The Notion of a Hero

wonder-woman-602

[1]

Marie Curie, Nobel Prize portrait

[2]

I used to think I wanted to be Dr. Who’s companion, Wonder Woman, or a prize-winning medical scientist. This morning I was watching a movie and a greater hero far worthier of admiration and emulation came to my attention: Maisie Ravier.

 

Swing Shift Maisie

[3]

Maisie, stage name of Brooklyn’s Mary Anastasia O’Connor played by Ann Sothern, strove for a career in show business, but in every incarnation was cut off at the knees, left stranded, alone, without a cent, in unfamiliar places. Moreover, in every place and situation, after an “oy vey” moment, she uses her considerable “diamond in the rough” charm to make friends of good people or to make her the target of shortsighted power seekers.

Maisie

[4]

A strong woman – a woman of intelligence – someone to be reckoned with. Yet, like me, she had no influential friends, no Tardis, no lasso of truth, no magnetic bracelets or wrists strong enough to catch bullets, and certainly no understanding of higher mathematics. What she had was an understanding of people and how to connect with them. Inured to the sort of life that was taken for granted in 1939 (when the first “Maisie” movie appeared), she took every step with purpose and direction. Even terrible life obstacles could not stop her. She could recognize obstacles, consider them, and continue in spite of them.

Ann Sothern Reads

[5]

Now there’s a hero worth emulating.

Bet you know a few.

 

Of course, it would still be fun to take a short trip with The Doctor.

Tom Baker as Dr. Who IV, and (dare I say his better half?) The Tardis

[6]


[1]6′ 7″ and Green: Wonder Woman, http://shehulk.sliverofice.com/wonder-woman-602-603-and-604-comic-book-reviews
[2]Ann Sothern with Fred Brady in Swing Shift Maisie (1943), one of the ten films in which she starred as Maisie Ravier (Image: Doctor Macro), http://themotionpictures.net/2013/01/09/classic-stars-on-the-small-screen-ann-sothern-in-susie
[3]http://starletshowcase.blogspot.com/2008_08_01_archive.html
[4]”Maisie,” first in the series, http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/56461/maisie-collection-volume-1-maisie-congo-maisie-gold-rush-maisie-maisie-was-a-lady-ringside-maisie-the
[5]Ann Sothern reading, http://starletshowcase.blogspot.com/2008_08_01_archive.html
[6]Tom Baker as The Doctor and The Tardis, http://www.tom-baker.co.uk/pages/content/index.asp?PageID=124

Posted in Dr. Who, heroes, nostalgia, powerlessness | 3 Comments

The World on a Page

Julie &CyranoThe other day I was at a party and someone reported yet another slam at Science Fiction as literature. Things have changed a little in the mind of the public since “Star Wars” first hit the screen, but, by and large, really big box office is still anathema to some literary types. Nevertheless, from Cyrano de Bergerac, whose works L’Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune (Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon (1657) and Les États et Empires du Solei (The States and Empires of the Sun) (1662) are classics of early modern science fiction, to Julie E. Czerneda, author of the Web Shifters, Night’s Edge, and the Contributor series (among other things), and beyond, great science fiction writing has never revolved around science and technology. People look to art to understand life, negotiate its obstacles.

VillainsDaleks, you ask? Borg? How can a faceless villain whose purpose is to destroy or a bionic society that devours the uniqueness of every culture they meet add to the brilliance of human endeavor? Why should this dismissal surprise me from a world populated by a those who still give only lip-service to equal pay, want privacy and individuality legislated out of existence, and judge individuals by their ancestry?

Captain Janeway

[5]

While historically (and currently to a degree), women may still find limitations in Literature, both in the female characters and in thought provoking and relevant opportunities, the genre as a whole has a better track record than the world in general does. Science Fiction is noted for leading the way in encouraging individuality and creativity and the dissipation of exclusivity. Within its parameters, whole fictional societies have banded together to fight for the dignity of spirit of even the smallest demographic. Sometimes the heroes are human – sometimes not.

Spock & Deanna

YES, The United States was built by individuality, creativity, and intelligence. Still, can’t that be said about all countries and civilizations? In Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” universe, the purpose of obliterating poverty and disease is to bring human society together, first within its own borders, and then with off-world civilizations willing to forge friendships in the same way Earth societies have attempted to do since the beginning of governments. Friendships with societies of divergent physical appearance, traditions, cultures, and sometimes, even ethical values.

Moreover, when human society of Roddenberry’s future meets a society that mirrors our political foibles today, our collective conscience may well rebel, which is what makes writing literature so challenging. So, Eisenhower2Character is the basis of good writing regardless of market niche or genre. Why is it not the basis of good human interaction? Some say it is, but we’ve been experiencing the effects of forces President Eisenhower warned of over fifty years ago, like the Industrial Military Complex that planned to destroy the job market. Apparently, some people are worth more than others; more deserving of education and employment for a living wage. Superstitions still abound: accusing demographic groups of stealing children or soiling our cultural heritage.

Friendship 7

[9]

This great country, hewn by individuality and creativity, responded to financial crises in schools by canceling art and music programs. Moreover, Congress may have claimed that NASA’s budget was cut because it wasn’t contributing enough to society, but do you really think Roddenberry created computers, the cellphone, the tablet, or GPS? His writers and advisers may have predicted their widespread use, but it was space technology that created them. The technologies developed by NASA have shaped most current personal worlds.

Why would those who ignore or distrust the sort of individuality and creativity dreamt of in Science Fiction, consider the genre deeply enough to appreciate that the forces that drive SF are the same as those that drive all good writing? We depend on literature to answer hard questions about life and inspire us to make the world a better place. And when this world gets too terrifying to look at, some authors set their answers on other world metaphors, but the inspiration is still here.

CREDITS
[1.]Cyrano de Bergerac: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrano_de_Bergerac
[2]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julie_E._Czerneda
[3]http://www.solarnavigator.net/daleks.htm

[5]Kate Mulgrew as Captain Katharyn Janeway: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kate_Mulgrew; http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/star-trek-women/images/10917711/title/captain-janeway-photo
[6]Leonard Nimoy as Commander Spock of Vulcan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Nimoy; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spock
[7]Marina Sirtis as Commander Deanna Troi of Betazed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marina_Sirtis; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deanna_Troi
[8]President Dwight D. Eisenhower: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwight_D._Eisenhower
[9]Friendship 7 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury-Atlas_6

Posted in Borg, Daleks, de Bergerac, debate, Dr. Who, proper response, psychology, Science Fiction, Superstition | 5 Comments

What Goes Around . . . ?

Someone once said you should always be nice to a writer because you may end up in a novel. Clearly that applies to blogs as well.

My friend Dr. Gerald Stein, a retired psychotherapist, writes a blog which I occasionally link to my Facebook page. His following is considerably larger than mine (over 4,000) rarely, if ever, do his comments cut — or, at least, attempt to cut. Recently, he received an angry, intentionally insulting comment which he decided to turn into a blog entry. Humans often find it difficult to read therapy-based essays without projecting. The trick is, I suppose, to limit your response to the essay (or therapist, debater, authority figure, friend) to the subject, rather than to let the rhetoric degrade into name calling. A nearly impossible task for too many these days — especially those with public pulpits.

What do you think? Stripped of the name-calling, did the commenter have a point? And what about Dr. Stein’s response? Please, read both blog entries before commenting.

Dealing with Online Criticism of that “Bald, Ugly, Old” Man: Me”

Beautiful and Smart, But Unlucky in Love: The Reasons Why

Posted in blogging, debate, politics, proper response, psychology, Therapy | Leave a comment

Ghosts

Both Hackney’s in Glenview, IL evoke ghosts of my past in memories of family, friends, and, of course,Hackney's Historical the menu: Not just because of the burgers from a nearly 100-year-old recipe, and the Onion Loaf, not quite as old, but terribly addictive. So few surviving places offer Green River Phosphates, Green Cows, or simply the original, mildly bubbly lime Green River soda pop.

The other morning at a retreat in the Hackney’s on Lake in Glenview, IL, I experienced a ghost of a different sort. Perhaps it was a function of incipient cataracts, but I thought I was alone at the sink. As I was leaving the restroom behind the host desk Baby_Face_Nelsonby the stairs, the door began to close on me. Automatically reaching for it, it was jerked out of my grasp for a moment – was it an unseen human or Baby Face Nelson? On the other hand, would he have been as courtly in life? Having died in a safe house in Wilmette, the next village east, Baby Face Nelson may have been one of most brutal of the organized criminals who hung out at Hackney’s for the beer, burgers, and slots.

On the other hand, it might have a spirit of a family member from Hackney’s when it was a Doorsimple mom and pop outfit. Perhaps it’s someone who appreciates my efforts to bring in new and lost diners into the fold. To whomever it was, celestial or human, I said “Thanks.”

Not my first experience touching the spirit spiritual plane: Setting aside for a moment the multiple shades at Mom’s life celebrations, finding my paternal grandfather waiting for me outside the restroom in my first apartment, and my enate grandmother visiting me at a writers retreat, I shiver a bit remembering my high school term paper on Hephaistos, God of Fire and Forge.

Temple of HephaestusAbout five whole pages, it sported myriad footnotes, often multiple instances in one sentence – which inspired the teacher to comment “research challenges us all!” Soon after finishing it, I was in the kitchen with Mom engaged in a vociferous adolescent encounter. Upon exerting the obligatory Maternal “Last Word on the Subject,” she switched on the gas stove. Rather than following it’s usual path around the burner head, the blue and orange flame reached for her hand, as if Hephaistos himself was taking my side.

When I told my teacher, a very practical, matter of fact woman with a halo of shocking apollowhite hair, what had happened, she paled. She warned me that the gods are not separate from nature, but, in fact, are the elements themselves. She said I needed to be careful: spending that much time writing about one of The Immortals was a form of worship. In a similar experience, she told me she’d had a close encounter with Apollo riding a dawn mail train up Mt. Olympus. Incandescent in his chariot speeding toward her, he had swaddled her in his glory.

Family headsGhosts come in many prosaic forms: memories, guilt, nostalgia, look-a-likes, act-a-like, children’s eyes, and family histories, to name a few. Why not more romantic shapes: shades of watchful grandparents, grateful specters resurrected by the interest of descendants, or mournful or blissful previous residents. I’ve mostly been fortunate with those that have touched my life – possible, but unrealized danger to my mother notwithstanding, prosaic and romantic alike – and I’m thankful for those past and future.
________

1 Hackney’s in the 1920s served hamburgers and beer from their back porch.
2 Baby Face Nelson aka Lester Gillis from http://www.answers.com/main/source_info_frames.jsp?sourceURL=http://www.fbi.gov/libref/historic/famcases/babyface/babyface.htm&imageURL=http://content.answcdn.com/main/content/img/webpics/Baby_Face_Nelson.jpg&imgSrcURL=http://www.fbi.gov/libref/historic/famcases/babyface/nelson.jpg&flavor=AC
3 From the Door Idea Gallery at http://www.simpsondoor.com/idea-gallery/
4 Temple of Hephaistos in Athens from Buzzle http://www.buzzle.com/articles/temple-of-hephaestus.html
5 Tetradrachm from the Illyro-Paeonian region, representing Apollo from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo
6 Parents with Father’s Sibs, in-laws, and aunt circa 1960.

Posted in family, ghosts, nostalgia, supernatural | 2 Comments

Trust?

Okay, I’ve fallen into the trap of uploading “TMI”[1] to the internet. Fortunately, I seem to have gotten it down before anything disastrous happened. “Seems” is, of course, the operative word. The issue is trust. Without history to fall back on, most of us seem to default to trust. “Most?” Well, given internet history, more and more have decided they’re too smart to trust easily, a trait of mixed virtue.

Traditionally, as a society, we have trusted physicians, lawmakers, law enforcers, scientists, bankers, and a host of other professionals. Yet, history has shown some of them to be fatally unworthy of trust. And, this is no longer limited to subsequent generations misusing the tools of honorable innovators, such as the uses to which energy conversions have been used.

Two recent New York Times articles have highlighted this issue. The first, “The Immortal HLacksLife of Henrietta Lacks, the Sequel”[2] by Rebecca Skloot, details the events following the author’s book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.[3] This overwhelming best seller tells of the 1951 harvesting of DNA samples without the knowledge or consent of Harriet Lacks, a recently deceased tobacco farmer. In mid-March this year, the genome was sequenced and the results published with her name and family information. Not only had Lacks not been told of the harvest, her family did not hear about the research until twenty years later when her grandchildren were made part of the study.

After a press release from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, which sequenced the genome, stated “We cannot infer anything about Henrietta Lacks’s genomJPJMorgane, or of her descendants, from the data generated in this study,” a skeptical scientist uploaded the published DNA to a free Internet website, SNPedia, a Wikipedia-like site for translating genetic information. The results validated his skepticism, and that of those who agreed with him that the laboratory’s assertion was untrue. As Skloot said, “No one knows what we may someday learn about Lacks’s great-grandchildren from her genome, but we know this: the view we have today of genomes is like a world map; genomic Google Street View is coming very soon.”[4]

The second article, “Masked by Gibberish, the Risks Run Amok” by Floyd Norris[5] JPMorganChase-Ghetty Imagediscusses the unchecked losses JP Morgan Chase Bank accrued in the “mess of the London ‘whale trades’ that dominated the financial news last year. In essence, Bruno Iksil,[6] the so-called “London Whale,” in a written report, called for executing “trades that makes sense,” specifying: “sell the forward spread and buy protection on the tightening move . . . use indices and add to existing position . . . go long on risk on some belly tranches especially where defaults may realize . . . [and] buy protection on HY and Xover in rallies and turn the position over to monetize volatility.” If you are confused by these orders, a gibberish-like string of very specialized investment terms, you are in good company. Not only were other members of JP Morgan’s International Senior Management Group of the Chief Investment Office nescient of some of them, so were the comptroller’s office, federal investigators, and eventually the senators on the investigating committee.

Though the assertion that these terms are gibberish may be exaggerated, the result of asking a bank to become that involved in investment strategy was clearly a disaster. This fiasco is nearly certain to inspire the writing, if not passing of laws prohibiting using unclear terms from being an effective defense for financial misdeeds.

What both cases have in common is that in both  stories, even as the situation worsened, no one ever commented on the “emperor’s new clothes.” Not until the bottom fell out. Perhaps — and I do mean maybe — the scientists developing the genome, with their eyes on the goal rather than the ball may have had legal protection for harvesting cells without knowledge or consent of a dead patient. It would certainly not be the first time science has been shortsighted: I was one of thousands of infants subjected to the nuclear alternative to tonsillectomy and, to this day, I do not understand the arrogance that presumed that aiming several thousand rads of atomic radiation at a tiny, immature target would be any easier than herding cats. And what about the scientist who uploaded the DNA to make a point? He may have acted with the noblest of motives, but it was further penetration into the family’s privacy. In its way like bombing war factories — an immorality in aid of a moral cause. Moreover, no-one asked any questions until Skloot’s book was published. So, again perhaps, laws may be passed to prevent the rest of us from her scenario. [Although in this political climate, I wouldn’t count on it.”

Imagine if someone secretly sent samples of your DNA to one of many companies that promise to tell you what your genes say about you. That report would list the good news (you’ll probably live to be 100) and the not-so-good news (you’ll most likely develop Alzheimer’s, bipolar disorder and maybe alcoholism). Now imagine they posted your genetic information online, with your name on it. Some people may not mind. But, I assure you, many do: genetic information can be stigmatizing, and while it’s illegal for employers or health insurance providers to discriminate based on that information, this is not true for life insurance, disability coverage or long-term care.

In the financial incident, the results were so very far reaching, that even the very human desire not to look stupid in the eyes of one’s colleagues appears much more degrading than it normally would, but for the judgment of history. True, few situations that most of us will face will threaten our very existence. However, don’t be surprised if there’s a strong ratio aspect between world financial collapse and an individual’s stigma.

If those charged with keeping our scientific and financial house in order fall back on loglines like “too big to fail,” they effectively condone the deregulation that left us vulnerable to attack. Deregulation requires a high level of trust which has yet to be justified in modern times. Proof positive that some people don’t read or learn from history — or worse, that they saw what happened in the 1920s because of the deregulation under Hoover, and wanted it to happen again with them as beneficiaries. Whatever the consequences.

Sadly, many of those who would open the way for financial abuses are often the same as those who want to put in the protocols by which privacy would become obsolete. As Skloot pointed out, there are economic ramifications, and lobbyists are certainly putting them on their to-do lists. Yet the consequences may not be simply economic. Given our new technologies and the chasm between politics and people, we could be on a slippery slope to yet another holocaust.

Honestly, I can’t say I won’t continue to default to trust, but I won’t count on having my trust justified. Still, I’m sure we can count two things: some people will write protective laws and others will fight them — fighting hard and, possibly, dirty. Though we can also count on human beings being afraid to look foolish, we can only hope they won’t let it stop them from asking the scary questions. And, yes, now, I’m very careful about what I upload.

1. “Too Much Information”
2. Published: March 23, 2013 in the Opinion section of the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/opinion/sunday/the-immortal-life-of-henrietta-lacks-the-sequel.html?emc=eta1&_r=0 Photo of Henrietta Lacks from http://kemetically-afrolatino.tumblr.com/post/18858884833

3. Skloot, Rebecca, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, New York: Crown Publishers, 2009.

4. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/opinion/sunday/the-immortal-life-of-henrietta-lacks-the-sequel.html?emc=eta1&_r=0
5. Norris, Floyd, “Masked by Gibberish, the Risks Run Amok,” New York Times, March 21, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/22/business/behind-the-derivatives-gibberish-risks-run-amok.html?src=recg
6. Apparently, there are no online photos of Iksil, but, in search for one, Google Images pops up photos of Voldemort. According to the online Daily Mail, he dubbed the voice of Harry Potter’s arch enemy before announcing his resignation. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2142866/JPMorgan-Chase-trader-Bruno-Michel-Iksil-thought-2bn-loss.html. The Gettys Image of JPMorgan Chase Bank appeared at http://nj1015.com/jpmorgan-chase-acknowledges-2-billion-trading-loss/

PHOTO CREDITS
Learning from mistakes from Allied Universal Safety and Security Training website: http://rjwestmore.com/2013/01/1464/fire-kills-233-in-brazil-demonstrates-tragic-pattern-of-failing-to-learn-from-history/Henrietta Lacks from: Skloot, Rebecca, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, New York: Crown Publishers, 2009.
Morgan front: https://www.jpmorganchase.com/
DNA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA
Atomic Energy symbol: https://www.slideshare.net/edstermer/cdocuments-and-settingsemy-documentsenergy-and-the-environment1010atomic-theoryatomic-theory

Posted in DNA, economy, ethics, politics, Scientific ethics, too big to fail/jail, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Contemporary Cannibal

Rabbi Chaninah, deputy to the kohanim, would say: “Pray for the integrity of the sovereignty, for were it not for the fear of its authority a man would swallow his neighbor alive.”
– Ethics of the Fathers, 3:2

Ethics of Our Fathers,[1] or Pirkei Avot, is a tractate of the Mishna [a section of the Talmud: Rabbinic commentary on Torah] that details the Torah’s views on ethics and
interpersonal relationships. The online Chabad offers a weekly E-mail newsletter discussing the insights in these sayings. Their commentary on the quotation above begins: “The basic meaning of . . . Rabbi Chaninah’s words is that for a society to be civilized its members must submit to the rule of government and law. The need for ‘fear of authority’ may seem an insult to our sophistication and intelligence, but the fact remains that without it there would be nothing to check the worst in man, and the anarchic rule of the jungle would prevail.”

Few would disagree that it is wise to “check the worst” in human behavior. As a society, we reacted, twice in my lifetime, when airplanes were used as implements of death[2]. We have, more times than we choose to remember, been outraged by the slaughter of children in schools and fast food restaurants and on city streets. Still, our “authorities” choose, by legislative action – or inaction – to allow physical violence to continue[3]. Moreover, mostly by inaction now, they visited economic violence on more than 90 percent of the population.

So what happens when “the authority” is either anarchic in the literal sense, such as a Stalin or Hitler, or metaphorically, such as when the United States still used the military draft system? Is there any greater violence to a family than the loss of a child whether in a foreign war or a local massacre? Another violence against a family is the loss of livelihood(s) either through downsizing in a business or the erosion of the economy.

The Chabad article continued, “The ego of man is cannibalistic in essence. At worst, it cannibal1destroys everyone and everything in its path in order to attain its selfish goals. At best, as in the case of a civilized, refined and tolerant individual, it acknowledges its status as one among many, avows its support of the ‘human rights’ of its fellows and concedes the legitimacy of pursuits other than its own.” It specifies that even the “liberal-minded” can fall into the ego trap, and ultimately espoused global fear of G-d[4]], the sovereign authority as the path to avoiding the cannibalism of the anarchic jungle.”

Maybe “fear of authority” needs to be restated. Respect might be a better word choice, but for authority? Naturally, if we could teach or role-model respect for each other to every child, things would be better. Yet, what can we do right now to stave off this unrelenting hunger into which we’re being sucked?[5] Perhaps the most obvious example of the rabid hunger is the circumstances surrounding “too big to fail/too big to jail.” Even if corporate entities are too big to fail, the individuals who have been running them immorally and illegally are not. After all, isn’t a corporation just a legal expediency?

Merriam Webster’s second definition of “corporation” states “a body formed and authorized by law to act as a single person although constituted by one or more persons and legally endowed with various rights and duties including the capacity of succession.[6] In short, something that exists in order to make it easier to do business; though, too often that incorporation is the “authority” allowing business to be done with fewer ethical considerations.

I’m not saying that corporations are evil or that incorporation should be prohibited. Nevertheless, a case can be made that some corporate “persons” have stretched their legal endowments to the breaking point – or, at least, beyond economic capacity. It isn’t even a question of conservative or liberal. Even in the Sixties, some liberal activists became so caught up in their own egos that they turned “protests” for peace into grand oxymora. Life Coach Steven Barnes[7] says both conservatives and liberals are necessary to our survival because conservatives keep the babies alive and liberals make sure we don’t stagnate.

Unfortunately, the more extreme politics becomes, the more difficult it is to reach a viable plan of action. Yes, I wish someone would create an easy solution, but even were it possible, someone would fight it simply because it wasn’t complicated enough. The only course of action is to take personal responsibility for how & when to express our respect for authority. When authority lets us down, we need to use the powerful tools at our command to make our voices heard. No more is it necessary to go forth into the parks and market place to swing signs and billy clubs at each other the way we did half a century ago.

Rarely a day passes on which a political comment or petition hits my e-mail box or Facebook RSS. Our world has a great many serious problems and injustices which may be implemented, endorsed, or ignored by authorities – some that we thought were under control, but they were just underground. So let our voices be heard whether we’re pleased or dissatisfied with authorities. So much will be learned, especially from those who ignore us.
_________________________________________________________________________
THANKS TO GLENNZ TEES FOR ALLOWING ME TO USE THEIR IMAGE, Check out their website & FB page for wild & weird tees & images!
1. You can read more about The Ethics of our Fathers on the Chabad website: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/680274/jewish/Ethics-of-the-Fathers-Pirkei-Avot.htm.
2. 9/11 & the Kamikazes in WWII
3. The one bright exception is the Violence Against Women Act signed March 7, 2013. [http://dailycaller.com/2013/03/08/obama-signs-violence-against-women-act/ — Update:  This law has been defunded by the president as of January 2017. More cannibalism and corruption.]
4. Traditional Orthodox spelling of God, intended as a metaphor for not taking the Lord’s name in vain.
5. Maybe my next blog should bring out some of the grammatical esoterica Merriam Webster Online has uncovered, including how it is really okay to end a sentence with a preposition.
6. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/corporation

Posted in economy, Ethics of Our Fathers, politics, too big to fail/jail, violence | Leave a comment

Whim

Probably my favorite bird: The Indigo Bunting

from Bird Watcher’ Digest

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Old

 

 

 

1

Some nice people try to tell me that at 63 I’m not old. Some days I feel old, but then some days, twenty-year-olds feel old. What is “Old?” The question pops up again and again. I remember seeing a tiny blurb in a newspaper somewhere when free speech advocate Jerry Weinberger[2], who told our generation “NEVER TRUST ANYONE OVER THIRTY,” turned thirty. I remember the time when the age of thirty was considered a near-death experience by many young women, and when each decade year brought terror to various female friends because that’s what the media told us women were like.

When we were in single digits, we thought twenty-five was ancient. When we were forty, sixty seemed old. I also remember, two decades ago thinking Old began in mid-eighties because that’s when the men of my parents’ generation, who remained virile through their seventies began to show external signs of degeneration. And yet, throughout the generations of my life, including the years from adolescence to middle-age, so many chronologically young people have seemed old and drained.

When I was very young, I spent most of my time with relatives and friends of my parents and little with people my own age. The result was that only once I stuttered over an upcoming age – “th-thirty” – which shocked me, but I seriously doubt was an age crisis. More likely it was subconscious mimicry of a media trend. In fact, at fifteen, I wanted to be twenty, at twenty I wanted to be thirty. It all got a little garbled then, but beginning two years ago, I wanted to be sixteen again – on the condition that I could go back with my current experience and wisdom. That’s about when I could have changed the habits that held me back: those habits that brought me to the less connected life in which, while not completely alone friendless, I am isolated and financially challenged enough to have had to scrounge for people with the time vitality to help me through the recent trials of knee replacement.

 

On the other end of the spectrum are the sprightly eighty- and ninety-somethings like Betty White or Geraldine McEwan who continue to sparkle even if their motion has slowed a touch. We don’t need to know if they’re hiding some of the ailments we face – they probably are. We just soar with them and forget our issues. And we shouldn’t forget the “Thousand-Year-Old” men and women who sit with no bodily motion on airplanes, in nursing homes, or on park benches and tell us stories of their past carrying us on their voice patterns and eye-twinkles into a state of satisfied enlightenment.

 

 

Some days, I receive an email from “Refuah Shlema” (Complete Healing) from a website that allows one to share healing prayers. By some coincidence, as I approach the final rewrite of this essay, the reading was: “The Gemara[9] records an incident where one of the Amoraim (scholars of the Gemara) visited the Afterlife and returned. His colleagues asked him what he had seen. He replied that he had seen an upside down world. There are various explanations that have been given to explain this statement of his. One way to learn it is as follows: There are old people who had come in and were referred to as young, and young people who [were] considered old.” They refined this further saying a person who filled his days with Torah and mitzvot[10], although he may die at a young age, is considered old. Because of his many accomplishments, each day of his life is like a year. A chronologically old person who squandered his life without performing many mitzvot or learning much Torah would be like an infant. Go figure!

My only conclusion is that young and old are too conceptual to define independently and tie up in a bow. In this cultural age, we have too many media staples, too many role models, too many individual personalities, and far too many ways overcome Old, to standardize it. Stay young if you want, grow old if you want. Don’t let anyone else tell you whether you’ve made the right choice. Choose how much your life’s joys and tribulations add or drain from your vitality. Make a stand.
Notes:
1. Old Man McGumbus’s Mug Shot: http://danshamptons.com/article/police-blotter/police-blotter/hamptons-police-blotter-old-man-mcgumbus-and-dan-battle-it-out/.
2. This statement has been attributed to many 60s icons including Bob Dylan, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubens, and the Beatles, but they probably got it from Weinberger.
3. Betty White: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/betty-white-host-rockers-nbc-173517
4. Geraldine McEwan: http://www.webtvwire.com/watch-agatha-christies-marple-online-season-1-2-3-4-video-streaming-torrent-search/
5. “The secret to a long life isn’t what you think = To know the reality, laugh often in stitches!” http://anagramtimes.blogs.wordsmith.org/2011_03_01_archive.html
6. It’s the face, not the venue: http://jokeyomama.com/yo-mama-pictures/old-women-18/
7. Albert Einstein: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2012/03/16/10-lessons-from-einstein/
8. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Old_Woman_aboard_Ferry_-_Kanyakumari_-_India.JPG
9. The Gemara is one of the two parts of the Talmud. http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Rabbinics/Talmud/Gemara.shtml
10. Mitzvot (or Mitzvos – plural of Mitzva) are commandments as in the 10 Commandments and the 613 Commandments in the Hebrew Bible. http://www.myjewishlearning.com/practices/Ritual/Jewish_Practices/Mitzvot.shtml

 

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A History Lesson on WHY Women CAN Vote in 2012

I think this unattributed email pops up every election, but because there are so many women’s issues and in danger, it touched me particularly deeply. “Ironed Jawed Angels” is available through Amazon, Netflix, and Blockbusters.

TRUE STORY EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW!

This is the story of our Mothers and Grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago!

Suffragists

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.
Suffragists 1920

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of ‘obstructing sidewalk traffic.’

Suffragist Burns
(Lucy Burns>

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.


Suffragist Lewis
(Dora Lewis)

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cell mate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the ‘Night of Terror’ on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their food–all of it colorless slop–was infested with worms.
Suffragist Paul
(Alice Paul)

When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

Suffragists 1920
(Mrs. Pauline Adams in the prison garb she wore while serving a 60 day sentence.)

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO’s movie ‘Iron Jawed Angels.’ It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

Suffragist Ainge
(Miss Edith Ainge, of Jamestown , New York)

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

Suffragists 1920
(Berthe Arnold, CSU graduate)

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women’s history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was–with herself. ‘One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,’ she said. ‘What would those women think of the way I use, or don’t use,my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.’ The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her ‘all over again.’

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum. I want it shown on Bunco/Bingo night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn’t our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

19th Amendment Conference

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: ‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.’

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party – remember to vote.

Suffragist  Weed
(Helena Hill Weed, Norwalk , Conn. Serving 3 day sentence in D.C. prison for carrying banner,’Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.)

So, refresh MY memory. Some women won’t vote this year because -Why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn’t matter? It’s raining? I’m so busy…I’ve got so much on my plate!

Read again what these women went through for you! We can’t let all their suffering be for nothing.

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