Friday, October 20, 2017

I don't know how to fight nationalism nor fascism

In school, I was taught that Germany turned to fascism because the country was economically devastated, because people didn't have enough to eat, because they were desperate, because conditions were extreme. I was taught that, had these things not happened, Germany wouldn't have lost its collective mind and murdered several million people.

For many years since, every time I've studied a time when people have flirted with nationalism or fanatical religion, or seen it happening in other countries, I've thought, well, things are dire there, people are scared, maybe justifiably so. Some economic stability and education will take care of this and they'll stop this nonsense as a result.

I don't believe it anymore. I'll never believe it again. Because of what I'm seeing right here in my own country. Nationalism - fascism - is rampant, not just in marches but in casual conversations on Facebook and over lunch and dinner tables. People are saying, explicitly, proudly, that criticism of the President should be utterly unacceptable, that people should be forced to stand for patriotic music, that police are justified in killing unarmed black men, and on and on. There's a constant denial of science and a continually deriding of public schools. There is an insistence that one religion is right and every other religion isn't just wrong, but is a threat. The majority of white people in the USA who have at least some college education and voted in November 2016 voted for Donald Trump. The majority of white WOMEN in the USA who have at least some college education and voted in November 2016 voted for Donald Trump. That he has been a sexual predator in the past - and bragged about it - didn't matter to those voters. That he blames sexual assault in the military because women were admitted into the military - didn't matter to those voters. That he ripped of several hundred people via his "university" and had to settle for many millions of dollars didn't matter. That he lied about Barack Obama, disrespected Gold Star families and military heroes, and said vile things about women didn't matter.

And none of this support for him is because white people are economically devastated, because they don't have enough to eat, because they are desperate, because conditions are extreme.

Quite frankly, I'm not trying to figure it out anymore. Because I don't care. I'm tired of their belief in fake news despite the mountain of reality proving it wrong. I'm tired of the double standard regarding the horrible man in office now and the very respectful, honorable one he replaced. I'm tired of their "I'm not a racist, but obviously white people are better and history shows us that" nonsense. No, I'm not going to reach across the table. No, I'm not going to listen. I'm done.

Geesh, even George W. Bush is worried.

Extreme nationalism has no signs of slowing down in Europe. It's also happening in Turkey and the Phillippines and India and Russia. People are feeling militant about their native languages and what they perceive as their national culture.

And people in the USA are embracing it as well.

So... now what? Education doesn't work to change their minds. Facts don't work to change their minds. These people do not have any patience or attention to detail, and they balk at the idea of time and deliberation it takes to learn and make important decisions, like a nuclear deal with Iran. They want simplistic, almost childlike emotional and very quick answers, answers that feel good rather than are based on any study or fact.
What to do?

Slaves were not freed in the USA because a majority of slave owners were convinced that slavery was wrong. Nazis were not defeated in Germany because a majority of Nazis and their sympathizers changed their minds. It took violence. It took devastation. It took an incredible amount of death.

I don't want violence. Or devastation. Or death. I do not romanticize nor desire any of that.

The victories of the civil rights movement did not happen by winning over racists. People didn't' vote for it - the courts and the Executive Branch listened to those supporting civil rights and did what was right, even if it wasn't popular with millions of people - maybe a majority of people. But we don't have that on our side now.

I've marched twice in Portland, once for women, once for science. I've been attending city council meetings since before the election; I want to keep my eye on the city council to make sure they aren't up to any shenanigans, like trying to cut an essential service or giving developers sweet heart deals. I've attended four public meetings with my state or national legislators, making sure right-wingers aren't showing up in greater numbers at any event and so that I can listen first hand to their messages. I've joined the official local arm of the Democratic Party, because I very much want to keep the party fighting for social justice, fighting for abortion rights, fighting for workers' rights, fighting for civil rights, fighting for the issues that affect people on a daily basis. I write the news media every time they get lazy in their reporting, every time they drop the ball in an interview with a member of the GOP.

But nothing changes. The fascist march continues.

Next week in Idaho, at Boise State University, there will be a presentation on how Idahoans organized a successful counter-movement to white supremacists in Idaho. According to the web site,  the presenters will "explain how people united around a variety of strategies that resulted in many victories--culminating in 2000 with an Idaho jury’s civil judgment against the Aryan Nations for $6.3 million that bankrupted it. The decades-long campaign for human rights--and to check the threat of the white nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis--included passage of state legislation, support as allies for victims, comprehensive programs in the K-12 schools and colleges, public rallies and events, numerous press conferences and press releases condemning acts of hate, close working relationship with the police and prosecutors for aggressive prosecution of hate crimes, partnership with the faith community, statewide coordination with organizations and institutions for positive steps to advance human rights, commitment to the philosophy of non-violence and peace, and a pledge to never remain silent in the face of hate."

But what if the white nationalists are a populist movement that doesn't see itself as "white nationalists", even as they espouse similar statements? What if parents in those K-12 schools and universities block programs that encourage understanding and deliberation and, instead, promote anti-science curricula and a one-sided story of history that glorifies Western Europe alone?  What if the police and faith communities are part of the problem in creating intolerance and division?

I'm going to keep fighting, non-violently. I'm going to keep talking. People are in danger - particularly people who aren't white like me. My country is in danger. But I still believe in the ideals of my country and want to continue to live them and try to promote them.

But I also admit that the idea of buying a ranch in a remote location and living the rest of my days taking care of abandoned horses and providing tent space to people traveling the world by motorcycle, and cashing in on my privilege and giving up on humans in general, is sounding better and better.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Blue Gardenia

My informal film studies via Turner Classic Movies continue... all I'm missing are the post-film discussions.

A couple of years ago, I saw The Blue Gardenia for the first time. It's directed by the legendary Fritz Lang, of Metropolis fame, and his eye elevates the movie far beyond what it could have been in less attentive hands. The film was completed in just 20 days, and in many ways, that lack of time shows. But it's still excellent. In fact, it should be celebrated, but sadly, it's not. It's a forgotten melodrama, almost film noir, from 1953 - forgotten except by TCM and me. I'm sure it's been overlooked by most movie buffs and critics because most of them are men, at least the ones that get asked to write columns and do interviews, and this is a movie almost entirely from a woman's point of view.

I probably wouldn't have liked The Blue Gardenia had I seen it when I was a teen. Maybe I did start to watch it as a teen and turned it off. But at my age now - oh, it resonates in so many ways.

The film opens with an attempted rape. The first 33 minutes would be great to show to a group of young people now, to talk about predatory behavior and victim blaming. It's rivaled only by the opening of Thelma and Louise in that regard.

Ah, but the difference in those two movies, in terms of when they were filmed, what the law is, and what the law was...

I saw Thelma and Louise the night it came out in California and several weeks later in Southern Indiana. In the California theaters, the audience gasps at the shot, but in Southern Indiana, women cheered. Sympathy or not, most audiences in the USA wouldn't think of the killing as portrayed in that movie, legally, as self-defense - because it wasn't - but it would probably go down legally as voluntary manslaughter: the purposeful killing of a human being, yes, but in a case where the offender had no prior intent to kill and acted during the heat of passion, under extreme circumstances that could be understood as causing a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed to the point that they can't reasonably control their emotions (based on the definition in "What Are Homicide and Murder" by Aaron Larson in ExpertLaw.com).

Contrast this with The Blue Gardenia. The killing by Norah is clearly self-defense by the law of today, 2017. What Prebble tries to do is clearly rape - Norah is in no condition to give consent. But in 1953, those ideas, legally, didn't exist in those circumstances, even if women at that time, and for all time, knew it in their hearts - just as the character Norah does. But she hides because she knows she has no legal protection at all - if she is found out there is no legal justification for that murder, not in 1953, and she's going to prison for life, probably to be executed.

I watched The Blue Gardenia yet again today, and the conversations I see all over social media about the behavior of Harvey Weinstein, Roger Eugene Ailes, Bill O'Reilly and the current President of the USA, Donald Trump, all flashed through my mind during the first 33 minutes of the movie. Because I realize that what is clearly predatory behavior in this movie, what is clearly attempted rape in this movie, would be called by many men here, today, even in 2017, as a "gray area," and Norah's behavior would be seen as "sending mixed signals" by those men.

And it makes me want to scream. It means every use of the word clearly in this blog would be disputed by many men and women today, even in 2017. It means that, when I watch Mad Men and am appalled at what is said to Joan in that 1960s world, there are also men and women that watch it and still think she is asking for it because of how she dresses.

We still have so long to go...


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

it was a good wagon, but an impractical star

I would love to downgrade my Direct TV package. But I can't. Because I must have Turner Classic Movies.

I must.

I love the truly classic movies they show, like Casablanca. But I also love the old, obscure stuff they dig out from under the couch that maybe isn't THAT good, but I watch them and find some incredible little moment in many of them.

The latest is from a while back. It was at the beginning of The Deadly Affair, a 1966 adaption of a John le Carré story. This is a speech by a character called Samuel Fennan, who has been told by the main character, played by James Mason, that a letter has been sent, anonymously, identifying him as a former Communist:

Practically everybody was a member of the party at Oxford in the 30s. Half the present cabinet were party men. You know Mr. Dobbs, when you’re young, you hitch the wagon or whatever you believe in to whatever star looks likely it can get the wagon moving. When I was an undergraduate, the wagon was social justice, and the star was Karl Marx. We perambulated with banners. We fed hunger marchers. A few of us fought in Spain. Some of us even wrote poetry. I still believe it was a good wagon, but an impractical star. We had faith and hope and charity. A wrong faith, a false hope, but I still think the right sort of charity. Our eyes were dewy with it, dewy and half shut.

I so get this. I don't know if it's directly from the novel or was created for the film - but nothing better explains why so many people were sympathetic to Communism back in the 30s and 40s.

I try so hard not to let my eyes be so dewy that they are half shut.



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Motorcycle trip in Washington State: a Smokey Adventure


I just realized that I didn't link to my travelogue about our annual motorcycle trip. This year, it was 10 days in Washington State: a Smokey Motorcycle Adventure in August.

Our 2017 trip included Gifford Pinchot National Forest (our favorite), Mt. Rainier National Park, Wenatchee National Forest (new for us), Lake Chelan National Recreation Area (new for us), North Cascades National Forest (new for us), Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (new for us), Olympic National Forest (new for us), and Olympic National Park (new for us), as well as Trout Lake and Packwood, which we've been to before, plus these new cities for us in Washington state: Naches, Ellensburg, Leavenworth, Methow, Chelan, Winthrop, Newhalem, Marblemount, Concrete, Oak Harbor, Amanda Park, Humptulips and Aberdeen.

As a result of our Washington state trip, of August 30, 2017, I have ridden 23,496 miles (37,813 km) on my KLR (Kawasaki). I've ridden 34,496 (55,516 km) overall on motorcycles (my previous bike was a Honda Nighthawk).

But what's even more fun to think about is not the number of miles or kilometers, but the things I've seen. And that's why I write travelogues.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Whores of Yore

This is an article on how horrible syphilis was during Victorian times, and what a threat it posed to sex workers in particular. Warning: if you click on the link, you will see vintage boobies. But the reason I love it is the intro, where the author tries to explain why she is going to use traditional pronouns. I'm sure lots of folks will be offended by it. But it made me laugh. It's how I feel too.

For more fun on this subject from another era, check out Venereal Disease and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

History is fun!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Viewing solar eclipse totality in Perrydale, Oregon, August 21, 2017

Eclipse romance 
Eclipse dork patrol

Earlier this year, I found out that solar eclipse totality would happen in McMinnville, Oregon, just 25 miles away from where I live. That city would get 56 seconds of eclipse totality. I was excited about the solar eclipse already, but I didn't realize that a complete block of the sun would happen so close to where I live. So proposed that we - my husband and I - go down to see it on the day of the event, in parking lot somewhere in the city. We’d leave around 7 a.m., have breakfast somewhere, walk out, see the eclipse, and then leave.

But then the hype kicked in, and ramped up every week, both in terms of how the crowds would be and what totality would look like. I realized I wanted more than a parking lot: I wanted a beautiful place to see the solar eclipse, and I wanted a longer totality. And there was no way we could leave the house at 7.

I saw a partial solar eclipse in July 11, 1991 in Silicon Valley, California. It was one of the worst year of my life, but the eclipse was a highlight, even if I didn’t do any more to celebrate it than stick a pinhole in a paper plate and look at the shadow for a few minutes on the ground outside of the horrible place where I worked.

Partial eclipses are worth observing, but I was reading too many poetic posts from scientists about what totality would be to pass up the opportunity to see it.

Several weeks ago, we road our motorcycles through the backroads Northwest of Salem. We had been to Falls City last year, and had a look again to consider its candidacy for eclipse viewing, but I thought there were too many trees. We were afraid Dallas or Rickreal would be a zoo of traffic, that we would not be able to get even close to either town unless we camped the day before. As we went back to our home in Washington, County, we passed through tiny Perrydale, and I had an epiphany: Perrydale, Oregon would be the perfect place to view the eclipse. It had open skies, nothing to obstruct the view of the eclipse, and there was plenty of parking. Back home, I looked up totality for the city on the NASA eclipse web site, and found that totality in Perrydale was predicted to be 1 minute 43.3 seconds - 47 seconds longer than McMinnville. Perrydale is 50 miles away from where we live. Dallas would give us an additional 13 seconds of totality, but, again, I was afraid it would be a parking lot before we could get near the town, even leaving in the wee hours of the morning.

Of course, we could have gone to Hopkinsville, Kentucky, my home state, and get more than two minutes of totality...

Beloved friends from California asked if they could drive up and join us, and we said yes, absolutely! It was actually my friend’s 87 year old mother’s idea - she came too, of course.

The night before the eclipse, we all were in bed (not the same bed) by 10 p.m., and I pushed everyone out the door so we could be on the road by 4 a.m. Because there would be HOARDS OF PEOPLE and we had to be ready for the tremendous traffic jam that, no doubt, would already be on state highway 47 heading to Gaston!

There was no traffic jam. There was no traffic at all, not even on 47. I pulled over in Yamhill and consulted with Stefan: based on the lack of anyone, we decided we’d dare to travel through McMinnville after all on our way to Perrydale. We continued on to Carlton, our motorcycles and our guests' car barely missing a live, confused possum in the road, and we turned on to 99... and there was still no traffic. None. I turned into a gas station in McMinnville to ask my traveling party if, indeed, the eclipse was today.

We continued on to tiny Perrydale. There are no businesses in Perrydale, just a tiny elementary school, a small high school (they are right next to each other), and a church. The grandstands for the school football field could hold maybe 60 people. The town doesn’t have a post office. A blog from 2013 found by a member of my traveling party is entitled “Perrydale, Oregon – Not quite a Ghost Town” and says the town has 60 residents.

After some exploration, we decided to park and set up in the school parking lot, next to a Baptist Church. It was cold outside, though far from freezing. As daylight set in, one of our party, Russell, my former sensei, walked around the school and came back with the best news we’d had all morning: the men’s restroom next to the athletic fields was open, clean, had toilet paper and had hand soap. Bathroom access had been my biggest worry about choosing this site. I almost did my happy dance, but decided to spare everyone.

We set up our camping chairs to face out to the sunrise, giving us a view of a large farm field and anyone traveling through town on Amity-Dallas Road. Another view of our view.

I felt like I was an idiot for making everyone get out of my house before 4 a.m. I kept apologizing. And I remained scared someone would come up out of no where and announce we had to move.

We had gotten there just after 5 a.m. After sun rise, Stefan set up the telescope. Once it was truly daytime, Russell said I should do a “ditch check” to see if the ditch across the road before the field was too deep to cross - we’d been planning to cross the street and sit in the field if traffic got too thick. So I went over, had a check, and when I turned around to look back at our little set up, I also looked back down the road we’d come, and saw a neon sign: open. On a coffee hut. COFFEE!! We’d brought coffee but, hey, coffee hut coffee?!? I’m there! So much for my comment that Perrydale doesn't have any businesses...

Gail (Russell’s wife) and I walked down and saw a field of campers across from the coffee hut. So, we’re *not* alone… we’d brought coffee, but I didn’t have a big enough thermos to take more than enough for each of us to have one cup - and I mean a cup, not a big mug. I was SO happy to have good coffee!!

Later, we sat in our camping chairs, all looking at the sunrise and the field. I said, “This is unbelievable: no traffic, a great viewing spot that has a clean bathroom with toilet paper, there’s not a cloud in the sky, there’s no smoke in the sky - this is AWESOME!” To which Russell replied, “Hey, isn’t that a professional massage therapist parachuting out of the sky and landing in the field right across from us?” To which Gail replied, “And doesn’t he also have wine, both red and white?”

It was a great morning. The four hours we sat there before the eclipse went SO FAST. We talked, we laughed, we ate coffee cake, we spied on a farmer working far in the distance… well into the morning, other people finally started showing up. One person told us that there was a traffic jam in McMinnville, mostly for the air and space museum there, when he had come through at 5:45 a.m. We easily could have still left our house 90 minutes, even two hours later, and made it to Perrydale in plenty of time for the eclipse. And I would have LOVED that extra two hours of sleep…

We contemplated movies and TV shows that feature an eclipse: LadyhawkA Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's CourtMadMen and Heroes. The suggestion of Day of the Triffods was withdrawn when I remembered that was a meteor shower, not an eclipse. And we though of songs featuring astronomical references: the obivous one everyone has been referring to, Total Eclipse of the Heart, as well as Bad Moon Rising, Black Hole Sun, and Invisible Sun.

I talked Stefan into giving away his extra pair of eclipse glasses (I think he wanted to sell them) and, just after 9, the eclipse began. We looked at it with our glasses, we looked at it via the projection from the viewer on Stefan’s telescope, I made jokes about the progress:

“Now, it looks like the sun is wearing a top hat and we can only see the bottom.”

“Now, it’s Pac Man, and he’s singing, ‘Woooooooo’”

“Now, Pac Man is singing ‘Ooooooooooo!’”

Telescope eclipse projectionPeople gathered around Stefan's telescope and took photos of the projection onto a paper plate and onto a gray matte board that some other group had brought. Other than the solar eclipse, he was a very popular photographic target as well.

There was now a sizable group in the parking lot with us, though nothing overwhelming at all, and everyone was super friendly.

I ate some chicken and potato salad and started thinking about totality. As one does. What would it really be like? Several people on the March for Science Facebook group said it was absolutely not to be missed, that it would be absolutely stunning. One guy said it was safe to take your glasses off during totality - it was mandatory, in fact. It would get so dark street lights would come on, and birds might stop singing. Stars would appear.

After 10 a.m, we all began to get anxious. Totality was coming! It was getting dimmer all around us, like sunset, except, the sun was right there above us, like always. Without the glasses, if you were foolish enough to look at the sun, you would have just seen a big light blob, like always. That's what ancient man, or medieval man, would have seen - the sun, as normal. Unless they understood the images they might be seeing on shadows cast by the trees, they wouldn't have known that an eclipse was happening, only that things were getting darker, and cooler. Gail put on a sweater. I kept commenting on how it looked like night was coming. We would look up at the sun, always with glasses, every 2-3 minutes, waiting to see how close we were getting, and watching things get grayer.

At 10:15 a.m., we were just two minutes away, and all eyes, behind eclipse glasses, were looking up. At 10:17, the last yellow sun beam disappeared behind the black moon, stars appeared, Stefan yelled, "Take off your glasses!", and I did, and I looked up and saw one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Stars really did come out around the sun and moon. Night was descending. The sky was a million shades of dark gray and blue. The moment the last yellow sun beam disappeared behind the black moon, I saw pink beads within the corona, and long white, fuzzy glares coming out of the top and bottom of the sun behind the absolute black dot of the moon - but not in any symmetrical way. There was no yellow, just black and white and gray and pink and some blue. As Gail put it later on Facebook, "Totality Whoo hooo. We got a diamond!" I kept yelling "I can't believe this! This is amazing!" I was yelling, wooting, jumping up and down. When a yellow sun beamed appeared, glasses went back on, and day broke again, for a second time in just a few hours. We all clapped. I realized I was crying. Many of us hugged each other. We were astounded.

I found out later that the pink beads interrupting the corona of the sun come from the mountains on the moon. Yes, the mountains on the moon. When Galileo pointed out that the moon is an imperfect sphere, marked by mountains and valleys, he was imprisoned because of outrage by the Roman Catholic Church. I thought about all those early astronomers over thousands of year, trying to figure out the weather based on observing the heavens, how their observations lead them to uncover facts about the universe that were sometimes celebrated, sometimes derided. I also thought about the first humans that saw totality and how must have shuddered in terror, not understanding what was happening.

Science got us here, to this point of celebrating what physicist Michio Kaku called a cosmic coincidence, the fortuity that the moon is just the perfect size and the sun is just the perfect size and the moon and the sun and the Earth are all just the right distance from each other such that we get this eclipse that shows the sun's corona. Science predicted this eclipse, down to the second, for different parts of the world - not some preacher or physic. And they've been predicting them accurately for hundreds of years using science.

NASA asked on its web site, "What was your experience? How did you feel? Let us know what the eclipse meant to you in 6 words." And they asked, if you shared it on Twitter, to tag your comment with #Eclipsein6. Here are my tweets:

I felt connected to ancient astronomers. 

Saw pink beads around the moon. 

Cried at the beauty. Celebrated science. 

Said repeatedly, "I can't believe this!" 

Yelled "Everyone, take your clothes off!" 

Yes, really. All that. The "get nekkid" comment drew a LOT of laughs...

Cars started heading past us just after our celebrations of totality. Stefan went back to telescope projections. I went back to my glasses. We also waved at the now steady stream of cars going passed us. We ate some more, talked about how we would all get back to our homes. My guests would be leaving to head South straight from where we were. We would be going in the opposite direction.

Gail started checking GoogleMaps and started seeing traffic jams everywhere. We weren't seeing a jam, but there sure were a lot of cars going by... We dawdled, hoping that we were letting the worst of the traffic get to wherever it was going. We were almost the last to leave our site, at about 12:15. Stefan decided it would be best that we go 77 miles out of our way, back through Sheridan and Willamenia, up into the mountains via oh-so-curvey Gilbert Creek Road, over onto NW Bald Mountain Road, down to Nestucca Road and back to Carlton. We preferred to take an extra 90 minutes of riding to just sitting in traffic in the hot sun in McMinnville. We had to make a left onto 18, and I gasped when we got to the intersection: it was a wall of never-ending traffic coming East on the highway, and some drivers going the opposite direction. And no light at the intersection. And people on the opposite side also wanting to make a left turn, which put us in each other's way. And we had no right of way. Somehow, we got across - I still don't know how. The road up into the mountains was fine, though I was really tired and went slower than I would have liked to. Once we finally made it to Sheridan Peak, a scenic lookout with a large parking lot and a pit toilet that overlooks the valley, I was in dire need of a break. There were two guys there that had camped at the overlook and seen the eclipse, and one of them gave me all the coffee he had left, half a cup. He's my hero. We met some German-speaking bicyclists and dawdled for almost an hour, hoping traffic was getting better.

We got to the intersection for Carlton and there was a MASSIVE, never-ending line of cars waiting to turn into the town. Luckily, it was a four-way stop so we got to go rather quickly. For the next 12 miles, on state highway 12, we went between 5 and 30 miles an hour. The 20 minute drive took well more than an hour. Oh, well, if I had to finally have my solar eclipse traffic jam, I preferred it now, after the event.

We got home at 3:30, and found out that was lucky - that evening, there were still people trying to get home on the clogged roads.

So, that's my eclipse report, in a sea of eclipse reports. What an absolutely amazing experience. So much so that we're already planning for April 2024.

Our photos from the day.

And added bonus: Gail's 87 year old mother, on video, talking about this, her third eclipse.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

trying, stumbling, experiencing - it's all a virtue & it's extraordinary

I've known Marnie Webb for many years, per our association through TechSoup. Recently, she posted something to her Facebook profile that I really wanted to share on my blog. I asked Marnie if I could, and she said yes, and that it was fine to use her name. What Marnie doesn't know - but will know now - is that I cried when I read this. Because I know exactly how she feels. Exactly. It's why I started a travel section on my web site. Enjoy:

You know, in all seriousness, I spent most of my life terrified of flying. Like. Well. I'll spare you. Terrified. I got through it (I hesitate to say I'm over it because it can hit me terribly in unexpected moments) because I had to. I had to do my job and earn money and that meant, for the job I have, getting on a plane. For the job I want to have.

And then when I learned how to manage that, I replaced it with other fears. Getting lost. Dealing with languages. Stepping over some cultural line.

I would not have guessed, five years ago even two years ago, that I would be a person who has a long layover in a city and leaves the airport to explore. Who takes the public metro. Who changes currency. Who wanders confident they can get back to the airport. But here I am.

I post pictures of places that are spectacular. Rio. And this week Copenhagen and today Lisbon. I go to US cities that stun me, including a small one in northern Mississippi and big ones on the east coast. I eat dinner at restaurants, rather than getting room service, and talk to strangers. Today, in Lisbon I was resolute in practicing my faulty Brazilian Portuguese.

This change hinges on one thing: the idea that it is okay not to be perfect. That trying is a virtue in and of itself.

More than anything, I learned this from running. The slow build up to the day that I ran 13 miles because it was on my calendar to run 13 miles that day. The good days running and the bad. The injuries. All the times The Spawn slow rode her bicycle next to me and cheered me on. And then, bigger and stronger, ran next to me.

Anyway. I'm kind of marveling at it today. Perhaps because I just did something I didn't have to do -- left the airport for a little sightseeing on a long layover -- and I feel like it gave more than it cost. I wandered a city for a few hours and got on a train back to the airport. I made a mistake on buying a ticket on the metro and a stranger helped -- not different than I would do in San Francisco but something I never expected.

I sat on the steps next to the water and watched boats and people. I got a coffee and a little breakfast. I bought things for my family.

These seem small, you know. They seem ordinary. And they are. And today, to me, that seems so extraordinary.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

2017 Tony Awards, Star Wars, & Finally Seeing a Musical I Should Have Long Ago

Finally watching the 2017 Tony Awards. Wonderful show, as usual - always the best awards show on TV. In addition to all the great numbers and Kevin Spacey as host, I was thrilled to see Mark Hamill on the show. Near the start of my Star Wars insanity, I followed every single thing the three main actors in the movies were doing, and that means knowing that Mark Hamill played the lead in The Elephant Man and Mozart in Amadeus on Broadway and won a Drama Desk nomination for his role in Harrigan 'N Hart off-Broadway back in the day. And that Carrie Fisher was in Censored Scenes from King Kong and of Agnes of God on Broadway I couldn't see those shows, living in Western Kentucky, so I would go down to the Henderson County Public Library, and look up photos and reviews of the shows in magazines and a book that came out every year and said who was in what, summarized the plots of the shows, and had photos.

So, when Mark Hamill came out, I cried, both because I knew he was about to somehow make a referral to our favorite Princess, and because via Star Wars, my dreams of Broadway were further cultivated.

One of the people who passed away that was listed in the tribute section was Gordon Davidson. I drove Gordon Davidson in my truck once. I drove him from the San Francisco airport to San Jose, so he could see a production of Holly Near's one woman show at the theater where I worked. We had a delightful conversation - I'd worked with his daughter at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Later, the company manager said I'd put him in such a good mood, it laid the groundwork for him to love the show (and he did) and transfer it to La Jolla.

This year, it's the straight plays I'm dying to see on Broadway - except for the revivals of Hello Dolly and Sunset Boulevard, which I would kill to see, and Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, which looks and sounds fantastic. Indecent, Oslo, A Dolls' House, Part 2, the revivals of The Little Foxes and Present Laughter and The Glass Menagerie.

But that said: I love musicals. And I was reminded of that recently not by the Tony Awards, but by seeing something I've avoided for a long time.

For reasons I’m not sure of, I have avoided seeing Rent. I never saw the play, and when people would put the soundtrack on, I would shut down, leave the room, ask for something else… it just did nothing for me.

More on that in a moment.

The very first musical I ever saw was probably You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown at Henderson County High School, in 1974 or so. I would have been 8, maybe younger. I think I saw Snow White at the movies after that. If it weren’t for Disney re-releasing that and Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and Mary Poppins and Song of the South and all their other early musicals, I’m not sure I would have seen any outside of high school productions - there was no cable TV, my little town had no community theatre, and I had no idea at the time that Great Performances on PBS wasn’t just opera.

I admit that I avoided the movie The Sound of Music until my Dad made me watch it. No, really, he pretty much made me watch it. Oh, how I loved it. Probably why I’m such an anti-fascist now… (“You’ll never be one of them…”).

But after that, I was introduced to most musicals via their soundtrack. Living in Western Kentucky, I was far, far from Broadway, and Broadway tours did not come our way. Camelot, Little Shop of Horrors, Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, Chess, Phantom of the Opera, Into the Woods - I was introduced to all of them and more via their soundtrack. It meant that, when I finally did see those musicals, on film or on stage, I realized I’d gotten some plot points wrong - just listening to the soundtrack means you can’t always know exactly how the story is supposed to be.

As I said, for some reason, just hearing a bit of songs from Rent did nothing for me, so I never saw it when I lived in the USA in the 90s. The film version was probably shown in Cologne when it was released in 2005 and I lived in Germany, but I made no effort to find out. It's been on TV a few times since I moved back, and produced by community theaters here and there, but I never saw them.

Then, a few days ago, I was bored, and Ovation was showing Rent, and so I watched it, and I bawled and squalled and wanted to dance around the room. A pox on me for waiting so long.

I’m really glad I got to first see it as the film, because I got to judge it only based on that, not based on the Broadway show or the tour. I get really tired of the oh-it’s-not-as-good-as-the-Broadway-version crowd.

It’s the same with the movie version of Hair. I freakin’ LOVE that movie. If you saw it staged first, however, you usually don’t like the movie.

I wonder if I’ll feel differently about Hamilton once I finally see it. I think it will have to be a great production of it for me to get it. I’ve seen bits of it and it’s done nothing for me. I’m intrigued when I read about it - but not when I hear a bit of the music. Which is exactly how Rent has been for me all these years. So, someone please send me airfare and a ticket for Hamilton, please?

Other blogs where I have mentioned the Tony Awards:

Alan Rickman

July ups & downs

Post 2010 Birthday Ramble

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Clark Gable & Greer Garson in Adventure (1945)

I've been watching classic movies since before I was in double digits, and just when I think I've seen every great movie before 1950, I get a surprise. This time, it's Adventure, from 1945, with Clark Gable and Greer Garson.

I have actively avoided watching this movie for decades because it was always described as a horrible flop and painful to watch. I knew that it was Gable's first studio movie after World War II, and the ad campaign was "Gable's Back and Garson's Got Him," making me think this was some kind of screwball comedy, which seemed so inappropriate for Gable's first film after the war, and after losing Carole Lombard.

So I watched it at last, on TCM, of course, and I was stunned. It's a poetic, complex, dark drama always flirting with great tragedy. There's no way a 1945 audience would have been ready for these characters, this story or the dialogue, which is often presented more as verse than scripted lines. Watch Gable when he argues with Garson's character, almost to the point of physical blows - I've never seen him not be Clark Gable until this character, until that moment, and I cannot imagine we aren't seeing his grief at his loss of Lombard and what he witnessed during World War II. It's overdue for this film to get the recognition it deserves. Joan Blondell and Thomas Mitchell (you remember him as Uncle Billy in It's A Wonderful Life and Scarlett's father in Gone With the Wind) are outstanding in their supporting characters.

The biggest problem with this movie is its ridiculous title (the book on which it is based is called The Annointed - a much better title).

Here’s how I imagine the marketing meeting for this movie went:

Director: Hey, I made this complex drama about a seafaring man searching for purpose in life, who clashes with a sophisticated, quiet librarian, and they don’t get together until halfway through the movie because they are having heated philosophical arguments about the meaning of life, and by the time they do get together romantically, you’re stunned and also feel like this relationship is completely doomed, and the whole thing almost ends in utter tragedy, and the script is, at times, more poetry than dialogue.

Louis B Mayer: “Gable’s back and Garson’s got him!”

This would be a terrific film on a double bill with The Razor's Edge.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Thoughts on yet another white terrorist, this time in Portland, Oregon

A lot of folks are shocked that the terrorist in Portland who murdered two people and sent a third to the hospital was both a Nazi sympathizer and a supporter of Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein.

I’m not shocked, probably because I’ve so many tweets from these folks around the 2016 election.

These people that believe in outrageous myths about Jewish people and their religion, but intended to vote for Bernie Sanders, are a strange bunch: they ignore the social issue stands of such candidates - their support for marriage equality, their rhetoric regarding racial justice, etc. - and zero in only, ONLY, on the populist economic message. Working-class white voters love fighters and outsiders, and it’s why you heard from them things like, “Well, I could vote for Trump or Sanders, either way.” Which makes no sense to people who carefully listened to what these two candidates were saying and read their track records, and as a result, saw the clear, obvious differences in these candidates. Trump repeatedly praised Sanders at rallies, because he knew how many of his supporters liked him - Sanders blasted Trump, but that never seemed to be heard by Sanders-or-Trump folks. Sanders-or-Trump folks also globbed on to Bernie’s support for gun ownership and his vote against immigration reform, which he said he did because pro-reform senators are “selling out American workers. In fact, they are selling out our entire country.” Trump-leaning supporters heard in those words “Immigrants are bad!”

The any-outsider-never-a-seasoned-politican crowd draws a diverse crowd, and I'm sorry that it took this incident for people to realize that.

And note that I say all of this as someone who voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary.

The murder by this terrorist, this white supremacist, has also brought back a memory:

10 or 11 or 12 years ago, taking a train from where I lived in Sinzig, Germany, my German wasn’t much better than it is now - and that means it was really, really awful. But I knew, from the tone of the voice I heard to my left, that something was wrong. I looked across the aisle and there was a young Muslim woman, in her hijab, and a German man across from her, in his 40s or so, scruffy, maybe a street person, sitting way too far forward on his seat, getting into her personal space, berating her with questions. She was answering softly, or not at all, eyes averted. No one else was watching.

Then I saw his hand go on her knee and I exploded.

I jumped up and yelled some of the few words in German I know, “DU! RAUS!” and in a softer but firm voice, “Fräulein, bitte, hier” pointing the seat across from me. She sheepishly moved across the aisle and sat down where I pointed, while the man stood frozen, not looking at me, staring straight ahead. He was contemplating arguing with me. So I yelled again, “DU! RAUS! JETZ!”

He never looked at me, but he did turn to the aisle and walked down the car, and got out at the next exit.

I was trying not to visibly shake from anger and fear. I couldn’t think of anything to say to that poor woman, so we sat in silence as I glared down the car at the man, making sure he wasn’t coming back. The train car was silent now. None of the other passengers said a word or tried to help. I got off two stops later. I felt bad that I had never spoken to the woman, but I just didn't know what to say. Or how to say it in German.

And even knowing what I know now, you bet your ass I would do it again. I will not stop.

And may I add that I freakin’ stuck that rolling R in “raus!” better than Seargent Schultz ever did.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Three Things I Wish Judge Judy Knew

I really love watching Judge Judy. I do. I can't help myself. Her show comes on four times in the PDX metro area, five days a week, and I often watch all four episodes. It's my shameful little indulgence.

I’ve asked myself why I like the show so much. Part of it is that I would love to be that unfiltered and outspoken and in-control in my job. Wow. Part of it is that I would love to be able to stop lying or unethical people dead in their tracks. Part of it is that I just cannot believe how ethically challenged so many people are, how they will justify not paying a loan back, not taking responsibility for wrecking someone’s car, not returning a deposit to a renter, and on and on.

I like how frank she is about rights you do NOT have when you live with someone as opposed to marrying them - I don't believe she's telling people to get married but, rather, telling them to not "play house" without really understanding what it means, and I so agree with that. I’m also really impressed with how much she emphasizes that fathers have a right to see their children, and that children that don’t see their fathers are at greater risk of poor grades, skipping school, and on and on. I also love learning about the law. I'm fascinated by it. I should have been a lawyer. Or an urban planner... but that's another blog...

Anyway, there are three things I really wish Judge Judy understood, because her misunderstanding of such is actually quite hurtful:
  1. Renters can’t just move when the apartment they are renting goes bad. For instance, here in the Portland, Oregon area, the U.S. Census Bureau places the rental housing vacancy rate at 3.4%, and the rent burden has increased well beyond a third of a household’s income. I just found out that some students at our little community's university are living in campers in various places around town - they cannot find anywhere else. Many - most - people that are renting in the greater PDX metro area, as well as so many other areas of the USA, do not have the option to just “move”, as she often shouts on her show.

  2. She talks about how in her America, an employer should be able to fire anyone at any time for any reason other than something protected by workplace discrimination laws, with no two-weeks or more notice, no severance, etc. Does she really have no idea how hard it is to find a new job, what a job search does to an individual or family in terms of stress and mental health, and the economic consequences of such? At will employment for everyone would put individuals and families at profound economic risk and create work places where everyone walked on egg shells.

  3. She often tells people to look over at a parent in the courtroom and remember that “She’s always going to be your mother” or “He’s always going to be your father.” Yes, that’s true. But no one should be required to carry on a relationship with a toxic person, even if that person is a parent. I’ve watched too many friends waste so much of their lives and become emotionally drained over and over trying to please a parent who will never be pleased, a parent who tears them down over and over. Very often, the best thing a person can do is walk away from toxic parents - and there is absolutely no shame in that at all. None. 
I know it's not just her; millions of people think this way. But I'm stunned at how out-of-touch she is on these three issues.

I have no reason to share this other than I have nothing else to do today...

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Nuclear War, A Great Man & Musical Rabbinical Studies

I love the TCM channel. They show movies you would never, ever see otherwise: forgotten classics, foreign films, B movies, and on and on. They also help me save lots of money on therapy.

I recently saw three films I’d never seen before, two of which I’d never even heard of before, all via TCM. And I want to share. Because I'm in the mood:

Panic in Year Zero. It is one of the most depressing post-nuclear movies I’ve ever seen - and I've seen all of them, at least the ones made before 1990. I'm fascinated by such movies because I think they say so much about the atmosphere of the time the film was made, feelings not just about nuclear war but about other fears, about family, about values... I had never heard of this movie - I'm not sure how I missed it until now. Released in 1962, it's a B movie, super low budget. In Panic in Year Zero, people don’t comfort each other, they don't ban together and try to pool their resources for survival after the nuclear bombs drop - rather, it’s every man for himself. Humans are inherently evil and you better shoot before you get shot. It’s a prepper’s wet dream. One man warns another to be careful as he begins a journey elsewhere, because, “Our country is still full of thieving, murdering ‘patriots.’” That same man forces a visitor to roll up his sleeves before he’ll let him in his house, to prove he’s not a junky - and junkies abound in this film. Two of the three female characters are raped. This movie lacks any hope at all for humans being inherently good. I felt like the movie was a warning, not about nuclear war, but about humans. It’s worth seeing just to see how bleak some people view humanity. I admit that I don't have much faith in humanity anymore, not after Brexit and Trump's election and the Turkish referendum turning their country into a voter-sanctioned dictatorship and the global hard turn to the right. But I just can't get with the every-man-for-himself mentality. I already can't watch Walking Dead because of the gore, but I also can't watch it because of the hopelessness, the lack of any cooperation among people. If the majority of humans are that selfish then, geesh, what's the point in going on? And with all that said - oh, yeah, you gotta see this movie. Then go pet some puppies and hold some babies and watch some sunrises. And, for the record, the film that I think nails what life will be like for those not immediately killed in a nuclear war in the USA: Testament from 1983.

The Great Man (1956), the only screenplay credit for José Ferrer, Mr. Rosemary Clooney. He also starred. It should be a classic film! It’s brilliant! It’s dark, it’s cynical, and I think it’s more relevant now than when it came out. It's almost noir. Everyone is wonderful, the story is awesome, the minor female characters all crackle with sass and wit and savviness, but I think Ed Wynn’s performance deserved a best-supporting actor nomination - he took my breath away with his slowly-building one-scene oh-so-serious performance. Maybe you have to be from a small town to really get that moment. I think the film isn’t better known because of its muddy soundtrack, which makes much of the dialogue hard to hear - and it is a dialogue heavy film. Oh, nephew George Clooney, please pay for the soundtrack to be cleaned up and release this on DVD! If you see it, don't miss the part where a character asks Ferrer's character how drunk she is, and he says, "Fair to middlin'". Such a Southern way of saying it - Ferrer was influenced by that Kentucky wife more than I thought.

Those are the two films I had never heard of. The third film, which I most certainly had heard of: Yentl. I purposely avoided it for years. I had seen only one scene, back when I was 18, with Barbara Streisand and Amy Irving, and thought it looked stupid and horrible. Now, seeing the film at 51 - I actually really enjoyed it, in a way that I never could have when I was young. It’s a directing triumph, at the very least, and it’s shameful Streisand wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award. SHAMEFUL. I also now “get” the singing in her head, something I couldn’t grasp at 18. Because, I think, I was 18. No, it’s not the greatest film ever made and it's not even in my top 100 of all time. But it is as good as all the other amazing films nominated that year for awards in some way: Terms of Endearment, The Big Chill, The Dresser, The Year of Living Dangerously (which is in my top 100), The Right Stuff, Tender Mercies, Educating Rita, Testament (another that is in my top 100 - and referenced for a second time in this blog), Silkwood, To Be or Not to Be, WarGames, and on and on.  Damn, what a great time for movies that was...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

pathologically ambitious, shrill & scary

I was very hard on Hillary Clinton in the months leading up to the November 2016 election. Very hard. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Oregon primary because I felt his message and track record were so much better than hers - not just more in line with mine, but better.  I was enraged over Clinton's choice for Vice President. I was also furious over her comments lauding Nancy Reagan for her response to HIV and AIDS, and her ridiculous backtracking regarding those statements.

I also got angry that, when I criticized her track record, I was sometimes accused of being sexist, despite the fact that I never criticized her hair or her voice or her ambition, and staunchly defended her when anyone did go after her for those things - including Obama supporters back in 2012 (she wasn't running then, but a lot of his supporters, online, felt the need to refer to her in vile terms). In the end, even in my endorsement of her, I was tough on her. But as I said over and over, online and in conversations with others, I also believed - and still do - that Hillary Clinton was absolutely qualified for the job of President, that she would serve with honor in and respect for the office, that she would try to be President for all Americans, that she would be true to her pro-Choice beliefs, that she is incredibly smart, that her political ambition is a thing to be lauded, not to be derided, that she responds to political pressure from the Democratic Party base, and that I had similar reservations about Barack Obama in terms of lack of political courage and progressive credentials and, yet, he surprised me in quite a few areas - maybe she would too. I did not vote for the lesser of two evils; I voted for a highly qualified person for President, one that would, at the very least, serve with solid competence.

Hillary Clinton received more votes than any white man that has every run for President, including the man that is now President. She won by a margin of 2.10% of the popular vote - that’s more than Jimmy Carter won over Gerald Ford, more than Richard Nixon won over Hubert Humphrey, more than JFK won over Richard Nixon. It’s close to the 2.46% margin George Bush won over John Kerry, and it's far more than the margin Gore had when he won the popular vote over George Bush in 2000. Altogether, it should have been enough to make her President, but because of our archaic election laws, it didn't.

So, here we are, months after the election, and the hateful comments about Hillary Clinton seem to have actually increased. And I take it personally.

Many weeks ago, someone I considered a friend, someone who did not vote for Trump, talked about why he hadn't wanted to vote for Clinton, and not once did he talk about her policy stances or time as Secretary of State or Senator, as I had when I criticized her; he just kept saying things like "I don't like her tone" and "she just doesn't seem Presidential" and "she's a career politician" and "she gets so shrill" and "there's just something about her I don't like." And the more he talked, the more I realized almost everything he was saying could be said about me.

Hillary Clinton was all that stood between us and a reckless, unstable, ignorant, inane, infinitely vulgar, climate-change-denying white-nationalist misogynist with authoritarian ambitions and kleptocratic plans. A lot of people, particularly white men, could not bear her, and that is as good a reason as any for Trump’s victory. Over and over again, I heard men declare that she had failed to make them vote for her. They saw the loss as hers rather than ours, and they blamed her for it, as though election was a gift they withheld from her because she did not deserve it or did not attract them. They did not blame themselves or the electorate or the system for failing to stop Trump.

That's from an essay by Rebecca Solnit, a columnist at Harper’s and the author of many books, including Men Explain Things to Me: And Other Essays. And I burst into tears when I read it - and I read it after I had written most of the text for this blog up to that excerpt.

Below is more from that same essay:

---

Clinton was constantly berated for qualities rarely mentioned in male politicians, including ambition – something, it’s safe to assume, she has in common with everyone who ever ran for elected office. It’s possible, according to Psychology Today’s headline, that she is ‘pathologically ambitious’. She was criticised for having a voice. While Bernie Sanders railed and Trump screamed and snickered, the Fox commentator Brit Hume complained about Clinton’s ‘sharp, lecturing tone’, which, he said, was ‘not so attractive’, while MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell gave her public instructions on how to use a microphone, Bob Woodward bitched that she was ‘screaming’ and Bob Cusack, the editor of the political newspaper the Hill, said: ‘When Hillary Clinton raises her voice, she loses.’ One could get the impression that a woman should campaign in a sultry whisper, but of course if she did that she would not project power. But if she did project power she would fail as a woman, since power, in this framework, is a male prerogative, which is to say that the set-up was not intended to include women.

As Sady Doyle noted, ‘she can’t be sad or angry, but she also can’t be happy or amused, and she also can’t refrain from expressing any of those emotions. There is literally no way out of this one. Anything she does is wrong.’
---

I remember back in 2008, the first time Hillary Clinton ran for President. Then-Fox News contributor Dick Morris said "I believe that there could well come a time when there is such a serious threat to the United States that she breaks down like that," adding, "I don't think she ought to be president." New York Daily News' Stanley Crouch said Clinton seemed "hysterical." He claimed that while Clinton was charismatic in person, on television she seemed: "...by turns icy, contrived, hysterical, sentimental, bitter, manipulative and self-righteous. In short, dehumanized by the mysterious dictates of technology, she takes on qualities that most people hate. Perhaps because of the way camera lights hit the planes of her face and the tinny distortions of her voice imposed by television microphones, something apparently evil happens."

I, too, am "pathologically ambitious." I, too, have eschewed work in the private sector, choosing to concentrate on the nonprofit/mission-based sector instead. I, too, have been constantly interrupted by men when it's supposed to be my turn to speak, either in a meeting or even when I am presenting, as an expert, to an audience. I, too, have been criticized for my tone rather than what I'm proposing or defending. I, too, have been criticized for the clothes I've worn to work. I, too, have been called "sentimental, bitter, manipulative and self-righteous" - though usually not all those words are used at the same time. I, too, have been told at work, at incredibly inappropriate moments, that I need to smile more. I, too, have been criticized for either being or acting "too smart" with men. In other words, I'm a lot like Hillary Clinton. And that means that I, too, have been criticized for presentation, appearance and my gender rather than the quality of my work and character.

As I've seen and heard Hillary Clinton criticized for those things, I have slowly realized just how often people must have criticized me, either just in their head or to each other when I'm not in the room. I realize just how much I'm not liked by so many, many people, not because of lack of ability or for transgressions, but for image, and for daring to reach for assume roles usually reserved for men. Not because of my words or what's in my heart or my work or my character, but because of my tone, because of "something" about me.

Where is the place in the world for Hillary Clinton, or for me?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

You rock! Who the hell are you?

I didn't go to the meeting with my US Congressional Representative in the next town. I had meant to, I had planned to, and it got here, and I just couldn't. As I said in my last blog, which you didn't read, I'm so tired. I'm floundering. Does any of this matter? Are we really going to have to wait two years - the elections in 2018 - to have any impact? What if those elections don't go well? What if the no-show voters remain no-shows? What if there are even more no-shows? What if Democrats remain purists and decide a Democratic candidate isn't going to be anti-corporate enough, pro-environment enough, progressive enough, and stay home, allowing the Republican to win? What else can I say to an elected official that I haven't said already?

I went to a panel discussion by Muslim women on what their life is like in the USA now - it was just a few blocks from me. I went to a free performance of The Laramie Project by a university gender equity group, also just a few blocks from me. I wrote postcards for the Ides of March. I'll go to the March for Science next month. But I'm wondering... does it really matter? Because all the people outraged on Facebook are pretty much just posting to Facebook.

Not that Facebook is bad. I'm on a Facebook group for the town where I live that is for discussion of social justice in our community and how to promote such. One thing I like about it is that it's mostly about "here's a great event to attend" rather than "Here is my white-person's opinion of the injustice to the Latino community happening now," for the most part. I'd like to think I've helped with that tone: I post at least a couple of times a week to it, with recommendations for events to attend, info on city and county government activities people need to be aware of and think about influencing, and practical ways to be allies to the many communities and individuals under threat now: Latinos, Muslims, Sikhs, black Americans, single moms, sexually-active women that don't want children...

I got a DM from someone else on the group. We had met face-to-face before, years ago, when, via another Facebook group, I offered free plums to anyone willing to come to my house and pick them. He wrote:

I remember gathering plums but I really had no idea who you were in terms of the quality of your posts. You rock! And now I see a return for you to Ukraine. Who the hell are you? What business calls you to Ukraine??? I so appreciate your contributions to facebook. You never miss - always on target.

I thanked him for the comments, told him a bit about me, and said that I was trying to apply the principles I use abroad and promote regarding community development right here in our little town.

What I didn't tell him was that this the best compliment I've had in a long time. I cried when I read it. Yeah, I am more than a woman who seems to always be home or walking her dog. Thanks for noticing.

I also got a very sweet shout out in this blog from a colleague in Australia. That meant a lot.

But it's not enough to get me out of the dumps.

I've been particularly down because, out of the blue, I got offered a trip to Ukraine to teach a workshop and, within days, the offer got rescinded, because of budgeting. The organization had wanted me because they had asked clients who they would most like to lead a workshop, and on what subject, and three people wrote in my name. Three. But there will be no trip because, just like every other area where I work, funding has been cut, or is about to be cut. This scaling back of support by government for nonprofits and international development isn't just bad for millions of people that rely on such - it's bad for a certain consultant in Oregon.

And many weeks before that, I got an email out of the blue telling me an online university wanted to interview me about teaching a class. I had my initial interview, just with an outsourced screener making sure I had the credentials, and then the date was set up with the dean of the department. I researched, I rehearsed, I adjusted various online things about me... and then she wrote the day before and said she needed to postpone the interview, and would get back to me. And then she didn't respond to my two emails afterward, checking in, saying I was oh-so-ready for the interview at her convenience and all that. And then I got an email from the first interviewer, saying they'd picked a candidate and thanking me for my time.

This is what it's been like professionally since moving back to the USA, and particularly for the last two years: almosts. And even those are becoming fewer and fewer.

Lots of colleagues are at a conference now that I would love to have attended. But I don't have the money for the travel and conference fees. Another set of colleagues really want me at a conference later this year, but I'm not sure I can afford that either - and I know it won't lead to any paid work, so why go? Conference attendance has never lead directly to paid work for me - though I've been paid to attend a few conferences.

Somewhere - I don't remember where - I read an interview with someone who said he makes himself write down five ideas a day. An idea for a business, or a screenplay, or a novel, or a vacation, or a career change, and on and on. It's supposed to force inspiration, force creativity. To break through and all that. I am not very creative. And I'm really uninspired. So I did it. For three months. I now have this huge document of ideas for screenplays and novels and businesses and nonprofits and different careers and on and on. And... yeah, whatever. The novel ideas aren't all that great. The nonprofits are vague and I'm not sure I could really prove any are needed.

A few years ago, I tried rebranding myself and applying for very different jobs than I had been most of my life. Going for it! No matter what! It resulted in nada.

While I'm not creative, I am an amazing number 2 for someone who is. He or she has the vision, I can get us there. But I have no one to follow. And at my age, people just see an old, fat woman. They don't see spirit and drive and capabilities.

Did I mention I'm floundering?

I'm having trouble even finding things I want to do socially. Nothing sounds interesting. I did find this, and got excited, but there were two problems: it's sold out, and I've got a few thousand dollars of medical bills coming up, so I couldn't afford it anyway.

And why am I writing this... no one is reading it...

Friday, March 3, 2017

Cut & paste

Those cut-and-paste posts on Facebook about "Let's see if anyone reads my status update" or "Hey, everyone, can I ask a favor"? I scroll right by them. As soon as I see those words, I stop reading and keep going. I hate cut-and-paste status updates pretending to be the words of friends. I've unfollowed some people because it's all they seem to post - memes and cut-and-paste status updates for thoughts and prayers.

I'm not worried about offending anyone by saying that because, the reality is, those folks aren't going to read this blog. They never do.

I do understand the desire to experiment and see who actually reads your Facebook posts. I "like" or otherwise react to most every friend's Facebook status update that I actually read, but most people don't - they just scroll through their newsfeed. And since I'm one of those sincere Facebook posters - unless there are quotes around something in my status update, I wrote it - I confess that I am a little hurt when a post of my own words gets no likes.

I confess that I've long tested whether or not people read my blogs. I've done it for years. My test is usually dropping something very juicy in the middle or at the end of a blog, something that any reader would react to with a "wow", at least. Then I wait and see who comments on that specific thing on Facebook or in an email to me or on the blog itself. Like when I was in Afghanistan: I wrote regularly about my experiences, and often put something jaw-dropping somewhere in the blog. Days later, I'd get emails from people asking me, "How's it going?" and then they'd go on about whatever, and I'd realize, wow, they so aren't reading my blogs, because if they did, they wouldn't just ask "How's it going?" They would ask, "Holy crap did that really happen?!?" Or when I had a motorcycle wreck in Utah - I wrote all about it in a travel blog, in great detail, and then posted a link to the blog on Facebook, without mentioning it - just said, "Hey, here's my travelogue from Utah. It was quite an adventure!" After about a dozen "great blog" comments, one friend - ONE - wrote "Oh my god, are you okay? I can't believe those photos!" I knew all those other folks hadn't actually read the blog - but she had.

Honestly, I get more feedback from strangers about my blogs than from friends. But that feedback is often so touching, it keeps me writing.

I'm so weird: I actually read my friends' blogs. You write some big essay online and post a link to it, and I actually go and read it. I also go through all of your vacation photos if you share them online. I do it because you are asking me to by posting a link, and I do it because I enjoy it. I confess I don't usually listen to your podcasts. Because to listen to a podcast, I have to be doing something - like washing the dishes or dusting or folding laundry - and I hate doing those things.

So what truth bomb am I going to drop here to see who reads this blog?

Harrison Ford is going to hike Kilimanjaro. Don't ask me how I know. I just know. And if you bothered to read this blog, now you do too. See, I drop these kind of truth bombs all the time - just think of all that, you've missed!

Actually, the biggest truth bomb is probably this: I really do NOT want to have to be political right now. I'd love to say, "Screw it" and not care. I'm 52 years old - I really don't want to be doing this again. I just don't. I'm so angry at the people that have created this situation, by supporting the current administration or not voting at all, that I just can't be around them. If I hear one more person say, "Oh, he's really nice, he voted for Trump, but he doesn't support everything he's doing," I'm going to run down the street screaming.  

As much as I don't want to be political right now, I have to be political. I have no choice. Because I can't ignore deportations of people that have lived here for decades, paid taxes, contributed to communities and raised families. I can't ignore a push for private prisons that's a part of a plan to lock up more black Americans, specifically. I can't ignore all of the citizens already disenfranchised from voting, let alone the additional citizens that will be prevented from voting. I can't ignore women who need abortions but can't access them. I can't ignore kids in substandard public schools, schools that have been defunded, staffed by under-paid, overworked teachers who are regularly derided by rich, white people who send their kids to private schools. I can't ignore desperate refugees. I can't ignore the growing gap between the 1% and the rest of us - a gap that will grow exponentially in the next four years.

Therefore, while you post outrage to Facebook, I go to community meetings for immigrants where lawyers try to explain their oh-so-limited rights (and I try to understand Spanish). I join a citizens committee for safety and, instead of talking about pedestrian and bicycle safety - the reasons I joined - I keep reminding the group that there are a few thousand terrified citizens in our midst, per the current administration, and if we are supposed to be about safety, we need to be thinking about them (it wins me no friends - I've no doubt I won't be renewed for next year). I look for Democratic Party meetings I can go to by mass transit, since I don't have a car and don't like riding my motorcycle at night (no luck so far). Instead of going to the movies, I go to meetings with state and national representatives and hope my presence matters. And I resent all your political posts because I know you aren't out registering voters or protesting in a legislator's lobby or even calling your Senators and Congressional representative.

Another truth bomb: I'm lonely. I so need a girl's weekend somewhere, away from our homes, somewhere fun or beautiful. But I not only don't have the money for such (I'd be blowing some of my emergency fund on it if I did it), I can't find anyone to go with. I've floated the idea to a few friends - none are available or interested. But, really, who wants to hang out with Eeyore.

I'm not only tired politically, I'm also dealing with some health issues and feeling very alone in facing them. No one wants to be around someone that's going to need medical treatments of any kind and be in pain and helpless for several days. I'm looking into treatment in Mexico because it's cheaper - yes, even with insurance covering part of it here in the USA, and even including the flights to and from Mexico, TWICE. And also because I'd probably get way better care there: these medical "vacations" arrange your place to stay and for someone to check on you and make sure you're okay and get you the basics of what you need. After a painful procedure, that's what one needs, and it's certainly not covered here in the USA. In the end, even if it ends up being the same costs as here in the USA, it sounds like I'll get way better support and care than I will here. But don't expect any photos from this kind of "vacation." Unless the vacation also provides a Diego Luna lookalike who will hold my hand after the procedures. Then I will totally be taking photos.

My last truth bomb: like Olivia Spencer, I also have imposter's syndrome. But unlike her, I have been exposed as a fraud. If I wasn't a fraud, I'd be employed now... and have a well-selling book.

Back to the political stuff this weekend. If anyone cares.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Why do people in the USA not vote? & how to address this?

Millions of people in the USA who are able to vote do not vote. Why?

I’ve been researching online, and every article seems to have a list of different reasons, plus I've heard some first-hand from people that don't vote that aren't on those lists. So I threw them all together here. This list excludes people who are prevented from voting by law because of a conviction.

The reasons millions of people in the USA who are able to vote but don't include:
  • they don’t have the identification needed by law to register, and they either don’t know how to get that proper ID, or the fees and work hours to get the proper ID gets in the way of obtaining such, or the hassle just doesn’t seem worth it
     
  • even if they have the identification needed, the hassle of registering to vote doesn’t seem worth it, or they don’t understand how it works
     
  • the lines to vote are too long before and after work, they can't get off work to vote, or to try to maneuver a long line with children in tow is too difficult.
     
  • they don’t have transportation to a polling station
     
  • the hassle of getting an absentee ballot doesn’t seem worth it or they don’t know how to do it
     
  • they think they will be more likely to be chosen for jury duty if they register to vote (they won't be, however, as juries are drawn from driver's license holders as well)
     
  • they get sick on election day or have a family emergency
     
  • they don’t care about politics; they have no motivation to care
     
  • they don’t like any of their choices
     
  • they think voting really does not matter
     
  • bad weather 
I think that all but the last four bullets can be addressed by education, personal assistance and/or absentee ballots. And that should give you hope. And motivation to get involved to change things.

Another thing about this list, as noted by The Guardian: the obstacles to voting disproportionately affected black Americans.

Non-white Americans have typically had much lower turnout rates than white Americans. The Census Bureau asks eligible voters who don’t turn out to vote why they didn’t. Their responses show that white Americans are five times more likely than black Americans to say they didn’t vote simply because they “did not like candidates or campaign issues”. Meanwhile, black voters are more likely than white voters to cite obstacles to voting, such as “inconvenient polling place” or “transportation problems”.

According to the Center for American Progress,, “poll closures and limited voting hours disproportionately affect black voters”. And looking at early voting data, they found that trend was particularly noticeable in North Carolina, where there were 158 fewer early polling places in counties with large black communities and African American voter participation was down 16%.

Another reason, “registration problems”, was chosen by about 7% of eligible black voters and 5% of eligible white voters when explaining why they did not vote in the 2012 presidential election. Voter ID laws, which disproportionately affect black and younger voters according to a report by the Government Accountability Office, are often the reason for this.


So, now what?

Please get involved in efforts that help people register to vote. Contact your local Democratic Party HQ (or the party of your choice), the nearest League of Women Voters, any Black Lives Matter affiliates, the local chapter of the Urban League, etc., to find out how to join a register-to-vote effort. Ask your friends and family if they are registered to vote and, if they aren't, help them do so - many states allow people to register online. Make a goal: that you will, personally, register five new people to vote in 2017. You will register five more in 2018.

Help people get the identification they need to vote if they don't have such. Again, those aforementioned organizations may have such an effort but need more volunteers to help with it.

Look for efforts to help to get people to the polls. There are local elections and voter referendums in 2017 all over the USA, maybe in your city or county. Find out by asking any of your city council representatives (you can email them). Consider taking a vacation day on voting day so you can drive people to their polling stations. Or help people apply for and submit absentee ballots.

Except for filling suddenly vacant seats, the next elections for national Senators and Representatives in November 2018. It is vital that there is a huge voter turnout for these November 2018 elections, and the work has to start NOW for that to happen. Consider taking a vacation day on voting day so you can drive people to their polling stations or help with child care for someone needing to vote. Or sign up with the aforementioned organizations to help people apply for and submit absentee ballots - a great idea for people that have transportation, work or child care issues that might prevent them from being able to vote.

And one last thing, to those that say they don't vote because they don't like the choices: get over yourselves, buttercups. It is the height of white privilege to have the right to vote, the ability to vote, the credentials to vote, the registration to vote, and then not vote. I voted for Bernie in the primary, but damn right I voted for Hillary in November. Because it was far, far more important to try to prevent what's happening now than to be selfish and think non-participation sends a message. Because it doesn't. Not when it comes to voting.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

In Five Weeks

In the last four and a half weeks I’ve:
  • met one-on-one with a representative of a Latina empowerment nonprofit to talk about how to train their clients to be better story tellers regarding their experiences with oppression and harassment, so the stories can be captured and better communicated to the press, city officials, the police, etc. (they aren't being captured currently)

  • met one-on-one with the police’s community outreach person to hear about his trainings on inherent bias in the police force and to talk about outreach to those that aren’t native English speakers

  • attended a “Conozca sus derechos!” workshop at a local cultural center so I can learn how to refer immigrant and Latino community members regarding such

  • gotten in touch with Right Wing Watch about two local activities I think they should know about

  • attended a public meeting by one of my national Senators to learn what he’s doing on a national level and what he wants his constituents to be doing to back him up

  • attended a public meeting by my local state representative to hear what she’s doing in the state capital and to hear what she wants us to be doing to back her up and let our voices be heard

  • offered public testimony at a city council meeting in support of a sanctuary resolution

  • attended the open house of the nearest Islamic mosque to hear Muslims, in their own words, tell me how to be a better ally

  • attended the women’s march

  • posted information about all of the above before it happened to encourage other people in my community to attend and participate as well

  • expanded my resources on my web site about how to combat fake news (I’m one of the only people that has been researching and writing about how misinformation campaigns target government health and NGO development initiatives, and have been doing so since 2005)
I'm tired. What keeps me going? What YOU do. When you post to social media about what you're doing, about what you're outraged about, what you are seeing and experiencing. Please don't stop. 

But I confess I'll be taking a break at some point... 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Who is behind right wing bots?

A friend created a fake Facebook account around lunch time on Friday - yesterday:
  • He used a right wing meme as a profile photo, and had a big USA nationalist cover photo (flag, etc.). 
  • He marked his religion on this fake profile as “Jesus Christ.” 
  • In his profile, he said he is divorced.
  • In his profile, his high school is fake - it's somewhere in Kentucky, and has the name "Christian" in the title
  • He “liked” Fox News, Breitbart, and some “we love Trump” account. 
  • He put up a few status updates, all political in nature.
  • Then he sent friend requests to 5 - 10 people who were posting right wing crap on those pages.
  • He did NOT comment on any pages at all.
24 hours later - around noon time on Saturday:
  • he sent out another 5 -10 friend requests, choosing people out of the comments section of the aforementioned pages, and had about 7 Facebook friends. 
  • he added an implication on his profile that he’s an Army veteran and as having graduated from a fake Christian high school in Kentucky.
By 6 p.m. that evening, he has MORE THAN 100 FRIEND REQUESTS.

I want to note, that as of 6 p.m. Saturday evening:
  • He hasn’t posted on any page other than his own. 
  • He hasn’t engaged with anyone at all except to send about 20 friend requests. 
  • And in the time it took me to type everything you have read up to this point, I have been informed that he had about 10 more friend requests.
Later that same evening: he went through 100 of his friend requests. He said that:
  • Some say they are women, and have flowers and inspirational quotes in their profile. They also each have hundreds, even thousands, of friends. 
  • Some are people that, in their status update, have only posts selling something: knives, ammunition, survival items, etc. 
Some things to consider:
  • On his real profile, the one that uses his real name, location, job, etc., he does comment on public organization's status updates - for instance, on a news organization's facebook page status update.  
  • On his real profile, he rarely gets friend requests - and when he does, they are usually from people he knows. 
So, my conclusion: There are bots - software programs - that do nothing but seeking out right wing people on Facebook. Some of the friend requests are from real people, some are from fake profiles, but most, and maybe all, are a result of bots that has been programmed specifically to find people that lean far right.

But WHO has created these bots?

FYI, this experiment by my friend was inspired by What goes on in a far-right Facebook filter bubble?, an article in Deutsche Welle about two TV reporters for Germany's ZDF broadcaster that created a fake account for an imaginary, and extreme, right wing German, and what happened regarding who reached out to that fake profile on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

From gutted to hopeful

I was gutted after the election. Gutted. To see a fascist win the election, and to hear people celebrate taking away people's health care insurance (including their own!), the sell-off of public lands, more guns, taking money away from public schools, closing women's health care clinics, oppressing Black Americans, marginalizing Mexican-Americans, and getting cosier with the current Russian dictator - it was too much to bear. I wasn't despondent because of one man - I was despondent because of more than 60 million voters in the USA - and those that didn't vote but were oh-so-pleased at what was happening, at the misery of others. I was mostly pissed off at white people, because even a majority of university-educated white women voted for this man.

But now?

The women's march - largest day of protests in US history - the refusal by any artist of substance and importance to perform in any way associated with the inauguration, the spontaneous protests regarding the Muslim ban, the massive donations to refugee-support agencies and the ACLU, the incredible activism against DeVos, people spontaneously cleaning off Nazi symbols on a New York subway car, all these people calling their senators and congressmen repeatedly and turning out for city council meetings in record numbers and filling their social media feeds with activism ideas and activities...

No, we didn't stop DeVos, who is profoundly unqualified to be in charge of this nation's education system. But Republican Senators are now exposed for not listening to their constituents. We've scared them - really scared them. Let's keep scaring them.

This is from a dear friend back in Kentucky, someone I've known since the 2nd grade:

"I was never one to care about politics, pay attention to politics, sadly to say 😞 However, I AM PAYING ATTENTION and Trump will make an activist out of me!!! I wish I paid attention sooner."

Dear friend, thank you for your energy. It's people like you, not me, that are going to make the real difference.

I do not lament all this political talk on Facebook. I relish it.

It's all given me hope. And rebellions are built on hope.

Don't be discouraged. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint. We've much work to do before the midterm elections in November 2018. We've got voters to register and non-voters to inspire and districts and states to focus are energies on and turn from red to blue. And we've got human rights to defend.

Also see:

What I'll Be Doing Over the Next Four Years

Nonprofits to Support to Counter the Trump Presidency

Monday, January 30, 2017

appeal to white voters - or change their minds?

It wasn't voter turnout that gave Trump more elector votes than Clinton. As has been widely reported, it was all the white people that voted for Trump. But I fear how this fact is being interpreted. I'm already seeing people saying that Democrats need to abandon emphasis on social justice issues, to have a harder line about Muslims, to back off support for gay rights, and on and on, all in a quest to court more white voters.

This New York Times article points out that, while Hispanic voters are often credited with President Obama's victories, the reality is that President Obama would have won re-election without the Hispanic vote, because President Obama won the white vote. And Hillary Clinton didn't win that white vote. By contrast, in 2016, Trump made huge gains among white voters - working-class white voters.

Mr. Trump owned Mr. Obama’s winning message to autoworkers and Mr. Romney’s message to coal country. He didn’t merely run to protect the remnants of the industrial economy; he promised to restore it and “make America great again...”

Taken together, Mr. Trump’s views on immigration, trade, China, crime, guns and Islam all had considerable appeal to white working-class Democratic voters, according to Pew Research data. 

But the article misses the mark in saying that that the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage didn't play a role in Trump's, as well as his "law and order" diatribes - thinly disguised fear-based rhetoric that fuels fears of black and Latino Americans. One look at the newsfeeds of my many Facebook friends and family back in Kentucky and throughout the South and mid-West shows those positions on abortion, same-sex marriage and "law and order" were hugely important factors in decision-making regarding voting, along with those unrealistic comments about the coal industry and trade with China and policies about Muslims.

I've given up watching CNN, because during the election, CNN rarely called out Trump, or his supporters, on their lies. CNN was all about commentary by pundits, but not about journalism. But even a broken clock is right twice a day, and CNN's John Blake gets it right in this article, which notes:

Trump's triumph is now being roundly described as a revolt by white working-class voters; racism, sexism and religious bigotry had little, if anything, to do with it. People making this argument are following a script first honed by another group of Americans who made history disappear. After the Civil War, "Lost Cause" propagandists from the Confederacy argued the war wasn't fought over slavery -- it was a constitutional clash over state's rights, they said; hatred toward blacks had nothing to do with it.

It was an audacious historical cover-up -- to convince millions of Americans that what they'd just seen and heard hadn't really happened. It worked then, and some historians say it could work again with Trump.

I fear that Democratic Party leaders will encourage Democratic candidates to backtrack on social justice issues in a misguided effort to appeal to white voters... unless we get involved in our local Democratic Party committees, and pressure them to stay true to our values.

And here's news from another source: Trump lost every income bracket below $48,000 - including white people - and won every group above it.

I still don't know how to reach middle class whites who voted Trump - facts don't matter to them. BuzzFeed reported that fake news stories about the USA Presidential election this year generated more engagement on Facebook than the top election stories from 19 major news outlets COMBINED – that included major news outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and NBC News, and on and on. And then there's Pizzagate.

But if the Democratic Party abandons our values just to reach middle class white people that voted for Trump then, most certainly, millions of us will abandon that party.

Also see:


  • No, it wasn't about the economy
  • 2017 & beyond
  • silence means approval
  • What does it mean to be "white" in the USA?