward to 2007, and Jake Kaminsky is now a producer. He decides that he wants to make a short relationship-oriented film as a sample of his work, and YLJLH pops into his mind. Jake tracks me down on the Internet (he finds me through a post I had put up on a blog seeking lesbians to interview for my Lesbian Sex Book, 3rd edition) and asks me if I want to turn YLJLH into a script.

Hell, yeah!

And so began what turned out the be an educational, wonderful, frustrating, eye-opening, lovely, excellent experience.

First, writing the script was strange and difficult. Jake had a lot of opinions on how the script should be developed--many of them excellent--and I had trouble letting go of the idea of the story and characters being mine and mine alone. However, I'm completely aware that film is not a writer's medium. (Did you hear about the starlet who was so dumb that she fucked the screenwriter to get ahead?) So I rewrote the script to his specifications. And rewrote. And rewrote. And I took a word-based play and turned it into a visually-based screenplay--an odd and challenging and surprisingly rewarding task for someone as in love with words as I am.

And the meetings with Jake were often fun. He's a nice and funny guy, and it was exciting to be working on this project together. As a writer I spend a lot of time alone, and I cherish the opportunities I get to collaborate.

I was very pleased with Jake's choice of a director, Doug Hall. I had seen a play that Doug had directed, and I found his work clear, concise, communicative, smooth, well-timed, polished, and professional. Doug had never directed a movie before, but neither had I had a script filmed before, so I figured we were even.

Jake, Doug, and I met a couple of times and discussed the script. The result: more rewrites. I didn't keep track of how many times I rewrote YLJLH total, but I'd guess between 15 and 20. I think most of the rewrites were improvements, but I'm honestly not sure.

The auditions were inspiring, horrifying, fascinating, and deeply dull, as auditions usually are. I am in awe of how someone can come into a small room full of strangers and share intimate parts of his- or herself. As I writer, the chances I take and the rejections I receive are a little bit distanced, but the performers are there, in the room, in their bodies, with their emotions. Amazing bravery.

We had already cast one role--the bio-mom's husband--with Robert Clohessy, a subtle and smart actor who was in Hill St. Blues, Oz, and Across the Universe. So the auditions were for the mother and son.

New York has a staggering supply of really talented people--and many of them are really, really, really, really good-looking. One actor was so tall-and-handsome-and-built-and-charismatic that he raised the temperature of the room just by walking in; this was a man who gets laid whenever and wherever he wants. He was completely wrong for the part, but it was fun to see what he could do.

Most of the actors trying out for the son had similar takes on the character, but there were occasional differences. One guy came in dressed as though he was going to a rave in the East Village--totally not who the son is! One guy cried. And cried. And cried. And cried. Although we all worked very hard to treat every actor with respect, it was all we could do to not burst out laughing until he had closed the door behind him. Beside the crying being overdramatic and HAMMY, it was completely wrong for the scene.

Greg Parri had already worked with Jake and I think Doug too, and as soon as he walked in and started reading I knew they were going to be working with him again. First of all, although he is quite good-looking, he isn't generically handsome like so many of the others. He has his own look, which includes beautiful eyes and a sweet sexy mouth, and he looks like a real person. He's also a wonderful actor. And he's just right for the role.

The array of women we saw for the mother was more varied--many different looks, different types, different approaches. It's amazing how much we rely on looks for how we understand people and their behavior. The same exact action reads differently if done by, for example, a tall coolly pretty blonde, a squeaky voiced cutie, and a heavy-set brunette with a deep voice. Casting requires acknowledgment of an audience's preconceptions so that you can choose the best person to express the story you want to tell. In my mind, it was down to three women whose combination of looks, voice, and talent worked for the role (one of whom was Nancy who had played the character at Estro). We chose Valerie Wright, who looks like a younger, sexier Sandy Duncan. Part of me feels like I betrayed Nancy who was truly amazing in the play and gave a great audition but Valerie had the look we wanted and also gave a great audition (and a wonderful performance).

So, there we were, with a first-class cast, a reasonably good script, a wonderful director, a hard-working creative producer, and even a little budget.

Which is a good time to stop for now. More next week.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

HC: How much is that doggie on the roof

The Metropolitan Museum of Art now has a Jeff Koons' balloon dog sculpture on the roof. It has to be seen. It is adorable, whimsical, and more than a little mind-boggling. 

It's a folded balloon dog, but it's 10 feet tall.
It's a balloon, but it's made of stainless steel.
It's on the top of a roof, and there's the fear that it could blow away at any moment...but you know it's not going anywhere.
It's its own entity, but there YOU are, reflected goofily in it, distorted like in the mirrors on an amusement park pier, making it impossible to take the sculpture seriously, but WOW WHAT A SCULPTURE.

If sweet, funny, huge balloon doggies aren't your thing, go down to the shark in a box display by Damien Hirsh, entitled "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living." This piece of art grabs you by the throat, and gut, and is more than a little creepy.

In our daily lives, how many of us will come face to face with a shark? Yet at the Met, there you are standing mere inches away from this amazing creature as it floats, menacingly, but not. Seeing this shark at the Met is akin to seeing Queen Victoria at a wax museum. It's not going to happen in real life, but it sure feels real. This is another exhibit that messes with your head. The shark looks so alive but it's not. I felt guilty that this shark, shall we say, gave it's life for art? It should've died a natural open-sea death, finally being eaten by all the other hungry living things in the sea. If it were, however, I wouldn't have the opportunity to see it, and be thrilled by it. It's very creepy and totally fascinating. You want to look deeper and deeper into the shark's mouth, but it feels invasive. You know it's dead but there's that little feeling in the pit of your stomach that says WATCH OUT I'M GOING TO BITE YOU. The fact that the shark looks dissipated only adds to the slightly sinister feeling of the exhibit.

AV: Joe!

Obama picks Joe Biden for VP.

Among all the current noise (and sure to be more), hop on over to the Huffington Post (Ariana!!) and read this lovely little missive to Mr. B. from a regular sort of gal.

She calls it "Joe, let's talk"

BTW, does anyone else remember watching ol' Joe during the Watergate hearings ... when he still had hair?

(I am soooo glad it wasn't Bayh ...)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

DW: Rain and Marriage

My husband lives in fear that we (I) have left the windows open, once again, and rain will come gushing in to our house...ruining the new wood floor,  his African masks, and everything else that's important to him. In other words, he is derailed by the idea of anything getting wet.

I find this funny and frustrating at the same time. It's gotten so bad that I actually felt tense one afternoon while at work. I suddenly realized it was raining and half considered racing home to check the windows. About a month ago I suggested we air out our the basement. After opening the windows I spent the entire day asking, "now you're sure you're ok with the windows being open down there, right?" 

This may sound careless and cavalier, but I don't mind if things get wet. My theory is that they'll dry eventually. That doesn't mean that I don't take precautions, but it would never occur to me to check the windows every morning before I leave the house. For some reason I find this difference in our outlook to be very amusing. Then again, he would never spend $5 on a fresh pineapple and I would.  

I can forgive this preoccupation, because the one area we never disagree on is books. No matter how many times we swear we're not going to buy any new books, we somehow slip, and there's a new pile on either side of the bed. As I get older I've come to appreciate the differences that do exist (vs resenting them), and I'm able to see how they make life a bit richer and can even be instructive. When I was younger, the idea of being with someone who was not like me was not an attractive option. 

I've probably learned to appreciate differences the most from my business partner. He is a very detached, non-emotional kind of guy who has taught me a lot. We ordered Chinese food last night because we were working late, and he opened his fortune cookie that said "life is a tragedy for those who feel and a comedy for those who think." I thought that was an interesting perspective to ponder. Eckhart Tolle says that emotion "is the body's reaction to our thoughts" and that it is a mistake to overly identify with our them.  I'm working on that.

So we leave next week for a 9 day business trip. I'm praying that irony doesn't rear its head and dampen our abode while we're toiling in the Las Vegas desert.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

HC: Sharing

My 14-year-old daughter is a big Twilight book series fan. She's read, and loved, all four books, especially the first and last. I decided to read Twilight, to see what the big deal is. The biggest deal of all--aside from the fact that I'm enjoying the book, and it's intriguing--is that my daughter is SO excited that I'm reading it, so she can talk about it with me, and share it with me. This may seem like a minor thing, but it's not. I read in bed, and Emma comes in the bedroom every 10 minutes to see where I am and to see if I'm enjoying it. It's very special.

When she and her brother were little, I read to them a lot, and my husband read to them even more. All four of us love to read. If you like to read, you're never lonely, you're never bored, if a flight is delayed it's an okay thing: hey, more time to sit and read.

I'm really happy my daughter has read all the Harry Potter books, and the Twilight series, and tons of other books. I hope that love will continue forever. It certainly has in me.

Monday, August 11, 2008

AV: Brains

This is one of the amazing talks brought to the world on the TED Talks website. Something new every week and all the talks that have gone before are archived on the site as well as available on iTunes as video podcasts. Free.

Today, for your deep well-being, is ... (directly from the site itself). Something you could not have imagined for yourself ...

"Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions -- motion, speech, self-awareness –- shut down one by one. An astonishing story."

Please watch/listen tell me what you think. (no pun intended)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Guest Blogger: Jayne Relaford Brown

(This was delayed going up because I was out of town. Sorry about the delay. WC)

Picture: Albino Wallaby

Dispatch from Downunder 4: Last Full Day

Leaving Tasmania tomorrow, and more importantly, leaving Janice's brother Dave and niece Danielle in the Brisbane airport. A weird limbo of sorry to go and can't wait to resume our own lives. Feeling we should do something special today, but feeling we've seen what we need to see. The important thing is happening as I write this in the game room at the Bayview Villas--behind me the sounds of Dani and Janice razzing each other as they play ping pong. Dani's off the cell phone and playing with us, and tonight, pizza together at our favorite spot down the hill.

Some frightening things: Hearing someone say "What up?" or "She thinks she's all that" in an Aussie accent. Sadly, "that's so gay" has made it here as slang. Katrina makes fun of how I say "water," and when I tell Dani about it, she thinks I'm hysterical too. She imitates me, and it sounds like she's gargling. "Wahterrr." Katrina teaches me how to say "Kebab" properly: kehBABB (rhymes with stab). Dani and Dave are both ready to move to Tasmania, and I can see why--it's wonderful encountering other cities where you say, yes, I could live here.

I have not seen a superb wren, but I DID see an albino wallaby! And platypi! Life is good. Three days of travel coming up, but great pictures and memories. Thanks, Write Bunch!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

AV: Here, Now

Howdy Write Bunch buddies!

Today I'm posting the column I just wrote for my San Diego Democratic Club newsletter column.

Last night Aida and I attended one of the most moving ceremonies of love and committment that we have ever witnessed. Two extraordinary individuals who are more like twin souls separated at birth stood encircled - literally - by a great wide community of folks whose commonality is our love for them.

In addition, I am eyeball deep in the campaign against Proposition 8, the proposed amendment to the California consitution that would eliminate the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples. It's a tough road, but it looks like we can win this thing.

So, here 'tis. besos, queridas ...

President’s Perspectives - August 2008

Today I attended the beautiful and wondrous wedding of dear friends. There’s a lot of that going around these days and more to follow, if my calendar is any indication.

As I watched my friends pledge their lives to one another in the company of their family and friends, and receive the validation of the state, I reflected more than once on the long and difficult journey to the place where they stood encircled by the love of their community and steeped in the joy of the moment and of the years to come.

Yes, a long road for both of them and goodness knows that each of us sometimes are a little flummoxed and bemused when we stop and look behind us at the path we’ve taken to wherever we stand at any given moment. Some of us look at our lives and wonder, perhaps not for the first time, “how did that happen?” Perhaps we look at the person with whom we are sharing our days and ask how it was that our paths crossed? “We’re so different!” or “I didn’t even know you” or “How long were you living in the next apartment?” How does someone from one side of the globe, for example, find the hand of another all the way across the world? How do we end up side by side with the families we choose – or the ones that choose us?

It’s a mystery to me and I’ve been doing a bit of pondering the mystery these days. We seem to be at the edge of something so big, and yet so simple. Something all-encompassing, I believe.

Things are changing.

And it’s not just the weddings, as if that weren’t enough to shift one’s perspective several degrees. Although the sudden steeping of joy and delight around us is truly miraculous in so many ways, I think that it’s the fact that many of the faces I see around those blissful and solemn couples are the same ones I see around the table at phone banks and committee meetings and campaign walks and outreach trainings. They’re your faces.

I see you everywhere! How did you end up here? Did we all know each other? Who invited us? I look around and I see as many different paths to this place as there are people. Some of you arrived at this tiny place on the map from other countries. Some from perhaps the next city over, but from a tradition that’s worlds apart. Still others travelled from what felt like another planet. And some have always been here to welcome the new arrivals with a quick tour and a smile.

Regardless of the path, long and arduous or simple and short, here we are at the edge of … something. The map has been circled for us. This place. This time. We are here together to make it happen – to shepherd each other and our communities into the future.

Can we do any less than those couples who gather themselves up and step into the open road of the future knowing that together they can create anything. I think that, all together, here – now – maybe we can do more.

I’ll see you at the phone bank.

No On 8, Equality For All

Thursday, August 7, 2008

AV: Thanks, White-Haired Dude!

I know I know ... you've been hearing about this, and maybe seeing it on the news, but the full-length version is really worth watching. It's just hot.

(btw, I think this is the best response. makes me wonder what she would have done with the Swift Boat ad ...)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Guest Blogger: Jayne Relaford Brown

Dispatch from Downunder 3: Hello from Hobart

After days of recuperating from a luggage-tugging (re)injury that left me unable to lift a spoon to my mouth or type, and a screamingly horrible internet connection here at hotel, here I hope is blogpost. Thanks to The Write Bunch for letting me communicate here--it's added a lot to the trip in terms of seeing/thinking like a writer, and really keeping images and memories in my head.

First, a backup to Eungella (pronounced Yung'la, Land of the Clouds in the aboriginal), the one place we have made a point to return to each visit. The Platypus Pool on the Broken River is my kind of place of worship. In this rainforest pocket, people from all over the world gather, hushed, in anticipation and near-silence. A ripple, a few bubbles, and "There! There!" softly in several languages, or the universal pointing, as a platypus surfaces and we all fall in love. Every time they are still smaller than I expect, only a foot long or so--duckbill, fur, feet and eyeliner that could look fierce or sweet. A few seconds of paddling and they're gone again as we all follow the ripples to the next surfacing.

The road to Eungella goes across the cane fields, past the cane trains and the sugar factories smelling of molasses, up 4.5 ks of 12% grade, and into the mountainsides of waterfalls, palms, shaggy cedars, strangler figs and staghorn ferns. I walked one of the trails with a bottle of water, my camera, and a little note with my name and "Meeting Janice Chernekoff at Broken River tea room." Our cell phones are useless here, and our wallets in the woods. Excitement tippled with fear to be on a trail alone with only one encounter in 5 ks. But the beauty--worth it. How many pictures of a stunning trail turning deeper into rainforest an you take? Heaps, when each turn is more beautiful. And the soft mossy path is heaven.

Hobart--go there if you can. Lonely Planet says 3rd most photogenic city in the world. It rises San Francisco-like from the bay to rooftops on the hill to snow-covered Mt. Wellington, where eucalyptus have adapted to bush-size to survive. (Cadbury Factory!) Downside is the convict past. We went to the Female Factory, a prison where women and children were brought for "crimes" like stealing shawls or food, or "bad behavior," generally accused by partners or bosses. They were sentenced to hard labor, sent out to work as maids, then sentenced to more hard labor when they got pregnant. There's a dig exposing 3 of the stone cells, about the size of dog runs at the pound. Then you can go to the gift shop and buy strawberry fudge. One bright note: there's a legendary protest where several hundred of them exposed their bare bums to the governor and his wife, slapping them (their bums) to register their contempt.

We're off to Bruny Island this morning, hoping to see the penguin rookery, the southernmost lighthouse and pub in Australia. I'm in love with Tasmania, so happy we came. More to come. Cheers to all. Jayne

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Mamma Mia!

Yesterday my 14-year-old daughter and I went to the movie theater to see Mamma Mia! I was seeing it for the second time, and Emma for the third. Had I had more time, after it ended I would’ve sat and waited for the next showing to begin, and watched it for the third time.

Is it a good movie? No, not really. Is it a happy, joyous, funny, goofy, delightful, life-affirming movie? Yes.

The first time I saw Mamma Mia! about two weeks ago, the movie started, and Amanda Seyfried started singing, instantly, and I had my doubts about the film. This is a MUSICAL musical. There’s lots and lots and lots of Abba songs. Seyfried has a pleasant voice, is likeable, and pretty. The song is so-so. I’m not a huge Abba fan, although this movie makes the most of the almost-interchangeable sounding songs. Seyfried’s enthusiasm and smile, not to mention her giggling and jumping up and down, could induce sugar-overload, but she won me over quickly. Her character is getting married to a man with a beautifully chiseled chest on an idyllic Greek island, where she lives with her single mother, Meryl Streep. Seyfried picks up her two best friends—her bridesmaids—at the dock. More jumping up and down and giggling. Another song. A few minutes later Streep drives in her beat-up old jeep to pick up her former back-up singers, Julie Walters and Christine Baranski. After this point I realized my face was starting to hurt because I was smiling so much. By the time the trio started singing "Dancing Queen," and skipping and running down to the dock, gathering other island women--old, young, fat, thin, pretty, average--along the way like semi-demented earth mother pied pipers, I realized I loved this film.

Look! Up on the screen! Lots of women! And look at the leads! Three women over 50! On screen at the same time! Actually, I just checked, and all three women are over 55. Not only are they over 55, they aren’t playing someone’s mother or girlfriend. They just…are. And they are beautiful. And they have wrinkles, (very little) body fat, glasses, etc. They are just…adult women. Getting to see three middle-aged (if they live to be 110…) women being flirty, sexy, seductive, and youthful was a delight. I also loved the friendship between the three, which felt very real. They teased each other, cheered each other up when one of them was blue, supported each other, obviously loved each other. I wanted to make it a quartet.

If you don’t like musicals, I can’t imagine you liking this film. This is a serious musical. Although I’ve never had a problem with people bursting into song on screen, even I might’ve cut a song or two here. Many reviewers complain about how not-very-good Mamma Mia! is, and then almost sheepishly admit to having a great time during the movie. [I enjoyed this Slate Spoilers review:]

The audiences for both viewings of Mamma Mia! were mixed. Yes, a lot of women of all ages, but boys and men, too. The audience’s enjoyment was palpable. Lots of laughing, WITH the movie, not AT it. The film's greatest strength is that it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. For gosh sake’s, the graphic of the title is silver, sparkly, flashy, all caps, and has an exclamation point. What greater sign do you need to say, “This is going to be a fun, splashy movie. Just come for the ride with us.” Both audiences even sat through the extra songs during the end credits, when there’s usually a mass exodus from the theater. I can only hope that the stars of the film were having even half as much fun as they seemed to be having.

Honestly, if anyone seeing Mamma Mia! ran screaming from the theater after the first three minutes, I’d understand. Anyone seeing a disjointed clip from the film might well loathe it, but somehow in context it all works. For me, anyway.

I liked how messy grown-up lives can be. When I was a kid, I thought grown ups had everything in hand, everything settled. Now that I’m officially grown up myself, I realize that most of the time we are all flailing about, and that nothing is ever really settled. Seeing Streep, Walters, and Baranski acting like very grown-up 14-year-olds, being silly, and most importantly, having tons of fun, made my spirit soar. Maybe I’m just so starved for images on screen of the future me. Maybe I’m simple-minded (probably). Maybe I’m easy to please (nah). I just loved this film. It was light and fun and I’ll see it again.

DW: The Band

I believe it was Paul McCartney who said, "I'd rather have a band than a Rolls-Royce." I've been thinking about that lately and how much I agree with the sentiment.

This may sound odd, but owning a company, at least this one, is sort of like having a band.... without having to pack-up and play out every night. When we returned from our Vienna meeting, it was sort of like returning from an EU gig where more people showed up than expected and everybody clamored to buy our CD. But beyond the receptiveness of the client/fans, is the internal experience of being in the band, who's John, who's Paul, etc., how each member brings something unique to the set, and the almost addictive nature of co-creativity.

The only way I could be working as hard as I work is if it seemed more like play, which most of the time it does. I've said this before: when I wake up in the morning I know I can go to my office/studio and invent anything I want to invent and that's a very cool thing to be able to do. We pulled off this Vienna meeting with only 3 1/2 weeks to prepare, totally balls-to-the-walls kind of thing. At the end of the meeting, the client says to us, "if I get a promotion it will be because of this meeting." The whole thing was a bit surreal, from staying in this great hotel to flying British Air Biz-class and getting a complimentary massage in the BA biz lounge. At one point I just had to laugh, because it was all so over the top. About 3 hours into the flight home, I walked over to Steve and Dawn, sprawled out on their "couches" drinking beer and watching videos, and said, "don't you feel just a little guilty?"

While the travel perks are great, the best part is hanging out with my band mates, debriefing the day, having some laughs, and planning the next caper. I can honestly say that I've never been happier and realize that every band has its day, and I'm just savoring ours minute by minute.

I remember my old boss Ed Calesa saying to me, "someday you're going to have your own company and have wonderful stories of your own to tell...."

All things must pass, and I really want to be conscious, grateful, and present for everything that comes our way.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

AV: Dang!

Truly Amazing!

Please scroll down to the black background MySpace video. (especially if you thought I was making it all up. you know who you are ...)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

AV: My Eyes Have Eyes

I actually got a ticket for Comic Con this year. It was a Friday-Only ticket, but as luck would have it, that's exactly the one I needed.

I was even able to find parking in time to make it to the only presentation that I really wanted to see: Lynda Barry. The. Goddess. Of. Alternative. Comic. Poetry. Genius.

She of the Freddie Stories, Ernie Pook's Comeek, and All Things Marlys. She regaled a room with her extra geeky charm (and a special ability to sing "You Are My Sunshine" very articulately - with her mouth closed! Dang!) and stories of how art, music, and play are NOT ELECTIVES. Nope, they're not. But I'm preaching to the choir here, I know.

She also said she really likes attending the Comic Con, that it's like the Cousin Picnic.


She was nervous and read her index cards and slides (from her new book, "What It Is"! See a whole 14 page preview in PDF!) and told stories about little kids she's met and how creativity and play doesn't come from within. It's an external force.

To wit: at a restaurant, a small boy's piece of bacon unexpectedly came to life and engaged him in a drama of life and death.

Boy (holding bacon aloft): I'm going to eeeaaaaat you!
Bacon (tiny voice): No!! Don't eaaaaaaat meeeee! Please!
Boy: grrr! Yes, you're mine! Grrr!
Bacon: eeee! No, pleeeeeeaaassssse!!!
Mother (suddenly finished with her phone conversation): What are you doing?!?!?
Boy: um ... (looking dazed at the bacon in his hand as if awakening from a dream ... what *was* he doing???)

Who knew the bacon was going to come alive so suddenly? Unexpectedly? And to play out such a primal drama as that?

Her book is about writing and play and making room for the image and the specialness of everything you already are. It lives up to its press!

Just buy the book, okay? You will be so sorry if you don't. Okay?

For extra measure ... if you don't know her, or her characters ...
AND ..
(copyright by Lynda Barry for all time forever and forever)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Guest Blogger: Jayne Relaford Brown

Dispatch from Downunder II: Word-Love

For a word junkie*, Australia provides particular pleasures. Just as my EFL and, more sadly, my EF&FL (English as both First AND Foreign Language) students distract me from despair with their analyses of "Escape goats" (which actually do provide a nice way out) and "back rounds" (when I would be happy if they could analyze the fore round of what they read), being in a place with a different English keeps my monkey brain happily entertained.

I don't mind at all the signs telling me to "mind the step." In fact, I'm tickled. I was tired enough in the Brisbane airport that I couldn't find the elevators. I thought the "Lift" signs might be where you take off, or where you could get a beer. When i pass what I would call a "popsicle truck" and see it sells "Waffles and Fairy Floss," I'm thrilled, even if the floss is bags instead of freshly spun. Instead of looking at the sights, I read the signs.

Some, like the announcement of the "Debutante Ball" this weekend at the Pioneer Valley H.S., are startling for their content--we seem to be out in the boonies and it is 2008--but most are pleasurable for the words themselves. You don't yield when driving, you "Give Way." In front of busy Woolie's, crossing pedestrians are aided by an "Island Refuge." More startlingly, down the way in front of the senior housing complex, is the "Aged Island Refuge." Double the points? I'm coming to terms with terms like "mature" and "senior," and if the teenage clerk at the movie theatre thinks I should get the senior discount (here it's a "concession"), I'll take it, but I'm not ready to think about becoming "aged."

Here, you call phone numbers with "Enquiries," which seem so much more sophisticated than questions. And the ubiquitous "No worries" when you thank someone here seems so much more philosophical and generous than the grudging "No problem" from the servers in the restaurants back home.

*"Word Junkie" is not a term I use lightly. Growing up, my sister Nancy and I were language sponges. We developed British accents, or at least a Victorian syntax, when we read British novels. When we got together with our Texas cousins, within two days we said you-all or y'all and answered "Ma'am?" or "Sir?" when we were called, instead of "Huh?" On long station wagon drives, our father read the funny-sounding names of towns out loud, a (probably annoying) habit I continue to this day. He would also lead us in thematic runs on puns: "Lettuce get married," said the eggplant, "if you care at all for me." But she was only interested in his celery. Wendy knows I mean no disrespect when I appropriate a word or phrase; in fact, the opposite--there is no WASP equivalent for "Oy!" Though I did hear a new usage for the word this morning when I walked down Dave's block and his neighbor hollered "Oy!" to stop his yapping dog.