Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year 2013 & A Look Back To 1938

The More Things Change, The More Things Stay The Same....

On January 1, 1938 Eleanor Roosevelt wrote this for her "My Day" newspaper column:

FARGO, N.D., Dec. 31—An evening for jollification, for gathering of friends and relatives—New Year's Eve. Just at midnight we'll toast the New Year. Perhaps we'll sing a verse of "Auld Lang Syne," and then what? 
I seem to remember when one made resolutions for the new year. Do you? That required some review of the Old Year. I wonder, if we sat down to interview this ancient, what he would have to say to us? 
The conversation might run along like this: 
"Old Year, have we anything to be thankful for?" 
"Surely you looked about the world? You are at peace, aren't you? I've known something they call a business recession during the last few months, and some folks are much worried. But they still seem to eat three meals a day. A great many people who are dependent on the worriers aren't faring as well, but still there is a feeling of hope in the land and that is something to be thankful for." 
"Old Year, if we're beginning again, what resolutions would you want us to make?" 
"I'd want you to resolve to keep your hopes. But add to your resolve self-sacrifice, a determination to work hard, not always for personal gain. Above all, to preserve a sense of humor and of proportion in the business of living." 
This conversation behind us, we'd turn to meet the baby New Year. We'd give him our hand, our promise to cooperate, and each one of us would start out to discover the first step in fulfillment of that promise. 
A few of us might take to heart a paragraph I found in a magazine editorial. It reads: "Our wealthy citizens paid the relief bill. They furnished the `wherewiths' necessary to keep people from suffering. They were the donors of the [unclear term marked] on those occasions." 
If this were a continued custom, how happy we would be. Taxes could come down, the budget would be balanced. Dear Mr. Writer, the New Year would be perfect. 
As a practical woman, however, this seems to me to be putting a huge burden on a comparatively small number of individuals. This New Year business is up to all of us. 
Suppose we resolve to do whatever we do with the best that is in us, to consider the other fellow's job as well as our own and to ask for a fair deal all around, with special privileges to none. The baby New Year might not understand, at first, just what he was getting. But the results would soon be apparent, so we could go to bed on New Year's Eve, sleep dreamlessly, and awake to say with truth to all and sundry, "A happy New Year to you. The world is a new world today." 
(Copyright, 1938, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sharing Some Good Stuff

This came to my attention from Gwarlingo A Day in the Life of a Homeless Piano:

"This five-minute short, Solo, Piano – N.Y.C,  by New York-based filmmaker Anthony Sherin caught my attention a few weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to purge the images from my mind since. To me, Sherin’s piece, and the Op-Docs series as a whole, is the perfect way to tell a story online. These short films are both intimate and personal and offer glimpses of everyday life that we would otherwise not be privy to. In other words, they’re the very antithesis of big-budget, commercial filmmaking.
Sherin discusses Solo, Piano – N.Y.C  in more detail on the Times website:

“Making this film was pure serendipity. After a January snowstorm in New York City, I decided to do some work on another film, in my home in Washington Heights. But as I approached my desk, I thought I heard a piano plinking. I looked out the window and saw a piano on the curb below. I was mesmerized by the pattern that emerged. Passers-by would slow, stop and play. Some played well. All day long they collected and dispersed, and into the night they measured, shoved and deliberated the piano’s fate. (If it stayed on the sidewalk, the city could have issued a fine.) I was riveted. Pianos have histories. No one who stopped seemed eager to leave it behind. Their thoughts were obvious: Can we take it? Who abandons a piano? Is it worth anything?

I eventually started snapping stills and thought I would end up with just that — a lot of stills. To my surprise, I discovered after 24 hours that I had captured a story with a beginning, middle and end. My friend Art Labriola created an original piano score, and I had a film. It has screened at several festivals, and I’m pleased to share it with the world on Op-Docs.”

This quiet, poignant piece of storytelling has haunted me since I saw it. (You have watch the entire five-minute film to understand the narrative arc, so don’t abandon Sherin’s piece too soon.) I hope you find Solo, Piano – N.Y.C. as moving as I did."

Hope you have a pleasant Sunday as this old year is drawing to a close...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Gift from the NRA

Christmas is over and everyone is fat. We've stuffed ourselves and over-indulged in just about everything we can. 

Next month's credit card statements will make us shudder at our excessive spending. For you see we live life very much like our government. We try to please by giving what we haven't got to give and we talk about things that need to be done and yet manage to so easily forget...

A couple of articles came to my attention the last few days but I thought I would wait until the holiday was over before throwing a wet blanket on your festivities.

I am hoping that we won't forget that we really need to address guns in our nation. And not in the way the NRA is suggesting by arming teachers and school personnel and continuing to convinced the public at large, that the "good guys" need these weapons to protect us. Utah and Arizona wants to start training school personnel in the use of guns. Just writing this makes me almost sick to my stomach as I put the words to paper.

Los Angeles took a slightly different approach with a gun buy-back program, offering up to $200 per gun in credit for groceries. I don't think it solves the problem but it is certainly a step in the right direction to get a reduction in available guns off the street, but it is far from being enough.

More civilians are armed in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Gun support runs far deeper than politics and The dark presence of Guns are two eye-opening articles you should read.

My gut tells me this issue will go the way of all of our past short-lived outrage. Another few days and the issues will be gone and forgotten... until we have another tragic mass shooting... and we will.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Winter Solstice

First of all let me tell you I slept in extra late this morning expecting that there would be no new day to wake up to. I mean if the world is ending why not be cozy and all snuggled up for those final moments. But alas the sun did rise and it is my guess it will also set this evening, so I thought I should get my sticks in order and be sure to wish you all a very Merry Winter Solstice.

No matter how you celebrate this event, as the shortest day or the longest night, enjoy each moment whether it is fleeting or of long duration. I appreciate and enjoy your taking this journey with me and if the force stays with me I will attempt to continue to bring you my message, though I make no promise of tidings of comfort and joy, that you will have to discover for yourselves.

I have quite a bit on my perverbial plate as 2012 winds down and I look to 2013 for solutions and answers and yes some new adventures... 

But for now, this moment, sit back and enjoy this short day's journey into night. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Please Stop the Killings...

I am filled once again with profound sadness. When are we going to take action to stop these senseless killings. Agreed, normal people don't pick up weapons and kill... but sick people do. Is the 'right to own guns', weapons really, that important? Such an important right that we are time and again willing to take the risk that these weapons will not fall into the hands of dimented individuals...individuals so enraged they go off balance just long enough to bring so much pain and suffering to the work place, the school yard, the mall... you name it... it happens over and over again.

Everytime the discussion comes up the argument is that "we have all the bases covered", we don't license guns to the insane, yet so many, many times that is exactly where these guns find the hands and fingers of the ones that inflict so much pain on people.

Mother's that won't come home tonight, children that won't see the gifts that Santa has already loaded on his sleigh, brothers and sisters that will cry in grief over their deep loss. The pain is over-whelming and yet we allow it to be repeated over and over again.

I wanted to kick aside my soapbox for the holidays, to bring you tidings of joy... write something positive about us, you know..'we the people'................. and I find myself so angry again over our collective stupidity. But I am going to dig deep and leave you all with just a ray of hope about our future, a tomorrow some of us will be lucky enough to experience. And with the ray of hope that shines down upon you, don't think you get off the hook..............remember what happened here, remember the tears, the pain that is being felt at this very moment by people that don't deserve it, and do something........some little thing to help stop the killings................please!

In my email box this week came this message which I shared with my son and grandson and now share with you. The ray of hope that I found sitting there..............that gives me the strength in times of pain and sorrow... knowing there are good people that continue to work to build and form our youth to be better individuals..............

~ ~ ~

From the Sport of Rowing Newletter, December 13, 2012

"This newsletter is written to my new extended family, the Loyola Marymount University Men’s Novice Crew, but I thought I’d share it with all my newsletter readers.  Comments encouraged.  Enjoy." ~ Peter Mallory 

Because I Say So

"Over the last six weeks or so I have told you that certain concepts must be accepted and certain things must be done in certain ways, in the boat, out of the boat, in life . . . and that has often proved remarkably difficult for you as a group to do or even to accept.  Sometimes you look at me as if I were speaking gibberish. 
So what has been going on here?  To tell you the truth, I hear myself saying lines I know by heart now after so many years.  “If it were easy to do, then everybody would be doing it.  But it’s not easy, and that’s exactly why it’s worth doing.  That’s exactly why you will remember this year for the rest of your lives.”  
And I believe that.  Thanks to half a century of experience, I can clearly see certain choices that we have to make as a teamright now, little things, big things, and I can see the potential future consequences, good and bad, of the various alternatives before us.  “Why must we do it your way, Peter?”  Well, this thing we are talking about, whatever it is, it’s one of those things we all have to agree to do in the same way if we are to be a real team, and most of the time I can already tell which way will work out the best in the long run.  If you think you have a better way, let’s talk about it, but most of the decisions we have to make in the first year of rowing have been tried and tried and tried again a million times over, so if we want to succeed we pretty much have to do what has worked in the past. 
Now I could explain all the advantages and disadvantages of the various alternatives we have before us, but we don’t often have that much time, so I end up telling you to do it because I say so, and you pretty much have to trust me on that.  I could tell you that it has worked before a whole bunch of times, and you might say, “Yeah, sure, but that was then and times are different now.  We’re different.”  Of course you’d be right.  You are different . . . wonderfully different in wonderful ways.
But you’d be wrong, too.  So much of human nature just plain stays the same.  (Read The Iliad.)  I recently wrote a 2,500-page book that clearly shows the basic truths of rowing haven’t changed in 200 years. 
So as different as you feel and as new and special as you are, to me it feels like I’m playing a role in a play I have already appeared in many, many times before.  And in case you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s my favorite play!    You are the next generation of my extended rowing family.  We are still just getting to know one another.  Can I trust you?  As a group, not always, as we have discovered day by day this fall, you and I.  I can’t quite count on you all yet, but I am confident we will get there soon enough. Can you trust me?  Yes.  Do you trust me?  No.  No, you don’t.  Not as a group.  I am still just this strange old man who wandered into your boathouse and into your lives just a few weeks ago wearing a different hat every day.  I haven’t quite earned your trust yet, but hopefully I’m getting there.  
So we continue to circle one another with a mixture of hope and curiosity and wariness.
A Whirlpool of Platitudes
And what has my message been so far?  In rowing as in all aspects of human life, the rewards are far in the future while the responsibilities are today.  Put the work in now.  The payoff comes later.  You have to have faith and courage.  You have to trust and take a chance.  Prime the pump. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  The power of positive thinking.  The Little Engine That Could.  “I think I can, I think I can . . . ”

. . . and so we descend into a whirlpool of platitudes you’ve probably heard a thousand times before.
But don't tune them out!  I assure you they are all true.  Great things will come to those who make great commitments based solely on hope and trust. 
What is the biggest truth I have been pounding into your heads this fall?  You are important!  You, you, you and you, all of you!  Simple as that!  I’m sure you have been told that before, but now it's time to really understand what that means and put it into practice in your daily lives.  The world can be a better place tomorrow thanks to you, and you have a responsibility to try to make it so. 
Responsibility Muscles
You may not have figured this out yet, but we have agreed to come together this year as a crew not to make boats go fast but to exercise and strengthen your “responsibility muscles” through rowing.  Learn to be reliable and responsible, a person that people can count on.  Learn to trust and be trusted by your teammates. 
Pray that someday one of your teammates will say to you:  "I sure am nervous about the coming race.  We have talked about it and dreamed about it and prepared for it all year long.  I hope so much that I will be able to do my very best, but what gives me strength and courage is knowing that I can count on you to do the same for me."
No greater prize in team sport, no greater prize in life, than the trust of your fellow man, and that is the very foundation of rowing. 
We have come together to row . . . but now I watch as your self-image gradually improves.  Put a purpose in your step today, man!  Take that improved self-image, apply it to your studies, and watch your grades improve.  It's important, man!
Know that rowing is truly offering you a special hand up at a special time in your life.  Soon you will see opportunities all around you to offer a hand up to others, in little ways or big ways, perhaps when you least expect it, in the library, on your hallway, at the boathouse, on the street, in class, at work, at home.  Friends or strangers, the opportunities will arise when you can pass on this lesson:
You are important!
Don’t forget.  It’s all happening fast for your team right now!  Get up and go on your run tomorrow morning.  Work up to 15 to 20 minutes at a steady aerobic pace, six days a week till I see you again.  Come back from each run refreshed, and then go make the world a better place one day, one little act at a time. 
And return to campus in January mentally and physically fit and ready to make boats go fast together with your trusted teammates and your old man coach." 

More about Peter Mallory

Monday, December 10, 2012

No Such Thing As A Civil War

I am not a historian but lately I have become captivated with the Civil War, a war fought on American soil, American against American. It seems as we grow in years from the actual event, the number of deaths from this war also grows. The latest is that the number of deaths could be in the range of 650,000 - 850,000! Imagine, this (un)civil conflict on our own shores, a war that lasted 4 years, 3 weeks and 6 days.  See Civil War Toll

My ancestors I guess could be seen by some as traitors. They come from the south, Arkansas, and it was rumored in the family that they choose the slow wagon train route west to California to escape having to be involved in this civil dispute.

I don't know... maybe they just didn't believe in killing their brothers. They were after all farmers not fighters.  It would be later, another generation, that would venture off with gun in hand to fight a war on a foreign soil.

I believe in evolution.... but so many times on so many days I doubt how far we have evolved. We still take a version of a 'stick' in our hand and turn it on our brother until he is beaten into submission. Why has our brain...our mind.... failed to evolve in all these years? Why do we not possess the ability to solve our problems in a civil way?

I sometimes look down from my stellar-perch, out there far in space, and see an Earth inhabited still by neanderthals. Still reaching for their clubs, still wanting to beat their oppoents into bloddy submission...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Nuclear Energy, the sculpture.

Nuclear Energy ~ a sculpture by Artist Henry Moore

On December 2, 1942 I was thirty-seven days short of my fifth birthday. A happy child one would presume, playing joyfully in the backyard of my California home. On that day as I played without a care or woe, a few thousand miles away on the University of Chicago campus Enrico Fermi created the first nuclear chain reaction, in the world’s first atomic reactor, and generated the world’s first high-level radioactive reactor waste – the clock showed it was 3:25 PM local time, early afternoon in California.

Events moved swiftly since that day in 1942. Less than three years later the atomic bomb test “Trinity” would occur in New Mexico followed shortly by the United States bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. And still I played at my childish games, perhaps mothering my baby doll as I dressed and fed her and took her for rides in her little baby carriage.

But I was the lucky child, I wasn’t aware of these events really and I wasn’t a child playing in a backyard in a home located in Hiroshima or Nagasaki. I was lucky also because I live five years of my life in an environment not inhabited with nuclear waste.

Now seventy years later in Chicago, 200 participants mark the tragic observance of “A Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High” during a two-day event. And I, seventy years later, live only a few hundred miles from Chicago and I no longer play in my backyard without care or woe. Now I spend a portion of each of my days trying to learn more about this ‘pile’ of nuclear waste, this pile that is 70 years high.; to learn more and to pass on to others that they may learn as well.

Together if we are successful we will leave a future of clean backyards for generations yet to come, backyards where children can play their childish games safe and secure.

About the sculpture:

"Nuclear Energy", a 12-foot tall bronze sculpture by the British abstract artist Henry Moore (1898-1986), was unveiled at 3:36 p.m. on December 2, 1967, precisely a quarter-century after scientists at the University of Chicago achieved the first controlled self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, thereby initiating the atomic age. The sculpture stands on the site of the University's old Stagg Field, where the experiment took place under the leadership of Enrico Fermi.

To some, it suggests the shape of the human skull or the atomic mushroom cloud. Henry Moore told a friend, however, that he hoped those viewing it would "go around it, looking out through the open spaces, and that they may have a feeling of being in a cathedral."

Friday, December 7, 2012

M is for the ...?

One Million Moms, a group affiliated with the American Family Association, describes itself as "a network of Christian moms who have joined together to stand up for our children and families."

They are urging customers of JC Penney to vote with their wallets in opposition to the use of Ellen DeGeneres as a JCP spokesperson.

Yet One Million Moms can ignore the beating to death of a seven year old boy for his failure to read the Bible and do his homework.

Hmm… being gay and living a kind and good life is worse than being Christian and killing your child because he lied about reading the Bible?

If my mission was to stand up for children and families I could find better places to spend my time and energy than attacking JC Penney’s use of Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson.

Sadly there is a long list of Christian fundamentalists who beat their children to death in the name of God and there is the Catholic Church who continues to cover up child abuse by their priests… Hmm… yes… standing up for our children and families is a daunting task and noble goal; one just needs to make sure to aim our focus in the right direction.