Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankful and Grateful

We celebrated Thanksgiving two weeks ago so I felt that if I stayed in bed all day, to watch the parade and a few more episodes of “SVU”, I wouldn't be missing anything. But as it turned out, I received three invitations, which were very appealing. One was from a college friend who was having a difficult time and needed a hug. One was with a new friend whose Mom passed away this year and she wanted to be with people she loved. And the last was from a friend who I have known for years but who has recently become a part of my professional as well as personal life. Unfortunately, there was a problem with timing (even I can’t be in three places at the same time), and I could only accept two of the invitations.

Needless to say, (I have never understood what that means because if it is needless to say, then why say it), but I had a wonderful time at both celebrations. It’s always terrific to see my friend from college and as it happens her husband is also a friend from college. We have known one another for quite some time, (which means we remember one another without any baggage), and we truly love each other, but we have never shared our children. We just never took the time to do that. Maybe it’s because we still see each other without all the life experiences and we don’t want anything to interfere with than perception. Or maybe we just never took the time. Whichever, yesterday I met her entire wonderful clan.

It occurred to me, while I was on the train going from place to place, that the expression “time flies when you’re having fun” is totally stupid. Time flies whether you are happy or miserable. My grandfather used to say, “life is like a train. First you are on the local and then when you get older you also get on the express.” Anyway, I took the local back to the city to join my pal who had lost her mother this year. That was also a special time. The food was miraculous, the wine flowed and we all told stories about our lives. We were getting to know one another, as opposed to sharing times passed together. It was also very special.

I often think about the things for which I am thankful. There are the obvious things, like children, family, and friends; doing something I love everyday, health, and having medication available when you need it. Yesterday, I was also thankful that I was not the Tareq or Michaele Salahi, reality show wannabes (a concept I find ridiculous and maybe appalling) who crashed the Indian state dinner at the White House). They certainly dressed the part. He in a tux and she in a fabulous red almost Sari. They looked like they belonged – but they never got an invitation. Why would anyone (with their egos, as opposed to a terrorist), take the chance of maybe going to jail for lying to a federal officer, or embarrassing themselves in front of their friends and maybe the entire nation. It was like an admission that they weren’t important enough to be invited, so they got all dressed up and crashed the party. How tacky – and tacky is only the beginning.

Then I started to think, is there a difference between being thankful and grateful. People often use them synonymously, but one (grateful) makes me uncomfortable and the other is comforting. defines grateful as ‘warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received;’ and thankful is defined as ‘feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.’ I think that grateful is something you receive externally, like a Coke when you’re thirsty. And thankful, is something that quenches more than thirst. It is something you feel deeply, an emotion rather than an act. Then I stopped thinking and got back into bed feeling thankful for the people in my life and grateful that I had eaten so much good food with so many lovely people. We’re just sayin’… Iris

Monday, November 23, 2009

Of Course You Realize, This Means War!

Yesterday I was reading Frank Rich’s op-Editorial in the NYTimes. It is something I try to do every week because he is consistently right on target – or right on target for me, since I agree with most of what he says. I also try to read the editorial page of the NY Post and the Washington Post and Washington Times – although I do not agree with a great deal of what is written. But it is important to understand the differing opinions in order to craft an argument, because not everyone in the United States agrees on everything. However, unlike other people who write editorials, Frank is not mean spirited about his views. And he’s a good writer.

I only mention this because yesterday he wrote about Sarah Palin and to tell you the truth, I am sick of conversation by and about the former candidate, Mother and Grandmother of the Year, and now ex-Governor of Alaska. It is unlike me to be intolerant but let’s face it. She is irrelevant in my life right now, and hopefully forever. The only difference between her and Ann Coulter is that Sarah was elected to do something (which she has abandoned) and Ann never did anything, but was trained to compose right wing rhetoric (and found it quite lucrative). What they have in common is that they both thrive on the media attention they receive and have no moral core about whether or not what they say is truthful. This, and the fact that they both get so much media attention is disturbing, but not surprising. In my opinion, I think it says more about the media than about their victims. (And I mean that in the nicest possible way.)

What I’m finding lately, is that I am also tired of liberal organizations that send e-mails where, usually in the first paragraph, they choreograph an ‘us and them’ scenario usually about important issues – like heath care and the economy. This is usually followed by some scare tactic that predicts the end of the world and then asks for money to support whatever their effort. Examples from and Truthout follow:

“Skyrocketing health care costs have resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths, and are driving many thousands into poverty. And the outlook is not good. Truthout needs you to help give these people a voice. We need you to join with us to hold professional politicians accountable to the people, not just the lobbyists.
Meanwhile, right-wing teabaggers and corporate lobbyists will be left demoralized and in disarray.” 11/23/09

And From “But we could still lose this fight. And if we do, we won't get another chance: Democrats will conclude that bold, progressive initiatives are too risky. President Obama will be forced to scale his agenda way back. And the Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck wing of the Republican Party will be on the rise headed into the 2010 and 2012 elections. The next few weeks will determine whether we face a dream or a nightmare. Can you contribute, right now, to make sure that nightmare never comes to pass?”

Why is all the material that both Parties send to their constituencies always couched and described as if we were fighting a war. As if there is no common ground. As if the health of the nation (literally and figuratively) has to be decided in combat rather than diplomacy. Maybe I am naïve (ha ha ha!) but it seems to be that conversation and compromise, in order to achieve a common goal (other than supporting lobbyists on both sides), would be much more productive. And the likelihood of leaving only the spoils of war would diminish considerably. We’re just sayin’....Iris

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Just a Little Disappointment

Am I the only person in the entire universe who thought that the stock market was directly connected to the health of the economy? Clearly it is not. It is just worth noting that in “Slate” this week, they did a cool little piece which addressed the number of jobless and the number of foreclosures in America.. And those are the real indicators of the health of he economy and the nation. They also did a terrific spread (front page I might add) about David Burnett’s book “44 Days” about the Iranian revolution in 1979. Oh that guy!

The question is, did the Obama administration think that no one would notice the promises made and not fulfilled. As many of my gay friends in the military are still asking, what happened to getting rid of “Don’t Ask, don’t tell”. Many will remember when Bill Clinton decided that this policy was the best way to address that closeted issue. It wasn’t. The best way to address the issue is to say being gay, just like being black, a Muslim, a woman (pick any of what we Democrats call ‘special interest’ groups) who want to serve the nation they love so well (well enough to want to risk their lives for it), will be welcomed with open arms. This would make good political sense to the “Obama” constituency. And rather than making sure the rich get richer (which I always thought very Republican) he might be concentrating on Human Rights, and, dare I say Women’s rights. Just take a look at the Stupak amendment, which, although written in the ‘new’ health care reform package, reforms abortion back to about 1960. Rachel Maddow, a liberal but not a Democrat, on one of her shows asked “what would happen to the Democratic party if pro-choice women decided not to vote?” Those of us who understand how important women are to the party, can certainly answer that question.

Maybe, the Obama Administration thinks that women have no place else to go – but we don’t have to go anyplace. If I might digress for a moment and comment on this ‘rich get richer thing.’ A few years ago I co-founded a women’s small business internet loan fund. We realized, when we looked at to whom the banks were giving money, women were not a big percent. Women did not have the same credit scores as men. Women live and put priorities on different things – often things like family instead of career advancement. We redesigned credit scoring so it reflected the way women live. It then became possible to make reasoned decisions about which women would be able to pay back their loan and make a success of their business. Traditional lenders (banks), thought women were not a good risk. Just like Democrats think women have no place else to go. Boy, (you should excuse the pun) are they mistaken.

Let's not forget the drug companies, who have decided to raise the prices of their drugs before there is a moratorium on price gouging. Are you wondering what the Obama Administration or the Congress is going to do about it? Apparently the same thing they did about exorbitant bonuses for the people who work for big bailed-out banks and in stock market related jobs. Absolutely nothing.

Do you detect frustration in my tone. Maybe not, because writing doesn’t necessarily have a tone, but I am the same kind of upset as I was when Bill Clinton pointed his finger and said "I did not have sex with that woman." We waited so long to have someone who understood the 60’s struggle and values, to make a real difference in the world. And ultimately, he embarrassed all of us because he couldn’t keep his fly closed. The circumstances are different with President Obama. He is a loyal devoted husband and father, but we feel the same disappointment. He had a vision and seemingly, a way to make it a reality. But when we compare the rhetoric to the reality, there appears to be a big gap.

When just plain folks ask, “I have lost my home and my job, why can’t the President bail me out?” You often hear from the powers that be, “Because a person who has lost their home and their job is not a good investment. But who put those people on the street. The same companies that were bailed out by the government.

Oscar Wilde, who would not have been allowed to serve in the military – because he was incapable of not telling, said, “It is absurd to divide people into good or bad. People are either tedious or charming.” And what does that have to do with anything? Nothing it's just one of my favorite quotes and I wanted to share it with my loyal readers. We’re just sayin’…Iris

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sisters in Fish

When I get one of those e-mails about women as a ‘sisterhood,’ I usually gag and hit Delete. The bulk and somewhat impersonal notes, that often end with ‘send this on or lightning will strike you dead,’ are worth ignoring. But that is not the same as having a few women who are such an intimate part of my life, that I consider them Sisters. Here are examples of just a few. Tina, has been part of my life since before we were born. Our mothers were best friends and it was almost as if we had no choice. Tina has not had an easy time of late. Her husband died, their business went bankrupt and what seems like an impossibility, financial struggle, has become her reality. Despite all this, Tina remains one of the funniest people in the world—maybe in the universe.

Then there are my high school friends, Joyce and Pam. Actually, Pam has been part of my life since nursery school but that’s almost too far away to remember. We shared so many incredible experiences as children, like I was tossed out of Brownies because the leader was anti-semitic, and Pam’s mom, in protest, took her out of the troop. That was really something. It was a statement I would never forget. I met Joyce in Home Ec (I wanted to take car repair and wood shop, but they didn’t let girls do that). I was forced to take cooking and sewing. Cooking was bearable, but sewing was beyond my comprehension. Joyce, seeing my struggle, decided it was easier to complete my projects, than to teach me how to complete them myself. There is Soozie, who I met freshman year in college. We have laughed through good times and bad and have continued our mutual adoration society for oh so many years. She and her husband Jeff were Jordan’s Godparents. Sadly, Jeff died over twelve years ago and we still miss him everyday. Happily, Soozie introduced me to Jane, who lives pretty close to us in Va., and has become the person I call every time I need a laugh, a meal, a confidante, or company for the theater.

Then there are the women I met in politics, Kim, (who was actually my student before she became my political protégé) Marthena, Sidney, Deborah, Sarah, Sara, and Kat. They are all totally unique. When you meet people in campaigns or politics, you form the same kind of relationships you do in camp.— they are fast, furious and forever. Even when you don’t see one another for years, you remain connected by something unexplainable, almost magical – and part of that has to be the shared desire to make the world a better place to live.

My newest of these sisters is six feet tall and not Jewish, except in her sensibilities and her heart. And what a heart she has. I have only known her for a few months. When we met, however, it was like we had known one another all our lives. As part of the story, you need to know my husband and I produced a documentary called "The Gefilte Chronicles.” (yum, maybe) It's a remarkable film and you should take a look at the website

Anyway, there I was at a Public Diplomacy conference at White Oak in Florida. It is a gorgeous facility, but unlike most other conference centers, this one has a wildlife preserve attached. There I was scoping out some big ugly lizards, and my phone ran out of film --or power or whatever it is that allows your phone to document your day. "Oh, Crap!" I said. And this tall beautiful woman (also scoping the reptiles) said, "What is it?"

I shared my camera woes with her and she took a picture for me, and that led to a discussion of fish. (Don't ask it just did). I spoke about gefilte fish and she about lutefisk (she being of Scandanavian extraction from the northern mid-west.) Jews aren't privy to information about lute's, and Scandinavians aren't usually conversant about gefiltes but that was soon remedied. I told her about combining the White and Carp fish and she told me about the best way to make lutefisk.

The most important thing to know about gefilte fish is that you have to 'hock' (like chopping) until it becomes so glutinous that it doesn't require any bread or matzo to hold it together. The most important thing about lutefisk is "it important to clean the lutefisk and its residue off pans, plates, and utensils immediately. Lutefisk left overnight becomes nearly impossible to remove. Sterling silver should never be used in the cooking, serving or eating of lutefisk, which will permanently ruin silver. Stainless steel utensils are recommended instead."

No need to go on and on. The most important thing to know about these amazing women is that despite our cultural, religious, age, and physical differences, we are all ‘fish’ sisters in our souls. We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Die Mauer ist Kaput

This seems to be a month for anniversaries. Last week (the 4th) marked the 30th anniversary of the taking of the US Hostages in Tehran, an event which spun out of control of both the Americans and Iranians, each feeling obliged to plant feet firmly in the ground and not give the other side an inch. What should have been solved in hours (as it had been in February 1979 when militants took over the Embassy for a few hours) went on till relations had soured between the countries well beyond what anyone had thought possible, Jimmy Carter had taken his Presidency down the path of not return, 8 military guys died in a failed rescue attempt, and above all, the chance for any civil dialogue between Tehran and Washington was totally ruined. It wasn’t till Reagan had taken the oath of office, 444 Days into the depressing chapter, that the hostages were finally released. I had been for almost two months in Iran the previous winter, during the Revolution, having arrived there on December 26, 1978 fresh from a story in Pakistan. I’d heard of unrest, and protests against the Shah building for that previous year, and thought I’d spend a few days checking it out for myself. Within hours, I realized that it was a story which was not going to quietly go away. There was a degree of energy in the street demonstrations I’d rarely seen, and I decided to hunker down and see for myself what was going on. In front of the eyes of our cameras, the Revolution played out day by day. Following it was something like being in a race in which you didn’t know where the finish line was. You just followed the events from one day to the next, and like the Iranian people themselves, tried to make sense of it every night. By mid February the newly returned Ayatollah Khomeini had consolidated power, and the Shah had fled. With rallying cries at nearly all the political events primed with “Death to America,” the stage was set for what would be come, in November. As it happened, the day the hostages were taken I was in Thailand, waiting for a departure to Burma. I’d managed to get a one week visa for a trip there, in the days when you could still spread 30 rolls of film through your luggage, and be relatively sure of not being seen as a “professional” photographer. Bags were not routinely x-rayed yet, and with a bare bones set of 2 AE-1 cameras (see the ad I did with John Newcomb for CANON shortly there after) and a few lenses I spent a visually enticing week in that mysterious country.

While waiting for that final visa, I secured a pass from the Thai military, and drove into Eastern Thailand where thousands of Cambodian refugees, fleeing the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge, were being kept in refugee camps. I only had a visa for a few hours, but the impression those faces made on me has never gone away. Now, years later, we can speak of the Killing Fields as if we knew all about it at the time. But once the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975, little information got out of the country.

At the time the US, still smarting from the ignominous departure from Vietnam in 1975 still had the feeling that the Vietnamese could do no right. Yet it was finally the Vietnamese army which in 1979 actually invaded Cambodia (following previous Khmer attacks on Vietnamese border towns) and defanged the Khmer Rouge, ending the regimes tenure. I remember feeling at the time – after I saw the faces of the Cambodian refugees, that as odd as it might sound the Vietnamese army should have been given the Nobel Peace Prize. It was too little and far too late for the millions of Cambodians killed after the 1975 take over.

This week, Monday, is the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin wall – the sudden decision by East German authorities to finally give passage to East Berliners, letting them travel freely to the West for the first time since the Wall was built in 1961. Looking back on it now, it’s hard to relate just what a huge breakthrough this was. As a child of the cold war, who remembers the palpable fear of those confrontations in the late 50s and early 60s with the Soviets, to see the end of the Wall, and all it represented, was an enormous surprize. It all happened so quickly. After years of having come to accept its leaden and stultifying presence, in just days the world changed. In response to the news of things seeming to bubble along, I’d planned to leave Washington for Berlin on 8 November, which would have put me there at just the precise time when things broke. But at the request of a good pal, Doug Kirkland, who was having an opening exhibition in DC that night, I put my trip off for a day. (It was in the days when you could actually change an airline ticket without losing the whole value of it…) On that Thursday afternoon, as I was packing, I received a call from Stanley Kayne, then TIME”s photo chief in Washington. “The East Germans are giving visas… “ he said.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

He summed it all up,”the East is opening up.”

I felt that I’d once again missed a key moment in something going on in the world. (You know, you always feel like you’re missing something.) But it was with even more excitement that I packed my bag that afternoon, and headed to Dulles to catch the plane. The next morning, arriving in Frankfurt to grab a plane to Berlin, I called Lennie Heinen, the TIME picture coordinator in Bonn. In one of the very few moments of my life which reminded me of a John LeCarre novel, she gave me the following shipping instructions. “By one o’clock you need to go to Check Point Charlie. On Friedrichstrasse, look for a large red S on an office building. Under that S will be someone holding a red TIME Magazine envelope. Give them your film.” Somehow it seemed so appropos for my first shipment from Berlin to be so shaded in that mysterious cloud that the Cold War had given us. Once there I made my way to Check Point Charlie, shot for an hour, and shipped under the red S. Then I headed to Brandenberg Gate, that enormous 18th century structure which is one of the real marvels of the city. Hundreds of young people were there, standing on the wall, having played a large game of tag with East German soldiers the previous 24 hours.

I reloaded my cameras, stepping over the cables which anchored a TV crane near the wall. As I did so, there was a tap on my shoulder, and I turned to see Tom Brokaw tell me those words which no journalist ever hopes to hear: “You should have been here last night.” Of course he was right, but the story continued to undo itself over the next week and those weeks turned into months. It was a new world, and not only the Germans but the rest of us beheld it all with amazement. In the months to follow, the regimes in Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania will fall as well, and that time we knew as the Cold War would slowly morph into that new world which we now live in. Sometimes, I have to say, it’s almost with nostalgia that I think back to the simple days of the Cold War. No IEDs or “asymmetric warfare,” just the basic worry that at some point, potentially, a giant phalanx of tanks and planes would roar across Europe as the Soviets would conquer all. Never happened. Didn’t make sense for either side. But it was the nightmare you could almost live with. The new world isn’t as pretty or orderly, but to paraphrase Don Rumsfeld, you “look at the world the way it is, not necessarily the way you want it.”

I can’t begin to describe the joy that those few days of liberation felt like in Berlin. The sparkle of discovery in the eyes of the Osties was something I’d never seen before. None of us really could believe it was happening. But as sometimes happens, the pictures of this most momentous event are uniformly less powerful than the memories of those dark and cool Berlin nights. The cries of German revelers still rings in my ear: “Die Mauer is Kaput”…. “ the wall is finished…” Often as a photographer, you make great pictures at an event of little significance. But the opposite is possible too, and when it does, when those pictures just don’t match the power of how you remember it, you just have to take it to heart that the satisfaction of having been somewhere at the right time is reason enough to have been there. Sometimes just being there IS reason enough. We’re just sayin’…David

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Lament of Art

Perhaps the most telling comment about the state of things was the often lampooned statement by New York Times editor Bill Keller on "The Daily Show" this summer that "the last time I was in Baghdad I didn't see a Huffington Post Bureau, or a Google Bureau or a Drudge Bureau." While there are plenty of things The New York Times and the rest of the daily and weekly press don't get right, if we are stuck without them, going forward in this time of economic upheaval, we will soon discover that there are plenty of things they do get right. I have never worked for a daily paper or a wire service, but I certainly appreciate the role they play in trying to inform the public. There are lots of things to bitch about when talking of the "press," but in the end there is a desire to inform, a need to investigate, which is paramount. And at the point where these things become less feasible – money and manpower constraints chief among the villains – the society we like to think we live in will change radically. The idea that journalism can flourish merely by the aggregators aggregating is so flawed. Eventually, with nothing produced by the actual producers, there will be no content available to aggregate. And the bloggers can have all the opinions they want, but it will be based on little that is real. The economic collapse of the last few years has proven several things. That without some kind of active reporting to keep things in check, there will always be people – in government and business – who will take the shortest of shortcuts to make a buck.

This week there are said to be yet another round of cuts at the Time Inc. magazines, cuts numbering in the hundreds. Part of the ongoing bloodletting that the press as a whole has endured over the past five years. The spiral shows no sign of ending: advertisers moving away from traditional sources (in this case, magazine ads) to either the Internet or nowhere … the fall in revenue, causing the magazines to try and rethink how to be relevant … said relevance nearly always falling short, and leaving the company with much reduced budgets to spend on content. Less money spent on content (photography = content) produces a magazine which fewer readers find interesting. And so it goes as the swirl around the bowl catches more and more of us.

In the end, one wonders how it's possible to even put out a magazine anymore. When I think of what we used to do, the budgets we had – and they never felt extravagant at the time – were essentially an investment in excellence. The overall tone of every conversation with every editor was about coming up with something better than before, something which the readers would react to, and keep bringing them back week after week. That quest for excellence is what drove many of us. It made us want to find those qualities in our own work that would round out a story, and provide something refreshing and compelling to the readers.

In the fall of 1973, the "Kippur" war between Israel and Egypt and Syria was a case in point. I remember sitting in what was then the cramped Gamma office (I'd just joined Gamma after Life folded) in New York, listening to the bidding war on film by Jean-Claude Francolon, the photographer covering the war on the Israeli side. Robert Pledge – then new to the world of photojournalism – was fielding a battery of unending calls from Time and Newsweek, and each call that afternoon upped the ante considerably. For just one photographer's work that week, the bidding eventually reached something like $12,000 for first rights. In 1973 that was enough money to buy two cars with something left over for a good bottle of wine. Today, I suspect the entire photo budget for a complete magazine is something less than $12,000 on an average week.

So what will become of those bodies of work that we used to refer to as "photojournalism?" Will there eventually be a retrenchment that will feed more money back into a system that has broken so badly? We have so much potential now, though at times the new technology seems to be of questionable value. I have been on big-event shoots (political conventions, for example,) when magazine editors, instead of trying to make their own calls, spend their time sifting through the wire service pictures which end up on Yahoo News Pictures, and keep haranguing their own photographers about why they don't have a particular picture. That seems to be one of the lesser virtues of this world of instant communication. (On the other hand, let's face it, copying information from a caption off a wire service picture and using it as your own at least gives you a reasonable chance to get the subjects' names spelled correctly.)

We are facing what will no doubt be a continued period of uncertainty, and the major challenge remains our ability to feed photographers enough to let them do their work and pay their rent. Many photographers work on their own projects, self-supported or funded, or at the very least, self-motivated. These are often the most interesting work of all. Yet at some point, when the budgets that have been cut a dozen times already finally trim off the photography altogether, what in the hell do we do? Where does society find the value in our work? What will be the new venues where photography in general, and photojournalism in particular, might find some kind of rebirth? Will it be strictly on gallery or museum walls, or will some new form arise which can take the vision of photographers, rather than just aggregate? I am convinced that the power of the still picture remains a vital force, all the more so now that our daily lives are so inundated with bad video. At some point, perhaps that magic formula will arise, and photojournalism can be profitable again. It would be a pity if, at a time when so many good photographers are producing so much good work, there would be no place for it to be seen, save for a corner of an aggregator's screen. We're just sayin' … David B.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Plethora of Unfinished Pastry

Here’s the question of the day – other than who will win the World Series which may be more important, at least in NY and Philly. Was yesterday’s election a referendum about Obama’s leadership? My pal Laura says it was more a referendum on the wealthy – in particular Corzine and Bloomberg (who despite spending 100 million dollars, almost lost to someone whose name next to no one had ever heard.) It’s possible that the rich still get richer but can’t always buy an election. However, I’m not sure it was as much about Obama as it was about the Democrats and Republicans having a party and no one came. There were so few voters that they were serving pastries at the polls and most everything was left over.

The good news is that the Democrat from the 23rd district in NY won, with the help of Ms. Scozzafava, the Republican who dropped out of the race and endorsed the Democrat. It certainly was not because Joe Biden threw all his support that way. And if you want to talk referenda, the fact that Sarah Palin and the right wing conservatives lost, is a sin the Republicans should not ignore if they want to win elections when more than seven people vote.

The bad news is that the people who voted in Maine repealed the law that permitted Gay marriage. It’s clear that there was a well organized campaign to make sure this happened, but I would have thought the vote would have been closer. I don’t know why I thought this. Silly me. I also thought that Obama would eliminate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and as uncomplicated as that would have been, he didn’t do it. He should have had a serious conversation with one of our great generals, Wes Clark, who said anyone that wants to serve their country should be allowed to do so, no matter sex, color, religion or sexual orientation. There’s something to be said about electing people who are courageous human rights advocates.

Exactly what is it about single sex marriage that frightens so many people? Clearly it’s good for the wedding industry. And the economy. More jobs making wedding gowns and bright blue tuxedos for purchase or rental, more catering jobs, more hairdressing needs, and more magazine sales—they could use some help they are all in such trouble. “God is opposed to gay unions” doesn’t work for me because, as far as I know, none of the anti gay activists has a direct line to the big G or his son. And further, plenty of respected religious leaders and medical experts, think it’s just fine. Really, when you check out the majority of perverts in this great nation, most are heterosexual.

I think it’s all about THE sex act. They don’t want to think about two people of the same sex having sex. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they watch pornographic movies where you can see plenty of this.

My mother always said “live and let live”. She always said that as long as your actions don’t hurt anyone else, they may be stupid and insensitive, but they probably aren’t dangerous. My mother told us we needed to marry within our religion. My brother didn’t, my son didn’t and who knows what my daughter will do. But she learned that my sister in law is fabulous, as is my daughter in law and now my mother admits she was wrong.. Now she says, people should make their own decisions about how they want to spend their lives and everyone else should mind their own business.

If all the people who spend oodles of money and energy advocating against the freedom to choose a particular way of life, spent their time looking for Osama Bin Laden, they probably wouldn’t find him but at least, they wouldn’t have time to stick their noses into other people’s lives – especially their bedrooms. We’re just sayin’.... Iris

Murt the Blurt

Gee, I wonder which genius decided that Joe Biden should ”take on” Sarah Palin. What a stupid mistake. A mistake that only “one of the guys” would make. Because they think Biden’s arrogance is smart. Here’s the breaking news: It’s not. Just in case you can’t hear the tone of my words in this blob, let me fill you in. It’s a combination of irritated and incredulous. Here’s what Biden said yesterday at a campaign rally for Bill Owens.

“Notwithstanding my former opponent, and by the way I like her, I really do--not a joke this is not a cheap shot--the fact of the matter is Sarah Palin thinks the answer to energy was 'Drill, baby, Drill.' No, it's a lot more complicated, Sarah, than 'Drill, baby drill.”

Let’s dissect the sentence in terms of what he said and what women heard. (Despite ignoring women generally, women will still determine the outcome of most future elections.) First of all, Biden doesn’t like her, he thinks she’s a dope. His humor, “Palin thinks the answer to energy…” which whoever wrote the remarks thought was clever, maybe even funny, was nothing more than smug. Smug and arrogant doesn’t become the office of Vice President. It is unattractive, especially coming from someone who has a tendency to be a political bully. Women hate a bully.

In response to this attack, Palin, who is campaigning for Doug Hoffman the third party right wing Republican candidate for Congress from New York, gave her response on her facebook page (I wonder if Biden even knows what the impact of this “peoples” social network has become -- doubtful.) But among other things, what appears to be factual information about Biden and domestic drilling she said:

“There’s one way to tell Vice President Biden that we’re tired of folks in Washington distorting our message and hampering our nation’s progress: Hoffman, Baby, Hoffman!”

Sarah Palin is not someone I would pick as a pal, or as an elected official, but she seems to have some personal charisma that is attractive to even people who don’t agree with or respect her opinions. The general public loved her spirit and good humor on Saturday Night Live. She was good humored, able to poke fun at herself, and absolutely charming. Biden, has none of these qualities. He is especially incapable of poking fun at himself because he mistakenly thinks he’s too intelligent. Remember when Gore publicly needed to prove he was the smartest kid in the class. People found it disconcerting. No one ever liked the kid who had all the right answers and let everyone else know it. Then, when he realized it wasn’t working, he went back to just being Al and used self deprecating humor as a tool and we all liked him much better. OK, he didn’t win the election but he did get a Nobel Prize – which is not a popularity contest but being popular never hurts.

It seems to me that the more things change, the more they stay the same or get worse. Democrats think they can get away with being dismissive toward women because we have no place else to go. This is incorrect. If we go nowhere the Democrats will surely lose. Their victory is dependent on getting us to the polls. And here’s the bottom line, (as political people so oft say), we may not like Sarah Palin. We may think she is a jerk who is totally irrelevant. But we do not like it when a bully disses any woman publicly. Especially when the man is an elected official who is supposed to know better. Someone should tell Joe to stop blurting and start acting like the Vice President of the United States. At this moment his rhetoric and behavior is nothing less than embarrassing – everything he says does read like a script for Saturday Night Live. We’re just sayin’...Iris

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Capsules of Life

Does it strike you as sexist that insurance companies cover Viagra and other products that help men to have an adequate sex life, but it doesn’t cover birth control pills or any female contraceptives to prevent pregnancy? And if you think that's not sexist, how would you explain it. Is it possible that insurance companies are really human and they just want the products they pay for to result in a good time. It is not my job to try to explain how insurance companies make decisions, but I bet that most of the people making them, have either a penis or penis envy.

And speaking of medication, which we weren’t – exactly, but it’s such a contemporary and pithy subject that we should. There is hardly anyone I talk to or about who isn’t medicated in some way. Most of the people I know take a combination of little pills and some like calcium, big enough to choke a horse. Among the assorted goodies are often vitamins to supplement those things that we can’t eat, because they are unavailable or bad for us. For example, we take fish oil capsules because the fish sold in stores is “farm raised” and that is, supposedly, like eating poison. Or we take vitamin D because we don’t get enough sun. And we don’t get enough sun because if we do we’ll get skin cancer.

We take pills to cure ills, and tablets to prevent infections, headaches, and babies. So with all this medication available, why is it that so many friends are dying so young – many from cancer and many from heartache. My guess is that it’s either the environment, whatever we’re ingesting, or our daily routine. I guess we should be eating organic, absolutely stop breathing any air, and stay away from people who are aggravating. It doesn’t make sense. Our parents are living longer than we are and throughout their lives they never exercised and additionally, ate tremendous amounts of butter, white flour, meats with all kinds of crap, and heavy cream. That would be my kind of diet if I weren’t consumed with being OK –just OK.

The most amazing thing, however, is the number of people who are on “happy” or “crazy” pills –some prefer to call them anti-depressants. If the 60’s were the Age of Aquarius, the late 90’s and early 2000’s are the age of much Weariness or Wariness. Yes, we have become apathetic, disillusioned and suspicious. Yech!!! Not a particularly appealing way to live. In the past, when we greeted our friends we said “How are you?” Now we say, “What’s the dosage you’re on?” Where once our conversations revolved around jobs, or tennis, or restaurants, now they are about symptoms and consequences.

What is it about the way we are living today that makes us yearn for the “Leave it to Beaver” or “Ozzie and Harriett” days. How did everything get so stressful? Do we yearn for a simpler time? Is there an absence of role models who don’t try to do everything. Is the music we listen to over complicated? Is the television we watch over stimulating? Have we become a society of people who chose the internet over more comforting interpersonal relationships? Are we, in the sandwich generation, simply responsible for too many family members? Is there just too much information to digest in a single lifetime, or a single day -- and so we feel like we are failures or stupid?

The answer to these and many other questions is Yes. So what is there to do about all this turmoil? I don’t have an answer that is realistic or universal. I guess the best answer is to get your doctor to write a prescription for a magic pill that dulls the pain and eases the anxiety. I think I’m at .75mg maybe tomorrow I’ll up it to 100.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Fighting for Halloween

Last night I was walking back to my apartment . It was raining—pretty hard. If I walk on 54th street I have to pass St Peters Church, where there are always any number of homeless people making their home. Usually , their home is a few cardboard cartons and maybe some plastic to keep them dry, if it’s raining. I was in a good mood and as I passed by the church, doing a tuneless and hopelessly unbalanced (yes I was dancing clumsily down the street), version of “Singing in the Rain”, I noticed that there were four people length cartons on the steps to the entrance of the church/York Theater. (The York is in the basement of the church and they share and entrance.) When there is a show, management clears the way for the paying customers, but if there is no performance or church activity, the cartons are not, like the people, displaced.

So very tragic. I wondered what had happened in their lives that put them in this impermanent place. It was hard to dance past this incredibly lonely and, especially of late, a much too frequent scene. Then for whatever reason, I flashed back to the previous day when the touring company of “Seussical” the musical, descended on our old homestead in Arlington, Virginia. Twelve young actors who were so excited about everything. The juxtaposition of the people who live on the steps of a theater, and young people so enthusiastic about their lives and the future in the theater, hit me in unexpected ways.

First of all, I stopped dancing. The people in the boxes couldn’t see me, but still my happy little two step seemed irreverent in front of the boxes. Then, as walked past Citi Corp, which is adjacent to the church, theater and boxes filled with people, I thought, why isn’t the government bailing out these unfortunate souls. What would it cost? Certainly not as much as it cost to bail out all those rich Wall Street companies – who are already back to their old tricks. And certainly not as much as escalating a war in Afghanistan. Nope, it would be pennies in comparison.

Then I thought about the non stop political commercials—it doesn’t matter which one. They are all the same. They are not about what their candidate will do, they are about what the other guy won’t do. The professionals call it negative advertising. I call it a pathetic attempt not to deal with the real issues. There is another thing that is consistent with all these commercials. Every candidate says something like, “We are fighting for your rights, future, jobs, families,"(pick anyone or all of these.) How exactly are they fighting –with boxing gloves, guns, wet towels (pick any or all of these)? But the better question is, why do we need anyone to fight for anything. Just the word ‘fight’ is an indication of what campaigns have become – war zones. They are no longer organizations which look to make life better for the general public. They are battles with words as their weapons and the truth hard to find or even irrelevant. In other words, you don’t have to go to Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan to fight. All you have to do is put your ethics away and sign on to a political campaign.

Back to singing in the rain. It’s actually raining right now and worse, it’s Halloween, my least favorite holiday. There was a time when I loved decorating the house, putting on my witch attire and scaring the little children when they came to the house. For many years, as a concerned about health parent, I gave little toys instead of candy. Sure the kids could choke on the little pieces, but at least they wouldn’t get cavities. Now I don’t care if they get cavities or go into sugar shock. There are so many more important things to worry about. Wars, people starving, people without jobs, children dying in foreign places and the definition of health care. It would be terrific if we could, like the young troupe of performing artists who stayed at our house, feel great about the world they were about to encounter. Or it would be nice just to sing in the rain without having to think about much else. We're just sayin'.... Iris