Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Home Alone

For the first time ever, I spent Christmas by myself. Christmas Eve was spent with our little family at my niece's house. Christmas day, Chris worked, so I was on my own.

But I was alone, as opposed to isolating. And it wasn't bad.

I stayed in my jammies until around 2 p.m., at which point I decided to go to the movies. "Skyfall" was my final choice and I highly recommend it. I almost went for Chinese into the bargain, but there was a ton of leftovers back home, so I opted for that. And everyone knows holiday food is better the next day: ham, turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, baked apples, the works.

Then Chris came home from working and it was...just another evening at home. (Although the choices on TV were really wretched. I guess they figured everybody would be at the movies.)

In the weeks leading up to the holiday I was acutely aware that this year, for some reason, I was really missing my parents. It's not the first Christmas I've spent without them, but their absence seemed more noticeable for some reason. 

It's what happens when you get older, I guess: friends and family, especially, begin to fall away. You adjust. You miss them, you remember them.

But you also enjoy the moment, make the most of what is. You remember without living in the past. Look forward without living in the future.

The memories were inevitable: childhood Christmas eves with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, waiting for Santa. How long the season seemed back then. How different Christmas day felt compared to the rest of the year.

So now on to New Year's and my birthday and (God willing) celebrating 29 years sober. It wasn't so bad being home alone. At least no one had forgotten about me. And I didn't have housebreakers to thwart with ingenious booby traps. It was just me and Mr Kitty, snuggled under a new plush throw.

And it wasn't bad.




Friday, November 16, 2012

The Real Wizard of Oz


The Real Wizard of Oz

is not the one you know, the Hollywood,
the celluloid tradition,
poignant and familiar --
the moreso now because we know
what happened to that little girl.

That first witch? In the Real Wizard, a little old lady
with a dowager’s hump. Definitely not
that screwball comedy bubblehead,
floating through in a ball gown,
with her cartoon voice and her wand.

In The Real Wizard the slippers
are silver, did you know?
Made ruby for the screen since
red – ruby red – reads better in Technicolor.

There is death in The Real Wizard of Oz:
violent monsters
dashed to pieces on sharp rocks;
a pack of wolves hacked headless and bloody
by the weepy Woodsman who, we come to learn,
amputated his own limbs,
and split his own torso with his own enchanted axe;
while the lion – not so cowardly on the page it seems –
offers to slaughter a deer for dinner.

And what of the Witch,
sinuous, familiar, emerald-skinned hag,
her hat and dialogue iconic now
as Rick’s CafĂ© or Garbo’s laugh;
the nimble skywriter in billowing black,
appearing and vanishing
in clouds of poison green?

She shows up here three-quarters through,
her evil somehow pedestrian,
just going through the motions
and easily vanquished with a bucket of water
as tepid and dingy as her vaunted wickedness.

She reminds you
of that cranky widow in the grocery line,
or someone’s maiden aunt,
rocking on a sagging porch,
finding fault with everything.


Fred Andersen, September 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ron Who?! (You can't make this stuff up...)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Cookie Whore

Yesterday after work I took part in a First Person Arts storytelling event. First Person is a local arts group now in its second decade and is dedicated to the storytellers, artists who tell their own stories, comic, tragic and in-between. The sharing can be as familiar as stand-up comedy, it can be musical, it can be one actor playing multiple parts. Political, satirical, complex or simple story-telling. However it's done, it's compelling and deeply affecting, as you begin to see and hear the similarities between yours and someone else's story, someone who may be your polar opposite.

The First Person Market was a venue for artists and craftspeople to sell their wares, hopefully raising some money for First Person, I imagine. There were four storytellers (myself among them) who charged a dollar apiece to tell one of three personal stories to whoever sat down at the table opposite them. Among mine was one I called "The Cookie Whore" (for reasons which will be obvious). It was quite popular -- so I thought I'd share it with you here:


No, not me... Suzanne Pleshette
Back in the late 80's and early 90's I was living in Los Angeles, whence I'd moved to be a screen writer. I even went so far as to take a class in screenwriting at the American Film Institute. I finally came to the conclusion that my real passion was acting, so I set out on a years-long search for parts, an agent, a Screen Actor's Guild card. In between, of course, I had to earn a living, so I did temp work. I sold crafts. 

And I became a cater waiter, working for a staffing outfit that sent only the best waiters to only the best events. I wound up working often for a client in Beverly Hills, a woman who worked tirelessly year-round for a major charity, and who threw numerous parties, dinners, banquets and bashes, all culminating in a yearly event so big it took several days and involved the proverbial Who's Who of Hollywood royalty. Her husband had been head of a major studio and now was just a billionaire. In their fabulous (and I don't use the word lightly) Beverly Hill mansion I served the likes of Sean Connery and Michael Caine, passed shrimp puffs to Shirley MacLaine and Frank Sinatra, heard Streisand sing and... met The Cookie Whore.

It was a luncheon for fashion designer Arnold Scaasi (whose archives and 100 of whose designs were acquired by the Boston Museum of Fine Art), attended by a bevy of big-name Hollywood ladies, among them one of my favorites, Suzanne Pleshette. She had starred in "The Bob Newhart Show", got pecked to death in Hitchcock's "The Birds" and was romanced in "Rome Adventiure" by Troy Donahue who was, frankly, prettier than she was. Most recently, before her death a few years ago, she brought her smoke-and-whiskey voice to "Will and Grace" as Karen's mother.

So I was cleaning up in the dining room after the luncheon. Everyone else had moved into another part of the house and I was in the dining room, clearing up the remaining odd dishes, napkins and platters of food, among which were about a dozen cookies, left on a large silver tray. There were chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin and they looked really, really good. As I picked up the tray and started for the kitchen I heard that unmistakable voice behind me: "Can I have another cookie?"

I turned and it was Suzanne, looking gorgeous in a summer-weight suit and heels. I said (to myself) "Of course, Suzanne Pleshette, you can have anything you want." "Sure," I said -- to her --and proffered the tray. She took one, then two, then a third. She looked at me and without blinking said "I'm such a cookie whore!" Then she thanked me and walked away.

Nor surprisingly I've never forgotten that. And even now, almost two decades later, I can still hear that voice: "I'm such a cookie whore..." And whenever I bite into an especially good oatmeal-raisin cookie, I hold it up in a kind of toast and say "This is for you, Suzanne Pleshette!"

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Terra Incognita

I recently had the experience of driving through a small town and catching a glimpse of a house I would swear I had been in years ago. I knew I hadn't, but just for a second I was reminded in a very visceral way of a place I remembered from decades ago.

In any case, I've started writing poetry again because... well, because I need some sort of creative outlet and the job takes an awful lot out of me -- enough that I can't do more than think about writing a whole play or starting a new painting. (Which I fully intend to do... after I finish the painting I already have started.) So here's my latest effort. I thought I'd share, in case this has happened to you, too.


Terra Incognita

You are in a town you don’t know,
driving through, terra incognita:
Here be monsters --
yet familiar somehow,
when you see it: a house.
A house you somehow know.

You know its architecture, the bones of it,
the geography of its rooms,
the way the floors slant, and where
there is need of paint.

You’ve spent time there: weekends,
late nights drinking, smoking,
long, hilarious talks with friends
whose children are now married.
You went to the weddings.
People, too, who have forgotten you by now,
and people who have died.

It smells of wine and simmering soup,
also the salt air of a coastal town,
though landlocked and forbidden to you now.

You want to go in,
to see if you are right
about the rooms, the rugs, the water stains…
But suppose you do:

All those people will be there too,
the voices and the shades,
drinking, murmuring, staring at you.
It would only upset them
to see you again so suddenly.
And what would be the point of that?

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Humans Come Home

by Kona the Burmese Cat

Kona, with attitude
Being a cat Myself i can always take care of myself for a awhile if I need to if the humans leave out enuff food and water and all -- but when its a couple days or more than that, evena  week well thats a diffrent story. like this last week whenmy humans Chris and the tall one Fred they went away to someplace called Pee Town i think, in another state Massa Chew Sits

It was a big deal, they packed big bags full of there cloze and took some food and everything and left me alone with a big bowl of food and some water and there friend Tom - who is tall also like the tall one Fred -- Tom came by to clean my box and make sure i had enuff treets and food and all and bring in the mail, which i could have done i bet.

nyway the were talking about it and it sounds like they had a really good time, eating and resting and shopping becauses the weather was so lousy up in Pee Town most of the time, so they ate lobstars and clam roles and all kinds of fish which made me jellous since I love my fish and shrimps and all. In between the tall one Fred went shopping and got a couple new shirts from some dezyner guy (is that how you spell dezyner please let me know?


Sunset at Low Tide
The human Chris bought a bracelet made of Burmese jade and i'm a burmese cat which i don't think is a considence (is that how you spell considence please let me know? The tall one Fred also got some new shoes and fancy underwere from this placse that use to be AllAmerican boy and sells lots of cloze that he sez are too 17ish for him which i don't understand what that means but i think it means he would look silly.  He also got a bag of Gay Coffee. Yes i said Ga y Coffee and on the bag is a picture of a guy with a silly espression on his face and he's saying Wake up Mary! i guess it's  real coffee.



 They took lots of other picstures too including one of this big painting on a garage near the edge of Pee Town that they call the Bad Marilyns i don't know why, but here's the picture, you decide. The tall one fred went to the beach when the sun was out and took pictures of the sunset and other stuff. he's is an artist so the picstures come out very pretty i think but i'm just a cat but you decide. He also went to the Pee town art Alliance and took a life class which  is where humans go to draw pictures of other humans naked. one of his drawings turned out pretty good.

My kind of restaurant
Mostly they talk about how much they rested and had such a fine time and enjoyed there time off. Meanwhile i was here all by my self eccept for that one night i had a few of the local kittys over for some treats and kitty chit chat. We had to keep it down. i did miss them tho, and i'm glad there home now since I can get my food and treats on time and fresh water whcih is very important. I like it that my humans are rested and had a good time but as they say on Tv "I have needs!"

that's all for now. Luv your friend Kona the burmese Kitty

Friday, September 21, 2012

Grooming in New Guinea

I thought you'd get a kick out of this photo of my father,
taken in the jungles of New Guinea during WWII.
On the back he wrote "John Kunkle butchering my hair - 9/10/43"

I sure miss him.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sean Cheetham - New "Old Master"

Please take a moment to look at the work of a sensational contemporary artist, whose work I didn't know until today. Sean Cheetham does contemporary work in the style of the old masters. I'd love to be able to paint like this! http://seancheetham.blogspot.com/

Monday, September 10, 2012

Movie Review: Cross Creek

Another wonderful movie you probably haven't seen: "Cross Creek", directed by Martin Ritt, starring Mary Steenburgen and Alfre Woodard.
Halfway through watching this movie again last night it occurred to me that Mary Steenburgen and Alfre Woodard are in another of my favorite, seldom-watched movies -- "Miss Firecracker". This one, "Cross Creek" is the story of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of the classic "The Yearling" who, in 1928 left her husband and writing career to move to Florida -- the Everglades, apparently -- to be able to write in peace. (I may have missed the "why" of the move to Florida and how she landed where she did.) Of course, the shack she's moving into is a shambles and she's a prissy, self-important New Yorker, closed off and determined to write Gothic novels a la "Jane Eyre". 

In the course of things she hires a housekeeper (Woodard), meets her backwoods neighbor Marsh Taylor (Rip Torn) and his daughter, who turns out to be the inspiration for "The Yearling". And there's the charming local man who owns the hotel in town (Peter Coyote) with whom she falls, eventually, in love.  She brings her orange grove to life, relaxes gradually into a routine -- and continues to work away on her Gothic, determined to finish and send it off to her editor, Max Perkins, in New York. (Perkins was an editor at Charles Scribner's Sons, who also published F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway and where I worked for a few years in the 70's.)

Of course the novel is a dud, and Perkins urges her to write stories based on the people she's met and her experiences starting a new life in the Florida swamp. Which she does, along the way tapping into her true talent and allowing people into her life and her heart. She also came to understand the importance of the land and the people who helped sustain it.

It's a simple film, but deceptive. The most "dramatic" part of the story comes about three-quarters of the way through, but it grows on you slowly, thanks to the direction and the pitch-perfect performances, everything so beautifully underplayed -- even the "big" characters like the backwoods local and Alfre Woodard's Geechee. (Both Rip Torn and Woodard received Oscar nominations.) It reminds you that a really, really good movie doesn't need a convoluted plot and a lot of CGI effects and violence to really engage you, and it thankfully doesn't become one of those "how a genteel city gal moves to the stix and grows a spine" flicks. Rawlings was apparently a tough, headstrong woman and it's also about how a creative artist finds her voice.

Check out some of the reviews on the IMDb website -- some of them give a better overall idea about the picture. I just wanted to let you know about "Cross Creek". Enjoy!


Friday, September 7, 2012

Aging With Style

Lynn Dell, from Advanced Style 
In Times Square, Advanced Style
Check out my new favorite blog: ttp://advancedstyle.blogspot.com/
proving we don't just have to shuffle off...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Another terrific movie you've probably never seen...


"Resurrection" starring Ellen Burstyn, Sam Shepard, Eva LaGallienne. I'll let the NY Times review give you the synopsis:


''Resurrection,'' ... has the simple, charmed manner of a fairy tale. Once upon a time, Lewis John Carlino's story goes, there was a woman named Edna (Ellen Burstyn) who was very much in love with her husband. Then she gave him a sports car for his birthday, and he died in an accident. Edna nearly died in the accident herself, and, in fact, she saw the visions reserved for those who pass into an afterlife. But Edna returned, and found herself partly paralyzed. She was despondent until, on a car trip with her father, she met a very strange man in the desert. The man had a two-headed snake, which was even stranger. Edna wasn't with this man very long, but something he did must have changed her. From this point on, she had the power to heal.
    " The movie follows Edna as she cures patient after patient by the laying on of hands. She even cures her own paralysis. After a while, she becomes involved with a sullen, handsome, volatile young man who questions the source of her powers, challenging her to acknowledge a religious element, but Edna insists it's all just a matter of love.... this is a movie that really seems to have brought out the best in everyone who worked on it. Chief among them is Miss Burstyn, who gives the kind of performance that makes all the odd events in the screenplay seem perfectly plausible, perfectly sane. Her presence is radiant, and so steadying it lets the movie exert a tremendous emotional pull.
     "The whole cast of ''Resurrection'' is outstanding. The playwright Sam Shepard, who showed such promise as he made his acting debut in ''Days of Heaven,'' realizes that promise here. As Edna's hottempered lover, he brings a keen, nervous alertness to the role, and a presumptuousness that turns very appealing. Richard Farnsworth, as the old man Edna meets at the gas station, has only a few moments to make his mark upon the audience, and succeeds beautifully; in a very short time, he suggests all the magic his character is supposed to have. Also notable are Eva Le Gallienne and Lois Smith, playing high-spirited members of Edna's large family in the heartland, and Roberts Blossom as her terse, unyielding father. Mr. Blossom's character, like many in the movie, is obliged to undergo wrenching changes in order to keep the story moving, but he accomplishes this comfortably."

The Times seemed to have a bit of trouble with the faith aspect of this picture and found parts of it "weepy". Well you may tear up at points, but the tears are earned by the wonderful cast. Eva LaGallienne was a legendary actress, director and producer during the first half of the 20th century (you remember the 20th century) and she's luminous here. 

I don't know why this movie affected me so, but I suspect a lot of it has to do with Ellen Burstyn whom I love. The end is lovely and a nice coda. 

And make no mistake, this is not just about faith or "religion" or healing -- there's a great deal to do with family, with the changes people go through whether they want to, or intend to, or not. 

It's available on DVD and should not be confused with another movie titled "Resurrection" starring Christopher Lambert. I checked on Amazon, which leads to the following digression: the customer review of the Lambert movie (apparently a horror thriller) is so (unintentionally) funny, I had to share part of it here: 

  "I don't want to ruin the main concept but this film is full of gore and grissly, graphic scenes. Not for the squirmish. The graphic scenes are so realistic and what the maniac ends up doing is shocking! Lambert plays detective Prudhomme who is not partically accepted by his fellow officers, except his partner, Andrew. Several disturbing murders occur and slowly Prudhomme pieces the puzzle together and the end result is so disturbing."

Suffice to say I probably won't be renting this one. I tend to be "squirmish". (Actually, not a bad word...)



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Julia Child & Company

A rare glimpse at the people (literally) behind the inimitable Julia Child. (Although Meryl did a pretty good job...)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Well This Explains It

Just saw this from the UK Daily Mail online. Now it all makes sense! It's not aging that seems to be making me dumber and affected my memory, it's all those years of being down in the dumps. (Seriously, this is interesting...)

    By Daily Mail Reporter:  Severe depression and chronic stress can shrink the brain by blocking the formation of new nerve connections, a study has shown.
     The effect disrupts circuits associated with mental functioning and emotion.
     It could explain why people with major depressive disorder (MDD) suffer from concentration and memory loss, as well as blunted emotional responses.
     Several genes involved in building synapses, the connection points between brain cells, were suppressed in people with MDD, scientists found.
     This was thought to contribute to shrinkage of the brain's prefrontal cortex, which is known to occur in MDD sufferers.
     Researchers in the US analysed brain tissue from patients who had died after being diagnosed with MDD. They found molecular signs of reduced activity in genes necessary for the function and structure of brain synapses.Evidence pointed to the involvement of a single genetic "switch", or transcription factor - a protein called GATA1.Turning on GATA1 reduced activity of the genes and triggered the loss of brain connections.
     Study leader Professor Ronald Duman, from Yale University, said: 'We wanted to test the idea that stress causes a loss of brain synapses in humans.
     'We show that circuits normally involved in emotion, as well as cognition, are disrupted when this single transcription factor is activated.'
     The research is published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Medicine. Further studies on rats showed that when GATA1 was switched on, the rodents showed signs of depression. This suggests that loss of brain synapses may be linked to depressive symptoms as well as mental impairment.
     'We hope that by enhancing synaptic connections, either with novel medications or behavioural therapy, we can develop more effective antidepressant therapies,' Prof Duman added.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2187592/How-stress-depression-shrink-brain.html#ixzz23YJERC6B

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ginger Rogers: Love Will Keep Us...Oh, my God!

Sorry I've been idle for almost a month, but ready to try and get back to it. So I thought I'd share the following:

Am I one of the few who haven't seen this? Don't know what show it's from, and it looks to have been videotaped from the TV screen -- and then copied about a dozen times. But you'll agree, it's just...mind-boggling. The choreography! The dancers! The costumes! And of course... Ginger! Doing Sonny & Cher.

You won't be able to look away...


Sunday, July 15, 2012

I Speak German!

Who knew? Just check out the following clip from my international blockbuster (well, except for the US and, I don't know, China) "Marching Out of Time". Apparently it's something of a cult hit in Germany.

Marching Out of Time (dubbed)


Trailer (in English) is here: "Marching" Trailer


And bear in mind: this was 20 years ago... yikes!

Friday, July 6, 2012

PC Nuttiness Across the Pond

 An entry from blogger Daniel J. Mitchell. There's nothing more to add...

My jaw is gaping with amazement once more at the hare-brained political correctness that is infecting (or should I say infesting?) the United Kingdom. A story in the Daily Mail states that a recruitment agency was told not to advertise for “reliable” and “hard-working” people since that discriminated against…well, people that aren’t reliable and hard working. The silver lining to this dark cloud is that the the bureaucracy in charge of such matters backed down to avoid public ridicule, but the mere fact that this happened says a lot about what’s happening across the pond – and what’s beginning to happen in America:


"When it comes to hiring staff, there are plenty of legal pitfalls employers need to watch out for these days. So recruitment agency boss Nicole Mamo was especially careful to ensure her advert for hospital workers did not offend on grounds of race, age or sexual orientation. However, she hadn’t reckoned on discriminating against a wholly different section of the community – the completely useless. When she ran the ad past a job centre, she was told she couldn’t ask for ‘reliable’ and ‘hard-working’ applicants because it could be offensive to unreliable people. ‘In my 15 years in recruitment I haven’t heard anything so ridiculous,’ Mrs Mamo said yesterday. ‘If the matter wasn’t so serious I would be laughing out loud. ‘Unfortunately it’s extremely alarming. I need people who are hardworking and reliable – and I am pleased to discriminate in that way. If they’re not then I really can’t use them. The reputation of my business is on the line. ‘Even the woman at the jobcentre agreed it was ridiculous but explained it was policy because they could get sued for being discriminatory against unreliable people. …She filed the advert for a £5.80-an-hour domestic cleaner at a hospital in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, through the Jobcentre Plus online service last Thursday. However, when she rang the nearest branch in Thetford, Norfolk, to make sure details would be available to jobseekers who turned up in person, she was transferred to a woman who said the wording was unacceptable."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Susan Tyrell, R.I.P.

On Turner Movie Channel tonight they were running John Huston's 1972 film "Fat City", with Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges. And Susan Tyrell, a cult favorite (or "thesp" as Variety calls her). I high-tailed it to the computer to look her up and discovered, among the Bing search results, that she has a web site (http://susantyrrell.com/) which I looked up and discovered, to my shock, that she had died. I mean just died, on June 16.

She was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in "Fat City" and made a lot of movies thereafter, not many that could even remotely be called mainstream (e.g. "Forbidden Zone" in which she played Queen Doris of the Sixth Dimension). She was like some force of nature -- there's a scene in "Fat City" that takes place in a bar. Stacy Keach is telling a story to two other people at their table, and Susan just sits there, smoking, drinking, listening. She's not deliberately pulling focus or upstaging anyone. But even when she's just sitting there, looking off into the middle distance at God knows what, she's riveting. You can't take your eyes off her. (Pauline Kael called her "an entire school of acting", which was not intended as a compliment.)

Years ago in some magazine there was a photograph of her in a white hat and a 40's style dress with palm trees all over it, that I ripped out and copied in water color. Years later, when I was living in LA, my then-partner and I went to a little theater in Hollywood to see her one-woman show "My Rotten Life" which took a finely-honed meat cleaver to all those one-person shows about the triumph of the human spirit over whatever and what a swell person I am, even I can hardly believe it, the ups and downs of this business we call Show... She had none of it. In her version, she was telling the story of her life from Hell where she figured she'd probably wind up. I took the water color with me and gave it to her after the show, and she was genuinely touched.

"The last thing my mother said to me was, 'SuSu, your life is a celebration of everything that is cheap and tawdry'," she recalled to the author of a 2000 profile in the LA Weekly. "I've always liked that, and I've always tried to live up to it."

Even she probably didn't know just how rotten her life would become: in late April of 2000 she was diagnosed with an extremely rare blood disorder, "essential thrombocythemia. Only one case in 100,000 is diagnosed each year. Four days later she had both legs amputated below the knee. (For the full LA Weekly article, click the link in the Entertainment Weekly obit: http://news-briefs.ew.com/2012/06/18/susan-tyrrell-dies/). The story of how she wound up sleeping with John Huston and its ultimate effect on her is clear-eyed and chilling and sad.

Yet she kept working and, apparently, maintained her spirit. The warped, sweet, fuck-you attitude that led her to love and identify with and "collect" life's misfits and cast-offs.

She wasn't someone whose career I followed or who, God knows, was very famous. But in a world where people like the Kardashians are considered role models... it just made me sad.

R.I.P. Susu.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Best Thing I Ever Heard from a Genius

Stephen Hawking, close to the sun.
"Stephen Hawking is a British theoretical physicist and cosmologist, a renowned professor at Cambridge for 30 years. His contributions in cosmology and quantum gravity catapulted him to fame in the global scientific community. He predicted that black holes emit radiation. But he became controversial when he crossed the deep chasm between science and religion, and claimed that the Universe came from nothing and had no Creator." --Sister Raquel's Blog - http://www.sisterraquel.com

Not surprisingly many people violently disagree with his theories. (Just check out the YouTube videos with titles like "Stephen Hawking is an Idiot".) Nevertheless, it's undeniable that he's survived and thrived in spite of apparently insuperable odds, the kind of circumstances that lead parents to say to whiny children, "You think you have it bad? Look at ________!
He's got something to cry about!"

The other night I tuned in to an episode of "Stephen Hawking's Grand Design", a TV series on Discovery Channel based on Hawking's book. It's fascinating, for sure, although from time to time I got more than a little confused as he tried to make the inexplicable clear to a numbskull like me, but only served to further cloud the waters.

But one thing did strike me. At the beginning of each episode, Hawking introduces himself the same way:

"Hello, my name is Stephen Hawking: physicist, cosmologist and something of a dreamer. Although I cannot move and I have to speak through a computer, in my mind...I am free."

I've been trying to start and end each day with a little prayer and meditation, with limited success. But the minute I heard those words I connected, I understood. I felt a sense of peace. So I think I'm going to try starting out with a variation on Hawking's intro. I'll just substitute "physicist" and "cosmologist" with "academic co-ordinator" and "artist". And say "Although I have to work five days a week and have (fill in the malady), and have to (fill in the complaint du jour)...in my mind, I am free."

How beautiful is that?


Saturday, June 9, 2012

"Call Me Gay-be"

So I was about to put together a new post about meditation and wakefulness and being alive vs. living in the past. Or living in the past vs. living in the Now... blah, blah, blah...

Then, while searching YouTube for something I saw on the news , I landed on this. I don't know if these guys are gay (I'm guessing not) but it's so cute and cheerful and, frankly, a little hot, that I thought "Screw enlightenment! Let's see some cute hetero guys shakin' their booties and (almost) making out with each other!"

 Click here: Call Me Gaybe ... love it!


Monday, May 28, 2012

Farewell L.A.

My sojourn on the Left Coast is winding down: I'm sitting in the lobby of the Burbank Airport Marriott, checking e-mails, tallying up my bill to make sure I haven't been overcharged, having the first of several cups of coffee.

This has been a wonderful long weekend. The reason for the visit was the annual AALA Roundup, sponsored by the gay and lesbian groups of AA in Southern California. There are workshops, meetings, banquets, fun and fellowship as they say. I saw several old friends, and tried to reconnect to someone dear to me who has, as nearly as I can tell, gone into seclusion with no way to contact.

Leo Carillo Beach, looking north toward Malibu
But in addition to the celebration of recovery, I took the opportunity of being really away to travel around a bit and visit old haunts. (Thanks to Hertz and a couple of free upgrades I've been tooling around in a candy apple red Toyota Corolla LE with the most awesome GPS.) I went up into the Hollywood hills to see the house where I used to live, completely redone now, having been severely damaged in a mudslide back in '95. (I don't like what they did with it...) Visited West Hollywood and the French Market, strolled around Beverly Hills, then back to Silver Lake to Sunset Junction, the funky little area on Sunset Blvd. near the house where I first moved back in 1988. It's very much alive and well, although A Different Light, the gay & lesbian bookstore is gone now, where I used to participate in poetry readings on Sunday nights, which led to my being published in an anthology of works culled from several years of those readings.

Yesterday, after a couple of workshops, I got in the car and drove up the coast to Leo Carillo State Park   north of Malibu, a camping ground and beautiful beach with rock formations to climb, caves to explore, and from which you can see harbor seals swimming just offshore. It was suggested to me, after a workshop on Prayer and Spirituality, that meditation can take many forms and I was reminded that, for me, getting in the car and driving, all alone, can be very calming and joyful. So I got on the freeway (well, two or three, really) and then through Las Virgenes, a long road through a deep canyon with spectacular views, that let me out on the coast in Malibu. I drove to the beach, explored a little, and fell asleep on the sand. Then back down Pacific Coast Highway to Venice, where I strolled Abbott Kinney Blvd., the main drag, and shopped and had one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten: prosciutto, grilled asparagus and goat cheese with lemon zest on artisan bread. The whole day, though tiring, was remarkably restorative.

 A couple of nights I dropped off to sleep, fully dressed, at around 8 or 8:30 and didn't wake up until six the next morning. I've eaten well, and been reminded of how blessed I am -- in so many ways -- and that this is a wide, wide world. I mean, I know this -- I've traveled to many places here and abroad -- but it helps to be reminded from time to time, to actually see these places, meet the people, reconnect with old friends and remember that the little world I spin around in back home, which can give me such agita, is just a small piece of the larger puzzle.

In some ways it's been very emotional, seeing the places I used to live and remembering... I was a different person then, but aspects of that Fred are still with me. And now we're all coming home.







Thursday, May 17, 2012

Update from Kona

well I know it's been awhil;e since I tried to write anything but I have been very buzy getting use to my new house and owners and there's all the sleeping I have to do. Like these humans say There is never eoungh time in the day. but Hey I'm not a complainer.

The Cat in the Bag
Last week it was one Year that I've been with the new Humans and it has been very eventfull. I have learned how to get up on the fish tank and jump from there to the top of wehre they keep the TV, the arm-war they call it (I think thats French or something) and then they get all nervous becase they think i'll hurt myself jumping back down but that shows you how much they know. I can get down just fine even tho Chris usually will come over and reach up and get me. I mean I'm not a baby. I actually had a birthday not long ago and the human Chris tells everyone that I'm really 62 in human years which I think we could do without brodcasting that all over the place.

that Human, Chris, has been working a lot at his catering gigs (he calls them) and getting up before dawn some days to go to work so of course I'm up with him and sometimes I will sit with him while he's on the computer doing that work he has to do for jewel school so he can get a certified paper and start doing jewel stuff. Which I know he likes because sometimes he watches on the TV when they're selling jewlry on those shows with the really happy ladies with the big teeth and fancy fingernails. He says that sometimes the deals aren't bad. He likes the color stones the best, diamonds not so much, and when the commercials come on for those Pandora charm bracelets he gets angry like someone just poked him with a fish bone.He really hates those. But he takes good care of me and makes sure I have everything I need, even treats sometimes. He calls me Kona Man and has a little song he sings.

the other Human called Fred is working very hard at his job at the nursing college and going to therapy for his shoulder which has been giving him trouble. The therapy lady has him doing exercises at home to get better and he uses a big rubber band for one of the exercises but I mean a BIG rubber band that he lets me play with sometimes which is awesome. It seems to be a little better. He hasnt said anything in a long time about his cancer so I guess that means its okay for now.

He is going away next week to Calrifornia to see some old friends and maybe go to the Venice beach and Beverly Hills and just relax because he's been so stressed out the humans call it. Sometimes he looks so tired and sad so I try to cheer him up and give him love bites on his ankles. He doesnt understand this. I dont either, its a cat thing I guess. the Other Human Chris says theyll get the Pet Sidekick (?) to channel me and find out why I do that but it will probly be a waste of there money because I don't know. Maybe I'll make something up so they don't think theyre wasting there money on the Pet Sidekick.

Well that's all fornow. It is spring and I can sit in the open windows and smell the birds and trees and the Chinese food in the air. My humans are going down to Maryland to get a French picture they bought next month and see some family members of Chris's. They found this French picture at an anteek mall which i gather is wehre humans sell old things that some people dont want but other people do. Theyre always getting pictures and rugs and little pottery things for flowers and I've seen enough TV now to know that this is very gay and is part of their DNA and they cant help it. Like me biting Fred's ankles. Don't ask me why!

That's all for now--
Your gray-furred friend Kona

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Positive Rant

Heading to our nation's capital for the weekend, where Chris will participate in the Epilepsy Walk and I will take in the National Gallery and the cherry blossoms.

With that on my mind, and given that D.C. is the home to our fearless leaders and representatives -- and that it seems the news is crappier than usual these days-- I thought I'd share some good news, or at least a different view of The Big Picture than you're likely to get on the nightly/cable/24-hour news.

It's from quite a long article by investment guru and economist Alexander Green, in Spiritual Wealth, an e-newsletter I receive on a regular basis. It repeats a litany of information you've likely heard before about how different things are now than they were earlier in the 20th century, or before. But there's a wealth of stuff to think about, too, and I thought I'd pass some of it on. As the title of the article asks, "How often do you hear a positive rant?"

     "Consider that in the first half of the twentieth century, most people earned a subsistence living through long hours of backbreaking work on farms or in factories. In 1850, the average workweek was 64 hours. In 1900, it was 53. Today it is 42 hours. On the whole, Americans work less, have more purchasing power, enjoy goods and services in almost unlimited supply, and have much more leisure. 
     "Or take computing. In 1987, a megabyte of memory cost $5,000. The Mac II sitting on my desk - with one megabyte of memory and a running speed of 16 megahertz (which Apple described as "blindingly fast") - cost $5,500. Today an exponentially smaller, faster and better machine costs less than a tenth as much. As for memory, you can buy a terabyte drive today for less than 60 bucks. 
     "In Africa today a Masai warrior on a cellphone has better mobile communications than the President of the United States did 25 years ago; if he's on a smartphone with Google, he has access to more information than the President did just 15 years ago, with a feast of standard features: watch, stereo, camera, video camera, voice recorder, GPS tracker, video teleconferencing equipment, a vast library of books, films, games, music. Just 20 years ago these same goods and services would have cost over $1 million... 
     "Cruelty as entertainment, human sacrifice to indulge superstition, slavery as a labor-saving device, conquest as the mission statement of government, genocide as a means of acquiring real estate, torture and mutilation as routine punishment, the death penalty for misdemeanors and differences of opinion, assassination as the mechanism of political succession, rape as the spoils of war, pogroms as outlets for frustration, homicide as the major form of conflict resolution - all were unexceptionable features of life for most of human history. But, today, they are rare to nonexistent in the West, far less common elsewhere than they used to be, and widely condemned when they are brought to light.
     "Thank your lucky stars that you won the lottery simply by being born in the modern era." 


Copyright © 2012 by The Oxford Club, L.L.C

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Special Delivery

Fred's office, en fleurs


So last Thursday afternoon there's a soft knock on my office door and when I look up, there's Chris -- in his white shirt and black pants, just coming from his job -- holding an enormous bunch of the most beautiful, fragrant daffodils! Total surprise. The function he'd been working had apparently been decorated with masses of the flowers and he managed to make off with what appeared to be about two dozen.

They went immediately on my desk. I even shared half a dozen with my boss.

It made my day and is easily the most romantic thing that's happened to me in a long time.

Lucky me!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

L'Odyssee de Cartier



This is so beautiful... no comment necessary. Just sit back and enjoy it!



Saturday, March 10, 2012

Who Is "Good People"?

In today's issue of "Spiritual Wealth" (a newsletter I have delivered to my inbox on a regular basis) there was an article titled "Are You 'Good People?'" It was about Confucius who, despite his name having become something of a punch line over the years, was a real person (55-479 BC) with a real philosophy.


"The central concept of Confucius' philosophy is ren or benevolence. (It also means 'gentleman' in the sense of someone who behaves with authentic respect and consideration for others.) It was Confucius' view that the cultivation of benevolence leads to self-mastery and...right action."


Everyone's familiar with the fortune cookie jokes that start "Confucius say...", but there really is a collection of sayings, compiled from what his students remembered -- collectively known as the Analects -- through which he inspires us to express our better natures, reminding us that "we define ourselves by what we do in our daily routines and relationships".


In the last few years (maybe longer) there's been much focus on fostering "self-esteem" in children (indeed, in everyone) to the point that now kids get praise for just showing up at the game or doing their best on a math test. (Never mind if they actually studied or did their homework.) But as I drive to the train in the morning to go to work I see kids going to school in baggy shorts (even in the coldest weather) and unlaced sneakers; tight-tight pants and cropped T-shirts; any number of odd combinations. And one day it occurred to me that what these kids need (in the view of this old fart) isn't self-esteem as much as self-respect. Self-esteem comes from doing estimable things, behaving estimably -- you can't just hand it to someone in a package of gold stars or a pat on the head.


I think if you truly respect yourself you foster the behavior that leads to respecting others; behaving in a civil, decent manner; speaking appropriately and respectfully; treating others, in other words, as you would have them treat you.


Unfortunately these days, in popular culture (especially with the advent of "reality TV"), in politics, wherever you look, the role models for estimable behavior are fewer and farther between. The "stars" of "Jerseylicious", for example, or "Jersey Shore" (oh, poor New Jersey!), or "Dance Moms"* promote a way of presenting yourself to the world and behaving in a manner that's the polar opposite of the way many of us were raised: screaming, yelling, insults, doing whatever it takes to get yourself ahead and screw everyone else... This is what passes for "self-esteem" these days, but in my humble opinion, these people suffer from a severe self-respect deficiency.


So will it change things overnight if we make the children wear long pants, shirts with collars, hard-soled shoes to school? Will the national discourse become more civil by Monday afternoon? Doubtful. It's not just what kids wear to school. It's the way they treat their parents, teachers -- even each other -- that reflects what they think of themselves, to a greater or lesser degree. I guess it's a variation on the old idea that you need to love yourself before you can love another. (Thank you, RuPaul, can I get an 'Amen' up in here?) If you respect yourself, you'll respect other people, you'll be kind, you'll have boundaries...all that good stuff. Much the way the rules of etiquette were established to make you comfortable in any situation, you and those around you.


It doesn't come cheap or easy. Like anything worth having, you need to work at self-respect. It's not swagger and bragging and mouthing off, it's intangible. But you know it when you see it, or when you're in its presence.


Know what I mean?


*I'm starting a list of "Things I Could Happily Live Without Seeing Ever Again", and the first item on the list is white women doing the "sassy black woman head-bob", as exemplified by Abby Lee, the hefty choreographer/star of "Dance Moms", in the promos for the show. I don't know what it's supposed to mean...or say... but enough!


Finally, please check out the two new favorite links to the right of this post: Rona Fisher Jewelry: Rona designs and hand-crafts beautiful, truly unique jewelry pieces; and Gilt Groupe, a site you can sign up for and receive regular updates in your email about terrific deals on (mainly) clothes, for men and women: really good prices for really unique items. I regularly get compliments on the clothes I've bought from Gilt Groupe sales.