Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pastrami and Other Holiday Delights

You know how, when you clean out the freezer, there are things that you don’t throw out because they sounded delectable or they were too expensive to just toss.  There has been a good portion of pastrami in mine for  months, maybe years and for whatever reason, it still remains in the freezer.  We are not going eat it, but this week I finally found a use for it.  When I fell last week and banged my knee, the result was swelling and a black and blue mark from right above the ankle to well up my thigh.  It needed to be iced, but finding one ice pack that long was nearly impossible, until I remembered the pastrami.  It packed flat so it was about 14 inches long and about 7 inches wide, just about the size of my injury.  No, I’m not going to eat it, but I am going to keep it frozen in case of another emergency.

After the pastrami story I hesitate to get serious, but I must.  There is a great deal of talk about media access to the President. There is a great deal of it but it is only of interest to a small circle of people who cover the President.  There is till a great deal of talk, but it probably is not your morning breakfast conversation.... unless someone in your household is assigned to the White House.

There is always a tension between the media and the communication people on the White House staff.  Over the years the Presidential staff has tried to limit the access of the media but  there is usually an outcry, so it hasn’t worked. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, he confirms that there was this tension during the Clinton days,  but he says that it was Hillary’s idea to close off the Press Secretary’s office (which for decades was traditionally open to reporters.)  No matter who tried to do it, it did not work. Not until this Administration, for a number of reasons.  The Press continue to allow the White House to do what they want for fear of retribution, (the last Press Secretary threatened that “there will be blood” if the National News Channel didn’t listen to his foolish requests),   and the technology is so sophisticated that releases from the White House Press Office are picked up and reprinted by the media outlet as if it was their own. Writers can do this, photographers cannot. The public generally has no idea who did what. 

So when did this “no access”, closed press begin?  Probably on the day the Chief Justice had to swear the President in for the second time (you remember, he flubbed it on the first Obama inaugural.)  And all they had to do was get away with it once. From then on it was Closed Press event, after Closed Press event.  They even closed the event with the aging veterans of the Negro baseball leagues.  Why would they do that?  But a better question is, why did the league allow it?

This last trip to Africa for the Mandela funeral was a forty hour trip -- in the air. The only VIP who came back to talk to the press covering the event, was former President George W. Bush -- who had nothing to say but what he did say, he said off the record. Not that it mattered, but he made a gesture of good will,  and it was appreciated by the people with whom he spoke.  The President might as well have not been on the plane for all the conversation he had with anyone other than family and friends.  And since he has taken to ‘selfie’ photo shots, before you know it there won’t even be an official White House photographer to catch all the events no one else can.

And in conclusion, a few days ago we lost Tom Laughlin.  He wrote, produced and starred in the Billy Jack movies.  A folk hero of sorts, he was the first producer to advertise his films on TV, and he ran for President -- yes of the United States.  He had no money and no experience in politics. So what idiot would work for him -- you guessed it, this idiot. But that’s another blob.  We also lost Peter O’Toole, one of my favorite actors ever. While he is remembered for his role in Lawrence of Arabia, what he should be remembered for is his role in “My Favorite Year”, “Goodbye Mr. Chips” and, of course “Ratatouille”. He shamefully (for the Academy) never won an Oscar, though nominated 8 times.. And when asked if just being nominated was an honor he replied, “Second prize is no prize, thank you very much indeed." Now there’s a guy who should have been President!  Happy holidays

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Oh, the Holidays

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Last night I was walking the puppy when all of a sudden some black ice found it’s way under my feet.  It was 6:00pm, there was no light, and the ground was hard. Unable to stop my forward progress, I skied (without the benefit of ski’s) down the small hill in the front yard… fell forward, and landed hard on my left knee.  I yelled and yelled for David. In the meantime, the small flashlight slipped out of my hand.  The puppy picked it up and began to circle me. When David finally made his way outside, the light helped him to find me in the dark. Despite the obvious pain I was experiencing, it was hilarious.  Tyrone is applying for his Gaffer license.

This is not an “oh! poor me”, blob.  It is rather a reflection on mankind’s vulnerability.  You know better than to believe that for a moment, I hope. No, this blob is about the pithy and insightful thinking I do.

Yesterday, when I was shopping for a table on which to set up the new record  player, (it’s a real old time player that plays and transfers music from LP’s, 33, 78 and 45’s to a computer – we have thousands of these vinyls  but haven’t heard them in years.) I was thinking about what happens when my generation of cousins is gone.  It wasn’t heavy thinking all that. In fact it brought back memories of pretty funny stuff.   Like, who will be there to remember that when Aunt Helene laughed, she always laughed so hard she peed in her pants.  Or when Aunt Fritzie made kippers, the house smelled like fish and onions for three weeks.  Or that Aunt Betty bought  all our sexy lingerie when we got married.  Or that Aunt Sophie bought plastic tablecloths, fitted them, cut them, and if she didn’t like the way it looked, returned them – in their original packaging, (no easy task).  Or when anyone needed advice, Aunt Peppy happily offered it – even when not asked. And the advice was always colorful.

With some work, (as shown in The Gefilte Fish Chronicles)  memories, recipes,  and traditions,  are passed from one generation or the other, there are some things that you cannot pass on. The sound of a voice or laughter, the smell of perfume or after shave, or the feel of a hug. If you didn’t experience those things in person,  it is almost impossible to duplicate.  When mom died, her helper at the retirement home asked if she could take a bottle of the perfume she always wore.  It was her way to keep mom in her life. But she couldn’t duplicate the look she gave us when she was aggravated.  We can reproduce the tea and jelly grandpa made for us. And  we can retell the stories Aunt Sarah told us.  But we can’t see the expression on their faces.  It’s a little too much reality for my taste.

People often offer diametrically opposed platitudes.  Some of my personal favorites are,   “Life must go on,” or “Never put off anything you want to do, because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”  And “you need to wait for your turn and good things will come.”  That’s pretty much like,  “Save today, because you cannot predict the future.”  All this is to say, -- We should all be encouraged to live our lives with good memories of the past, and enormous hope that we will be remembered in the future.  What I want people to remember about me is that I was kind, funny,  honest and had a clear sense of who I was.

When I write one of these blobs, I never know how to finish them.  So I will leave with this thought.   Once you have tasted the grapes of wrath you will ever be satisfied with bananas.  Happy Holidays.  We’re Just Sayin’… Iris

Monday, December 09, 2013

A Penguin Xmas

Ah, the holiday season. Lot’s of foolish spending, too much eating, parties we never get invited to, and millions of nutty people gathering at Rockefeller Center to see THE TREE.  Which looks exactly like it did last year and the year before-- for as long as it’s been lit by LED lights.  But visiting the tree is something that must be done, especially if it’s not inconvenient.  All of the above translates into making NYC, the happiest place in the world -- Except for all the Disney Properties.

This morning I had a meeting on the West Side.  I did not revisit the tree. But as I came up from the subway, there were at least fifty Christmas trees chained next to a fence.  The trees were all tied up.  My first thought was that there was no need for that because they wouldn’t escape. Silly right?  But they looked so sad for green feathery inanimate objects.  Of course they were chained and tied because otherwise they would have been stolen.  Holiday season or not, the thieves are still sitting in waiting for an opportunity to walk away with something for which they have not paid.  

But that’s not what I wanted to blob about. In fact, I’m not sure what I wanted to blob about except people’s reactions to Mandela’s death.  When someone of his stature dies, everyone needs to say something.  That’s OK, he was a great inspirational hero. So his passing necessitates a remark or two.  But politicians that say they were inspired to “model their lives” after this wondrous human being, are pretty much full of crap.  What political person in this country is principled enough to spend 27 years in prison. Is there anyone who you can think of who has the leadership qualities, yet alone the courage, to live their lives like Mandela.  I don’t think so, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Every year we try to make plans for the holiday.  We used to have Christmas with friends and New Years at my house with friends.  I don’t like to be in crowds, so Times Square is not an alternative. (Kidding, I would rather be covered with honey in a place where the ants could have a picnic), but there has to be a better plan.  The nicest places we have spent New Years have been the homes of out friends who live on the west coast.  I doubt that we will be able to do that this year, but we are open for suggestions -- in a pet friendly environment.  

And speaking of pets, the other night we were at an event where they had the most creative hors doevres.  I thought I would share this with our blob readership because they made me smile. In fact I took a few and named them -- then we ate them, but such is life. And if you want to put a holiday smile on your face just take a look at these -- and figure out what they are.  Happy holidays and see you next year on the internet.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK + 50

Everyone who was alive and a functioning human being remembers where they were when President Kennedy was killed. It was one week past my 17th birthday, and I was hanging out at the student government office with many of my friends.   The Principal announced it over the sound system, and we were stunned, and in those days, confused.  Why would anyone shoot a President who was  so valuable to the nation’s happiness?

President Kennedy was young, and as far as we knew vital. We all wanted to graduate and spend time in the Peace Corps, or at least find a way to give back to the nation. Remember, we were the generation, who after the assassination, wanted to dedicate our lives to the cause of human rights and to the end of a war we all felt was  an injustice.

But back to November 22.  It was already a week past my birthday. So when everyone yelled “surprise,” in the basement of my house, I was truly surprised.  And now when I think about it, my friends opted not to cancel the surprise party. And because we were 17, and without a sense of how really devastating the assassination was, we partied like we always did, without any sense of anything outside the periphery of our everyday lives.

Now, fifty years later when everyone is writing about where they were on the terrible day, it occurs to me that it is not important where we were. Because what is really important is that we lost not only the leader of the nation, but we lost the spirit of what this country could be if governed by someone who understood the potential of what this nation could have been.

There was no President who ever had the kind of favorable ratings that President Kennedy had. We were all convinced that he would not only guide us, but he would protect us against outside sources who want to destroy us.  I remember that after the Cuban missile crisis we all covered our heads when we went outside. But there was never a time when we said, “this President is an idiot, what is he doing challenging the Russians.” Never. We thought if  he was going to challenge the Russians, it was the right thing to do. And we would all follow his lead.

His lead… He was an inspirational leader and a man with a quick wit and a determination that we have not seen since.  So yes, when I was seventeen, I was saddened by his death and the funeral and the devastation of the family.

But his death was the end of a dream we all had about the great nation we could be.   After his death we were on our own to do what we thought was right, without much guidance,. But to do it with great hope and determination, and to make a better future for all of us and the families we were yet to have.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, November 14, 2013

It's a Girl

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In years gone by, like when I was born, fathers did not participate in the birthing process. Dads either went to a bar and got drunk,  they went home to await the birth news, or they waited at the hospital and paced.  Mothers did not have a natural childbirth, unless they were poor or surprised.  The pregnant woman went to the hospital and the doctor administered some heavy drugs. The only thing the mother knew was that she went into the hospital, (with or without husband), went to sleep, and voilå, a baby.  In my case, it was a baby girl.

My birth was not without controversy. My grandmother wanted the baby to be a boy.  Apparently, she went on and on about it .  My dad didn’t really care, and rumor has it, he wanted a girl. My mom was so out of it, she didn’t even know she had a baby, but being one of seven girls, there was no surprise about what it was like to deal with a female. 

When I was born, everyone said I looked just like my dad, who had a mustache at the time. So the doctor, being of good humor, drew a mustache above my lip, and the result was astounding. I did look just like my dad.  My grandmother (his mother) was still disappointed, but at least I looked like him. My other grandparents, (my mother’s parents), were delighted by my arrival. And they, having had seven girls and one boy, assured my parents that my birth was a gift, and perhaps, one day they would be blessed with a boy.

What’s really interesting is that in my professional life, I have mostly had jobs that were traditionally jobs given to men. So you could say that I was compensating for the way my grandma felt by trying to prove that I was good enough, but that’s not the case.  The simple fact is that my dad always encouraged me to do what I wanted to do. He said that I could do whatever I wanted to do if I worked hard and stayed on course. Thing is, that when I was in middle school I wanted to take shop (fixing cars and making wood things)  instead of home economics (cooking and sewing)  and they wouldn’t allow it.  It was my first run in with the injustice of gender inequity.  I was not going to settle for being denied a something I wanted, just because I was a girl….and that’s the story of my life.

It’s a few years past where I expected I would be professionally. But I’ve had an eclectic professional history with the only consistency being that every four years I have worked in Presidential politics, and the years in between, I have worked in great places in media, academia, government, and who knows what else,  but politics was my true love.

This is not a political blob, but after the first Obama victory, I left Washington, government and politics and started to produce musical theater.  It sounds like an unlikely transition. It is not.  There are so many kids in politics that I no longer belong. But mostly, this administration, about which we were so hopeful, does not make any personal sense. An administration, much like a human being, must transition from speculation (the campaign) to real life (governance), and this administration didn’t. But this woman did.  I am surrounded by family and friends. Tomorrow is my birthday and I would not change a thing. I have a wonderful family, a wonderful home, a wonderful career, and a life filled with positive expectation. No regrets, only hopes. What a lucky birthday girl am I.  We’re just sayin’.. Iris

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Upon the Ocean Blue

It is hard to imagine what some people find attractive about a dog or any pet. Yesterday we took Tyrone to the vet. He had tushy issues. When we walked in there were at least 10 dogs waiting for emergency service, each one less attractive than the next, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.  When you have the cutest dog ever, you can afford to be a little judgmental. But don't take my word for it. Every staff member fought over who would take care of our cuddly little schmendrick. That is not to say that he's a perfect pet. On the contrary.  Sometimes he is as loveable as is possible, and then, in less than five minutes, he becomes a combination vampire-turned-terror.  He nips, (we are told he will grow out of this), and he disregards any command we give him. 
Since he is being trained by a friend who trained police dogs, we try to use a manly man voice, but to no avail. He looks right at us, and does exactly what he wants to do.  We have learned that we must never let him off a leash when he goes outside because he has places he wants to visit.  At least he is house broken, or we are not sure which is truer.
The Cruise was so much fun.  We did only a little touring, but what we did was meaningful and usually included shopping.  We got up in the morning and had a leisurely breakfast.  Then we walked around whatever port where we happened to be.  While in port we looked for a place to eat lunch and find free wi-fi.  This was not as easy as we thought it would be.  Even when we had a password there were places that just had the sign up (“Free Wi Fi”) and no actual wi-fi.  After lunch we walked around a bit, but not for very long because it was time to relax.  We would return to the ship to lay out on a lounge and read. Thank G-d there were staff people who made sure we were comfortable and required no drinks or eats.  I would go to the gym around four and if David was guest lecturing we would go to his performance. Next it was time for drinks and music in the panorama room.  This was followed by dinner and occasionally a show. Whew. A week of doing nothing. The biggest decision we made was where and what to eat for dinner that was exhausting. 
coffee on the veranda, Capri in the distance

a line of 25 Ferraris at a rally in Sorrento @ the Excelsior Hotel

a 600 year old mural over your morning coffee? not a bad idea
                                            Iris and Kerry dining at Gino's in Rome
the elevator with the mirror that went to infinity...

The problem with an extraordinary vacation that requires a time change, is the jet lag, as well as getting over the fun.  But we are safe home, and glad to be here.
This has been a busy month for your friends at Were Just Sayin
It began with three weddings in 10 days.  Two of those weddings were Gay marriages. The couples were married legally by a judge but for the celebration, friends performed the ceremony.  Jordan performed one of them. All the weddings were beautiful. And the wonder of them as that they were exactly what the bride and groom and groom wanted.
So I read, with horror, the NYTimes article about gay marriages. What was really horrifying was the fact that Rabbis will perform same sex weddings but they are reluctant to perform mixed religion ceremonies. So, having waited for years and years to have a religious wedding, if you are a mixed faith couple, you are simply sh*t out of luck.  It may be me, but I think there is something wrong with that picture. Sometimes religious rules are simply stupid.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

Monday, October 14, 2013

One More Princess!!

Let it be known, I am not a curmudgeon, I am just operating on Disney over load. That being said, this morning I had a revelation. If I had to see one more little Princess skipping happily down the street, if I had to give one more high four when I left the hotel or if I needed to get on one more bus that took me to another bus that took me to a boat, I was going to stand in the middle of the street and scream ENOUGH! Loud enough to get arrested. OK, that is out of my system. Now I can blob about almost anything.

How about politics?  It is impossible to watch CNN or MSNBC, without wondering how the talking heads got so smart. They seem to know everything. And if they present questionable information, no one seems to care.  It's too bad that my "political time" has passed, because I am such a good story teller, it would be great not to feel compromised by the facts  -- some might even call it the truth.

Anyway, over 40 cities have immigration demonstrations this week. (Am i sure it was 40? No, but who cares.) One of the demonstrations was in DC, which I found curious since the Government is closed.  There they were, our Congress and their friends arm in arm, marching for truth? Justice? And the American way?  That's without question what Superman, or rather the voice over said, for Superman, on the Old television series.

Think about it. Then think about the shut down, then think about how to define those three question marked elements. If definitions don't roll off your tongue, I might be able to give you some assistance. Let's skip over the first two because truth is defined by how something is perceived. Justice mostly doesn't exist unless you can buy it.   But the American way is obvious. it's when a crazy person is allowed to go into a school, a bank, a grocery store or any public venue, with a machine gun, and shoot as many people as possible.  It's when some courageous person speaks out against a law that is so heinous, the majority of a constituency support common sense, but one maniac in a senior government position can just override good sense.  Probably I should have said, some maniac who wants to make war on women, is allowed to come at us (women) with guns blazing.  Do I sound cynical? Choose one answer:    Yes, No, or I meant to.

This blob is too depressing. I need to tell a funny story. OK here goes.  When we arrived at the airport this morning, some little kid, not in a Princess outfit threw up.  Not funny yet? Just wait.  It reminded me of every time we took a wee Jordan on an airplane and she threw up. Usually just before landing, but there was always a chance that mid flight she would connect.  We learned to pack three or four sets of clothes. The last time it happened, she was about 6 and we were coming back from Disney. When we landed at Dulles she had made it the whole way without an accident.  We were giving one another high fours (it was Disney) and celebrating a new day in the Burnett household. We took one step onto the Dulles people mover and voila, she threw up all the way to the terminal.  Not funny enough for you?  Sorry, it's the best I can do today.

Here's the good news, (you knew there would be some since I am normally an upbeat person),  my puppy awaits my arrival. It's been so long since I have seen him that I'm not sure he will remember me. But I am as hopeful about that as I am that some day my Prince will come.... Probably straight from an airport.  On a bus.   We’re just sayin’…Iris

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Magicalist Place on Earth

Let me say upfront, there is no way and place where 5 gazillion people gather in one limited space that can be considered “magical”.  Last night as I walked to the buses with all 5 gazillion, was my worst nightmare. That being said, Walt Disney World has  become a remarkable kind of vacation for people from all over the world.

The decision makers in the company, realizing how their customer base has changed, transitioned to policies that made good business sense. Without Walt, who was homophobic and I think a little bit of a racist, Disney World has opened it’s arms to people who are different colors, sizes, ethnicities  Gay, Lesbian,  and whatever I forgot.  We are at Disney World for a most joyous occasion. Our friends, Tevy and Scott, wonderful young men are getting married.  They couldn’t officially get married in Florida, because they are not allowed, (what a sadness), but they took their vows at the Wedding Plaza, and celebrated them in the park.  Cinderella transportation included.  The grooms looked gorgeous.

It is a month of weddings for us.  Last week we went to a family wedding in Miami. The bride and groom looked gorgeous, (yes they all did). The ceremony was outdoors on a balmy Florida evening, and then the party began.  We all danced and danced and danced -- the younger people danced til dawn. We didn’t dance til the sun came up, but we held our own. The sun was coming up somewhere, probably Ankara or Ibiza, but dance we did.

The new trend in weddings, which is to do whatever the happy couple want to do, is most refreshing.  I remember at my first wedding, which was incredibly stressful, we did whatever our parents wanted us to do -- making it their wedding not ours.  For example,  an orthodox Rabbi conducted the service. It was a service not a ceremony, that went on and on  and on. At one point,  the Rabbi was saying some blessing, holding a glass of red wine  and he was not paying attention.  It was aimed directly at my dress.  As he spoke the wine came closer and closer. Every time it came closer my mother pulled me back, until finally, by the end of the service, I was at least three big steps away from the groom.  The guest list was constructed by the parents. And the food -- well as my friend Mark said, “I think this was the roast beef I left from the wedding last week.” 

The wedding was not without it’s memorable moments.  My cousin, in whose car all my luggage for the honeymoon resided, got a little tipsy. He fell in the pool, lost the keys, and they had to break into the trunk. Then my uncle, at whose apartment we were staying in Miami, decided that we would have more fun if he went on the honeymoon with us.... and he was right. 

Anyway, I got over it and married the right person on the second try.  That wedding deserves it’s own blob.

Next week we are driving to Maryland for another wedding and we are sure it will be grand.  A few days ago I was trying to explain how I felt about all this and I decided I can only be described as this:  Mother Slut has become a Wedding Slut. I always wanted to be a slut and, at least this way, I can be one happily every after.  It’s Magical.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Woman in the Car

The woman who was shot, after a harrowing chase, was nuts. Post-Partum depression makes a person nuts. In searching through her past you find that she recently lost her job as a dental assistant because she was too rough.  That is horrible when, if you are a coward like me, you need laughing gas to get your teeth cleaned.  Agreed, she tried to crash the White House gates.  You can’t crash through those barriers even if you have a tank.  But she tried.  Just the fact that she tried should give us pause or give us someone to root for.  The White House, often referred to as the People’s House, hasn’t been the People’s anytime except when Jerry Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton were in charge of White House touring policy. Although it’s unlikely, maybe she wanted to talk to the President? That wasn’t going to happen. He was too busy dealing with a Congress that has shut down the government.  Perhaps that was what was upsetting to her.  Based on her erratic behavior, she was confused and wanting to escape. 

Some of you may think that’s absolutely ridiculous. She was surrounded by police, it would have been impossible for her to escape the mighty clutches of the Capital Police, (the biggest bunch of bullies you can ever encounter.) It is true however, that when you are in a panic you don’t realize what you are doing.  You could feel a story coming, Right?

In 1963, my parents left on their yearly vacation to the Catskill Mountains with their friends.  They usually went to the Fallsview Hotel in Ellenville N.Y.  That year, instead of my grandmother coming to stay with us, my parents decided that I was old enough to stay alone, and even take care of my baby brother.  They were incorrect.  I was a kid who could not be trusted because I would always find a way to do something that I was not allowed to do.  It was thrilling to be on my own and I wanted to share the joy with as many friends as possible.  My parents decided to let my Uncle Phil drive, which meant their tangerine Dodge was left behind in the garage.

First I called my friend Judy Botfeld, who lived in Dover N.J. (about a half hour away) and invite her over.  Judy was a bit older and had a driver’s license.  She agreed to come but she had to take a bus because her parents car was unavailable.  Next we called my friend Beth Anne Cohen, who lived about an hour away in Newburgh, N.Y. (Where we live now).  I told Beth that Judy and a few friends were going to take my parents car and drive up to see her.    And so we set off  on our adventure.

We had to be careful not to run into any of my aunts or cousins who lived in Newburgh, because we were not supposed to be there and certainly not with that car and a driver they didn’t know.  It was a wonderful day.  We went out to eat. Went shopping. Hung out at Beth’s house. And tracked down cute boys.  Things that girls like to do. Late in the afternoon we realized we needed to get back to Boonton and Judy had to catch another bus back to Dover.  We knew we needed to do that before the sun went down.

We were laughing and singing as we rounded the corner to put the car back in the garage. And as merrily we road along, I saw my cousins and my aunts out on the lawn frantically waving their arms.  “Caught like a Rat in a Trap.” I yelled for Judy to turn the car around! I was sitting right next to her so it shook her up more than I could have imagined. She did not turn around.  That was too complicated but she started to back up. Fast!

Anyway, the stories are not comparable but the reactions and the panic are so similar.  Miriam was a mixed up woman riding around with a child in the back seat. Why didn’t the police simply shoot her tires to halt the vehicles?  Why, seeing that there was a kid in the backseat did they need to look for a direct hit?  She was unarmed and she was frightened. They closed off and locked down the White House and the Capital.  By the time they shot her no one in any of those buildings was in harms way. I guess if you have Tactical weapons you will find a way to use them.  And they did.  One dead, baby is fine, I’m sure another lunatic will avail themselves to well armed, furloughed, police of some kind.  I simply can’t wait for the next episode.  We’re just sayin’.. Iris

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Oh, So Essential

Knock, Knock. Who’s there? No one!     Well  --  no one but Essential personnel.

The government is closed. There is no one to do any work. Except, that is,  Essential personnel.

What exactly does that mean?  For some of us, who were Essential personnel during the Clinton government shut down, oh so many years ago. It meant that a senior level person had to be in the office without pay or, during those years, the benefit of Words With Friends on line.  If you worked in an international Agency, or an Agency that dealt with private organizations all over the country, it meant that you had no time to do anything but answer the phones.  The government  was closed, but everyone else in the rest of the world  was doing business.  So there was no one in the office to answer calls.  Well, you say, what about volunteers?  It is against the law to volunteer for a government job.  I wonder who’s working in the Congressional offices.  Or did they all just go home.  Let’s be honest, there is no one on Capital Hill who is essential. In fact, maybe if the Congress people would answer their own phones, they would find out just how unhappy everyone else outside of the government really is. (Sorry about ending with a preposition – or is it a verb - but there was no need to go on and on!)

Shutting  down the government is disgraceful and probably dangerous. No probablies about it.  Air traffic controllers are forced to work and they do not know if they will be compensated for the days that the government is on hold.  I wonder if the Congress gets paid for these days.  Why would they care, they can use campaign funding to buy their cigars and alcohol.  I yearn for those back room years. When you had to make a deal or you would be persona non grata with the Congressional leadership. Actually, I yearn for the days when there was Congressional leadership.  It, like common sense, is non existent in the government we elected. 

And what’s the point?  ObamaCare goes into effect today.  It’s not going away.  It’s done.  The Supreme Court agreed.  Obama is not going away either. At least not for a few more years.  And the Postal Service is not a government Agency so they can stay open.  That transition from Obama to the Post Office was a non-sequiter, but since no government checks will get cut, it truly doesn’t matter. …Unless you are waiting for you Publishers Clearing House million dollar notification.  (I know, it still doesn’t make sense). 

Turning on the television, listening to the radio or reading the news on line, does not help in understanding what is going on.  One of the great scenes was at the WWII Monument.  All the Monuments were closed.  They have to be closed, it’s part of the shut down.  But an Honor flight group of WWII Vets came anyway.  And they forced the barriers to open.  The Republican Senator from Mississippi was with them and thought the closing was outrageous and an Obama decision. How stupid can the good Senator be.  They should have cancelled the Honor flight.  But he wanted to make a point.  You cannot pick and chose what should remain open. The President didn’t shut down the government, the Congress did – the Senator from Mississippi did.

Here’s the truth.  When it is all over, people will get paid, nothing will have changed, except our credit rating and the stock market.  People who want to think of themselves as Senior or Essential will be answering phone.  Inevitably, Children, Women, Seniors, poor people, and the infirmed will take a hit – they always do.  And the 5 Tea Party people who wreaked havoc on this great nation, will give thumbs up and “We’re number one” buttons…. It’s hard to believe they will get any stupider, but they will find a way.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Wonderful and Horrible and Wonderful

The President spoke to the UN today and something he said confused me.  He said, “Democracy cannot be imposed through military force.”  Which is true. But the word  “imposed” was disturbing. I thought that democracy was a choice that people or countries made by themselves... maybe in an election and maybe because of economics or technology.  But what is the alternative the President is suggesting.  And if he is saying it depends on what the people want, then why were we in Iraq or Afghanistan. Maybe I misunderstood.  But I am not going to waste my time on things that happen at the UN, although the NYPD has so screwed up the traffic that it is impossible to move anywhere on the East side-- even if you need to retrieve a car or get to your apartment.  Maybe it will be better when Obama leaves. Hopefully that will be tonight.

The staged reading of Gefilte Fish Chronicles, the Musical was fantastic both in Newburgh and in NYC. The cast and crew were at their best and the audiences were very receptive. They laughed and cried in all the right places.  So now, if anyone has a couple of millions, there is a show for you to produce.

Team Gefilte, Autumn 2013, New York

The most wonderful and the most horrible things happened to me yesterday.  In the wonderful category was the show and the reconnection with a dear friend. In the horrific category, I lost my phone.  It is important to note that I do not have a smart phone.  I have a relic of years gone by.  But it does have a keyboard, all my contacts and a keyboard that is big enough to type on.   When I realized it was gone, I was a bit panicked but happily, I did not have a melt down.  That didn’t happen until after we called the restaurant and the cab company.  Neither had any idea where it might have disappeared.  When something like this happens, you can not depend on the people who were not there, when you were there,  to be of any help.  It seemed to me that it made more sense to storm the eatery and look for myself.

When I was ready to go David suggested that I call my phone and see if anyone answered. As I mentioned, this is not a phone anyone would steal to use...except as a paperweight.  So that’s what I did. And someone did answer. And he was lovely. Unbeknown to us he found the phone in the cab this morning and called the first person on my contacts, Angie in LA. I did not know this because he called Angie at 6am LA time.  He was working in our neighborhood and we thanked him and told him we would be right over. 

When something like that happens you feel incredibly vulnerable.  And worse, since none of us know any important telephone numbers anymore, isolated.  I mean, family, friends and professional relationships -- no one.  You type their name, and the fone calls them for you.   It was only a few years ago, before I had a million contacts in my phone rather than my head, that I asked my cousin for her daughter’s phone number, and she didn’t know it.  This will never happen to me, I thought-- incorrectly.  Yes, it is convenient to press a button to connect with someone in your life. But connections should be much more important, shouldn’t they?

Anyway, it was terrific to have my phone and continue to press buttons all day. But I did start to memorize those numbers I want to keep in my head instead of in the cloud.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Sunday, September 15, 2013

If Only A Tweet....

So I was wondering if Janet Napolitano, now that she’s leaving her position as Sec. of Homeland Security, will have to suffer the same humiliations and annoyance we all have to suffer at the hands of the illustrious TSA when she flies anywhere. Wait, here’s a better question:  Does she get to keep her security detail for the rest of her life?   And do we, the American public,  finance private security for the person who has never been inconvenienced by the decisions she made.

This blob, like so many others, will be different pithy thoughts about subjects with which no one has more than a little concern.  For example, a toilet that doesn’t work at a hotel.... oops, that’s not the topic, I meant Syria and how people Tweet about complicated subjects in less than 140 characters.  The simple answer is you can’t.  But if you did, what might you say:

Assad is a doody ball who cant tell the truth
Barack made Syria about him instead of humanity
Right and wrong is a cultural decision
We need to think about jobs in the USA
It’s about time Judy and Gwen are PBS nightly news anchors
Assad is really good at explaining his actions
Obama is not good at explaining his concerns
Maybe God won’t write Assad into the Book of Life
Maybe Obama should just punch Assad in the nose
Someone should have pinned Assad’s ears back
Not like a punch but serious plastic surgery 
People who look silly always want to use drop chemicals
Wasn’t Agent Orange  (or Napalm?) a chemical weapon

OK, I don’t understand Tweeting so I feel left out. That being said, it’s unfortunate that we are teaching a generation of children to have very short attention spans, to short cut conversation wherever they can. And not learn how to spell.  But then, why do they have to have to have long conversations, or know how to spell.  Maybe because communication is difficult enough without having some common ground -- like ‘words.’ And maybe it’s important to explain some things in detail -- hence, a longer attention span. Life is simply not simple enough to abbreviate all communication. 

I digress from the pith of this blog.  Today we iced 125 cupcakes.  They are all hot pink with hot pink sprinkles and hot pink icing.  We had a Brady family afternoon, but with a Dubroff edge.  Jordan tried to boss us all in Aunt Peppy fashion, and no one listened in like the rest of the Aunts. There was no singing a happy tune, and that would have been better, but all in all, it was most satisfying for just that short time to be happy go lucky.

We are without television so we have no idea what is happening with the Mayoral election in NYC.  This is totally frustrating because it was such a circus that it’s hard to miss the rest of the entertainment.  Oh wait, we can listen to the radio – on the laptop.  What a novel idea.  We might even listen to Obama address the nation, on the radio – on the laptop.  When was the last time anyone you knew listened to the news on the radio, instead of TV.... by choice?  
We just heard from the Spitzer HQ. Who cares. Now Stringer’s HQ. Who cares.  Now to Quinn’s HQ. (apparently she’s the best candidate but her consultants designed a campaign that presented her in such a way, that no one liked her.)  Now that’s pretty dumb.  Who cares? Well if we don’t care why are we listening -- it’s what former political junkies do.  Oops, now we turn to DeBlasio’s HQ. He’s probably going to win. I guess that’s something to care about. I’d tweet something clever but I don’t know how.   We’re just Tweetin’  … Iris

Monday, September 02, 2013

There's Something about the High Holidays

The Jewish High Holidays are fast approaching.  When you hear that don’t you get a visual picture of challah and honey sneaking up the road, almost breaking the land speed record.  Neither do I, but it was a better beginning than “It is almost time for the Jewish High Holidays.”  Actually, while not a religious person, the Holidays mean a great deal to me.  It was a happy time for my whole extended family.  Everyone talked about what they would wear to Temple, and where they would by it. Shopping was always a favorite topic for my Aunts and my Mom. (Although it was unclear whether she liked shopping or returning better.)

It was the time for us to get our dress-up clothes, our school clothes and our school supplies.  There was nothing quite as wonderful as buying book covers, note books, new pencils, paper, erasers, and rulers, wven if we didn’t use them.  What a joy sharpening your own pencil, turned out to be. 

Anyway, the Holidays marked the beginning of Fall and the opening of school. They were usually after school began, so we got off the two days of Rosh Hashanah and the one day of Yom Kippur.  Tina, my best friend, and I sang in a special children’s choir.  It was supposed to be a serious, sweet, children’s presentation of the prayers.  But we could never make it through without looking at each other and laughing.  So the Rabbi, who had a great sense of humor, stood us back to back.  Unfortunately, we could feel one another laughing and no matter how hard we tried, we always got the giggles.

The High Holidays are a time for reflection, remembering, forgiving, and getting yourself together to face another year and whatever it brings.  Let’s face it, some years are terrific and some really suck.  But until you are at permanent rest, you need to make it through the 365 days that lay before you.  For me, these Holidays are the time you figure out who provide a support system, who no longer belongs in the picture, who can make you cry, and most importantly, who can make you laugh.  Those are people you never want to go away. 

September, rather than January (which is too cold), is a great time for reconnecting or even reconciliation (which is often more difficult).  Let me share a story. A few years ago, on Yom Kippur, the Rabbi told a story about not being in touch with a good friend.  He never made the time. After too many delays, he reached out and learned the friend had passed away.  The story inspired me to call one of my closest friends. We’d  had a falling out and because we didn’t live near one another it was easy not to talk. For over six or seven years.  We are tight as a new girdle now. And have been since that phone call.  We couldn’t even remember why we hadn’t spoken for all those years.

There are a finite number of hours in the day and in our lives.  I have worked pretty hard to stay in touch with friends from elementary school, high school, college, work, and politics.  When you work on Presidential campaigns you see your friends every four years, sometimes every twenty years, because people have their own lives and priorities. Hard as it is to believe that I am not everyone’s priority, it’s true.  But every once in a while a person whose friendship was more than important, pops back in to reconnect. That happened to me this week. It has been a joy to get to know a dear friend all over again.  And it’s like dominos.    You start to think about everyone with whom you want to connect. So you try.  For me,  that’s what these holidays are all about.  Happy and a Healthy New Year to everyone with whom I have connected, and everyone who knows I have tried.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Mentors and Editors, and a Word of Thanks

It has been gratifying seeing the acknowledgment of friends and colleagues the past two days, and I add my heartfelt thanks to the many editors, most of whom couldn’t take a picture if their life depended on it, whose forethought and imagination helped craft a whole new generation of photographers.  For the most part their view of photography and photographers went well beyond the mechanics of knowing how and when to press a button.  They were, in many ways, psychologists who had to figure out just the right way to inspire and motivate their photographers.  As someone who started in the late 60s, I would like to mention two editors, very different in their approaches, who held the position of Director of Photography at TIME Magazine from 1970 through the late 80s.  John Durniak  (1970-1979)  came to TIME from Popular Photography, and as  TIME was still the little brother of LIFE, there was often a feeling that TIME was a second class place to be a photographer.  You almost never got the space or attention that LIFE could give a story, yet in the end, you knew that a picture published in TIME would be seen by 25 million people in the course of a week.  I was a young photographer, fresh out of college (I’d had a summer internship at TIME before my senior year) and deciding that Vietnam was still THE biggest story, was preparing to head to Saigon.  John Durniak had been editor for no more than a few months when I went to see him, and ask for, at the very least, an introduction to the Saigon bureau.  In what I now realize was a wonderfully magnanimous gesture, he offered me four day’s guarantee ($500 – which just covered my San Franciso-Saigon airfare) and 200 rolls of film (yes, FILM!) and said, “ I want you do to a story,  call it ‘Children of War.’” 

I asked him, “What kind of story do you want it to be?”  And that’s when he became, in my eyes, a true editor, mentor, guide.

“No,” he said, in his usual forceful manner.  “You tell ME what the story is.  You’re the journalist on the spot.  Remember that your first impressions, the first pictures you take may very well be the most important.”    It was a little capsule of wisdom which I have tried to carry with me on every story.  John encouraged his photographers to surprize him. In fact it was almost obligatory.  The last thing he wanted was something predictable, and just knowing that, knowing you could well be on the receiving end (as I was several times) of a dressing down that usually started with something like “… you were acting like a beginner in journalism!!”  was enough to try and push you into your very own unknown territory.  Both John, and his successor Arnold Drapkin (1979-1988) had the advantage of TIME’s well stocked coffers, but while they had resources, for the most part they didn’t squander them.  If a photographer had an idea, maybe even a crazy-probably-won’t-work idea, they were game if they felt the photographer was invested in the story.  Today’s editors, for the most part, lack the financial resources to let photographers follow their instincts in the same ways.  Stories now tend to be much more contained, with more planning, and less of the “hang around time” budgets that we often were able to work under.  There is no substitute for being able to spend time with a subject.  One might have thought that big budgets and many days to work on a project would take the sweat factor away, but in fact, the longer you worked on a project, the more you felt you had to deliver.  I recently sent Arnold Drapkin a thank you note, because it is only now, 20 and 30 years later, that I can appreciate the real value, to me, of what he and others like him afforded us.  At the time, we all thought that not only making a picture, but seeing it in the magazine the following week was the ultimate pay-off.  The years have shown me, as I am able to look at my 40+ year archive, that the most important thing of all was the confidence of those editors who sent us out to do the work.  To make the work. To produce those pictures.  They exist today, and form a valuable archive about the history of the last third of the 20th century.  Without the vision and energy of people like John Durniak and Arnold Drapkin, thousands of those pictures wouldn’t even exist.  To me, and my photographer contemporaries, living in an age where budgets and resources are a fraction of what they were,  I appreciate every day what I was able to do, and thank sincerely the people whose vision, confidence, and brash chutzpah let us work in a way that is fast disappearing.  We're just sayin'... David