Sunday, July 31, 2011

At the Bitter End, or Nearly So.....

In case it went unnoticed, the two party system ended with the last election. Will it rest in peace? I doubt it. The leadership in the Congress is now irrelevant. For years, people were identified as Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. But the Independent party was a mechanism to run for office if you didn’t like the Party candidates. The rules for Independents were no different. If the Leadership favored you, the committee assignments were plum and if not, even as an elected official, you wallowed on some committee which was powerless to make a difference. Sure, at times it wasn’t fair. The powerful (and those with longevity), got more powerful and favors were granted on often, unprincipled expectations -- retribution for not “falling in line,” was harsh. (Remember “Mr Smith Goes to Washington”?) Yet, with all the controversy about the system, it did seem to work. The leadership asked nicely, for what they wanted. The Congress Person said OK. The President was able to function and things moved—maybe not in a direction to your liking but there was always compromise and move forward, and a hope that after the next election, things might swing back your way.

Ah, but now, the misnamed Tea Party, (whose so-called revolution is not principled, it is just painful), doesn’t care about the system; they hate the government (except to make sure there is less of it), nor do they care about getting reelected. They are a Party with one mission, to make sure that whatever the Democrats, the Administration (BO in particular), and reasonable responsible Republicans think is necessary, does not get done. And they do not care or understand the consequences of their ideological inaction. It’s like passive aggressive government. If you don’t do anything, something will happen, but you will not be able to predict what that will be…. Or not be. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Anyway, are you following my incredibly astute thought process? I want to get this up before there is any kind of a compromise or conclusion to this hideous demonstration of why inexperience in government is not refreshing. Because I don’t want anyone to think I stole these words from one of the genius talking heads. And I also mean that in the nicest possible way. The idea that there are two days left before we default on our debt is almost laughable—the operational word being almost. The fact that the Congress is playing this dangerously foolish game, so close to the deadline, is what I would call—for lack of a better – playing with boys’ toys. The toys being the deadline, playing needing not more of an explanation. I don’t want anyone of our readers to misunderstand what I am about to say but my explanation of boys’ toys, is all about the size of one’s penis. Most girls don’t have a penis, so they find other ways to compete and other ways to negotiate differences. This is true in many instances. Whether it be giving directions or explaining a policy. Women use rhetoric that creates a story. Men don’t have the time or patience for a story. It’s take the seventh left, war is the answer, and my penis is bigger.

Not everyone is going to agree with me. They will say, Michelle Bachman doesn’t have a penis and look how many people like what she has to say. But, Michelle Bachman is an idiot who lives her life in a very different way than she insists other people live theirs. She is one of those women who thinks she needs to have a penis in order to become a powerful force. She uses the penis props to compensate for the lack of body parts. What do I mean by penis props – arrogance, deception, and believing her own bullshit. It is not only Tea Party women that use these tools, but the Tea Party personalities, as well as the Sarah Palins are just damn good at it.

Will we have a deal, compromise and move forward for a few months, only to have to another important issue decided under intense pressure, at the last minute. No doubt we will. I really liked the other three parties, where everyone played nicely with whatever toys that had. We’re just sayin’.. Iris

Monday, July 25, 2011

What IS: IS

The horror of the last few days has lead me to ponder the why's and how's of this life. Like why did Amy Winehouse's mother not just send her to a facility in Utah, until she got clean and sober. And why did this obviously damaged Norwegian, need to kill all those children. And why did the mother in Queens kill her disabled child and then try to off herself (without success). What brings people to the brink? And why does each story need a headline like Amy, and "The curse of the 27th year." But I will never answer those questions coherently, so I just turn off my desire to know absolutely everything about everything.

There is no question that I should have been a life coach, having spent so much time coaching people about their lives, with no charge -- always my problem. It's not that I'm so smart, because a great many successful people are totally talent free, no matter what their chosen profession, but in this case, good genes (and common sense) far outweigh the need to actually know anything.

What exactly do I mean? It doesn't take an extraordinarily high IQ to see things as they should be. For example, my mother and her siblings always said, "dead's dead,” and “what is, is." It is those six words (principles) that link the whole (extended Dubroff) family together. We all have different surnames, but it's the Dubroff gene that has allowed us to persevere, gives us the energy to make incredibly good sense, whatever we have chosen to do ... or say. You can interpret those statements in many different ways but among my favorite are; don't dwell on what you can't have, don't try to fight the reality of the situation, and get over your bad self -- or just your foolish self.

Last night, when I awoke at 12:30 am (and stayed awake until 3am) I heard a Dubroff voice telling me that I would have plenty of time to sleep when I was dead -- it could have been any number of people speaking, because about some things they all spoke with the same voice. Of course I answered the voice back with a question. "What the hell are you talking about", I yelled. "I'm exhausted from repeatedly not sleeping through nite." As usual, there was no answer to that question. Instead, another voice said, "There is no secret to life. We are not hiding anything from you. What is, is", so stop complaining, stop wanting things to be better or different and just enjoy what you know you can achieve." Or, better said, "just take a breath."

All these questions and answers took me to another place. Thinking about my kids. JKB said that she was trying to make a life in LA, rather then just live there. And SAJ, said that he loved what he was doing, along with his music and loved especially being a father.
This was most reassuring for me. Because everyone should be satisfied (or make the best of life decisions -- what is, is) and not be spending time on what was, was (another of their favorite expressions -- no need for explanation). That is not to say that life shouldn't be an adventure, rather don't waste time constantly thinking your decisions were wrong or unfortunate. Anyway, as a consequence of my genes, I have both an insight and awareness of how everyone should live their lives. The only problem is, you get what you pay for, and nobody ever writes me a check. We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Adieux My Flying Friends

For thousands of years on Yom Kippur, Jews have gathered together to beseech their lord for forgiveness, and ask to be re-written into the book of life. So it was when I was 11 years old – in 1957 -- that the family attended services and as we usually did, dropped off my Landa cousins on the way home. It was sitting in their driveway on Sunnyside Avenue that night, that we heard the news on the radio. It was October 4th, and earlier that day the Soviets had, to everyone’s surprise, launched the first Sputnik satellite, the first man-made object to orbit the earth every hour and half, and in doing so, implied that, as my barber would later say, “… if they can launch it up there, they can certainly launch them over here.” It was the beginning of the Sputnik era, propelling us with a combination of fear and a bold desire to prove our worthiness. Science and math were all of a sudden returned to a position of importance in schools. Every kid I knew at Olympus Junior High wanted to work on the space program, even though we didn’t have much of one. A few weeks later our first attempt at launching a bird would end in a fiery mess as the Navy’s Vanguard rocket blew up on the pad. I’m sure the Soviets had more than their share of fiery disasters, but they didn’t have AP cameras aimed at them, so we had to just assume they did. Over the next few months a combination of worry and wonder would drive us into rethinking about the American space program. In less than three months, the Army, under Werner Von Braun’s leadership, would take up where the Navy failed, and launch our first Explorer I satellite, just 88 days after being asked to do so. Now THAT was the Can-Do we’d been brought up to believe was the American way. The news of Explorer I came in January ’58, on another Friday where, this time, I was in a car full of 6th graders who were returning from a night of Wrestling at the Fairgrounds. What we didn’t enjoy with Bobo Brazil and Dick the Bruiser, we more than made up for with the soaring news that the US had finally matched the Russians with a success.

Then, just a few weeks later, I remember racing into the kitchen still trying to pull on my t-shirt before school, tearfully announcing to mom what I’d just heard on the early morning news show (even then I was an AM radio addict): that another Vanguard rocket had, finally, been successful in launching its small payload into orbit. Those were heady days, when, despite the fear of Russian ICBMs, we thought the space age would make ‘anything possible.’ Stephen Sondheim writes about that moment in “Merrily We Roll Along,” with “Our Time,” a song which extols the power of optimism, youthful embrace of the unknown, and a self assurance that we could make the world what we wanted it to be. It is well known that I tear up at the opening of a new Trader Joe’s, but listening to that youthful plaint of “Our Time” gets me every time.

Somehow, perhaps with JFK’s brash challenge to go to the moon, we figured out how to do things which no one thought possible. We actually built the Apollo rockets (still nothing has ever flown mightier than the Saturn V) which went to the moon, and safely brought back its crew a half dozen times, and all this before the invention of the personal computer, GOOGLE, or even a ‘mouse.’ Pure slide rule and 1960s mainframe power. And ingenuity. Don’t settle for less than the ingenious. Through it all there was an amazing sense of discovery, and challenge to conquer the unknowns. Going to the moon, sending probes to Mars and Venus and the outer reaches of the solar system were part of what we grew up with. If you were a kid in the 60s, and maybe even the 70s, there was enough inspiration in the Manned space program to get you over the humps in those difficult science course finals. Somehow you thought that you could be a part of it if only you could master the Physics final, a Calculus exam, or a Chemistry lab. There were concrete reasons to succeed. If even for a moment you thought you would be the one responsible for that key piece of the puzzle which would get a rocket into orbit, you took it on as your own personal challenge.
Atlantis returns the last time
Not to mention the physical amazingness of the space program. I first covered a launch in May 1969 when Apollo X was sent for a final blueprinting of what a moon trip would be like. Standing on the sands at the press center, with my dorky tripod and 300mm lens, I felt the slapping rumble of the shockwaves of that Saturn V, a mere three miles away, popping off my chest as if Dick the Bruiser himself was there. I don’t know any one who views a big space launch with the casualness of eating a tuna sandwich. No, they are special. The look, the feel, the sound, it is something you don’t forget.

This morning I awoke in Glasgow (where I’m teaching a photo workshop), and tuned into the NASA tv channel to find out about Atlantis’ landing. I was at the Cape twelve days ago for the launch, one I just didn’t want to miss, as it was to be the last. Thousands of people came to see it, driven by the same kind of desire to share the experience as the million or so who came to the very same spot on the Titusville water front, to see Apollo XI in July 1969. I was there for both. In the pretty much the same spot, 42 years later. Now of course there were differences, the kind of differences which have marked our society. The kind which you wish you didn’t have to compare, but which you are obliged to. In 1969 there was one gas station, with one single Ladies rest room. There was always a line of 40 or 50 women, and never a grumble as they waited their turns. This month, the old Union 76 gas station is gone, replaced by a big Walgreens, with teams of porta-potties in the parking lot, and no small amount of grousing about having to wait five or ten minutes.

In ’69, the populace still looked relatively healthy. Microwave food didn’t exist yet; McDonalds was just beginning to start its big run to lead the fast food wave which we’ve all lived through. This time, the number of obese parents with their obese kids in tow was simply astonishing. It was like a constant stream, big parents and big children, and always big bags of snack foods tagging along for the ride. Scary stuff.

By most standards, the comparison of 1969 vs 2011 doesn’t bode well for us now. The interaction of folks, most now carefully ensconced in their Costco folding chairs (with holders on the arm rest for a Big Gulp) is less engaging. Everyone has a mobile fone, a “smart” fone (“smart” fones, not so smart people?) and is somehow finding solace there instead of dealing face to face with the people next to them. What is it about that next email which so takes people’s energy away from that which really matters. As if that email will change their lives. (Hint: it won’t!) As a reflection of the mental thrashing around of our times, the last Shuttle launch was one of those moments which while it briefly brought many of us together in Titusville, within minutes afterwards we were back to dealing with the ups and downs of the debt crisis, whether of not Fox News execs knew at high levels about the phone tapping, and the otherwise morose spirit which the paralyzed government seems to be caught up in. The President, having shown signs of vulnerability, is piled on by the Republicans. And instead of responding with incredibly illuminating positions which might fire the further imagination of the country and especially of youth, they keep dumbing down the agenda. The Manned space program came to an end this morning when Atlantis rolled to a stop. Watching it soar out of the Florida darkness, and flare its big wing for the last time, you couldn’t help but feel a sadness, not just for the scientists and engineers who put the damn thing together and made it fly, and fly so well, but for all of us who will now be the poorer for our lack of something to inspire us. There is nothing in banking, “financial services,” international trade, internet start-ups, or even “smart phone” technology which matches the pure wonder of seeing a big-ass manned rocket take off for space. Even if space is only a low-earth orbit of 150 miles.

Once Apollo VIII had circled the moon and taken that picture of the moon-rise in 1968, you would have thought that mankind would have understood some greater sense of possibility. That the earth could be seen as smaller than the moon was a humbling moment in the history of our planet and our people. But we’ve kind of let it all just slip away as the pain of dislocation and distress from the economic crisis of the last four years has more or less taken everyone’s breathing apparatus away. Imagination, the one thing you cannot buy at Costco, is that which we are most lacking. To see the end of the Shuttle program, for all its faults, is, to me, a painful and sad acknowledgement that we just can’t cut it anymore. I don’t really know what I’d do if I were the parent of an 11 year kid who might have once thought they wanted to do science, and, when they grow up, work on the Manned Mars mission. Do we just kiss it all off, and say, “another time…” that it will all have to wait until an age when Wall St. bonuses, paid for having trashed the economy, sublimate. That, I suspect is a very, very long wait.

For now, any further American manned space missions will require us paying millions to the Russians to ferry them up and back. It will be at least five years, probably longer, until we have some kind of vehicle of our own to do that job. I could be proven wrong: maybe one of the private groups working on manned space flight will somehow replace what NASA, for all its bureaucratic faults, was able to keep going all these years. I’d like to be proven wrong, but I worry that I won’t be.
Stairway to Heaven
Two weeks ago, when that last Atlantis launch took place in Florida, I was watching from my old perch on US1. Minutes after the Shuttle had disappeared into the clouds, and spectators were starting to stream back to their cars for the slow drive home, I kept my eyes glued to the giant plume of smoke which had been left in the ascent. I felt at that moment the appropriate song to play would have been Stairway to Heaven, as it seemed like you could just climb up that smoky pillar. In the water (the Indian River) below me, a single figure started running waist deep towards the launch pad, some 6 miles away. I could only see the figure in silouette. He would take a few steps, leap into the air, arms out, as if to personally wave on and salute the smoke-laden path ahead of him. The ballet of his motion belied perhaps more alcohol than Ballanchine. Two women walking back to their cars said, as they passed me, “ but what did you expect… he’s been drinking Jaeger Meister all night…” I could only imagine they were talking about one guy, the one in my frame. But perhaps he was the only one of us who really got it, understanding that for years to come, at least, no American would see this kind of smoky tribute to science, math, and a sense of communal adventure. I didn’t snort any Jaeger that morning, but in looking back, it might have been the nicest tribute that we could have paid. We’re just sayin’… David

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Listen Up!

Bear with me for one more day. On Friday, I went to two movies (Harry Potter and Midnight in Paris), and then took myself out to dinner to one of my favorite places Cubano, on third at 61st – where I had a mojito and, based on my delightful conversation with the people at the next table, a glass of sangria. Then I went home, wrote a blog and went to sleep, until about 1:30, when I awoke because the partier's at the club next door were rowdy and out of control – under our bedroom window.

Anyway, I was up, so I finished a self serving blob, and watched all the “Bones” and of “House” episodes that were on the DVR. At 5:30, I thought it might be nice to go to the club. But I opted for a little more sleep and didn’t awake until 8:30. (Is this Ho Hum enough.) When I finally got my ass out of bed, at about 9:00, I went to the club and worked out. If I hadn’t worked out I would be as big as a house. As it happens, I am only the size of an enormous kangaroo. Yes, eating large quantities of food will do that.

But that’s not what I wanted to blob about. It’s been a long time since there was any political commentary on We’re Just Sayin. The reasons are ridiculous, like I’m only reading “Variety” and “Back Stage”, and of course, Ken Davenport’s “Producers Prospective” O.K. None of this is true, although I find reading those publications far less frustrating than reading or listening to any news. Here’s the problem. There is hardly an elected official who has an once of common sense. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. And did I mention that there is hardly a lick of civility left in the Congress. The lack of good sense coupled with a serious absence of the ability to be civil, is a dangerous combination. Not that the White House has a corner on these two extremely important qualities, but at least the President has tried to do that hands across America thing. Or is it hand’s across the aisle. Or is it… Well it doesn’t matter because whatever the President tries to do, the Republicans will prevent it. It’s just what they feel compelled to do. Because somewhere in the back of their little, tiny, brains, they care more about their own political agenda than about the good of the country. Yes, of course there are problems with this Administration. First, they were too arrogant to listen. Then, they were too inexperienced to get anything moving. Then, they made some pretty stupid decisions (like another war, and rebuilding the infrastructures of other countries instead of our own, creating jobs, and maybe educating and feeding our children, instead of kids halfway around the world). Then the President tried to accommodate his Republican allies, but they didn’t care. They smurked (I know it’s spelled wrong but it’s supposed to look like Smurf), and continued to vote down or block every (even sensible) initiative, (especially where women were concerned).

Now we are on the brink of Armageddon and Eric Cantor and his pals are still making statements instead of progress. Posturing instead of progressing (I couldn’t find another synonym that started with a ‘’p’ to make it emphatic). Nevertheless, it truly just pisses me off. We were taught that elected officials are supposed to represent their constituents. Duh! Isn’t that why they were elected? And I refuse to believe that there is a person in the United States of America (who gets what’s going on), that believes this great nation should go into default.

OK so listen up you moron’s. “Get over yourselves. You will lose the next election if you continue on with this nonsense. No one thinks you are doing the right thing. Put on your big boy panties and vote to increase the debt ceiling.” Now, there is an interesting article I need to finish in “Back Stage”. We’re Just Sayin… Iris

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Yesterday my business partner asked me if I was lonely. He said my voice sounded lonely. It never occurred to me that you could sound lonely, but I’ve learned over the last few years, that there are many things that never occur to me. Like, (and may have said this before but), whoever said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” obviously was blurting not thinking. We all know that once things change, they are never the same again.

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of my mother’s death and, as it happens, my Dad’s Yartzeit. Yartzeit is the anniversary of the day someone dies. Unfortunately, the Jewish calendar and the English calendar are never, or usually never, the same. So, you don't ever know when to light a yartzeit candle. There is an actual web site that tells you how to figure the English day of death and the corresponding Jewish date. And it is possible to figure it out all by yourself. As it happens, Dad died on July 10th, but his Yartzeit is the 16 the same day Mom died. Yartzeit is not supposed to be a sad time. Rather, it is a day of remembering and reflection. But sometimes, when you remember and reflect, there can be moments of, dare I say, loneliness.

This blob is not intended to be another whining, self absorbed, piece of poop. It is rather meant to be thoughtful and reflective. (Oh, gag me with a spoon). When we are children we wish we were grown-up. And when we get older (not everyone actually becomes a grown-up), youth seems most appealing. My incredibly smart grandfather, always told us not to wish our lives away, because life was like a train. When you are young you are on the local, but at some point it becomes the express. There are probably people who can remember exactly when that happened. Not me. I can’t remember what happened yesterday.

First I was five, my dad played with me on the beach, then I was twelve and he couldn’t walk anymore, then I was sixteen, then 35 (the worst birthday ever), and then…

First, I was going steady with Dicky Boughton, then pinned to Les Bauer, (that ended badly), then married with a baby, then married again, with a different baby, then…

First, school was a place where I went to entertain my classmates (and my cousin Stevie), then off to college (Stevie went to the Phillipines), then on to teaching, politics, government, entertainment, then…

First, there were parents and a giant extended family, then poof, it got smaller. Then…

First the children are totally dependent, then they have families of their own, and they see you -- only sometimes. Then…

First your beloved cannot live without you, then Valentines is for buying a card, then…

First you are then the local, then the express. then…

Then, is not a bad thing. It’s just that things are never the same and then…
there can be moments of loneliness in between the moments of joy, then…

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Keep Climbing

Delta (and the TSA) insisted the Italians airport security folks comply with their dumb ass security rules: no electronics through Security system before they are emptied into a large plastic shopping bag (including ear phones and the plastic bag with liquids) but they have no problem refusing to allow Jews on their flights to Saudi Arabia. Hello, Mr. President what's wrong with this picture? Shouldn't one of your crack advisors be advising the appropriate appointee about this? But that is not what I wanted to blob about.

Travel, good and ‘feh’... the bad news.

The Delta saga continues. On our return flight, we were only an hour and twenty minutes delayed because the incoming New York Delta flight arrived late. But that was not the reason. It seems the aircraft changed (from one 767-300 configuration, to another) without the ground staff knowing that, and the Delta Pisa staff sold seats that did not exist. Imagine their surprise when people tried to board and there were no seats. And imagine the confusion it caused for the cabin attendants, one of whom left her mike open and explained to another attendant how all the chaos could have been avoided. The only other bad news was the boardwalk pizza we ate on the boardwalk in Viareggio was predictably awful. We should have known Better... Tourists, the Mediterranean, a boardwalk, duh.

Enough feh. How's about, what not to miss. A castle in Italy for a wedding. What could be better? The place we stayed (La Crochetta), once again came as a wonderful surprise. Picture about an acre of carefully manicured garden. Not so manicured as to be pretentious, just comfortably wild. There is a swimming pool. There are lovely small but starkly elegant, very clean rooms. Although it is called a B&B, breakfast is not their strong-suit, (go to the Bar Centrale in the piazza for that), but do not miss dinner with Andrea. At La Crochetta, a B&B in San Casciano dei Bagni. Andrea and Christina own the place, and while she is an incredible host, he is a quite a chef -- experimental, and honest, and very local oriented. Most of what he cooks with comes from with a 40 minute drive. He loves to cook and does not hesitate to try a new pasta or sauce, a novel way to make meat, or a dessert you cannot resist.

It was about 2:00 by the time we reached Lucca, on our way to the sea. Starving and just hoping for a restaurant sighting, we pulled off the road -- two or three times. At the last pull-off, we passed what looked like a reasonably attractive place in a mini strip mall, Italian version. Ristorante Damiani, on the outskirts of town was much more than we ever expected. We decided that since it was 20 Euros for the special 2 course lunch, and much more for the ala carte, why not go for the big time. Together we had two Risotto dishes, one seafood/radiccio, one with artichokes. Second piatti was grilled calamari for me and a thinly sliced grilled fish for David, both were simple and divine. No surprises but the quality of the food. And yes, if we could find it again we would certainly have another meal.

Twenty minutes later, we were in Viareggio, a coastal town of a hundred thousand sunbrellas, and enough gelato to freeze half of Reno. Land fall at The Palace Hotel, although not the Royal (Best Western) it was a delight. The time to stay there is off season or the beginning of the week, but not in August. Since there were veranda rooms available, they changed us without a request. The room was gorgeous, as was the seaside view from the veranda. It was a little pricey, but not for what you got. The service. the complimentary breakfast, abundant and tasty. Would we go back-- yes to the hotel, but Viareggio is a bit too crowded for us. A beach with with a zillion occupied umbrellas is not my idea of relaxing, but I'm a Jersey girl.

Anyway, on our way home, happy to have had an amazing journey and hoping to retrace our steps sooner than later. Oh, and we listened to the most fantastic book on CD. "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak, a young Australian writer, don't miss that, either.
sorting out phantom seats
P.S. When we landed they once again parked us, 1970s’ style, in the middle of the tarmac and once again, we had to pile into a bus to get to Arrivals. What do they have against Pisa flights, anyway? However they do want you to know that by 2014, there will be more gates. I can hardly wait. In a take off of the ridiculous new MSNBC marketing campaign, Delta has festooned all the buses (and there are plenty, just never ENOUGH), with “Keep Climbing.” All well and good, but who knew they actually meant the rolling stairs on the tarmac, just to get to the plane. We’re just sayin’…. Iris
Keep climbing!!!