Saturday, December 25, 2010


Wishing you ...

a joyous Christmas with family and friends.

Here's a Karen Carpenter classic:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Mother Nature is bestowing a questionably welcome holiday gift of rain on our Southern California community. The rainy weather is projected to continue through Christmas Eve, with a possible slight clearing Christmas Day, then resume giving us what will be more pretty steady moisture falling from the sky. I mention all this to alert eastern readers that we may be sending some of this interesting weather your way which could transform into your own version of a winter white christmas.

I don’t mind missing our traditional perpetual sunshine since we have the rest of the year when I expect rays aplenty. Our rain means snow in the upper mountain elevations which is a pretty sight to view in the distance from my home – if the dark clouds would recede. Regrettably those clouds have caused me to miss the rare total lunar eclipse occurring with the winter solstice for the first time in centuries. I did see repeats of the eclipse on news stories but it’s not quite the same. I think it’s highly unlikely I’ll be around the next time this real time opportunity presents itself.

There is a downside to all this rain for residents who live in previous years forest fire burn areas as they’re subjected to mud slides. Sections of the fabled Pacific Coast Highway have had to be closed to traffic due to boulders rolling down onto the roadway. A TV emergency broadcast system announcement broke into an earlier program to alert foothill communities to potential dangers. For the first time ever that I recall in almost forty years living here my city was named. Later tonight much heavier rains in a short time than we’ve had so far are expected which may result in lots of water runoff. I don’t anticipate any difficulty in our neighborhood though.

My TV viewing is seriously hampered since I use only a roof antenna so my set uses a converter box. That change from analog to digital HDTV has resulted in my always having interference with television stations broadcast signals causing my set to lose picture and sound. This storm has been the worst we’ve had and affected the most TV stations and channels I receive. So far I can still receive our local ABC-TV affiliate and one independent station called My TV.

Radio – remember that medium? – always has good reception. This experience does give me a taste of what life could be like in a major disaster with my having decreased media access. Batteries would last only so long with limited replacement availability and I’d really be challenged if our electric power grid was out.

On a different note, I had an unusual unwanted experience last week. One afternoon I unexpectedly was given a few squeezes from a bottle of a new-to-me gingerbread fragrant body lotion. I hesitantly massaged the lotion all over my hands to my wrists. Two hours later I was in the midst of viewing “Fair Game” at my local movie theater when I became aware of some itchy body feelings. Apparently, I had my first ever allergic skin reaction. The symptoms were limited to skin red streaks and spots all over my body. Itchiness continued for 2-3 days before clearing.

Before the movie I had been talking with a friend about recent news reports of bedbug resurgence around the globe and throughout our 50 states. Some of the fanciest hotels, upscale stores and movie theater seats in NYC have been reported to be infested requiring fumigation. The thought briefly crossed my mind that the bugs had attacked me at the movie, but I was relieved that was not the case, fortunately.

The lights have gone off and on a few times as I write this. I’ll take some time away from this composition to make sure my flashlights are functional and bring one to this room. I might as well prepare a snack apple while I’m up. ……….. Later, I’m back……….Wow! I just heard a sharp snapping crack from another room. Wonder if it could be electrical? ………… Well, I’ve done an in-door walk-about and all seems well -- no strange sights or smells. Back to writing this…...

I hadn’t planned to write a Holiday letter to friends and family this year, but then when their cards started arriving in the mail I changed my mind. Some just sign their name. Others may comment “will write later” (but may not.) A few sentences from several reveal a time crunch with caregiving challenges. There are hand-written, type-written, and computer generated letters with and without their family pictures. For the first time I received a genuine Christmas “card,” – a post card greeting with their family group picture and a personal note stating the writer didn’t even know how to turn on a computer. Seems many I know have yet to acquaint themselves with the Internet much less visit the blogosphere and here.

I can’t help but note that for too many years the holiday greetings I receive gradually dwindle in number as do local friends. Those of us who do write of our adventures, and daily activities increasingly realize a health status report is warranted. Having an entire year go by before hearing from some friends seems to be quite a long time. Contradictorily, each year seems to pass with increasing rapidity. This has become especially true in the time since my husband’s death. Our shared years sometimes seem like they occurred yesterday, other times a lifetime ago, or maybe our time together was in some mystical world.

Here’s a movie trailer with the song from the classic “White Christmas” (1954) starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen, Dean Jagger.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Holiday season is here but which one? After September’s Labor Day I gradually began to experience holiday confusion. I thought I was clear on 2010’s holiday sequence as October began, since that’s when some notable-to-me birthday anniversaries make their annual rotation. Complicating matters for me this year was that each individual birth date surprisingly fuzzed-up my mind by triggering thoughts filled with unexpected mood-altering memories. Despite that interference I had a vague awareness Halloween was the next holiday until I suddenly began seeing Christmas trees covered with brightly colored lights and ornaments in neighborhood stores.

Had I missed the ghosts, goblins and spider webs celebration with all the costumed trick or treaters? News accounts assured me I had not, but as November began,a deluge of Christmas sales advertisements promoting alleged product bargains became increasingly overwhelming. Some neighbors began turning on their yearly increasingly excessive gaudy decorative house and yard light displays. Whatever happened to the admonition to conserve energy that we received years ago and observed for a year or so? Energy sources and environmental issues have changed little, so what is the justifying rationalization for all the lighting now? I must admit I do enjoy seeing some of the more tastefully decorated lighting. I guess what is tasteful is in the eye of the beholder, but more is not necessarily better.

What happened to Thanksgiving, I wondered? My need for reality grounding caused me to make note of the “T-Day” holiday on my blog, but for many apparently the celebration was short-lived. No more leisurely long Thanksgiving Day weekends if this season reflects future years commercial Christmas preparation behavior patterns.

We’re supposed to gobble up the vittles and get out to those stores that don't close for the day or re-open later. Some may choose to sleep after eating so they can be well rested to go shopping beginning at midnight when additional stores are opening. Certain businesses won’t open until early morning – that’s 2 A.M. not 6 or 7 A.M. There are those who even want to be among the first entering those stores, so maybe they need to plan to camp out for hours in front of that establishment as news videos documented some shoppers did this year. Shopping often seems to have become an entertainment or sport activity for many folks. I wonder if they realize their participation results from subjecting themselves to commercial forces manipulation?

I think we’re headed toward Christmas now. Hanukkah – Chanukah just ended. Kwanza is celebrated after Christmas. Ashura is a festival yet to be observed but I don't know that it's widely known in the U.S. So I’m appropriately oriented now that the Christmas and New Years holiday season is, indeed, finally near.

I still remember when I was young waiting for Christmas Day. Holiday decorations, sales promotions and talk of Santa, thankfully, did not begin until the day after Thanksgiving at the very earliest, or not even until December. The almost four weeks waiting time between Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed interminable to this child then. I can only imagine today's children's strained patience wondering how much longer they have to wait for Santa. I hear the questions:

“Is Christmas here yet?,”
“How long is two months?”
“What’s a week?”
“How many more days 'til Santa comes?”
“I wish I didn’t have to wait so long.”

Here’s Bill Evans, musically influential jazz pianist having fun in an audio only recording session vocalizing “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”:

Here’s Bill Evans playing a strictly instrumental rendition of the same tune:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


"Over the River and Through the Woods" is a Thanksgiving Day poem written by Lydia Child in the 1800s. Read the original complete lyrics. Christmas words are sometimes substituted.

Child describes events and scenes my grandparents would have experienced. My mother talked of her youth in the early 1900s during horse and sleigh days before autos were so prevalent.

"Lydia Maria Child (February 11, 1802 – October 20, 1880) was an American abolitionist, women's rights activist, opponent of American expansionism, Indian rights activist, novelist, and journalist and Unitarian" "Her journals, fiction and domestic manuals reached wide audiences from the 1820s through the 1850s. She at times shocked her audience, as she tried to take on issues of both male dominance and white supremacy in some of her stories" Wikipedia reports. Her husband actively supported her efforts."

"Over the River and Through the Woods" lyrics set to music with The Juke Box Band:

Thanksgiving happiness with past and pleasant memories wished for all.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Thank you veterans on this annual occasion when we honor U.S.A. armed forces. Our military service men and women assume the obligation of defending our nation on behalf of each of us when commanded to do so, whether or not we individually support the action.

Beginning with WWII in 1941 this nation has been involved in wars for 35 years. We've had only 41 years of peace, but even during those years our service personnel were often participating in less than peaceful military actions around the world, including Nato and United Nations activities. We all know the major wars, and the ones in which we are now engaged, but remember Cuba's Bay of Pigs, Panama, Somalia, Grenada, Intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina -- the war timelines are listed HERE.

I do believe that the sacrifices made by our armed forces during WWII are directly responsible for the fact our country continued to exist as the free democracy/republic our constitution's creators intended. For this reason I accord special tribute to those WWII surviving veterans whose numbers diminish daily, as well as to those who live only in spirit now.

Armed forces personnel are often placed in harm's way with tragic results. Lives are lost, outwardly observable physical and/or mental injuries are incurred, and wounds invisible to the eye alter life for some service people. Our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, friends and lovers -- these men and women are all forever changed, so are their families.

I believe as a nation our people should be insistent that our veterans receive not only initial optimum timely medical care, but continued long term therapeutic interventions needed to maximize their quality of life. I am greatly distressed whenever I become aware veterans have not received the highest level of care. I am particularly concerned those diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI,) Closed Head Trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTS) receive the extended care they need and their loved ones receive necessary caregiver support.

I fervently urge our legislators and government to ensure all our veterans receive the medical care promised them and of which they are so deserving. The very least each of us can do is to lobby our government on our veterans behalf, insisting on this medical care and the immediate correction of any problems associated with its provision should they occur. We should not countenance any service delays if our government fails to meet this obligation.

We also honor our veterans when we acquaint ourselves with local, state, national and international issues that affect all our lives, then express our views by voting on election days. Our veterans have offered their lives so that we can enjoy freedom. In return, our responsibility is to vote in elections, a small act compared to the actions we've required of our veterans. Yet this past mid-term election less than half of qualified voters cast a ballot. Even during presidential election years voter turnout is well below the number entitled to vote. Perhaps a much greater number of citizens will one day become informed and cast their ballot.

Thank you, again, veterans !

Friday, November 05, 2010


Politicos and pundits dissect, analyze and expound on the significance of the 2010 midterm election results. Some say the outcome should be interpreted as a referendum on our current President and policies, especially health care. Others see the results as a statement that voters continue to want change that brings immediate visible effects on their lives. Most citizens harbor ongoing anger toward the legislative and executive branches whose partisanship has seriously hampered problem solving the issues facing this nation.

Typical low voter turnout in a non-Presidential election year prevailed. The ballots not cast by select groups, especially the young adults who voted two years ago, could have had a significant impact on the election's outcome.

Meanwhile the politicians pose, posture and pontificate about needing to be nonpartisan. Then some blatantly state that those with views different from theirs must completely capitulate which sounds more like gridlock than sincere genuine compromise to me.

Time I take a break from all this madness ...

...with Craig Ferguson, his Robot Skeleton Sidekick Geoff Peterson, Secretariat and Danny DiVito

Poor Secretariat...

Sometimes I need a little bit of craziness in my life to keep my sanity. Ferguson is a talented Scottish guy "from Europe," he says. Now he's a U.S. citizen who recently received his private pilot license.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Get ready for the 2012 Presidential election campaign because it starts today!

California recap of general election with the predicted outcome of many of our candidate and State Measure contests.

The Legalizing Marijuana State Measure has garnered national interest. Voters are roundly defeating this measure. Perhaps that’s because with a physician’s prescription California legally allows marijuana use for medical purposes.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer is projected to win though only 36% of the votes have been counted. Boxer has declared victoy, but her challenger, Carly Fiorina, has decided to wait before conceding. We may be looking at a several days delay before we know the official outcome of this election. There are mail-in ballots to count, absentee ballots and provisional ballots yet to be tallied.

California 26th District Republican House Representative, David Dreier, has likely been re-elected where he is expected to regain his powerful chairman position on the House Rules Committee that exercises considerable control over legislation.

The news agency predictors declare Democrats will retain majority control of the Senate though key races in other states may still be too close to call as I write this. The Republican Party has regained the majority in the House of Representatives. The Tea Party wild card will be sending a few of their newly elected Representatives.

When this new Congress next meets in Washington, D.C., we’ll get to see if the new political composition will create an environment that results in genuine effort from all of these elected officials to work together and make some compromises in the best interests of the electorate. If not, we will need to replace them.

Hopefully, during the next two years citizens will carefully monitor Congressional actions. There are vital issues at stake regarding health care, Medicare, and Social Security to name just a few matters that will demand our policing.

California’s Governor is projected to be Democrat Jerry Brown. His opponent, Meg Whitman, finally capitulated. She spent more money on her campaign than anyone has ever spent on such a U.S. political race.

Jerry Brown, currently Attorney General, had become governor soon after our family relocated to California, later became Oakland’s Mayor. Years earlier his father had been this State’s Governor. The fact Jerry Brown is an “elder” (he’s age 72) is of note. I was not aware of any stereotypical representations derogatorily referring to his age during this sometimes bitter campaign. Just now, for the first time, a news anchor mentioned Brown was the oldest Governor ever elected here.

I would like to believe projected Governor-elect Brown has had time for reflection on how he previously governed -- what he accomplished and, most importantly, what mistakes he may have made. Given our State’s difficulties Brown may bring the exact kind of political experience most needed now. He certainly knows the inner workings of the legislative system and may be in a unique position to rejuvenate this State.

A state measure change allows the legislature to pass budget and budget-related legislation from two-thirds to a simple majority, but retains the two-thirds vote requirement for taxes. This may be an important aid in addressing California’s problems.

California voters defeated efforts to bamboozle us with two measures on Redistricting, also known as Gerrymandering, by selecting the correct one that kept the process out of elected officials political hands.

Citizens voted down a measure backed by two large Texas oil companies to suspend implementation of our air pollution control law. This may prove to be costly for us and our State, but I remember when we moved here there were serious smog inversion days with obvious health consequences much more costly.

Locally, the results of the School Bond Issue won’t be known until much later today at the earliest.

[Up Date: This local school bond issue went down to defeat which really surprised me.]

Hope there were some bright election results where you live.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

General Election 2010

D i d Y o u V O T E ? ? ?

Don't allow news predictions of election outcomes to deter you from voting, thus making them self-filling prophecies.

Be informed!

One vote can make a difference in an election's outcome.

Votes add up. One voter plus another voter each casting a vote = two votes, plus one more voter casts a third vote, etc.

Typically only 30% to 40% of qualified voters cast a ballot, especially in a Presidential mid-term election year such as this one.

Desired legislative changes affecting each voter's life and this nation's future have a greater potential of being achieved if more people vote.

Not liking the ballot choices is a weak excuse for not voting which betrays a patriot citizen's basic responsibility for the privilege of living in the United States of America.

Every vote is important.


Sunday, October 31, 2010


California has some highly competitive races in Tuesday’s general election that are considered so close a winner cannot be predicted presently, as is true in many States. Candidates television advertisements and attacks are negative and have been vicious. Campaign spending has been incredibly high.

Incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat, is considered to be in a fight for her political life against Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO. One most recent voter poll has the spread widening with Sen. Boxer 5% ahead of Fiorina. Another poll reports a much narrower spread with the candidates closer to being equal.

Boxer is attacked as being a habitual big spender throughout her twenty-eight Senate years. She is accused of representing all that’s wrong with government today, most notably because she supported Obama administration legislation, especially health care. Many other issues Boxer continues to support focus on immigration, environmental concerns, oil drilling, a woman’s right to choose, preservation of Medicare, and non-privatization of Social Security.

Carly Fiorina’s vulnerabilities include ads focused on the fact she was fired from HP, received typically high executive bonuses after she sent 30,000 U. S. workers jobs to China. Some of those workers appear in ads relating their personal experiences, including having to train the new employees who would replace them.

Interestingly, Fiorina now says little or nothing about her Republican affiliation (earlier she was endorsed by the Tea Party’s unofficial female leader.) Also, Fiorina doesn’t mention her previously stated support for her Party’s classic voter-divisive issues that call for privatizing Social Security, eliminating newly adopted health care reforms, supporting Arizona immigration policies, allowing offshore oil drilling, repealing a woman’s legal right to choose (Roe vs Wade.) Contrarily, she says she won’t hesitate to vote against her Party’s issue positions, but I haven’t heard her state any differences from the Republican Party line to date.

We’re also voting for a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives. The incumbent, David Dreier, has been part of the Republican Party voting block mired in ideology. Those Representatives failed to seek a way to effectively compromise for resolving the critical issues facing our nation. He has served almost thirty years in Congress, and in recent past elections experienced a decline in voter support, but hasn’t always had a strong opponent. The amount of support he receives this election will be interesting to see.

I haven’t noted that he offers to create anything new but Rep. Dreier will try to repeal the newly adopted health plan. Likely he will continue to support all his Party’s political positions in lock step, including privatizing Social Security. If the Republican Party becomes the Congressional majority, Representative Dreier will once again become Chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee.

Russ Warner, Democrat, opposes Dreier for the second time because he believes our California 26th District has not been well represented. Warner notes he is the owner of a small business while Rep. Dreier is the 20th richest person in the U.S. House of Representatives. Warner supports some significant opposing views to those of his opponent including legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices with the drug companies. I did meet Mr. Warner but my schedule permitted me to talk only briefly with him. The Democratic Headquarters offered little printed issue material about him, but he referred me to his official website.

Multiple news reports reveal candidates for California Governor are breaking expenditure records. Democrat, Jerry Brown, a former governor from 1975-1983, is managing to keep up with his primary opponent, Republican candidate Meg Whitman. She is a former eBay CEO, who is breaking all campaign contribution records, even contributing 141.5 million of her personal funds in her effort to become California’s next Governor.

Is Whitman trying to buy the Governor's office? Will using her personal funds insure she will be more independent of outside influences? Will Brown be any more influenced by outside influences because he has had to rely on others for campaign contributions in order to compete?

Interestingly, one television ad I thought was amusing was a split screen showing our current Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Meg Whitman. He is shown speaking excerpted cliche-like promising statements from his old candidacy speeches, then Whitman is shown uttering the same words verbatim in her current campaign speeches. He has been unable to keep those promises so voters can decide for themselves how realistic it is to believe Whitman will be any more successful, or if it’s just more of the “tell the voter what they want to hear.”

Another interesting historical fact about Schwarzenegger centers on his becoming California’s Governor years ago. Rep. David Dreier promoted the candidacy from the very beginning. I was displeased that two years into our then Governor Davis’ term a recall was instituted because of a proposal he made to address our State’s financial crisis. Taxpayers certainly did not need to incur the additional expense of that special election. After a year or two when Gov. Schwarzenegger was also unsuccessful getting our State Legislators to compromise and resolve the problem, he then instituted the exact same proposal of the Governor he had replaced. Words and promises come easy for political candidates but often are only wishful thinking.

Be aware that periodic proposals continue to surface in the media promoting U. S. Constitution changes, specifically to enable Schwarzenegger to become President, as they have ever since he became California’s Governor. Presently, legally he cannot be President because he was born in a nation (Austria) other than the United States of America. Curiously, some Republicans have persisted in spreading the falsehood that our current President was born outside the U.S. If I believed in conspiracy I might wonder if there was a somehow-related political agenda.

I won’t go into our voting ballot’s State issues,including redistricting. One measure is designed to address the State of California's dire financial straits that have prevailed for too many years. Our State Legislature has been ineffective for these years, unable to even agree on passing an annual budget until months after the legal deadline. Part of the problem has to do with requirements a 2/3 majority have to agree for the budget and other legislation to pass. This provision was established because the State Legislator’s were freely spending tax monies and some effort needed to be taken to force them to be more thoughtful. Now we are at the opposite end of the continuum where no meaningful expenditure can be made because not enough legislators can agree.

There are State Measures on which we’ll vote this election that can rectify some of these and additional shortcomings, but these measures also carry provisions of which I am leery or do not support. If I choose to cast any of my votes favorably that will be because I’ve decided to compromise – something State and Federal Legislators have been unable to do for too many years.

The outcome of voting on one of our State Measures is likely of considerable national interest – legalizing marijuana. The pros and cons on this issue are being highly debated. Currently statistical predictions indicate the measure is going down to defeat. Los Angeles Times columnist, Steve Lopez, conducted a driving test while under the weed’s influence with the approval and under the supervision of the California Highway Patrol to assess how his skills behind the wheel would be affected. He wrote about his experience and observations HERE.

On the really basic local level my Claremont community is being asked to pass a highly controversial $95 million school bond issue. Bond issues have been passed here previously, but I have never before known one to generate such resistance. In fact, usually there has been little or no opposition in this city that has been very supportive of education throughout the over thirty years I’ve lived here. A bond issue was passed a few years ago which many residents believe was not spent wisely, nor were the funds dispensed as this large objecting group expected. This new bond issue is believed by those in opposition to not clearly define the projects and priority list for how these new monies will be spent. They demand more transparency, specific itemizations and greater accountability.

This local school level is exactly where voting is most critical and needs to receive the attention of all voters everywhere. Similar transparency and accountability should progress to all government levels including city and upward. All too often, for too many years, non-Presidential elections draw too few voters, but this needs to change. Maybe voting this time signifies the general public’s increasing awareness we need to be involved in all elections.

Low voter turnout percentages in U.S. elections always amaze me. This general election is no exception with statisticians predicting 30%, but they report a higher turnout could be as much as 40%.

I expect virtually everyone in this nation considers they are a patriotic good citizen. Most individuals probably highly value our republic system of government that emphasizes individual rights while incorporating democratic principles. Surely preserving our personal freedoms is highly desired by all citizens. Our systems basic fundamental responsibility requires each of us to participate in selecting those who govern us that formulate the laws, rules and regulations we follow, yet less than half, or often just a third, of qualified voters actually cast a ballot in our elections.

Recently I heard a news report attributed to statistic compilers that had concluded, even if every citizen voted that the breakdown of vote percentages per candidate would be about the same as those actual percentages based on the low voter turnout. Perhaps that provides some solace to those of us who vote and wish more people would. Still, when my chosen candidate or issue does not succeed I feel some disappointment, even anger, that had others cast a ballot their votes might well have altered the elections outcome, my future and our nation’s future.

Pundit speculation continues about exactly what sort of referendum this Presidential mid-term vote will reflect. I think the main message will be the electorate continues to be angered with the failure of our governing officials to more efficiently work together toward solving our nation’s serious problems. I also believe an unrealistic impatience prevails among citizens who fail to recognize the length of time and actions required for our full recovery. I strongly believe, no matter who is elected, congressional actions need to be taken to include provisions that reverse the trend toward further elimination of our nation's middle class.

I think a healthy change that would facilitate individuals working together to solve our country's problems would be more likely to occur if sanity through civil discourse prevailed, if rhetoric would be toned down in an effort to heal our nation's bitter polarization. We can continue to disagree without such animosity, without resorting to name-calling and to agree to disagree by respecting the views of others.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


“Along The Way” serendipitously launched onto the Internet four years ago. I continue to be genuinely appreciative of those who so generously offered their time and assistance, especially when I realized I had catapulted my blog prematurely into the blogosphere, then, quite unprepared, I chose to continue the activity.

My personal life had been significantly changed six months earlier when my husband’s health issues resulted in his sudden unexpected death. Grief’s immediate intensity for me had eventually outwardly mellowed, but my emotional vulnerability and feeling sensitivity continued at a much less obvious level to most others. The often referred to “closure,” as associated with loss, is a term of varied degree and meaning that changes over time, but is a state never fully realized, I have come to believe.

October is an especially significant month to me for many reasons that include periodic emerging memories that have caused me to give them some emphasis here.

Interspersed among my blog’s writings are a few I associate directly or indirectly with my husband. They were prompted by random thoughts of a few of my accumulated memories from our almost forty-three married years. We shared a mutual appreciation of jazz which was enhanced for me since his avocation was as a professional acoustic upright bass player. I became an even more enthusiastic listener.

Oscar Peterson’s trio was a favorite of my husband as was the regular bass player, Ray Brown. I especially recall our enjoying a small intimate live club performance. The following “You Look Good To Me” tune is presented by an unusual trio featuring pianist Peterson with double bass of both Brown and Niels Pedersen, whose jazz playing skills my husband also highly regarded. This lovely piece with bass solos is from the “Norman Granz Jazz In Montreux Presents Oscar Peterson Trio ‘77” DVD.

These past four years music audio/video inserts have selectively been incorporated into some of my writings much as this one. Certain musical artists have been my direct focus as have a few celebrities well-known in mine and earlier generations – some currently performing, others retired or deceased.

I’ve also expounded a bit on political, social, economic issues, expressing both positive and negative views depending on the subject. I’ve written about my experience adopting new digital technology, along with some of the frustrations I’ve experienced in the process. Certain activities in which I’ve engaged have been written about with accompanying videos and commentary.

My views on aging, including acceptance of natural body changes without artificial alterations, have sometimes been my focus. I’ve also shared some select personal experiences and activities from my past as well as in the present.

There have been a few written pieces in which I presented some unusual topics that reflect how my occasionally quirky thought processes sometimes wander far astray from the ordinary.

Overall, bogging has been an enjoyable experience for me. I’ve certainly enjoyed reader’s comments, reading other bloggers posts on their blog and being introduced to new bloggers.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Did you ever stop to think about whether or not you always have to have the last word in a conversation?

I've never been consciously aware that I was trying to have the last word, but maybe I was without even realizing I was doing so. I recall conversations with my husband and the exchange sometimes went beyond what could legitimately be described as a conversation. Actually, it moved into the realm of what might be considered a disagreement. Well, truthfully, when you get right down to it, the dialogue bordered on being an argument, or even crossed that border into full fledged verbal assaults on one another. Of course, our emotions were running high when we reached the full fledged conflagration level. That's when at some point he would invariably utter, "You always have to have the last word!" That accusatory, emphatically stressed sentence only served to inflame me more.

I started thinking about all this in conjunction with the realization that I had gone through my entire day and evening without uttering a single word aloud to another human being. Given that I am primarily a verbal person who is trying desperately to re-channel being so more into the written word, an occasional day like that sometimes leaves me contemplating my life, momentarily, just before my eyes close. Usually, my awareness that this has been a speechless day for me doesn't dawn on me until I go to bed at night, when my thoughts often review my day before I fall asleep. I remember the many years in my life when I would have sold my soul for even one such day of total absolute silence from speaking with another human being. My internal voice may even have voiced such a wish. Well, you know the saying, "Be careful what you wish for."

Now, about the question of whether or not I had to have the last word as he perceived, I guess, even that is a matter of opinion. I wonder if he was upset because he wanted to have the last word and I had unintentionally prevented him from doing so? I believe I've resolved that issue, but, unfortunately, he died too soon for me to share this bit of enlightenment with him. I've come to the conclusion he could very well have had the last word on numerous occasions if only his intended final sentences hadn't introduced more issues. How could I not address those? If he had only just acknowledged what I said, perhaps adding, "I don't agree," then said no more, I would have had no reason to think a response was in order. Unfortunately, we'll never get to test this system to determine how effective it might be.

Still, I have now found myself wondering if, in fact, I was unconsciously trying to have the last word in verbal discourse? If so, has this transitioned to my doing the same thing in writing? I've had some lengthy email exchanges with individuals in which I think my last comment is final (and these aren't arguments,) but the other person writes, adds something new and interesting, and off I go again. That cycle continues with neither of us ceasing to reply, yet I've been quite prepared to let the topic go and I've had reason to think, after the fact, that the correspondent has felt the same. What do we have here? Two last worders?

I'm fairly confident dialogue is one aspect of communication I practice most effectively professionally. How well I perform those skills in my personal life may be quite a different matter. I've read accounts of individuals who are very effective and skillful in their professional lives, but don't translate those actions into their personal life. For example, the plumber is most efficient with his customers installations and repairs, but doesn't provide that same superb service his spouse/partner might desire in their home. The same has been said to be true for other areas of work disciplines.

I'm not sure what the definitive explanation and answer is, but I'll be curiously more aware of my own talking and writing. This is my last word on the subject, no matter what comments any readers may leave. So, don't be trying to subtly seduce or blatantly accost me with the intent of tricking me into responding with a comment of my own to any you may write here.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


The watermelon display outside one of my markets was gastronomically enticing. A welcome addition to our neighborhood only a few years ago, this young grocery chain has stores in Arizona, California, Texas and Colorado. They specialize in farm fresh produce purchased from local farmers when possible, also natural meats, fresh seafood, dairy products, juices, and bins full of bulk foods to name just a few attractive features. We still have weekly farmers markets elsewhere in our city, and in several nearby surrounding communities. I’m most appreciative of all these often natural, organic, offerings, since I don’t have a garden of my own, multiple fruit tree varieties, or chickens, much less dairy cattle.

This time from the market I purchased a small round wide-striped green and white watermelon, just the right size for my needs. I'll grant you the flavor in many of these melons isn't as rich and sweet as the black-seed-filled larger variety, but I settle for these hybrids. My refrigerator couldn’t immediately accommodate even that small melon, so I set it aside to remain at room temperature for a couple days. Some fruits, such as the Bartlett pears, bananas, pineapple, or recently harvested apricots and peaches that I purchase, continue to ripen over a several day period, so I fully expected this watermelon would easily tolerate several days similarly.

The day came I had finished the cantaloupe and honeydew melons that had occupied space in my refrigerator, so I looked forward to chilling this juicy red-meated watermelon. Preparing to slice this fruity specimen open, I picked up the melon bag only to allow a sudden dam-bursting amount of water to pour forth, splattering all over my kitchen floor. I'm convinced I had actually chosen the perfectly ripened melon that may have been meant to be eaten the same day, or one that must have cracked ever so slightly in transit from my market to home. Had I only noticed that crack a few days ago, I would have found a way to save my melon as soon as I brought it home, but I didn't. So, no watermelon for me that night.

Later in the evening I made one of my occasional visits to First 50 Words where Virginia DeBolt offers a variety of writing prompts. Here’s the prompt I encountered there, "Nothing sounds good," and the words that came to my mind follow. Obviously, I was still reeling from the unpleasantness of my earlier watermelon fiasco, so this must be some sort of warped lament.

Caution to those of weak constitution. Recommend you not be eating when you read this:

Does anything sound good?

Unripe bananas

Soured cottage cheese

Squashy watermelon

Fizz-less soda pop

Rotting potatoes

Moldy strawberries

Root-sprouting carrots

Germ-laden water

Browned peaches

Salmonella eggs

Fermented orange juice

Slimy lettuce

Unripe raspberrries

Smushy peppers

Mouth-puckering vinegar

Blackened avocado

Spoiled mayonnaise

Punky apples

Curdled milk

Decayed fish

Nothing sounds good!

But ... wait ..... this sounds good ........

Jazz lovers will likely enjoy Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" with Miles Davis:

Here's more "Watermelon Man" with Herbie Hancock's Quintet at the north Sea Jazz Festival, especially enjoyable if you appreciate improvisation.

Friday, October 01, 2010


Streaming video from Orlando's AARP Conference (American Association of Retired Persons)has had some of my attention these days. I've also been blog tracking Cowtown Pattie at "Texas Trifles" and Frank Paynter at "Listics." They're sharing their experience as attendees.

I virtually attended an hour long Orlando session in real time featuring Mary Matalin and James Carville. They gave some serious commentary from opposite sides of the political spectrum regarding the upcoming November elections and what the results might portend for the future, including the Presidential election in two more years.

Carville says the Democrats need to just let the Republicans talk and thinks they'll talk themselves out of winning the election. He says a third party, with the Tea Pots (my term,) as an example are " bees...they sting and then they die."

Matalin bantered about their personal life as a husband and wife with opposing political views. There was lots of humor in the mix as she commented with words to the effect that she "...didn't consider divorce, but she did often consider murder."

The session's moderator asked, "How does tweeting, etc. change the country to you?" Carville compared the change now to that of being as profound as when we had the first printing press, later radio, then television. He spoke of politics being "...about framing...not how you communicate, but what you communicate."

Matalin spoke of the technology as allowing organization. She then made this alarming observation, that now that we have so many information sources, often of questionable value, more disorganized, that sorting out the credible has become more difficult. She noted that the more of this mixed information we receive, the more likely people are to react in herd-like behavior. I would suggest that we have certainly seen that happening.

I'm anticipating an early morning session with Whoopi Goldberg -- early for me on the West Coast because of the three hour time difference. In case you haven't noticed by my choice of sessions to attend, I prefer a good dose of humor infused with any serious topics.

All of these sessions, and many more on various topics pertinent to Elders, including health, caregiving, remain available on the Orlando50+ The Digital Experience site, If you miss the live streaming video a replay is available beginning 24 hours after they occur and will continue to be accessible for a period of time. Those with hearing limitations may find the sessions captioned speech helpful.

If you've never tried participating in a virtual conference, you might enjoy doing so. Anyone with a camera and microphone, as many computers today often have built-in, may actually interact with a person at some of the virtual AARP site locations other than those sessions.

(Next Day Note: AARP reported they regretted contractual limitations resulted in their being unable to present live streaming audio/video of the Whoopi Goldberg and Larry King portion of the session I had expected to see.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010


"THINK for yourself and let others do the same."

That is the slogan of the American Library Association (ALA) for the annual event celebrating the freedom to read. September 25-October 2, 2010 celebrates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment’s significance and value with this Banned Books Week (BBW). This annual event is held during the last week of September to emphasize:

“the benefits of free and open access to information, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular
...while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.”

Featured books have been subjected to attempted bannings. Librarians, teachers, booksellers and community members efforts have prevented many more books from being censored or restricted, so they remain in library collections. ALA office records show hundreds of ban attempts each year.

ALA reports “Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.”

The ALA website provides short concise explanations of the difference between a book challenge and a banning, why books are challenged and who does so. Information is provided as to why specific books are banned. Especially interesting are ALA pages listing: Frequently Challenged Books by year, Authors(by year,) Authors of Color, Statistics, by decade, a list of banned and challenged classics.

You can examine the top ten banned or challenged books of the 21st century to determine if your favorite book is listed.

Some of the most frequently challenged authors books may not appear on the list. The example ALA provides is if each of Judy Blume’s books were challenged, but only once, she would make the Most Challenged Author list, but her books would not make the top 10 list. Five of her books are on the 1990 to 1999 Most Frequently Challenged Books list.

The 20th Century’s top 100 novels banned or challenged are listed including some of author John Steinbeck’s novels (see my preceding two blog posts.) I learned I had read many of the 100 books. Here are the first 9 and a special favorite of mine. I’m surprised Madame Bovary isn’t still on the list which I read at age 10 or under.

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses by James Joyce
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
9. 1984 by George Orwell
17. Animal Farm by George Orwell

You may read books challenged there but consider:

”The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom does not claim comprehensiveness in recording challenges. Research suggests that for each challenge reported there are as many as four or five that go unreported.”

A small example from the ALA list of authors I've not already mentioned here whose writings have been banned or challenged between 2001 to 2009 include:

J. K. Rowling
Stephen King’
Maya Angelou
Maurice Sendak
Mark Twain

I recall reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, seeing a special emotionally moving interview Bill Moyer’s conducted with her on PBS, and seeing her in person in a strikingly enlightening one-woman presentation about her life with an added social commentary. Her book described, and a segment in the TV interview was recorded in, a community where she lived as a young girl in a similar area that I had shockingly encountered in my youth, so I knew first hand how true her words to be. The idea that anyone could even remotely consider challenging, or wanting her book banned I believe is misguided.

Her book, ranked 31, is one example demonstrating the book information ALA provides:

“31 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Reason for challenges: racism, homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group”

There is a bibliography listing books, “...challenged, restricted, removed, or banned in 2009 and 2010 as reported in the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom from May 2009-May2010.” Author(s), book title, publisher are listed, followed by a paragraph summary explaining who made the complaint and why, coupled with a brief description of the offending story.

Following are a few of the listed books, their author(s) and one abbreviated example of content:

And Tango Makes Three
By Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
“The illustrated book is based on a true story of two
male penguins that adopted an abandoned egg
at New York City’s Central Park in the late 1990s.”

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
By Barbara Ehrenreich

Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary
By Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff

The Bean Trees
By Barbara Kingsolver

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
By Anne Frank

I recommend you visit the American Library Association's website by clicking on their name here for a direct link. Reiterating the BBW slogan:


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


The book “The Other Side of Eden” by John Steinbeck IV and Nancy Steinbeck, I reviewed in my previous article that you may easily access by scrolling back to there. Considerable interest in this book has been expressed to me both in comments, private emails and verbal discussions with people I’ve encountered in my daily life. For that reason, I have chosen to share additional links to Internet websites I subsequently initiated researching in response to that interest.

In my previous article titled, “Choosing Books We Read – Steinbeck IV,” I described the varied route I followed which resulted in my selecting this particular book. After the book’s selection, I took note of the fact John Steinbeck IV was the son of a famous parent who was recognized world-wide with notable awards for his writing. I became particularly intrigued with how being the child of such a recognized figure could, and sometimes does, impact some children. I could name numerous children of famous public figures and celebrities whose lives have been positively and/or negatively affected by their parents’ status, as probably many readers could also. Naming or making comparisons with these children is not the focus of what I write.

My particular interest centers on the informative, sensitive account of how John IV perceived his life that he wrote about in his uncompleted autobiography before his unfortunate premature death. There may have been several “uncompleteds” in his life at certain stages. We each must make our own way through this world on a sometimes barbed and thorny, occasionally crooked rutty road, fraught with detours, even dead ends. Only the naive fail to recognize the challenges in making this journey, which is more difficult for some than others, for a multitude of reasons both within and beyond our control.

When we’re children we are especially vulnerable to adult influences that can contribute to complicating the rest of our lives. His untimely death is doubly tragic since not only was he deprived of life, but his wife, children, and family missed his love and companionship. His friends, plus those who recognized and appreciated his talents and skills, would no longer benefit from the further materialization of his unknown potential.

Who of us does not see life through varying lens at age 20, then 40, next 60, again 80 years and, for some, even 100 years or more? Actually, even life view changes at 30, 50, 70 and 90 can be significant. John IV was sharing his observations in this book from the viewpoint of a mature adult in his mid-forties who had many unique experiences throughout his life. One of his writing achievements when in his twenties is the highly acclaimed Vietnam memoir, “In Touch.” Since we have his perceptions at mid-life, he might even have wanted to share an account of a further evolved life viewpoint about which he could have been motivated to write in the following years.

His wife compiled “The Other Side of Eden” knowing of his intent to have his writings published. She wrote additional chapters to augment his and their life narrative, specifically noting at the beginning of each chapter the ones he wrote, those she wrote and any that might be a combination of his views, as she knew them, coupled with her own knowledge and perspective.

Co-author Nancy Steinbeck’s website can be reached with a click HERE for the book jacket description and reviews.

She reads from the book HERE.
This 9 min. reading requires you to download a RAM file and follow the written instructions to access.
There is also a slide show on the site that requires a Real OnePlayer to watch but if you do not have a necessary plug-in or helper application you can download a free one there.

For anyone interested in John Steinbeck IV’s father’s legacy through his award-winning novels (discussed in my preceding article,) I suggest this link to The National Steinbeck Center.

John IV’s brother, Thomas, serves on the Board of Directors, there in Salinas, California, in the heart of the story setting for some of John Steinbeck’s novels. The city is a scenic 17-mile drive from the popular vacation spot, Monterey, for those who might want to plan an interesting travel experience to both places. There are some spectacular colorful ocean scenes along the coastal Monterey area on writer, Thom’s web site HERE, which also contains information about his books beginning with his first, "In The Shadow of the Cypress."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


How do we choose the books we read? That question intrigues me when I consider the books I most recently chose. I realize my selection approach has varied through the years, but here’s what happened this time.

Deciding to write a short July 4th blog piece, I was reminded of a novel set on that date that I enjoyed reading the summer after my high school graduation prior to starting college in the fall. A quick Internet search for that book (future topic here) resulted in my encountering reference to a 1950's John Steinbeck Jrs. novel, East of Eden. That reference led me to an interesting sounding title, The Other Side of Eden written by Steinbeck’s son, John IV. Ultimately, I was intrigued to read this book when I recalled the considerable controversy, especially in the Steinbecks’ Salinas, California home community, surrounding his family story revelations. One of the son’s less offending observations about his father in the book:

“He was a total bullshit artist on some levels and often that makes a great writer. But if you don’t walk like you talk, it’s not a great character trait.”

The Other Side of Eden by John Steinbeck IV and wife, Nancy, was published in 2001. Steinbeck IV began writing his autobiography to understand the influences shaping his maturation. His life had been adversely affected by alcoholic family members, coupled with probable abuse by them and some of their adult friends. These and other revelations contrasted significantly with his father’s public image, both personal and professional.

John Steinbeck Jr., the father, had been catapulted into the public eye with the 1939 publication of his novel, The Grapes of Wrath, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1940, the same year as the release of the book’s movie version. In 1962, the author was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

His novel’s and film’s storyline is set during the Great Depression, and follows a desperate but hope-filled family along famed U.S. Route 66, then ultimately to California’s Salinas Valley. The black and white film is listed at AMC Filmsite as being among the 100 Greatest Films. Tim Dirks, editor and writer, provides extensive particulars about the film’s plot including:

“The plight of the Joad family is universalized as a microcosm of the thousands of other tenant farmers during the country's time of crisis, who suffered from oppression imposed by the banks and big mechanized farm interests. The dispossessed, migrant family’s departure…[depicted those] who were evicted and uprooted from their "Dust Bowl" farm land, and forced to search westward in the inhospitable Eden of California for jobs and survival with thousands of other migrant workers.”

Recent years’ unexpected devastating U.S. financial difficulties, adversely affecting even middle class individuals and their families, resonate in this film which the critic also notes in this New York Times video of an original 1940 movie trailer. (13 sec. commercial at the beginning.)

Here’s another original 1940 movie trailer showcasing the excitement surrounding Steinbeck’s work:

Grapes of Wrath novel has not been without controversy having been banned by school boards from public schools and libraries beginning in Steinbeck’s Kern County in 1939. On two separate occasions the book was burned in Salinas, location of his parents and his home. The American Library Association reports from 1990 to 2004 Steinbeck to be one of the ten most frequently banned authors. Another of his novels, Of Mice and Men ranked sixth of one hundred books banned in the United States. (Up date: 8/28/12 since link above no longer connects -- refer to current ALA Link.)

Contrarily, many of Steinbeck’s writings have continued to be on numerous required American high school reading lists. His novel Of Mice and Men is a key text used in the United Kingdom for select English Literature examinations. A United States study by the Center for the Learning and Teaching of Literature found the novel to be one of the ten most frequently read books in public high schools as noted at Wikipedia.

Favorites of mine, Steinbeck, Jr. (note he probably dropped the Jr. after his father died) novel and movie, East of Eden, both occur in Steinbeck’s California Salinas Valley. This story set in 1917, just prior to WWI, is generally described as a re-telling of the biblical Cain and Abel story – good versus evil, favored versus unfavored sons. Dirks again provides extensive film specifics including this description:
(8/28/12 Dirks link up date.)

The story “...portrays the relationship between insecure, tortured, neurotic loner Caleb "Cal" Trask (James Dean, his first major role and film) and his dutiful, favored brother Aron (Richard Davalos) - twin sons. Their father is a stern, hardened, devoutly religious, self-righteous man, Adam (Raymond Massey), a lettuce farmer living with his family in Salinas, California.
The characters in this story, particularly, are noted by John Steinbeck IV as being based on more than one generation of his family. Most notably he relates that his perception is the novel’s brothers relationship with each other, and with their father, as being much like that of his and his older brother’s. Both brothers engaged in writing professionally as adults. They sustained erratic contact throughout their lives but Steinbeck IV’s wife, Nancy, is of the impression the brothers’ personal time together generally resulted in her husband experiencing serious setbacks in attempts to overcome his demons, including alcohol and drugs.

Here’s a link to John Steinbeck Encyclopedia which provides a brief summary of older brother,Thomas’(Thom’s,) life and writing accomplishments for anyone interested in further information about him.

John Steinbeck IV served six years as a soldier in the Vietnam War. He was an award-winning journalist for an acclaimed 1969 Vietnam memoir In Touch. He received an Emmy for his work on a 1968 CBS documentary “The World of Charlie Company.” Here’s Part 1 of 5, each part can be viewed on YouTube, about 10 minutes each in length:

The Other Side of Eden, subtitled “Life with John Steinbeck,” (referring to Steinbeck, Jr.) was compiled by John IV’s wife, Nancy, after her husband’s death. Some chapters are attributed to having been written by her husband from his unfinished autobiography and notes; others she designates as having written herself incorporating her own recollections. Nancy writes considerably of her perspective about her husband’s life, sometimes lending a professional view as a former therapist who worked with hard-core delinquents and drug addicts. She augments her husband’s writings extensively with those of her own describing the circumstances of their initial 1960s meeting in Boulder, Colorado, as followers of a popular Buddist leader at the time. This is a revealing startling story about such spiritual groups and their gurus. She and John were both separately seeking life answers as their honestly described activities, significant life events reveal.

Nancy, in describing their relationship, explains the vows they took with which I can singularly identify for reasons quite different than hers, plus I’m not a Buddhist, that to some degree must account for sustaining their marriage. She wrote:

“Buddhist wedding vows are not about ‘til death do us part.’ We promised to extend transcendent generosity, morality, patience, exertion, contemplation, and wisdom and always be a friend to the other.”
The two of them, a few years later, experiencing a spiritual dilemma prompts her to write of a meeting with the Dalai Lama whose clarifying efforts explained:

“It is not good for a person to change from the religion into which they were born. Very difficult to understand the religion of a foreign culture. Much better to stay with the one you know.”

Nancy later writes:
“Now there is evidence that meditation can exacerbate emotional problems, and may even prove dangerous.”

The value in reading this book, for me, does not necessarily center on the celebrities with whom the Steinbeck IV’s lives were intimately enmeshed, such as the “Beat Generation’s” Jack Kerouac, Abbie Hoffman, and William Burroughs. My thoughts were stimulated to think about the influences experienced by some children growing up in a home with an iconic parent, in this case a Pulitzer Prize winner, Nobel Prize winning author with his numerous books becoming award-winning Hollywood star-studded movies. Tragically, the author’s son was exposed to substance abuse and other violations including in his family environment as he matured. Descriptions of this son’s coping mechanisms and evolution through adulthood provides a cautionary tale about the challenges facing individuals who become well-known public figures with the impact their fame and fortune may have on some family members.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering. . . . . .

Remembering innocent lives sacrificed because of hate and fear.....

Our greatest tribute is to not act from similar feelings.....

Lest we be like those who caused the devastating events.....


Almost a decade ago.....

Twenty first century tragedy

Monday, September 06, 2010


Collector item voices are likely going to be coming to my house soon. Maybe yours, too. I'm anticipating my answering machine is going to begin having a real work-out after Labor day, continuing until the November elections. The device has only now cooled down, recuperated, after being bombarded by automatically dialed calls with recorded messages left on my machine before the Primary Elections earlier this year. I think about all the money candidates and other well-known public figures expend recording these messages, then calling my phone number.

Do candidates know that when I play back any message on my answering machine that the split second I recognize it's one of those automatically dialed pre-recorded messages, which I can usually determine no later than after the 2nd or 3rd word, I hit the delete button? The voices I've deleted have included former U.S. Presidents, Congressional Senators and Representatives and other public figures from more local level offices, also a few celebrities. Maybe I should have saved them like people do who collect autographs. Perhaps my recordings would be collectors items with monetary value for future generations.

I've listened to part of some messages in the past and find they're full of all the vague grandiose goals that are always promised. Seldom do they define how they hope to accomplish these goals that the incumbent and the office holder before him or her also said they would achieve and didn't. I get frustrated listening to them and want to respond with comments like, "Give me some facts. Tell me how you attempt to make these needed progressive changes."

Another type recorded message to which I'm subjected is as repugnant and repelling to me as what I see in snail mail flyers, brochures, letters and television ads which are increasing now. They're often negatively full of attack mis-truths, distortions and omissions. Thank heavens the senders don't have my email address but I would simply treat any such emails as spam.

Monday, August 30, 2010


The 2010 62nd Emmy Awards show is one I'm really enjoying viewing as I write this. In fact, I’m concluding as this show ends that it is one of the best Emmy Award Shows I’ve seen in recent years. Host Jimmy Fallon is generating fun and excitement most effectively. Betty White is making all elders, especially women, proud!

I've always had an interest in these awards since my voting member days at our local chapter soon after the Emmys were first established. Many years ago Rod Serling ("Twilight Zone" creator) came to our Columbus, Ohio chapter officially authorizing us to give local Emmy awards. I think this year’s show's rapid pace reflects present day life, integrating live and previously recorded audio/video action that conveys the flavor of television integrating with the Internet experience exceptionally well. Frankly, I'm looking forward to the complete transition of both mediums to my future TV for excellent picture sound reception with a big flat screen, simple connections and operating device at a cost all can afford.

I've deliberately avoided cable/satellite/phone television subscription since broadcast signals in the Los Angeles area with usually exceptionally clear reception are freely available in my community. I especially enjoy the programming of the three Public Television Stations. I'm reminded as I watch this Emmys broadcast of all the cable programs I'm missing, especially HBO and Showtime. This awards program continues with humorous unobtrusive audio commentary often provided during the time startled winners rush to the stage to make reasonably short acceptance speeches.

Sprinkled throughout the program are award nominees who respond to questions about themselves such as "When did you first get a laugh?," "Is sexy funny?," or to the Ernst and Young Accountants who tabulate and certify the voting ballots, "When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?" One replied, "A professional baseball player."

Then they shared some of the various monitoring network powers-that-be notes with which TV series program writers must contend, such as being asked to rewrite a Shakespeare quote saying the words “needed to be clearer.” Oh, yeah? Another note was to change a story element referring to someone as having six toes because it was "too weird." So the writers changed it to four toes and that was acceptable -- who knew!

Emmy winner in Directing, Variety, Music or Comedy Special: Bucky Gunts won for "Vancouver 2010 Winter Games Opening Ceremony," NBC. That’s quite a spread of categories in which shows must compete. One director, Louis J. Horvitz, was nominated in that group for Kennedy Center Honors for which he’s won Emmys several times, also directing awards for earlier years Emmy shows and the Academy Awards. During showings of this year’s nominated programs Mr. Horvitz was asked one of my favorite questions: "What did your Mom want you to be growing up?" He responded " accordion player on the Lawrence Welk Show" as he was seen squeezing the instrument. I have the pleasure of knowing how proud his mother is, and his father is of all his accomplishments as are his wife, younger actor brother, Richard, (click for link to his web site,) and sisters (one of whom with her husband I count as special friends.)

I really enjoyed laughing with Wanda Sykes when she gave us a grocery shopping experience in which her actions demonstrated the pride of an African-American woman whose nation now had Obama as President. She humorously pantomimed striding out of a super market with her purchase of a watermelon she flaunted by openly carrying it on her shoulder.

I was reminded of a personal supermarket experience years ago when I was in the produce section busily thumping on watermelons, listening to the sound, trying to determine which one might be best. Just happened there was an African -American gentleman next to me engaged in watermelon examination. He turned to me and quietly conspiratorially inquired, “How can you tell which one to pick?” I responded in an equally soft voice, "I don't really know. My husband is much better at this than I am because he long ago had lots of fresh produce grocery business experience." The gentleman then confided amused perplexity that earlier a white woman had come to him there at the watermelon display in a manner that clearly indicated she assumed he should know how to select a good-eating watermelon because he was black. We shared an incredulous but good laugh at his being so stereotyped. I didn’t think quickly enough to say, “Geeze, I thought you would know.” He would have roared with laughter.

An HBO movie I will watch in the future won superb actor Al Pacino an Emmy in the Miniseries or Movie category for "You Don't Know Jack." That's Dr. Jack Kevorkian's story. There are additional productions I anticipate enjoying in the future.

I did have a few favorites in the TV series categories with "The Good Wife" being one such series.

My favorite awards of the night went to first place winner of Made-for-TV Movie HBO's "Templin Grandin." Claire Danes won Best Actress, Miniseries or Movie. When I first heard she would play this role I had grave reservations about this casting since I had heard the real-live Templin Grandin speak many years ago. I knew how this young autistic woman looked and behaved. My doubts were put to rest when I watched this HBO special on DVD this past week. Ms Danes performance was spectacularly impressive, magnificently capturing Temple Grandin, getting inside her skin, which I later learned Ms Grandin believed, also.

David Strathairn won Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie portraying with skillful acting skills a very significant teacher in real-life Temple Grandin's evolution through education to meaningful productive development of her unique skills with the ability to “think in pictures.”

Julia Ormand, portraying Ms Grandin's mother, was awarded a Supporting Actress Emmy, Miniseries or Movie. She grasped the challenges and difficulties this real-life mother faced. Ms Ormand uttered a great observation in her acceptance comments:
"...there is a place for a chick flick with bulls balls."

You'll have to see the movie to gain even greater appreciation for this comment.

Catherine O'Hara in the role of Ms Grandin's Aunt Ann was very convincing. She accentuated the positive impact these farm family members love with caring acceptance had on her development allowing young Temple’s discovery of her empathy with animals.

Mick Jackson was awarded an Emmy for Directing, Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special. He very clearly articulated to Temple Grandin seated in the audience that this movie was her and intended to be her. Her enthusiastic response rising to wave to the audience confirmed what I've read, that she believes the movie is her true story, not always the case in such movie productions.

I confess to prejudice in favor of this movie based on having heard the real Templin Grandin speak at one of the eight institutions that compose our local Claremont Colleges consortium twenty or so years ago before she was well-known. Ms. Grandin wanted to acquaint people with autism, with the potential for some individuals, by describing her experience as an autistic person, by discussing her life from childhood to the then present. Her talents had just begun to be recognized as a designer of compassionately constructed cattle stock yards. Her skills were beginning to garner her paying consulting contracts.

I was particularly intrigued by the sensory and behavioral aspects of her autism experience. She spoke of how the mere touch from other human beings was experienced as being extremely intensified which she perceived like sensory overload, actually being painful. A hug was truly unbearable. As I recall, she was continuing to have therapy of a desensitization nature to increase her tolerance, but still preferred not being touched. So, in the Emmy Award show tonight when she came on stage, then threw her arms around the woman from the HBO show in the midst of an acceptance speech to give her a long tight hug, I could see how far she had come to be able to do that without flinching.

I also recall included in Ms Grandin's speech those years ago her discussion of how her mother had internalized the doctors repeated message that her daughter's autism was the mother's fault. Mother was to blame for not bonding with her child, had been cold, withholding of love and affection. This was the prevailing psychiatric belief about autism's causes her mother and other women were repeatedly told by medical professionals when women sought help for their child. I might add, through the years mothers have been unjustly scapegoated for many deficits their children have exhibited. Later scientific research, including brain studies, has shown the presence of neurological differences, chemical and hormone imbalances from that of non-autistic people.

Always question whenever medical people give answers that do not logically match what you know to be your experience and true to you. Do not accept being told what you are feeling and experiencing as all “being in your head.” Do give reasonable consideration to that possibility from respected professionals in some instances. Insist on further explanation for such viewpoints, consider exploration of other possible causal explanations for whatever feelings you're experiencing.

Ms Grandin's mother knew what she was being told wasn't true as she had raised another daughter in the same interactive manner who was not autistic. But repeated psyche assaults of being told otherwise can cause someone to doubt themselves. During the years preceding Ms Grandin's speech. science had established the truth about autism. Though her mother learned this, accepted and knew she was not to blame for her daughter's deficits, Ms Grandin said the years of being told otherwise still gave her mother pause at times. Knowing all this, I could appreciate Ms Grandin's Awards show gesture insisting that her mother stand to be recognized during such an emotional moment during what was clearly such a meaningful event for them both.

George Clooney received a well-deserved Bob Hope Humanitarian Award for his efforts to aid those in many of the world's disaster areas. The academy cited his work against Darfur genocide; raising funds for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; fund raising for Hurricane Katrina; and a telethon to benefit Haitian earthquake victims. His closing comments in accepting the award were so true and a most thought-provoking challenge to all:

“The truth is when a disaster happens, everybody wants to help. Everybody in this room wants to help. Everybody at home wants to help. The hard part is seven months later, five years later when we’re on to a new story. And honestly, we fail at that most of the time. That’s facts. I’ve failed at that. So here’s hoping that some very bright person right here in the room or at home watching can help find a way to keep the spotlight burning on these heartbreaking situations that continue to be heartbreaking long after the cameras go away. That’d be an impressive accomplishment.”

Dr. Temple Grandin - Web Site
Blog: Autism From The Outside - Book Review: Thinking In Pictures

Friday, August 27, 2010


How do you know if your mind is preoccupied?

When you notice you've poured your orange juice in your cereal bowl instead of the glass.

That was my first clue on a recent day filled with the expected and unexpected. I've been quietly empathetic with the fact so much of the country has been experiencing unusually hot weather this summer while we've had a cooler summer than ordinary in Southern California. Yeah, there was a little bit of me that was feeling sorta smug about our nice weather -- a feeling that should have signaled me I was in for retribution for allowing even an eensy weensy thought like that to enter my mind.

Sure enough, the previous night I had noticed the house beginning to feel warm, though the air conditioner was running. The thermometer confirmed a high temperature greatly exceeding the thermostat setting. My check of a wall register revealed warm air flow instead of cold indicating A/C malfunction. I was awake the rest of the night ready to phone in my SOS to the A/C repair magicians soon after daylight seeped though my bedroom windows. The call was made with my plea for help duly recorded by the A/C group’s automated machine, giving me hope my service would be added to their technicians schedule for that day. Just to be certain my message had been noted by staff I phoned again when the office was open. I was disappointed to be told no one had noted my call and all service calls had long been scheduled, not only for that day, but at least through the end of the week.

I was desperate because we were in the midst of an excessive heat alert with temperatures well into three digits coupled with high humidity. I recalled when my husband was living that due to his medical problems he rightfully was automatically given special service during power cutbacks for certain medical and appliance malfunctions. I benefited as a household member, but I’ve believed I was no longer in need of such special considerations and have not requested any. On this occasion I decided to “play the age card.” I stated my age, adding that unfortunately, my body no longer tolerated extreme temperatures and heat as when I was younger. I reported I hadn’t been able to sleep at all the night before and inquired again whether they could possibly provide service sooner. I was asked to “hold” while another person was consulted. The resultant message was my A/C unit would receive service the next day.

The rest of the day the house interior gradually heated up. I managed to get a few “glowing” soaked hours of sleep during a few intervals throughout the day. In case you didn’t know, “horses sweat, men perspire and women glow,” as I recall a saying from my mother's horse and buggy days. I was surprised to be feeling much too listless to leave the house to go to an air conditioned movie theater as the day before I had thought I might. The night’s cooling air failed to infiltrate sufficiently throughout my home, so despite a fan focused on me I experienced more erratic sleeping hours. The A/C thermometer indicated numbers just below three digits, so I stopped checking it.

Here's jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald singing "We're Having A Heat Wave" with accompanying photos of her and Marilyn Monroe who many think generates heat of her own.

After another heat-filled night, during which I had little sleep, when morning arrived I was amazed to discover my strength seemed to be sapped. I came to understand first hand what my mother had meant years ago during her older years when she would say, “The heat tires me.” I rotated my morning activities of personal care and dressing with lying down on the bed. Later preparing breakfast alternated with resting in the recliner while I ricocheted back and forth to stand before the refreshing electric table fan blown breezes.

Clearly I needed to activate Plan B. My mind plotted how I would spend my day and evening in air conditioned comfort at various locales. Just then my thoughts were interrupted by a welcomed phone call reporting my home was next on the A/C service list. An hour or so later one of the A/C dealer company owners from whom we had purchased our unit many years ago arrived to diagnose the problem. Seems a “capacitor had blown” which he reported was happening to other unit types, too, during this heat onslaught. He replaced the capacitor which was relatively inexpensive, costing less than the labor, as is so often the case with mechanized, electronic and digitized products today. The total cost was reasonable and worth every penny to me as the welcomed cooling air circulated throughout my home.

Now I can keep my mind on whatever I might be doing. I’m confident my breakfast beverage will no longer occupy my cereal bowl since I can’t really imagine microwaving my oatmeal in orange juice. Still – maybe I should try it.