Monday, December 28, 2020

What We Lost In The Apocalypse

Another year, another episode, and I'm sitting here wondering about what to write. I am so tired of the moaning, groaning, carping, kvetching, and whining, not to mention anger, frustration, and desperation. I really want to end 2020 on a positive note, with a beam of light into the future, and a hope that springs eternal. And with any luck whatsoever, the apocalypse is almost over. 

This has, indubitably, been an adventure year for me. I knew a year ago I was going to retire sometime in 2020. I was not sure when, exactly, but it would most likely have been around the time of the Jewish High Holy Days in the fall.  I was due a sabbatical at work, and planned to take that in August, and then wind down and out of the office. Didn't quite work out that way, but I pulled the ripcord on March 20th,  for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the suspicion that the odds of one of my teammates not being furloughed increase dramatically with my departure. She wasn't, and I was greatly relieved by the news. That was a good thing in 2020.

Since most writers are closet hermits anyway, a month of quarantine was delightful. I finished THE POMEGRANATE enough to send it to the editor, and I got back to work on two other projects, happily so. This was another good thing in 2020.

After that, I got to be the nanny for a bunch of weeks. I got to know my grandkids in ways I never thought possible. And they got to know me on a daily basis. Sure, some of it was amazingly hard work, but I am so thankful, grateful, thrilled, and totally enchanted to have done the straight stretch. Now, when I nanny on Fridays, it's hoot and a half! Those hours are so precious to me. That said, do not think for one New York Minute that I am NOT aware of how fortunate I am to have the kiddos nearby, and kids that let me do this! It is worth all the precautions and the isolations and the "gee thanks, but I can't" answers I have had to give since March all for the sake of being with those two nudnicks. This wasn't just good; this was fantastic.

My "sabbatical" trip home to the East Coast in August was, obviously, cancelled. So was any thought about popping over the Herzliya for Sukkot. Or meeting in Barcelona. Whatever. Plans change and we all roll with it. 

I took the clan away to a cabin for a long weekend in October when it snowed, and that was the fall highlight after zoom High Holy Days. It took a lot of planning, isolations, and figuring out how to do this, but it was worth it after almost 8 months of kiddos not seeing Uncle and Aunty Senior Son. It was a good time, and might not have happened under normal circumstances because we would've been together periodically over those months. And we want to do this again next year. 

On December 15th, I got the cancer-clear confirmation and I stopped the pills from hell. Yeah, they are important but they really screw with my innards. I know I am BRCA-negative. I know the odds of it coming back are slim. This was a very good thing.

I got my left retina repaired last week and it was a big nothing. Seriously. The doctor basically spot-welded it with a laser and I was just fine. Cataracts will finally be removed in February and the rest of the eyeball issues should be resolved. All good things. 

[Note: I did, however, notice, I am going to the doctor more, something I totally detest and avoid whenever possible. Considering how much time my parents and FIL spent going to the doctor, I think old people are a fucking gold-mine for the medical industry. We old folks are veritable bucko-generators. No wonder our per capita spending on health care is raging outta control! We're a profit margin.]

But with all those positives, why do I have nervous knots?

I am unsettled. While there are so many things to be thankful for amidst this horrible, terrible, no-good, never ending year, yet there is also plenty to worry about. Millions of people are on the financial precipice while the current government plays roulette with their lives. Millions of people are sick, and thousands are dying, yet a significant portion of the population thinks this is a hoax. That same percentage continues to believe the election was a fraud...and there are still people trying to overturn the results. Conspiracy theories abound. Groups parade in the streets with t-shirts emblazoned with 6MWE....the acronym for Six Million Wasn't Enough.  Google it. You can even buy yourself a t-shirt or hoodie on any number of sites. Hatred remains alive, well, and, in some quarters, thriving.

I am worried. January 20th, 2021 cannot come soon enough, but I deeply fear what will happen that day and in the days after. I worry that our delicate democracy has been irrevocably damaged by the utter insanity in the Oval Office ....and by the millions of people who support him. I worry that mass hysteria will roll over the move toward calm and healing. I worry that so many people are disenfranchised at this point that it won't make a difference. And I worry that the real apocalypse may just be starting. G-d, I hope not. 

A lot of us are simply overwhelmed, and at a loss for what to do. 

There are no ready answers nor easy solutions. No resolution can be made on New Year's Eve to fix what ails us. No words will ever convey the comforting we need as a nation divided, nor the depths of our collective sorrow at the shambles of our nation. From whatever side you are on, the view is desolate.

Derek Montgomery/MPR
A year after the Pagami Creek Fire- Sept 2012
But even in all those dystopian movies, there is always a sprout, a shoot, a thin sprig of green in the foreground. Whether it's after a flood or a fire, the earth comes back...and so can we. One sprig at a time. The process is not fast, it's not always visible, but healing happens a bit at a time. We need to learn to nurture the growth, to accept it won't always be perfect, and it will certainly not be on our personal timetable. We, the People, must be patient enough to stay the course and allow it happen. 

Of course, this does not absolve us from action; we must be proactive, do what we can, and step up to the task. Listen to opposing viewpoints, work hard to find any common ground, and break down the bubble you're in. If we can't all do that, we will never get past this year. 

To do otherwise is admit defeat. I don't know about you, but I'm not gonna do that. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

Promise to listen more, judge less, and hug every chance you get....
once we're allowed to hug again. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

It's Not Just What We Say...

Prepping today's episode, I checked how many times I've used either "evolution in action," or "you can't fix stupid." I have used both phases at least 4 times in the last year. Which makes me worried about repeating myself.

But it also indicates that these are ongoing themes for 2020, and in wrapping up the year, both are applicable to our current condition. And if the truthiness be told, we have blasted past evolution in action, and we are rapidly overtaking you can't fix stupid.

Words matter. What we say and how we say it are important. These days, word choices label you whether or not you want to be labeled, much the way clothing does. It telegraphs what's behind the facade. Instant communication is not necessarily your friend, and if you recall listening to Cronkite, Huntley, or Brinkley, you probably recall they used big, grown-up words. We learned lots of vocabulary from them, and more than that, to some extent, we learned how to transmit big ideas. In school, we also learned about debate. Some of us belonged to debate clubs, some only debated in social studies classes. Whatever the venue, we learned about how words matter.

That, however, is changing. Twitter by itself has altered the face of conversation. Our language these days is much more casual, dotted with jargon, acronyms, and regionalisms. We no longer support a standard for American English. And that bleeds into the formal discourse of news on television.

For example, on December 19, 2020, at time mark 11:52, NBC reporter Kelly O'Donnell was in front of the White House to talk about Russia versus China in the hacking blame game:
A new twist inside Trump World. Russian hacking drives an unexpected wedge between President Trump and his Secretary of State...

I damn near fell off my kitchen stool. The rest of her report was rather unremarkable, nothing earth shaking...except for the opening salvo. And that's what got me thinking about the shift in how people are talking about this administration. The gloves are off. 

Even Billy Barr is leaping off the circus train. Today, he said there are no grounds for appointing special counsel to investigate either election fraud or Hunter Biden,  that the processes in place are just fine. Now, this doesn't mean he doesn't think there is fraud on either side of that conversation, just that he's not about to waste even more taxpayer $$s on narishkeit. His actions, however, are  far from praiseworthy; they remind me of a rat deserting a sinking ship....all in cause of self-interest.

From the transcript of the press conference today, December 21st, 2020.

 Speaker 4: (25:20)

On topic here, what are the prospects that the defendant will be brought back to the US to face justice in a court room? Then if I can off topic, do you believe there should be a special counsel appointed to investigate the allegations against Hunter Biden?

Att.Gen. Barr: (25:37)

On your first question, we think that the prospects are very good. Mas’ud is in the custody of the current government of Libya. We have no reason to think that that government is interested in associating itself with this heinous act of terrorism. So we are optimistic that they will turn over to face justice. On the second question, I think to the extent that there’s an investigation, I think that it’s being handled responsibly and professionally, currently within the department. To this point, I have not seen a reason to appoint a special counsel and I have no plan to do so before I leave.Att.Gen. Barr: (30:33)

and then on to election fraud: 

Att. Gen Barr: (29:46) 

As you said, I’ve already commented on fraud. Let me just say that, there are fraud, unfortunately, in most elections, I think we’re too tolerant of it, and I’m sure there was fraud in this election, but I was commenting on-I’m sure there was fraud in this election, but I was commenting on the extent to which we had looked at suggestions or allegations of systemic or broad-based fraud that would affect the outcome of the election. And I already spoke to that, and I stand by that statement.

 Speaker 3: (30:18)

…Even with what you’ve already said… Do you believe there’s enough evidence to warrant a special counsel to investigate that perhaps Sidney Powell or someone else?

Att.Gen. Barr: (30:33)

Well, if I thought a special counsel at this stage was the right tool and it was appropriate, I would name one, but I haven’t and I’m not going to. 

This is interesting. He is not simply breaking with his overlord on these topics, he does it in an almost dismissive manner. In the press conference,  Barr is his usual no-drama self, even-toned, almost boring. But if you listen to him, there is a shade of the absurd in his voice. You know the sound, where the speaker clearly thinks you (et al) are too stupid to live? Add to that the trace, that soupçon of dismissiveness, as in "these aren't the droids you're looking for." The only thing missing was a tiny wave of the fingers.  But the tone is there, and you know Barr is playing that whole room.

Sometimes, I think all that training and years of directing actors paid off in the strangest ways. I watch this stuff on TV and I'm not just hearing words, I'm hearing intonation. I am seeing body language that screams all sorts of stuff, and I am certain I am not the only one of my theater people friends working really hard not to stand on a street corner screaming, 
And I can just hear the Junior Son clucking, "Thank you, Captain Obvious." In some small way, I am comforted by that snarky thought because I hope to hell he is right, and lots of people are getting the subliminal messages these folks think we're too dense to get.

Or not.

Last Friday, there was a discussion about overturning the election and imposing martial law. This discussion did not take place in some dimly lit bar smelling of urine, or beneath an overpass of the Jersey Pike, or even in the basement of Doc's candy store. Nope. This conversation took place in the Oval Office. 

According to CNN:
But a heated Oval Office meeting Friday in which Trump heard arguments about invoking martial law to stay in office had some Trump officials sounding the alarm to the press. 
Michael Flynn, Trump's pardoned former national security adviser, discussed the martial law plan on right-wing television network Newsmax last week and was invited to the White House Friday. 
Trump dismissed reports of the martial law discussion as 'fake news' in a tweet Sunday, but two people familiar with the matter told CNN that the the plan was argued in the Oval Office Friday -- although it remains unclear if Trump endorsed the idea.  
Nevertheless, even the mention of martial law may fan the flames of many supporters clinging to the belief the election result was fraudulent. That could incite violence to bring the idea into fruition.

I am not the only one using words like coup d'etat. I used it here in the WP Speaks on May 1, 2017, in an episode called The Decline...  I used it again on July 31st, 2017 in Fast, Faster, Fasting With a Side of Razzle-Dazzle, and then I held off. I got a lot of email about saying we were heading into coup country, so I backed off and watched. My instincts did not change, in fact they became more acute. I used it exactly a year ago this week: Happy Whatever to All. And then last week. 

There has only been one quasi-successful coup, albeit short lived, in this country, and that one began on December 20th, 1860, the day South Carolina seceded from the Union. Ultimately that coup d'etat failed, and the Union was re-established with the surrender at Appomattox on April 9th, 1865.

Approximately one half of this country isn't quite sure this election is valid. These are the people who, when the MAGA-Maniacs come forward, will decide whether or not we are going to have a unified nation. If they side with the angry mob, there will be a civil war, probably a very bloody one.  Do you need the military to have a coup? The short answer is no. At this writing, do we know where the military stands? No. Will they side with the Constitution or the President? No one is talking.

The real fun is gonna start on January 21st. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
until they tell your it's your turn to get a frickin' vaccine.
If you are still an anti-vaxxer after this, you need your head examined. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Officially Five Years Cancer Free

Tomorrow is kinda a big day for me, so I want to get this episode out early. 

Tomorrow afternoon I am going to see a retina specialist. Seems that something is amiss over in the left eye. This is not a surprise; this is the eye that had the big giant basal cell carcinoma back in December of 2000. It was a bit of a mess because I ignored that "thing" on my eyelid for way too long, and when the wonderful Dr. Quist went to remove it, it wasn't the little no-brainer surgery we expected, he ended up having to make a new bottom eyelid out of skin from behind my left ear. Don't ask. For New Year's Eve, Ziggy made me a wonderful eyepatch with gorgeous, sparkly, golden eyelashes. I was so glamorous. But right now, there may be a small tear in the retina, so instead of waiting for some cataclysmic event, I'm getting it handled now, so in January, my cataracts can be removed. Yeah, I'm old. What can I say?

Tomorrow night, however, is exceptionally exciting: I will take my very last (G-d willing) anastrozole tablet, and will become officially 5-years free of breast cancer. 

This is a very big deal. At my annual, routine mammogram in August of 2015 (thank you, Cousin Laurie for making me go to these,) the radiologist caught sight of what looked to be a teeny-tiny tumor, and that teeny-tiny tumor turned out to be stage one/grade one malignant hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. 

There were two back-to-back surgeries for me, the issue was handled, I came out looking better than I ever had in my life, and because I was confirmed to be BRCA-negative, I only needed radiation. The pills from hell started in December with letrozole. Ultimately, my wonderful oncologist, Dr. Michaela Tsai of Minnesota Oncology, took pity on my side-effects and switched me to anastrozole....which had its own equally horrendous set of side effects, but far more tolerable for me than the letrozole. 

See, Dr. Tsai is a BRCA gene carrier. She's been down the road and has a lot to say about it. And she chose to beautify her body rather than be ashamed of the scars. She was featured in the Chicago Tribune, TRANSFORMING SCARS INTO ART. Take a look. That's my oncologist. She had made this journey as easy as possible, and I am forever grateful.

For those of you who are curious, I did write about the cancer when it happened: 

I am very aware that I escaped easily. I did not need chemo, I did not lose my hair, but my nails have been awful for 5 years. Big deal. The hot flashes, the weight gain, the inability to tolerate greasy anything...these are narishkeit compared to what it might have been. But the reality remains that I am a breast cancer survivor and that breast cancer, even with my BRCA negative tests, can come back. I will always have oncology check-ups. I will always have annual mammograms. I will always worry when I do my monthly self-exam that I might miss a teeny, tiny tumor. That teeny, tiny fear will always be in the back of my mind. And if something shows up, I will have Michaela Tsai to see me through it. No complaints there.

And if all this is not enough, my Hanukkah present to myself arrived this morning from Paris, France. 

I saw a report that the pandemic was hitting Shakespeare and Company hard, and that wonderful bookstore was in dire straits. They asked people to order things from the store.
I had visited the store during my brief stop in Paris in 1969. I was enchanted. I met Anaïs Nin when I was in college, and told her that I had been to the shop. She smiled and said, "When you are a writer, you will go back to drink in the words and the air. You must."
The two books I wanted to order were out of stock, so I treated myself to a mug and a European shopping bag...the kind I need in Israel. I will order the books later.

I have a lot to be thankful for right now. And you can be equally thankful I am keeping this short. May all the celebrations at this darkest time of year bring a little light into our homes and hearts.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

Sometimes, the little things turn out to be the really big things.
That may or may not be okay,
just don't be afraid to ask for help.

Monday, December 7, 2020

I'm Not A Loser: Coup, Coup, Ca'joup

Over the course of time, several readers have objected to my using the word feckless in describing the theoretically most powerful man on the political planet.  I will address that concern now.

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary

Definition of FECKLESS

Originally, feckless usually preceded the word Leader but more recently it precedes the word Loser for obvious reasons. And frankly, it is the right word to describe the current occupant of the White House. I was so hoping to retire the word in November, but alas, I find it remains part of my daily vocabulary. 

But I may be wrong about Feckless Loser. Feckless Loser has done something no other POTUS has done before him: he has enabled the start of a coup d'etat. In the event that you know the term but are unsure of its exact meaning:
coup d'etat
plural coups d'état or coups d'etat\ ˌkü-​(ˌ)dā-​ˈtä  ˈkü-​(ˌ)dā-​ˌtä -​də-​ \ also coup d'états or coup d'etats

Definition of coup d'état

a sudden decisive exercise of force in politicsespecially the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group

Now, this is the thing about a coup d'etat: it is never sudden and it is not always violent. A coup doesn't just  happen. A successful coup is carefully planned with exactitude and precision. The groundwork is often laid well in advance by those who are planning to overthrow a government. There are coups and attempted coups (like the ones of Arab Spring) that were sudden and ultimately failed because once they had control of the government, the overthrowers didn't know what to do or how to run a government. That's not what's happening here.

With Feckless Loser at the helm of this sinking GOP ship, he continues to refuse to concede an election that he lost both in popular and electoral votes. His idiocracy minions are dispatched to throw dust into the eyes of We, the People. The recent performance of Giuliani and that caricature, Mellissa Carone, is not nearly as mystifying as some would like to think. It's intention. It's designed to distract. 

Mellissa Carone reminds me of someone. It took me a while and a few video clips to figure out who, but I did. The look is familiar enough, even with the difference in hair color. The updo and the glasses help. But it was the tenor of the voice. This is a star witness? Really? No one in their right mind would parade this woman in front of a panel of lawmakers as a star witness UNLESS there was some other reason. A distraction? A red herring? An attempt to make We, the People, believe this is some kind of ruse, because no one, after listening to Mellissa Carone, would believe she was doing anything but bad acting. Her claims to be a cyber-security analyst are pretty flimsy. You can check her Facebook or Linked In profiles. Either way, she's nothing more than a distraction, a misdirection.

And what are you being directed away from? Lots of things: dog whistles, pointed silences, and subtle-and-not-so-subtle calls to arms. Or maybe it was that the White House wanted to deflect attention away from their decline to purchase more than 50 million doses of COVID vaccine from Pfizer? 

Shortly after Gabriel Sterling's passionate speech calling for Feckless Loser to stop undermining American democracy, The Great Orange tweeted

70,000,000 people are poised to believe this. That means roughly half of the voting population of this country entertains serious thought that this election is invalid. Of that portion of the voting population, perhaps a quarter of them or roughly 35,000,000 believe it enough to join a movement to overturn this election. 

Add to the number this trivial factoid: just 27 out of 248 Republican legislators have conceded that Joe Biden won the presidential election.

Do you seriously think Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller are sitting around doing nothing? 

Hardly. Feckless Loser and his much smarter, much more savvy cabal are lining up their minions for the showdown. This is not a joke, and it's not out on a limb. Every tweet, every rally, every speech is a call to arms.

I am really tired of writing about this stuff, but you, readers, urge me to continue to blow the whistle, sound the horn, and keep calling the emperor naked. I am preaching to the choir. On the other hand, if people keep saying, "this is real, this is a possibility," then perhaps we will be better prepared to fight back. 

I do not know if a coup d'etat will eventually take place. All the signs are there. People who have lived through them in other countries are screaming that this is a warning and we cannot ignore it. We must prepare ourselves for the possibility of civil unrest if not a full blown civil war. 

Make no mistake: the lack of measures to stem the pandemic are NOT unrelated to this. And to that end, we can only hope and pray for evolution in action: the demise of the galactically stupid who refuse to mask up and practice safe socializing.

Meanwhile. continue to follow the rules. Don't think it can't happen to you, and don't think it can't happen here. BOTH can.  You've been apprised.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

Are fruit flies seeming to buzz before your eyes... then disappear?
 Are you turning on more lights than usual?
You may have cataracts.