Sunday, September 11, 2016

A purity of intent. Redux)

(When a blog visitor reads a post from the archives, I re-read it.  This is a re-post of an entry about POTUS. He'll he leaving us soon and it's a nice way to say good-bye.)
 
 
Yesterday I changed my mind about two things:  President Obama and sports.
Normally, I would not watch a presidential news conference in the middle of the day but it interrupted one of my favorite game shows (yes, I know, you think less of me now).  Instead of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" there was our fabulous looking president telling us in a sure, strong voice why the Iran deal is much better than no deal because the alternative is to blow Iran up into smithereens (little bits and pieces.)  The president didn't say that last part.  He said war was the alternative.
The president also mapped out all of the safety nets that were in place in the deal in case Iran wanted to sneak around and build nuclear weapons behind our back.  The president also said that a nuclear plant is not something you can put on a dolly and wheel out of sight.  I was astonished at the reasonableness of his remarks considering that this initiative is a major game change in the way we deal with the Middle East. 
There is a new note in our president's voice. He is calm and sequential.  There is a purity of intent that comes across when he lays out his reasoning.  There is a purity of intent when he challenges the opposition to be courageous enough to embrace the alternative view which would be war. 
Normally, given my penchant for grand irony, I should have been madly in love with a president named Barack Hussein Obama II.  Holy Toledo, is this a joke?  In the early years, I was not a fan. I didn't mind that he was not as pure as advertised.  I didn't mind that he was backed by Wall Street money or had to repay lobbyists like the impure presidents. Remember the $536 million sunk into that trainwreck Solyndra? I particularly didn't like the stealthy way the health bill was passed, cobbled together with possibly non-constitutional legislative tricks. I didn't like the way the press was slobbering (yes, slobbering) over him because I considered it democratically unhealthy.  I had a hunch that Michelle had a chip on her beautifully toned shoulder.  After all, she was a brainiac, too, and why should she be demoted to issues like childhood obesity instead of making the big decisions.
My respect for this president grew slowly.  I began to pay attention toward the three quarter mark of the first term. He was publicly stubborn.  He would not be bullied by the press to provide answers before he was ready.  He had his own way of dealing with the world outside of the USA.  We didn't have a puppet in the Oval Office.  Maybe the president grew, too, and I'm appreciating the man he has become.  Either way, we are the luckiest country on earth to have this intelligent man who has nothing political to lose, leading this country as best he can. A naysayer once said to me, "This charming, handsome man is privately killing America."  "Don't discount charm," I replied.
My second awakening is about sports.  I have only a passing interest in sports.  I know from the headlines that sports figures sometimes do very dumb things.  Two of them blew off a finger over the July 4th holiday.  A couple of them have shot people.  Dead. Many of the men marry gorgeous women and then divorce them.  Those were my default thoughts about sports but last night I changed my mind.  I watched the entire Espy awards show and not for the reason you think.  I did see Caitlyn's good speech but that came late in the proceedings.  I watched the entire show because I was riveted to the men and women who received awards. The clips of their feats were fantastic and showed tremendous physical talent.  The recipients were modest, thoughtful, grateful and gave short interesting speeches. Two of them made me cry.  Yay sports!
And by the way, have you noticed what a brilliant and interesting man Mike Tyson has become?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Would you give up a rent-controlled fireplace studio in Manhattan for a guy?


(In between re-writes of my new novel, Fortune's Daughters,  I took a fun break to review The Dollhouse, placed in my hands by Penguin/Random House.  PUb date 8/23/16)

During a week of ninety plus heat in East Hampton I liked having The Dollhouse, a summer read, to keep my mind cool and engaged. The Barbizon Hotel (The Dollhouse) was THE place where proper young women from small towns sought shelter when they arrived in New York City.  Liza Minnelli, Ali MacGraw, Grace Kelly Lauren Bcall were among the many aspiring actresses who stayed there. Future writers Eudora Welty, Joan Didion, Ann Beattie, Mona Simpson—and Sylvia Plath, who set part of The Bell Jar at a fictional Barbizon were residents.

It gets better.  It’s 2016 and thirtysomething Rose Lewin,  think The Devil Wears Prada, is a smart likeable woman who has been done wrong by a callous boyfriend and a callous television news station. Her new job at a trendy content factory is in jeopardy. Rose gave up a perfect, rent-controlled fireplace laden studio for the creep and now must scrounge around for shelter in pricey New York while he places his ex-wife in their luxe Barbizon condo. This fact alone made me want to kill the duplicitous boyfriend. With career and real estate demons nipping at her heels, Rose has one tiny safety net – a story idea about the old days at the Barbizon and the women from the era who still live there, segregated in musty apartments while the rest of the building is a basket of luxe trophy pads.

The novel alternates the present and the past, as Rose pursues her story to unearth the details of the tragic accident that befell Darby, an Ohioan who arrived at the Barbizon to attend Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School and fulfill her dream of being the best secretary in the world to an important man.Will the mystery of Darby's life be revealed?  Will Rose stop being a victim and take control of her life?  Will her partner, the hunky photog, stick around when all else crumbles?  Will the ambitious ex boyfriend get what's coming to him?   

If you liked the era of Mad Men and if you were rooting for the heroine of The Devil Wears Prada, The Dollhouse will satisfy if you can do without much emotional depth.Good twists and surprises.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Deconstructing Uptown Funk. 'Take a sip, sign a check Julio, get the stretch'




I have no right to be humming Uptown Funk all the time and even mouthing the refrain under my breath 'girls hit your halleluiah, girls hit your halleluiah'  I don't know what the heck it's talking about. It says, 'this one for them hood girls' and I'm just a  middle class nerd who should stick to Celine Dion.

Here is a very good example of how a kind of scattered non linear sequence of ideas can hot wire your brain while the laborious ordered sentences of politicians melt into the ether.  When Bruno Mars says, "cause Uptown Funk gon' give it to you" my emotions go haywire and I feel as happy as a butterfly in Martha Stewart's flower garden.

Marco Rubio said to the electorate, “Let’s dispel this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing,” If instead, he had turned to Chris Christie and said, "I'm too hot (hot damn), called a police and a fireman. I'm going to take Uptown Funk straight to the White House and it's gon' give it to you and all the country. Uh, uh, uh, UH!," he would he at the top of the leader board instead of back in his precariously mortgaged house scratching his head.

I'm not sure what Uptown Funk is gon' to give me but it makes me feel included in a way that no political promise does. Mark Ronson, the composer, has figured out that you don't need to make sense to everybody, if you drop a string of captivating phrases and finish off with uh, uh, uh, uh. I'm too hot (hot damn), make a dragon wanna retire man. Nonsensical but kind of adorable. 

You know how Hemingway figured out that you don't need a bunch of adjectives and adverbs to write persuasively and emotionally?  Well Mark Ronson has figured out that nuance is a bigger motivator than logic. He's figured out that the mind is like a xylophone and you just tap this strip and that strip and you have a grip on the entire country. 'Take a sip, sign a check, Julio, get the stretch.'

Hillary, start rapping!


 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The sucker punch, the finger and getting in your face.


I'm learning some new phrases during this election cycle. One of them is sucker punch.  This is a phrase that makes your ears perk up during a normal boring blah, blah, blah newscast.

As I understand it, there was one solitary sucker punch last week but I hear the phrase at every newscast, every day.  You can tell the newscasters enjoy saying the words.  I don't blame them.  I now say sucker punched as often as I can because it makes me sound street tough and street smart.  Taken apart the words sucker and punch could be used for a child's birthday party.  A sucker is a lollipop and punch and is a sweet substitute drink.

The Urban Dictionary: Easily confused with a punch defined as a "bitch move" a true sucker punch is ... John sucker punched David, and then he nutted him while he lay gasping for ..

Wikipedia: A sucker punch (American English), also known as a coward punch, one hit punch, king hit (Australian English), or cold-cock (American English), is a punch ...

I heard Bill O'Reilly say when discussing this, 'He cold-cocked him.' Wait. What?  Aren't there some bad words in these definitions?  From what I have gathered, a sucker punch is an unexpected punch delivered without warning or real provocation.

The other phrase I heard during election news coverage was, "If you are going to get in my face, I'm going to get in yours." This makes no literal sense.  If you could actually get into someone's face, I would get into the supermodel Behati Prinsloo's face today.  Again this is street talk for someone getting too close to you usually with a jabbing finger leading the way.  I have difficulty shaking hands with strangers in church so I am somewhat sympathetic to throwing a sucker punch if someone gets in your face.

The finger.  I know what the finger means although it's hard to trace the journey from being Mr. Tallman on a child's hand to being a symbol for the grandest of insults.  Nevertheless, 'the finger' has also aroused impolite behavior during some political rallies.  I believe it was 'the finger' that provoked the 'sucker punch.'

Now I'm going to say something shocking.  I think all these schoolyard brawls aren't all that terrible. I think sometimes we are sick of words and need an old-fashioned controlled tussle where someone is around to pull us apart so there's no real damage done but some of the frustration is knocked out.

"I got him good, didn't I?"
"Yes, you did now let's go home."

Friday, March 11, 2016

Jimmy, the microwave and Ben Carson

While I'm waiting for the edits on the manuscript I handed in, I gathered a pile of stuff to throw away.  I put my old  microwave on the deck ready to take to the recycling center.  It might no longer be safe.  I was about to carry it to the car when something made me stop.  I think it was Jimmy, the man who had given me the oven.  He said, the microwave is our link on this earth.

Jimmy is one of a handful of people that I love and who died of AIDS many years ago.  I took the oven back into the house and googled "is an old microwave safe?" One answer was this:  unplug the oven, put your cellphone inside, close the door and then call the cellphone.  If the phone does NOT ring, "waves" are not getting through into the oven and they are not getting out either.  Jimmy would have loved that little scenario.

I don't know if this is a valid safety test but it was enough to make me give the oven another chance.  I vacuumed the vents and set it up.  I put in a cup of water and it heated up and started to boil.  I remember once Oprah had a show of the dirtiest housekeepers in America and one of them had a  filthy microwave encrusted with spills, etc.  The cleaning expert said to boil some water in the chamber and the steam would loosen the dirt and make the microwave easier to clean.  It worked.

On a lighter note,  Ben Carson, the sleepy, soft voiced neurosurgeon that ran for president, a man I have also come to love for his idiosyncratic behavior, endorsed Donald Trump this morning.
Dr. Carson says there are two Donalds:  a very smart, substantive Donald and the other one.  I think the phrase, "strange bedfellows" was created for just this situation.




Saturday, March 5, 2016

You Can't Handle The Truth (redux)

(Watching the political events wherein the candidates gleefully call each other liars at every opportunity, I decided to re-post this 'defense' essay on our times, the post-truth society.)
 
I’ve lied a few times in my life.  I probably lie to myself everyday so I can live with the bad habits that have a stranglehold. Perhaps that’s existential lying. Remember that line from A Few Good Men? “The truth! You can’t handle the truth.” Well, I probably can’t. I know I can’t. And what the heck is the truth and is it going to make my life better?

Disclaimer: I didn’t mean for this post to take this dark anti-values turn but it seems to have it’s own agenda.

Pamela Meyer who gives a slap-in-the-face wake up call in her TED lecture on lying, feels we are a post truth society and that even babies fake cry, stop to see who is coming and then continue crying. Bottom line, we are all born liars; it is part of evolution and the smarter we are, the more we lie.  Ms. Meyer also points out that lying is a cooperative act.  A lie has no power until someone agrees to accept it (even if that someone is you).

Once a cop stopped me for speeding and I told him the truth: “I was rushing to the doctor for a perceived emergency.”  The policeman believed me and I was confused. I was so ready to lie to a speeding charge that I lost sight of the truth. According to Ms. Meyer, we are deeply ambivalent about the truth. We are against lying but we are covertly for it.  Even Koko the gorilla who learned to communicate so charmingly with sign language blamed her pet kitten for ripping the sink out of the wall.

Here’s the good news: although we are all liars not all lies are harmful. Lying is often used for social dignity. Ms. Meyer says we are lied to from 10 to 200 hundred times a day. She says strangers lie to each other 3 times within the first ten minutes of meeting.

 “Is that your Porsche?”
“Yes.”
“Why is that man driving it away?”
“That’s my brother. I told him he could drive it.”
“You two don’t look anything alike.”
“Different fathers.”

Of course lying has an evil corrupting face when it undermines the economy or a government. Corporate fraud has ruined the lives of many and undermined the financial health of the country. Think Enron or Bernie Madoff.  In her book, Liespotting, Ms. Meyer shows you techniques for detecting a lie, especially helpful If someone is trying to dupe you out of your life savings (if you still have life savings.)

Some telltale phrases: “In all candor.” or “To tell the truth,” She says, the more we lie the more formal we get in conversation. My favorite Liespotting phrase describes the inappropriate smile after a very sober statement. We all remember President Nixon’s inappropriate smile when he was delivering a mea culpa message.  Ms. Meyer calls this “duping delight”.  The speaker is pleased with himself for lying so brilliantly. A suspect might describe the bloody death of four people, deny his involvement and finish with a big grin.

Henry Oberlander, the most accomplished con man of all time who could have undermined the entire banking system of the world, had a rule explaining why he was so successful. Henry said that everybody is willing to give you something for whatever it is they are hungry for. Ms. Meyer agrees. If you don’t want to be deceived you have to know what it is you are hungry for, she warns.  We are hungry for better looks, height, wealth, intelligence, social standing. "Lying bridges the gap between what we wish we were and what we are." That sounds about right.

Monday, January 25, 2016

I'm not dead.

Today I checked my blog and saw that I had lost three subscribers.  I don't blame those subscribers.  I've been absent since August.

Here's what is going on.

Deadline.  Manuscript I owe to Amazon is almost done two or three weeks +/-

There are so many things I need to write about:

1. Trump (and not in a negative way and I'll tell you why)
2. When Giada visited Ina (Not one sincere/interesting/instructive word.  No cross cooking please Food Network)
3. Why Tina Fey's Sarah Palin bit no longer works. (same reason Trump is on the rise)
4. What happened to Hilary???????
5.  What happened to Bill??????
6. When Steve Harvey called the wrong winner and the important life lesson.
7.  What happened to Marco Rubio?  So cute. So articulate. But this time we hate cute and articulate.
8.  Jada's whining about the Oscars.
9.  The childish hubris of the media in that first Rep debate and Ted Cruz's finest and possibly last hour.
10. The fantastic train wreck that was Ben Carson.  Remember at the Nelson Mandela funeral when the "signer" for the hearing impaired was signing nonsense not real words?  Dr. Carson reminds me of that.  So much un-funeral stuff went down at Mandela's funeral.  That was the time Obama and the prime minister of Denmark? were sort of flirting and taking selfies and Michelle was giving them the side eye.
11.  Why repeating something (even a lie) over and over works.   


Lots of other stuff.  Please don't leave.  I'll be back.