Monday, August 31, 2020

The Medium Is The Message

Once upon a time, in an alternate universe, I owned this dress. This was in the time when Banana Republic was new, the clothes were of amazing quality, and this particular dress spoke to my inner National Geographic Anthro-journalist self. In other words, I loved this dress to distraction. Of course, Ziggy was always threatening to get me a pith helmet to complete the ensemble, but he never did. I wore that dress until my horridly sharp elbows wore through the fabric. I should've had someone put suede patches on it, but alas, I never did. 

Every time I put that dress on, a little part of me was ready for adventure. I wore it the day the St. Paul paper photographed and interviewed me about being a children's playwright. I wore it when I had to teach a masterclass for opera singers on singing and acting at the same time. I wore it when I taught play-building at a conference for gifted kids in Bemidji, Minnesota. Any time I put it on, I knew I was telegraphing an image that spoke of confidence and a sense of adventure. It couldn't be helped; it was that kinda dress.

Clothes send messages, even when they aren't MAGA hats. When you are in the public eye, everyone notices what you're wearing. Ask the late Princess of Wales. She was a master at this. And so in Melania. 

Remember this little number? She wasn't discreet, she wasn't telegraphing, she was up front about not giving a fuck, and all the back-peddling wasn't gonna change that initial message. She knew precisely what would happen when she put that coat on, and the media fell all over itself proving her right.

Melania is good at this subliminal stuff, and her sartorial choice for her RNC speech was positively chilling. Oh, that was some message she sent. Had she been channeling Eva Braun or even Eva Peron, it might've been pink or beige or even pale blue with a hat. But no, she was going for something far more authoritarian in effect. Frankly, she reminded me of Red Army officers from 1941. Can you possibly send a less subtle message than this?

Apparently, not. Melania told We, the People, in no uncertain terms that she is preparing for war. What war? We can only imagine. But the outfit was the epitome of hostile despite the words coming outta her mouth. Melania was a high fashion model and she ain't nearly as stupid as a lotta sheeple wanna believe. 

Messaging in the era of Feckless Leader is not an art form, it's a poison pill. The more lies he tells, the harder it is to swallow, and eventually people believe him. But here's the thing, he keeps saying "in Trump's America, there will be law and order." But this IS Trump's America and the violence is escalating. Of course, he takes no responsibility for the increase...he blames Democratic mayors and governors. He defends Kyle Rittenhouse, saying he was attacked so his actions were in self defense. CARRYING A GIANT GUN????? Really? More very fine people? Apparently so.

If you haven't figured out this is not a figment of my imagination, let me reassure you that all over the world, people who have survived regimes are screaming warnings at us. Take a moment to read this:

I will not tell you I agree with everything he says,  but Umair Haque is worth reading. 

When the fact-checkers on all sides conclude that every night of the RNC convention was a falsehood-fest, maybe it's time to think about whether this administration is capable of telling the truth. Remember, Feckless Leader is the one who thinks Puerto Rico is a country and Greenland is for sale. This is not reality-based governance. Nor is advocating the use of snake-oil for pandemic relief.  183,000 deaths and climbing is not exactly a number in which he should be taking pride. 

Anyone remember Marshall McLuhan?
"The medium is the message" is a phrase coined by the Canadian communication thinker Marshall McLuhan and introduced in his Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964. McLuhan proposes that a communication medium itself, not the messages it carries, should be the primary focus of study. He showed that artifacts as media affect any society by their characteristics, or content.
Yup. We are living in a twisted medium at the moment. Pity McLuhan isn't alive. He'd have a field day with this stuff.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Vet your posts
Check your spelling
Be kind

Monday, August 24, 2020


I had a much different blog episode in mind for tonight. I was planning to write something about the conventions and how they play to the audience as theater. I wanted to use some of my leftover professional expertise on the subject to talk about how audiences view performance, and why the vision of the director is so integral to the process. I wanted to explore the kinds of reactions to the DNC, and perhaps contrast it with the opening salvo of the RNC. 

But that isn't going to happen. 

Kenosha happened. 

Here, watch the video tape:

I have watched this multiple times. Every time, I want to vomit.

SEVEN shots. Count them. One, two three, four, five, six, seven. SEVEN.

You have just witnessed an attempted execution. 

Just like in the movies. Only, this one is for real. 

Have we become so inured to violence through the media that some cop thought it was okay to empty his clip into Jacob Blake? Are we getting used to "unarmed Black man shot by cop?" This is so hauntingly familiar... but it shouldn't be. 

It's still horrifying. At least for now. But how many more before we yawn, and say, "Oh, another one?"


There is nothing, NOTHING you can say that can justify what America and the rest of the world
just saw.

I am sick to my stomach watching this. If you're not, you have other issues to deal with besides justifying what happened to Jacob Blake. 


At least, at this writing, Mr. Blake is out of surgery and in stable condition.

How do we talk to our kiddos about this? What do we tell them about the dead ones,

Philando Castile
Breonna Taylor
Ahmaud Arbery
George Floyd

and all the others? What words do we use to convince the little ones of every color that the police are not be be feared? Or should we tell them that at all?

I don't know.

What I do know is that the last three years have been a dog-whistle for all kinds of hate. It has to stop. Now. 

We, the People, are the only ones who can stop the hate. And we cannot stop it by standing around patting ourselves on the back because we don't do that sort of thing. Stopping the hate requires action on our part. We have to vociferously say NO. We have to stand up and be counted in the polls. 

Do not let them take away your right to say NO.

Otherwise, We, the People, are the same as those good Germans who drew their living room curtains closed so they wouldn't see what was happening on the street. 

Think about that as you prepare to vote. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
צדק, צדק, תרדוף
Tzedek, tzedek tirdof
Justicejustice shall you pursue
(Deuteronomy 16:20) 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Thus, The Battle Begins

Today, August 18th, 2020, Fecklesss Leader said the following in a speech on the tarmac in Wisconsin:
"We are going to win four more years. And then after that we'll go for another four years, because they spied on my campaign. We should get a redo of four years."

Don't believe me? Hear him for yourself:
Yeah, he'll walk it back and say he was kidding. Don't believe that for a New York minute. He's not kidding.

Tonight begins the 2020 Democratic National Convention, and yes, I am watching. 

I think that Biden-Harris will actually win this election. I have less faith that Biden will be sworn in as POTUS  on January 20, 2021.

The successful fracturing of this nation is happening before our eyes. Racism and anti-Jewishism has increased exponentially. COVID deaths continue to spiral upwards with no end in sight, and Feckless Leader continues to dismiss science in favor of demon sex, alien DNA, and magic oleander oil cures developed by pillow-pushers. The absence of  science is just slightly ahead of the absence of civility from this White House; the void is but a harbinger of the dark abyss into which We, the  People, are being pushed by an administration that cares nothing for the good and welfare of this nation.  

The dismantling of USPS is, I'm guessing, the test run for dismantling Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid. If they can get rid of a Constitutionally guaranteed postal service, getting rid of the other two will be simple. Nothing is done in this administration without a long line of dominoes lined up behind it. If you really want an example, look to the regulations on methane that were rolled back today. Not a glamorous issue, it's a quietly deadly one. 

The choice, obviously, is ours to make. Think carefully about how you want the world to look in 25 years. 25 years is not a long time. But when you look out the window, what do you want to see?

Listen to the speeches. Listen to what the politicians are promising. But most of all, listen to the voices of your heart...and the hearts of small children in your town. 

What future are we providing for  them?

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the  Week

It may look like a campaign sign for Biden-Harris, but it has more important meanings. 
For the moment, I will go with B'ezrat Ha'Shem...with G-d's help. 

With any luck, after  November 3rd, it  will change to Baruch Ha'Shem...Thank G-d. 
I can think of no better way to mark my parents' 77th wedding anniversary, but
B"H, Dad is not here to witness what has happened to his beloved Republican Party.

Monday, August 10, 2020

If Ziggy were alive today...

If Ziggy were alive today, his head would be doing The Exorcist 360, and in unrelated news, this would be hanging somewhere in the den:

End of humorous interlude


Of all the disgusting and outrageous political smears, Feckless Leader won the contest for the 21st Century last week when he said,
Take away your guns, take away your Second Amendment. No religion, no anything...Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy.                        Feckless Leader, 8/6/2020
This is rock bottom. Oh, I'm sure he will say worse things in the weeks to come, but this is baseline evil. 

If you are reading this and still support the current occupant of the Oval Office, please stop reading now. You have nothing to gain by reading this blog. Ever.

I am ashamed that We, the People, still have not booted his sorry, fat ass outta the office. 

I am ashamed that We, the People, have permitted him to make us the global laughing stock.

I am ashamed that We, the People, still have citizens supporting this pussy-grabbing, sexual predator who denounces people on the basis of religion, something he cannot possibly understand since he appears not to practice one, bible-clutching closeup not withstanding.

I am ashamed that there are assholes running around this country without masks because the asshole-in-chief tells them this isn't a problem, they should listen to a doctor who tells him this is because of demon sex, and encourages people to take drugs that are proven to be ineffectual for the disease. But hey! He's the president! He knows stuff. 

Well, folks, there are 5,000,000 problems as of today.

Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images
But in Sturgis, South Dakota.... 

Nary a mask in sight. Yeah, you can't fix stupid, but how many of these fine people are going to carry the virus home to wherever home is, and give it to someone they love...who won't be able to fight it off? It's like that high school in Georgia....two days and there's a virus hot spot. How many people have to die before these clowns get it?

Alexander Fraser Tytler or Alexis de Tocqueville...pick one is quite positive who wrote this c. 1857...but whoever it was, he/she was spot on:
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage.

This is really getting to me. I am writing with anger and frustration, which is not particularly pleasant for me. I want to be writing about how We, the People are rising above this period of incivility and pandemic. I want to write about how, after George Floyd's murder, especially with the full body-cam footage released today, we are coming to grips with racism at the heart of who we are. I dare you to watch it and not be sickened to the pit of your stomach. 

We may have an election in November, but this nightmare, if Biden wins, is not over in November. The earliest it can start being over is January 20, 2021. 

And then, how long is it going to take to undo the damage this jackass has done not just to this country, but to this planet?

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Jhansi Ki Rani is definitely my ongoing addiction. 
It's on Netflix. Watch it if you dare!

Monday, August 3, 2020

Why I Write

I opened last week's episode with a quote from Mila 18. I got a number of emails about it, about Leon Uris, and even about Holocaust books in general. Since my old, beat-up paperback disintegrated (literally) in the last move, I downloaded a copy into my Kindle reader. I read almost all of Shabbat afternoon, most of Sunday morning, and finished it this morning.  

By the time I finished, I could barely breathe. I was in the bunker with them all. I was crawling in the sewer pipe. I wept because I knew Deborah Bronski would die and her brother, the great Ulany warrior, Andrei Androfski, would never come out of the ghetto alive. I wept because Alexander Brandel, Wolf's father, would never know if his journals made it out of the ghetto with Chris DiMonte.  I desperately wanted to know what happened to those characters who did survive....Wolf Brandel, Rachel and her brother Stephan Bronski, Gabriela Rak....but there are no sequels and that is left to our imaginations. 

I know these are not real people; they are the figments of Uris's imagination, but that doesn't stop me from mourning their loss, along with the losses of the real men, women, and children of the Warsaw Ghetto. I wonder if I would have had the strength to send my boys through the sewers, or hide them in bunkers, or starve myself to feed them as so many parents did. 

Mordechai Anielewiscz
The story of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto is history. It happened. It lasted from April 19th, 1943 until the last skirmish on June 5th, 1943. Longer than anyone in the ghetto thought they could last. The excruciating description of the revolt as told by Leon Uris is perilously close to reality. 

I know Andrei Androfski is modeled on Mordechai Anielewicz, and I knew that, even when I was 17 years old and standing in front of his statue at the kibbutz named for him, Yad Mordechai. Knowing that he was just 7 years older than me, just 24 years old when he died, terrified me. Would I have been brave enough to be one of his fighters? Or would I have marched silently into the gas chambers with so many others?

I also know that Alexander Brandel was loosely based on Emanuel Ringelblum who kept the Oyneg Shabbos archive.
The fate of Ringelblum's archives is only partially known. In September 1946, ten clay-covered tin boxes were found in the ruins of Warsaw. Although they were damaged by water, the contents of the boxes were able to be salvaged by conservators. In December 1950, two additional milk cans were found in a cellar of a ruined house at 68 Nowolipki Street. The second archive was not only found in much better condition than the first, but also contained a larger variety of artifacts. Among them were copies of several underground newspapers, a narrative of deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto, and public notices by the Judenrat (the council of Jewish leaders), but also documents of ordinary life, concert invitations, milk coupons, and chocolate wrappers. The archival treasure provides insight on the daily lives, struggles, and sufferings of Polish Jews living in a pivotal area during the Holocaust.

Despite repeated searches, the rest of the archive, including the third milk can, has yet to be found. It is rumoured to be located beneath what is now the Chinese Embassy in Warsaw.                                                from Wikipedia

These were real people who died fighting not because they thought they could win, but to restore honor to all Jews..the ones the world saw as sheep led to Nazi slaughter. Anielewicz and his girlfriend, Mira Fuchrer, were caught in the bunker at Mila 18 on May 8, 1943, along with about 120 other resistance fighters. Surrounded with no way to get out, they committed suicide rather than be taken alive and risk exposing others. 

There are no comparisons in this country at this time that bear any resemblance to what the Jews and other minorities experienced in the Holocaust. NONE. Not even migrants in detention centers. Not even Portland.

However....and gee, isn't there always a however?

Uris's book came out in 1961. I think a lot of people, non-Jews in particular, were just beginning to grasp the enormity of what had happened in Europe. A novel does that job rather well; it brings the tragedy into some kind of popular culture focus. For some people, that's a prelude to figuring out reality. 

I think that function of popular culture is highly underrated; social media has kinda proved that point. People believe what they read, even if it's as moronic as instructing them to "hold your finger down anywhere in this post and 'copy' will pop up. Click 'copy' " to see more stuff on FaceBook. "But I saw it on the internet" may be a punchline, but too many people are getting all their news from memes instead of established non-biased news sources and journalists. There are reliable and respectable sources. You can find them. 

I'm not a journalist. I don't even play one on TV. I don't write news reports, I write opinion. Everyone gets to have one of those. I actively work to support my opinions with links to factual and accurate sources. If a reader counters my source, I check it out and make any and ALL necessary corrections with citation. 

People like me who write blogs and commentary on current events are creating the archive of our modern history. We don't have to all agree, or write the same things, but our voices are preserved in cyberspace whether we want them to be or not. I can still google Ziggy's Joke o'the Day and get results..including his obit. (Go figure.) But his words hang on.

We who are writing and posting about what we see, what we hear, what we feel, are doing important work. We are documenting the changes and shifts taking place on a scale that has never been available before. We are able to read about life on the ground in every corner of this planet. And to be sure, there are places that must have greater exposure than that which they are getting. Whether it's Chevron's refusal to aid Ecuador's environment or the Rohingya genocide , it's the citizen army of reporters and observers that gets the word out. 

Would the Germans have been able to do what they did if there was social media in 1939? I don't know.
When I watch cell-phone video tapes of the Philando Castile and George Floyd murders, I know an entire world is watching in revulsion. When I see news tapes of the demonstrations in Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, and Portland, I recognize the difference between peaceful protest and violence...and I see (as did the rest of the world) the agitators and provocateurs who worked to create violence. Those video tapes provided conclusive proof the "Umbrella Man" was identifiable. Turned out he was a member of the Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood. Not exactly the folks Feckless Leader was blaming for violence, is it?

That battle cry is growing, and maybe all those cell-phone cameras and street memorials will finally begin the overdue process of confronting what is wrong with our nation. And that's where We, the Writers, come in. 

As current event bloggers and commenters, we have a sacred duty to We, the People, of the United States to shine spotlights on what we believe important. Not everyone will have the same view, the same opinion, but even that's important. We put our words up on websites in hopes someone will read them and think, "Gee, I need to know more about that."

Truth is relative to point of view. Yes, there are things that are theorems, not 2+2=4, and people need to breathe oxygen to live. But political opinions and positions are not universal no matter what we want to think. And debate is ultimately healthy. We live in a republic with a government that is elected. Differences are important. We elect, we live with the results of an election, and we elect someone else if we are unhappy. But not everyone is going to agree with everyone else, and that's really okay. 

At this moment, at this crossroads of American civilization, we are facing hard choices about who we are as a people, a culture, and a community. Do we believe everyone is entitled to health care, or is it just for people who work? Are we willing to welcome "natural causes" and "infant mortality" back into our conversation when health care is no longer available to regular people? Do we permit eviction and foreclosure in the middle of a pandemic, and allow our parks to become tent villages to accommodate those who no longer have homes? These really are either/or questions. What are We, the People, prepared to accept as our new reality?

These are the things I wonder about. If people are evicted, where do they go? If health care isn't available, people will die in their homes....if they have them.  Or will it be more like this when the Border Patrol Agents step over the bodies?
Collaborator Forces peer into a doorway past the bodies of Jews killed during the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising at Zamenhofa 42 / Kupiecka 18

Federal officers open fire on demonstrators with 'less-lethal' weapons.
July 16, 2020, Portland Federal Courthouse

John Rudoff—Sipa USA

Are we prepared for more of these pictures?

Silence is complicit. Silence permits atrocities. Silence is unacceptable.

We should have learned this lesson 81 years ago. I'm not so sure we have. 

I will continue to write what I see because I don't want a replay of 1939. I don't want to ever write about another kind of holocaust. I don't want that comparison.....EVER. 

No matter your political persuasion, you shouldn't want one, either. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Day
Do your brain a favor. 
Read MILA 18.
If you read it a long time ago, re-read it. 
Then, let me know how the breathing went.