Friday, July 27, 2007

If Only ...

... computer Internet connection glitches hadn't occurred, the following piece would have been posted sooner. As I am writing how encouraged I now feel with being able to consistently access the Internet, I see the lights on my modem fluttering, losing connection, then connecting again for a short time. Seems my posting and commenting future remains a mystery.

The recent July 12th post about "What if ... If only..." elicited a consensus of thoughts I found to be of interest. I realized that commenters and I have likely already lived over half of our lives. So, we do have some experiences over a lengthy period of time on which to reflect. Thanks to all for offering your thoughts on this topic.

There seems to be universal agreement among us that we all wonder from time to time, "what if?" other choices had been made, or different events had occurred during our lives than what we actually experienced.

There may have been isolated specific events over which we had no control, that we would have preferred never happened, but we have adapted, assumed a learning perspective.

Sometimes we’ve made choices not in our own best interest, but we’ve made an effort to not repeat those same mistakes – no matter how many times we’ve had to keep trying.

Also, what seems to be true is that we don't invest in excessive thoughts of regret over our past life experiences, which I think is healthy.

Generally, we concur that whatever our experiences, they have made us who we are.

No one seemed to conclude that their lives would automatically have been better had other choices or circumstances prevailed. That, too, seems to me like a pretty realistic way to view life.

Our truth is we'll never know "what might have been," but we aren't going to expend our time and energy, or make ourselves unhappy thinking about "what if ... or if only..."

I believe such a positive view is significant, since I would surmise that many our age and older have encountered difficult times, had personal or professional setbacks, or what seemed to be so at the time. We should all be quite proud that despite all we may have endured, we have survived. Just as I drew strength from the knowledge of how my elders had coped with life experiences, perhaps those younger than us may be equally affected by our stories that we share with them.

I am reminded of a Stephen Sondheim song, "I'm Still Here," written for a 1971 Broadway musical "Follies."

This "Follies" production, viewed retrospectively, has been described by New York Times writer Barry Singer as a hallmark of Broadway's musical theatres past glories. The 2001 article, stimulated by a restaged version of the show, notes "Follies" embodies the death of musicals as once known, while at the same time heralding the advent of musicals as we know them today.

He also writes "Yvonne De Carlo, who, in the supporting role of Carlotta Campion, stopped the show nightly by singing "I'm Still Here," a song Mr. Sondheim wrote for her." Here’s a YouTube link to Yvonne De Carlo singing that memorable song at The Hollywood Bowl.

Mr. Singer also writes, "Old age is old age and I'm not going to go in a corner and pout about it," Ms. De Carlo said" by telephone from her California home. "Back then, all I thought about was, `How long am I going to be able to go on like this?' Now, I've lived through a stroke. I can't tap dance anymore. But then again, I never really could. I am, however, definitely still here." She continued to be "still here" until January 8, 2007.

The "I'm Still Here" song lyrics have been reproduced by June Abernathy who has accompanied them with brief comments explaining the colorful names and memorable historical events mentioned in the song. Some of us will make the association immediately with lines such as "Five Dionne babies," "Major Bowes," and "Windsor and Wally's Affair" along with many more.

Shirley MacLaine sang a poignant rendition of “I’m Still Here” in the movie “Postcards From The Edge” (1990) also viewable on YouTube.Other artists’ interpretations may be seen at YouTube.

My favorite version is available on a CD sung on "Elaine Stritch At Liberty" from her one woman stage show.

This famous Broadway entertainer's comedic lead-in line to the song jokingly takes liberties with her age as she entered her sixth decade in show business with voice at full strength at this CDs recording time.

I should acknowledge to having an “If Only…” fantasy. I do wish I could have been in the house on many an opening night during the years some have referred to as The Golden Age of Broadway.

But then, there have been a number of musicals since that time I would have enjoyed as a first nighter also. Seems there is always something to look forward to in life. I hope I never lose that outlook.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Internet Connection Glitches

Recurrent tech problems and out of town. New post sooner or later.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Phyllis Diller -- Happy 90th Birthday !

The first solo female stand-up comedienne I ever saw perform was Phyllis Diller in the 1950s. She had a somewhat outrageous appearance, offered a humorous perspective on life, that resulted in almost automatic laughter from her audience. Her jokes were often accented by her own "deep throaty laughter." She is thought by many to be "...a pioneer of female stand-up comedy" as noted HERE where you can read more about her and see a most recent picture taken in February 2007.

You'll read of her many movies, television shows, other talents, including the fact "Phyllis Diller has appeared as a piano soloist with 100 symphony orchestras across the country..." She, also, often performed with one of her favorite comedians, Bob Hope, entertaining our military troops on USO tours around the world.

She elicited many laughs describing life, including family interactions, sometimes portraying a fictional version wife and mother. She created characters many thought to be actual people, such as her husband "Fang." She said, even her real eventual ex-husband wanted to be thought of as Fang.

Some of her one-liners can be read at BrainyQuote including these about being old:

"You know you're old if they have discontinued your blood type."

"You know you're old if your walker has an airbag."

I have continued to enjoy her humor through the years. I don't recall being aware of any solo female stand-up comics until she came on the scene. The fact that she came from my home state at the time, and a city not too far from where I was living, pleased me that "local gal makes good."

She was appearing at a rather exclusive local supper club, Danny Deeds' The Maramor, where celebrity stars generally performed when they made appearances in our city when I saw her. I was elated when she agreed to make a guest appearance on the local live TV show with which in earlier posts I have mentioned my association. Subsequent years she usually made a guest appearance whenever she was performing in town.

I was always impressed with her manner as she had achieved international star status by that time, but made no pretense at being other than her ordinary self. She always arrived promptly at our studios unaccompanied, unlike some entertainers who came with a large entourage. She had the taxicab driver wait for her, then left after her appearance, equally unobtrusively.

Our station did not provide the luxury of a special room in which guests could relax with beverages and treats prior to their appearances, unlike television networks' "Green Rooms," but she didn't protest. Instead she was ushered into our other smaller studio that wasn't in immediate use. Each time she appeared, off camera she was very genuine, unassuming, friendly, what is sometimes characterized as down to earth. She often engaged in entertaining banter, likely as warm-up for her appearance, with any of us present, along with some of our technical staff who managed to find some excuse to come into the studio where we were.

Once she was on camera her quick repartee' followed by her loud laughter had our cast, studio audience and staff joining along with her. Our at home audience likely was infected with that same raucous laughing reaction as we were.

You can hear her laughter and comments by listening to an NPR "Weekend Edition" audio interview with Scott Simon, see several video excerpts from a documentary, "Goodnight, I Love You," and learn about her book Like A Lampshade In A Whorehouse.

One feature in her comic routines often made reference to her eccentric looking appearance. Her hair standing straight out from her head, looked as though it was electrified. She often humorously belittled her own facial features, especially her nose, not unlike the attitude of many women toward their bodies. Truth be known, some women probably responded with laughter to this self-deprecating humor as did I. Even then the worship of youth, facial and body perfection features was, and has continued to be promoted as the appearance to be emanated for all women at whatever the cost.

How refreshing it had been to see a woman overcome that idea by becoming a star, a celebrity, loved by many men and women world-wide. She went out of her way to not adopt the desired perfect appearance, or even try to approximate it. On some level, I always thought that was part of her attraction, certainly a focus of her humor.

I must admit to thinking she just might have let down all those women when some years ago I read that she had undergone plastic surgery to "correct" those "flaws" about which she had for so long humorously lamented. I suppose there are several ways in which to view her actions. For some women I expect they shared the same disappointment I felt that the face with which she had achieved stardom, at a level beyond that which many of near-perfect sculpture never acquire, had been rejected.

On the other hand, she was at least characteristically honest and forthright as she well should have been. Her appearance was altered, so to deny she had surgery as so many do, would have been unbelievable. She did receive recognition for her public revelation as noted in this biographical quote with picture HERE:
"She was recently honored by the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery for having the courage to publicly bring plastic surgery "out of the closet." A 2007 photo of her is HERE.

One other view on the pros and cons of cosmetic surgery is that her body is her own, she earned the money her surgery cost, therefore she is fully entitled to do as she pleases. That's certainly a philosophy I support, that a woman's body is her own, as is the right to make decisions about the welfare of that body.

Still, I think there are wider implications impacting health care, cosmetic surgery and all who are aging as we all are. Some thoughts well worth considering have to do with the effects of perpetuating the youth-look as the ideal over a natural aging appearance. Regrettably artificially acquired youth-seeking looks may magnify adverse attitudes in our society toward aging. I have expressed my personal view on that topic in archive post (11/16/06) "Redhead Aging Naturally".

I respect Phyllis Diller's right to make the choice she did for her own cosmetic surgery. I continue to laugh at most of her jokes. I think she was a ground-breaking entertainer whose feat should make all women proud. I speak of her in the past tense as an entertainer, only because she is retired though she is obviously alive and well. I envy those lucky friends and family around her that I'll bet she continues to regale with her special humor.

Happy 90th birthday, Phyllis Diller ... and many more !

Here's a news item link I just located HERE. Seems we need to send a "Get Well" wish to Phyllis Diller, too, because she injured her back.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

What If ... and If Only...

Occasionally through the years, in moments of contemplation, I've thought about how an individual’s life might be different from the one they have, based on circumstantial changes in their activities, events, residences, other variables, earlier in their life. What if, at various times, anywhere along the way, the twists and turns of choices and changes affecting them were made in directions other than the ones they did experience, thus leading to different outcomes or destinations?

I don't think about this for myself, generally, from a sense of regret. I think about it more from a standpoint of curiosity. I wonder how others view that question? I've thought, wouldn't life be interesting if we could just put on hold whatever our existence was at a given time. Then, we could go off on an alternate route, full well knowing we could come back to the place we were before, then resume life where we left off.

As for myself, I experienced events at five or six years of age I would like to have avoided on both a personal and family level. One that comes to mind is having the spokes of a moving bicycle wheel, over which I was sitting behind the rider’s seat, become entangled with my foot. The wheel spokes penetrated my ankle, though thankfully left me with only a large scar present yet today. What if... I hadn’t tried to find a foot rest for my dangling little legs, but instead caught my foot in those bicycle spokes?

What if, some other changes, experiences, relocations, in my life hadn't occurred? For example, what if... I had grown up in my birth city? What if... my birth family had remained intact? What if... my mother had not had some of the medical problems she developed? What if... I had been able to continue my music, dancing classes, attend the private university to which I aspired? What if... I had never lived for a few years in the country with my primary companion, nature? What if... I hadn't had to give away my dog when we moved?

What if... I had been allowed to accept the offer to ride a horse in an annual special western parade in a new state to which we had just moved? What if... a generous family member hadn’t offered to loan me the money to attend college in a day when scholarships were limited, student loans unavailable? What if... I hadn't made what seemed like foolish mistakes on occasion? What if... I hadn't had those instances in speaking when I "put my foot in my mouth"? What if... I hadn’t met some of the people I’ve met, or I had met some others I didn’t meet? What if... so many more "what ifs" that I could mention.

There is one interesting observation I've made over the years whenever I’ve heard most people engage in "What if...?" speculation. Invariably, whatever the past event or previous experience about which they are speculating, their assumption is, the result would have turned out better for them, "If only ...?"

Would my life have been better “if only…”? I wonder, do others ever consider the possibility the consequences just might have been worse when they envision their “What if…” and "If only..."scenario?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Our Nation At Risk

Two Hundred and Thirty-One Years

Our nation's birthday, our 231st, July 4, 2007, is past. Our citizens have celebrated this year, each in our own way, across this country. Many small communities from coast to coast sponsor patriotic parades, generally composed of local residents. This has been true wherever I've lived, in the east and now here in the west. In addition to the parade of the military representatives from all branches of the service, and those still living from the various wars fought for our freedoms, we generally see city officials riding by, the local high school bands marching proudly, antique autos being driven by their owners accompanied by festively dressed family and friends.

Often there are red, white and blue streamers colorfully decorating bicycles ridden by young people of the community wheeling down the parade route. Some older bikers may be pulling equally colorful wagons filled with smaller children. Special novelty groups often band together and march, such as the precision team brief case brigade, business and professional men and women with their brief cases in hand engaging in various maneuvers. Residents of all ages line the streets, conversing and laughing with loved ones, often waving miniature American flags, applauding or calling to those recognized marchers. Each community probably creates and gives some unique quality to their parade.

Some 4th of July celebrations this year may even be postponed by a few citizens until this coming weekend, since this day fell on a Wednesday, exactly in the middle of the week. Actually, I'm having such a delayed celebration myself, with dear friends whose family will be coming from far and wide as is their annual tradition. I have considered our family, and now that there's just myself, quite fortunate over these years to have been so generously included in some of their annual celebration of various holidays.

For most in our country our Independence Day celebration occurs on the fourth, however. Often when the parade has passed, some watchers adjourn to nearby parks or recreation areas for picnics featuring the special fare each individual group prefers. Others may return home for outdoor barbecues with invited groups of friends and family. Those with access to a swimming pool will cool themselves in those waters. The children and young adults will engage in seemingly exhausting pool play consisting of games, diving, just generally splashing around in the water. Some adults may soon tire of water game participation, retiring to sun themselves or recline in available shade. Young lovers may separate from the group seeking privacy.

Later in the afternoon certain groups may travel to nearby designated stadium areas where special entertainment has been planned. Musical groups may appear, then as the skies darken, the entertainers show concludes, the real show that everyone came to see begins. Fireworks slowly explode into grander and more spectacular displays in that golden moon and star sprinkled sky that mesmerizes those watching.

The times have changed from the days of my childhood, even from those of my children when we often had some small select firecrackers we could light ourselves. I recall especially the sparklers, and snakes. Fireworks can no longer be purchased or set off for private individual use in our community, or that of surrounding cities. This is especially critical this year due to the dryness so early in the season that has our area a high fire risk. I can't help thinking that fire is not the only risk, that not just our community faces, but our whole country.

As our nation begins another year, the very foundation of our belief system, that was the basis for the founding of this country, is under duress. The strong values and moral beliefs the founders of our country endorsed, wrote into our Constitution and described in our Declaration of Independence have been under assault from within. We have seen this in many ways during the governance of our current administration including, but not limited to, their stating deliberate blatant falsehoods, disregarding human rights, engaging in practices above the law.

If you were busy celebrating our nation's Independence Day, as many were, maybe you missed at least two special blog posts, there are others. I would highly recommend you read these July 4th posts now. They pertain to our Declaration of Independence, why our founders sought independence in the first place, and the significance of those issues for each of us today.

You may click on these links to access these July 4th posts at:

"Time Goes By" - "The Fourth of July 2007" by Ronni Bennett

"Nobody Asked" - "Whither Liberty" by Winston Rand