Monday, March 31, 2014

Coming to America, the Immigrant's Dream Gone Hollywood

This is an immigrant story which has  surreal funhouse proportions, the American rags to riches immigrant story turned on its head. It is about a family named Kardashian that you've heard one story about but there is another story which is far more interesting that you've probably never heard.

This is, of course, Kim Kardashian, who has become (more) rich and famous over the years. First she made a sex tape with her boyfriend, Reggie Bush, a singer, which went viral online.

Then she did a reality tv show with her sisters Khloe and Kourtney where the the three of them showed the world how they lived their lives, especially their intimate lives.  There was nothing edifying about this show. The sisters just lurched from one raunchy scenario to another. They got ratings though so they also got plenty of tv backing.

Kim also got married on tv and stayed married for less than three months to an NBA basketball player. It was claimed, but never proven, that she simply had a tv wedding for all of the additional cash it generated. No one doubted much that this was true.

She has had the necessary plastic surgeries, implants and other cosmetic services performed on her so that both her breasts and rear end border on being freakishly large. She is constantly posting photos of her breasts and butt online as selfies too.

No one would use the phrase high class to describe her. Recently she was denied a place on guest lists to the swankier Oscar parties because the A list crowd did not want her included. The red gown was how she looked for one of the lesser Oscar parties which did invite her.

So who is Kim Kardashian and where did she come from? That's where the story gets interesting because the background is wholly unexpected. You are probably imagining that she came from a dirt poor background and that these ways of making it were how she clawed her way up from the bottom. You would be wrong. Her father was the late Robert Kardashian, a very successful attorney and business man who was very well connected in Hollywood. She was brought up in Beverly Hills and lacked for nothing. All of the girls went to a private school in Bel Air which was filled with the children of his famous friends.

Her pictures with her father show someone quite different from the woman we see today, a young woman we can easily picture eventually married to a nice Armenian surgeon, attending a charity ball and having her own four children who were raised in an out of the limelight environment. This is if her Armenian relatives had their way, which they ultimately did not.

Robert Kardashian was the son of Armenian American parents born in 1944.  His aspirations were those of every other immigrant's child of that era: improve yourself, make a better life for your family, get a good education, work hard and make us all proud of you. He grew up in southern California and went to the University of Southern California undergrad and UC at San Diego's Law School.  He both practiced law and became a business man and was very successful at everything. You can tell by looking at these pictures that he had his family on the trajectory of having an even better life than he'd known. He was raising them in the best neighborhood and they were going to the best schools. His children looked fresh faced and innocent. He was also a well liked man who most people found kind and likable.

Kardashian made some wrong turns in life though. First, he married Kris, now the manager and chief money grubber in the Kardashian-Jenner blend family, wedding photo shown above. She was not satisfied with her enviable situation married to Kardashian and had a torrid affair with another man. Robert Kardashian divorced her when he learned of it. She remarried Bruce Jenner, not the affair man, within a month of the divorce and has ruled the roost with an iron hand ever since. Left to her own devices, Kris Jenner formed her own production company and used her family as reality tv stars and then branched them off into other product lines, especially fashion products.

Next bad move, Robert Kardashian, shown with grey streak in hair, was best buds with O.J. Simpson. They were close friends since the 1970s and were both alums of USC. He was the one O.J. turned to when he was under investigation for murder.  OJ took off in the Bronco from Robert Kardashian's house. Kardashian handled everything for O.J. in this case. He hired the dream team, sat with O.J. in court, made all the business deals that the trial generated. He essentially dedicated his life to O. J. Simpson's acquittal. So he was wholly enmeshed in the whole circus that was O. J. for years. This, of course, did not leave much time or energy for directing his children away from the pursuits they ultimately chose under their mother's inclinations for leading their lives.

Robert Kardashian did not survive the murder trial by long. He got esophageal cancer and died of it within 8 weeks in 2003 at age 59.  So the whole Kardashian media frenzy occurred after his death, when Kris Jenner had no one to stand in her way.  Robert left behind around $100 million in trust for his family. So everyone in his family had an incredible opportunity to lead a very high class life right from the outset. His four children could easily have as much education as they wanted and not have to do anything they didn't want to do to support themselves. At the point of their father's death, they could have lived the lives that their Armenian great grandparents and grandparents dreamed of for them when they became Americans.

I have heard people say, "Oh but look at all the extra money she's made."  My reply is, "Do you seriously think that any immigrant who came to this country in the late 1800s or early 1900s dreamed of this kind of life for his or her children?  Do you think they made all of those sacrifices for this kind of result? And they would have certainly thought $25 million per child, what their father left them, was enough to lead a better class of life."

I think they would feel as if they failed miserably if they were able to watch the viral sex tape or tune in to Keeping Up With the Kardashians. They would be thunderstruck that Kim was freakishly altering her body in her early 30s. They were thrilled with Robert, the father, because he was educated, successful, a good father (until the combined plunge of divorce and OJ) and he was high class enough to be invited everywhere. No one left him off party lists.

Who would these Armenian immigrant ancestors blame for Kim's and her sisters' lives today? Well, they wouldn't blame Robert although he obviously made some bad choices for his family.  No, like any other immigrants of that era, they would have blamed his wife, Kris. But they would have blamed him for stepping outside of his own roots for selecting this wife. I can hear them railing that everything would have worked out if he had married a nice Armenian girl instead, that their grandchildren wouldn't look like clowns and act like streetwalkers if he had married their choice. The hell is that they would probably be right but that would be because when Robert stepped away from his immigrant past, he lost his navigational rudder. Those immigrants had been the stars setting his course and thereafter Hollywood was setting his course instead. Although immigrants are known for rock solid values, Hollywood is known primarily for having no values other than regard for the next big deal. And this shows in the resulting total lack of taste, class and values of its great grandchildren from its immigrant origins.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Eco Tourism? Scuba Dive in Quarries? Explore Lake Erie Shipwrecks?

My sister Dianna and I emailed one another yesterday, just catching up.  She brought me up to date on my nephew Jack's honeymoon in Costa Rica which until yesterday I did not realize had been a part of an eco tourism movement.  I was immediately curious so started surfing the web to find out more about it. First thing I discovered was that it was not new but had been around for decades. Also, universities had been among the first to climb aboard to promote it. My sister majored in natural resources at the University of Michigan and worked for the Cleveland Metroparks for awhile so it is not surprising that he would likewise be interested in ecology.

A commonly used definition of eco tourism is responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people. The money paid by the tourists is further invested in maintaining the fragile environment being visited plus involves the local community in the process and gives it financial benefits from the tourism profits. This can also involve boycotting travel to countries with repressive regimes and human rights violations. Such travel boycotts were used against South Africa during the protests against apartheid. In our country, travel boycotts have been recently used to stop professional conventions being held in states known to be anti gay rights.

I was not surprised to discover in my web surfing that eco tourism is a controversial topic. There are two principal criticisms. First, that you need to use airplanes to get to it. The argument here is that you are just adding to greenhouse gas emissions which further worsen global warming and climate change. If you really want to help the environment, critics say, travel very close to home and use the least offensive transportation. Study the charts above and the conclusion is rather depressing: the most ecologically profound act you can seemingly take up is to become an avid Greyhound bus rider.

The second criticism is that people, mostly Americans, use this concept to paint themselves as philanthropists when in reality they just want to indulge themselves further and promote a nicer version of themselves than really exists. 

Well, I had thought of the airplane problem. But the second presupposes a second incarnation of The Ugly American. Back in the 1960s that book was published which painted a very unflattering portrait of Americans as we presented ourselves outside of our country. To be blunt, we were pictured as loathsome interlopers who were complete boors in other countries.  Our only redeeming virtue, throwing our money around these places, was also our most offensive quality.  Our efforts at diplomacy also showed us to be nothing more than extended incarnations of our manifest destiny pasts. Fittingly enough, Marlon Brando starred in the movie. I hope we are not about to go into another era of bashing ourselves for being Americans or letting our allies do it for us as they have been so willing to do in the past. 

It turns out that Jack's visit to Costa Rica is not an unusual choice, especially for North Americans.  The country is seen as a primary example of how eco tourism can benefit the host country. Costa Rica has steadily improved its quality of life for locals while also having a natural eco system well worth preserving. However, its very success is its biggest problem.  This is South America after all, commonly viewed as the mother lode of corruption and graft. There is no centralized control and administration of the monies and their purposes so that some people have exploited and/or appropriated the plentiful funds which have come flowing into the country. It turns out that any eco tourism program does best with moderate success. When there is huge success in eco tourism, there is the danger of damaging what you sought to protect. The main site for eco tourism in Costa Rica is here.

Another surprise was in store for me.  On Google I discovered that my very own alma mater, Ohio University, has a program in eco tourism. The southeastern portion of Ohio, the beginning of Appalachia, is becoming more and more invested with eco tourism.  This is where OU is located. You want to know how into this they are in Ohio? For God's sake, they scuba dive in quarries! Gilboa Quarry, shown above, in northwestern Ohio is a mecca for scuba divers and you can view three videos of scuba diving there here.

Ohio is number five in the nation for scuba diving which is quite a feat when you realize that we have no ocean. These same scuba divers also explore Lake Erie's many old shipwrecks. Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and thus always considered the most dangerous by seaman.  It has had a high death toll over the centuries.

The eco tourism businesses in Ohio meet every criticism of eco tourism head on. They are located in areas which are largely unused nowadays whereas they were ruthlessly exploited in the past by industrial practices such as strip mining for coal. Many Americans can get here without using a plane. Plus growth in those local eco tourism businesses are good not great. It is the great success which kills the golden goose in this enterprise. There is a great article I found on eco tourism in southeastern Ohio here.

Do I see myself doing eco tourism?  In the larger sense I already do because I rarely go anywhere.  It is generally years for me in between plane rides. Even with driving, I only seem to travel within the same ten mile radius of our condo.  Plus Jim and I share a car and live in a small condo. So it would be hard for me to come up with a much smaller carbon footprint than I already make ecologically speaking. For people like me then, this is more a matter of curiosity than alteration of lifestyle.

Rebecca and I have debated these ecological issues on our drives around here. She was dating someone in the anti fracking movement and asked me what my opinion was on fracking.  (It is a method of oil and gas extraction which causes a lot of environmental damage to our own lands.)

"Well, I don't like it, " I replied, "but we really have backed ourselves into a corner. We have made ourselves totally dependent upon an utterly crazy part of the world, the Middle East, that would like to blow each of us up ASAP. It is hard for me to think of any atrocity worse than the atrocities we've brought on ourselves by not dealing with Middle East oil dependency decades ago.  Fracking is because of that, not because of anything else.  It is a side issue to a truly insane issue. I don't have any answers as how to handle the huge, overlying issue."

What could she say? Nothing. That is the true nightmare each of us lives with every day. Unfortunately, we are not going to solve this problem in our lifetimes so Jack and the other younger people will be left to contend with it. And I am really sorry that we are leaving this mess behind us for them.

A big thanks to Jack and Dianna for bringing this topic to my attention.  If anyone else has a suggested topic, just send it in please.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Inspirational Person for the Month, Christopher Hitchens

It it time for my once a month inspirational person entry. Last month I discussed the late David Rakoff and this month it will be the late Christopher Hitchens aka Hitch. He was best known as an essayist, non fiction book writer and debater. He had an incredibly bright, sharp mind but what always made him special was the sense of humor that could save him in any situation, no matter how confrontational. He could defuse just about any tense situation with a humorous twist which absolutely upended everything. He was also the bravest of friends because he took up personal danger in the cause of friendship. His friend Salman Rushdie was under death threat for writing the book The Satanic Verses but Hitch put him up in his own home during this as his most avid supporter.

One of my favorite things Hitch did that always brings an inward chuckle is that he challenged the sainthood of Mother Theresa. He wrote a book about her, challenging the public persona she embodied, making his case for her being scornful of the downtrodden while consorting with royalty. What really got my attention is that when the Catholic Church was hearing outside testimony for why she should not be canonized as a saint, Hitch accepted the Church's invitation to make his case against her. An absolutely indefatigable debater since his Oxford undergrad days, Hitch leaped into the fray, appearing at the Church's offices where he presented his case in full. He didn't prevail on this issue but I had to give him credit for following a cause right down to the grittiest final detail.

Another favorite of mine was watching him on his televised debates. Shown left, Hitch and his good friend Stephen Fry who were sharing the con position in a televised debate against the sexual tenets of the Catholic Church, especially the no use of condoms in Africa by HIV infected persons.  Most of Hitch's debates were about organized religion which Hitch was against. He just loved these debates and was absolutely wonderful at leading the charge for his cause. Sometimes you could catch these on C-Span and if you've seen C-Span tv, you know how unusual it is to see an electrifying speaker on it. More typically it will put you to sleep it is so boring.

Hitch was also the one who convinced me to read all of P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves & Wooster stories. I became as big a fan as he was of those two and their antics. I even tried out the audio versions and loved those as well at his behest.

Vanity Fair magazine sent Hitch on assignment one year to check out the spa, healthy eating and exercise scene. At that point, Hitch was hardly known for his athleticism. No, he enjoyed smoking one cigarette after another plus relished good whiskey, wine, cognac or most other drinks.  His subsequent articles and pictures at these places was truly hilarious and made me feel much better about myself. He threw himself into this assignment but with full intentional hilarity. He even endured a very painful body hair wax removal.

He also radically shifted political sides after 9/11, believing we were in terrible danger from Islamic fundamentalists. Thus, he was in favor of the war we waged after that even though he had always been on the left before. As part of this new belief of his, he let himself be water boarded as a guinea pig so the public could see exactly what it was like as a torture device. At the time of his death, he was still opposed to the Islamic fundamentalists but now was back into a moderate political position and probably heading left again.

He wrote tons of books. Every one of them is terrific. My favorites are shown left. His essays Arguably are a good place to start if you are wholly unfamiliar with his work. Sadly, his last book, which I read, Mortality, was about his dying of the esophageal cancer which eventually killed him. This is an excellent memoir of going through the the last stages of death and dying. Two other excellent books of his are Hitch 22, a memoir of his life, and God is Not Great, his position on religion ruining everything in people's lives.

I certainly did not agree with his views on everything but I sure liked reading and listening to his arguments about everything. No one has stepped in to take his place and I'm not really expecting to see anyone able to do so in what remains of my lifetime.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Defending Oscar Madison from The Odd Couple

My sister was the one who first called Jim and me Oscar & Felix with me in the Oscar role.  This was around the time we got married in 1969. Since that time I have noticed that there are a fairly high amount of Felixes who are my friends. Felix of course is the uptight, anal retentive clean freak while Oscar is the slob.

Most people are less insulted to be called Felix than they are Oscar because who wants to be called a slob? Well, I guess I do.

Sometimes when we get together with friends this puts Jim in touch with other Felixes we know. So listen up all you Felixes out there, when you Felixes get together, you need me, Oscar. I can almost time how long two Felixes put up with one another when we come together. Usually that is around an hour. Then their fussiness starts getting on one another's nerves. All of a sudden, I start looking a whole hell of a lot better as a friend since I am not freaking out over say a wine glass with dishwasher spots.  I am just drinking the wine and enjoying it.

How can I spot a Felix?  It's easy.  I will be with a Felix when all of a sudden he or she notices something out of order.  This could be the way the windshield washers are ejecting fluid onto the glass, or the way a leaf remains caught under its blade, or a magazine inadvertently left out and open in one's otherwise pristine living space or a cigarette being smoked even though it is outside on the public sidewalk.  The list goes on and on.  And what do I, Oscar, say about any of this?  Until the Felix in question brings it to my attention, I have never noticed this gross and glaring aberration to all that is holy in the civilized world.

My Felixes are now used to my not seeing these flaws. It is not that I am missing standards of my own but rather that I am applying them to other things. The question most commonly asked me is, "How did you manage to finish that huge art project?"  My answer is that because I don't see that other stuff, I am able to focus on such a project entirely.

It is actually relatively new to society that there can even be Felixes. For most of human history, we had to put up with a fair amount of dirt. This includes our homes in caves, tepees, log cabins and the like as well as the grime that lay over everything because of the coal used for heating and the emissions from the mills and plants.  Until the invention of electricity and its installation into homes, people could not even see much dirt because houses were so dark inside. Then when they traveled, it always entailed one's person picking up the dirt from the method of transportation, whether that was from the coal engines used on trains or the dust of then roads.  That is why bathing after a journey became common. Today you arrive in the same cleanliness state as when you left, barring some dolt's dropping something onto you. If you feel dirty after riding in today's cars, planes or trains after a journey, then what you are is a Felix, not dirty.

Fortunately, you Felixes in the senior set will be able to finish out with fuels and utilities which make such cleanliness standards possible. Your progeny, however, will probably not be as fortunate as alternative sources of energy will have to be used, no matter how disgusting to the Felix in question.  If the waste of certain critters is used to fuel things, I only wish I could be present to see a Felix face being presented with fueling his car, say, with chicken feces. And if droughts get worse, there is going to be a lot less of the Lady Macbeth style constant showering and washing.  Could I, Oscar, handle these changes?  But, of course.  I would not notice these new things until they hit shall we say a reeking state and I doubt it will be that bad. But the Felixes of the world will be close to having a breakdown with these lowering standards in the state of the world. I can actually see these Felixes in therapy for having to adapt to such a new world.

But I am not complaining about the Felixes of the world.  No, you balance us Oscars perfectly. Certainly an Oscar could never live with another Oscar. They might be very comfy together but they also might not get the front door open due to the pile up of stuff flung hither and yon. And our wet swimsuits rolled up in our swim bags might never emerge to dry without some outraged Felix proffering such bag like a pile of refuse to the negligent Oscar.

So, yes, we are all Odd Couples, whether we are married or friends.  Or as Woody Allen said best in his Annie Hall, "I need the eggs."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mesmerizing Music--"This is for the White in Your Eyes" Plus "Mad Men"!

This is for the White in Your Eyes by Choir of Young Believers
Mesmerizing Music that sent me on internet search to find it after watching "The Bridge"
If you have watched The Bridge, the Swedish-Danish co-produced television series, then chances are that you have been mesmerized by the musical theme. I had to find and obtain that music and this is it. The specific piece that opens the series is Hollow Talk. The rest of the album is mesmerizing as well. Although this is classed as indie rock, it is indie rock resembling Radiohead, not the Rolling Stones. The lead singer is quite comparable to Thom Yorke of Radiohead. Since this is not hard driving rock music, it is also very nice to put it on for driving or listening to while you are doing other things. This music has nothing to do with the American version of this TV series also called The Bridge.

TV Mad Men
Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men, was one of the writers on the Sopranos. He hovers over every detail of Mad Men, getting it absolutely right, just as creator David Chase did for the Sopranos. The first choice he made was absolutely insisting that Jon Hamm had to play the lead. Everyone thought Weiner was crazy insisting on an unknown. Result? Jon Hamm is now a major tv star. Next bit of historical marvel was that HBO turned this show down so that Weiner took it to an upstart cable channel, AMC, and ended up putting AMC on the map. 

Don Draper is the fulcrum for the show; everything pivots around him. However, it is a very rich band of characters indeed who do that pivoting.  Everyone comes into his or her own in the rich world of New York City advertising in the 1960s, whether for good or ill. Draper goes through crisis after crisis primarily centered around what little identity he has created as his own. Most of that identity comes down to his job, which is finding a way to brilliantly project falsity, which is a metaphor for his entire life.

The advertising world back then wholly existed on Madison Avenue in New York City which is one way of reading the title, Mad Men. However, the madness goes well beyond the street address in these wonderful series. The last season begins in April 2014.  Every season can be watched on Amazon Instant Video, including the one starting in April, and past seasons can be watched on Netflix.

This season can be instantly streamed at Amazon Instant Video or iTunes. The earlier seasons, also excellent, are available on Netflix as well as iTunes and Amazon.  I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Film: Wolf of Wall Street
I saw this film during awards season and I saw why it was such a contender on that circuit. This is a very black and darkly satiric look at the horrible people who made tons of money illegally because of their practices on Wall Street. It is similar to the director's, Martin Scorsese's, scathing look at mob guys in Goodfellas. Both films were biographies of very bad guys, Goodfellas of mob guy Henry Hill who went into witness protection and Wolf of Wall Street of Jordan Belford whose crimes were all financial instead of murder. Ray Liotta was the lead in Goodfellas and Leonardo DiCaprio is the lead in WOLF. It helps to know that the director was a victim of one of these wall street sharks so that has presumably influenced his artistic choices in making this film.

Unlike Goodfellas, on the awards circuit Wolf of Wall Street is being primarily seen as a comedy and especially DiCaprio's performance. He won the Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy and was nominated for the Oscar. 

Although initially very tough to watch (because I hated every single person), the movie gradually worked its magic on me and by the midpoint I was indeed laughing. I would have never taken a bet that this movie could make me laugh had I not made it to the mid point. But DiCaprio positively revels in this role and is willing to do whatever is necessary to develop the role to its fullest extent. There is one scene where he is so high on quaaludes that he has to crawl to his car from his country club's lobby. That crawl to the car is just genius. Also, his attempt to get to a Swiss bank using his own yacht on the high seas during a major storm becomes utter bedlam.

Basically, what it gets down to, is whether you are a Martin Scorsese fan or not. If you have loved all of his films, as I have, then strap yourself into your seat, and get ready for some leading edge cinema, as per usual.

This film can be instantly streamed at Amazon Instant Video, iTunes. I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Novel: Missing You by Harlan Coben
Ingenious internet dating crime plot from the crime king!
Author Harlan Coben comes up with the most ingenious plots among crime and thriller writers. By the time you figure out everything, you are only pages from the end. NYPD detective Kat Donovan had two horrible things happen to her 18 years ago. Her policeman father was murdered and her fiance Jeff, the love of her life, walked out on her. Both events rear their ugly heads again when she finds Jeff listed on an internet dating site and her father's killer about to die of pancreatic cancer in prison. Into this maelstrom walks a college student, a computer whiz, who claims his mother has vanished because of that same internet dating site. With that, we are off and you will only come up for air when you are done.

This book can be instantly downloaded as an ebook at Amazon, iTunes and the Overdrive Public Library app. The audiobook can be instantly downloaded at Audible and iTunes.  I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Our Mobile Devices Used Against Us In Court, as Learned in Oscar Pistorius Murder trial

I continue to avidly follow the Oscar Pistorius murder trial going on in South Africa.  A turn the trial took this week though really gave me pause and caused me to reflect on what info police could find on any of our computer devices. This is because it is absolutely amazing what has been uncovered from all of the computers and mobile computer devices that were in the crime scene, his house, that night.

A quick recap, Oscar Pistorius is on trial in South Africa for killing his live-in girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He was a very successful and idolized Olympic level runner who has artificial legs below the knees. He was aptly named Blade Runner because his running legs look like huge metal blades.  Steenkamp was a college and law school graduate who was working as a model and reality show contestant.  Pistorius admits to shooting through the locked bathroom door four times because he says he thought an intruder was in there. Now for the evidence which is being unearthed from this shadow world of computer based forensics.

Pistorius and Steenkamp were both in their twenties. Thus, using computers and mobile devices was second nature to them. They came of age with these machines, unlike us. Because they were affluent, they owned multiples of these computer based machines.  The night of the murder each of them had his and her iPads and cell phones close to hand. All of these were taken by the police and later examined by forensic experts in crime labs. These experts have been testifying for the prosecution against him.

The most incriminating evidence uncovered were 1,700 digital messages from one to the other. The prosecution's contention that he was a control freak, obsessed by fast cars and guns and was a jealous, almost adolescent boyfriend, suddenly was no longer in doubt as the most incriminating of these was read into evidence. The two of them used WhatsApp message exchanges for their texting. To wit:

January 27, 2013:
Reeva to Oscar:  Today was one of my best friend's engagements and I wanted to stay longer. I was enjoying myself but it's over now. You have picked on me incessantly since you got back from CT (Cape Town) and I understand that you are sick but it's nasty. Yesterday wasn't nice for either of us but we managed to pull through and communicate well enough to show our care for each other is greater than the drama that attacked us. I was not flirting with anyone today. I feel sick that you suggested that and that you made a scene at the table and made us leave early. I'm terribly disappointed in how the day ended and how you left me. We are living in a double standard relationship where you can be mad about how I deal with stuff when you are very quick to act cold and offish when you're unhappy. Every 5 seconds I hear how you dated another chick. You really have dated a lot of people yet you get upset if I mention ONE funny story with a long term boyfriend. I do everything to make you happy and to not say anything to rock the boat with u. You do everything to throw tantrums in front of people. I have been upset by you for 2 days now. I'm so upset I left Darren's party early. SO upset. I can't get that day back. I'm scared of you sometimes and how u snap at me and of how you will react to me. You make me happy 90% of the time and I think we are amazing together but I am not some other bitch you may know trying to kill your vibe. I am the girl who let go with u even when I was scared out of my mind to. I'm the girl who fell in love with u and wanted to tell u this weekend. But I'm also the girl that gets sidestepped when you are in a s**t mood. When I feel you think u have me so why try anymore. I get snapped at and told my accents and voices are annoying. I touch your neck to show u I care and you tell me to stop. Stop chewing gum. Do this don't do that. You don't want to hear stuff cut me off. Your endorsements your reputation your impression of someone innocent blown out of proportion and f***ed up a special day for me. I'm sorry if you truly felt I was hitting on my friend Sam's husband and I'm sorry that u think that little of me. From the outside I think it looks like we are a struggle and maybe that's what we are. I just want to love and be loved. Be happy and make someone SO happy. Maybe we can't do that for each other. Cos right now I know u aren't happy and I am certainly very unhappy and sad.

Oscar to Reeva: I want to talk to you. I want to sort this out. I don't want to have anything less than amazing for you and I. I am sorry for the things I say without thinking and for taking offense to some of your actions. The fact that I'm tired and sick isn't an excuse. I was upset that you just left me after we got food to go talk to a guy and I was standing right behind you watching you touch his arm and ignore me. And when I spoke up you introduced me which you could've done but when I left you just kept on chatting to him when clearly I was upset. I asked Martin to put on that Kendrick Lamar album in the car and don't know it. Granted that it was a s**t song but you should've just lent forward and whispered in my ear to change it seeing as I had to drive to pick up your friend. I was 30 minutes late and I know you don't like it when I drive fast but then you could've asked Gina to drive herself so that we wouldn't have to. When we left I was starving the only good I had had was a tiny wrap and everyone was leaving for lunch. I'm sorry I wanted to go but I was hungry and upset and although you knew it, it wasn't like you came to chat to me when I left the table. I was upset when I left you cos I thought you were coming to me. I'm sorry I asked you to stop tapping my neck yesterday, I know you were just trying to show me love. I had a mad headache and should've just spoken to you softly. In sorry for asking you not to put on an accent last night pretty much the same and didn't have the energy.

February 8, 2013
Reeva to Oscar: I like to believe that I made you proud when I attend these kind of functions with you. I present myself well and can converse with others while you are off busy chatting to fans and friends. I also knew people there tonight and whilst you were having one or two pics taken I was saying goodbye to the people in my industry and Fitz wanted a photo with me. I was just being cordial by saying goodbye whilst you were busy. I completely understood your desperation to leave and thought I would be helping you by getting to the exit before you because I can't rush on the heels I was wearing. I thought it would make a difference in us getting out without you getting harassed anymore. I didn't think you would criticize me for doing that especially not so loudly so that others could hear. I might joke around and be all Tom boyish at times but I regard myself as a lady and I didn't feel like one tonight after the way you treated me when we left. I'm a person too and I appreciate that you invited me out tonight and I realize that you get harassed but I am trying my best to make you happy and I feel as though you sometimes never are, no matter the effort I put in. I can't be attacked by outsiders for dating you and be attacked by you -- the one person I deserve protection from.

end of text messages. He killed her six days later on Feb. 14, 2013.

This was the most damaging evidence uncovered in the messages. Most of the rest were pure drivel, the par it seems for the text messaging world.  Forensic analysis of his iPad showed that he was surfing the web for porn the night he shot her. She had been on social media sites before she was killed and had left that software open on her iPad.  There were bits and pieces of other evidence but nothing of the magnitude of the above two text messages, which clearly gave him a motive for the killing (in his own mind).

It doesn't require much of a leap in imagination to realize what kind of evidence might be uncovered in other types of cases using similar forensic evidence. Thus, contested divorces, child custody disputes, contested Wills and so forth could all contain similar computer based time bombs to be used in court. As you see your child or grandchild texting away like mad 24 hours a day, this risk may suddenly become crystal clear to you. Brave New World indeed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Podcasts & Their Apps aka Throw Away Your Radio for NPR et al Listening

I am always amazed when friends tell me that they have been able to hear only half a show on NPR because they were listening to it live on the air and something interrupted their listening. I've got one word for them: PODCASTS.

NPR makes available free all of its shows in podcast format so that all you have to do is subscribe to the podcast on any computer or mobile device. 

Ever since I put podcasts on Rebecca's iPhone (across the street senior neighbor and friend), I can barely blast her off her iPhone. Before that she had only been hearing snippets of programs as she used her radio. Since the podcasts are downloaded, when she takes her walks in the forest, she doesn't even need an internet connection because they were put on the device itself during the download process.  I could also put podcasts on my MacAir or Rebecca's Macbook Pro but we prefer listening to them in mobile format. If you own an iPhone or iPad, the simplest way to achieve this is by going to the App store and downloading the Podcast App for free, above. If you are using your computer (any brand), open iTunes and go to podcasts in iTunes.  You can access all of them that way on any computer.

I haven't forgotten about you mobile Android users. Go to either Google Play or Amazon and get this free App, shown left.

I've taken image captures of the ones I listen to on my iPad mini and combined them here to show you as suggested programming, shown right. There are podcasts done by entities other than NPR but NPR tends to have the best ones because they pull them right off their radio shows. The podcast app contains top charts of the most popular podcasts, kind of like Billboard does with music.

Some podcasts have been so successful that they have made apps which you can buy in the app stores.  These contain not only the current programs but archives of past programs.  The apps are not all free but many of them are.  My This American Life app, shown upper left, cost me $5 but I now have every episode of that show instantly available for downloading or listening. It was the best $5 I ever spent.

NPR Music app is totally free and it has every scrap of NPR music NPR. You could be lost for months listening to this music or to the extensive archives of these podcast apps.

If you work on art, hobbies or crafts, I have discovered that these podcasts and apps are ideal listening while working with your hands.  I tend to pick the audio ones for this purpose instead of the video ones so that I can concentrate on my project visually. Rebecca uses her podcasts for her walks and while she is cooking. Others swear they are perfect for listening to while doing household chores.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Making Art: Working with What You've Got

There are lots of books on making art journals, which have become quite the thing in the art world. Every time I think about it, I groan at the thought of getting all the supplies out for it.  So then I thought, I don't need any supplies!  What I did was take screen captures of about ten pages of blog entries.  Then I put those pages into Picasa and made them into a collage. This is what the journal does, take pieces of the artist's life and combine them onto a single journal page.  This is my journal page above.

This was step one, collecting the image captures from each blog entry page.  They all downloaded to my desktop, ready to be used.

This was step two.  I opened Picasa and found all of those images on my desktop. I selected them and pressed the collage button.

This was step three.  All of those pages were now in the collage maker so I needed to move them around, discard ones which weren't working, enlarge some images while shrinking others.  After 20-30 minutes I had the image at the top of the page.

The standard advice all artists get is to get used to working with what you've got and not to wait around for ideal circumstances to present themselves.  They will never appear and you will never get any art work done. You see this with artists who think they need studio space to create, or the very best supplies money can buy, or a degree from a fine arts university. You don't need any of these things.  Art can be created out of virtually anything.  A very big movement right now is in upcycling.  This is artists making new art out of old anything.  If you go over to the artsy website, Etsy, and enter that word into the search engine, you will see a remarkable array of art objects.

I entered the words upcycled jewelry into the etsy search box and these are some of the results which were shown to me.  This jewelry was made from pop tabs, a rusted washer, discarded computer parts, a comic book, a vinyl record, newspaper, discarded clock parts, and circuit board parts.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Locker Rooms for All, Within Reason That Is

Men's locker rooms have always been wide open spaces with nudity being on constant and continual display. Women's locker rooms have evolved to this over the decades. Some women still can not get used to it and will get wholly dressed in the shower stall rather than get dressed in the locker room itself. This is if there is such a thing as shower stalls. Some locker rooms do not even give the option of shower stalls.  In addition to dressing in the open, you also shower in the open.  This is more common still for men's locker rooms than women's but with public facilities' funding at issue, expect more of these shared features, not less.

At age 65 neither bothers me at all.  I'm not crazy about my body at this age but I am beyond even thinking about some other woman ogling my body.  If she is that desperate for a nude image, so be it.  Even I have limits though.  Put a boy who has reached puberty into the locker room, because his grandmother or mother thinks this is ok, and my soaking wet and naked body is not amused.

This happened a few weeks ago at my rec center. A grandmother had her grandkids with her and brought her middle school aged boy right into the locker room with her as I emerged from the shower into the locker room. He came up to my neck.  He was not disabled in any way.  This is not the first time this has happened to me either.

"He needs to leave the locker room now.  He is too old. He is at puberty." I said to her. She told me I had to wait.  She was busy.

"No, he has to leave now.  I am nude and he is at puberty.  Get him out of here. There is a family dressing room outside if you absolutely need to dress yourself with a boy this old."

She was ticked off but they exited.

This has also happened to me in my condo clubhouse. The boy was even older I encountered there who was with his mother.  I told her the same thing and she flipped out, telling me that she could not put him in a men's locker room as she would not have him exposed to older men's sexual organs. She too left in a huff while I wondered if she was home schooling him because otherwise there was no way he was not seeing other males nude, in schools, camps, extracurricular activities and so forth.

I talked to both the head of the rec center and the lifeguard at the condo about these events.  They told me that the policy is age 6 at the condo and age 7 at the rec center for having opposite sex children in the locker room with you as parent or grandparent.  That sounds reasonable to me. I did have such a four year old male staring at me in the locker room just last week while his grandmother was getting him ready.  This did not bother me as I expect him to be curious about everything at that age. Eventually he got bored and started looking at something else.

I believe some women are being deliberately obtuse about this issue.  I say women because I don't think this is happening at all in a gender reverse scenario.

Thus, I want you to imagine that some father or grandfather takes his pubescent or at puberty daughter or granddaughter into the men's locker room. You can't imagine it, can you?  This is because if he did it, not only would every male in the locker room flip out but I'm sure the police would be called. Everyone would be thinking pedophile and incest in huge capital letters. It would be nothing short of shocking for this to occur which is why it doesn't.

Why then are we so complacent about women doing this with male children and grandchildren?  I know we are complacent about it because of all the other women in the locker room, I am the only one to say something when this occurs. The other women just cover themselves with more and more towels and turn away from the boy.

Further complicating this issue is that we now have Arab-American women in these same locker rooms who are in the traditional garb of Muslim women. I saw two of these women in the locker room several weeks ago. They dressed in the shower stalls and came out wearing the traditional veiled outfit on the older woman (60s) and a modified scarf version on the younger one (30s). My nudity did not seem to bother them but if it had, they can't complain about it.  Their religious views cannot have any sway in this publicly owned rec center. I did wonder, however, what their reaction would be if a puberty aged boy was also in the locker room with us. I do not think they would react tranquilly to that situation.

Interestingly, it never seems to cross the mother's and grandmother's minds about the effect their thinking is having on the boy in their charge.  I cannot imagine that the boy wants to be placed into this position.  It also never crosses their minds that they  are abusing the other women in the locker room's rights. We have a reasonable expectation to not be subjected to the scrutiny of boys who have reached sexual age and awareness in our public locker room. Plus how about girls who have reached puberty encountering these boys in their locker rooms?  I don't see them handling such an encounter well either.

I also wonder if the boys say anything to their fathers or grandfathers about being made to leave the locker room. I can't imagine any adult male thinking this was a great idea on his wife's part. He should be intervening in her perception and handling of this boy. But perhaps there is no adult male in this family, which is why the women are clueless about handling a boy of this age.

Bottom line, if your male child or grandchild is above 6 or 7, start using the family changing room if there is one; send him to the men's locker room alone; or just put robes on everyone and go home and shower and redress there

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Easter--Only in My Memories, Vintage Easter

Easter used to be part of my life as a practicing Catholic. I have not gone to an Easter Sunday mass since I was in high school. I can't say I miss the religious services for Easter because I don't. Instead, I miss the rather kitschy stuff that one needs to look back in time to experience anew. Thus, I can remember the hats, of course.  It was a key part of Easter. These are a representative sampling of the hats available to us in the 1960s for Easter. We bought them at department stores which no longer exist, called Halle's, Higbee's and the May Co. My mother was very stylish and managed to wear most of these. I only managed the upper left one and black pillbox on the yellow Chanel jacket.

There were more avant garde hats that I studied eagerly in Vogue but I can't say that I saw anyone wear these to our Church. Although Cleveland was a good place to shop, the more extreme looks never made it here.  As a young adult I would have liked to try all of these but the upper left is my favorite with the bird cage being my second favorite.

The old movies that we watched from the 1930s and 1940s help fuel fantasies and memories, especially films like The Easter Parade and Meet Me In St. Louis. That's why I've gone way back and found vintage images for Easter

What to me was even better was the thought of the Easter bonnet in more romantic and nostalgic eras. The couple on the upper left could not possibly be more romantic for an Easter pairing.

Here are more vintage Easter images with many great bonnets. I especially love the huge black bonnet to the upper left. There is a funny image too, of a family of the 1950s with the Dad getting out of Easter services, while the family in its finery parades behind him (lower left). My Dad likewise got out of the services because he was not Catholic.

I loved these pictures of the women in the Easter eggs. I suppose these might be considered sexist today but I think they are lovely. It was obviously a tradition with the egg from that time.

In our time, my grandmother made these great Easter baskets filled with wonderful eggs, chocolates, candies and bunnies for my sister and me. My sister continued this tradition with her own children.My grandmother also kept alive the dietary restrictions. In honor of him, we were supposed to forego meat and our final non-meat meal was squid spaghetti on Holy Saturday because we were Italian- American.  Other ethnic groups picked other ethnic dishes. There were other symbols of easter, such as the dyeing of the Easter eggs, something I enjoyed as a budding artist. Easter also first introduced me to white flowers which I later discovered are such a prize in the art world. This was the Easter Lily, a very grand flower which is only eclipsed by its relative, the Calla Lily.

As for the purpose of Easter itself, the resurrection of Christ, we now are allowed to say that these may or may not be stories instead of absolute truth. Back then we weren't. So everyone seemingly believed in the entire Easter story. No matter which side of the fence you are on today, the Easter story is rousingly dramatic. Holy Thursday was the beginning of the end with the Last Supper during which Christ is betrayed by by the apostle Judas. Pontius Pilate washes his hands over the crucifixion which takes place on Good Friday. Each Catholic church had its own Stations of the Cross and you could follow along. Then there's the crypt on Saturday and the rising from the dead and ascent straight into heaven on Sunday.  The final image shows Christ emerging from the crypt and then ascending in a vertical position straight up into heaven, above.

Then Charlton Heston made Ben-Hur. It was released in 1959 and became the Easter movie from that point forward. Most of us remember that movie for the chariot race but there was another part of the movie which followed the entire Easter weekend. Christ cures his mother and sister of leprosy as the family follows him over that weekend. Another aspect to Ben-Hur, which I didn't get, being 11 years old when it came out, was the gay aspect attraction of Masala (Stephen Boyd) and Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston). I didn't realize it until years later when I began reading film criticism. Frankly, I wonder if the people behind the camera didn't keep this aspect a secret from Charlton Heston, who certainly had never attached himself to any liberal or gay issue at any other time in his life. He rather liked being seen as Moses or Ben-Hur and, lastly as the living icon of the NRA. Who knows, maybe I will dig out my copy of Ben-Hur to revisit the holiday this year.

This year FabergĂ© is running its gala artist Easter Egg extravaganza.  You can see its art eggs here.  I also assembled some of them into collages, shown below.