Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

Daughters Stacey and Barbra
 Well this is it, December 31st, 2011, the final day of the year.  I asked a bunch of people this week what they were doing tonight.  The younger ones, like my daughters, were both going out—dinners, nightclubs, concerts, but the older ones—the old fogies like you know who--were either staying home or going out to eat and then back home or to a friend's.  Quiet.  Safe.  Most were praying they could keep their eyes open till midnight. 
“But if Dick Clark could do it…”, someone said.   That would be their first challenge for 2012.
I tried to remember our many new years’ eves and most blended together.
We once we paid a bundle to see the Fifth Dimension in the early nineties.  I was so excited.  They used to be huge with their hits “Aquarius’ and “Wedding Bell Blues.”  Yes, they'd been sliding in the charts, but with Marilyn McCoo’s perfect voice, and the rest of the group.  I didn’t care that they hadn’t had a hit in awhile.  Kids had no taste.
Thrilled, I sat at the edge of my seat, applauding deliriously when they made their entrance and continued clapping until the group wasted half the concert swooning to gospel songs.  What the hell were they thinking?   I wanted to shake them till they got some sense in their heads.  Did they think it was a revival on a Saturday night in some Iowa cornfield?  All they needed were a couple cripples tossing their crutches to the winds. 

No, the New Years I remember most is the one I spent in the hospital 38 years ago.  We were on our way to a party when my water broke.  “Couldn’t be,” I said to Bob.  “It’s ten days early.  I'll change and we'll go to the party.”                                                        
“I think we better call someone.”
After arguing back and forth, we finally dialed the doctor while my husband prayed for a tax deduction.  But Stacey never accommodated us.  She always arrived on her own good time—that morning a few minutes before ten on January 1st.
A new years’ baby!  They're supposed to bring good luck and this one lived up to the adage.    
That got me to wondering how many babies are born each day in the world, and the best anyone can guess is 440,000.  So under a half million will make their appearances tomorrow.  Good luck to all you new parents, which also got me to wondering if there were any famous folks born on the New Year ’s Day.
There's a bunch, but just to name a few:
1431-Pope Alexander VI
Paul Revere
1735-Paul Revere, American Patriot  
George Washington Carver
1860-George Washington Carver, American educator
1874-Gustave Whitehead, German born inventor
1879-E.M. Forster, English novelist
1883-Gabrielle Chanel, French fashion designer
1895-J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director--he turned into a nutcase
1900-Xavier Cugat, Spanish Musician
Barry Goldwater
1909-Barry Goldwater, American politician 
1912-Kim Philby, British spy
1919-J.D. Salinger, American novelist
Rocky Graziano
1922-Rocky Graziano, American boxer
1943-Don Novello, American actor
1970-Kimberly Page, American actress
2000-Kala Sosefina Mileniume Kauvaka, Tongan baby born first in new millennium
And all race horses are considered born on New Years' Day.

 And to all you humans, thank you so much for reading my blog, and may the coming year bring good health and prosperity.  Remember to smile.  It’s just a lot more fun that way.  Happy New Year!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Ever Happened to David Goldman?

Sean and David Goldman
 I love the end of December when the networks and cable channels reminisce about the last twelve months, and you pause to think about the people who’ve passed.   Some you didn’t realize had died, and you emit an unconscious gasp while others you mourn all over again.

Can we ever find another Steve Jobs, Andy Rooney, Christopher Hitchens, or Elizabeth Taylor?  What a loss to humanity.
I was talking to a friend about it, and we were naming more names when I wondered what happened to David Goldman.  Remember him?   His ex-wife snatched their five year old son Sean in 2004 and flew him to Brazil.  It was only supposed to be a vacation, but once there, she announced she’d never returned.  She remarried and died in childbirth--I applauded her death--sorry, but she deserved it--and David was left fighting his former in-laws and the widowed husband through the Brazilian courts for custody.   It was an endless battle lasting a heartbreaking five years.    
I remembered it concluded around Christmastime.   “Just last December,” I said, but I was wrong.  Turns out it had been two years already, in 2009.  Sean was nine.   Today, he’s eleven.   His father David calls their time together, “a miracle.”  He’s also written a memoir about their saga called, A Father's Love.

Their update is now in the book, but to offer you a summary, this is what has happened. 
Sean coming home
A former model, David is now a fishing boat charter captain and real estate agent and has become an advocate in helping others who have had children abducted to another country by one parent.  As he flew his son home two years ago, Goldman said he’d allow Sean to visit his grandparents, but that hasn’t happened.   Last March the boy’s maternal grandfather died of cancer, and Sean did not want to call his grandmother—he said he always felt too much pressure on the phone—but sent a card instead.

However, Sean seems to have made a real home in New Jersey.  Goldman’s taught him how to ride a bike, swing a baseball bat, and helped him with lots of homework.  He’s getting A’s and B’s.

In April Brazilian inspectors came to check on Sean and the condition of their home.  Of course Goldman passed, but I find the inspection itself an outrage.  What right do they have to interfere with this family after that mother committed the criminal act of kidnapping her own son?   Brazil then harbored this felon and then defended the step family, forcing the Goldmans to remain apart and continue suffering emotional and financial duress.   It wasn't until Hilary Clinton and President Obama himself stepped in, that the boy was finally released.  While in Goldmans' home, David presented the Brazilian authorities a letter from parents from six countries whose children have allegedly been abducted to their country.   To date, no one else has been freed.
But the Goldmans themselves are great.   It’s Christmas now, and everything’s bright and shining and blinking with store-bought lights. 

So Merry Christmas, David and Sean, and may you celebrate a hundred more.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Callista Gingrich: The Possessor in the Right Angled Suits

Callista Gingrinch
So far the public has endured 17 Republican debates, and familiar faced Newt is galloping on top of the heap.  He said one of his secret weapons is his third wife, Callista.   She’s kept a low profile, so people haven’t talked about her much, but they’re starting to notice how the lady dresses.
She's developed her own tailored uniform, rich, exacting, with straight, boxy shoulders on her ever present designer jackets, platinum helmet hair--rigidly cut and coiffed, and makeup painted against her pores and not to be retouched.  In fact, nothing is to be fussed or mussed.  Perfection can’t be duplicated.
In her early days in Washington, Callista used to be simpler.  She modeled a swingy layered hairdo and a more relaxed dress code, like many upscale overachieving Americans.  Not anymore.  Today she clings to clothes with instructions that seem to be spit from her Blackberry and dictated daily with slight variations.  Nobody looks like her but eighty-five year old widows in twenty-million dollar mansions surrounded by French provincial furniture and artwork of the Madonna and Child.

In our all too casual society where folks stroll around town in torn T-shirts and tanks that barely cover one’s breasts, Callista comes off looking like a waxed doll that never got fifty-feet near the flame.  She's only 45, but I got a funny feeling that she's more rigid than Queen Elizabeth.  I hear the queen eats her cereal out of a Tupperware bowl and walks around her many palaces flipping off the lights.  Maybe Callista's just insecure and wears her severely tailored style like a shield to fend off natural human contact with others.  After all, she never married a prince, only Newt, who got kicked out of congress for ethics violations he committed in 1998.                                                                      
Then again, this is the digital age, and the silent majority found their voices years ago and have been shouting ever since.  I also understand looks aren’t everything, but Bess Truman’s long gone and Mamie Eisenhower’s bangs died with her.   Still I can’t find a genuine anything about Callista.   Too bad Newt’s crazy about her, though the man’s been known to change his mind—again and again and again.  They say last June his sixteen staffers quit en masse because of a fallout with his wife.   Really?   So the woman’s got a mouth?  Some called her a dictator.  That means she not only dresses like the old Gadhafi, she just might be him, or maybe, like Putin, the possessor behind the throne.

Uh-oh.  Stick around.  I can just hear the tales to come.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Black Friday: Our Newest National Sport

Good thing the NBA hasn’t started playing yet.  After all these months away from the game, I wouldn’t want them running up against our latest pastime.  It only comes once a year, and if you blink, you might get your head knocked off.  Though it’s not for the faint of heart, anyone can participate.
But there are rules.
Black Friday pillaging includes all six parts:  waiting in line, stampeding into the store, grabbing the item, keeping it safe while deflecting all negative action to pull it from your grip, seriously paying, and safely shoving it into your car. 
waiting to get inside
Believe me, it only looks simple.            

In 2008, 2,000 people broke the hinges off the doors of a Walmart on Long Island and trampled a 34 year old part-time employee to death.  They also trampled an eight-month old pregnant woman causing one of the most brutal abortions imaginable.
But hey, that was only one day in a single store.
I bet everyone’s heard about the gunfight at the OK Corral?  How about the one at a “Toys ‘R’ Us” in Palm Desert, CA, also in 2008? 
Two women got in a fight, and before you knew it their husbands pulled out their guns and started shooting.  One man missed and started chasing the other up the aisles toward the front as the customers ran screaming from the building.  Both men made it to the cash registers where they kept shooting the other before both died in front of their wives and kids.  (Oh yes, the children witnessed their fathers deaths).
It was a Christmas to remember.

Which makes Black Friday just the perfect kind of sport. You know how Americans love violence?  We’re a playful culture—wrestling, boxing, extreme sports like sheer ice climbing, edge-of-the-mountain biking, base jumping, and guns, guns, guns.
And Black Friday is simply a short conglomeration of everything mushed together, from midnight to noon—one 12 hour stretch, and it’s for everyone who wants to compete.  You don’t have to travel to Europe, Asia, Africa.  It’s all here at the mall!
So what’s a little pepper spray, a gunshot wound, a stabbing, and a heart attack among friends?
In a few hours it’s over, and people mourn when it’s passed.

Now they’ll have to endure an endless, repetitive, ordinary existence—until midnight Thanksgiving 2012, until the Xboxes are carted back to the front, and the doors break down, and the mobs bash through, and the bloody shopping begins anew.
So give a toast.  Joy to the season!  And to all who survive.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

So the Pilot had to Go Potty...

Did you hear the one about the pilot who got stuck in the lavatory and pounded on the door for help?

A passenger heard his pleas and rushed to his aid and was asked by the pilot to notify the co-pilot at the controls.  He dutifully followed orders, but when the co-pilot heard the passenger’s heavy foreign accent combined with the suddenly missing pilot, he panicked and called air traffic control for help. 

 They told him to declare an emergency.

Procedures were begun and navy jets were called to action, but before they had a chance to scramble, the pilot fought his way out of the bathroom and was back in his seat, ready to land the aircraft as it reached its destination in New York.
Still the FBI was waiting, just in case.
Now people are wondering how we can prevent this from happening again.  It got me to wondering too.  The story about the pilot seems like a metaphor for what’s happening now to much of our news.

 A lot of meaningless stories get blown out of proportion and become our main focus, instead of the economy, war, and other important stuff.  I guess people want to hear that instead of the grittier information that will make a difference.  Just surf the morning talk shows and newspapers, and see the gossip and fluff that’s being reported out there. 

Kim Kardashian
Take Kim Kardashian.  

Who the hell is she and why would I care?  She’s not an actress, writer, scientist or politician.  I heard her speak once, and she’s certainly not a wit, brain, or anyone worth listening to. 
I hear she sells clothes and jewelry with her two other sisters, but I’ve never seen her show so I can’t say for sure.  So why she important?  How come so many people care?
 As I was checking out my groceries, People magazine announced that she threw a 7 million dollar wedding.  Smiling, I bet myself that the union wouldn’t last a year.  Boy, was I over generous.  Even I hadn’t imagined it would linger for a little over two anguished months, though I heard that Kim had wanted out earlier.  Poor dear.  The public had allowed her to suffer so long.

Eva and Zsa Zsa Gabor
I used to think the Gabor sisters got invited on The Merv Griffin Show to fill up the empty chairs, but Zsa Zsa and Eva not only married often, but were bona fide actresses with quick sense of humors, ready to entertain. 
So what gives today?  Why is everything so over the top and empty inside?  Of course this self-produced Broadway production of the Kardashian wedding always sounded like a hoax. 
I’m sure a reporter had asked her.  “Kim, can you imagine yourself growing old with Kris?”
And her honest answer should have been, “Honey, he won’t last until my next Botox injection.”
Oh well, at least the pilot got free, and the flight landed safely, and the world hangs on edge for the juicy details of Kim's divorce.  Stay tuned for the next episode of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Reality Beats Neimans Fantasy This Year

Nothing I can think of compares to the Neiman’s Christmas catalog—you know those million dollar diamonds and that ultra deluxe safari?  And this year the store offered a $395,000 Ferrari FF and sold out in fifty minutes.
Surprised?  Oh come on.
It was one of the cheapest fantasy offerings, and any average millionaire could take it with a nod.  There’s still dancing waters available for a million and an International Flower Show Tour for $420,000  ( I think they both include a ticket for a friend).

You see, Neimans creates a life that you never fully imagined because you never pictured that level of decadence before.  But today you can dream as decadent as you ever wanted to be because this year a couple countries just outdid the most fabulous department store on earth.

For the first time since Nero fiddled while Rome crackled in flames, Italy and Greece have gone bust, and everything, even a toothpick from a thousand year old olive tree, is up for sale.
The Colosseum in Rome

Even the coveted Colosseum, you ask?  The realtor said the roof’s in need of immediate repair, and part of the sides and floor have drifted away, but it’s a handyman’s dream come true.
David by Michelangelo
Ever imagine owning “The Last Supper” by da Vinci?  Or “David” by Michelangelo?   Too pricey, you think?   The Roman parliament is introducing layaway plans just before the holidays, and don’t worry, they don’t bother checking credit ‘cause they got nothing either.
Oops, this just in.  The “Leaning Tower of Pisa” is out of the running.  Disney just bought it and is building a new theme park called Dizzy Disney, complete with barf bags at every landing.

What fun we’ll have, but we’ll miss the old stories about Prime Minister Berlusconi, taking his eyes off the books and onto his falling zipper with the underage girls he seduced.
 Yet if Italy’s losing part of its fortune, then Greece is having a genuine fire sale.
Over the last few years, 40% the population refused to pay taxes, and instead of enforcing the law, the government let them go and borrowed the money needed from the European Union.  This continued until the government went broke—to the tune of half a trillion.  Did you hear that, people?  That’s like a gazillion bucks.
Many Greeks retired at 48 and vegged on their couches, neatly forgetting that they caused their own crisis. 
This past September and October they panicked when they realized they might have to work and peeled themselves off their cushions to riot in the streets because they deserved the money.   This week they rioted again because the new prime minister set austerity measures. 
You see nobody enjoys the good life more than the Greeks.  They’re singers, dancers, revelers, lovers, and understand gourmet food, and a 1924 Rothchild burgundy from a 1923 and a half.  But nobody said they had any brains. 
Goblets up, folks.   I’ll drink to that.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Martin Luther King, the Unabomber, and Me

We just got back from D.C. and we ran around seeing the sights we’ve missed in the past, but we still had to bypass a few—like Congress.
Hey, they never do anything anyway.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
We DID get to the new Martin Luther King Memorial.  It’s sleek, fresh, and still adjusting to its new home.  People criticize the statue because Martin’s not smiling, but he’s got serious dreams on his mind, and the design fits its purpose.  Short granite walls outline an uneven path with quotes from his speeches, and his body, his entire being, faces out to the tidal basin just across from the Jefferson Memorial.  What an idea, I thought, bringing two of our greatest minds together, two men who had aspired and used every ounce of their flesh, all the strength of their souls to move this country in a just and rightful direction.

Oh, and how about that Newseum?  That place seems to collect everything about the news—past and present –from the studio that broadcasts George Stephonopoulos’ show each Sunday to the late Tim Russert’s office, and even Ted Kaczynski’s house.  You remember the Unabomber?  Much to his chagrin, the museum dragged Ted’s one-room shack from the plains of Montana to our nation’s capital.  He wrote an angry note protesting the move, but today it stands, his tiny abode with shelves unevenly spaced along the back wall.  When he was captured, he said it used to cost him $200 a year to live, but the cost had soared to three.  The guy just couldn’t catch a break.

Ted Kacznyski
His house

By the afternoon, it started getting cold.  D.C. got caught in that sudden snowstorm that bombarded the East coast.  I had packed a couple sweaters and was wearing my fleece, but this was beyond fifties weather.  My husband and I grabbed a cab to Filene’s Basement to get something warm.  Practically leaping inside, I felt like a refugee fleeing from the boat—okay, a guest of the Marriott with a credit card and cash.   

In a few minutes I found a hat, scarf, gloves, and long underwear…  I also picked up a cheap cashmere sweater.  As my mother would say, I did good.
When we left, I was almost warm.  Almost.  I still needed something for my arms because I was only wearing a sweater under my fleece.
As we approached the White House, I wondered if Obama sometimes stood by the door and handed out woven garments for frozen tourists.  Didn’t Michelle shop at J Crew?  My daughter worked there part time and got a discount.  Maybe we could discuss a little deal, I thought, when I spotted those white vans a block away selling souvenir sweatshirts.

  “That's the place!” I yelled, remembering from last time and grinning like I just won Dancing with the Stars, except I didn’t trip on stage in front of millions who’d never forget.
I stared at the selection.  There must’ve been a hundred shirts shouting “WASHINGTON” across the chest and I instantly added one to my original ensemble from Filene’s.
By lunch it started sleeting, and my leather shoes were wet and rubbing against my toes.  We cabbed it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and I saw a stack of twenties that equaled 32 million.  Andrew Jackson’s picture never looked so good.

The little boy next to me giggled.   I started laughing too.
Let it sleet like hell was freezing over.  It was a wondrous day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ebook Revolution

Baby with IPAD
I just came back from a writers' conference, and it blew my mind.  The whole industry change! 

We've all seen how some of the big box book stores with coffee bars and cozy places to cuddle up and read are closing up, and those that are left and becoming harder to find.   It's sad and I already miss them.   If our world was created on a cartoon screen, I imagine the monstrous buildings rising from the ground in a rumbling tornado and blown away like Dorothy clutching Toto on her way to Oz. 
Don't you enjoy browsing from table to table turning the pages, reading the blurbs?

But today there are ebooks.
the nook
  They're still a minority though rising at a spectacular rate.  There’s the Kindle, of course, but also the nook, Kobo, Sony, and others, yet each type is incompatible with the other.  You can’t buy a book from one and play it on another brand.                     Wonderful.
Remember VHS and Beta Max?  That got resolved pretty quickly with VHS becoming the clear winner.   Not so here—unless of course, you buy an app that makes them compatible.
Are they kidding?
Are they thinking that anyone besides the nerds are going to work that hard?  Really most people just want to read a book, and Kindle’s already got three million available.  It looks like they’re winning the race, but don’t forget the IPAD. 
To date, Apple’s sold three hundred, twenty million of them, and one of their apps allows you to read any Kindle book you like.  Wow!
But is there ever going to be a time where we won't be able to turn an actual page?  Jeez, I hope not.  Babies under one are now playing with the IPAD, and three year olds are hooked!
Just think, you no longer have to lug six books for a two week hike in the woods.  Download the ones you want and carry them all in a few ounce reader, or download them as you go.
baby with IPad
But the best part of the e-readers is really for the writer. 

Publishing always meant months or maybe years of finding an agent, and if accepted, another wait for a publisher, and then production. Broadway could produce three shows on the road before a book gets lost on the shelf for the first time.

With ebooks, there still’s a procedure, but the middleman, the publisher is gone, and the number of new books seeing the light of day is overwhelming:  Short stories, poems, plays, and many odd tidbits that could never have gotten published before, are out there ready to go.  It has sparked the industry.  People are excited again.

Ebooks have become a paradigm, like nuclear energy.   After the bomb was dropped, the whole world was never the same again.
So I say, “Ebooks will never die.”  Like the Gettysburg Address has been repeated till eternity, so will my little truth.
And please tell everyone that Terry Neuman said it. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bye Bye Acrylics

Yes, I’m staring down at my nasty paper-thin stubs that look like the result of some lumber company’s chainsaw massacre,  my fingers destroyed for eternity.  (You don't need to see a picture of this).  And I readily admit my nails weren’t gorgeous to begin with, but I’m not happy, and I need to vent.
You see I didn’t learn from my mistakes.  This is the second time it’s happened.  This is the second time I got an infection under my thumb and forefinger where I again rushed to the ER to get them clean and disinfected, and later, all my fake nails removed.

No, I’m not going to beat myself up.  Well not forever.   It’s not like I got divorced and then married the same shlub all over again.  No, it wasn’t that horrendous--though it teeters on borderline stupid.
good looking acrylic nails--not mine
The first time it happened I asked my nail tech, Lorrene (not her real name, and I don’t remember her real name anyway) why it occurred.  She said I must’ve knocked my fingers against something and broken the seal, which allowed water to seep underneath. 
Then it was bound to happen again.  I’m hard on my hands, always banging into something, which is why I could never grow my real ones in the first place, and is the reason I turned to fake. 
fancy acrylic nails, not mine

But I loved the fake ones!  My squatty square-knuckled fingers looked like Miss America’s.  For the first few months, everybody marveled at the perfection until bits of green began creeping under them.  Hey, what was going on?  It was like Johnny Appleseed working the nail beds--a modern leprechaun applying for the chlorophyll rights.

Infection.  Dammit.  Lorrene removed all the nails, and I railed against acrylics, preached against their unholiness, like the pope decrying two gay priests marrying secretly in the Sistine Chapel on a Saturday night.

So what was I doing in the ER last week getting a tetanus shot and an RX for cipro?
You see, my girlfriend Jan (not her real name though I do remember it) got these gel nails a few years ago and said they were safe.
“But fake nails are the worst things ever," I argued.
“But look at mine."  She fanned her nails in front of me.  "I’ve never worn anything neater.  These things are made in heaven.”
I hid my astonishingly jagged stubs behind my back as I examined hers carefully.  It’s been 20 years, and times had changed.  Gels were new, different.  Should I?  My husband would love them.  I took the plunge.
Months went by, even a year, until Johnny Appleseed reared his misshapen green head once again, and once again I was force to race behind the ambulances and into the double sliding-glass doors.
So what now?  Should I hide my head in shame?  Yeah, yeah, I could do that.
Maybe I should start a ten-step program, assigning sponsorships and calling it Acrylics Anonymous.   
Crazy, huh?  
 We can walk on the moon, but we can’t find Terry new tips.     

Bye Bye Acrylics

Yes, I’m staring down at my uneven paper-thin stubs that look like the result of some lumber company’s chainsaw massacre, but are really my fingers destroyed for eternity.  Okay, my nails weren’t that gorgeous to begin with, but you get the point.  I’m not happy, and I need to vent.  
You see, I didn’t learn from my mistakes.  This is the second time it’s happened.  A second infectiongrew  under the nail where I again, rushed to the ER to get them off forever.
No, this time it’s for good.   
I’m not going to beat myself up.  Well not forever.   It’s not like I got divorced and then married the same idiot all over again.  No, it wasn’t that horrendous though it teeters on borderline stupid.
The first time it happened I asked my nail tech, Lorrene (not her real name, and I don’t remember her real name anyway) why it happened.  She said I must’ve knocked my fingers against something and broken the seal, which allowed water to seep underneath the nail. 

Then it was bound to happen.  I’m hard on my hands, always banging into something, which is why I could never grow out my real ones in the first place, which is the reason I turned to fake. 

So for a few months my squatty square-knuckled fingers looked like Miss America’s—if Miss America was squinting in the sun from twenty-three feet away. 
Yes, they were a marvel to admire before bits of green began creeping under a couple of the acrylics.  What the hell was going on?  It was like Johnny Appleseed was working the nail beds, like a modern leprechaun applied for chlorophyll rights.

Infection.  Damn.  Lorrene removed the nails.

So what was I doing in the ER last week getting a tetanus shot and an RX for cipro?
You see, my girlfriend Jan (not her real name though I do remember it) got these gel nails a few years ago and said they were safe.
“But fake nails are the worst things ever invented.”
“Look at mine.  I’ve never worn anything ever.  These things are like made in heaven.”
I hid my nauseatingly uneven stubs behind my back as I examined what I thought to be perfection.  It’s been 20 years, and times had changed.  Gels were new, different!  I took the plunge. 
Months went by, even a year, until Johnny Appleseed reared his green misshapen head once again, and once again I raced for the cure—chopped off my nails and swallowed the lifesaving drugs. 
Maybe I should start a ten-step program, passing out sponsorships, ready to offer advice on a moment’s notice.  Acrylics Anonymous.  Crazy, huh?  We can walk on the moon, but we can’t find Terry new tips.     

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Steve Jobs and Biological Father: No Final Reunion

I never met Steve Jobs.

I rarely thought about him or followed his life.  But I can appreciate inventions and technology, and more important,  admire true genius.  Although there are many bright people, thank God, there are only a couple geniuses out there-- born every fifty to a hundred years--no matter how often the word is bandied about, like all a child has to do is build the highest castle in the preschool sandbox, and he or she will change the universe.

Sorry Mama Dearest.  Little Chesley might not be the shining light.

From what I’ve learned, Jobs was singular.  He had a vision, and he followed it.  Besides changing the world of technology, his personal life reads like the background of a fast paced work of fiction.  But it's true.  
Abdulfattah Jandali
 Most people know that Jobs was adopted.   The other day The Wall Street Journal published a fascinating article.  It’s about his biological father, Abdulfattah “John” Jandali, a Syrian immigrant, who was told in 2005 that Jobs was his son, and after learning the truth, sent emails asking about his health.  He received curt "thank yous," nothing more.  His dream was to meet Jobs in person.  That was never to be.

(Jandali is also the absentee father to Mona Simpson, a celebrated author and Steve Jobs' biological half sister, who wrote a novel called The Lost Father.  Guess who it’s based upon.)

Mona Simpson, Steve Jobs's sister
At 80, Jandali is the general manager of Boomtown Casino outside Reno, Nevada, overseeing 450 employees.  He earned his PhD in political science in 1952 at the University of Wisconsin, and while in Madison, met Joanne Schieble—later known as Joanne Simpson.  She became pregnant with Jobs, but her father was against their marriage.  Subsequently, she put the baby up for adoption.  When her father died, she married Jandali, and gave birth to their daughter, Mona.  The marriage ended in divorce, and Jandali abandoned the family.           

In a speech given at Stanford University in 2005, Jobs reflected on his life and said that he had a relationship with his biological mother and sister but did not mention his father.

I can certainly understand Jobs keeping his distance.  Jandali was no father of the year.  He never contacted his only legitimate daughter, and I wonder if he only wanted to see his son after he learned that his offspring was famous.  Friends say that the estrangement had become a source of great sadness to him over the years.
He still had his gifted daughter Mona that never caused him to pick up the phone.  So I wonder how he's feeling today.   If the man still wants to make amends, why doesn't he make the effort and build a warm trusting relationship with his only surviving child. 
I bet he doesn’t.
Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Who Killed Michael Jackson?

Dr. Conrad Murray

Dr. Conrad Murray is on trial this week, and for three more weeks to come, for involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson.  He could get four years for not only enabling Jackson’s serious drug habit, but for leaving the room after administering a dangerous surgical sedative, and when he finally walked back in and found his patient unconscious, or dead—no one’s sure—he did not perform proper CPR or call for help immediately.

The doctor insisted that he injected only a certain amount of propofol, the anesthetic that the entertainer used as a sleeping pill, but the autopsy showed higher levels.  The question is:  Did Jackson, who knew how to administer injections, give himself that final dose after the doctor left the room or did the doctor do it and is lying to the world?

surgical sedative, propofol
I say, who cares?  The doctor is already guilty of a million other things, like getting the propofol illegally, supplying Jackson with hundreds of drugs that should’ve killed a football stadium jammed with fans, leaving his only patient alone, and not performing proper CPR.                       

And of course, how come he didn’t call 911 or tell an assistant to do so immediately?  No, he waited, and after a bodyguard entered, Murray asked him to help him clear away the drugs.  Murray was still clearing away vials when the paramedics were leaving with Jackson’s lifeless body. 
Do I feel sorry for Murray?  He’s sitting in court teary-eyed, horrified at the facts presented.  But there’s a pattern here.  He’s been in trouble before—filing for bankruptcy in 1992 and having his Texas medical license revoked in 2002.  A couple years later he met the rock star.  The doctor needed money, and Michael, a serious addict, needed a personal M.D. to write his scripts.  He hired Murray, and ta da! the problem was solved!
No two ways about it, Murray was culpable the day he accepted the job.
Unfortunately as time passed, the drugs became incredibly dangerous, and many doctors, had they known, would have predicted that Jackson didn’t have long to live.  If he didn't die the day he did, he would’ve dropped a day later or the day after that, or maybe a week...
There’s a tape of him slurring his speech on May 10, 2009.  Forty-eight hours later, the wizardly Doctor Murray ordered 40 vials of 100 milligrams of propofol.   What the hell was he thinking? 
He didn’t—not anymore.
The only forces that were pushing the physician were greed, stupidity, and hubris.

 Bill Mauer said Murray killed Michael.  I don’t believe that.  Murray certainly expedited the singer’s death, but don’t get the story confused.  Though the proceedings on TV sounds like a murder trial, they aren't.  The people of California know that if it wasn’t Dr. Murray, it would’ve been someone else.
There were other doctors before Murray and certainly other incidences, but the only one who killed Michael was Michael.  Sadly, the genius of entertainment could never stop himself. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Abolishing That Last Meal

Texas, the state that kills more death row inmates than any other, announced this week that they were giving up its tradition of the special last meal request after an egregious promise was fulfilled.   
Lawrence Brewer in Sheriff's vest

Lawrence Brewer, a white supremacist convicted of murdering James Byrd, Jr., a black man, in 1998, requested an enormous dinner this past Wednesday that included a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, a meat-lover’s pizza, a big bowl of okra with ketchup, a pound of barbecue, a half loaf of bread, peanut butter fudge, a pint of ice cream, and two chicken fried steaks.
When the food arrived, he refused it, saying he wasn’t hungry.
Furious, Texas State Senator John Whitmire said, “Enough is enough.  It is extremely inappropriate to give the person sentenced to death such a privilege.  It’s a privilege… the perpetrator did not provide to their victim.”
State Senator John Whitmire
Yet this tradition has a history dating back before Christ.  The Romans honored it, even the Greeks.  But it used to serve a purpose.  The last meal was supposed to be a symbol of acceptance.  By partaking, the criminal supposedly accepted his fate without rancor, assuring society that justice was served and that he wouldn’t come back to haunt them.
In the last few years other states have also dropped this tradition, finding that death-row inmates ordered the food in anger to get back at society-at-large.
Maybe it was better in the past when the final meal included lots of booze so that the prisoner wouldn’t start screaming about how he didn’t get a fair hearing or beg for mercy to the community at large.
And not too long ago, prisoners were anxious to eat.

Miguel Flores consumed three beef enchiladas with onions, three cheese enchiladas with onions, Spanish rice, a bowl of jalapenos, an order of French fries, a cheeseburger, a bowl of mayonnaise, a bowl of ketchup, a bowl of salsa, three Dr. Peppers, a pitcher of ice, a banana split, and four quesadillas.
Delbert Teague asked for nothing but finally ate a hamburger at his mother’s request.   (No, she wasn’t Jewish, but she must’ve been worried about the long journey ahead.)
Philip Workman
Timothy McViegh, the Oklahoma bomber, ate two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream, and Philip Workman declined anything for himself but requested a pizza for a homeless man in Nashville.  The request was denied, but hundreds of shelters across the country were flooded with free pizzas in honor of Workman’s request.
No, those monsters really don’t deserve anything special, but I like the story about the condemned man who wanted a very rare steak and a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild—from the year 2065.   He added, “And I don’t mind waiting.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Article about Articles

Jeff Bezos
Did you know our articles, those three most commonly used words in the English language, “a,  an,”  and  “the,” suddenly have no use in the digital age?   The marketers and advertisers treat them like dust balls.   They clutter conversation and screech thoughts to a grinding halt.

Never passed your mind before?   I never considered them either.
reading Kindle
But Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, spoke with reporter Charlie Rose last year and repeatedly dodged the word the when describing his ebook Kindle.   “Kindle is succeeding; Kindle is a companion to tablet computers...”    He completed the interview with nary a “the” in range.
 Nintendo also fitted itself in the same mold, announcing to their customers, “What Wii is all about.”  Both companies set the tone, leading by example while Motion Ltd., the maker of Blackberry, stated it clearly, so no one could misunderstand.  "Blackberry is an adjective, not a noun.  'The Blackberry' is unacceptable."

Oh I get it.  Blackberry might look like a thing but is really a description—even if I can see it, touch it, and slam it against the wall.   Gotta remember that.

Branding gurus defend “the” omission.  According to The Wall Street Journal, they argue that dropping the article makes the brand feel more iconic, less formal, and within easy reach.
Easy reach of what, the consumer walking into a store and purchasing a spankin’ new adjective?  I never bought one of those before.

Yet everything works--if the public accepts it--and as long as grammarians agree.  But the grammarians don't.  They hate it.   In Theodore’s Bernstein’s The Careful Writer, he claims omitting articles is a “disfigurement of the language.”
“When the writer is tempted to lop [one] off, he should ask himself whether he would as readily delete all the other articles.  Would we write, ‘Main feature of combined first floors of new building will be spacious hospitality area?’”
Nope, I don't think so, but that's just for people who insist on getting it straight, and remember Apple’s been creating its own innovations for years.   When Craig Tanimoto, a former art director, came up with “Think Different,” in 1997, chopping off the “ly,” everyone in the office gave him a long look, even Steve Jobs, who then broke into a grin.
Still, can we randomly decide that a machine we hold is not an “it” but merely a description, which means we’ve got to monitor our brains when we speak, forcing ourselves not to place an article in front of the forbidden word. 

Count me out of the conversation.  That’s too much energy to exert against all previous education.  I can see using Kindles and Blackberries at the beginning of a sentence but to keep it going forever?  I’ll pass that labor to Mr. Bezos. 
He’s a billionaire.  Let him earn it.         

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Labor Day--The World's Become One Giant Markdown

It’s Labor Day weekend, the last flicker of summer for those who live up North.  As for Florida, we can only pretend it’s the end because our summers run through October, much as we’re tired of it, much as we’re sick of our T-shirts and Capris and dying to wear a sweater and jeans.  So what do we do during this three day holiday?   Many run to the beach and veg, but I'm not much for the sun, and besides, it’s sizzling outside.  So what else can I do but sit in a movie or hightail it to the mall and check out the sales.

Those sales. 
Labor Day means the world’s becomes one giant markdown.
But should I go?  I don’t need a thing.  Still, I could probably stuff another knit top in my dresser—something clingy and fresh, and deeply discounted (like 60% off) so I can tell everyone it was selling for $148 but I got it for $59.12.  That’s a deal, and a tale I'd like to tell, and isn’t that what Labor Day’s all about?

Didn't used to be.
Not when I was growing up. 
Years ago the unions would march the downtown streets of Detroit celebrating Labor, but I only glanced it on TV and never thought it was any big deal.  Who cared about them anyway?  To me Labor Day meant school was starting the very next day.   It also meant my father went boating for the last time that year before hauling his boat out to storage.
My father, Bernie Schwartz, without an extra nickel to his name, owned a series of clunkers.  Each became his passion, until it broke down—and unfortunately, all of them did—the pistons, the oil filter, distributor, alternator—whatever could jam, rust, spring a leak, or just tucker out—and leave us stranded in the water searching around for a tow.              
But those were the bad Labor Days.  
During the good ones, we celebrated our last gulp of fun.  When the ignition clicked, we cheered.  We could swim, ski, and dive off the boat.  I don’t remember ever running to sales THAT weekend, or even wanting to.  We were already set for school.  No matter how many hand-me-downs I inherited from my sister, I got brand new clothes for the first day of class—and sparkling saddle shoes without a scuff to be found. 
Those shoes.                   
I never knew they were cheap, only shiny, brand new, and mine.      
I also knew they wouldn’t look that way for long.  In a few weeks I’d start polishing them white, trying not to spill a drop on the black, but they still never looked the same—not like the first day of school when I hurried along the many streets (no one took buses back then) to meet my new homeroom teacher, to see my old friends, and to revel in the excitement of the day after Labor Day Weekend. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Good Night Irene and Good Riddance

What’s the news of the week, Gadhafi?    
Get real.
The Libyan people only think they’ve won a hard fought war for freedom.  If I'm reading correctly between the lines, the new regime will be a Shia government, regressing about ten centuries where the women live under colored sheets (also called burqas) and pretending to be submissive while the men beat them anyway.  Is this what they wanted?  As the cliche goes, be careful what you wish for.

But enough of the small talk.  Let's go on to the more important stuff.
Hurricane Irene off eastern coast
The real story is that dangerous damsel Irene churning off the Eastern Seaboard.  Gratefully, she’s skipped Florida.  (Thank you, darling).  But she’s sweeping north, and on her way to our daughter in Virginia Beach. 

Earlier this week it was all a big joke.  My husband kept telling her, “So long, it’s been nice to know you.” 
It was funny for five minutes, but today, reality’s hitting.  She lives on Chick’s Beach, a few short blocks from the Chesapeake Bay, and she’ll be sitting out the storm, ready for Irene to roll into town.  Irene--shaking her booty like she’s been wired to the most energized bunny on earth before waltzing up the coast and battering her next set of victims.
Philly’s got 8 million people, New York, 19.  And that’s not counting the rest of the 67 million in the way.  Jeez, this is getting complicated, even for a blog.     

300,000 are trying to escape New York today while my hairdresser has reservations to fly out Sunday to the city, just to relax and see a couple shows.  Hey, I’m no fortuneteller, but I predict she’s gonna be stuck downwind of Disney with a ticket riding nowhere.

I told her she'd still be here next Tuesday, but then I got to thinking.  What if Irene turns around and Kendall somehow gets a flight, and then another hurricane blew by, and the poor woman never returned?  I started having nightmares of steel wool peeking out from under my forehead and behind my ears.  I know we're living through a national crisis, but I CAN'T survive looking like this.  Even wise men say life's a crap shoot.  First thing tomorrow I'm in for a color job. 
That problem solved, I still got my daughter in Virginia to worry about, and for the first time ever, they’re stopping the subways in New York and evacuating the very sick from the hospitals.  On top of that I got friends with grown kids in the city—one with a baby—and I’m frantic about them too. 

But I think of Stacey—natch—riding it out in her house with three cockatiels—that’s why she didn’t leave—and batteries, and all kinds of cans: veggies, fruit, soup, juices, tuna, and other crap.  Dr. Oz would approve.  So does her mother.  
Nothing else I can do now but pray.
I hope you’ll all join me for the millions who are left in harm’s way.
“Let everyone live through this safely, Lord.  Good night, Irene.  And good riddance.”