Friday, November 25, 2011

Tis' the Season

David Burnett often makes me laugh. Not often enough lately, but today he had me in stitches. If you reuse this line you must credit him. We were talking about the number of strangely self-important people and unimportant things are on Facebook and he said: “It’s so random – hell, that I have FARTS on Facebook.” Now that is bathroom boy humor, but it made me belly laugh for ten minutes. Maybe I had too much to drink yesterday.

Tis it the season to be jolly? When we were kids, me, my cousin Stevie, Andy Hurwitz, David Levine, and Steven Fraum had to stand in the back of the room when the class sang Christmas Carols. Instead of the act being considerate of the fact they we were Jewish, it made us feel like we had the plague. My cousin Stevie would have none of it, and he ran around the classroom singing loud and intentionally off key. Finally, as was often the case, one of the teachers would grab him by the shirt collar and hang him from a coat hook in the front of the class. This is not a whine about my being discriminated against during the happiest season of the year. Quite the contrary. While we did not celebrate Christmas in my house, I always spent Christmas Eve and part of the next morning at my friend Pam’s. We decorated the tree, sang songs (often a Hannukah ditty), ate a great meal and opened gifts. So, despite bad judgment on the Boonton school system, it was easy to get in the spirit and love the holiday.

As if good feelings weren’t enough, the Economy proudly presents Black Friday. When did this start? I don’t remember it when we were kids, young adults or even grown-ups (which clearly hasn’t happened yet.) As far as I can tell someone on Wikepedia said “The term Black Friday itself was originally used to describe something else entirely — the Sept. 24, 1864, stock-market panic set off by plunging gold prices.” Newspapers in Philadelphia reappropriated the phrase in the late 1960s, using it to describe the rush of crowds at stores. The justification came later, tied to accounting balance sheets where black ink would represent a profit. Many see Black Friday as the day retailers go into the black or show a profit for the first time in a given year. The term stuck and spread, and by the 1990s Black Friday became an unofficial retail holiday nationwide. Since 2002, Black Friday has been the season's biggest shopping day each year except 2004…. when Bush was President—now there’s a happy memory.

Anyway, people now line up days in advance at retail outlets for special discounts. I do my research (I am a genetically perfect professional shopper – all my aunts were as well.) The truth is that, if there are big discounts, there are usually only 3 of whatever product the store is using to bring you in. If you happen to be fifth on line you are just out of luck. This has made people angry in the past. But rather then staying home, they now go out prepared to do battle. This morning, a woman at an LA Wal*Mart (accompanied by two children), was armed with pepper spray, which she used liberally on the crowd in front and in back of her as she grabbed an Xbox. (Note: apparently according to Fox News, she was just spraying a ‘vegetable.’) Rather than calling this a hostile act, most of the media called it ‘aggressive shopping.’ No it wasn’t shopping at all. It was some lunatic, that wanted one of the three Xboxes on sale, so without any regard for the spirit of the season, or true purpose of the holiday, she opted for terror instead of love, kindness and giving.

What does that say about who we are as a nation. We know what it says about the economy – people are so desperate to get a break they will resort to all manner of behavior to get it. But what kind of people have we become? We’re surely not nice, or civil, or well mannered anymore. We are reduced to feeling entitled to take what we want by any means. David says, it was just one incident. But I’ll bet if you asked people who went shopping today, they will tell you that it was neither a pleasant or jolly experience. The gift of giving be damned – let’s take what we can for the least amount of money and tell our kids that the gifts we acquired were purchased with love in our hearts – and pepper spray in our back pocket. We’re just sayin….Iris

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


This is the beginning of my end of the year blobs. They will neither be coherent nor will they be orderly –I am only hoping for an occasional laugh.

Sometimes I just feel like an old fart – which we all know, I am not. Well, at least not old. For example, I spend more time thinking about what happened to being polite? There was a time when good manners and simply being nice, were the standard for how a person behaved when other persons are involved. That civility seems to be absent when dealing with people who feel entitled. Young, old, it doesn’t matter. They would just as soon knock you over as they would share personal space. But, they have no sense of your personal space – all the space in th entire universe is theirs, so you just better move over. (Yes I did have had a number of encounters with the entitled).

But that’s not what I wanted to blob about. Last week we were in Montreal. We met with the Segal Center for the Performing Arts about, GFCtM. (For those of you who don’t pay attention, Gefilte Fish Chronicles, the Musical). They would like to produce it for their Yiddish Theater. Would my bubbe not be kvelling? So their vision is to do it in Yiddish and travel all over the world. We are all ok with this. I asked Paul, the artistic director, if he knows a great many young people who speak Yiddish. He doesn’t but they learn it phonetically and then they use subtitles (as for the Opera) in English and French. Hopefully, they will decide that the material is perfect for their program – but we will see. Fingers crossed everyone!

David is convinced that we are watching the end of the United States unfold in fast motion and right in front of us. He is a journalist and totally apolitical, but he is a concerned citizen and he is convinced that, as someone –anyone from Cicero or Shakespeare – said, when the time comes that the leaders understand how powerful they are and use it for personal gain, it is the end of that civilization. (I didn’t put it in quotes because I believe I paraphrased what was an astute observation). Oye Vey.

Speaking of Oye Vey, or in the In the realm of either “What were you thinking?” or “Are you kidding?”. Marthena ran over herself with her car. She is bruised and sore but she is fine. There was a time when I was going to write a book called “Oye Vey Es Mere Marthena,” because ridiculous things seemed to happen to us. But this one pretty much runs away with the prize. A bus hit her car, or she hit the bus. When she leaped out to see what damage had been done, she forgot to put the car in park and yes, it sneaked up behind her, and before she knew it, it had taken her down. When I say she’s OK I mean, while on the gurney, she made sure to get her purse, shoes, coat, call her husband and probably had a sandwich. Her foray to the hospital, although painful, was, considering the severity of the bruising, fairly brief. Her son was with her to take her home, get her into bed and administer drugs. Get well cards are unnecessary but prayers and good wishes can’t hurt.

It is one day away from Thanksgiving. This is the time of the year we think about the things for which we are thankful. Of course, I have a list. But it’s much too serious, rather predictable, and not the clever I like to be. Things like, wonderful family, incredible friends, good health and Medicare are on the top. But what about the middle and the bottom of the list? There isn’t a middle or a bottom. I am grateful that my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, (all those genetically connected), gave me the good sense to make the right decisions—although somewhat questionable at times – mostly they turned out to be OK. Almost no regrets, (except I should have been medicated when I was twenty one) Almost no apologies (except to my son and that’s nobody’s business). Life is good. The glass is half full. Maybe even five-eighths. Who really cares about the pilgrims? Happy eating…. We’re just sayin’… Iris

Monday, November 07, 2011

What the ????

What the……?

There must be something in the air, aside from general air schmutz. If you need an explanation of schmutz, just try taking a deep breath. Here’s what I mean: Conrad Murray, despite the testimony of an 86 year old loving patient was found guilty. The speculation was that because jurors don’t like to convict doctors – I believe the description was “he is quite a presence in the court room, he looks like a doctor.” Now there’s a good reason to set him free. Clearly, there was a need to blame someone for Michael’s death. Clearly, Dr. Murray did not understand the consequences of having Michael die on his watch. They certainly weren’t going to blame the ‘plastic surgeon to the stars’, who may have caused Jackson’s addiction – but has too many important patients. And besides, he said he loved Michael, he only wanted him to be beautiful. And I say, what the….?

At one point, before my mother died, she was 86. There is no way she would have ever testified against her doctor. It wouldn’t have mattered if he gave her pep pills or cyanide, she loved him. We found that love (i.e. catering to an old person’s need have attention) is not enough reason to be confident about the kind of care she was getting. But there was no way she would leave her doctor, so we had to physically remove her from his care. Which is to say, looking like a doctor and presenting testimony from an elderly person, isn’t a reason enough to find someone innocent. At the same time, who is really guilty? Michael was a grown up person, who did not take responsibility for himself. It seems unfair to blame anyone who was really trying to help. Regardless of competence, Michael thought Dr. Murray was that person.

The other day, and I may have mentioned this before, I saw the Kris, walking down 3rd Ave and about 61st street in NY. (Yes, that Kris). It was after the marriage to Kim, and before her decision to divorce him. There was that 10 minutes. One has to assume it was her decision because according to E!: "He's just training and working out again, getting ready for basketball season. He's taking it day by day and surrounding himself with family and friends in Minnesota." Who would go to Minnesota (with the weather being what it is), if it wasn’t to recover? What the…? Why would she have put that lovely guy through all that crap? (I don’t know him personally, but he was awful cute, and tall.) Yes, she’s a media whore. And yes, she’s good at her job (being a media whore.) Encouraged by her mom and family (what did they do to Bruce Jenner’s face?) she made such a fool of that wholesome all American. (I don’t know him personally, but he looked clean cut.) Is she just incredibly mean, or does she not understand the consequences of screwing around with someone’s head. Mom (her’s, mine is dead) was talking about it today. She thought the SNL skit was hilarious. They all did. She has always encouraged her children to have a sense of humor. (Sure, they thought it was funny.) It’s just too bad that they didn’t share the joke with Kris before he bought the ring – or was that another part of the freebie wedding package.

Obama is acting Presidential again. Better late than never. Or is it? What the….? Why did he wait three years before he decided to be the President? From what I’ve heard, there is a difference between running a campaign and running the government. The way messages are delivered is different. Politics is not good training for governing. It is excellent training for eating unhealthy food. It is also excellent training for adjusting to time change, and more than frequent traveling. But it does not prepare anyone for leading a nation or, for that matter, dealing with bureaucracy. It does not prepare anyone for dealing with the consequences of inaction, foolish compromise, or imprudent decisions.

But I’m willing to give the guy a break. Not that he needs it from me, but as a good citizen what are the alternatives? The only thing I would appreciate is if he stopped negotiating and started to kick some ass. We’re just sayin’… Iris

Saturday, November 05, 2011

You Never Know.. Do You...

I m just back a week now from a wonderful week in Adelaide, Australia.. where the Australia Institute of Professional Photography had their annual "Event"... a four day get together, primarily for Portrait and Wedding photogs, but also including Editorial, and a smattering of Advertising shooters. They had a great program, and wrangled me into being the Keynote speaker [not sure why that's any different from just SPEAKING... especially at 815am on a Monday!] but the audiences were attentive and the rooms full. You can't ask for any more than that... I gave to presentations, one a walk through my career, the other having to do more with your own projects, and the kinds of things which you might do even though you're not paid for them. Great hospitality, and a wonderful group. If they ask you to come, don't hesitate. That said, be advised that the US dollar, in it's ongoing Fed-fed tumble from Currency du Jour to not quite so Current.. is about equal to the Aussie Dollar. That makes things really expensive... (it used to be .60US = 1AUS$ ) But it's a great place ... and while it takes time to get there... it's more than worth it. Yesterday I received an email from one of the photographers who attended the sessions, and I was so moved by her note that I reproduce it here. Thanks Pam!

from Pam McClure:


I was fortunate enough to attend both of your sessions at the recent Nikon Event
hosted in Adelaide by the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers.

I think, as human beings, most of us hope we will positively impact the lives of
at least one person during our short stay on this earth. I certainly aspire to
that. Often though, whilst we see the overt signs, we never see how deep that
impact is. Is it actually possible for someone (besides Mother Teresa and the
like) to have such a profound effect that someone might change the course of
their lives?

In my late 40's, I am a late comer to the world of professional photography and
am still working as a paramedic while I build my photography business. Since
returning from Adelaide, I have committed to many of the practical ideas to work
towards a successful business. Your sessions however, didn't so much offer
practical, business tips but have certainly had a huge impact on me.

History is a powerful thing. When I visited Tiananmen Square, I stood and let
myself be consumed by the power of the events in 1989. I crouched down to
touch the cobblestones of the Forbidden city and quietly reflected on the
thousands of years of history that had also touched them. The significance of
the ancient history of the Great Wall and Xi'an and then all of the temples
around Angkor Wat and the modern history of Cambodia were not lost on me. In
each case I was overcome by the experience.

After your session, I approached you and asked to shake your hand. I was still
overcome by the power of your stories. It wasn't just the insight you gave us
into the 'behind the scenes' of historical events - the humour and the tragedy,
but the way you presented all of this as a 'normal' person and showed that you
had been touched by events, that made everything so much more powerful. I thank
you for your generosity in sharing your experiences and the extraordinary images
that document them. You are a living history book.

As inspired as I was, especially travelling your journey of mistakes and lucky
coincidences that made you even more real, I admit that I walked away thinking
that what you did/do was out of my reach. You had gained your reputation over
many years. Your stories were of interest to everyone and you had been in the
thick of world history in the making. I had no hope of such experiences and
wasn't sure I could apply anything.

This week, my first job back on shift, as a paramedic, I met a 90 year old man
who required transport to hospital. He was a frail old thing but chatted away
as I attended to him in the back of the ambulance. Alex talked to me about
some of his experiences in his younger days. In our short, 20min journey, he
told me about one day that turned his life around. He was fighting in Russia
with the Italian army. Conditions were freezing and he had frostbite on all of
his toes and was crawling along the ground because he could no longer walk.
The group that he was with were all in a bad way when they came across an enemy
patrol. As was the expectation, from both sides, it was shoot to kill. In a
matter of a couple of seconds, he watched the other two members of his group
shot and killed by two of the enemy patrol. He realised what was coming and
looked up to see his executioner with gun poised to shoot him. He accepted his
fate and made the sign of the cross. The enemy soldier lowered his weapon and
walked towards Alex. He never said a word but bent down and picked Alex up,
hoisting him over his shoulders. He carried him to a nearby train that was
taking 3000 prisoners to a war camp. He placed Alex onto one of the flat bed
carriages and said "Good Luck" then walked away. Alex said it was the most
powerful experience of his life and that he viewed all men as one after that,
regardless of race, colour or creed.

Needless to say, I was very moved by the stories of this old man and, 4 days
later, he is still very much on my mind.

I have decided, taking my inspiration from you, that everyone has a story and,
while it may not be significant in the global scheme of things, it is of value
to someone. I want to tell some of these stories. They will not win me
recognition or make me money but, of far more value to me, I think they will go
some way toward that hope that I mentioned earlier, of deeply touching someone's
life in a positive way. Something beyond the overt signs I see regularly of the
impact of my job.

So after that long-winded essay, my point is that, by sharing what you did, you
have had a profound effect on my life and the path I have decided to explore.
Thank you. Well, that and the fact that, as a digital photographer who had an
analogue Mamiya 645 sitting in a cupboard that I've never used, you imagery
inspired me, so that the moment I walked in the door from the airport, I
retrieved it. I can't wait to develop my first roll.

Thank you again for your generosity in sharing your knowledge, experience and

Kind regards

Pam McLure

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

You Get What You Pay For

The question about why I am not writing about politics anymore was easily answered before this election season. It was because I didn’t think I knew anything. Suddenly, it struck me that this was a ridiculous reason because, hardly anyone who comments or talks about politics knows anything more than I know. And I wrote a book about the subject – “So You Think You Can Be President.” It’s a bi-partisan approach to government and politics. We spare no one regardless of party. And whoever can answer the questions should be the President because it means that they read the book, which is in itself, an important education.

While listening to the news over the last few days I paid particular attention to the pundit rhetoric. There is not an original thought. Maybe it’s because they expect to get paid for advice, so they hesitate to say anything real. There was a period of time when I wanted to set up a “Lucy” kind of political advice stand on the corner of K and Connecticut in downtown DC. There would be two signs. One would say, “Political Advice – Free.” The other sign would read “Good Political Advice --$10.” This merely means, and you have heard it before, you get what you pay for.

Because I am no longer involved in politics, I feel fine about giving good and original advice—for FREE. (You still get what you pay for). Here’s what I mean. The banter about the Republican candidates goes something like this. Rick Perry is no longer a front runner…. Well just a minute. Cain took his votes and if Cain goes down in flames, then those votes will likely go back to Perry. And maybe he can be the front runner. Newt is not a serious candidate --wait a minute. He’s the best debater, he’s stayed alive through all the controversy, and in South Carolina last week, 400 people showed up for an event at Chick-fil-a. Maybe we are underestimating the Chick-fil-a factor and he could be a front runner. Mitt Romney waffles on every issue. He cannot get beyond the 20% mark. He will never be the front runner. He cannot win the nomination. Just hold on there. Mitt is the tortoise in a race with lots of rabbits. Maybe he doesn’t waffle, he reads and learns and once he is educated, in a most thoughtful way, he changes his mind. Okay, well maybe Mitt can get to be strongly opinionated and he can be the front runner.

Then this tonight. Hillary is one of the only members of the Obama Administration who defends the President.

If I were updating my book here would be my first question.

A. Isn’t it time to fire everyone in the Administration who doesn’t.
B. If Hillary is going out of politics, what is she thinking.
C. Homeland Security’s policies on immigration are one of the reasons the economy is failing.

And speaking of Homeland Security, my second question:

If you were the President of the United States the first bureaucracy you would break up is
A. Homeland Security because they are so large the left hand doesn’t even know if the right hand exists.
B. Homeland Security -- because visas do not belong in the same place as the Secret Service and FEMA
C. Homeland Security because there is not a person making decisions who knows anything about the subject matter on which they are deciding.
D. Need I go on

Obviously no need. Here’s my point. There is no point. In the past, I would have listened to every show, every talking head, everyone who had anything to offer about anything political. It all sounds the same to me. Even people I know, like, and respect will have nothing substantive to offer, until there are two front runners or one nominee. But I do intend to keep blobbing about the campaigns, and the election and ultimately, the old or new government. Hope you enjoy it, but remember, you get what you pay for. We’re just sayin’… Iris