Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pride Weekend: Storming the Barricades

Anger Management
Vive la Liberté! Miss O's Happy Place Collection

What a week in Democracy! The yin, the yang! (We're kind of a Little China, aren't we?) Oh! The dizzying highs, terrible lows, and creamy middles, as Homer J. Simpson might say: Down with women! NO! Up with women! Down with blacks, other minorities, and the poor! Immigrants, maybe you can stay! Or not! Up with gays! And by "up,"I don't mean erect! Get federally married! But not in Alabama! The head swims!

So, how to FEEL, exactly? Fortunately, there are no absolutes when it comes to anything, especially feeling, but simmering underneath the celebrations and disappointments, nestled in Miss O’s love-brimming heart, is an anger that remains ever-present, ever nursed. One might call Miss O’ a grudge-holder. I prefer to think of this habit of anger-keeping as smart defense. Yet the question remains: Is it ever useful to hold onto anger?

I would say, "Fuck YES. It is."

Many years ago, when Miss O’ was in her late twenties, she was in the exquisite care of a LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) whom I’ll call Selma Moritz.  (I checked past blogs to see if I’d written the piece, “How I Found My Therapist,” but apparently I haven’t written about this.) Selma gave me my life back after what can only be called a breakdown. (Pardon your narrator if she does not divulge the cause(s) of the breakdown, won’t you? I know you will.)

When I first entered the office of Selma, sight unseen (she was given to me by referral from friends), I only knew she had shared her practice with a partner, in another office in the same suite. I looked at the two doors, wondering nervously which office I'd be stepping into, when one of the two doors opened, and a client (the term they use now, rather than patient) emerged, followed by a woman dressed in an ensemble straight out of a Talbot’s catalog: This being 1992, she had held to a preppy look: medium-length skirt, hose, and heels, topped by a cashmere crewneck sweater over an Oxford pinpoint blouse and silk neckerchief, all in soft, neutral colors. Her hair was short, ash blonde, perfectly coiffed. I froze, and then in a panic, I began to get up to leave, because there was no way in HELL I could tell my problems to anyone this gorgeously put together. The woman, mistaking my rising for greeting, put out her hand. “Hi, I’m Jan Kent,” she said. I took her hand and sat back down, explaining I was here to see Selma Mortiz. And then the other door opened, and a client exited. And through this door emerged the woman who would be my therapist.

At the office doorway that afternoon stood a short woman whose head sprouted a mass of dark roots pushing out bleached tresses in the style of late Einstein. Her face had no makeup. Her small form was sheathed by an ill-fitting colorless blouse tucked, sort of, into a plaid mini skirt, her bare legs partially covered in white go-go boots. She was so beautiful, I almost wept. “Hi, I’m Selma Moritz," she said, raising her bushy eyebrows into a smile that her mouth was more cautious about. "Are you Lisa?” I knew I could tell her anything.

And thus began the four years of weekly visits (with summers off for Miss O' to attend graduate school), including an overlap of one year of group therapy in addition, and Selma Moritz helped Miss O’ see through the fog, emerge from depression and anxiety, discover the origins of her survival difficulties, and compensate for her myriad blindspots—all through conscious behavioral modification, most of which have worked to this day (occasional depressive episodes notwithstanding), and KUDOS.

But there was one point of disagreement, a point which emerged in group therapy, when a man I’ll call Ken (one of a dozen others in the group) declined to “let go” of his “anger.” In every other way, on any other issue, Ken and I had not one overlap: He was rich, corporate, right wing, anti-public education; I was middle class, in public service, a lefty, and a public school teacher. (When he denigrated public schools in one session, I felt compelled to point out that I went to VA public schools when little old ladies born on farms in 1910 were some of my teachers, and I went on to study at Oxford as part of my master’s. He dismissed me as an exception, so I began to mention my many friends who had attended Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Johns Hopkins, and other fine schools, but he wasn’t interested in being, you know, wrong.)

So back at Group: Selma, who shared the facilitating with Jan, as well as Ken’s therapist, Ed, was perplexed by Ken's statement, but I realized I could relate. “If I have my anger,” I explained, “and someone is hurting people I love, I can defend them to the death.” Ken agreed that anger was a potential protection, and while no one wants what I had—a hair-trigger temper, an anger so violent when it did manifest itself that it terrified anyone who was around it, let alone the target of it—I also didn’t want to be “anger-free.” I believe in righteous anger. Boundaries are boundaries, and anger tells you when a line has been crossed.

I share all this because this week was one hell of a fucking mixed up week in the realm of American politics. Boundaries have been crossed, my friends, and while I celebrate some victories, I hold my anger near my heart, in case.

Chasing Rainbows

First off, let’s salute future governor of Texas (if women-supporting fans of America and righteous citizens of Texas are any barometer), state senator Wendy Davis. Her 11-hour (or 12-hour, or 13-hour), citizen-supported filibuster of a rightwing bill contrived to close abortion clinics for things like having parking lots that are too small, for example, prevented the bill from reaching the floor for a vote. To effect this outcome, she had to stand and talk ON TOPIC for all of those 11 hours, no breaks, no peeing, no rest, and she fucking did it. Texas Lt. Governor Dewhurst gave her three strikes—one of the “strikes” was talking about their closing of Planned Parenthood clinics that provided abortions as being “off-topic”—but that brilliant woman kept at it until the bill expired one second after midnight, and won. She is a hero of democracy.

Change in any society, as we see daily, even hourly—on television, via Internet, or (less often, sad to say) in person—is part physical revolution, part legal process, ALL democratic participation.  It’s messy, long, and generally always blocked for as long as possible by the (white, wealthy, or wealth-identified, male, or “cheerfully” male-oppressed) people who can say, loudly and defiantly, “I got mine.” (Curiously, Gov. Rick Perry tried to discredit Wendy Davis by calling out her choice to have her child when she became pregnant as a teenager, because if Wendy Davis chose to have her child (discounting Davis's stance that all women should get to choose what is right for them), then Rick Perry should get to decide that all women should be made to carry their pregnancies to term. Because that’s so logical.)

Shared on the "Binders Full of Women" page on Facebook

Not to throw douchebag water over this week’s good times, especially on the day of National Gay Pride Parades in America, but Miss O’ feels compelled to point out these little tidbits:

So this week in America, we saw the Supreme Court of the United States take its citizens back to Jim Crow and also ahead to Gay Pride, but in both rulings there is one common denominator: White men (Clarence Thomas does not identify “black,” whatever his gene pool or his family’s personal history) decided that voters and homosexuals can be freely oppressed according to the laws of their individual states. Not only can state legislatures prevent minorities, the working classes, and the poor from reasonably casting votes, they can also choose not to recognize a marriage that is sanctioned by the United States government. (You know how when you move from New York to Alabama, and your heterosexual marriage doesn’t count anymore? It’s like that. Oh, wait.)

“States’ Rights,” as we all know, amount to little more than protecting the “rights” of the bigoted, ignorant, and fearful so that they may enslave, oppress, or otherwise prevent the comfort of the poor, minorities, immigrants, and women. That’s pretty much it. On paper, states’ rights sounds like a “checks and balances” safeguard, but in my lifetime I have yet to see the “balances” part, unless it's that progressive states pave the way down Shame Alley that oppressive states will eventually have to move through. So, okay, sometimes states' rights rock.

The images of revolution around the world—images of the revolt by oppressed people in countries around the world, including ours—against corporate-controlled, oppressive, totalitarian regimes (I speak of our Republican House, here) are unprecedented. (Note: You may have noticed that Miss O' has not commented on the NSA/Snowden Reveal. She has decidedly mixed feelings about the whole business, not that you have been holding out hope of her opinion. It's sordid, isn't it? No one will get out of that mess looking remotely shiny; so we wait.) I see all the images coming out of Egypt, out of Turkey, ...and the silence I experience: It makes me wonder if Congress ever turns on a television. Oh, wait. Corporate sponsors prevent the television stations from broadcasting much of that stuff. Funny how we learn about it anyway. And status update or tweeted twat, this freedom of speech, one by one and also en masse, is what gives me hope. 

So I’m thinking of what it means to Storm the Bastille, to set up and advance through barricades. I’ve been reading (for months, as for bible study) a fascinating history, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough. In Chapter 9, “Under Seige,” McCullough shares descriptions of Paris under siege by the Germans in 1870, through the eyes of an American minister who was living there at the time. It’s an apt description of almost any war situation.

There are no carriages passing on the grand avenue, that great artery through which has passed for so many years all the royalty, the wealth, the fashion, the frivolity, the vice of Paris… and here is the silence of death.

“Has the world ever witnessed such a change in so short a time,” he wondered. “It to me seems like a dream.”

—American minister Elihu Washburn, 1870

Paris had become an armed camp. There were soldiers everywhere—encamped all about the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs-Elysees—more than 300,000, he had been told, ….

The day before, Sunday, the Germans had cut all roads into the city…. The Germans were at the gates and nearly 2 million people, civilians and soldiers, were now trapped.

“And it seems odd to be in this world, and still not in it,” Washburn wrote.

This is how gays feel every day. This is how aware women can be made to feel at most any workplace in this nation. This is how blacks feel in the South. This is how legal immigrants feel, how refugees feel, how the poor feel, most anytime they turn on the television. In a media world abounding in displays of too-perfect beauty, its vitriolic rhetoric is what passes for news analysis; and too often in the 5-4 decisions of a rightwing Supreme Court, it must seem odd to be in this country, and still not in it.

Via Facebook. Thanks, Jesus H.

It's Not Easy Being Green

Promotion only, and no copyright infringement, is intended.
Seriously, Miss O' lives for this magazine's weekly arrival.

When she saw this splendid New Yorker cover posted on Facebook, Miss O' wept. I also realized that it’s a cover that would work whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court vote, so kudos to editor David Remnick and cover artist Jack Hunter. When I awoke on Saturday morning, I discovered via the internets that loads of Americans were very UNHAPPY about this cover. Gosh! Miss O’ was once again gob-smacked at the capacity of rightwing Americans to see SEX, FORNICATION, FELLATIO, and BUTTFUCKING in a sweet gesture of affection and support. (And Jesus wept?)

So here is what I posted on Facebook:

On The New Yorker Cover: Years and years and years ago, when I was born--this would have been 1964--my dad, Bernie, asked his old Air Force buddy, Bob Kent, who happened to be bartending in Arlington, VA, where my parents were living, to be my godfather. Bob lived with his roommate, Pete Madeo, and I remember adoring these two men. Around the time I was five, my parents figured out that Uncle Bob and Uncle Pete were more than roommates, that Uncle Bob was, in fact, my "fairy" godfather; and they just sort of stopped speaking to them. About 35 years and an activist daughter later, ol' Mom and Dad realized this was stupid, and wrote them a letter. Bob and Pete were in the phonebook, still together, too--just like my mom and dad. "Bert and Ernie," as everyone knows, are Sesame Street characters, they are buddies that kids can relate to. The cover illustration is neither "sexualizing" Bert and Ernie, nor is this moment representing Sesame Street: The cover is a tribute of love to all the men and women out there who had to "pass" themselves off as "roommates" or "brothers" or "sisters" in order to share living space, to share their lives. The New Yorker is a magazine for grownups, and all of us have a history with Sesame Street. Most of us were instantly touched. My feeling, for what Miss O's feelings are worth, is to enjoy the love.

Another American icon, George Takei, a national treasure of a celebrity if ever there was one, was interviewed by The Huffington Post about gay rights, about how his life and times have been shaped by social media, and what it has meant for his career post-Star Trek:

As with Sesame Street, the role of Star Trek cannot be overestimated in the shaping of our culture, too, in Miss O’s humble opinion. As Mr. Takei notes:

Some of the cast and creatives were aware that I was gay, and I did, on occasion, bring a male date to parties. “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry was aware of my sexual orientation and very supportive. That was the extraordinary thing about “Star Trek.” That we were a diverse crew of people representing so many colors, backgrounds and heritages. That was the promise of the future. And, now, in the J.J. Abrams reboot, an openly gay actor is playing a Vulcan in love with an African American. I'm not really surprised by this. “Star Trek” taught us to look ahead to a time where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream was fulfilled. Being a part of that vision was -- and has remained -- a tremendous honor.

George Takei is excited by how much America has learned from a cool television show. 

Meanwhile, the Texas attorney general thinks that the student who led the protests against the abortion bill should be thrown in jail. Ain't that America? I mean, what are we teaching our young people if we tell them they are free? if we allow them to have role models that show them how to use their voices to effect change? if we let them watch fucking Star Trek and learn from it?

Because you knew somewhere Miss O' would have to get to education.

Common Ground: Where Is Our Common Core?

Next week, or sometime after the summer, Miss O’ will spend a good long time talking about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which is the subject of controversy in school districts all over the country. It seems to Miss O’ that between this country’s astounding ignorance about the Common Core, as well as its unforgivable ignorance of Constitutionally guaranteed rights and citizenship responsibilities, it would be awesome if our national media could be commandeered for one little day to help us all. I think two things in particular are desperately needed:

1.     All the national and cable networks need to do one evening of education on the Common Core State Standards for Reading Comprehension, Language, and Writing—an hour special, with only one commercial interruption to let educational guru Dr. Tim Shanahan, or example, explain how they work.  (Ha, ha! I know.)

2.     All the national and cable networks need to allow one hour, two or three times a year, to educate all Americans on CIVICS. Have a charming person, such as Stephen Colbert, beloved by Yankees and Crackers alike, to teach civics to all of us, making it mandatory viewing for all elected officials in this country. In each little boardroom and hall of power, provide a really solid history professor to stand by for Q & A.

Too many fucking mud dumb idiots are getting elected at the pleasure of corporations via their money, and as a result don’t know for example, that 1) Americans do not spend their entire lives in one state, and therefore having their years of study confined to one state’s version of what is educationally useful can be pretty fucking debilitating; and 2) Americans have many nationally guaranteed rights, such as the right to peaceably assemble, which includes chanting, and that showing up at a hall of power—which is maintained at the pleasure of the CITIZENS, and not the elected, by the way (remember “We, the People”?)—is not, as Texas State Lt. Governor Dewhurst believes, terrorism. He and his compatriot Sen. Bill Zedler actually think this.

During the filibuster, hundreds of pro-choice supporters gathered in and around the Texas State Senate and gave jeers to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst when he struck Davis’s discussion of ultrasound testing as off-topic. Dewhurst also gave Davis an off-topic strike when she requested a back-brace to curb discomfort from standing for a near 11 hours. After the vote was taken and the bill died, Dewhurst called the protesters “an unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics.”
As if that wasn’t bad enough, around 11 o’clock on the night of the filibuster, Texas state Sen. Bill Zedler (R) posted on his Twitter that “We had terrorist in the Texas State Senate opposing SB 5.” Apparently, to Zedler, invoking the first amendment right to assemble is an act of terrorism. If the protesters were pro-life, these “terrorists” would, assuredly, automatically turn into “patriots” for him. Not only are Republicans sore about the loss, they are ever-persistent.

Here’s more of the story:

Dewhurst also wanted to have the media arrested for covering the story, and then decided against it. (I suspect the First Amendment and a capable attorney made the decision for him.)

Read more:

As writer Joshua deLeon points out:

If politicians like Wendy Davis, and their supporters, remain steadfast in their track for pro-choice legislation, it could prove to be another loss to Republicans who throw around the word “terrorist” and try to demean people for exercising their right to assemble.
—Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.

And finally, in all the mire, the mess, the devastations and elations, I give thanks as ever to Stephen Colbert. Here is a sampling of his wisdom, in this post on Facebook today:

The Colbert Report
"In DOMA and the Voting Rights Act cases, it was about states' rights, not the people in those states. That's why the first words in the Constitution are, 'We the states.' I think, it's really hard to read those gay letters." -- Stephen Colbert

And so on this Pride March Day, the 43rd since 1970’s first one, in honor of the Stonewall Riots of 1969: Peace and love to all; and especially to those who fight for their rights and endure the mantle of “activist,” when really all you are doing is claiming your own, Miss O’ salutes and hugs you.

Pride Flag from The Community Center in Idaho, via Google Images
Yours as ever,
Miss O’

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Three Blogs Blind (formerly, Ode to Joy)

Where Was I?

"People change and forget to tell each other."
~Lillian Hellman

There should have been a couple of blog posts back there, before today, but there aren't. See, Miss O’ keeps getting sidetracked. I haven’t published a blog since Memorial Day, though I realized I’d certainly been working on them. Herewith I give you my notes from the past two weekends. Today’s challenge is to weave all the threads together and if not make a whole cloth gown, surely a few coordinating accessories, such as a stylish loose-weave scarf, maybe a couple of earrings, and a purse.

Notes for a Blog Beginning from June 2, 2013 (unpublished; unedited, virtually)

"It's hard for me to get used to these changing times.  I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty."  ~George Burns

Winding Bobbins, Importing Pina

There are days—and they can stretch into weeks—when I think I will never run out of things to write about. Then there is today.

What Miss O’ really should be doing right now, instead of writing this letter to you, is winding bobbins of white thread and black thread and starting on those goddamned sewing projects—engineering a new seat cushion for the spring-sprung green author’s chair (pictured in her little eBook); getting all the quilt squares lined in black (making a stained glass effect…she hopes); shredding all of last year’s bills and receipts—all while she is loading her 300 CDs into her computer’s new iTunes account, instigated by friend Quinn last weekend, because Miss O’s CD player is more or less dead and her depressions have been coming on faster and staying longer, and Quinn realized the silence wasn’t helping. Bless him. What do people do without friends?

There are times when Miss O’ isn’t entirely sure why she has as many friends as she does. One can only assume her good qualities outpace the unattractive ones, but sometimes your O’ wonders how long that pace will keep up.  She has been made aware that her PORTENTS OF EXTINCTION, DOOM, DEMISE, AND DEATH, however scientifically possible, indeed even probable, are really creating an odor of fish in the guest room after three days. And this is unfortunate. Miss O’ hopes to inspire calls to action, and instead is moving her readers to disappear into sun and fun while murmuring, if they even bother to murmur, Miss O’ is the most condescending asshole I’ve ever met. She called me an “idiot” for my beliefs. So what made me waste my time with her blog when I should have been playing Frisbee and looking at cat videos? Ha, ha! Miss O’ kids with condescension! SHE should be not only watching cat videos, but taking in cats and making a cozy life with them. (I hear they are adorable.)

I realize there is more to life than seeing how it’s all going to end, and in that spirit, I looked up some life-as-we-know-it quotations. Here’s a sampling:

Almost anything you do is insignificant. But it is very important that you do it. —Mohandas Gandhi

Some men so dislike the dust kicked up by the generation they belong to, that, being unable to pass, they lag behind it.  ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1867, England

The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.
—Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President, 1861-1865

[Note: Hello 1983's "Business Model of Education"? Meet 2013's Republican/Fascist Corporate Congress.]

Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.—Henry David Thoreau, American writer

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.—William James, American philosopher

There is more to life than increasing its speed.
—Mohandas Gandhi

He's talking to you, Apple. How about changing our ENERGY MODEL?

And now, some women.


Did you know that on the site Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, there are no, repeat no, quotes by Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, or, say, Lillian Hellman? Now what? Miss O’ is on her knees here: Could some woman I’ve taught get out there and start a site of quotes by significant women (and you see? This is why we still have to fight not only for rights, but for women’s rights), with histories and links to their works? Dammit. There I go, being negative again.

·      The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be either good or evil.
—Hannah Arendt, German-American political theorist and writer

·      This is the precept by which I have lived: Prepare for the worst; expect the best; and take what comes.
—Hannah Arendt

·      Totalitarianism is never content to rule by external means, namely, through the state and a machinery of violence; thanks to its peculiar ideology and the role assigned to it in this apparatus of coercion, totalitarianism has discovered a means of dominating and terrorizing human beings from within.
—Hannah Arendt

(Sure the NSA revelation of national spying is abhorrent, but far more insidious is ADVERTISING: Domination from within, making us fat, nervous, insecure, and greedy for more, all at once. And by keeping the ignorant focused on the unborn (by paying legislators to keep the national spotlight on abortion), the corporations can keep taking your money. This is not conspiracy theory: It's actually happening.)

Sorry, sorry!  “Feelin’ groovy!” (C'mon, Miss O'! Have some fun.)

I finally found the perfect girl,
I could not ask for more:
She’s deaf and dumb and oversexed
and owns a liquor store.

—recited by Dean Martin on The Tonight Show, 1969

Notes for June 9 Blog (unpublished; unedited, mostly, with apologies)

[Last weekend, I spent as much time outside as the weather would allow, but did manage to write this much shit.—ed.]

The Religion Blog, i’ Faith [Note: It's hard to know where this was going. I'll try again some week.]

"Things that grow are not always benign."
Retired Reverend James Jones (1948–), British clergyman, Anglican bishop of Liverpool 
Source: Observer (London) (September 20, 2009)

"The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice."
George Eliot (1819–1880), British novelist 
Source: Daniel Deronda (1876)

This Sunday afternoon in June finds Miss O’ exiled to Queens because of the Puerto Rican Day Parade being held along 5th Avenue, which is to say Central Park, in Manhattan. Because too many male parade participants annually engage in rape, Park Police simply close Central Park. I am not kidding about this. So this gorgeous day forces about 2/3 of the park to remain closed until the (male, rape-inclined) revelers have dispersed. Yes, America, we don’t so much want to stop rape; we merely want to move it out of tourist-friendly places, such as Central Park. (You know, if we skirts would just stay the fuck OUT OF SIGHT, we wouldn't have this problem with being fucked. AmIright?)

So Miss O’ decided to head out into her beloved neighborhood to walk about, and at 44th Street—knowing she would not make it across the 10 lanes + median of Queens Boulevard in the 11-10-9-8 seconds the flashing red hand was ticking down, turned and saw a poor-folks outlet store, South Pole, and headed into it. In her leisurely stroll, she saw The Chair. This was the comfortable, weather-proof porch chair she’d been looking for—the one that would invite her to enjoy her patch of outdoor space built over her co-op’s trash alley. Here it is:

Chair with cute bamboo table, which was a trash rescue in 2012.
In order to get this chair from the store, I had to carry it roughly 6 blocks, past the bodegas and ball parks; around dog-walkers and past sidewalk benches of old people jawing or studying the Bible with a magnifying glass; past produce stands and people with shopping carts and across streets, angling it through her doorways and out onto its present location. Here I risk the crashing down of handballs and soccer balls, sitting as I am in the chair, typing and listening to iTunes (The Civil Wars) and an unseen woman pacing back and forth with her yappy dog, over the fence on the playground, talking loudly on her cell phone (“I’m gonna call Mom now; you want me to conference you in?” Oh god. Yes, please conference her in). Because this is New York City, your big house, so why shouldn’t my porch fence be your phone booth?

This week I have been thinking about the energies that keep us moored to our worlds, keep us sane, prevent us from flying off over the roofs of building and into the windows of mental hospitals, or away and into abusive substances or abusive people, or pushing to destroy rather create things, make things. What is it that makes most of us try to design schemes to encourage the world to be less awful? Because really, most of us are doing that, it gives Miss O’ this little thing called Faith.

Today, Reader, I’m talking about, for lack of a better word, spiritual concerns. As the faithful readers of Miss O’s little blogspot know, she’s a Pagan Earth Goddess worshipper who can often be found seated happily at the altar of Theater. But what of religion? Some of my very favorite people are deeply religious; in fact their lives are not merely defined by religion but their very begins, er, beings, are inseparable from their religions. The religions I am the most familiar with on this score are Judaism, Hinduism, Quaker, and the various sects of Christianity, including Catholicism and a kind of “brethren” idea, where there is no pastor or tithe—like a better organized and inclusive Bible study. I do not pretend to understand what these groups provide in the way of nourishment to their members, and in truth I’m not much interested. I’ve experienced enough of churches, and they often not only bore the shit out me, they also can give me the creeps. I can’t help it. But obviously, when I find myself in a church, and that is OFTEN, I'm fine with it. They are putting up with ME, aren't they?

Where I feel most at home, though, is inside a theater, or anywhere among friends that involves drinking and eating food. And is that really any different from a place of religious worship? No, it’s not.

Are You Honest? Are You Fair?

There’s a survey in Vanity Fair magazine each month, “The Proust Questionnaire,” which the editors give to a celebrity to take. In it, the celeb answers questions such as, “What quality to you most admire in a man?” What quality do you most admire in a woman?” “If you could be anyone else at any time in history, who would it be?” Things like that. Male celebrities are most often given the quiz, at least in the two years of my gift subscription to the magazine. They most admire “loyalty” in men, “kindness” in women. Among favorite answerers is Louis C.K., who really pissed off the readers of that magazine with his answers. Louis C.K. is about as honest a comedian as I’ve ever seen. He surely would have to have been Miss O’s husband, if she were supposed to have one of those.

What is the quality you most like in a man? 
Just please be fun to talk to.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
 Same. And also sex, please.
What do you most value in your friends?
 Friends should always tell you the truth. But please don’t.
Which living person do you most admire?
 The guy I saw yesterday. He was crossing Eighth Avenue against the light. He just sauntered out into the middle of the street with cars and cabs speeding toward him and it meant nothing to him. Like he’s the only living soul and the rest of us were ghosts. I love that man, whoever he is.
Another quality that has come up most often in answers to "most admired quality" is “honesty.”

Not to sound dense, but I’m not entirely sure what is meant by honesty.

And what is meant by beliefs? Here are "honest beliefs" I have heard articulated by actual people I actually know.

“I believe in Santa Claus.”
“I believe that Jesus Christ is my personal savior.”
“I believe that Chairman Mao is as close to a god has humans will know.”
“I believe that all this stuff about global warming is a crock.”

So when I get to feeling overcrowded by people and their "beliefs" and creeped out by humans and their "honesty", I like to watch a nice little TEDx. It’s easy to make fun of these talks, but it seems to me they’d make great companion videos for reading in high schools and colleges—ways in to difficult subjects.

Stewart Wallis on TEDx

[NOTE: This scientist is HOPEFUL about the future, and assuming you will not take the 19 minutes required to watch the distillation of his entire life’s work because you are busy doing your life’s work, here are the notes I took while watching, which is to say doing my life’s work.]

"Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist."

—Kenneth Boulding (1910–1993), British-born US economist and political activist 

Source: Quoted in Jump the Curve (Jack Uldrich, 2008)

[NOTE: In 1980, we were living within our planet’s resources. Now were have nearly doubled that. But who’s counting? (Note: A lot of people are counting: At the rate we are reproducing, we will have 11 billion people on a planet with only a carrying capacity of about 4 billion (we’re currently at almost 7 billion) by 2100.)]

Overusing our life-support systems. Five mass extinctions before, over very short geological time, but we will be in less than 100 years.

Are we facing our Big Bang?

The richest 400 Americans have more wealth than the bottom 155,000,000.

[Belief, prayer, hope: It’s limited isn’t it? Without action, without conscious creativity and compassion and a willingness to sacrifice.

So today I bought a chair. It was manufactured in China under lousy working conditions; the metals mined most likely by forced slavery in the Congo in Africa; the plastics of the polyester seat created using oil, drilled at the expense of an ecosystem. Should I or should I not buy the chair? The chair exists whether I buy it or not.]

We need a new economic model. The goal has to be to maximize human well-being, which is not to say material prosperity. It’s about values, what is really valuable, about belonging, connections, love, and giving. TO GIVE is not part of economics.

Shift from Consumers to seeing ourselves at Stewards and Economic Citizens.

We have to change what we measure: What gets measured gets done. Is it all about GDP? [Then where is the odometer? The fuel gauge? The GPS?]

Which country, of all the countries on Earth, is in the BEST shape economically, ecologically, and in terms of the health and happiness of its people? Costa Rica. Happier, and they live on a quarter of what we do.

(The rich think the poor are the drag on our planet, but really the RICH are DESTROYING the world. Literally. The rich need to die, to follow their own advice, I mean.)

"Markets have become our religion."
--Adam Smith on moral end of economics

Why don’t we TAX use of norenewable resources rather than tax labor? Think about that.

Losing Our Religion

[More notes: It's time to lose our true religion: Money Worship]

“The markets make a good servant but a bad master, and a worse religion.”
"This much I know: Amory Lovins". The Guardian. Retrieved on 2008-11-20.

Amory Lovins is an American energy expert.

Working with Others: A Movement for Change.

If you are living for “Heaven,” all I ask is that you get out of the way.

An economy of the common good...

OxFam (trying to supply fresh water—out of money, out of water) did it alone because the U.S., France, no one would help. Sometimes the impossible is possible. If it’s the right cause and enough people, we can do this.

We have to be honest: Whether you have a god, a God, a place of worship, a good book, or NOT, if you are not deeply honest with yourself and honest in your actions, you are, deeply, a fraud. No one who is coming from an honest place, guided by love and not hate, is one to be feared. Unless it's a Bush. 

We Are Girl, Interrupted
My actor friend Pat from Atlanta called to tell me that he’d found another book on actor training, titled, curiously, Actor Training, second edition, a collection of essays on aspects of actor training by a variety of people in the field (not to be confused with the first edition, which included “20th Century” in its title), edited by Alison Hodge. Below are the notes I managed to take while talking to Pat, who is 67 and forever searching for insights to be a better actor and coach.
The big names in acting were focused on specific aspects of acting:
Maria Neville—synthesized Stanislavsky and Michael Chekhov (To the Actor)
Sticking to realism—how the political situation held all these people—what we want to say to each other.
Robert Cohen’s “positive expectations" is important, too.
Jacques Copeau  (St. Denis was apostle?) is another major teacher.
I told Pat about my own rereading of Joseph Chaikin's The Presence of the Actor, comparing him with Grotowski and André Gregory, but just then Pat’s student arrived and it was time for coaching, and realized it was time for wine and a movie on YouTube, and there went the weekend and anything like finishing the blog.
Insane yet?

Bit by Bit, Putting It Together: Blog for Today, June 15, 2013
The week has been covered in raindrops. The literal rain could be measured in several inches, and was relentless whenever I had to walk to or from work, except for Wednesday, which was gorgeous all of a sudden. There were figurative raindrops, too: At my work, a colleague of many years died of lung cancer at age 62, and this event has led another colleague to decide to retire; another great colleague (age 52) is leaving in July to go back to graduate school in clinical psychology; still another great colleague (age 48) is leaving in August to go back to graduate school in animation. (Miss O’ is 49. The prospect of reinvention is exciting, and of death, sobering.) So change is afoot in my immediate workplace, right in the midst of a big reorganization, too, after being sold to an investment group in March. And then what?

So when all this sadness and loss and confusion is happening, what you do is go to see the restored “road show” screening of 1963’s Cleopatra, which may star Elizabeth Taylor, but really its legend belongs as much to guys like my friends Howard and Bobby, as to La Liz. As boys aged 10 and 14, respectively, living in Evanston, Illinois, and Brooklyn, respectively, they fell hard for Elizabeth Taylor’s eye makeup, because they were, both of them, very, very gay. While Bobby only used tracing paper over the Life Magazine cover to make a pattern so that he might draw her eyes over and over and over, little Howie wanted his own eyes to look like Liz’s. Cleopatra was the fulfillment of his childhood Egypt obsession: there in his family’s Evanston apartment bathroom, he could lock the door and draw the lines around his eyes with mom’s black eyebrow pencil, and just as he was about to perfect the shape, he’d hear, “Howard, what are you doing?” and he’d call, panicked, “Nothing!”

In addition, Howard has his master’s in film studies (his first book, about the costume designer Adrian, of that single name, like "Cher"—he did The Wizard of Oz, for example—was featured in the window dressing at Barney’s here in NY when it came out), and he is just a treasure trove of movie information. Bobby, too, is an old movie buff, and you all know your Miss O’. So this week, as Howard and I went about our editorial tasks at work, and as Bobby went about his tasks at the office of another employer, the three of us used the magic of email to build up for the Big Night. Herewith a sampling, which I’ve rearranged first to last, instead of the way e-trails usually work.

NOTE: None of this may be remotely entertaining to you if you don’t know the movie, or the other movie stars we reference here, or us, for that matter. But here is the point of sharing it at all: Just as the only reason to get an education is so you know why The Simpsons is funny, just so you immerse yourself in movie and pop culture trivia in order to exchange in-jokes with people you know and love.

ANOTHER NOTE: These exchanges happen as we actually complete actual work (you'd be astounded at how many meetings were attended and deadlines met amid these little messages), and the nature of our jobs is such that we can hit up Google Images and in seconds copy an image to match, lest you think we spend much time on this, because we really don’t.

ALMOST FINAL NOTE: As for the images: Clearly no copyright infringement is intended. I don't even know who the fuck most of the people are.

FINALLY: Don't tell Howard or Bobby I did this. 

E-TRAIL-ER: Cleopatra at Film Forum
Starring Howard (Howard), Bobby (Robert), and Miss O’ (O'Hara, Lisa)

From: Howard 

Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 11:40 AM

To: O'Hara, Lisa; Robert
Subject: Don't forget . . .

We’re going down the Nile tomorrow

From: O'Hara, Lisa
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 11:41 AM

To: Howard; Robert
Subject: RE: Don't forget . . .

We’ll BARGE right in!

From: Robert
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 11:51 AM

To: O'Hara, Lisa; Howard

Subject: RE: Don't forget . . .

Still finalizing my outfit.
Should I go as Bella or… yes … it’s who you think it is…

From: Howard 

Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 11:55 AM

To: Robert; O'Hara, Lisa

Subject: RE: Don't forget . . .

It seems everyone was trying out for that role . . . even Marilyn!

Note: That is Marilyn Monroe as Theda Bara as Cleopatra by Richard Avedon.
From: O'Hara, Lisa 

Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 11:59 AM

To: Howard; Robert
Subject: RE: Don't forget . . .

Even Britney Spears. Because…wow. Is anyone duller? Anyone?


From: Howard
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 12:05 PM

To: O'Hara, Lisa; Robert
Subject: RE: Don't forget . . .

And Lucy!! I guess Mr. Mooney played Caesar and Vivian played Mark Antony.

From: Robert
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 12:09 PM

To: Howard; O'Hara, Lisa

Subject: RE: Don't forget . . .

Gosh, my grandmother had several of those crowns. They were finials at the top of her living room drapes.

From: Howard
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 12:18 PM

To: Robert; O'Hara, Lisa

Subject: RE: Don't forget . . .

Madonna would later use them as cone bras in her Truth or Dare tour.

Seriously, it was unbelievable how Liz and Cleo infiltrated pop culture in 1962 and 1963. Almost every situation comedy from The Lucy Show to Dick Van Dyke had a “Cleopatra” episode. Veronica in Archie comics got a “Cleopatra hairdo.”

From: Robert
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 12:21 PM

To: Howard; O'Hara, Lisa

Subject: RE: Don't forget . . .

Morey Amsterdam came the closest to looking like Liz.

From: Howard
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 12:27 PM

To: Robert; O'Hara, Lisa

Subject: RE: Don't forget . . .

Not by a long shot. I guess you didn’t see Don Knotts as Cleo when Barney Fife essayed the role in a pageant staged at the Mayberry jail house. Frances Bavier was riveting as Lotus, the slave girl. Otis the drunk played Apollodorus.

From: Robert
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 12:29 PM

To: Howard; O'Hara, Lisa

Subject: RE: Don't forget . . .

Opie played a severed penis. Most productions omit that scene.


[And...We're back.]

From: Robert
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 1:29 PM

To: Howard; O'Hara, Lisa

Subject: More Egypt

But what I honestly DO love are the costumes and sets—the whole art deco look—of DeMille’s Cleopatra.

Have you ever seen it, Lisa?

From: Howard
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 2:00 PM
To: Robert; O'Hara, Lisa

Subject: Re: More Egypt

But it’s just as illogical.

I prefer the Esther Williams approach used in The Egyptian

From: Robert
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 2:50 PM

To: Howard; O'Hara, Lisa

Subject: RE: More Egypt

Oh, absolutely as illogical. And as I realized the last time I saw it, rather slow and boring.

But looks fabulous!

Are you sure that isn’t a pic of Edie Beale?

From:  Howard 

Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 2:59 PM

To: Robert; O'Hara, Lisa

Subject: RE: More Egypt

In actuality, Cleopatra ruled from Alexandria, which was a hybrid Greek/Egyptian city with a very mixed population. Egyptians but lots of Greeks and even Jews. Cleo, in real life, probably dressed mostly in the Greek fashion, and probably only donned traditional Egyptian dress at ceremonial functions. And while some of the costumes in the ‘63 version are improbable, the ones that are “authentically” Egyptian are more realistic than those in the ‘34 version. And Warren William and Henry Wilcoxon are unendurable.

Just my measly two cents.

That is Gene Tierney as Beketaten in The Egyptian, ready for a dip in the Nile. Little does her feline pal know that he will soon wind up as a bathing suit in the princess’s wardrobe.

From: O'Hara, Lisa
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 3:55 PM

To: Howard;  Robert 
Subject: RE: More Egypt

I like eyes and hair! I haven’t seen Colbert except in clips. The wigs alone are fascinating.

From: Robert
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 4:01 PM

To: O'Hara, Lisa; Howard

Subject: RE: More Egypt

Actually that particular shot is from “The Sign of the Cross” made a year or two earlier. She plays Poppea.
They mixed a few stills from that pic in with Cleo on that page…dopes. They need me and Howard for proper authenticating.

From: O'Hara, Lisa 

Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 4:04 PM

To: Robert; Howard

Subject: RE: More Egypt

You guys are a walking TCM Archive. You should make YouTube videos.

From: Howard
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 4:09 PM

To: O'Hara, Lisa; Robert
Subject: RE: More Egypt

We should run TCM. We’d be a lot more interesting than Robert Osborne. I could do Marilyn Monroe impressions, and Bobby could write his world famous bios for the Now Playing guide. That’d wake up our audience.

[Notes: 1. Bobby and Howard actually like Robert Osborne. 2. Bobby has been banned from Wikipedia for going in to “enhance” the biographies of old movie stars like Norma Shearer and Beulah Bondi, to sex them up. They are inaccurate, sure, but god, were they hilarious.]

From: Robert
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 4:18 PM

To: Howard; O'Hara, Lisa

Subject: RE: Osborne

Yes, it’s time for that dying drunk to step aside.  

The Howard and Bobby Show on TCM:

“As Memory (Ours) Fades”

From: Howard
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 4:40 PM

To:  Robert; O'Hara, Lisa

Subject: RE: Osborne

Bobby introduces “Days of Wine and Roses” on The Essentials

From: Howard 

Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 4:49 PM

To:  Robert; O'Hara, Lisa

Subject: RE: Osborne

Howard introduces Cleopatra’s Daughter on the “Not –So-Essentials”

From: O'Hara, Lisa 

Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 4:53 PM

To:  Howard; Robert
Subject: RE: Osborne

Special Guest Lisa O’Hara joins the merry pair to discuss her favorite film, The Best Years of Our Lives:

From:  Robert
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 5:01 PM

To: Howard; O'Hara, Lisa

Subject: RE: Osborne

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you. You look incredible! Have you had work done?

From: O'Hara, Lisa 

Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 5:13 PM

To: Howard; Robert 
Subject: RE: Osborne

I can’t wait for you to see my implants.

From:  Robert
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 5:16 PM

To: Howard; O'Hara, Lisa

Subject: RE: Osborne

I was really hoping to wear this, but it’s sold out.


Oh, good times! Is there anything as fun as bad taste? So at the movie, for which we stood in line and waited 50 minutes to make sure we could sit together, Bobby and Howard and I ran into my friend Kevin Townley, one of TimeOut New York’s Most Stylish New Yorkers of 2012. We all sat behind an afflicted old man who “reacted” throughout the movie, driving the man in front of him crazy. Finally, Bobby said, as only a New Yorker can, “Aw, shut up!” and the crazy man did, in fact, shut up. Mostly. Howard referred to him as Professor Irwin Corey, and Bobby called him my husband.

Here was my assessment of the film, in case you wanted to know, as posted on Facebook:

I must tell you, I had never seen "Cleopatra" before. It's not a good movie, though the first half with Rex Harrison is quite fine (and all Richard Burton needed was ONE ADDED INCH to his little skirt not to look absurd, while Miss Taylor needed about a dozen fewer costumes). At the sold-out Film Forum showing of the "road show cut", even with the excellent Wanger Sisters (daughters of producer William Wanger and Joan Bennett, who played Elizabeth Taylor's mom in "Father of the Bride") and their fun intro stories notwithstanding; and the hilarious recollections of friends Bobby, who in 1963 drew her eyes over and over and over, and Howard, at age 10, making his mom take him, and dreaming of making his eyes look just like hers (MOM (calling into bathroom): "Howard, what are you doing in there?" HOWARD (with black pencil): "Nothing..!"), AND the unexpected presence of Kevin Townley (always a delight), it was a rather long night, what with Prof. Irwin Corey on meth in front of us, calling out throughout. Still, it was an event. And I got home at nearly 1:00 AM with plenty of company, so it could have been worse. Here's to classic movies and their addicts. Kiss.

Miss O’s unflattering assessment of this “classic” pissed off a lot a people, so here is my comment to the pissed-off:

I saw an interview on A & E with its star, and learned that after seeing it for the first time, Elizabeth Taylor fled the theater to run to the ladies room, where she threw up. I don't think it's that bad, but in fact (as I learned from my friend Howard) Joseph Mankiewicz was making two films, "Caesar and Cleopatra" and "Antony and Cleopatra," but because of the Taylor-Burton affair, studio chief Darryl Zanuck demanded that it be ONE movie, and Mankiewicz said no, so Zanuck fired him and spliced the two movies together himself. So rather than a 7 1/2 hour, 2-movie epic, this was the result. We saw the 4-hour road show version (meaning the first theatrical release), but the one shown on TV has been cut to 3 hours, so it's even more confusing to follow. (My friend Howard said that this was the first time he'd ever seen the "completed" film, and it was much clearer in terms of story.) The Wanger sisters said that there are 3 1/2 hours of this movie still locked in the Fox vault! You'd think some preservationists would be allowed to try to assemble it all together. Howard and Bobby worship this movie, and I can see the appeal (Cleopatra's entrance into Rome is fantastic). So glad to know it still has fans. This single showing was sold out.

Floatie, Veni, Sleepy: We barged, we saw, we endured! Slaves, soldiers, set builders, costume sewers, and all the other unsung, suffering laborers of the world came together across history, across time, to Rome via London via Hollywood, to make this epic for three little people (us!) to watch in a movie house in one little neighborhood on Earth in 2013. Give 'em a hand, folks! Cleopatra ruled as a god in her lifetime, and flash forward a couple of thousand years, La Liz ruled over Cleopatra as the new god: Money. Hers was the first $1,000,000 salary, plus 10% of the absolute gross, forever changing movie star worth in the world. (Money makes the world go around, but most of us just want what George Bailey worked so hard to get for his townspeople: a couple of decent rooms and a bath. The rich don't believe us.)

(Far From) The Only Living Boys (and Girl) in New York

After the movie, Bobby, Howard, and I walked up to the very busy West 4th Street to catch Uptown and Brooklyn-bound (very full even at midnight) trains, and Bobby pointed to two different buildings he lived in when he moved to Manhattan in 1974—one on 6th Avenue, and one over on Minetta Lane. “I was 26,” he said, “and it was really nice here then. My rent was $140 a month.” He gestured to Father Demo Square, “which was just a couple of benches then, nothing fancy like it is now.” ("Was there this fence?" "No fence.") The wind was soft, it wasn’t raining, and really the best part of living in New York—the best part of living, period—is walking along the road, cracking wise with your good friends after a day of work, an evening of play, laughs all along, a sense of history, of life lived, of place, and heading home to bed. Our devotion to movies is religious, our love for each other is honest, and we weren't raped even once. The world didn't come to an end, at least not today. We knew the way home, and we got there. What more can you pray for?

Well, maybe to look like this:

Cleopatra: There are never enough hours in the days of a queen, 
and her nights have too many.

You said it, sister!


And so that's where my head is today, angels, with love from
Miss O’