Monday, May 25, 2015

Philatelism: A Family Secret

For the last few weeks, my attention has been focused elsewhere, and for this I am profoundly grateful. The move from Flah-rida was not as seamless as we all would have liked. My dad had some hidden medical issues which were compounded by a fall, which have been further compounded by a broken hearing aid. Dad's improving over at the rehab side of assisted living, Mom's less frantic since we finished unpacking their stuff and now she can make her own way over to see Dad between PT and OT sessions. They're even dining together in the regular dining room, which makes them both happy. Of course, periodic appearances of Little Miss go a long way in making things right. And I actually got to spend an evening with dog and vacuum cleaner, which made dog happy.

Now, all of this may sound boringly domestic, but what it did was get me away from the news cycle. This was a good thing because my head was, once again, in danger of exploding from the garbage being strewn about as news. Look, I get it. I understand that the parade of would-be GOP clowns has a need to distinguish themselves one from another. And I get that they are going to paint this administration with a rusty brush while declaring it's a total failure, a global catastrophe in the making, and the end of life as we know it, but that is just crap. And I am not the in mood to talk about it.

I'd rather talk about the stuff I've been unpacking in my house. There were a bunch of boxes delivered to my address, stuff in need of handling that my folks were no longer able to deal with...the ephemera of 71 years of married life. Letters from my grandmother to my mother, postcards from friend Norman when he had to move his own family to Norway for a couple of years, some rather dishy pictures of my mom and her friends. And slides. About a zillion slides. Instead of sleeping the other night, I got the stack loader working on our ol' Kodak Carousel, and laughed myself into a stupor. There was some great stuff in there, pictures I don't recall ever seeing before. 

Like this one. I'm the Brownie in the middle of the first row, but there are three other Brownies in that picture who saw this on Face Book. One of the four aforementioned Brownies was excited because she had no pictures of herself as a Brownie. How exciting is that??? Maybe not to you, but to three former Brownies who reconnected a while back on FaceBook, this is great stuff.

I also posted a few family pictures, made by taking a photograph of the slide projected on the wall. Yes, people, I know I can do this with a scanner thingee, but I don't have one yet and I was too excited to just say, "later." And in that moment, I realized there are lots of pictures that need to be shared, and being able to share them digitally means all the cousins can get copies that won't end up being tossed for lack of labels. It's incredibly easy for everyone to get a copy of Uncle Marc sleeping with a cigar in his mouth. That is so Uncle Marc. 

And while every family has its collection of stuff, everyone has heard that sigh, the one that comes with the lament, "Gee, I wish I had a copy of that picture." Well, now, all my cousins will be able to pick and choose the ones they want. In addition to the slides...and there are hundreds of those....there are two rather large shipping cartons full of unsorted loose photographs just waiting to be scanned and labeled. 

Scott's # RW-27
But wait...there's more. The stamp collection. Yes, I come from a family of philatelists. I dabbled in the art when I was a kid, but Dad took it seriously for a long time. Beginning in the 30s, people started saving their cancelled stamps for him, especially the ones on envelopes that came bearing news from the Old Country. As Dad got older, he stopped collecting individual stamps in favor of plate blocks. I have hundreds of little glassine envelopes in file card boxes, most labeled with their Scott number in my Dad's precise writing. Most. Not all. I do have my work cut out for me there, but at least I know how to find the Scott numbers. As for the cancelled stamps...I've been told to go through them looking for certain things, then see if there's a local philately club that would like to have them for kids to practice with. I am fully aware that stamp collecting is passé, but some of the stamps are incredible. 

All of this makes me wonder about what is important in our lives. Sure, the simple answer is family, maybe security, but isn't there a place for history? Genealogy is such a popular topic these days, and there is much to be said for delving into our familial past, but I have stuff. Is this stuff worth preserving? Will anyone else care? Well, maybe not anyone outside our little circle, but yeah, it's worth having it in some sort of easily transferable media that can go forward.

The legacies we leave our kids are not always asset driven and tangible. There has to be a moral and ethical legacy we give them. We have to be stewards of the land, protecting the real estate of all of planet earth to make sure they have a place to live that will sustain life. And we have to leave them with the sense that they didn't spring fully formed from our heads. That every family has a unique experience, and all families have stories to tell...good, bad, and indifferent. When we tell the stories, from generation to generation, lessons are taught and learned, and there is that kind of continuity that begets stability. Stories are great....but we remember best with illustrations. And I am illustrating as fast as I can.

Bringing the folks here is turning out to be a greater adventure than I anticipated, and I am ready for the ride. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Never let chemo get in the way of living. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Circus Train Has Arrived

...and the GOP stretch clown car has left the station. There are too many lunatics to fit into a regular clown car and beside, when you take up that much of the national GNP, why not treat yourself and your friends to an even more ridiculous clown car. You can afford it.

As for the clowns themselves, there's no end to the endless array of brainlessness on parade. So much wacko wording that one suspects they've signed up for Idiocy 101: How to Sound Egregiously Stupid on Camera. This is a true art form, and I am afraid, Gentle Readers, they have just begun to pontificate. 

This week's episode of HTSESOC was dedicated to the idea that Iraq is still open for discussion. The clown car comrades are being confronted on the topic of whether or not we should've gone into Iraq. Li'l Bro Jeb flubbed the entire topic and came off looking pretty braindead, but the Outstanding Moron o'the Week prize must go to Marco Rubio, who demonstrated that he really did not understand English. As much as I detest Faux News, this clip (posted by Media Matters) sorta sums it all up.

Paul Krugman's column in the New York Time's Monday morning, Errors and Lies opened thusly:
Surprise! It turns out that there’s something to be said for having the brother of a failed president make his own run for the White House. Thanks to Jeb Bush, we may finally have the frank discussion of the Iraq invasion we should have had a decade ago.
I have to disagree with this statement right off the bat. There will never be a frank discussion about the Iraq invasion, and what's more important, the time for such a conversation passed up long ago. Asking the clowns if they would, knowing what they know now, go into Iraq is stupid and a grand waste of precious oxygen. And while I thought Dr. K made some good points along the way, he was still wrong.

The question every single journalist should be asking the clown brigade is about Iran. Specifically: 
If Iran walks away from the negotiating table, what happens next?
Now, this is a very open ended question. This gives each one the opportunity to share his/her thoughts, however cogent or feeble they may be, with the We, the People, giving us an inkling about how that presidency might handle foreign policy. A very specific avenue of foreign policy. A sticky area of foreign policy. Yet, it's like the tell-tale heart; it beats in the shell of your ear until you cannot possibly escape the sound. 

So here's what I'm thinking: ask the question. It's not simply a foreign policy question, it's just as much an economic question. Trillion$ and trillion$ of dollar$ were wasted on what? ISIS taking Ramadi after all? What a crock of malarkey. 

As we approach Memorial Day, the greatest disservice you can do for the men and women who have served our country these last 15 years is to support someone who places no value whatsoever on their lives, their well being, the welfare of their families, and the condition of the nation who sent them to war in the first place. 

Start asking about Iran and what happens next. The WP predicts that will be the best indicator as to what kind of government your elected officials are going to provide.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
It's not really about Iran at all. It's about spending our capital...
and not just our tax dollar$, either.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Neither A Liar Nor A Spinner Be

First day as real Minnesotans
The last week certainly has been an exciting one over at Chez WP. The folks arrived from Flah-rida in fine shape....sorta. My dad landed in the hospital briefly, and is now checking out the rehab side of the residence for a bit. He's doing well and should be right as rain soon enough. On the up side, I did get to spend Mother's Day with my mom, probably the first one in a number of decades. 

Lest I wander off into kitsch-land, I want you to all humor me for a moment or two, and try to follow this line of thinking. 

Charges have been filed against 6 of the police officers involved in the arrest and ultimate death of Freddie Gray. Those charges include murder and manslaughter. Cops were charged. So there are lots of headlines about cops doing their job and an equal number about cops being racist. But before you get all huffy, take a look at the 6 cops:

They're not all white guys. They're not even all guys. Three are white. Three are black. One is a woman. Which one of those 6 should have spoken up for Freddie Gray? Which one of those 6 thought, even for a moment, that what they were doing to this guy, criminal or not, was wrong? Which one of those 6 wondered if, when Freddie Gray died, he/she had just summarily executed a person without the benefit of charges, judge, or jury? And which one of the 6 realized he/she had trampled the Constitution of the United States?

At the same time, which looters knew the racial and gender breakdown of the cops involved? Which one thought "We have seen the enemy and it is us?" And which one believed burning, looting, and rioting were going to actually accomplish something other than spreading more hate and maybe getting some free stuff?

There was a disconnect for me because the racial part flew in the face of reality. So I go back to the idea that the perception is that white cops are killing blacks indiscriminately. Or so the rioters would have us believe. But that wasn't true here. It wasn't white cops versus black guy Freddie Gray. It's cops versus Freddie Gray. Did he have a switchblade? Did he have a rap sheet? Does it really matter now? 


It's really all about spin. The first spin cycle, the one when the news gets out, sets the tone. If the headlines are screamingly outrageous, the response will be. Doesn't matter if there is any truth on the table. Truth is disposable, a waste product.

And it's not just about cops. It's about everyone with any sort of social power.

You gotta love how Rush Limbaugh spins this stuff. Michelle Obama gave a speech at the opening of the new Whitney Museum in the city. I thought it was a terrific speech and it was rather pointed about the iconic and formidable nature of cultural institutions found in most cities. 

Rush Limbaugh translated the First Lady's words into racist hate speech, 
 “Museums and concert halls just don’t welcome nonwhite visitors — especially children — the way they welcome white people.”
and no sooner had he uttered those words than Mrs. Obama was labelled all manner of vicious, racist sobriquets. 

What the lady actually said was,
“You see, there are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers and they think to themselves, well, that’s not a place for me, for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood. In fact, I guarantee you that right now, there are kids living less than a mile from here who would never in a million years dream that they would be welcome in this museum.
“And growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I was one of those kids myself. So I know that feeling of not belonging in a place like this. And today, as first lady, I know how that feeling limits the horizons of far too many of our young people.”
ANYONE who has ever worked in the arts knows exactly what she is talking about, just as millions of kids and grown ups who have lived in those cities know the same thing. It's about affluence v. poverty, not color. This is so not new, but talking about it out in the open is. She is totally spot on and gee, we should be glad she wants to talk about this part of the class divide.

Not to be left off the hook, here's a good example from a hard left wing website called PoliticusUSA: 57% Of Republicans Say Dismantle Constitution And Make Christianity National Religion.

Well, that's not exactly what the poll question asked. Here's a snip from the poll in question. What the poll asked was whether or not the respondent would want an established national religion. The question did not ask whether or not the respondent would like the Constitution dismantled in order to do that. So instead of reporting what the poll found, they put up a sensational headline that is likely to start a flame war in the comments section. Is this like a secret hate-shake? Or just bad journalistic practice/

This does not stop with the media. The candidates participate in the hate mongering as well.

We, the People do hear between the pauses when Jeb Bush tells the graduating class at Liberty University, "Federal authorities are demanding obedience, in complete disregard of religious conscience — and in a free society, the answer is no.”  Excuse me? What if you don't believe African-Americans shouldn't marry Caucasian-Americans? Do you get to deny them wedding cakes? Where is the line between civil rights and civil wrongs...and who gets to decide? 

Whatever your political proclivity, for G-d's sake, tell your local whatever to knock it off and get back to telling the truth. Neither a liar not a spinner be. Stand up to your elected officials and demand they stop spreading hate speech. From both sides. 
Tell them it's just not acceptable. 

I mean, would you let the kids do this at the dinner table? 

I didn't think so. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Flowers, crafted bourbon, and a potted mint plant for juleps.
Having kids that appreciate moms and the Triple Crown?

Monday, May 4, 2015

The View From Charm City......Up Close and Personal

I am honored to have Luke P. as my very first ever guest blogger. His is a voice I have respected for some time. Thank you, Luke, for contributing to the blog. Much appreciated!

The Wifely Person graciously offered me the opportunity to provide my input on the week’s happenings. I’m not a journalist but I try to observe the world around me. Before doing so, I must say that while I am member of the United States military and an attorney, this post does not reflect the views, positions, or opinions of the United States government in any way, shape, or form.

Luke P.

Charm City
Charm City
For the past week, the Nation has watched emotion fill the streets of Baltimore – sadness, rage, frustration, relief, pride, and disbelief. For many, the non-stop camera footage is a rare view into the urban wasteland that is commonly ignored. Baltimore tourism brochures show the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Fort McHenry, and Ace of Cakes. They don’t show the 16,000 boarded up row houses, the blue lights that shine over crime-ridden intersections, or the stats showing some neighborhoods with life expectancy 20 years lower than others.
Since the 15th century, Lady Justice has often been depicted wearing a blindfold. Justice is blind – that is at least the aspiration. For our legal system to work, we must believe that justice is in fact blind; that it doesn’t see race, class, or affiliation. Unfortunately, decades of experience has taught some Baltimore residents that justice is not blind. The violence on display last Monday has been written off by some as the result of thugs looking for an opportunity to commit crime. Another explanation is that young people who have already given up hope viewed the death of Freddie Gray as the last straw and they had to act out in response
Looting and rioting are destructive. Decades of frustration, anger, oppression, and marginalizing culminated in rage.  Thankfully, true leaders emerged and focused the rage constructively. The church advisors, organizers, and political leaders have done everything they could think of to keep the city safe – and the people have followed. After a day of violence, the heart of Baltimore took the city back and found better – and more constructive – ways to express their feelings: protesting and speaking out while staying within the law.
For the people in those neighborhoods, it is the majority of America, not justice, which is blind. It took riots for much of America to recognize the urban poor and their plight. Over the weekend, protesters marched through Baltimore demanding change. Heavy media coverage broadcast those protests, just like it showed everything else that occurred for the past week. Those protests were peaceful and positive. They were hopeful but urgent. However, it remains to be seen if they will cause long-term change.
The result may depend in some part on whether America moves on to the next scandal, focuses on the new Princess, or actually stays engaged with the less sensational side of this human struggle. Remember, media attention is about numbers; real attention is about caring. Talking heads are not the same as journalists. Some people have thinly veiled agendas and look for ways to build their followings. Others are true reporters who seek the real details and keep digging until they find them. We’ve seen excellent examples of both over the past week. Will the media stay engaged?
My guess is the Baltimore Sun and other local print outlets will follow the stories; that’s what newspapers have done for centuries. Fox News, MSNBC, CNN…they’ll all be on to the next plane crash, political debacle, or natural disaster by mid-May. So, how do We the People get our facts? Where do we find the truth?  
We can’t just accept the first thing we hear/read. As we’ve seen over the past week, leaks, rumors, and assumptions are hurtful. Truth and facts are helpful. We can’t trust anything leaked in this case (or any other). The bias and deceit shown by the leak to the Washington Post regarding what the other prisoner in the van heard was despicable. A partial statement that offered a very different story than what ultimately emerged. Thankfully, leaders kept the city calm and true journalists found the real facts – that other prisoner.
Ray Lewis
Philadelphia Police Captain (Ret)
Charges have been filed and now the legal process starts to work its course. Justice will not be quick. It will take time. News vans will leave the Inner Harbor. The National Guard will go back to their day jobs. Most of us will sigh and go back to our lives, proud of the week we supported the oppressed…but we haven’t done a thing.
I live on a tree-lined street, in an eighty year old house near friends who have lived here for decades. My son runs through the yards and the most political issue the neighborhood is currently wrestling with is how we can get speed tables installed to slow the cut-through traffic. Oh yeah, we also live five miles from the intersection where the main riots took place last Monday. Our street is undisturbed by the goings on and, but for the constant reference to Baltimore, the news reports could be about anywhere. That’s the thing: we can watch, listen, be sympathetic, believe, and want change, but unless you have lived in an area like West Baltimore or been harassed (or even abused) by a police officer, I don’t know that you can truly understand the degree of the problem.
Recognition is different than understanding though, and recognition is the first step: we need to recognize that our view isn’t complete and that the truth isn’t always easy to accept. We’re all a part of this world and if we want justice to truly be blind and the American dream to truly exist, we need to expand our perspective and stand with everyone in demanding a fair shot.
Luke's Tip o'the Week: 
Look at inactions as much as actions; both make the world move.