Saturday, October 31, 2009

Another Beautiful Day in Paradise

So here I am, in beautiful San Diego - actually, north of it, and south of Escondido - feeling, as one of my sisters would say, that "baby steps" are the only way to go. It's been a great time, and fun. The trip to L.A.? Like I said, baby steps for my art, and enjoyable and interesting on its own merits. Love the weather here - I told the security guard at the Spokane airport, "I hope it snows while I'm gone." She said I better not make such wishes - "you're coming back here," she pointed out. Ah, yes. The dreaded "I shall return."

For as beautiful as the weather is in Southern California, and for as unique (in a good way) living here would be - there's the traffic. Such traffic. Everything takes forever in travel time. I got started back up north yesterday at about 4 p.m. after a visit in southeast San Diego, and hit that dreaded traffic. It ebbed and flowed, for which I was grateful (for the flowing, not the ebbing). But - man. In Spokane, I'm five - maybe ten - minutes away from pretty much everything. Sometimes 20 minutes. Sometimes 45, if it's in Idaho. But things are close in, and the traffic is almost never the reason for the length of time it takes to get from one point to the other.

Still - I don't know - there's something wonderful about being here. It's like a return to home. Which, for me, that's true, since I grew up in Poway (near Escondido). As I first arrived, and got my rental car (what an interesting fight that was - I won, btw), and was driving up I-15, I looked to my right and there was a car all painted up with "Go Poway" whitewashed on the windows. Must have been in preparation for an athletic event... I felt like honking my horn and waving. The set-up felt designed to be my welcome-home greeting.

And then there was watching my dad play tennis this week with his group of men that play tennis together every week. They were funny, and nice to me. Very Californian. I watched them play a few games. I was the only audience member, but that didn't stop me from applauding encouragement at particularly good volleys. One of the guys in the tennis office came out and told my dad and the others, "Don't get nervous. This is the biggest crowd you've had all year!" So, funny.

More to go, as I'm here through Monday... I've volunteered for a family thing tomorrow morning, totally forgetting about the Eagles game (egads!), so football is not on the horizon (although we might go to a sports bar in the afternoon, since the Vikings/Packers are not on TV). Baseball's good to watch too (except when the Yankees win). And it's another beautiful day. The sun's come out for the weekend it seems. Life is good on the coast.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I'm off tomorrow to San Diego for a long weekend (with both Thursday and Friday now in L.A.), so will be posting intermittently, if at all. See you on the other side of Monday!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pursuing the Art of Writing

Paul Castro came for a day workshop yesterday, to Coeur d'Alene. Paul is the UCLA prof, "August Rush" author who came up to Idaho last spring and gave a weeklong workshop from which my suspense screenplay has come. It's like a shot in the arm to have him here. And then I go to San Diego on Wednesday with an early meeting in L.A. on Friday morning and then a tour of the UCLA Film School (courtesy of Paul) after that. It was a great way to rev up for this trip - to have Paul here, and to hang out with the gang of will-be (paid) writers that we are.

In between the seminar and the evening event (a showing of "August Rush"), I drove back to Spokane for a soccer game. Now, here's a new twist: I scored a goal! I never score. For thirty years, I've played defense. I'm a little lost up front. But up front was where they had me play, and I was right in the right place when one of my teammates crossed the ball just in the right way, a little in front of me, so I could score easily and effortlessly. Gooo-aaaal!! Someone said I should a game ball for such a feat. It was a nice thought.

photo credit: Philipp Hilpert, found here

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Al Franken's Fun

and I don't mean that in an SNL way (though he's that too).

He's getting known as one of the most prepared senators on the Hill.

Here he is, skewering an arbitration lawyer for arguing against his bill (an amendment to a bill) to keep government contracts from employers who require employees to agree to binding arbitration on disputes, regardless of subject matter, before hiring them. This bill amendment, which addresses harassment/discrimination claims, is in response to the circumstance where a young KBR employee (a Halliburton subsidiary) was gang raped by fellow employees but could not get her day in court because of the mandatory arbitration requirements. Thirty GOP senators voted against this amendment (Jon Stewart did a great job of making them look ridiculous the other night). Here's the video - it's long, but worth it:

And here he is, catching flat-footed a physician from the Hudson Institute who knows not enough of which she speaks. Her line of attack prior to this clip was that the health care reform bill would increase bankruptcies due to medical care costs. Here's a part of the dialogue:

AF: I want to ask you, how many bankruptcies because of medical crises were there last year in Switzerland?

DFR: I don't have that number in front of me but I could find out and get back to you.

AF: I can tell you how many it was. It's zero. Do you know how many medical bankruptcies there were last year in France?

DFR: I don't have that number but I could get back to you if you like.

AF: Yeah, the number is zero.

And, just for good measure (and to complete this trilogy), this is just fun because he reads the Fourth Amendment out loud to a Justice attorney who then says, "this is surreal." Thought the attorney held his own, actually, on this one:

Freedom and Equality - It's Who We Are

I saw this today on the Huffington Post. It is the testimony of Philip Spooner, 86, a World War II vet, a lifetime Republican, at hearings in Maine last spring about whether to pass a law permitting gays to marry. His words in part:

I am here today because of a conversation I had last June when I was voting. A woman at my polling place asked me, "Do you believe in equal, equality for gay and lesbian people?" I was pretty surprised to be asked a question like that. It made no sense to me. Finally I asked her, "What do you think our boys fought for at Omaha Beach?" I haven't seen much, so much blood and guts, so much suffering, much sacrifice. For what? For freedom and equality. These are the values that give America a great nation, one worth dying for.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And Calling...

Yesterday began an onslaught of calls to Congress from supporters of health care reform, organized through the Organizing for America website. I wrote about my own experience of making the phone calls here.

And the numbers keep rising. People called other people all throughout the country yesterday, to make these phone calls again today. The number, at this moment, of calls made is 319,279. Apparently the president joined up with the people in New York who had been making the phonebanking effort.

And then there were the stories, as people talked to each other about how important it is to make these changes. Here is a sample of a couple of those stories:

This evening I and three other volunteers got together and made calls. As I was calling, one of the women I spoke with told me that she was inspired by my story -- shared in the email earlier that day -- to get her entire family to call Congress. She didn't know it was me on the phone, but she said she just couldn't stop saying "this isn't right" when she heard my story. It gave me so much hope -- during the evening we made 213 calls and got 64 commitments to call tomorrow.

-Jenny U., Missouri Volunteer

Seeing the tally go up, hearing voter after voter agree to call, and listening to the real excitement people have about finally fixing this broken system, I was reminded why we do this. Each of us can only give so much -- but when we all do it together, we move mountains. Health insurance reform, here we come.

-Sean Knox, California New Media Director

And here's a message from Mitch Stewart, director of OFA, where I got the above quotes.

And then here's the president from last night. Really great speech. He starts at about nine minutes in. He starts to get funny at 28 minutes, and then really funny at about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Calling All Legislators!

So I got a couple of phone calls today, asking me to call my congresspeople and urge them to support health care reform. Sure, I said. Happy to do it. Apparently there were some details I didn't get - like, after I made the phone calls, I was supposed to record that fact at the Organizing for America website, etc., but I figured that out too. I watched to see if my name came up at all on the OFA website - "Beth B. from Spokane, WA, just called Rep. McMorris Rodgers," but after half a minute I let it go. It'll show up or it won't, but I'll never know...

It was an interesting process. I made my phone calls before realizing that I was supposed to ask if they support the health care reform plan. I did of course explain nuances of why it mattered to support the public option in particular. Probably went on too long for some of the folks answering the phones! But then I went to fill out the form that said I'd made my phone calls and realized I hadn't asked the congresspeople's position on all that I was talking about. Oops.

I knew my senators supported it (Cantwell and Murray), so I marked "yes" that they did without calling back. And I mean, for the love of all that is good and right, I was sure Rep. McMorris Rodgers did not. But hey, before checking the "no" box, I should ask, right? So I called back (the D.C. office instead of the Spokane one) and asked that burning question: what does my congresswoman actually support?

Now, I didn't phrase it "does she support the Obama plan," because that would necessarily receive a "no" answer and - besides - I'm mostly concerned about the premium-supported public option anyway. So I asked about that. The nice young woman on the phone (they are so nice at McMorris Rodgers' offices - she hires well) wasn't exactly sure, and offered to have a legislative aide contact me at some point. Great, I said - because I write about this a lot on my blog, and I want to know what she thinks, and where her concerns might lie...

I cannot imagine there will be a meeting of the minds here. But - and to her credit (and I give her this credit), McMorris Rodgers was one of the few Republicans who urged people to stop scaring each other with talk about death panels (which do not exist), and talk about the real issues instead. Have a dialogue. So I guess that's what we might be doing. One way or the other.

Just checked the log of phone calls this afternoon, on the OFA website. 182,774 - and counting.

photo credit: Jeremiah Aguilar, found here

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Hate Football

Or is it just the Philadelphia Eagles that I hate?

I've finally caved. I'm watching Eagle games even with Michael Vick in the lineup. Indeed, I've resolved myself to not just "live and let live" but to actually root for him. This is how far I've gotten.

So yesterday afternoon, having just finished my most recent edits on my screenplay, I thought - what the hey - I'll watch the Eagles. (And don't buy that casual tone. I planned the whole day around that afternoon game.) So I rambled on down to Heroes and Legends, our downtown sports bar, to watch the game. Got there late - score was 10 to 3, Raiders ahead of the Eagles ... huh? What? Oh, the Eagles have the ball. Oh, this will be fine. No problem. March on down... um, "March," I said. Not meander. Not backtrack. Not... heaven forbid it... kick a field goal!!! Well, it's David Akers, and he's as reliable as salt, so at least we'll get points on the board.

And that's when things went from bad to worse. Including two missed field goals by Akers (!!). Long ones - but not over 50 yards - and that's just not like him. Just. Not. Like. Him. And it shouldn't have come down to that. Yes, had he made them the Eagles would have won. But they should have won anyway. They should have played the game, and not wasted time on the past.

The one shining light - I think the problems with the Eagles defense are problems of execution and not design. As I mentioned a couple months ago, beloved defensive coordinator Jim Johnson passed away this summer. But his legacy is living on, through his assistant coach (now coordinator), because the Eagles defense looks pretty good from a structural standpoint.

But the game itself - and the offense??? - I was there to enjoy myself - I said enjoy myself, people - not throw my back out again from tension. (And nothing in baseball made me feel better. I've been rooting for the Dodgers and the Angels to make it to the World Series. Sigh.)

It's enough to turn you into a Vikings fan. Which, I've always liked Brett Favre, and all he wanted to do last year was play one season with the Vikings, and the Packers wouldn't let him (yes, I understand why), so he went to the Jets and then came back this year for the season that he wanted last year. A season with the Vikings...

I remember the 2007 season, when the Eagles did so poorly, and I'd try to watch the games... When people asked me (and they asked me, yes they did) how I felt about the Eagles' season that year, I'd say, well, they're not playing football. I don't know what sport it is that they think they're playing - must be tiddlywinks or something - but that is not football.

This year was different! Was supposed to be different... But how do you lose that way? To the Raiders? grump grump grump

photo credit: Andy Chase, found here

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Editing Again...

...and this time I'm adding this thing called "transitions." Apparently they're fairly well known in the screenwriting world. So I watched a bunch of movies to get a firmer grasp on this phenomenon. I will say, I believe they've created a monster. Turns out, I love transitions... I'd been doing them already a little bit by accident, and now am adding them on a conscious level. All of this means to say that my suspense/mystery screenplay is getting that much closer to its final draft.

And, as (nearly) always, when I write, I disappear. Not literally, I'm still in Spokane. But it's like I don't hardly exist on this earthly plane, when I get deep into writing. And then I come back, and eat dinner, and think about the next day, and go to sleep, and wake up, and it starts all over again. I wonder if this is a form of heaven. Or perhaps it is a form of hell? I'm opting for heaven. After all, heaven, hell - it's all a matter of perspective anyway. Might as well choose to define this as heaven.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Four Who Died

I just posted an entry, saying I want to at least know about the people dying because of a lack of health insurance. I did a quick search - and found an article by Deb Richter, a physician in Vermont, who says that she sees this often, where her patients die of preventable diseases. She then speaks of four of her patients who died that way. Three were from the same family - unable to keep track of their diabetes - and one had cancer symptoms for years, finally got the insurance to treat it, but died two weeks later. It was too late. Dr. Richter thinks that 44,000 dying a year like this is a low number, given her own experiences. As she says, take her dozens of cases and multiply them by the 700,000 doctors in this country, and what do you get? A lot of people dying.

Who Are They?

Rep. Al Grayson (D-Fla) cited to this Harvard study when he stated that 44,000 Americans die every year because of a lack of insurance. That's one every 12 minutes. And although the study is one of correlation and not specific examples, the numbers are there. Mortality and lack of insurance are inexorably tied.

Who are they? Who are the people who died? I want to know.

What I really want is for my country to provide health care to them, preferably in the form of affordable health insurance, so that they get care early, and not so late that it's too late. Barring that apparent miracle, however, at least I want to know who they are. Who has died? Who have they left behind?

On September 11, 2001, we all sat in horror, helpless, watching our televisions. Doctors rallied to health care centers, waiting for the injured. But there were no survivors. So no one came.

For that week, I watched what I could, when I could. For as much as there was nothing I could do, I could do that. I could witness. I could cry. I could let my heart break for those left behind.

So it is the least that I can do now. The very least. And if I have no names, no faces, if they remain statistics in a study - at least I can have my intentions.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Al Grayson

In the midst of all the health care reform angst and anger - real, imagined, and manufactured - I had started to tune out. I'm sure I'm not alone. I had sort of given up on Congress doing the right thing.

Then on Friday, when we heard that President Obama has received the Nobel Peace Prize. I started wondering: is it time to shed the crap and insist, really insist, that Congress move?

Parallel to my personal feelings has come several times in the news recently the name of one congressman from Florida: Alan Grayson. A week (or two) ago, he gave a speech where he said that Republicans' plan for health care reform was, don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly. Republicans were angry at this first-time congressman, and insisted he apologize. So he got on the floor of the House this past Friday and said absolutely not. The following clip gives a lead-in from Lawrence O'Donnell and then Grayson's speech on Friday. He is also the one who has said that the way to beat a Republican is not by being a Republican. It is time for our elected officials to stand up and deliver.

The Whirling Dervish

Five days with my two-year-old nephew... I've needed three days to recuperate!

He never stopped. Except for his nap and his bedtime, and those events only came immediately after his newest game, "Chase Me Around The Crib First." He earned those naps. And I slept very, very soundly at the end of each day.

But it was absolute joy. Between going over letters and identifying animal figures and coloring around stickers, we had the best of times. We went to the library and the toy store, the grocery store and the mall's indoor playground. We took a series of four photos at a little photo booth in the mall. (Two of the photos, he was too busy looking at himself in the image on the screen to release into my tickling and smile, but the other two photos came out great.)

And then there was the pumpkin. One of my uncles had brought an enormous pumpkin the week before, in honor of the current season, and it has been sitting on the kitchen table at my sister's house ever since. Each day, for five days, about four to five times a day (and always at mealtime), my nephew would look at the pumpkin, his eyes would light up, and he'd say, "Apple." (Well, he'd say his equivalent of apple, which likely is spelled more like "apuhl.") "No," I'd say. "That's a pumpkin." He'd squint up his face, appearing worried for me and my low level of intelligence. "Apuhl," he'd say, a little slowly this time, so I could hear it better and understand the truth. "No. Pumpkin," I'd respond. Apuhl. Pumpkin. Apuhl. Pumpkin. Until he'd say, "Pie."

I never did figure out if that was his version of the word pumpkin, or if he was asking me to bake a pie. (I don't bake, I felt like I should warn him.) "Right, pumpkin!" I'd say instead, and we'd be done. Until next time. And it would start up all over again. I said it was like being around an Alzheimer's patient. No, my brother-in-law told me, it's like being around a Bollinger. Oh. Do Bollingers insist on our version of events, even when everyone around us is telling us that we're wrong? We don't do that, do we? (Or, if we do, and I'm not conceding the point, have you ever considered that we are right and you all are wrong?).


Well, and then the highlight - absolute highlight - was when I said to him, "Can you say Aunt Beth?", and he could. Right off the bat. No hestitation. He said it without the "n" and the "t" and the "t" and the "h," so that it sounded more like "Au Be," but it was loud and clear and music to my ears.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Traveling Through

A road trip to my beginnings...

I went to Wisconsin Friday and Saturday, to see family. It was a sentimental trip. In Washington, when people ask me if I am related to this Bollinger or that, I tell them I am not. But if someone asks me that question in Wisconsin, I tell them I probably am. My grandfather's family was just too large, and he had too many siblings (16 altogether) for me not to be related in Wisconsin.

Driving back roads south of Eau Claire, I thought through different family stories. Like how my grandmother moved from Strum when she married my grandfather, as though Strum were some foreign city. Growing up, that's what I thought - the faraway town of Strum... Turns out, Strum is about 15 miles away from where my grandparents settled. I figured that out when I drove by it on Friday.

And then there's Eleva. Its original name was New Chicago. The story goes that a farmer went to paint the word "Elevator" on the grain elevator. He got as far as the letter "a" but then the snow came and he had to stop, and by the spring everyone was calling the town "Eleva," after the letters he had painted on the silo. So Eleva it became, even to this day. Population, 1001.

It was a great trip, but I'm glad to be back in Chicago. And now I have five whole days of babysitting my two-year-old nephew (well, nearly 2). Just the two of us. For five days. He's two, did I mention? Fun days ahead! And I mean that, actually. I'm not sure who will be in charge, though...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Windy City

I'm headed to Chicago this a.m., with a road trip to Wisconsin to visit relatives. Will try to post while I'm gone. May be successful this time...

photo credit: Justin Kern, found here