Saturday, December 27, 2014

I Tried to Call My Mom....

This morning, when I awakened, I tried to call my mother.  Not that I expected her to answer, but for some reason I was curious about who would answer. The number I called was her old number in Boonton, N.J.  The number was 201-334-9338.  That was not the number originally  in her house. That number was 201-334-3328, but she had it changed when there was a break-in, and her two pieces of silver were stolen.  It was unclear why she thought changing her telephone number would prevent future robberies, but it was always ridiculous to try to tell my mother about anything once her decision was made, Needless to say, the numbers were so close that it was hard to remember one from the other.

 Anyway, no surprise,  no one answered.  The funny thing is, I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had answered.  She knows there are things I would like to share with her, advice I would never have taken, and arguments that were never finished.  There are losses we just can’t get over.  They stay with us forever and every once in a while we think there might be a miracle—and when it doesn’t happen we move forward with just a touch of disappointment.

What was it I wanted to tell or ask her?  It doesn’t matter.  It happens all the time and once I make the call, it passes.

Today we worked on our holiday cards.  We usually try to have them out before next year – yes every year has a next year—so we figure if we buy the cards at Costco (usually before Thanksgiving),  take the picture of Jordan, (which we have been doing for 25 years), paste the picture in the card, put addresses and greetings in the cards, and mail them before New Years, something magical might happen.  That was just a make up story. We like to send greetings to friends, old and new. We don’t want to e-mail a “hello and have a great new year.”  It doesn’t matter how brief the message. The fact that we took the time to choose a lovely card with a secular sentiment, a picture of Jordan, and wrote a brief hello, makes it different from our everyday conversation.

Jordan Kai, in her 25th year of Xmas Cards, with Tyrone and Ernie
When we go through the names, we share memories and stories, and we spend time thinking about the past and the future.  It’s only one day a year that we take the time to sit and reflect, at the same table, for more than a few hours, doing the jobs we do every year. David addresses the envelopes because he says no one can read my writing. Then we write the messages to his, mine and our friends.  I put the cards in the envelopes and seal them.  I also buy and apply the stamps.  Then we argue about whether or not the cards will get to the right place if there’s no zip code. We speculate about the cost of stamps for overseas, put everything in a box and I mail them.

 It’s kind of like calling your mother although you know she won’t answer. We do it because we hope it will help us stay in touch. We do because we enjoy reaching out and reminding our pals that even though we don’t see them we are thinking about them all the time.

 We have lost so many friends and family over the last few years that anything we can do to remind us about how precious people in our lives can be, is worth doing.  Tomorrow I’m going to call my Dad.  He won’t answer either but it’s the call that matters, not the answer.  Oh and when they don’t answer, you have the right to decide what they would have said, and it always turns out to be exactly what you would have said.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Sunday, December 14, 2014

It Makes Me Sad....

This is not going to be a maudlin blob. Thought you needed to know that so you will keep reading.  Of course you will keep reading because you don't want miss any memorable thoughts or good gossip.

Anyway while me and Tyrone were walking home from puppy care we noticed an older woman walking her dog. Tyrone is the Midtown East animal Social Director. He stops and sniffs anything that looks like another dog or a bush.  When we were almost home he saw a dog that had the look of  a young pup with the body of a dog that had been around for at least 20 years.  Both the dog and the owner were walking, more like dragging themselves down the block. Ty knew he had to go easy, so he sat down and waited for Methuselah to get close.  Ty did sniff a bit but did not do his usual “jump and hump” move.  It was painful to see the want on Thusies’ face. He wanted to romp and play but physically,  just couldn't. It made me so sad. 

Then I started thinking about things that made me sad. Not things like the loss of a loved one but things like commercials that show children in poverty, or animals that have been mistreated.  It is equally sad to see those commercials about adult incontinence or kids with incurable diseases.  So, then I started to think about things like, people who are stupid or inflexible, or stingy. People (no age is too young or old), with no moral core or good manners.

This kind of thinking, which should only be done while meditating, can be dangerous because it takes you to places that are hopeless or irritating, like flowers that die but remain in a vase in full view.  Naked trees at the end of fall.  Cell phones that aren’t friendly. Words you can't remember. Drinking coffee that you think is decaf and it’s not.

Things that make me sad now, used to make me rage.  Like when you are on a plane and people are lolly gagging in the aisles. I used to want to shout “sit down and shut up.” Now I still want to shout, it but in my head it's a whisper.  Injustice used to make me rage.  Now a little head shaking is about all I can muster.

But that’s about rage not tears. And speaking of tears another thing that makes me sad (is that an oxymoron), anyway, when you get all dressed up, and you look great. Clothes perfect, makeup carefully applied, and you meet someone you want to impress, then you look in the mirror and your makeup is all over your face. It makes me sad that you can’t call those people and say, “but I'm really adorable and impressive, lets have a redo.”

End of the year television series catch up. Some of the shows are great but it makes me sad that another year has passed and I don't have enough time to do everything and see everything I want to do.  Happy Hannukah. It makes me sad that there's no one to give me one gift every night.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Friday, December 12, 2014

Trying out the Samsung NX1 Camera.. a new way to see

Trying out the new Samsung NX1 "mirrorless" reflex camera

 low light in a ships hold

 and I have always found photographing fishermen with a moustache is the best way to determine how sharp a lens really is

 I love the low light characteristics - especially in mixed "end of day" and artificial light
this is a series of pictures from Oman and Dubai, shot in late November with the NX1
I have been a photographer for a long time (does photographing President Kennedy count?) and throughout these several decades I have tried to match the gear I was using to the project I was working on.  For a long time, early on, I had but a single Pentax H3v, a sweet camera that had one of the best shutter noises of any camera I can remember.  Then I managed to get my first Nikon while in college, and expanded that through a series of Fs and Nikkormats, until my swap to Canon in 1978.  I feel like I have done a good deal of history with those Canon film cameras (AE-1, F1, EF, T90, Elan…. ah, the list goes on…) and eventually settled on the 5D, and 6D digital cameras.  When I was fit as a fiddle (there was about a two week period in 1982) I could carry all the stuff which we THOUGHT we needed to do the job.  Two zooms, short and long, a few primes, and usually three or four bodies.  The main thing about the extra bodies was having 3 or 4 rolls of film to shoot at a time.  Being artsy with  a solo Leica M4 and a 35mm lens was great, but if the fit hit the shan, you needed to have enough film to be able to get whatever the key sequences were.  That usually meant having several camera bodies loaded with what now seem like quaint little bitty rolls of 36 exposures.  It meant you could shoot a lot more before you had to stop and change film.

Gravity remains a force to be reckoned with, and no less so when you have to carry a whole suite of camera gear.  Eventually I was looking for something with great quality, and which wouldn’t turn my beaten up body into a mere shadow of my former self after schlepping them for a long day.  I always preferred the “smaller form” bodies anyway, since the big ‘professional’ cameras (D4, Eos 1Dx) were so heavy, that even though they would be great for shooting a sports sequence, they weren’t really designed to be carried in large numbers for a long day. 

The last few years has seen some amazing changes in camera design, in both standard mirror-ed digital gear, and the revolutionary mirrorless*  camera bodies (*that is aptly the new buzz word of this photographic decade.) I had a chance to get my hands on a pair of Samsung NX1 bodies, their two main pro zoom lenses, and a couple of primes, recently to try out this idea of shooting through the lens without a mirror.  In a word, it’s quite extraordinary: much smaller in size and weight, and yet amazingly crisp in the finder.  You’re no longer looking through the lens via a moving mirror. Now, the mini screen in the finder gives you that same “through the lens” view, but on a high rez screen in the eyepiece.  It takes a bit of getting used to, like all new techniques.  But with the extremely speedy auto focus that the camera employs, you very quickly understand that what you see in the finder is really what the camera is seeing.  The NX1 has a quick release (you know all those annoying delays on Point/Shoot cameras?… not here)  Look, there are a heck of a lot of great cameras out there. Not every camera is for every photographer.  It’s a personal choice, but the main thing is.. find something you like, that works for you, and spend enough time with it in hand that both you and the camera evolve into one.  The NX1 has a lot going for it.  A super crisp 28 megapixel chip which gives you astonishing files.  You can blow them way, way up, and they hold together beautifully.   I was a guy who always shot the slowest films available (Velvia, Kodachrome) and I tend to try and shoot with low ISO’s on my digital cameras, but its nice knowing you have the horsepower to go high.  It’s tough to tell a picture shot at 3200 from one shot at 400.  If you need the speed, it’s there.   One other thing which is, for me, a key feature.  In High-speed mode, the camera will shoot 15 frames per second.

 It was a mix of capoeira and ballet, with a side of gymnastics thrown in - at 15 fps
For a lot of seconds.  As someone who has chased Olympic athletes for thirty years, I can tell you that while you don’t always need a high speed camera (there are definately times when you go for ONE frame!) when you do need it, there is no substitute.  I shot recently with some athletes in Dubai and Oman, and the amazing thing when editing the images is to see how (for once!) little changes between frames, and when you find the one you want, you have a seriously sharp file to work with.

DB with the NX1 and my old Canon FD 135/2 (and yes, I did get a nap after I shot this!)

One last thing I love about the NX1: you can use your old glass, obviously in Manual Focus mode, on this camera.  I have a few old lenses (135/2 and 200/1.8) of Canon FD glass that I still love.  And with a small inexpensive adapter ring, I can use those lenses on the NX1.  With the ‘focus peaking’ feature, you can tell when a Manual lens is sharp, by the way the edges of the subject light up, letting you know it’s “in the zone.”  Going forward I’m looking at running my NX1 through the paces, but it feels rugged, it feels great in my hands, and at the end of the day I probably won’t need a trip to the chiropractor to put my shoulders back into place.  We’re just sayin’…. David

all photographs taken with Samsung NX1 with 18-200 zoom, 16-30 f/2 zoom, and 50-150/2.8 zoom

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Friends of Auld Lang whatever

New Years Eve 1947

New Years Eve 2002
There are not enough hours in the day to keep in touch with all the people you love, past and present. But think about the people who have made a permanent exit from your life. You never forget them and you still love them, no matter how much time passes. So, if you haven't heard from me and you are still alive, just know you are still an important part of every breath I take.

Would someone tell me why we sing “Auld Lang whatever” on New Years? Does anyone have any idea what it means. What it really means?  It’s always been a point of confusion.  In years past we always had a New Years Party with all our friends. For years we had caviar and I made bilini. Then when Jane realized she was allergic to caviar, we switched to lobster—which was (believe it or not) less expensive and equally decadent. Oh, and we made tenderloin for the meat eaters.  We drank gallons of vodka and David took the most divine pictures of everyone in the magic chair. (If you’ve been there it requires no explanation). There was a great deal of kissing and merriment. Then our friends, for absolutely no reason, started to die.  And New Years just wasn’t the same. It was so tacky to die just when we were all in the prime of life. What exactly is the prime of life? Lot’s of questions in the blob.

Back to love, loss and why it’s all important.  One of the reasons me and my beloved (the guy in the café) have always stayed connected is because we understand the concept of collecting people we love. David has taken it to a new level because he finds people who have no idea why he would want to be in touch. Like my boyfriend from 3rd grade who lives in Denmark – He’s Danish, Duh!  I’m a little more discriminating. The people with whom I stay connected, might be dead, but they were always important and relevant in my life. Sure I have friends from elementary school – even pre-school, but we have always been in touch as much as possible.  Recently, my cousin asked me why I wasn’t making friends in Newburgh.  Quite simply, I don’t have anymore time to take care of people who become my friends. Taking care does not mean holding their hand but it does mean, when they need you, you are there. Besides, I have family in Newburgh and don’t have a need for new friends.  (Which incidentally, I have made).

Anyway, my commitment to friendship knows no bounds. And that’s the way it should be—at least for me. The only issue is that losing a friend is not easy.  It is quite debilitating. As I said initially, There are not enough hours in the day.  But you know what? It feels right no matter how much time it takes.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Sunday, December 07, 2014

I.... I .... I mean.....

There is something that needs to be shared with the people of the United States of America.  It should probably be a personal announcement, but I cannot start a sentence with “I”, both a special challenge and something that is taught in creative writing. Sure, it can be gotten around by starting with “But”, such as “But I”, however, everyone would know it was cheating. So what to do?  Here we go….

Have you noticed that when you ask for something and you get it, no one says “you are welcome.”  You’re welcome has disappeared.  Remember when saying,  “you’re welcome”, was  simply good manners – which have mostly disappeared along with “you’re welcome”.  It saddens me to announce that “you’re welcome” has been replaced by “no problem”. And it’s not just a kid thing. Adults are substituting “you’re welcome” with, “no problem.” 

What is so attractive about “no problem?”  It implies that there was a problem and now it’s not a problem. Seems like a stretch or a big Duh!  Are there other issues that are a big duh?  Of course there are.  Take for example, (please), the protests over the Ferguson, and Garner protests.  If this sentence were start with “I”, I would tell all those peaceful protestors how terrific I think they are.  There is never any social change unless there are well coordinated movements that encourage people to go out on the street.  For whatever reason, overt action is more effective than just sitting on the computer.

This morning the teachers from Newtown, Ct. talked about their effort to prevent anyone who is not a police officer or some authorized official person to have an assault weapon.
They talked how the need to wear seat belts and  stop smoking cigarettes became public service campaigns. They felt gun control could be part of the public conversation – despite the large and rich NRA lobbying effort,  In the same way, protests about issues that deal with injustice, are important and I hope, effective.  Does that mean there will be a rethink of what happened in either case.

It’s the end of football season.  There have been decisions about college champions, and final games for the NFC and AFC teams.  Football is one of my passions. Admittedly, the college football games are my preference. They are far more fun and exciting.  However,
I also love professional football or at least a few teams. More sharing, the Pat’s, Greenbay, and Seattle are my favorite teams.  Washington, is my least favorite. I always root for the NY teams, although it seems not to be helping, and there is a special place in my heart for Miami.  But all of this sharing appears to be a big , “so what?”

The important things to remember about this blob is that language can change, actions can determine outcomes, and wouldn’t it be nice if there was a spring as well as winter football league (which hopefully will happen sooner than later, in someplace other than Texas High Schools).  Oh, and when someone suggests to you that people kill people, not guns, go ahead with the biggest belly laugh you can muster.

If you can make it to Newburgh on Sunday the 21st of December, come and share in our celebration of David’s 2014 Winter Olympic pictures. From 2-6pm, at the Gallery Schubes - 50 Front Street, second floor. On the waterfront – it’s beautiful. Take a ride!  We're just sayin'...  Iris

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Of Cosby and such

This is one of those blobs that will probably be a series of random thoughts.  It was one of those confusing days. Outside it was 70 degrees. Inside it was 150 degrees because most of the buildings in the city turned on their heat.  Tomorrow it’s supposed to be 40 degrees and Wednesday it’s supposed to snow 6 inches.  And speaking of confusing…

Isn’t it just common sense not to be on your phone when you are walking down the street and there is a good possibility that you will walk into someone who happens to be walking on the same street. When the person (walked IN to)  happens to be me, at the very least, I expect some kind of apology. Isn’t that silly?  Instead,  the bump is usually accompanied by a dirty look.  Apparently, no one reads Miss Manners anymore.

Anyway,how about that Bill Cosby?   I might as well tell you here and now. Twenty years ago, on my birthday, Bill drugged me and we had sex. Or did we have sex and then he drugged me?  It was so long ago I don’t even remember if it was good sex.  But I do know that there has always been a casting couch, not limited to the world of entertainment.  Some years ago, there was a societal language change and the dirty deed transitioned from casting couch to sexual harassment. It. Never happened to me. There were hardly ever any guys who wanted to interview me on a casting couch..  If Bill Cosby did what these seventeen women said he did, twenty years ago, it was not out of the range of normal.  This is not to say that Bill Cosby deserves a pass. If all the allegations are true, it is despicable, and so is he.  So why did they all “come to Jesus”  so many years after their incident? Probably because powerful men expected young women to submit to whatever humiliation. In those days it was not out of the ordinary.  If you did what was expected, you got a job, a raise or maybe money.  But what do you do now?  What do they want from Mr. Cosby?  There are so many women coming forward that it unfortunately feels like piling on.

And speaking of despicable., there was not enough evidence to indict officer Wilson in the Michael Brown shooting.  They made the announcement at 9pm in a lengthy almost “Dancing with the Stars” kind of roll out about who gets  eliminated. The prosecutor knew they were not indicting at 3pm.  If they had made the announcement early in the day there might have been a chance for peaceful demonstrations.  And the split screen of the announcement and the rioting was horrendous.  The Prosecuter waited for the crowd to gather and then announced the result.  There is something wrong with the legal system in this country when the prosecutor represents the perpetrator rather than the victim.  But again, what, as a community, can you do to demonstrate your outrage?

I am not black or a powerful man of any color. The only time I was arrested was for posting political signs on telephone poles in New Orleans.  I just don’t get this wild west mentality that seems to permeate police forces throughout the country.  It is embarrassing for those of us who believe that people, no matter their color, have a right to be treated equally under the law.  And lately that hasn’t been happening. We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Sunday, November 23, 2014

the (Face)book of Life

One of the things that happens when you log into Facebook is that you realize the pages in the book of life change before you have a chance to read the first chapter.  You see pictures of children who were 3 or 10 or 15 when you last saw them, who are now 15, 20 and graduating from college.  It is a reminder that time is moving too quickly and you have no way to slow it down.

People always say that you need to make the most of each day.  But just how do you do that?  There are 24 hours in each day and you spend 6 or seven of those hours sleeping. This leaves you about 17 hours about which you need to make the most. (I could spend 16 of those hours trying not to end my sentences with a preposition.)  And speaking of sentences, you remember how you learned to diagram a sentence? Well, maybe that’s what we should do with our days. That way we wouldn’t waste any time.

But wasting time is inevitable and that’s not what I wanted to blob about. Yesterday, we (me and Tyrone) got up at 5:30. A little early to start the day, but puppies have to poop when they have to poop. I did not take him outside. He went while I stood at the door.  It took him no time because it was really cold. By the time he was finished it was 5:35. It was too early to do anything but write or make coffee. Or read through Facebook. The Sklar kids who I last saw when they were children, are young adults.  Same with the Simon kids. The people who were young adults when they were an everyday part of our lives, are grown up and have kids of their own (The Sklar parents and the Simon parents who were, when we met,  young political interns or college students (mine).

It was then 8am. We packed it up, put on warm clothing and headed to Kohls to take advantage of the supposed sales. Kohls. The most wonderful thing about shopping at Kohls is that even when the sale doesn’t exist, they tell you how many hundreds of dollars you saved.  By the time we finished shopping it was 10am and I had saved $180.95.  But savings is not what I wanted to blob about.
Anyway, got home, checked email and made a bagel. (One half with an egg and the other with peanut butter.)  Checked Facebook and saw that all the babies in my world were now in elementary school.  So, I did some writing and some work on “Gefilte Fish Chronicles, A Musical”… it is a never ending attempt to celebrate family, mostly mine.

Admittedly, I did not make the most of the rest of the day, until dinner, which I had with my cousin Joan. It was lovely, and we passed the time savoring stories about the things that used to be, and things we hoped would be.

A big part of the way we use the time we have is talking about the past.. remember when this happened or that happened? Or “this used to be a quarter and now it’s a dollar” or gas was $1.25 and now it’s over $3 a gallon. Just stuff. But its one way we turn the pages.

My grandfather always said that life was like a train. Early on you were on the local. Then, as you got older you got on the express.  The good news is that the seats on the  express are hopefully more comfortable and cost of the ticket never changes. There is no bad news. Our days pass too quickly, our birthdays come too soon,it seems  our monthly medication needs to be refilled before we take the first pill and  children grow up too fast.  But that’s not bad news because it just makes the book  more interesting.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, November 20, 2014

You, I Love

Sometimes,when while riding around, usually doing errands or some equally unimportant thing, a song comes on the radio, there is a familiar smell, or some unexpected feeling takes me to a place that is not easy to understand.  It generally feels OK, although sometimes it is accompanied by a wave of sadness or a memory that is not exactly unpleasant but it is uncomfortable.

Last week when Jordan was home, she came into my room for no reason and she noticed that the TV was tuned into the Hallmark channel.  It would have been possible to say that I wasn’t watching but,  that felt like a betrayal. Why, because my mother never missed a Hallmark movie… and there wasn’t always a channel dedicated to a celebration of sappy, sweet, always familiar plots and dialogue. She also watched Judge Judy , every game show she liked and always “The Golden Girls. “  But Hallmark movies were her favorite.
Hallmark movies don’t make you laugh or cry. They just exist and are usually produced by Larry Levinson and Robert Halmi, which is pretty ironic because you never hear anything nice said about them.  But that is irrelevant with regard to this masterpiece – which by the way was written yesterday and lost. This is a rewrite and will hopefully be equally brilliant.

When there is a Hallmark movie available (24/7) it’s like my mom is with me.  She comments, and makes appropriate sounds.  It’s easy to reproduce them in my head. As long as there is a Hallmark movie, Mom remains an active part of my life.

But there are other things as well.  My amazing friend Beth died much too early. She was a whirlwind of activity and stories. She collected people all over the world.  When she signed off in a letter or on the phone she always said, “You I love”.  Isn’t that terrific. Because it wasn’t just an “I love you” goodbye. It felt so much warmer and more personal.  So I have decided to do the same thing to keep her alive and always present.

When the leaves change, when there is weather of any kind, when I see people who have been strangers for much too long, or when I see a gift that I would buy for a specific person, or when I hear a song that I sing very loud whether or not I know the words. It always triggers some memory. But it’s more than memory.  It is a feeling that makes me smile, or maybe cry.  It is a feeling that comes over me and takes me to a place where I would like to be. It is not a matter of going back to some specific time. It is rather a feeling that elicits a feeling I had in the past.  It is a feeling that makes me want to go forward and yet not forget all those previous memorable emotions.

It would be dishonest to make a list of what happens, and when, because it is  unpredictable.  It is difficult to explain in words.  I just don’t have them. But suffice it to say, “You I love.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Rain In Spain ... and Then Some

The rain in Spain falls..... Who cares about the rain in Spain? In NYC, the rain keeps falling.  You know how when it rains really hard you say, “It can’t keep raining this hard. It’s going to pass.”  Well, not today. It keeps coming and coming and coming.  We need the rain, not as much as California but everyone need the rain. It prevents a drought, which could mean you can’t water your lawn or wash your car, except in California where they do all those things -- but of course they are delusional in California.

Anyway, when it rains in Metropolitan NYC, people lose their minds.  It’s not quite as bad as when it snows in the DC Metropolitan area. People in the south do not know how to drive in the snow. There is no reason for this because  DC is not the south.   It snows every year -- so it shouldn’t be a surprise.
There is no snow removal so people have lots of time to practice driving.

Back to NY and the surrounding areas. In NYC the highway on the west side, the Henry Hudson, as well as the highway on the east side, the FDR, both flood. As do the streets. It is almost impossible to walk without suffering the consequences of backed up sewers.  It’s gross. The cars and trucks go flying by without any concern for the people standing on the sidewalks being splashed with filthy water.  But pedestrians are not the point of this blob.  Drivers seem to lose their minds along with the ability to drive. And to make it worse the deliverymen on bicycles weave in and out of the traffic so the cars keep swerving, so as not to hit them. These people have no experience even  with swerving, it’s the city where there are millions of cars and terrible traffic so people go straight ahead.

There was a time when any weather put me in a bad mood. Rain, snow, wind, fog, everything but sunlight and and 70 degrees. This may be an exaggeration but not much of one. I moved to DC where there was mostly no weather except for an occasional snowstorm which crippled the city. And the humidity in the summer -- but everything was air-conditioned.  When, after 30 years or so, we moved we moved to upstate NY, where the snow started early and lasted what seemed like forever.  This shouldn’t be explained in the past tense because it is where we live now.  It’s my least favorite of all the weathers.  So where does a person who doesn’t like the weather live?

It’s beyond my decision making ability.  Oh, and I hate to have to drive to places where there are things people need everyday, like the supermarket, or the drug store, or the liquor store (kidding).  So LA, where there is hardly any weather is out.  This means a city is a more likely place for us than a suburb. Soooo, if anyone can think of a Burnett paradise, we are willing to consider it. Just remember the parameters:   no weather, no insane drivers, and no right wing political fanatics.  I know I didn’t mention that before but where there is weather, you are likely to find political zealots even though there are no statistics  about this. In fact, I may have made it up. But it was snowing this morning and now it’s raining hard , so even the most outrageous statements make perfectly good sense to me.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

What About Birthdays?

Some people love them and celebrate for days. And some people just want them to go away.  The expectations that people have about their birthdays are often disappointing. There is an expectation of big parties, grand presents, and full time adoration -- at least for the celebratory days.  Yesterday was my birthday. My apprehension about my birthday started when I was 35.  Up until that point the day of my birth was to be tolerated if not loved.  But at 35, my closest friends decided to gift me with a massage, facial and hair appointment.  It was a nice gift.

Unfortunately, I had an allergy to the oil they used for the massage.  When the hives started, I begged the masseuse to stop. And she refused because she said it was impossible for me to be allergic to the product. It was all natural and mild so it must have been something else.  I got up off the table and said that if she even tried to touch me I would have to bitch slap her.  Next was the facial. Yes, I must have had a number of blackheads, but my face looked like a moon crater.  35 and I would have to wear a ski mask for the rest of my life.  In addition, I had to take Benadryl for the hives, so I was falling asleep.

On to the hair salon. You know how it is when you explain to the hairdresser that you absolutely, positively don’t want them to cut your hair. And they say they will only trim it and shape it.  In the end, they have come as close to shaving your tresses as is possible without taking off your ears.

Needless to say, it was the most miserable day I had ever had to that point.  Friends  who always told the truth even insisted that it “wasn’t that bad.” That was no ringing endorsement.  No one said it was “nice” or good or even OK. It wasn’t.   It was awful.  Moving on ......

Yesterday was my birthday. It has never been my favorite day ... until yesterday. Part of it has to do with all the wishes you get on Facebook. I  never had any idea how many people would pop up to wish me well.  There were, unexpectedly,  a great many of them.  Most importantly, Jordan, Clare and my friends were visiting from Nebraska. I adore them and their kids.  We all went out for brunch at Alice’s Tea Cup (it is exactly what it sounds like).  Kim, the mom and a former student of mine, as well as a close political friend, later “ordered in” and had a terrific evening.

There’s nothing wrong with being with surrounded with people you love, and get greetings from people who want to remain part of your life.  So maybe this birthday was a turning point in birthday celebrations.  From now on and forever more I will look forward to my “special day” and I will just hope to always be surrounded with the people I love.  Doesn’t that sound like fun.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Who Told These Folks What to Do?

Some random political thoughts.  The Democrats took quite a beating on the 4th.  It was well deserved.  There were so many mistakes made, I don't even know where to begin. Well let's start with the fact that so much money was spent on places that were not winnable, and states where there might have been a chance, went the way of a Chicken without a head --  they supposedly run  around in circles.  Actually, I never saw a chicken without a head but my grandfather once described killing a chicken. He was not unkind or insensitive — he made his living as a  butcher.  Which reminds me of a family story we were oft told... Don't you love the word oft? It saves so much time and sounds almost elegant.  There was a woman who was the wife of a friend. She was a nice woman but she was also a kleptomaniac. Every Friday, winter or summer she wore a big fur coat, went into the butcher shop, perused the supply of dead chickens, picked  the one she liked best and hung it by the neck between her legs on a belt under the fur coat.  Her husband and my grandfather had a deal. She would abscond with a chicken and her husband would pay for it later.  It's just another chicken story and I was trying to make point, but I forgot what the point was.  Probably something that had to do with absconding or running around in circles.

Anyway, there are plenty of pundits who said that the results were a result of Obama's policies, not the man.  Well, of course, that's just bull pucky.  Not only did the Republicans despise what they considered a lack of leadership, the Democrats felt the same way. The candidates ran away from an Administration always on the edge of disaster.  The African Americans were pissed that candidates denied any relationship with the President, and then expected them to turn out the vote.  There are lots of reasons why candidates ran from the President, but how stupid of them to think there would not be consequences.  "Strategists"  who determined that support for the President would be a death knoll for their campaign were just wrong.  It would have been easy for every Democratic candidate to say " I don't always agree with the President, but look at the deficit, jobs, saving GM, and health care."  People generally do not vote for people who have no courage, no common sense, and no loyalty.  It does not matter what the President did or did not do. People were ready for a change.  The Republicans might have been obstructionists but the Democrats were In the majority and nothing got done Sooooo...

The election was a referendum on the party in power. There was nothing that was going to change the outcome. And look at who now represents the Republican Party. The candidates were young, enthusiastic and diverse. A much more interesting group of politicians.  A female war veteran, more women, even some minorities -- some. Not your grandparents’ Republicans.

Now what happens?  The victors move into their small crowded offices.  They have to learn the language and the subtleties.  They have to be put on committees, and they actually have to determine what they want to get done. This requires outlining goals and most important picking a staff that understands the difference between campaigning and governing.  Something the President and his people never did.

The new elected officials need to put away the trivia and understand there is no shame in having political operatives as part of your team. These are people who know how to get things done.  And who  can find ways to move the country forward. The only shame is not meeting constituent expectations and failing to play nicely with others.

You want a bottom line, because I happen to have one. The President is not going to change. Like any kid who went to upscale private schools, he can't believe he did anything wrong. He generally doesn't like people, let alone Republican people.  There are few political strategists that are as cynical as am I. However, these next few years are going to be a long haul for the Democrats, a desert without any possibility for an oasis.  We all need to pull up our big girl panties and be cautious but optimistic about the future, especially those of us who want our children to have a future... Bad or good, at least a future. We’re just sayin’… Iris

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Political Heroism

With all the garbage political ads on tv there is only one that makes any sense and showcases what it means to be a real political hero.  There are so many elected officials that give lip service to how important it is to work with the opposition, but none of them mean it, or for that matter,  know how to do that.  Sean Patrick Maloney, the Congressman from the 18th District in NY, defeated Nan Hayworth two years ago. His victory was a surprise, but it shouldn't have been. 
And though we like Sean and think his win is important for the district, he is not the hero about which I spoke.

Sean is openly gay, he has a husband and three adopted mixed race children. Nan has an openly gay son, who likes her very much and insists in a commercial, that she is not an extremist. In some of Nan's commercials she calls herself a radical. Maybe you can explain the difference between and extremist and a radical, but neither would be someone with whom I would feel comfortable.  Elected officials can be, and usually are Right or Left of center, but the radicals/extremists, like the Tea Party candidates, are ideologues who care nothing about moving the country forward. They are opposed to working with anyone who is not of like mind. And they admittedly do not like the government and simply want to get rid of it, without an alternative. The only issue about which they want the government involved is to prohibit abortion and women making their own decisions about their bodies.  Nan has repeatedly voted against human rights for women. And the level of her commercials is infantile. My favorite is when she has a number of giggling constituents calling Congressman Maloney, a phoney baloney.  Surely she should have thought that one through.  That commercial and the others she approved defend her record of consistently being out of touch.

The 18th District is fairly conservative and Republican. In fact, my choice of courageous hero is State Senator Bill Larkin, who is a Sensible conservative. Yes they do exist, but maybe not in the same way that Senator Larkin does.  In more than one of Congressman Maloney's ads Senator Larkin appears to say that Sean is a guy who crosses party politics to make a difference in the district he represents, and Sean has an excellent record on veterans’ issues.  There is no question that if Maloney is reelected he owes his victory to Senator Larkin, who makes the endorsement at his own political expense. But Senator Larkin cares deeply about the people he represents.  He is the real thing.  He is the elected official that everyone should want to call their own. Honest, visionary, a straight shooter, proud, and without any self-engradizing rhetoric, he says what he thinks and, it is always something we have have unfortunately very little of -- the truth. Oh and as an extra added attraction Bill Larkin is a good guy.  These qualities are sadly, not easy to find in many elected officials. The Senator is a hero. This from a liberal (but sensible) Liberal Democrat.

The idiocy of politics is that politicians think that in order to win they need to name call and lie about their opposition. Statistically, negative ads are more successful than campaigning with facts -- which is why we see so much of it. Wouldn't it be great if all candidates could cross parties and work together to make positive decisions about the future. If only we could clone Senator Larkin, the country would be in a much different place. We’re just sayin’… Iris

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


But the bananas are probably gone. Here's a quandary in which we often find ourselves. (Although I like to think we're unique, and in many ways we might be, this is not one of them.) Suppose you are having company and you want to make them as happy as you can. So you go to the store and buy all kinds of snacks, fruits and vegetables, and even some tree stuff in case you don't go out. They eat as much as humanly possible and then the leave--hopefully.  When this happens, you look around and you see you still have so much food left you could invite another 10 people and still have leftovers. And that is the quandary. We are not children of the depression, but throwing out perfectly good food — even  after you eat it as leftovers, seems sinful.

I'm not sure if this is what I wanted to blob about but it reminds me of a story.  When I lived in DC we used my house as a salon. People were invited or just showed up. There was always something to eat or drink.  Anyway my pal, Doug Coulter, decided that he wanted to change the venue and have people at his house. So we invited the usual crew to Coulter's. Lots of people came, but he had put the food in a remote room and no one could find it. It was fun, but we all had to go out for a late bite.

Coulter called me in the morning and told me that no one ate anything and he had tons of food left. We decided to make some quick calls and invited the people who went to Doug's to my house for leftovers. And it was terrific. Doug couldn't have been happier to have found a way not to discard some pretty great vittles and not to have spent time setting up and cleaning.

So back to bananas.  This week we packed up all the leftover food from the weekend and took it to friends with whom we were staying. We didn't eat it and when we left, we left it there. My guess is that they will discard everything but the eggs. At least I won't have to feel guilty about throwing it away.

It's almost Halloween. One of my recent blobs outlined my thinking about candy vs little gifts. Admittedly, despite any feeling about candy not being healthy, the truth is I can't throw candy away. It's stupid but I used to buy only candy I liked and it was impossible to part with it.  Oh those silly things we do and find ways to excuse them.

So, the bananas will go or, if I have the energy, I will bake a banana bread. See I just made up another cover for my inability to part with the things in the fridge. Do you think this quandary needs psychiatric help. I'll go eat something from yesterday and decide.

We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Delta's Downhill Spiral

What more do you need to know about DELTA Airlines than the latest email to someone who is currently a Platinum flyer with them... i wonder if C E Woolman, the founder of "Delta Air Services" (and at whose desk the current CEO Richard Anderson sits everyday) would think this is the right way to go... basically telling 95% of the people who fly Delta to "Shove it..." today's 'explanation of the new Medallion Reward' program begins:
" If everyone's an Elite Flyer, then No One is..." Maybe they should just start a private airline for the 5% and not have them sully their presence with the vast majority of the flying public (who I admit are not necessarily prime hunks of humanity)... but there is something kind of insipid about that approach... From now on, it doesn't matter how many miles you fly (or how many times you have to put up with Delta's service).. the only thing that really matters is the $$ you spend... they clearly want nothing to do with anyone who isn't paying for First Class with a credit card....and they want that few "Elite" bunch to be the recipient of all the efforts which are made on behalf of the airline. The rest of the plane can just stick it. Or is it just me?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Oh! the Tweets

And so it goes. Social activist, public speaker, contributor to Vanity Fair, and knitter of things without sleeves. This is the way someone many of us know describes herself on Twitter.  Admittedly, short of the Vanity Fair bullshit and the knitting, (I crochet), it could be me and any of 100 friends, who remain without celebrity because they didn't give the President of the United States, (you should forgive my lack of generous understanding), a blow job.  Do I sound angry because I mean that in the nicest possible way. Damn, I gave it away. But that is not what I wanted to blob about.
©2014 David Burnett/Contact :        Monica Lewinsky, before Twitter:  1998  

A few years ago I was invited to participate in a discussion about new technologies in communication. I felt confident that I would have something to offer....that was incorrect. The entire conversation revolved around the newest form of social media, Twitter.  It was a new phenomenon. People seemed excited about writing 140 characters and having strangers follow them to see what they thought. My initial thinking was that it was silly. Who in the world would want to know what anyone else thinks about anything in 140 characters? Well that was a mistake, but I make so few of them..... But that's not what I wanted to blob about.

It's almost Halloween. At some point I decided that it was wrong to give candy to kids. What was the alternative you ask. The Oriental Trading Co. Catalogue. You can buy all these little toys, which are inexpensive and the kids love them. Yes, it is true that the toys are cheaply made and the likelihood of children choking on them is greater than say, a jelly bean. But once they walk away from the door it doesn't have to be my problem.   However, as it turns out, kids don't want toys, they want to be able to compete in the, “who got the most candy” contest. And we weren't helping them win. So, we became the house on the block that was always a disappointment. Every year the children hoped we would realize what idiots we were, and we never failed to disappoint them. But that's not what I wanted to blob about.

Today is my Mother and my Aunt Peppie’s birthday. They would have been 94. My cousin Edie, Aunt Peppie’s oldest child and I talked about it today. She asked what I missed the most about them. "They were incredibly funny. They always had a story or a remedy for every problem. They seemed ever present. If you couldn't find an answer with one, you could always call the other. And the recipes."  I guess what I really miss is just being able to call them to say hello, to ask a question, to find out some family news or to argue about something unimportant. I miss the sound of their voices, and the assurance that everything would be Ok.  There is no way they would have been able to Tweet. They couldn't even order off a menu in 140 characters. The only thing they used their computers for was to play cards. Their embrace of simplicity was a gift. It was like a present every time they answered the phone.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Is there anyone who likes mushy vegetarian Indian food, because do I have a place for you!  Yesterday we were going  to have dinner with Jack, and wanted to find a place that was easy. It didn't matter if it was expensive or inexpensive as long as it was easy. Our friend Tom who is an excellent source for food suggested this place close to where we are staying. The way he explained it, was just what we were looking for.  When I called for reservations they were confused about the request. That should have been the first sign that maybe we were on the wrong track.  In the background I heard him discussing the request with a colleague, so maybe he was just a guy answering the phone.  His English wasn't great but the concept of a reservation shouldn't have been difficult and he finally blurted out that we should just come and it would be fine.

We arrived at the time we thought we had the reservation.  Indian is one of my favorite foods. There are places, like the Delhi Dhaba in Virginia which is downscale, but has Indian music and Bollywood movies running all the time.  It is a buffet and it is amazing.  The Samosa House was not a buffet, it was a cafeteria. Not to prejudge, we got in the food line and hoped for the best. It was wishful thinking. We each ordered a vegetarian dish. The only difference between them was the color. There was a vegetable about which we never heard and some which were standard Indian fare. 

David's description was absolutely accurate. It was mushy Indian food. Not that mushy food is a bad thing. We have a fondness for mashed potatoes, both sweet and plain. We like mushed squash, even puréed beans.  But when it comes to an entree we like to be able to distinguish between the sauce, the meat, the fish and the vegetable.

Anyway, we had a lovely visit with our friend Tom and Case. The husband and daughter of a close friend who, as is the case with my whole family, didn't die,  she went to Paris. My family goes to Florida. France is better.  We also saw Jordan kill it in a single performance show. And today we went to a bridal brunch given by a young woman with whom Jordan has been friends since elementary school. She and Jordan took swing dance lessons in middle and high school, they both went to Emerson and they both moved to LA. It was pretty special to see so many of her friends from those years.  Tomorrow is a business day.

Moving on.  I apologize to the friends and family with whom I did not connect on this trip. It was just too hectic to make any additional arrangements. But I plan to come back for a longer time when it snows in NY and it's just another day in Paradise in Ca.-- weather wise.

And in conclusion. There is always a time when the less information you give, the better off you are. Like when you make a restaurant reservation. They don't need to know you'll be six people until someone leaves. Or when you want a tour of the Capitol, and you mention you were arrested on a felony.  And my own personal favorite:  when you are interviewing for a job you tell them you are pregnant or you give them your date of birth. Neither of these last TMI's is legal.
Just thought I needed to close on something less whimsical than my usual fare.  We’re just sayin’…  Iris

Saturday, October 18, 2014

And Now.... Cat the Great

Sometimes it's necessary to start writing in the middle of the story and then find the beginning and the end. With that in mind, we were on the subway the other day. We were sitting quietly enjoying the weirdos on the train, when David jumped up and started to talk to some guy who was happily reading a book. It was a real book, and it looked like he was almost finished (about 1 pages to go in a 900+ page book.) David started to tell him a story about how a few years ago he saw another guy close to finishing a 1000 page book when he had a vision of Howard Cosell getting on the train and doing play by play commentary about  the other guy finishing the book. The guy was terrified. It's hard for me to explain Howard Cosell, so you will have to go to Youtube and use your imagination.  Remember, I am not your mother so you will have to do your own homework.

Anyway, the reader was terrified.  It was the subway and while we know David is not a lunatic, why should a stranger know that.  The man kept glancing at me and I kept telling David to let the man finish his book.  We left the train before the stranger. And started to laugh about the fact that while this guy was trying to finish his book, David was preventing him from doing this by telling him a story about preventing someone from doing exactly the same thing.  All David could say was, “I probably should have gotten right to the story and not given him all the background.”  And I replied, the guy is just lucky you didn't tell him about your high school reunion in Salt Lake.

So that's the middle, I feel sure my niece Clare, who is a real writer, will forgive my lack of organization.  And how about that Ebola scare. The .President has appointed Ron Klain to be the Ebola Czar.  He's a nice guy and since he was Gore's Chief of Staff, probably has reasonable organizational skills.  But Czar.  Tsar? Apparently in Washington, there are a number of people with the Czar title-- like the drug Czar.  If it were a woman it would be Czarina. And if her first name was Katherine... She would inevitably be Geat.  If you are Russian, or Russian Jewish your picture of a Czar is not someone who coordinates a disease. Especially if they are not wearing a big fur hat. Ron Klain is not a big fur hat guy.

Moving on to either the beginning or the end. We flew to California on Jet Blue. My feeling is that if I can't fly business class, I want to be on a plane where everyone is miserable because there is only one class... Steerage. Let's be honest, when you walk through a plane that has a first and business class you resent all those upper class twits. Even if they are traveling on miles, (and with all the programs tightening their idiotic rules, that will happen less ) how dare they do it when we can't.  Well guess what? Jet Blue now has a business/first called "mint class".  What an outrage!  If I were, for example, the airline Czar, there would only be business class. The airlines would have to suck it up and accommodate a call for equity in travel. There could be a lottery for seats, and if you weren't someone with money you would have to bring your own sandwich-- coffee and soda would still be free. That would be my dictate as Czarina. Oh and I look great in a fur hat.  We're just sayin'... Iris

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Re: The (not so) Secret Service

When Team Gefilte was invited to the White House to perform, we waited over an hour before the entire cast and crew got through security at the Old Executive Building. There was a terrible fuss about how our papers were not in order.   Some people had  not given all the info needed, and there was a rumor that someone was a convicted felon. Having worked at the White House for too many years, I was the person that collected all the data and submitted the information. I promise you that everything was as it should have been.

So what's the matter with this picture? It makes no sense that a troupe of performers had to wait outside the gates for over an hour surrounded by uniformed and non-uniformed Secret Service, while some nut job leaps the fence and gets all the way to the East Room, which is not right next to the entrance. Was it a perfect storm or was it just overall incompetence. What do you think the repercussions will be?  Best Burnett guess is that they will put up more concrete barriers (how did those get the name “Jersey Barriers?”)  and close Pennsylvania Ave. to foot and bike traffic. It's already closed to cars. 

Here's the irony:   if everyone had done their jobs the guy would not have made it passed the first armed guard.  If they asked us, We're just sayin’...  for our opinion. We would tell them to fire every single person who allowed this lunatic to pass them.  How lazy have the White House protective detail become? These are the people who protect the leader of this great nation. These are the people who are supposed to be willing to take a bullet for the President.  I just don't think that's going to happen.

So Julia resigned or was fired. In Washington, and especially in this White House, no one gets fired. If you are a civil servant you are protected by the system. You can get moved around (re-assigned to Elmendorf AFB in Alaska?) but fired -- maybe if you show up naked at work wearing a Halloween mask. And if you are a political appointee, like the Director of the Secret Service, you are asked to resign instead of getting fired. Personally, I think getting fired builds character. Well, maybe not if you are an older person. The character should have gotten built early in life. This probably would have helped a whole lotta people from taking jobs they simply couldn't do. Thing is, the Secret Service is now part of Homeland Security, a bureaucracy so large it is impossible to work as it should. Thank you George for another incredibly stupid policy decision. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

This latest fiasco was just more of the same. No one takes responsibility. No one in this White House just says, “I screwed up.”   And no one told the press secretary that avoiding answering press questions by saying nothing is incredibly ridiculous.  At 9am she still “had the full confidence of the President,” and at 1pm, she was out the door.  A few years ago we were in the penthouse of the Washington Hotel, on 15th St.,  overlooking the park in front of the White House. When I looked out the window and saw that anyone who wanted to do some damage with a short range missile, had a direct shot from that room. The plain-clothes felon with a gun who got on the CDC  elevator, was thrilled to be in the presence of the President.  He even took selfies.   And the harmless  actors who waited an hour to clear security stood outside because security at the gate had nothing else to do.  Welcome to the new normal... Whatever that means.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sunday Morning

 It is always a pleasure to watch the Sunday morning shows. For the most part they are not news shows, in the shooting, rape and fire sense.  they seem more relaxed and a show such as Sunday Morning gives each topic/issue the time it needs to be interesting.  The story seems to have a beginning middle and even an end.  The talking heads are still trying to entertain rather than inform but every once in a while the viewer does learn something, such as, even the highest ranking elected official can be a moron. And if mean that in the nicest possible way.

Take Speaker John Boehner..... Please. (That's an old joke, but so is he).  Yesterday in an interview he actually said, "if they wake up dead".  Let's take a moment to do a rhetorical analysis  of that particular statement.  Wait, there is no need. Just FHI (for his information), if you are dead you will not wake up.  Maybe that is part of the problem with the war he advocates.  He thinks that all of those lovely young people who die, are going to get up.  It's like a fairy tale.

Once upon a time there was a man who thought he was much more powerful than he really was.  In fact, he and his friends thought that they had God like power to make decisions about life and death. When he and his friend were little boys they overloaded on toy soldiers. They would knock them down, pick them up, set and rest the game. Of course, he would clean up, and then the next day repeat the process. Over and over the little warriors (the plastic ones) would fight, die, and then miraculously live again.  It was an exhausting play time, but someone had to do it. As years passed the little boys continued their play. And they grew up believing that all soldiers would get knocked down, but not to worry, they would surely get up.  Forget shipping the bodies, and the funerals -- it was all a game.

Anyway, sometimes I wonder where I would be today if, instead of changing careers every four years, I had just stayed in one job.  Could I have been the Dean at a university. The foremost non profit guru in the country. The head of a tv network. Or a Senator who had the ability to send people into a war zone to fight, die and wake up dead.  Nevermind, even without an expense account, lots of power, and the ability to make life and death decisions,  the way I spent my days was pretty great.  We can always win the lottery or tell another fairy tale.

Once upon a time there was a precious little girl, with a feisty spirit and a big mouth. What made her the happiest was wonderful children, a delightful family, super friends and a puppy.  Even as a simple little child she knew you didn't wake up dead. So she tried to live happily ever after. 

We're just sayin....Iris

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The New Year....

It’s the Jewish New Year.  It happens every year about the same time.  When we were kids it was the time when our mothers would take us shopping to buy something special to wear to services. It was great to buy new clothes. Especially when, as part of the kiddie choir, we would stand on the bema and sing all the prayers Rabbi Krantz taught us.  In those days, Tina and I had to stand back to back because if we looked at one another we would laugh instead of sing. This back to back thing was silly because we could feel one another laughing and it was still hard to get through a prayer.  But the Congregation was small, mostly family, and they knew what was going to happen when the Rabbi pointed to us to begin the prayer. 

We didn’t quite understand the concept of “this was the week to be particularly well bhaved because this was the time God decided if we would get written into the book of life for another year.”  No, this was the week we got out of school, went to the temple, cut out as soon as we could, and get into some kind of trouble. One year we stole the keys to my Uncle Charlie’s car and, while the parents were in temple, we drove his car up and down the driveway – eventually driving it into the house.  We were nine.

Over the years our behavior became more sophisticated and instead of driving we would hitchhike to wherever … because we never knew where we wanted to go.  Oh the good old days.  If my kids ever did the things we did I would, as my mother said, “beat them to a pulp”. We weren’t afraid, probably because we had no idea about pulp – the idea of orange juice with or without pulp was still years away.

Flash forward to our lives as Jews for thirty years in DC.  We couldn’t find  a service that we liked, or wasn’t too expensive or with whom we could relate. So for years we went to Georgetown U, and we prayed with the students. We weren’t crazy about the Rabbi. Then someone said we should look into Fabrangen. It was a congregant directed service where they did things like pass the Torah from Congregant to Congrgant.  There were lots of li li li’s and boy boy boy’s, and it felt like home.  We even took Mom and Aunt Irene and they loved it. Mostly we loved the Yiskah service, which was always about real people losses. 

When we moved to Newburgh we went to Services at Agudas Achim and it was fine. The Rabbi is wonderful. And we were surrounded with famly—which is great. But most of the time we look for services on line. Because it’s much more personal for us.  Until today.  Today I went to services at the Westchester Reformed Temple.  I went because a Team Gefilte actor’s husband is the Rabbi. And our adorable Kelly McCormick is the Rabbitzen. There has never been a more adorable Rabbitzen, or a Rabbi with a God given voice.  All I can say is that between the Cantor, the Rabbi, and Kelly it was like being at a New Year Broadway show.  And it was a joy to be surrounded by people who wanted to be right where they were. The tunes to the prayers were unfamiliar, but I recognized all the prayers Tina and I memorized and stood back to back to sing.  The service too me to a place I haven’t been for 50 years—maybe more. 

For many of us there were things beyond new clothes that were special. All my Aunts and Uncles and Cousins sharing in the joy of one more year was something that still makes me smile. And yes, they were all there with me today, singing, and laughing and wondering why we hadn’t found a service like this years ago.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Sunday, September 21, 2014


There are some things in the news about which I am totally confused. Where should I start?  That’s one of the confusions, since starting in the middle is what I usually do. Anyway, when I was a wee lass my major in college was (this actually existed in prehistoric days) Speech Arts.  You can laugh if you want, or even guffaw, but it served me well. Among the many things I did to earn money to pay my college bills, was to teach young women who were secretaries but wanted to be management, to get rid of an accent that said “uneducated”—even though they were not.  I did speech training for years with everyone from corporate executives to my wonderful friend Tony Snow,  who wanted to transition from print to electronic media, but he didn’t like his voice.

What has all this to do with my confusion?  It has become clear to me (despite the confusion), that no one knows how to pronounce the name of our newest enemy,  How do you conquer an enemy whose name you do not know.  Is it Isis (pronounced ‘eyesis') or Isol (pronounced eyesol)—or is it Isol (pronounced with a short I as in is). Or perhaps Isil, as in is sol)?   When Diplomats speak of the evil it is usually with the short “i”.   And they swallow the “el”.   Maybe they do it that way because it’s less common, less known. And diplomats always want to know more than real people.  They want to have a secret that nobody who is not a diplomat can know.  So everytime I hear the enemy described, the name changes.  Well the name doesn’t change but it sounds like it does. 

First they were AlKaida. But then this one guy got mad at Alkaida, and decided that there needed to be a more terrifying terrorist organization.  Sure it was terrifying when women and children were tortured and men were murdered. But not as terrifying as chopping off someone’s head – which I guess was terrifying during the French Revolution but the French became sophisticated and this particular way of getting rid of someone, seemed distasteful, even barbaric. And nothing makes the American public angrier than a barbaric beheading.  Personally, I think that a person who murders a whole lot of little kids in a school is equally barbaric, but no one cares what I think.

Moving right along in my confusion.  There is something wrong with the National Football League.  How stupid can one organization be. Just further proves that the amount a person gets paid for the work they do has nothing to do with the amount of smarts they pretend to have in their brains.  And speaking of barbaric (OK they probably wouldn’t make beheading a career), but they do not need to beat the crap out of their female partner or beat their four year old with a stick.  If they know they might use their fists to brutalize a friend or relative, they have so much money they can hire a body guard for their beloveds.  And why would a woman stay with a beast…. It’s all about the money, the security, and the status – if they live.  You see why I am confused. The rich get richer without apologies or a moral core, and the terrorists, be they Isis, Isol, or an overpaid athlete who has also never been civilized, are probably as confused as am I, but for different reasons.   We’re just sayin’…Iris

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Missing VA

When we lived in Virginia/DC, we often just took a ride around to look at gardens, houses, monuments, etc. and my pal Marthena (as in "Oye veyismere! Marthena"),   talk about how fortunate we were to live in such a beautiful place.  And we were. For the most part living in DC is terrific. The weather is great. There are maybe two or three major snowstorms a year. It is always terrible because there is no plowing. So trying to get anything done is impossible. But since no one can get anything done, it doesn't really matter. Unless you are essential personnel in the  government. In that case you have to get to work. Once you get there and since there is no one else working, all you do you is answer the phone.

Moving on.... When we visit people always ask if we miss living here. Not an easy question to answer. We miss our friends, a lot. We miss the beauty of the spring and the fall. There are plants I wish would survive in upstate NY. But you can't yearn for things that you can never have or you will drive yourself crazy. So we plant what we can and the deer eat everything.

So, do we miss living in Virginia? David doesn't miss the fact that there is no longer much access to the President. The White House made a decision to feed the news that they wanted the people to know. And mostly, there have been few complaints. Except by the press who are left out in the cold. And I don't miss the kind of PR politics conducted by a White House that has not transitioned (after five years)  to governing. There are policy people, and message people, but it is hard to find a political operative. Someone who knows how to actually get something done. Ho hum....

The reality for us, and a number of our friends who are thinking about leaving, is that if they sell their homes they will never be able to afford to come back. Real estate prices are totally out of control. There is hardly any place within a ten mile radius of downtown, that you can buy (apartment, condo or house) for under half a million dollars. And those homes are nothing special. If you want modestly special you immediately jump to almost a million.

When we were selling our house we asked for an outrageous price and thought it would take forever because we were unsure about a move. We got our asking price and it took all of three weeks. We had to move so quickly that we had to put all our stuff in storage, where it stayed for almost a year.

We love to work and visit the area we so treasured for almost thirty years.  But we can't and don't want to come back. We like the idea that we are special guests in a place where we were just residents. And we do love the fact that we can now say, "those people who live in Washington have no idea what's going on in the rest of the country."  Of course, we know everything that happens everywhere. Just ask us....    We’re just sayin’… Iris                                     

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Random Thoughts

Random thoughts from a random mind. Steve Biscotti, the owner of the Ravens is embarrassed because he was reluctant to do anything about the domestic violence in which his players are involved. Greg McKay, who was convicted, not just accused, but convicted of domestic violence is still playing. Ray McDonald is still playing despite felony abuse charges.  Any number of NFL owners have been convicted of sexual harassment.  Yeah the stink starts at the head of the fish.... Although old fish generally stink whether it be the top or bottom. Ray Rice beat his betrothed, now wife (my guess is that it wasn’t an isolated incident), unconscious. Why would she marry him? Why are women in Baltimore wearing Ray Rice T-Shirts. Yes, some people are stupid. But that's not enough of an answer. Furthermore, This is not only a sports problem, and it is not only an NFL problem. Men who beat their wives or children are ugly thugs who are not good at interpersonal relations and they have either control or power issues. This is not a psychology blob. Oh no, sure women that allow it to happen are frightened, have low self esteem, or are just idiots. I don't mean to be insensitive, in the nicest possible way.  It seems violence against women remains pervasive all over the world. The difference between violence in the West and East, Middle East, and countries in the Southern Hemisphere can be measured in degrees. And not without including a conversation about Poverty, education and opportunity.  What I mean by degrees is that in the West we hardly ever see the ceremonial burning of a widow, which some religion and culture except in a movie like "the burning bed". 

As it happens, I am at an international women’s rights conference, or as it is entitled, Women and Girls Rising. Why do organizations feel that they have to name everything they do? But, over the last two days there have been discussions about everything from violence, to torture, to rape, to religion and to the impact of resources on women around the world. There has also been a cry for the "new normal".  How would you define the new normal?  Would you have to use the old normal in order for people to understand. And then what's the old normal. Or what's normal. If only...?

Anyway, there is certainly gender inequity. That means that sexual medication for men is covered by insurance but not medication for women. Our beloved Anne Richards always said,if men had to get approval to have babies, there would be no discussion about abortion. It would exist. Imagine, Men, who have affairs, are rapists, or who have impregnated their daughters, don't have to take responsibility for the baby.  The radical right (although not limited to them), are opposed to abortion but have no desire to provide financial support for the babies, once they are born. Blah blah blah..

What I miss at this conference is a real  conversation about violence against women in the US. We know, certainly by the news this week, that it is a timely topic. We also know that it doesn't just happen in other places. The fact is that sports figures, terrorists, African kidnappers, some boyfriends, fathers and  husbands think that a woman or a girl is just a thing, a sexual object or a punching bag. Is there a way to end this ugly world problem?  Not in the near future. Maybe not ever. If only it were possible to round up all the little boys in the whole world and teach them to be kind and gentle. Yeah, that will happen in our dreams.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Another Nine Eleven

There is something quite extraordinary about today.   The numbers 9/11 (always pronounced nine-eleven) will never have another meaning for those of us who were of a certain age — anyone over 10 I suspect — 13 years ago.  Our friends and colleagues in the city have each a story as riveting as the next.  It was the day that horror visited the country on a scale not known by anyone who wasn’t old enough to remember World War II.  Listening on the radio to MSNBC’s live minute-to-minute rebroadcast of the Today show of that morning retold the story in a way that I don’t think I had yet understood.  When you know what is coming - after they speak about a plane hitting the North tower - when you know that all the rest that is to follow will come no matter how many times you might want to turn the radio off, it is chilling, even 13 years later.  There is a reality, a sense of doom which the listener brings, as if you want to yell back at Katie, Matt and Tom, and tell them what is about to happen. 

Unlike most of my family and friends, I was in quite a different place that morning.  I had just spent my birthday a few days before in Istanbul, courtesy of ESPN the Magazine.  I was covering a cool story on how the NBA, having exhausted nearly every local American  high school gym in a search for new talent, was taking its clipboards to Europe, the setting being the European Basketball Championships.  In a large, oval-esque sound chamber, a dozen highly rated teams including Spain (Gasol) , Germany (Nowitzki) , France (Parker), Turkey (Türkoğlu), and Yugoslavia (Stojakovic) battled each other not just for the prize at hand, but to be seen and coveted by the likes of Greg Popovic of the Spurs, in hopes of landing a juicy NBA contract.   Yugoslavia (Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro….the modern break-up former republics) has for decades been a hotbed of basketball activity.  I remember the 12 year old kid in Sarajevo who, in 1980 quizzed me about a guy I don’t think I’d ever heard of (mybad, it was Magic Johnson) and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t totally up on Magic’s stats. 

The matches were held at night, usually after one of those amazing grilled fish dinners near the water, which reminded you that Turkey really was at the crossroads of the worlds East and West.  The cheering  sounds resonated in the gym like few I have ever heard.  The semi-final game, in which the Turks beat the Germans  79-78, was absolutely the loudest sporting event I have ever attended. I suspect some of my tinitis - those never ending gongs which ring 24/7 might have been seconded by those screaming crowds.  The final saw the Yugoslavs win in a close game against the Turkish hosts, and frankly, it was about the first good thing to happen to Yugoslavia in years.  Coming on the heels of the long strife of civil war, and US/NATO intervention, it gave the Yugoslavs something to be happy about.  With writer Ric Bucher (now a SF based NBA expert) we hopped on the Belgrade bound flight with the victorious team, landing in the middle of a rain storm.  But rain or not, nothing would keep the cheering Yugoslav fans away from a celebration of the victory.  It was as if that winning game had somehow allowed the country back into the fraternity of Europe.  After all, just a short two years before, NATO planes and American cruise missiles had pummelled the city in an attempt to take Yugoslav TV off the air, but missed, and hit the Chinese embassy.  Firing cruise missiles, even with their purported accuracy, in an urban setting doesn’t always produce the results advertised.

The party went into the night, and Ric and I visited the Belgrade Press club for a beer, then hit the sack after a long day.  Early the next morning we met a car and driver to take us to the  Kopaonik ski resort near the Kosovo border, where the well known and highly rated Partizan professional basketball team was finishing their summer camp before the start of the fall season.  There, amid a foggy, chilly mountain air, a dozen incredibly tall shooters were in the gym  practicing their drills hour upon hour.  I photographed a few of the players, those likely to be seen as NBA prospects, even though they were too young (mid teens) for being signed by an NBA team.  They included Nenad Krstic (who eventually played 7 seasons  for the Nets,)  Nemanja Matovic who stayed in Yugoslavia, and a 15 year old 7-foot  wunderkind, who had a special waiver to practice with the team at that young age.   We sat and talked that afternoon with the coach, one of those slow going conversations which mostly required an interpreter as his English was pretty bad, and our Serbo-Croatian non-existent.  At one point his mobile fone rang, and he picked it up, exchanging a few words with a caller before flipping the fone closed.  A few minutes later, the fone rang again, this time a more worried look coming over his face.  When he hung up, he said “a plane has crashed into a market building in New York.”  I suppose there was something in the translation of “Trade Center” to “market” which gave the meaning a diminished effect.  Hey, we know planes crash all the time. This didn’t seem to be terribly grave.   The third time the fone rang, the countenance of his face just shrunk around the corners of his lips and eyes.  This was something serious.  The conversation moved on again, and he explained that to him, though he didn’t know exactly what had happened (none of us had seen any TV yet) he wondered if it might have had something to do with those cruise missiles of two years before.  He lived across the street from the Yugoslav TV building, the one that had been targeted by NATO, and obviously still felt the angry pangs of someone who has been bombed.  Ed Murrow once did a radio report in 1940 about RAF flyers returning from Dunkirk, having been shot down over the beaches, catching a ride back on an evacuation boat, then looking for another Spitfire to fly.  He described the young flyers, in their leather jackets, looking chilled from the Channel, and responding to his questions with loud, almost screaming answers. One of the other pilots remarked,”.. you get that way when you’ve been bombed for hours.”  

I suppose our friend the coach had lurking in him a certain sense of deja vu as he described to us, representing the former bombers of Belgrade, what he’d heard from his friend on the fone.  He then offered me his fone, and I called Iris, at home in Arlington, VA.  “There is no more World Trade Center,” she said, saying it as plainly as was possible.  I still didn’t get what that meant, but knew that I still had work to do, and spent the rest of the afternoon shooting pictures of the Partizan players before heading back to Belgrade that night.   Once in my room, and pursued by curiosity, I flipped on the TV to see, over and over again, replay after replay, video of the planes hitting the buildings, and the towers crumbling to earth.  At that moment, I finally understood what she’d been trying to tell me.  But hearing about it from a man whose neighborhood had been bombed by American cruise missiles gave me a slightly different perspective.  He wasn’t happy, he wasn’t gloating, he may even have been in as much of a state of surprise as we were.  But I never have forgotten that in the end you need to put things into perspective, and that there isn’t just one point of view, one way to see things.  And now, 13 years later, facing another threat as ISIS becomes the public face of terror in the world we’re inhabiting, and no doubt another generation of young 7’ Serbian basketball players is trying to make a place on the world stage, it seems as if we haven’t gone very far.  Will this be the state of the world for the future to come?  Will there be no end to the ugly habit of man to take this singular planet and wrack it with ruination.  I hope not.  I’d love to see a place where the next Serbian wunderkind can find a place to play, a place we can watch him sling a skyhook into a giant arc, hitting nothing but net. 

We’re just sayin’… David

Nemanja Matovic, shooting a skyhook    Kopaonik, Serbia   9/11/01 ©2014DavidBurnett/Contact