Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The First GB

I don't remember when, now - or who it was I was talking to - but recently, I mentioned how I saw a special on PBS awhile ago that outlined how the first George Bush voted for the Civil Rights Act when he was in Congress, and how he lost his next election because of it. Whoever I was talking to - was it you, Mom? - told me that they didn't believe it. I said no, it's true - and it was really compelling, how he said that he had to do the right thing, regardless of popularity.

That got me thinking this a.m.: was I wrong? No. I wasn't. Here is a link to an article which appears connected to that PBS special - http://www.pbs.org/newshour/character/essays/bush.html - and an excerpt from it -

Never again during his career did George Bush wage a campaign so unrelievedly conservative, or so oriented toward issues. When he ran for Congress from Houston in 1966, he created the archetype of the Bush campaigns of the future: the candidate's personal qualities were emphasized over stark ideological commitments. Bush told a reporter, "Labels are for cans." ......

Another sign of Bush's new moderation was his vote in April 1968 for Lyndon Johnson's Fair Housing Act, which banned discrimination in the sale and rental of housing. In his district, Bush told a town meeting, which jeered him, that it seemed "fundamental that a man should not have a door slammed in his face because he is a Negro or speaks with a Latin American accent." He wrote a friend, "I never dreamed the reaction would be so violent. Seething hatred--the epithets... The country club crowd disowning me and denouncing me.... Tonight [I was on] this plane and this older lady came up to me. She said, 'I'm a conservative Democrat from this district, but I ....will always vote for you now.' ...Her accent was Texan (not Connecticut) and suddenly somehow I felt that maybe it would all be OK--and I started to cry--with the poor lady embarrassed to death--I couldn't say a word to her." ......

What a time it must have been, back in 1968, making those kinds of decisions - It matters to me, to know that he was on the right side of that history.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

More Boys

I just came back from another visit to Chicago, where I babysat nephews for a week. The two boys are now 17 months and just-4 years old. It was just the three of us, while their parents were out of town. I've (again) decided to award my brother-in-law a prize of some sort, for being the full-time, stay-at-home parent with these two wonderful, non-stop boys. It's a lot of work! Parents all over deserve awards.

And yet - there is so much joy in it, too. People tell me I'm a great aunt. But my life would not be as rich without them in it. I remember back to when my nieces were little, and I happened to live just a few hours' drive from them, I would try to see them every couple months. At that age, the phone means nothing. It's the in-person contact that matters, when building relationships with those who are young. To this day, it makes me sad that I didn't have that kind of contact with my older nephew. He lived far away, yes - but I think I would have worked to make the effort to create that consistent connection, had I understood back then how things worked. I was so young myself, though... Still, he and I had a chance to hang out one year, when we both lived in the same town. I helped my brother coach his soccer team. I got to watch him be a good kid, and could see my brother's guidance over the years in the way my nephew did right by others (while still maintaining his coolness, of course).

And yes, in the abstract I make this effort for these children who are related to me. But in the particulars - I'm biased. There is nobody funnier than - sweeter than - each and every one of my nieces and nephews, in each of their own unique ways. Seriously, how can a little blood create such a bias? But it's true. That's how special each one of them is, in my eyes. And I just get more biased the older I get.

With these two boys in Chicago - how much they've grown! even in the month that I saw them last. The older one is becoming very grown up, while the baby is hard at work at learning the basics - and trying to catch up to his older brother. The work never ceases when there are two of them - especially now that both of them are mobile. Whatever one does, the other one wants to do. So if one is playing with a toy, the other one wants that specific toy. The minute I referee our way to a new solution, the one now-with-the-toy no longer is interested - as he now is eying the thing that his brother has just picked up. Every. Time. Well, almost every time. It's not quite like clockwork - but close enough.

At one point, I was on the phone with my dad just as the little one decided to break down the older one's Lego project. My dad could hear the commotion in the background, as the older one scolded the younger one, "Stop that!" I grabbed the baby and said, "He just wants to do what you're doing because he loves you." My dad said that he was with the older one - he wouldn't be buying that "he loves you" stuff, either. But it's true! Well, maybe there's a little competition thrown into the mix. But mostly, he just adores his older brother, and wants to be just like him. (I know this based on my own experience of growing up as the little sister who was always a step or two behind.) I have no idea how many times this past week I said, "He doesn't know any better. He's a baby." And the older one would sigh and nod. That's true. He is just a baby.

Right now, the older nephew can be really funny. He and his dad play Wii every night for about half an hour before his bedtime (after the little one is asleep). I have no skills in this arena. But his dad isn't there, so I substitute as the other player. I'm terrible. At one point, when we were playing a Mario Bros game where you collect gold coins, I was proving how bad at the game I really am. As it finished, I said, "I'm really bad at this." My nephew said, "No. You're good. You're good, I'm good." He looked at the scoreboard. "You got zero," he informed me. "I got eight." He smiled. I smiled. "I know," I said. "Congratulations." (I think I just got patronized.)

Another time, I was talking to myself (and a little to him), figuring out how the day was going: "Okay. You're doing good. The baby's doing good. I'm doing good. Everything's going okay." And he chimed in: "You're doing great!" (Nothing like a little positive feedback to brighten up the day.)

The younger one has his own - also unintended - funny moments. For instance, I know when he's hungry - he starts pushing the high chair in my direction. Time to eat, Aunt Beth! (Is it lunch time already?) He is one big baby, actually. He's solid, like a wall. And he's incredibly strong. I expect he will be a football player. He's built like one. Over the weekend, when I turned on the TV to watch some football, he was mesmerized. His face lit up at the sight of the game. He went to the TV and put his hand up towards the screen. Then he walked back over to me, his eyes still glued to the set. He stood at my leg where I sat, watching, watching... until he started to bang his head into my thigh. Why yes, baby, that is how they play the game of football - with a lot of head smashing.

The older one also found football interesting. We were watching a particularly exciting half of a college game, and I was explaining the game to him as it progressed. At one point, the quarterback of the underdog team almost made a phenomenal play, except his receiver didn't - well, receive. My voice raised in excitement as I explained to my nephew what was happening, why it didn't go well, what had been expected.... He nodded sagely. "Bad choices," he said. Well, yes. That pretty much sums it up. (Later, the day I left, I was recapping the week with him and said, "and we watched football," and he nodded and said, "Bad choices. Good choices. Watch the flag!" He should give coaching clinics.)

Other things we did: went to the library - puzzles and computer games galore; acted out numbers (I acted out 1 to 100 early on, and then the 4-year-old would act out different sets of numbers periodically through the rest of the week while I counted the numbers he wanted me to count); played games and music (like See-n-Say for the little one, and a music book piano for the older one, as he learned to combine notes and numbers to put together songs); read books (one night, the little one stayed still long enough to let me read him ten short books! while the older one decided to read Winnie the Pooh's "Now We Are Six" poems, telling the stories while also using some of the words typed on the pages). I even took a little time to sing a couple "Pogo" songs for them - from an album I had from the age of 3 or so. (Love those songs.)

And yet - everything was harried, too. Planning out meals - frantic. Giving baths to two kids instead of one - frantic. (I still did take the time to wrap each kid in his towel after getting him out of the bath, holding him in my lap and rocking him warm for a minute or so. It's a nice ritual.)

One day, in the midst of the whirlwind, as I parked at the preschool that they both attend (different classrooms), as I grabbed the baby, telling the 4-year-old to stay in his seat, to wait for me - as I rounded the car to get him out, juggling the baby on my hip... He said simply, "I'm happy." "Oh, I'm happy too," I said, remembering why I was there in the first place. "I'm so glad to be here with you this week. You two are my best friends." He smiled, and gave the baby and me a big hug. Heaven.

Now here I am, back in Spokane, refereeing my two cats with some cat nip - wondering how show-and-tell went yesterday (the 4-year-old had to bring something that begins with the letter "N" - we tentatively planned out that he would bring a foam number 9 he had from his bath toys) - hoping they don't miss me at all, while simultaneously missing them both immensely. That's the thing about building relationships - they touch us deeply, to the core of the heart, for better or for worse. I think I'll call to see if he brought the number 9.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Trans Siberian Orchestra

My mom is here visiting for Thanksgiving. We're having so much fun! (when not fighting) (just kidding). Ahead of time, we planned to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra. She's always loved it. I have never seen it - my introduction to them was this wonderful light show at someone's house (titled "Christmas Lights Gone Wild"):

What a great show it was yesterday! Quite a performance. I loved the light show. And all the fire! Fun.

Just re-viewed the Christmas light show, above - put together by Carson Williams, an electrical engineer in Mason, Ohio. It only lasted two Christmas seasons, due to traffic congestion in his neighborhood (that doesn't come as a big surprise). Here's a link to the story behind the show: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carson_Williams

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Such A Boy

I remember four years ago today. That was the day my nephew was born.

He arrived late, after the doctor had said he wanted him to come by the due date, and everyone had made the plane reservations.... And then the due date came and went, and the doctor said we shall see... I already was scheduled to arrive a little after others did, to stay a few extra weeks and help my sister and brother-in-law with the new arrival. So I got to be there just in time. (One soon-to-be grandpa, on the other hand, got to come for a nice long weekend and watch my sister continue to gestate.)

But arrive, he did. And from the start, he won my heart.

I suppose that gets said around the nation, around the world, from aunt to nephew, uncle to niece, and every other combination, every day. It's true of my other nieces and nephews too - I loved them when I saw them (perhaps a little before that too). But each experience of falling in love is a little different, isn't it? And as I sit here smiling, remembering four years ago today, I am remembering those things that make this nephew special, the ways that he won my heart uniquely.

He began life in constant movement. He loved to be swaddled, as they tell you to do in the hospital - it makes them feel safe, they say - but this one loved the swaddling so that he could spend the next few minutes kicking and squirming to get unwrapped. I swear that's why he loved it so. I remember once - holding him in my arms all swaddled and warm, him squirming and moving in constant motion - undoing the cloths and saying, "Run! Run if you must. Go where you must go!" It was one of the few times he stopped and (I swear) looked up at me quizzically - with his puppy eyes that couldn't yet focus - as if to say, "Why'd you do that? I was having so much fun!" So I wrapped him back up and he looked content in his renewed struggle to get released.

I couldn't imagine him back then ever becoming larger than a very-large football. And now? He's turned into a boy.

It was just a couple weeks ago that I saw him and his one-year-old brother (another nephew who's won my heart) as we spent time in Chicago and San Diego together for family gatherings. I love the tandem team - the two of them, entertaining each other, loving each other, the older one telling on the baby as the baby starts doing more grown-up things - and think back today, to four years ago.... it's almost impossible to imagine that all that would have turned into all this. And yet it is so, in perfect form. Such sweet boys, such excellent parents....

I suppose that, after four years, he necessarily would end up turning into a boy - a little person, but a person nonetheless. I think of four year olds that I see on the street and yes, they are real boys (or girls), they have each grown into that kind of maturity, with the promise of a future - so why wouldn't my own nephew follow suit?

But you know, he's that baby too, in my eyes. I can remember the little one that he was when this all began, four years ago. Yes, I can see how big he's gotten, how tall he's grown, how mature he's becoming.... while all the while I also see in him - in my mind's eye - the baby he was, back when I first made his acquaintance.

And maybe that's why we celebrate birthdays as we do. They are precious days, aren't they? Happy Birthday, baby. Happy Birthday today too. I love you! And wish I were there, to celebrate yet another day of that wonderful life you will lead. Onward.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The News

I'm busy, sure. Very busy. And the Internet has changed things too. But really? I just can't watch the news anymore, even if I had the time. It's too... bombarding.

I realized this morning, when I happened to watch a so-heartwarming story on The Today Show, that I actually used to watch The Today Show - because of stories like these. I wanted the headlines, but I also wanted the "human interest" stories - perhaps because, as a human, I was interested.

I do want to know hard news stories in depth. I do. But I can't seem to watch a news show long enough to get that. Instead, it's sound bites and shrillness. It's screaming headlines that "don't mean what they're trying to say at" (this is a semi-quote from a novel, I don't remember which one, I'm thinking "As I Lay Dying," but I'm not sure). Not even Morning Joe keeps me tuned anymore (though my watching this news-talk show does depend on whether I am awake before 6 a.m.).

I do stay informed. I read news on the Internet - where headlines often are shrill sound bites, just like they are on the TV news. But the written word does require something from news reporters and commentators that TV news does not - it requires new sentences. It requires an attempt at depth. And it lets me skim through the noise to get to the substance. It lets me walk away if the shrillness is too much, just in time to find another, more reasoned article or column.

So if the TV news programs think getting people's attention requires a lot of noise... why not try going back to a reasonable approach? Let me know you're doing it (there's a lot of noise out there, you know!) and I promise - I'll make it a point to tune in.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

England, 30 Years Ago

I laughed out loud just now, remembering the following from 30 years ago - while I was an exchange student in England and my mother and younger sister were visiting - on a stage somewhere in Great Britain, with a comic magician who had pulled me from the audience:

Magician: What's your name?

Me: Beth. [Not Elizabeth, btw. "Just Beth," is what I say often when filling out forms.]

Magician: And who is that in the audience? Your sister? What's her name?

Me: Becky.

Magician: Beth and Becky. Beth and Becky. (laughter) What's your last name?

Me: Um... Bollinger.

Magician: Beth and Becky Bollinger! (repeated) (laughter)

He then proceeded to stuff scarves down the neck of my very-cute teal dress (I remember that dress!) for the "magic trick" - and then pulled out the scarves and - voila! - there was the bra of a very large woman (clearly not my bra) tied in between the scarves! As everyone laughed at his "magic" trick of taking off my bra, my sister Becky (see above) apparently whispered to my mom next to her, "But she's not wearing a bra."

She was right - I wasn't. But I played along with his joke by pulling my dress collar forward and peering down to see what was going on down there. The audience roared. As the magician grabbed my arm to help me down the steps, back to my seat, he whispered in my ear that I should come see him after the show. I decided we'd interacted enough by then.

Anyway, one thing led to another this morning, and I remembered that whole "Beth and Becky, Beth and Becky" part of his act... and thought I'd write it down.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Eagles

I can't help it. I love the Philadelphia Eagles.

It's a love-hate relationship, really. And one-sided, I'll bet. (Do they really care what I think?)

But it must come out on the side of love, since I am willing to break my current silence on this blog and post something.

It helps that they won yesterday. Yes, in their season opener, after fits and starts and after really showing the world just how young their offensive line is... they won. Egads, and it looks from the score that they won big, doesn't it? 31-13, against the Rams in St. Louis. Looks solid, don't you think? But it came only after awhile.

My sister called at the beginning of the third quarter. I had to walk away from the television, so distracted I was by the ineffective Eagle play. I complained to her that I had forgotten how much stress there was in enjoying an Eagles' football game.

Michael Vick is definitely amazing. He did have that one fumble - you need to watch your back, man! (and assume that nobody else is, right now)... But it was a blip on an otherwise strong radar screen. You can tell he's not just the man of yesteryear but the strong(er) man of today - he does watch those game films now, doesn't he?

Nearly as satisfying as the Eagles' win was the Cowboys' loss. Oh, say it is not so, poor Tony Romo - say that you did not just fumble on the one yard line... I apologize to all Cowboy fans for taking delight in your lament. But let's be honest - you'd return the favor in a second, wouldn't you? Ah, what it means to be division rivals....

Commercial break is now over. I am now removing the battery from the scrivener part of my brain and returning you to your previously-scheduled silence. Why? you may ask. Well, let's hope not. But it's important to be realistic too. Too much practice of law (as I now am doing) gets in the way of creative juices. My brain is too focused on information that is not fit for print, if only because of its confidential nature...

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Well, our family got some sad news yesterday. My sister's cat Morgan passed away. She was 16. She needed that extra help from the vet, actually. She wasn't in pain, thank goodness. Her past 24 hours she was so lethargic (their other cat Arthur sat with her all day). It was time. She lived a long life, right there with my sister and her husband. She oversaw the arrival of their two sons, would sit outside the closed bedroom door as the newborn slept. She never liked the rest of us - hissed, mostly - her way of encouraging us to find other accommodations, I suppose. But the times that I spent with my sis right after she gave birth (in 2007 and 2010) gave me great appreciation for the soul that was Morgan. She loved those boys, and seemed to watch over them, right from birth. And at quiet times amidst all the chaos that comes with a new baby, she would find my sis and cuddle up in her lap (when that lap wasn't otherwise occupied). We have great Morgan stories - like how she gained some weight, then lost it when my brother-in-law came up with the idea of putting her food in the basement. She wanted to eat more than she wanted to not-exercise. Or how she got out once, and all my brother-in-law had to do was say, "treats!" and she was right back in the house. (hmm, these stories revolve around food...) But my most immediate, and fond, memory of Morgan is watching her these past years, watching over her small but growing family and loving them. RIP kitty. We will miss you.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Telltale Silence

Well, I have good intentions, at least. But there is just no time to maintain this blog right now. Life as I know it is just creating too much chaos for me to find that quiet moment in the morning to write down something salient or even something at all.

In sum: this blog site is down due to a non-functioning scrivener. We apologize for any inconvenience. We thank you in advance for your patience while we fix the problem.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Skunk Revisited

It was about 10 p.m. last night, and I opened the front door to see if either of my kitties wanted to come into the house for the night. (Yes, my life revolves around letting cats in or out of the house - especially at times like now, when the weather is nice.) (Excuse me for this commercial break - one of the cats is just now meowing to be let in.)

There at the base of the stairs was the baby skunk of a couple weeks ago. So cute! Or so I think - it was dark and my porch light's burnt out. Flower - as we've nicknamed the skunk - looked a little longer than before - apparently growing into its adult oblong shape - and seemed as sweet as ever. Knowing it was as potentially lethal as ever as well, I scolded cat Alex to keep trotting down the sidewalk, scooped up cat Annie to bring her into the house, and then calmly went after Alex (who'd gone across the street) and enticed him into letting me pick him up and bring him into the house as well - just by voice this time - no can of cat food necessary.

I have no idea where Flower went, other than into the bushes at the side of the house. Perhaps he (or she?) was hoping that Alex would come back out to play, and dove into the bush as a way of playing hide and seek? Hmm. The ways of cats and skunks remain a mystery to me. At least I have a can of tomatoes in the cupboard...

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Menagerie

There's no shortage of animals around, these days. In the past week, there was a wild turkey outside my office window, a crow (or raven) that nearly flew into my window there, a multitude of spiders everywhere, a skunk at the house...

Ah, yes. A skunk at the house. That was exciting.

It was a recent Sunday evening, at dusk - not quite night. One cat - Annie - was outside, wanting to come in. The other cat - Alex - was inside, wanting to go out. In sum, it was a typical Sunday evening, where I am servant to cats' needs.

I opened the door to do the Cat Exchange. And there he was. Or she. A skunk. A baby skunk, in fact. A very sweet looking, gentle - but potentially dangerous to the olfactory sense - skunk, in the walkway, just below the flower box on the living room window (where Annie was sitting). I gasped. Alex crouched. The baby skunk perked up. Annie gazed at us all, in Zen-like mode: "Ah yes," she seemed to be saying, as she nodded in the direction of the baby. "Did I fail to mention there's a skunk in our midst?"

Then Alex started his hunter's stalk. I went into action too. "Alex. Alex. No. No. No. No," I said, in an increasingly shrill voice. Alex looked over his shoulder at me, confused by my sudden insistence, annoyed that I was interrupting his plan to pounce. I grabbed my lap top's extension cord - the only thing close enough to a 10-foot-pole that I could see - and got ready to swing it in someone's direction. The baby skunk scurried into the bushes, but not far. Alex trotted down the walkway towards the sidewalk, away from the baby, I'm sure as a way of calming me down (and biding time until I went inside and freed him up to continue his prowl). Annie just watched.

I knew I had precious little time before Alex circled around the back side of the bushes where the baby was. "Hey Annie, Annie," I said to my calmer cat... approached the window box where she sat, and.... swooped her into my arms. Surprisingly, she acquiesced. I tossed her into the house, grabbed a can of wet cat food, and went back out. Yes, yes - do I know my cats or what? - Alex had circled around, and was aiming for that baby skunk from a different angle. "Hey, Alex," I said in what I hoped was my sweetest voice. "Hey Sweetie Pie. Look what I have... oooh.... cat food... mm..."

I clicked open the can. Alex was torn. Oh gosh, he so badly wanted to chase that baby skunk. But, hmm... that cat food did look good... he leaned toward the bushes, but the can won out, and he headed in my direction instead. I think he was trying to concoct a plan where he ate the cat food and chased the skunk. But my plan was to get him into the house. So I sneaked him inside by backing into the front door with the cat food low by his nose, and just out of his reach. He couldn't help himself. He had to follow the can. Suddenly he was inside. And he did get wet food as his reward. But he was "in" for the night too. This did not make him happy. I heard his protests all night long. I didn't care.

When I told a friend about it the next day, she wondered if perhaps the baby skunk had rabies, as they are nocturnal animals and it wasn't quite yet dark. I told her no, I didn't think so - the skunk never got aggressive, never even turned its back to spray... (by that time, I'd read up about skunks - had found out that babies can spray just as lethally as adults). I told her how sweet the skunk was, how round (!) (I didn't know that baby skunks are round, and not long), how it was more likely to start playing with Alex if Alex had been nice. As she listened, she said, "It was Flower." I gasped. "Flower! It was Flower!" We both laughed, having turned eight years old in an instant, each remembering the skunk that Bambi named "Flower" because he had just learned his first word and figured everything went by the same name.

I haven't seen Flower since, though neighbors have had sightings. Alex has been going out at night - how can I keep him inside, without all that meowing? - and has yet to come home stinky. Maybe he and Flower have become friends. I can only hope.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Out of the Whirlwind

"Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?"

-Job 38:31-33

Job was a whiner. Well, in his defense, a lot had happened to him - his family was dead, his money was gone, his body was full of disease, probably leprosy. And it all had happened after he had led what had always been considered, by everyone, "a good and pious life."

But still, he was a bit of a whiner. Read Job. You'll see.

I'm feeling a little like Job these days.

Which means, I think, that I've been asking questions similar to the ones that Job was asking, way back when. Sort of a "Why me, God? Why are you picking on me???" I had a plan, you know. And I believe we all had agreed to said plan. I know I agreed to it. (And then my home went up for sale, and my workload radically changed, and those last 15 pages of that new screenplay now appear as though they might get written sometime in 2025....)

And so, as I soldier on into my current fortunes, I think I've also been yelling at God. Or whoever. It hasn't been all that organized - maybe I've been yelling on the inside (as I buck up, and pull on those bootstraps...) But I've been, at a minimum, grumpy about the whole evolution of All That Had Been Planned.

The best laid plans... you know how the end of that sentence goes. Or, what's the other one - you know how to make God laugh, don't you? Just explain the plans you've made.... except I thought - I really did think - we were on the same page on these particular plans. I really did. I've been banking on it.

I think a little grumpiness is only fair. In fact, in recent days I've been thinking that Job was less of a whiner and more of a reasonable guy who just wanted a little fairness to come his way. That's the way karma should work, anyway.

So when I happened to read the above-quoted passage from the Bible, it woke me up a bit. Like Job, I needed a reminder: maybe I don't have a perfect handle on how this universe works, after all. And maybe I should give a little credit to the idea that there is an order to this apparently random chaos that will make itself clear, all in good time, regardless of my preferences. And maybe I don't know why - maybe I'll never know why - but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Job 38 is a fascinating chapter. It's when God's voice comes out of a whirlwind to Job and asks these kinds of questions. When Job asks God why - why? - are you punishing me? God in essence asks, why do you imagine that this is punishment? He asks it not in a one-word sentence but by pointing out to Job all the wonders of the universe that exist, even if they exist beyond human logic or comprehension. God essentially says, why do you have such a narrow view of the universe, that bad things happening to you must necessarily be retribution? Couldn't the world just be a little larger than that?

I love that the voice comes from a whirlwind. And I love the talk about the Pleiades and Orion. Well yes, I imagine those star formations had names back then too - though I don't think I knew they were known by those particular names. There's something ... infinite about God talking to Job about the Pleiades and Orion.

So then I did a little research, and found out that the questions posed by God actually have legitimacy in modern science. When God asks Job, are you the one who figured out how to "bind the chains of the Pleiades" while "loosening Orion's belt," God is actually foreshadowing heavenly circumstances that evolve over time. Apparently scientists predict that the Pleiades (Seven Sisters, actually about 250 stars congregated together) will ultimately stay clustered - or "chained" together, while Orion's Belt (the three stars in perfect alignment with each other) will, over time - lots of time - separate from each other - no longer stay in that alignment. In other words, the Belt will "loosen." So, wow. God says this to Job back before anyone knows that this all will happen in that way. Talk about Big Picture Thinking.

Here is a great article that talks through the comparison of what is said in Job and what is actually happening - it also goes into Arcturus (the Bear - "leading the Bear with its cubs") portion of this quote: http://www.bible411.com/andgodcried/chapter2.htm After explaining the science, that writer states the "lessons" of Job as follows:

Few have suffered the multiple tragedies of Job. How could God reach through the enormity of Job's self-pity? (Job thought God just didn't care.) In these three questions (Job 38:31, 32) God is in reality saying:

Job, you think I am not concerned about your suffering. Well, let Me ask you these questions. Can you loose the bands of Orion? No, you cannot. But My Divine power will—some day Orion will no longer exist. Job, can you bind the 250 stars of the Pleiades together in their symmetry of beauty and not have a single one drift off? Only I have this power and wisdom. Can you prevent the runaways—Arcturus and his sons—from colliding as they go dashing out of the Milky Way? No, only My Divine power and wisdom can.

Job, if I am caring for the details of the universe, do you doubt that I not only care for the details of your life but I have the ability to solve your problems? Trust that there is a good reason I am permitting these tragedies. Remember, Job, I work from the perspective of your eternal welfare.

So, cool.

Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful for my life. No leprosy here! I have a wonderful family, a supportive community, a profession (the law) that gives me the potential for instantaneous livelihood... Like Lou Gehrig, I am aware of and count my blessings, no matter if adversity has also presented itself. Still, this passage from Job helped put me back into perspective.

At the end of God's speech, Job says oops - I didn't think of it that way. Actually, Job says he'll shut up now ("I will lay mine hand upon my mouth," Job 40:4). Wise choice there, friend. Perhaps I'll do the same.

Now, back to work on this sunny Sunday morning...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Billy McLaughlin Feature

CBS News just did a wonderful feature on musician Billy McLaughlin - love his music, and now his story - I wrote about Billy here-

Here's a link to the CBS piece: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/05/27/earlyshow/main20066772.shtml

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chicago Visit

Well, I just left Chicago two days ago, after five days with my two young nephews, ages 3 1/2 and almost 1. My mom and I came to tag-team babysit while my sis and her hubby were out of town. We came, we loved, we got the stomach flu, and then I headed back home. Well, my mom didn't get sick until after I left. The boys already were sick when we got there. Man, it was wicked.

Before I got sick and after the boys were feeling better, we did have One Grand Adventure. It was my mom's idea - go to the nearby firehouse! She called and said if we could come by with the boys. They said great - they even were doing a water exercise out in a field when we got there. My nephews were amazed as the water shot high into the air. One fireman came over quickly to introduce himself to my older nephew, who is at the age where he can get nervous around new things. He went from that to helping shut down the fire hydrant. When the firemen suggested he look in the truck itself, though, it was too much. Time to go home, he said. And when they offered to let him put on a fire hat - oh my goodness. I did show him the hat, and showed him the eagle on the hat. They said to come back any time. As we left, my nephew (teary-eyed and ready to "go home," as he put it) took hold of my hand. I said, "Say 'thank you,'" and pointed to the firemen. He turned around, waved and, between tears, said, "Thank you." Even in the midst of tears, he's able to be polite. So sweet. In his defense, it was a pretty big truck.

We had other fun in the sun too. On Sunday, it was a Great Windy Day. My mom had gotten a kite at the store - not big, but manageable and with a dragon as its face. She got photos of me trying to tame the kite, hair blowing everywhere.... the kite won. She also got photos of my nephew holding the kite - and one photo of the sky, when we actually got the kite up and running. Now that photo is of the sky, not the kite in the sky, as somehow the kite evaded photography at that point. Still, it's an illustrative pic of what we accomplished. Within a few moments after that Kite Success, the wind was too much and destroyed what was left of the winged creature. We got a photo of that too (will try to add some later).

Still, with all the illness, it was a chopped-up visit. As I was getting ready to leave on Monday afternoon, I looked at these two lovely boys and wondered if we had laughed enough. The baby was teething too, though everyone seemed to have recovered from the flu part of the five days... So in the final minutes of my visit, I gave them both a bunch of belly raspberries, going from one belly to the other, and then a bunch of kisses too. It made them both laugh, even as they squirmed to get out of my grasp. The baby's giggling seemed to help him forget he was teething, at least for a few minutes. We definitely all needed the laughs.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Amazing - Niki Dawson and Vicci Martinez - watch the comments too

Made in Spokane

Up at 2 a.m. or so this a.m.... wondering when the third act begins... trust me, I've done about as much bootstrap pulling as any one person should do... besides, the weather's turned nice, and I'm wearing sandals, not boots... the turning point has now arrived, as far as I'm concerned...

It was one of those "I'm awake" insomnias. So I got up and started working - which immediately got me to procrastinating. So I decided to do an internet search for Spokane and its movies - saw that they actually were filming the Spike TV pilot "Thunderballs" out at Manito Park at that moment, in sync with my insomnia... actually, I didn't see that item until two hours later - when it no longer was the middle of the night. I did drive out to the park just now (needed to pick up some half-and-half anyway, for my coffee) but they were already all wrapped up for the night. Ah, well. Wish I had seen the item earlier - it would have been fun to watch them film.

In my computer searches, I did run across this great link - a list of all movies made in Spokane over the years. It's humanly compiled, so may have inaccuracies. But still - a nice list to have. http://www.moosicorn.com/2010/03/filmed-in-spokane-movie-marathon/

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Double Rainbow

And there it was - right after the soccer game, outside our Rock bar, in the midst of a storm that blackened the sky - the beginning of a double rainbow.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Made in Idaho

Here's an interesting article about a film that was made in Idaho - Boise, in fact - though now that the legislators have cut off their own educational system at the knees, one wonders how they expect to build the workforce needed to continue with these kinds of projects - certainly kNIFVES, our film networking/workforce development group, is doing its part. I do know we've discussed locally how to get the incentives program funded, as well as how to explain intelligently how Idaho's filming costs end up being low enough to make the difference when it comes to incentives programs...

Here's the article, out of the Boise-based Idaho Statesman newspaper:


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Las Vegas, with update

Well, we did it. My family congregated from all around the country - every corner, I believe - in Las Vegas this past weekend to celebrate my upcoming 50th birthday.

Yes, tomorrow I turn 50. Exactly how did this happen?

My siblings, parents, uncle and their spouses/fiancees appeared miraculously and somewhat dramatically for the Big Event. We ate too much, laughed a lot, and could have been anywhere, really, and not just in Vegas. We did do a wee bit of gambling. I lost. And I'm very grateful that everyone made the effort to come celebrate.

Also present, by happenstance, was a good friend of mine who lives in Phoenix. I have known her for twenty years - met her right before I turned 30, in fact - and she came with my family to the Birthday Dinner, on Saturday evening, at Nora's Italian Cuisine. They sat us in a back room - twelve people, was the final count - all sitting at a round table that filled the room there. Apparently we ordered every appetizer on the menu, along with several entrees - it was excellent food. As if my family's presence was not "presents" enough, I had a variety of treats for the day - a massage/pedicure/manicure in the a.m., a sweet jewelry box, fifty trees planted in my name, a show, an amazon.com certificate, a wonderful necklace and a rabbit. Actually, it was a human being dressed as a rabbit - the Easter Bunny, I think he thought (but my brother explained it wasn't that, and it wasn't "accidental" that it was a rabbit in the first place, ha!) - who came with a singing telegram and then wanted to dance. So I danced with him. It's all on tape, or so my brother-in-law assures me. As the TSA check-in guy said at the airport in Spokane - when he saw I was going to Vegas - "What happens in Vegas ends up on Youtube!" We shall see. We shall see.

On Sunday, as most of the family was departing, I ended up staying with my friend from Phoenix, who was staying at the glamorous Bellagio. It was a perfect day, weather wise, and we sat out at the pool, sunning. This was a far cry from when I left Spokane (sans jacket, as I knew I wouldn't need it in Las Vegas). As I had walked to the Spokane airport from the parking lot last Thursday, it had snowed. And the wind had blown, as though we were on the Great Plains. (Coming back on Monday, it poured rain. Oh, well. The parking-lot-to-airport hike is only about five minutes, in Spokane.)

The other thing that tried to affect my trip was my cat Alex - or, should I say, the cat fight that Alex apparently had a week or two ago, that gave him the scratch on his head that broke open into a sore on Thursday, about three hours before I had to leave. Alex. He's such a pain, that cat. He sees all cats as directly challenging his authority to rule the neighborhood - and every cat fight starts with him going head-first into battle. This is how these cat-scratch battle scars always end up on his head. But I didn't fret too much - I just put a cone on his head to keep him from scratching at the wound, and my neighbor checked on him to ensure that he could eat and could not remove the cone. He was grumpy by the time I got home - Alex, not the neighbor - but he was healed - or nearly healed. I told him I was sorry, but I was not about to let him make me cancel my trip to Vegas. After all, you only turn 50 once. (It's 49 that you can repeat as often as you prefer.)

UPDATE: Well, Alex is doing well. The cone is off, the head is healed, and he is out and about, looking for another cat fight. It's good to see him back to himself.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cyberspace Chorus

I happened upon this wonderful story of making music via the Internet. It was orchestrated, literally, by an artist named Eric Whitacre. Here is his story of how the global chorus evolved - it's a little long, but worth the view - short version is, basically one young girl posted on youtube a clip of herself singing this piece of music, written by Eric Whitacre; they came up with the idea of inviting others to sing; and ultimately they put together a clip of all of the youtube posting of people singing the song from their own various bedrooms and living rooms, with Eric directing them - all via cyberspace. Here's the longer story:

Here is the first piece they created:

And here is the one they are now developing - a vision of global participation:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Filming PSA for Post Falls Domestic Violence Hotline

kNIFVES, my movie networking and workforce development group (I'm the board secretary), just finished up a day and a half of filming a 30-second public service announcement for the Post Falls (Idaho) Police Department's domestic violence hotline. We did it as a training workshop - "PSA in a Day," we called it - and we had a mixture of cast, crew and students totaling about 45 to 50 people. It was just so great. The proposal came to us just a month ago. This means that kNIFVES - with its all-volunteer board and no executive director - went from the seed of an idea to a 30-second PSA in one month. This includes getting the writers' group to write scripts, brainstorm them, winnow them down from 13 to 8 to 3 - all incredibly great scripts, by the way, so no small feat to reduce the number down to 3 - from which the police department selected one. It also meant networking the professionals in this region willing to donate time and equipment to good cause, and project.

The ultimate script has a total of four scenes, with voiceover, showing three instances of abuse and then the final victim making the phone call to the hotline for help. It was really emotional to watch the filming, as the scenes are very intense - a teenaged girl trying to get out of a car and her boyfriend yanking her back in; an older, sophisticated woman with a black eye putting on sunglasses in the privacy of her bedroom to hide the abuse she's suffered, as she readies to go out of the house; and a young couple in the early morning where the husband nearly hits the wife with his fist because of a sink full of dirty dishes. The title of the commercial is "Break the Cycle." The kitchen scene shows, at the end of it, the couple's little girl, watching, which then prompts her mom to make the phone call for help.

It thrilled me to have so many students attending, and the variety of them, all interested in learning about the practicalities of filming, being able to participate, having the crew and the director (WJ Lazerus, kNIFVES' president) stop action to explain what they were doing and why - the thought process behind the various shots from a practical, creative, and time-sensitive prospective. I loved how the crew donated time and equipment to our process - how the police department kept feeding us meals and snacks - how everyone pitched in to make the project a success.

The actors, too, donated their time. When some were introduced, I asked how they all felt about doing these scenes, given the topic. One said that it was a topic very close to them, and how honored it felt to participate. It seemed like there was a story to tell there - a story like the three being told in the commercial. This is a topic that is prevalent but taking place so often behind closed doors. It was really gratifying to know that this workshop, and the ultimate product, not only turned out to be a great training tool for up and coming cast, crew and writers, but would actually have the potential to touch people's lives.

This topic is close to me personally, as I have worked on this it in the past. I haven't done so recently - it was more when I was younger, both in college and in law school. In college, I volunteered on the local hot line. In law school, through the clinic there at the University of Maryland, I represented an abused woman who was convicted of first degree murder for killing her abusive husband, and who never had any of that abuse admitted as evidence in her trial. Ultimately one thing led to another, and we ended up rallying the community of mostly female lawyers to do three things: make a video of these women's stories (because my client was just one of about a dozen women in similar circumstances in Maryland prison); get legislation passed in Maryland that would allow evidence of the battered spouse syndrome in assault and murder cases where the spouse on trial had been abused; and work towards clemency for these dozen or so women who were in prison in Maryland but had never been allowed to explain their circumstances during their trials. All three goals were met, and the governor gave most of the women clemency from their prison sentences. I was gone from Maryland when the women were given clemency - I had graduated from law school by that point and was in Wyoming, clerking for a judge - but I felt so proud of the work that got accomplished based on what we had started, there at the law school.

The last two days have made me think of that project - have reminded me of how far we, as a society, have come since 1990 - as this kind of information is now part of trials, no need to fight to allow for that kind of fairness - but also, how far we still have to go. I mean, here we are, doing a PSA for abuse victims out there who don't know how to ask for help. Each circumstance is individual. Most abuse occurs behind closed doors. There is much to know, and not enough public education that takes place, even now - when we know so much more.

They say that the police can tell you which houses are ones with domestic abuse - they know the homes where they will be called to referee every few weeks. But this PSA is to reach out to those people who suffer that kind of domestic abuse in silence - the ones who do not pick up the phone and make the phone call. I hope this PSA reaches them, inspires them to reach beyond where they are and "break the cycle."

Sunday, April 3, 2011


As I sit here waiting for a refrigerator...

I love the house where I live. It was built in 1912 (I made that up - but it had to be around then). It has high ceilings and dark wood floors, the gorgeous wood somehow surviving various tenants' impulses over the years to follow painting trends. Bookshelves are built in, in that same gorgeous dark wood, as is a buffet in the dining room. I even love the funky cardboard-like paneling that someone installed back in the '50s, we guess. We think someone went through the neighborhood saying that everyone's kitchens and bathrooms would benefit by putting up paneling on the walls... It's weird, but interesting. Very kitch.

The house is not without its drawbacks. The heating system is an Octopus in the basement - what they used to use for coal-heating systems - a central source with huge metallic tubes that lead from the source to the individual rooms. While it no longer uses coal for its heating source - thank goodness - the system was never removed - just converted to a modern system, using the Octopus arms to distribute the heat. (It is also the cooling system - no air conditioning for this old house! There's a light switch that I can turn on in the summer - it runs the Octopus' motor which sucks the cooler air down below and circulates like a fan, just like the thermostat triggers the motor to run heat through the house in the winter.) This is an inefficient, expensive way to heat the house in the winter. Yet my rent is so reasonable (yes, I rent this sweet home) that I don't mind the expense in the winter. It all balances out in the end.

One of the drawbacks of living in this lovely home is that the facilities are older than dirt - or so it seems. About a year ago, the toilet broke. I called a plumber to replace it. (Oh, I also have the best landlords ever - who immediately take care of whatever needs fixing, either by fixing it themselves or authorizing me to hire someone.) The plumber said he figured he would be able to fix the toilet itself, and not have to get a replacement toilet. Um, I said, I love your optimism, but I think you may have to replace it. When he got here, he said there was no way to fix it - it was about 50 years old, or some such thing (maybe not, maybe only 30 or 40 years old, I can't remember - "really old," is what I remember him saying). So I got a brand new toilet. It was so exciting!! (I know, I need more excitement in my life, if this is considered one of the Big Events of 2010.) My landlord had said I could authorize whatever, but that he didn't want a gold toilet, or anything like that. So it was funny when the flush handle turned out to be brass.

So this week, the refrigerator died. I didn't notice right away - didn't notice the lack of humming coming from the kitchen, or anything. I did think it was odd that the ice wasn't forming well. When it dawned on me that I had a dead refrigerator, the cold already had mostly faded away. We made phone calls, my landlords and I. They decided they wanted a new refrigerator rather than the very-reasonably-priced used one that I had found at a local appliance store. Luckily they didn't want a big one - most new ones are mammoth, these days - so it actually will fit in the little alcove I have for it - sort of squeezed in next to the stove, but that way the appliances are off to one side and I can have a little table in the kitchen for casual dining. Real cooks would find this situation awkward, to say the least. Me? Not so much.

So now I await the new refrigerator. It shall be delivered today between 1 and 3 p.m. I'm kind of excited about it. Another appliance goes from 1950 to the 21st century. Not that the dead refrigerator is that old - not that I know of, anyway.

I'm also excited about having a completely cleaned-out refrigerator. Though I do think I'll miss my various science experiments... I mean, what's the purpose to a science experiment if you can't keep it around for years? Isn't that how it became a science experiment in the first place?

It's also a little thrilling to imagine a completely clean corner of the house, as I plan to clean out under the refrigerator before the new one arrives.

I haven't been able to have frozen items this week - my neighbor graciously took my frozen items for safekeeping in his freezer - and refrigerated items didn't last too long with the ice that I bought - well, not after the ice melted and I didn't replace it. So one nice thing about the end of today - I'll be able to have half-and-half again for my morning coffee.

And that opening line, above? It's a play on the words of Tillie Olsen's short story "As I Stand Here Ironing." She was a writer from Santa Cruz, California, who was also a mother and home keeper, who wrote around, and about, the mundane chores of life. Maybe that's why I noticed the refrigerator so much this week - I'm writing again, and anything can be a distraction when I write.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Child Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations

Two years ago, I wrote how the Washington state legislature considered, and passed, extending the time by which a victim of child sex abuse can report abuse. At that time, it was extended to either age 21 or age 28, depending on the circumstances.

Now Washington contemplates eliminating that statute of limitations altogether, as it is in 29 other states. The proposed bill passed the Washington State House unanimously. One state senator from the West side, however - Senator Jim Hargrove - refuses to give the bill a needed hearing by this Friday in order to let the bill be considered by the full Senate. If it isn't heard by then, the bill dies for another year.

Here is a great piece by local KXLY on the difficulties - by the way, the argument that it shouldn't be extended because victims will then not come forward is bogus - no victims' advocacy group is saying that, to my knowledge - and it does not reflect the truth of what happens - as one advocate put it, the only ones who don't want this bill passed (besides those playing politics in Olympia) are the pedophiles themselves. Oh, and the article that the cases will be harder to prove is also bogus - prosecutors always have the option to decline prosecution if evidence cannot be gathered. But in the case of, for instance, Patrick O'Donnell - a priest here in the 1970s who abused so many, including Tim Corrigan (his widow Cheryl is holding his photo in the news story) - he never faced criminal prosecution in spite of all the evidence because the statute of limitations already had run.

If you do want to express an opinion, email Jim Hargrove at hargrove.jim@leg.wa.gov or Lisa Brown (Senate Majority Leader from Spokane) at brown.lisa@leg.wa.gov.

Here's the story:

(I'm in the shot, actually - standing to the left of the reporter at one point, in black, getting my hair blown all over the place. )

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Deafening Silence...

Sorry. No postings. The script writing finally is going well, though - as long as I reduce distractions...

I did want to mention that Friday is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory - the 1911 textile factory fire in New York City that killed 146 women immigrant workers, mostly Jewish and Italian. Here is a very touching article about people remembering those who died by marking their names in chalk in front of the apartments where they lived.

The happening of this anniversary is eerily timely right now, as Wisconsin unions - and unions across the country - fight to keep at least the basic boundaries formed to protect workers' rights over the past 100 years. The Triangle Fire was one of the catalysts at the turn of the 20th century (another being the publication of The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair) that moved people to action to protect the rights of workers in this country - and to form unions that helped the least workers among us. In the Fire, the factory heads were saved, but not the women workers - mostly the ones who were working on the ninth floor, where the fire engine ladders didn't reach, and sprinklers didn't work, and exit doors were locked, and phone calls couldn't be made to warn them (because the phone on another floor was off the hook, preventing inter-floor phone calls). Under those conditions, with material strewn around workstations like ready-made kindling, the fire ripped through the overcrowded floor at lightning speed. Workers either burned, or jumped to their deaths.

Here is an interesting quote at the end of the article about the sidewalk markings:

One of [the chalk writing organizer's] favorite quotations comes from Gabriel García Márquez: “Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” Certainly, she said, the Triangle fire was colossally sad. But the huge protests and push for change that followed it were, she said, “invigorating.”

“In the wake of tragedies like Triangle or 9/11, my sense is there are actually quite wonderful things that come out and radiate from that,” she said. “There’s an immediate dropping of day-to-day falseness. You become much more compassionate and humane toward each other in those moments.

“It’s incumbent upon us if we’re going to commemorate the fire,” she added, “to commemorate the spirit of action that grew out of the fire.”

There will be bell ringings at 4:45 p.m. EST around the country, to mark the moment that the first alarm sounded 100 years ago. Here is a website for more information.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I'm writing a script, so I've not been blogging. And now I feel guilty about that. So here's a post. I'm choosing "Justice" as the topic. Why yes, such a lighthearted concept, don't you think?

I think we all have basic values, and then we have one or two values that define us individually. For me, one of my defining values is Justice. Although I never dreamed about becoming a lawyer, it was a great choice once I thought of it, because having balance has always motivated me to action.

When I cry at plays, or movies, justice - or the imbalance of it - is usually a motivating reason. I cried at "Camelot" when King Arthur gave a speech at the end of how he wanted to create courts in order to establish a civilized society. Yes, I cried at his words - at the concept, though in a good way. For as imperfect as our court system is, it is where we go to settle disputes - not the streets, I hope, but to the courts. Or to the courts after the streets, if we weren't able to wait. To hear his speech - from the point of view of the origin - moved me.

I sobbed at "Man of La Mancha" (the older couple sitting next to me didn't want me to drive myself home, I was so emotional) - and at the injustices there - I didn't expect it, you see - I had never seen the musical, though I knew some of the songs - and remember, as a child, listening to my father sing about dreaming the impossible dream (as my mother accompanied him on the piano). But it's a dark play, and it took me down.

And then I could hardly keep myself together at "Of Mice and Men" - had to duck out the theater after it was over, so that nobody had to see how distraught I was. I had always been so angry with George for not getting it together better to keep Lennie out of harm's way, until a friend of mine scolded me for having such high expectations of the poor guy, who himself was hardly able to survive. And so, when I watched the play with her thoughts in mind, and I realized George was a victim too - my gosh, I couldn't stand it.

(As a youth, in a philosophy class, I wrote a paper once about Oedipus, blaming him for fulfilling his destiny of killing his father and marrying his mother. If he didn't want to do that, then shouldn't he have stopped killing men his father's age? and really - shouldn't he have thought twice before marrying a women who could have been his mother? After reading the paper, my professor said, "Aren't you being a little hard on Oedipus?" Maybe. Maybe I was a little hard on him...)

When I was on the board of our local Meals on Wheels, I went out once to serve the meals - only once, though. I was great at keeping my distance in the board room - looking at things analytically - knowing we were doing our small part to help out Spokane's poorest-of-the-poor seniors. But when I went door-to-door, all I wanted to do was fix everything - clean every apartment - take everyone to their medical appointments so they didn't have to struggle with the bus and their walkers... So I stayed in the board room after that - where I actually could be productive, and not just spinning my wheels (so to speak).

The thing is, for as much as I want justice for all, I can't really personally provide it for every single person. And even more than that - the world doesn't intend for one human being to achieve that. In fact, if you look beyond our justice "system" - the court system that is imperfect, and rarely effects justice because money does not heal all wounds - and look to karma instead - spiritual justice - where (the theory goes) the universe constantly seeks balance, and seeks to correct imbalance - then part of the equation is that individual people need to stand up for themselves sometimes, on their own, without additional help, so that the next time some injustice comes barreling on down upon them, they have some tools to use in the battle.

That doesn't mean I can't help sometimes - or at least cry, at the sight of unfairness - that must create some balancing too, don't you think? If we can see the injustice, recognize it, and mourn its existence...

I do think that's why the tearing down of teacher unions has been met with such public negativity. It's one thing to get the unions in balance. It's quite another to just destroy them. Where's the justice in that?

Okay. Well, I hope this makes sense. I typed fast - knew I couldn't let another week go by without a blog entry! And happy Justice Day to you. (Is there such a thing?)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"Fish Don't Clap"

Yesterday I spent the day at a genealogical conference, oddly advertised as a "Day With Bing." You see, Spokane is proud of having been the childhood stomping grounds for Bing Crosby. The Secretary of State's office - which has a genealogical division - who knew? - figured they would attract people interested in family history by holding a day-long conference exploring one of the better known families in the Inland Northwest. The Crosby family, that is.

It was just a wonderful day, filled with lots of immigration information about Bing Crosby's roots, and how his family played a huge role in the settling of the Pacific Northwest. The whole day started before the program began, however, with a burst of nostalgia. Someone had set up a small screen with youtube clips of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin that played while we waited for the conference to begin. It was just wonderful! And so funny. Here they were - the cool guys - bursting into song during a movie, or completely relaxed while singing as a trio. That's back when you could be cool and a little corny at the same time. Here are some of the videos we watched - first, one of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby singing in the "High Society" film:

And then this clip, from the Dean Martin Show - I presume it was his show - singing the Nathan Detroit song (a part Sinatra played in "Guys and Dolls"):

So much fun!

The title of this piece comes from Bing Crosby's nephew, who was also one of our speakers. In his reminiscing about "Uncle Bing," he told a story that his uncle had told him, about how they tried to get Bob Hope to take a vacation - a two-week deep sea fishing expedition - but they had to come back to shore after just a day to drop him off. When the reporters asked Mr. Hope what had happened - did he get seasick? - he answered that he had not realized one thing before going on the trip: "Fish don't clap." So he'd come back home. Ha!

I did get a chance to show all the Crosby presenters the photo in my baseball novel ("Until the End of the Ninth," about the Spokane Indians' minor league team and a bus crash midway through the season that killed nine of the players) of Bing Crosby donating $2,500 at the memorial fundraiser game that they held just days after the bus crash, to raise money for the families of the bus crash victims. He and Bob Hope had just been up here golfing a month or so before the crash. The presenters were excited to see a photo that they had never seen before - and gathered information on how to get a copy of the original through a local family.

One of the tasks yesterday was to spend some time doing your own family research on ancestry.com. I decided to focus on my dad's side of the family, where I have some records and photos of a great-great grandfather who served in the Civil War. The volunteer who assisted me (they had a volunteer for every participant, it seemed) was especially thrilled that we kept running into family photos online. Apparently this was quite unusual. I had no idea. I told her that, through my mother's side, we go back to the American Revolution. She was in awe. She made me feel like I had accomplished something, just by sitting there and existing.

What I did notice about my dad's side though, was how they all came over from this fairly small area in Switzerland - the province of Schaffhausen, and then these little towns sprinkled around the province - towns like Schleitheim (current population 1,663) and Löhningen (pop. 1,213) and Guntmadingen (pop. 248). And then somehow they all found their way to Buffalo County in Wisconsin - to towns like Mondovi (current pop. 2,634) and Eleva (pop. 635) - and got married. All to each other, too - all these Swiss marrying other Swiss. It must have been quite the detour for my grandfather to marry my Norwegian grandmother. He was 28, she was 17 - and he was smitten from the start, is what the story always was.

It did baffle me a little yesterday - you move from a little town in a cold place to another little town in another cold place? Huh. It seems to be a lot of work, and distance, just to recreate what you had back home. It did get me here though, so I'm not complaining. And maybe that's partly why I like small towns - it's in the blood.

I was proud to read how civic-minded they were. I already knew that my grandfather was the local hospital administrator, and was on the Buffalo County commission, for years. Yesterday I learned that his maternal grandfather - the one who served in the Civil War (and is rumored to run an oral message between General Meade and President Lincoln on whether Lincoln should stay in D.C. or not) - ended up a Justice of the Peace, helped organize a school district as well as creamery co-ops there in Dairyland, and was quite active in the Lutheran church - as they all were, I'm sure. And I didn't read about any arrests - well, they were Swiss, after all. Anyway, a fun day overall. Worth the trip!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Absence Of Posts... with updates

Well, hi there. I haven't posted in a while... there's a good reason, actually. I'm writing again, and when I write on this blog (usually in the a.m.), it sort of takes away from the creative juices for my current screenplay effort - a "rom com," or so I'm told (i.e., romantic comedy).

If I tweeted (or is that "twitted"), things would be posted - since that takes a lot shorter time to compose than a blog entry. Indeed, I continue a little Facebooking, even in the midst of creating and editing.

So, in semi-tweet-like form (did I just hear a bird?), I can tell you that:

*It's been snowing in Spokane. Winds reached 58 mph yesterday at our airport.

*I had a plan to drive to Seattle over the weekend, as I wanted to do research about my new script, and one of the main scene locations is Pike Place Market - so I was going to go on a ghost tour and such - but was worried that the snow would impede my ability to get through Snoqualmie Pass and back, so I postponed for a later date TBD.

*I have decided to go all-out in my effort to buy American - under the theory that, since our tax structure encourages companies to take jobs overseas, then our buying patterns here should encourage them to keep the jobs here instead. My foray into this effort was only partially successful on Saturday, as only one of my three purchased vegetables - the onion - was home-grown, so to speak. The other two - the tomato and the mushroom(s) - were from Canada and Mexico. Sigh. But I did hear from Bounty Towels (which I like - they have cute patterns!) - in response to my email - that they do manufacture their towels here in America, so it looks like I'm able to keep purchasing Bounty. Here's what they said:

Dear Beth,

Thanks for contacting Bounty. I'm happy you are interested in knowing where our Bounty products are made. Bounty paper towels (including Bounty Basic & Bounty Napkins) are made in Mehoopany, PA – Albany, GA – Green Bay, WI – Cape Girardeau, MO – and Oxnard, CA. Hope this helped! Thanks again for writing.

Jerron J., Bounty Team

This sounds great. But I'm such a lawyer - so I thought, hmm - does this mean that all Bounty towels are made in these locations? And if not, what percentage of towels are manufactured overseas and then brought here for sale? Inquiring minds want to know. So I've emailed that follow-up question - will let you all know what I find out.

: Bounty has not responded to my more pointed question. I emailed again this (Thursday) a.m., saying that if I don't hear back, I'll presume it means that the majority of American-sold Bounty towels are not American-made. (I did notice where Procter and Gamble, which manufactures Bounty, has manufacturing plants around the world, so I think it's a pretty fair question for me to ask).
(Update - Thursday afternoon - they've responded! and yes, Bounty towels all are made in these United States - Whitney S. from The Bounty Team emailed me the following: "Hi Beth, Thanks for contacting Bounty. We really appreciate your interest in our bounty paper towel. I am happy to inform you that all Bounty paper towels are manufactured in the United States.")

If Bounty ends up not to be an option (update: it is! see the few sentences immediately above), I do know that Seventh Generation is manufactured in the U.S.A. In fact, I actually contemplated SG as my first option, as they not only are a U.S. company (privately owned), but they also are a responsible one, using only recycled products. I have purchased their paper products before...

ADDITIONAL UPDATE: Just got off the telephone with Seventh Generation - such nice people! - and they were able to inform me that their paper towels (and toilet paper) are manufactured both in the United States and Canada - and that the stretch to the one plant in Canada had to do with a limited pool of manufacturing plants in the United States for recycled products - and was not an effort to flee the country - which makes sense to me (e.g., their manufacturing choices are not actually costing Americans jobs0 - and they have the additional attraction of producing recycled products - so hats off to Seventh Generation! I'm officially switching to them for those paper products.

By the way - the Seventh Generation concept originates with Native Americans - that all we do is done in honor of the seven generations that have come before us and in anticipation of the seven generations to come in the future - which makes that a very cool name...

So this is all excellent news. It means that we now have at least two great choices for paper towels.

*Oh, and I've been enjoying all the Wisconsin stuff. One wonders (as the Morning Joe crew observed last week) why the Wisconsin governor just doesn't declare victory and settle it all. He has, after all, won all the financial concessions he was seeking from the unions. Here was a nice video from over the weekend about the protests and sit-in. I sent it along to both my nieces as I thought they would enjoy the efforts that students in their age group were making in Madison.

So there's a quick recap of My Week That Was. Thanks for checking in!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Can You Say "Rickets"? - with updates

Rickets. I am wondering how many know the definition of that word. You can be forgiven if you don't know it. After all, it's a disease that has been nearly eliminated in the United States because of government and educational programs, and better nutrition.

But get ready to learn what it means now - that is, if Republicans get their way.

Rickets is the softening of bones due to a lack of vitamin D and calcium. It is mainly a childhood illness, as it is in childhood that our bones are formed. It is the primary disease of children in developing countries. Here, read this article on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rickets

We've come a long way since rickets was a likely condition of young children in this country whose families couldn't afford proper milk, cheese, etc. for them. In recent years, our progress on eliminating rickets actually has gotten a banner acronym associated with it. That acronym is WIC. It stands for Women, Infants and Children. This is a federal program. In 1974, the year it was established, it served 88,000 people. In 2009 alone, it reached 9.3 million people. Here's the website on it.

WIC ensures that families whose income falls at or below 185 percent of U.S. poverty levels can supplement diets with coupons that buy formula (for babies), milk, cheese, eggs and the like. Pregnant women participate, so that there is sufficient nutrition in the womb for fetus bone development.

The Republicans propose to cut the WIC program by ten percent.


Yes indeed, this is the party that advocates no abortions at any time - yet they'd like to get rid of the program that stands between our children and bone disease. So much for protecting the life of children. (The Repubs also have proposed about a 15% cut to Head Start, which already is underfunded - so, they'd like to cut into the two federal programs most highly lauded as having direct positive and traceable impact on the youngest, and least, among us.)

There are more than enough places we can cut federal monies. Just don't take milk from the mouths of babes.

For astounding of a headline that this makes, there is virtually no news coverage on this very symbolic and miserly cut proposal. The best I could find was this article out of Florida. Comments show people's concerns (other than the ones that call the program "socialism"). Most commenters get the point - these are resources for our children, who make no decisions on how family funds are spent. We are setting up our children for bone disease if we cut WIC in a way that affects their access to formula, milk, cheese, etc.

Sure there are ways to cut government spending. Put me in the "for" column on that. But make these cuts wisely. Don't - literally - cut our children off at the knees in order to make your point.

UPDATE: Okay, I did find this article out of The Economist - which cites to this column by Paul Krugman (great column) - both of which bring up the WIC cuts. The Economist's article also talks about how the House Dems "failed to restore $131 million for the Securities and Exchange Commission, facing new responsibilities under Wall Street reforms enacted in the last Congress." Yes indeed - the SEC, which was too overworked to watch over Bernie Madoff, will continue to be anemic. Great. Oh, and I saw that, when asked whether the Repubs' proposed cuts would result in the loss of federal employee jobs, Rep. Boehner answered, "So be it." This brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, "compassionate Conservative." I guess it really means to say that we should be conservative with our compassion? Is that it?

UPDATE: One of my sisters just forwarded this link to a column by David Brooks on how politicians are cutting off children at their knees because that is the easiest target these days. He doesn't really discuss WIC - which is a program that just works, and doesn't have a lot of layers to tweak - but does discuss Head Start, and ways to improve programs if cuts do need to occur. It's worth the read: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/01/larry-crowne-tom-hanks-julia-roberts_n_829540.html

Friday, February 11, 2011

Journalism Ethics Movie Marathon

KNIFVES board member Karla Petermann will be moderating a month-long Film Appreciation and Discussion Series at the Sandpoint library from 1-4 p.m. for the next four Saturdays, starting tomorrow. The theme for this year's series is "ethics in journalism." The films slated for viewing and then discussion are Ace in the Hole tomorrow; Sweet Smell of Success on February 19; Network on February 26, and Good Night and Good Luck on March 12 (hmmm... apparently they're skipping a week). I urge you to attend. Apparently the discussion part can get quite lively.

I've only seen the last two movies, with Good Night and Good Luck being one of my favorite movies ever. It fits in the genre of telling a true story with integrity (a topic I discussed a couple days ago, when writing about The King's Speech). It's such an important slice of history, that movie - and what Edward R. Murrow did to shift the tide back then, away from Senator Joe McCarthy's fear-feeding, communist witch hunting. Murrow dug to the truth, and showed it to the country - and we woke up. My mother, who teaches history at El Paso Community College, tells of how some of her students saw that movie and then wanted to know who played Joseph McCarthy in it. (chuckle - McCarthy played himself, through old footage!) Love that movie.

I remember Murrow's documentary Harvests of Shame too, about migrant workers - it stunned me, as a kid. I even wrote a paper in high school, designing an elementary and secondary school education for migrant workers' children who could never stay long in one class because of all the moving they did (and all the work). The paper was a child's effort, I know - solving nothing. But that does show that Murrow had lasting impact, at least on me.

There's an Edward R. Murrow Award at Washington State University that is handed out every year. The year that it went posthumously to Danny Pearl, I went. I also went when Tom Brokaw was the award recipient. It's a great event, in honor of a remarkable man (who went to WSU back when it was WSC) who really did help America remember balance.


And here I thought I lived in a state called Washington:

Apparently, we - collectively, as a state - think it's great that people are laughing at us over this ad campaign because - um - they'll remember the message better that way?


Cindy's right (second comment down on the above link): "It's just embarrassing."

But funny. Funny too!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"The King's Speech"

I went a week ago to see "The King's Speech," an interesting and lovely movie. It is deserving of its recent awards. Colin Firth's acting is excellent, if just for the stutter alone. It was an interesting slice of history, worth the telling.

In fact, that was a big reason why I wanted to see it - the history part of it. I had read an article by someone who was disappointed that the movie "made up" facts (was the claim of the article's author) - both saying that the stutter was not as pronounced as the movie intimates, and that Winston Churchill was not really supportive of a change of crown from older brother to younger. I've written about a slice of history in my baseball novel ("Until the End of the Ninth," based on the true story of the 1946 Spokane Indians' minor league team and the bus crash that killed nine of the team's players). I want this story to be made into a movie. And I want the film maker to have a sense of what it means to tell a story, fictionalized, while still honoring the truth of the story being told. So I wanted to see how "The King's Speech" was made. I readied myself for disappointment.

As it turned out, however, I was pleasantly surprised. Any artistic license that they took with the facts described above seemed reasonable to me, as I watched the movie. The stuttering seemed like a lifetime - but was only seconds. This must be how it feels to speak publicly - to an entire nation, as a leader - when, the whole time, you fear that you will stutter. As for Churchill - whether he supported the older brother in public to keep the crown doesn't mean he always supported him in private. I expect that Churchill was, at a minimum, of two minds, so having the movie portray him as being of one opinion over the other didn't bother me. In the end, I was pretty happy that I could enjoy the movie for both its storytelling and for its honorable efforts to tell a story based on a true event.

In fact, it is a special art to tell a true story through the vehicle of fictionalized drama. Few even try to do it, and only a handful of those people succeed. This is especially true with sports movies (to this, I pay close attention, since I have written the baseball novel). It's as if movie makers think that sports stories don't deserve any kind of special care. For me, the richness of a true story is in its special details. It does take extra effort to look for those details - to draw those kinds of nuanced lines from different points. But isn't it all the richer, to tell the story that way? The lines almost draw themselves, when a writer is faithful to facts - either as they happened, or as they could have happened - while allowing the imagination the freedom to take the story to depths beyond facts. Life can be a lot like art, if we allow it to be - if we allow ourselves to see the themes and symbols, see how we grow within the moments of our lives, day to day. Portraying a true story, while believing that the story contains themes and symbols - just like our own lives do - is key - as is the dramatization of those facts, themes and symbols in a way that gives cohesiveness. We are, after all, taking the expansiveness of life and condensing it into a two-hour movie. How do we tell that story so that it honors both the story and the telling of it? It's a delicate balance, but one that, if done well, will allow the telling of a slice of life that touches something deep within.

I do hope "The King's Speech" keeps winning awards. It's subtle, character-driven, and an interesting slice of history, told well (in my opinion). It was a great way to spend an afternoon.

Monday, January 31, 2011

"As I Lay Dying"

"I made it on the bevel." - Cash, "As I Lay Dying"

I read somewhere that someone (I forget who, now) is turning this William Faulkner novel into a movie. And I think - well, how? How will that be accomplished?


UPDATE: Here we are, awhile later - 2012, in fact - saw some photos of the filming by James Franco and company (another "Rabbit" named entity, I might point out - Rabbit Bandini production company folks). It looked good.  I will have faith, I will have faith....

I was 14 and a freshman in high school when I first read that book. Immediately, I fell in love with it. My teacher was part of the reason - he loved the book too, and he explained to us young 'uns what we were about to read - a stream-of-consciousness story of Addie - a Southern woman who had died - told from the points of view of her family - from their thoughts. So it's a head game, you see - and yes, there are pieces of a story too, so that you see the family go on the trip to bury her. But - the trip itself is just a vehicle. It's what the people are saying in their minds that is most important.

Take Cash, for example - the son who builds the coffin. He isn't Darl (who reads minds, and knows exactly what's what). He isn't Jewel (his name says it all - and more, as the book progresses). Cash is much more concrete - what he can tell you is how he made the coffin. "I made it on the bevel," he says, as the first sentence of his first chapter. That's how he can explain what he's doing, what it means to him, that his mother has died. (I must credit my teacher for pointing out that bit, actually - it has stuck with me all these years too - how choosing one sentence in particular for a character's opening line can be so definitive for that character).

I didn't like Addie much as the book progressed (the mom). Aren't you supposed to like the mom? And a dead one at that? There was nothing too warm and fuzzy about her, though. Especially as the book progresses.

The daughter doesn't stand out to me much either - Daisy, I think was her name (oops -it's Dewey Dell) - the dad, I'm remembering almost not at all. Darl was something else, though. It was Darl that kept me in the story the most. Imagine, knowing everyone's thoughts... knowing all the family secrets - and not because you have lived them - but because you can hear them, in the heads of those who you are supposed to love - and who are supposed to love you.

When I was in the midst of writing my baseball novel ("Until the End of the Ninth," about a team in 1946 that died in a bus crash) - someone suggested that I add a narrator. I had the Spirit Woman already, as a third person character - the one who helps the men transition from life into death. Suddenly I had a narrator too - who was semi-omniscient, who could read most thoughts and be basically wherever I needed the narrator to be - not identified as male or female - time period also unidentified - did he (or she) come from a different time period? and only the Spirit Woman was able to see him (or her). Interestingly, nobody has complained to me about the narrator. The narrator has seemed to give comfort without concern.

It was "As I Lay Dying" that inspired me to have such a narrator. Thank you, William Faulkner, for your courage back in 1930 to try the almost-unimaginable. Almost, but not quite, out of reach of the imagination - I mean, you thought of it, didn't you? It was there for the imagining. I hope - believe - I did justice to that style. And when they make "As I Lay Dying" into a movie, I hope they can do justice to what William Faulkner intended by telling that story - not just through the story's details, but by the way he told it, too.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Interesting Clip - SNL

Well, I wasn't actually awake to watch it - but this is a fun clip from Saturday Night Live last night - the first meeting between Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and the guy who played him in the movie -

I haven't seen the film yet - probably should - just because I do enjoy FB'ing itself - and also for that whole Best Picture Nomination thing. I think Mark Zuckerberg's a pretty good sport to do this at all - and I think he ended up with the best line, about inventing "poking." :)