Monday, February 12, 2018

Of Rolling Pins and Plans

It's getting to be that time of year again when Jewish women world-wide turn their thoughts to spring. That lovely little holiday, Tu B'Shevat, the "birthday" of the trees, has come and gone, leaving in its wake a trail of half-chewed carob, dried date ends, grape stems devoid of grapes, and those little crown thingees you find on the tops of dried figs. Gone are the 7 species, replaced by dough chilling in the fridge, jams stocked in jars, and that endless quest for the perfect hamataschen recipe. For years, I've used Martha Stewart's (yeah, I know...but it's indestructible,) but this year, I may have to try the one my daughter-in-law uses from Tori Avery. (There's also a pareve version.) We worked with it on Sunday and I was duly impressed with how it rolled out. Of course, we had an excellent head roller with us, armed with a rolling pin that once belonged to my great-grandmother, making Little Miss the 6th generation to use it. 

I think that's kinda cool, actually. The rolling pin was one of the few things Great-grandma Nechama brought with her from Russia. It's got a notch on one end so everyone would know it was the dairy rolling pin. When I got married a zillion years ago, the decision was made by my Aunt Rose and her sister-in-law, my Grandma Sarah, that it would go to me because I had a kosher home. And keeping along those same lines, one day it will go to my daughter-in-law and Little Miss, G-d willing for the same reasons. 

If you don't know what Purim is about, read the Book of Esther. It's very short, kind of exciting, and doesn't mention G-d once. Depending how you read it, it's a story about the empowerment of women. 

But underneath this simple bodice ripper of a story, there are far more complicated issues at hand, some of which might sound like they were ripped from our own headlines. The deposed Queen Vashti can be seen as a brave wise-woman, Esther is trapped in a rather bizarre marriage to a king that is a total doofus, her Uncle Mordechai is a manipulative SOB, and Haman, the evil not-so-genius, is an moronic mouthpiece of hate. 

Gee, boys and girls, can you draw some parallels here?

Unlike the story of Purim, we are living in an all-too-real world of baseless hatred and painfully bad behavior. We have a president who is not all that different from Ahashverush, a guy who is led down a  poisonous path by an advisor so filled with hate that he cannot see past it. Sure, Bannon may be gone, but the hate-mongers are still sitting in the big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue. The hate pours out of 1600 like a lava flow: hot, malignant, and destroying everything in its path. 

Unfortunately, Melania is no Esther; sure, she's trapped in a marriage, but she is, to date, impotent. At the State of the Union, she looked miserable much of the time, and while she rose at other parts of Feckless Leader's speech, she did not rise with the rest of the claque when he spoke about family values. It was like taking the knee...as subtle a protest as she could manage. She has no ability to open her mouth, protest his unconscionable behavior, or do much else besides sulk at public events. She telegraphs the message she wants We, the People to get, and I hold by my earlier assessment: FREE MELANIA!

But Purim is only the lead-up to the big deal of Passover. Everyone knows the story of how Moses went down the Nile in a basket, only to be picked up by Pharaoh's daughter, but how much thought have you ever given to that nameless princess, or the two Egyptian midwives, Shifra and Puah, so important in the Torah that they have names. These three Egyptian women chose life...the life of a baby floating down the river, the lives of Hebrew mothers and their children... without caring much for their own lives. All three knew the consequences, and all three took those risks. The Children of Israel would not be
the Children of Israel without those three women. They weren't part of us, but their choices insured we would survive. And we have. We have outlasted Amalek, the Philistines,  Babylon, Persia, Imperial Rome, the Inquisition, the pogroms in Russia, World War II, more pogroms in Poland, various Arab attacks on Israel.....but wait...there will be more. There always is. As they say, "in every generation..."

Tzadok & Nechama - 1917
Which brings me back to my great-grandmother Nechama. She took a giant risk leaving a married daughter behind in Russia, then getting on a boat with 6 kids to join her husband and her next oldest daughter in America. She left pogroms, oppression, and a world full of hate to start a new life in a place where she didn't speak the language. She got here. She made a home for her family. She kept everyone together. And she lived to see the next generation take root in this nation. 

I can only imagine what she would think about our current state of current affairs. I wonder what she would tell me to pack to plan for Plan B, and I would make sure that rolling pin goes with Little Miss.

But most of all, I like imagining how happy she would be to know Little Miss rolls hamantaschen with her dairy rolling pin.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Lekvar still makes the best filling for Hamantaschen.






Monday, February 5, 2018

Not Necessarily Golden

Not much of a blog tonight. I'm a bit groggy fighting off the effects of anesthesia. Yup, I did heavy-duty drugs this morning, and the only thing I'm gonna tell you is that at this  very moment, I am not full of shit. Literally. 

And yes, things appear to be reasonably fine for an old person. 

While I was blissfully sedated, the stock market continued its free fall. I can't speak for any of you, but I'm not surprised in the least. What goes up, must come down, and the market did just that. 

There is no deal on the table to keep government running after Thursday. CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) that was salvaged in the last budget go 'round has not yet been reauthorized. The Nunes' memorandum debacle continues on its increasingly bizarre trajectory. And the Justice Department remains uncharacteristically silent. 

Meanwhile, in Ohio, Feckless Leader called the Democratic members of Congress treasonous because they didn't clap for him during the State of the Union address. 
“Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”
Really? Does he even know what he's saying? In these here United States, treason is punishable by death. Is he implying any member of Congress who did not applaud during his speech should be rounded up?

If you remain a stalwart GOP supporter, you need to decide if any of this is troubling. If it is, you also need to decide what you're going to do about it. It's not up to the rest of us to turn the country blue; it's up to the GOP to put a stop to the undermining of our system of government and the Constitution of the United States. 

Every single citizen of these here United States had better get his/her expectations in order. Our sense of order ....law and order...is being challenged. Nice people turn away and don't make waves. Are you nice...or do you give a damn about preserving the rule of law, the Constitution, and democracy?

Silence in moments such as these is complicit.

And on that note, I am signing off for the night. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you're over 50 and haven't had a colonoscopy yet, go get one. 
It's really no big deal.


Monday, January 29, 2018

A Phallus Is A Phallus Is A Phallus

Recently, I was unfriended (gasp!) on Facebook by a woman with whom I disagreed about (of all things) Garrison Keillor's limericks. And the word phallus. I think his limericks are funny, and this one, written on the white board at Common Good Books, generic enough not be to targeted at an individual:
A beauty who goes to Macalester — 
O, her face, her limbs, her ballast, her 
Tiny blue kilt 
And the way she is built 
Could make a petrified phallus stir.
She saw it differently.

There does need to be a disclaimer here: I've known Garrison since the late 70s. Not well, we're not pals; I ran into him at his bookstore about a year ago where we had a nice chat. But here's the thing, Garrison is not a friendly, huggy-bear kinda guy. He's a well-established old curmudgeon. People I know who have long worked with him say he can be relentless in the pursuit of art, incredibly gruff, and a bit blue in his offstage humor...as well as kind, compassionate, and very caring. He is what he is and has never pretended to be anything else. And yes, you can get DREAM DANCER there.

The limerick was an act of expression, not a first First Amendment challenge. This is a case of offense in the eye of the beholder.

A former employee at Common Good Books, owned by Mr. Keillor, thought the verse was about her. Recently, this opinion was used to further the case of misconduct against Garrison Keillor, even though the store is an enterprise totally separate from his association with Minnesota Public Radio. Did that limerick create a hostile work place? Was he denigrating an individual? Was the concept of a petrified phallus stirring offensive? I suppose the answer can be yes to any of those...depending on the eye of the beholder.

Actually, if we want to talk about funny, petrified phallus is a much funnier word than petrified penis. Phallus has a bit of mystery, it's a rare word, and it rolls off the tongue, unlike penis which comes out in a bit of a grimace. You just said both words, didn't you? And you thought about it. (Ha! I win!)

Yeah, I could see where someone would think it wasn't funny, and I can get that someone who worked at the store might have thought it was directed at her, but frankly, I don't see what the great brouhaha about the limerick is all about. It's a juxtaposition that is unexpected and that makes it funny. IMHO.

If you were to poll a broad section of store customers, probably most never gave it a notice, much less a second thought. If you read the story MPR published, however, you'd think a grave act of sexual molestation had taken place. 

Said one former employee at Prairie Home Production Company:
We were all in this weird bubble of protecting him and keeping him happy. He clearly impacted the dynamics of everyone around him.
Really? The boss impacted the dynamics of the office? Sorry about being flip here... but if you've spent any time with creative people, you already know not everyone is warm and fuzzy. Not everyone is charming and nice. If you work for the creative force behind a mega-successful show, you know it is in everyone's best interest to humor the boss so he can do his best work. If he doesn't, the show closes and you lose your job. If you don't want to be a part of a creative process that has ups-and-downs, don't work in that milieu.

Offensive/
not offensive?
Truly creative people are often volatile. Think Beethoven. Boy, did he have a bad rep and look what he turned out. Michelangelo, according to contemporaries, was a terror when he was in the throes of creating some stuff that might now be considered really obscene. Anyone want to talk about Dorothy Parker? I didn't think so. 

We're not talking about Harvey Weinstein here, or Feckless Leader, or any of the other pussy-grabbing contingent. We're talking about art and artists: words, music, visual media, the whole package. Creative people doing creative things are sometimes even called iconoclasts... for a reason. Even some of the nicest directors I have ever known can go deep into the Pon Farr and head right into kal-i-fee while staging a play...and most actors know to just stand back and let the work happen. There is an edge of take-no-prisoners in that world because that's how creation is. It is not always pretty, definitely not easy, and artists creating usually put their work first, everyone else be damned. It's a price every creative person knows, and how they deal with payment isn't a standard sorta thing. It doesn't win you friends, but you do find out who your friends really are. 

As long as the boss is not a serial rapist, ax-murderer, or a practicing Sadist in the office, you go with the flow. If that's not to your liking, quit. There is no requirement in any workplace that everyone has to be nice to your standard, whatever that standard may be. Let me be very explicit here: that does not condone physical violence, sexual or verbal abuse, or terrorizing employees. There is a line that should never be crossed. But if you want to be where everyone is sweet and pleasant and happy, working day-in-and-day-out with creative people is probably not where you want to be. 

The bottom line is every individual gets to ultimately make a choice about what he/she is going to tolerate. Yes, we are getting better at saying "no" and standing up against abusers, rapists, and bullies. But then you also have to exercise your ability to choose, and then get the hell out if you think you are in danger. That's the good part of what has been happening this last year. YOUR TIME IS UP is a powerful and positive statement. Women, and even men, are becoming more empowered to say NO. This is an important shift. If something makes you uncomfortable, speak up. This change is going to take time. And pain. And terminations in some places. It's inevitable. And not all those terminations will be unjustifiable. 

This is a new workplace, a new world. It is not one-size-fits-all and it never will be. The new work-order is probably going to be more vanilla-flavored, more politically correct, and infinitely more boring in a nice kinda way. I suppose it's the right thing for most regular offices...especially one like mine...and all the other little offices and work places out there.  Play nice, keep your boner in your pants, and don't lunge at anyone in the break room. 

Chaim Soutine - 1926
Beef carcas
I just hope to G-d this new nice does not extend into those places where creative people create. I don't want Disneyland plastic everywhere I go. I want great drama in film and on stage, and I want all manner of comedy, whether I think it's funny or not. I want to read stories with points, with laughs, with satire, with historical history, not just charming, white-washed little romances where the rogue boy turns out to be a prince and they all live happily ever after.  

I want color, passion, and power in the art I witness.

I want variety and piquant flavors in my life. I want spice. 

I want to experience art, not just look at reproductions of someone else's idea of art. 


The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Want a really good spicy soda?
Go find yourself some Vernor's Ginger Ale. 
That's spicy stuff.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Broken Hearts, Broken Jokes, and Broken Snow Drifts

No need for a trip out to the cemetery this week; the Vikings did what they do best: they broke our collective Minnesotan hearts. Not just broke them....those would-be gladiators ripped them right outta our chests and stomped the little buggers into mush. That wasn't a game; it was a shondeh, a travesty, a complete and total embarrassment. That said, it means Ziggy is still where Ziggy is supposed to be, not clawing his way to the surface to get to the Stupid Bowl. Had he been here watching that debacle, things would've flown through that horrid big screen TV that dominated our family room. 'Nuf said.

On to bigger and better (?) things: SNOW.

It used to snow like this when went I went to Skidmore in the Adirondacks. It used to snow like this when we lived in Poughkeepsie in the Catskills. But I don't remember snow like this in the middle of winter for a really long time in Minnesota. It's not Minnesota Winter snow. This is more like Minnesota March snow: wet, heavy, clingy, heart-attack inducing. I am so glad I didn't have to deal with this at the old house. I'd be out there with the snowblower, loving every noisy minute of it while thinking I'm way too old to be out there soaked to the skin through layers and layers of winter gear. 

I'm parked  nose out, wipers up.
The weather was cloudy but okay this morning. As I left minyan for work, there was a flake here, a flake there, nothing much to bother with. By noon, it was a different story. Looking out the office window, I was breathing a sigh of relief that I had the foresight to park nose out.  I was glad I put the wipers in their locked and upright position. By 3 o'clock, you could no longer see the road that runs along our parking lot. I didn't dare go look out the other side where I-494 heads toward the airport. Speaking of airport, we're in the flight path and things were eerily silent overhead.

One side dug out. See how clean my car is!
It sparkles!
By the time I left at 5:30, people were digging out and getting stuck in the parking lot. The snow had compacted onto the driver-side of the car to a depth of about a foot, more on top on the car. The passenger-side was almost clear. It took me about 20 minutes to clear enough snow to make driving legal. I could see out the windshield and the front side windows. The defroster on the rear was doing a bang-up job. When I sat down, the seat was warm. No complaints there.


my footprints
I managed to get stuck and freed trying to go up our drifted-in communal driveway, and ended up parking out front off to the side where I figured I was less likely to be hit, and slogged my way to the front door. When I finally heard our plow guy, I suited up, marched through drifts over the tops of my barn boots (yeah, still wearing the same ones) up past my knees to flag him down.  I point to the car, he plowed a little path for me to get out, and I was able to get up the driveway to the garage, only to be greeted by a 4' snow drift against my wall. Undaunted...and believing the power of the Rogue, I blasted right through it and slid gently into the garage. Thrilled to discover I still had a snow shovel, I  set to digging out enough of the drift so I would be able to get out in the morning, make it to minyan, and start all over again.

And if that was not enough excitement for one night, the drift dispatched, I went into the house to throw the sacred sweatshirt collection in the dryer...which vents into the garage and will melt the rest of the snow on top of the car...only realize I locked myself out. 

This is one of those make-or-break moments, when you can either have a total meltdown while you're standing there in wet socks and no coat....or you can take a deep breath and remember you put a spare key in the traditional family hiding place so this moment would be no big whoop. It was there, crisis averted with only a minor oops. Like the Vikings. Not a big deal in the greater scheme of things.

In that greater scheme, there's stuff out there right now that's larger than the snow drifts. Snow eventually melts; it does go away. It's a nuisance, but it's temporary. The bigger scheme, however, continues to be the never-ending prestidigitation and necromancy as performed by the Oval Office Company. Their basic assumption that we are too stupid to notice flies in the farce of statements like "Covfefe" and his latest impenetrable statement on the rights of the unborn:
Right now, in a number of states, the laws allow a baby to be born from his or her mother’s womb in the ninth month. It is wrong. It has to change.                                                                                                                   (January 19th, 2018)
Change to what? C-sections for all? Yeah, yeah, we all know he was trying to talk about late-term abortion, but even the few facts he had were so far from reality it's hard not to take that statement seriously. Of course, he will claim the lame-stream media is making this up, just like they made up him saying:
A shutdown falls on the President’s lack of leadership. He can’t even control his party and get people together in a room. A shutdown means the President is weak.                                         (On Obama's shutdown in 2013)
But they didn't, he said this stuff, and the jokes are, as usual, on him. If anyone believes what comes out of his mouth or twitching fingers, they deserve him.

Y'know, the jokes stopped being funny a while ago. Today, he slapped a 30% tariff on imported solar panels. I get the "Made in America" part; in fact, I supported that position for a very long time. But those jobs that went overseas do not instantly materialize on these shores because someone wishes they would. There is a process to bring them back, and a 30% tariff is not going to stimulate that industry. Who, exactly, is that punishing?  

I'll tell you: people who wish to be ecologically responsible. He is punishing people for disagreeing with his pseudo-science. 

I swear to G-d, his role model is Stalin. Every day, he sounds more and more like Joe. Go read some Joe Stalin quotes. You'll figure it out. Just to get you started, here are a couple of my personal faves:
Life has improved, comrades. Life has become more joyous. (November 1935)
The people who cast the votes don't decide an election, the people who count the votes do.


I don't know about you, dear readers, but I rarely think of joyous and Stalin in the same context. Such a friendly lookin' guy.

Folks, this is what a scheme looks like: It's premeditated, it's planned out, and it's executed in such a way that while you're looking for the pink elephants the flashing neon sign said you'd see if you look to the right, your civil rights, your national parks, and your compassion are being sold to the highest bidder on the left. 

I think I'll go fold laundry.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
For fluffy sweatshirts, wash them inside out
and dry them the same way on low heat.

Monday, January 15, 2018

SKOL, VIKINGS?

I am not a football person. In fact, I would go so far as to say I abhor the sport. College football is nothing more than a farm system that shows little progress from the days of enslaved gladiators. Professional football is nothing more than gladiators in tight pants running up and down a field, crashing into each other, all the while voluntarily damaging their brains. And just like the spectators at Circus Maximus, the crowd cheers endlessly for blood, guts, and gore. And I don't mean Al Gore, either.

Ziggy was a football kinda guy even though he hated to admit it. My guys can tell you stories about Dad sitting on the couch in the family room screaming at the television. He called them the Viqueens because "they play like little girls," and he would clutch his heart every time they lost a close game...which wasn't all that often because winning wasn't always their thing. But watch them he did, grumble he did, and happy dances he did occasionally. More often than not, he would bemoan how "they are breaking my heart. Again." 

Last week, he would've said, "They have three more weeks to break my heart." 

And Sunday's game woulda given him the BIG one. That's a fer sure. 

In a play that defied all imagination, the Vikings won on Sunday with less than a single second on the clock. Ziggy woulda keeled over. In fact, I think I will go out to the cemetery this week just to make sure he's still there. 

The Vikes will face the Eagles next week, which pits me against my bro in Philly. He's an Eagles fan. So much so, I called him Saturday night after they won to wish him mazel tov. And now, we will have a Minnesota-Philadelphia match up. 

I will admit, this is all very exciting, what with the Vikings having only two more weeks in which they can break the collective heart of Minnesota. We've had a tough year. We lost Senator Franken. Senator Klobuchar turned out to be a huge disappointment. We've been living in Antarctic conditions for the last few weeks. And now the possibility of a hometown Super Bowl. Well, if that's doesn't lift the spirits....and the wallet right outta yer pocket.....

The Stupid Bowl is a whole lotta aggravation, money, and inconvenience for an afternoon of guys in shiny knickers running up and down the field...even if half of 'em are wearing purple and gold. From the safety of Mendota Heights, I watch the gyrations going on across the river, thankful I don't work downtown in Minneapolis.  

They've closed off streets. They're installing a zip line over the Mississippi River ..G-d knows how much they're going to charge poor, unsuspecting tourists for the chance to slide over downtown in 20F...but don't plan on going because it's already sold out. The Chapstick concession is probably worth a fortune! Oh, the humanity as tourists pour into Minnesota for an experience of a lifetime, and I don't mean the Super Bowl....I mean their faces freezing in the five minutes taking selfies with the Mary Tyler Moore statue. Ja, sure you betcha, the weather dweebs says it's gonna be in the +20s for that weekend although no one has mentioned windchill, but they've not been right about anything else this winter, so I'm putting little stock in their prognostications. 

1886 St. Paul Ice Castle
Never to be outdone, St. Paul's annual winter fun-fest, the 132nd Winter Carnival, is set to kick-off (pun intended) on January 24th. There's always stuff for Winter Carnival, but that's an annual event and has its own crowd. We, the People of St. Paul, will have a 7-story ice castle in Rice Park. That ice palace is kinda a regular thing. It's really cool. And it's not a football game. The ice sculptures in Mears Park are always brilliantly worth the trip to see. 

Harvesting ice from Green 
LakeErica Dischino / Forum News Service


This year, they sold blocks of ice to pay for  the ice palace.  You get a certificate and  everything. And yes, I bought a  block of ice  for Little Miss. Hey! We're St. Paul people  over  here, okay? (I'll post a picture after we  go see it. )



In spite of all the brouhaha, over in Minneapolis..and the rest of the country, it's still about football. Yeah, the hotels are full for that weekend. Yeah, a lot of money comes waltzing into the Twin Cities. Yeah, having the Super Bowl here is a seriously big deal. I get it. I understand it brings people in and maybe brings people back. Whatever. For me, that's not enough of a reason.

Football is nothing more than a gladiator fight. People volunteer to be physically abused. The amount of brain damage that will take place over the next few weeks is incalculable. The long term cost to the players, their families, the communities is inestimable. As a nation, we choose to allow kids and grown men alike to play a sport we know damages brains. It even has its own name: C.T.E. - chronic traumatic encephalopathy. We do nothing to discourage or prevent this type of injury. Is this some kind of macho thing? Apparently so because there are little kids all over the country suiting up to play.

One might think in this age of re-examination of our actions, we might question violent sports like football and boxing. We might think about what we're telling our boys about how to be men when we send them out on the field to annihilate another team. Do we really need to be supporting a kill-or-be-killed mentality in our kids? Is this what we want to teach them?

There is a bigger question to ask: Why are we still instilling belligerence in our children? We pretend to be teaching them to be less sexually aggressive, to respect and regard others with respect, to be aware of the people around us. How does football fit into a model that is changing? There is a difference between being competitive and being combative.

Years ago, someone told me football was a metaphor for life. I don't think so; I think it's a metaphor for death and destruction. If you cannot rape, pillage, and destroy in real life, here's a place to do it on the field. That's not life; that's vicariously watching others maim and destroy while imagining yourself in chain mail wielding a sword.

That probably is not that okay.

As I write this, I am acutely aware that today, January 15th, is Dr. Martin Luther King Day in the US. Would he find the treatment of African-American student-athletes reprehensible? Would he consider the elevation of the game a betrayal of the reason one goes to college in the first place? Would he think the athletic drafts nothing more than a slave-trade made legal? If he were alive, would Dr. King have spoken up against voluntary brain damage? And would he have forced the issue of BREATHING WHILE BLACK and changed the national conversation about African American kids? 

These are not separate issues: they are part of the greater gestalt. We cannot address gender inequality without addressing racial inequality. We cannot talk about sexual harassment, abuse, and assault without also talking about  hate crimes. We cannot delude ourselves into believing we are making viable changes to our society unless we are talking about all those things. They are Venn diagrams: circles intersecting circles intersecting circles. Each sphere touches another sphere; you cannot change one without ultimately changing the others. 

If we want to talk about football as a metaphor for anything, it has to be the place where all things wrong go to meet: bullying, violence, discrimination, racism, elitism, harassment, sexual abuse, and narcissism amongst others. if you want to change what happens to those kids before they become victims of C.T.E. and begin to behave accordingly, you have to start having this conversation in grade school. Waiting until some semi-grownup locker room is not a viable option. 


I will admit a Viking win on Sunday would be nice...even if my big brother the Eagles fan just sent me this: 



A Viking win on Super Bowl Sunday would be downright scary...what with hell freezing over and all that. But if they told me they were calling off the games due to premeditated violence. I would not mind one bit.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
There is no rule, law, statute, or even local suggestion that 
is binding when it comes to the Super Bowl.
You are NOT required to watch it. 

BONUS TIP:
If you want to read a really good book instead, 


Monday, January 8, 2018

OPRAH FOR PRESIDENT!

Or not.

Well, that should get your attention. Welcome to the elevated cult of celebrity

If you did not hear Oprah's powerful speech at the Golden Globes, take a moment to read it. It's not long, and it certainly speaks to an adjusted reality for women: 
"Thank you, Reese. In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother's house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history:" The winner is Sidney Poitier." Up to the stage came the most elegant man I ever remembered. His tie was white, his skin was black—and he was being celebrated. I'd never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people's houses. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney's performance in Lilies of the Field: "Amen, amen, amen, amen."  
In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille award right here at the Golden Globes and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award. It is an honor—it is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them and also with the incredible men and women who have inspired me, who challenged me, who sustained me and made my journey to this stage possible. Dennis Swanson who took a chance on me for A.M. Chicago. Saw me on the show and said to Steven Spielberg, she's Sophia in 'The Color Purple.' Gayle who's been a friend and Stedman who's been my rock.  
I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. We know the press is under siege these days. We also know it's the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To—to tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I'm especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story. 
But it's not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It's one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They're the women whose names we'll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they're in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They're part of the world of tech and politics and business. They're our athletes in the Olympics and they're our soldiers in the military. 
And there's someone else, Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and mother walking home from a church service she'd attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the NAACP where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case and together they sought justice. But justice wasn't an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died ten days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. 
But their time is up. 
Their time is up. 
Their time is up. 
And I just hope -- I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks' heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery, and it's here with every woman who chooses to say, "Me too." And every man -- every man who chooses to listen.  
In my career, what I've always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave. To say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere and how we overcome. I've interviewed and portrayed people who've withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say "Me too" again.
Transcript of Speech, no edits or corrections.  
It's a good speech. It might be a great speech. I don't know.

In that brief, shining moment, Oprah spoke for many of us when she thrice said, "Their time is up." 

But there is a tremendous difference between performing and presenting performers and managing national and world policy. Just in case no one noticed that's a current problem, let me assure you that it is.

Winfrey is larger-than-life. Hell. she's larger than the planet. Her resume is as astounding as it is long. She has put her money and her efforts where her mouth is and she has had fair amount of success doing just that. 

But not so buried in her long history of self-promotion, Ms Winfrey has glommed onto some pretty weird stuff. She touted Suzanne Sommer's hormones-injections-in-the-vagina quackery and she's been a huge promoter of Dr. Oz, undoubtedly the world's greatest snake-oil sale salesman. And let's not forget her unwaivering support of Jenny McCarthy and the anti-vaccination movement. Just like Feckless Leader today, McCarthy believed vaccines cause autism. Oprah gave all of them a forum to promote not simply bad ideas, but dangerous ones. Where was her research team? How inattentive do you have to be to let any of those cockamamie ideas out in public...much less promote them to an audience of devotees who will follow you like lemmings off a cliff?
"... the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility." 
William Lamb, Lord Melbourne ~ 1817
Oprah has not always exercised that responsibility as wisely as one might hope. She is well aware of the power she commands. She has out Martha'd Martha  Stewart. She is her own brand, her own network, her own whatever...everything Feckless Leader aspires to be...but is not. That's pretty heady stuff.  

One cannot really compare Oprah Winfrey and Feckless Leader. Winfrey is civic minded and interested (at least on the surface) in the good-and-welfare of real people. She has been proactive and a leader in every sense of the word. She can put a thoughtful sentence together.  She has proven herself to be a participant at many levels of philanthropy. These are great things to recommend her. 

Eva Peron
That's not to say an actor/performer cannot be a politician. Reagan did it. Schwarzenegger did it. Al Franken did it for a while. Eva Peron did it. Not all actors are mindless twits. Some are very brilliant and effective civic leaders. And surely, Oprah would be one... in Congress. 

But not as president.

The cult of celebrity can only go so far. While I am certain she would surround herself with great thinkers and wise advisors, I cannot help but worry about her lack of political expertise. After Feckless Leader, I want one who understands how the UN works and how agreements are made. I want someone who sees the bigger picture and can envision a United States where We, the People are active participants in the democratic process. I want a governor or a major city mayor or a senator to lead this nation, not someone who will have a basic political learning curve. We need someone to hit the ground running, someone who knows how to build a coalition. 

I am tired of amateur hour. I want a qualified CEO for this nation. Right now, we are way too close to nuclear disaster. Someone who brags about the size of his nuclear button is neither sane nor qualified to be in the same room as said button. 

If Oprah wants to put a toe into politics, she should start with Congress. I am certain she would rout any other candidate. Then, if she wants to run for President, I'll listen. Until then, she is nothing more than another celebrity dilettante. And the last thing We, the People need. 

The WIfely Person's Tip o'the Week

If your face is cracking because of all this sub-zero stuff,
try applying moisturizer while your face is still slightly damp.
**This especially applies to men who, if they're not using something on the face, 
should be.**

Need a good book with which to curl up?
LINGUA GALACTICA goes great with a fire and a glass of wine. 
Now available in paperback!


Find S.J. Schwaidelson on Good Reads!

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Things That Do and Do Not Matter in 2018

For the last 8 years, I have taken a few moments out of my hectic (not) New Year's Day schedule to close the books. Used to be, it took me a whole lot more than a few minutes, but an accordion file and an Excel spread sheet has turned this into a no-brainer. It took me less than a half- hour to reconcile the entire mess, line up the charitable receipts, and check the medical EOBs against the bills and  voilà, I am ready for the tax forms to arrive and the appointment with the accountant. I didn't used to need an accountant; for six years I did it all myself. But now, circumstances have changed and I have succumbed to calling in the big guns. 

Still, going through a year of expenditures was enlightening. I traveled. I replaced broken stuff that really needed replacing. (No, I have not yet found a new espresso machine, but that's another story and for the moment, old reliable is back to working. One day, I'll write about that, but not today.) I made a few more donations. I joined the JCC. Besides the travel thing, the rest is little stuff that just made life a little more pleasant. I remain pitifully frugal.

I continue to look to a future where I might retire. I am coming up on being able to collect on Ziggy's Social Security, but not quite yet. Soon. Would that be enough to sustain me without a job? Maybe. Do I want to not have a job? No, I still want to be working. Do I want to leave this job and its health insurance and hard-earned vacation benefits? Yes and no. 

In the space of the last 4 months, two friends have walked away from jobs they found to be abusive and no longer customer-oriented or employee-supportive. Another has turned in her retirement papers for the spring. A fourth friend is sitting on her resignation until she meets with her boss this week to see if her 20+ -year-career can be salvaged before she tells that woman what she really thinks of her. All four have been deeply unhappy for a while. All are in the over 55 range. Three of the four will absolutely have to find another source of income. All of them are terrified. 

Just as I was digging myself into a rather somber hole, I heard about the plane crash in Costa Rica. Two families were among the dead: the Steinbergs and the Weisses. I did not know either family, but the Steinbergs are cousins to a friend and fellow playwright here in Minnesota, and the Weiss family was active in United Synagogue. The kids were both  USYers, the organization that gave me a leg up in so many parts of my life. Their son  Ari was currently chapter president, and their daughter Hannah, a student at List College at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, was interning at METNY (Metropolitan New York region of United Synagogue) the place where I spent much of my own formative years. According to the NY Times, both the Weiss kids played the ukulele, the same habit I picked up in USY. If I did not know these two families, I could've. They are just like mine. And in the blink of an eye, they, along with their guide, Amanda R. Geissle and the plane crew, are gone. Poof. Not coming back. Not posting on FB from the World-To-Come. Gone. 

I think about my own family. I think about fragility. I think about what matters and what doesn't matter. Families are complicated, delicate things. They can disappear in an instant. None of us go on forever. Not everyone gets to have a sentient long good-bye or time to prepare. We assume that they...whoever they are...will be with us forever, but the truth is none of us have guarantees. The older we get, the deeper should be our appreciation for living, not an endless grouse about who-did-what-to-whom or be-mad-at -______. Fill in the blank of whatever relative most recently pissed you off. Being mad is pointless. If you don't like 'em, don't hang out with them. It doesn't mean you have to start a flame war. Be kind. Be tolerant. Be forgiving. It doesn't cost anything.

In that blink of an eye, though, we should also be damn sure we're busy fixing what we can. Sitting around moaning is not an option. If you don't like your elected representative, work to change them. If you don't like what's happening in your neighborhood, get out there and be present. If you don't like what you're doing at work, either work to fix it or work to get out. Just don't make everyone around you miserable because you're unhappy. 

Here are my resolutions for 2018: 
  1. continue going to the gym three days a week...I just feel better when I do.
  2. stop being scared of what the government is trying to do to We, the People. That's giving in and that's what they want. I will not buy into their version of domestic terrorism.
  3. continue writing this blog. There are days I don't want to, or even know if I can, but the emails I get tell me people are reading this and I'm hitting a nerve here and there. 
  4. Go to LA to hear Gustavo Dudamel conduct Beethoven's 9th Symphony. 
  5. Smile at strangers, laugh more in the supermarket, and help an old lady...other than me...across the street.
May this year bring relief, joy, peace, and stability to your world. 


The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week:

Help the WP retire: buy a copy  LINGUA GALACTICA
Kindle is up now, paperback should be available by week's end.
Read it! You'll like it!