Sunday, September 25, 2016

Smile-No Smile-Smile

It’s hard to write when there’s so much to say about so many things, but here goes:

There was never a time when Tina was not in my life.  There was a time when we had a fight and did not speak for a while, but even then she was in my heart. There are people who are good friends, or excellent friends or even long time friends but there are not many who are dearest friends.  That’s what “T” is for me.  When we leave messages it’s alway’s “T” it’s “I” and there’s no doubt what that means.  Yesterday her granddaughter was bat mitzvahed.  She is a lovely young woman, smart, and committed to making life better for humanity and poised, but most important she makes the greatest faces you can imagine.  That’s not exactly true, making faces is genetic.  Her Grandfather for whom she is named, and who she never met,  also made great faces.  He, like “T” and her younger brother are natural comics.  There was never a doubt that she would carry on the face making tradition.  It was a joy to watch and listen to her read the Torah in Hebrew.  Not easy for sure.  I am still smiling.

It was wonderful to smile given the State of our Presidential Elections.  Not a reason to smile.  The fact is that Donald Trump is the Republican candidate, and other supposedly smart, patriotic and well respected (until now) people have endorsed him. Political Party is more important to them than having a moral core or wanting the best for the nation.  I do not think there are “baskets of deplorables,” but I do think that some people, who think Reality TV celebrities are worth watching and agreeing with, have been duped by this guy who became a star because he repeatedly said, “You’re fired!” 

There are two questions that he is afraid to answer. How many businesses which have his name, exist in other countries.  And, why won’t he release his taxes.  What is he hiding? He is a classic bully.  Big talk, big ego, and when called to task, he calls people unpleasant/ugly names.
But when he went to Mexico to tell the President of Mexico he would have to build a wall.  He never mentioned the wall — until he got back to the US.  He is easily intimidated by real power.  This whole political thing is a game to him.  But he is playing it at the Nations’ expense.

The first debate is fast approaching.  What do we think will happen.  For a while I suspected he wouldn’t show up, but now that’s unlikely.  His ego is too big and he has gotten away with secret places and “what have you got to lose” for far too many weeks. My best guess is that she pisses him off and he starts name calling.   His constituents will think that’s fine.  They are going no where, but it might affect people who are undecided.

But back to smiling. A few weeks ago I got a note from a campaign friend who I have loved since the day I met him.  It’s forty years and through some  “not so much fun politics”,  he was always there for me. Always kind and loving and funny and a comfort.  There were many times just seeing him saved my life. In those years, as opposed to these years, there were adults with a moral core involved with campaigns and elections.  We  are all there for one another.  We did our jobs but at the end of the day, we were all friends and ready for a drink — which the campaign people paid for by signing the check to a media person’s hotel room.  They could write it off and we were going to starve, so they never minded, I hope.  “Tut” —  Bob Tutman, a cameraman for CBS, was and remains very special to me and based on what I know about him, to a whole lotta people. We are going to try to work together on a film. It will just be fun to be with him.  We need a few more smiles.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Just 8 Years Ago....

 It was 8 years ago this week that i received a phone call from Katie Ellsworth, then the Washington photo editor of TIME Magazine.  I had worked for TIME over five decades, covering politics, business, general news stories, and the occasional gig at the White House.  Her call was to see if I could make it early the following morning, to do a portrait of the Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulsen, the former chief of Goldman Sachs (did someone say “revolving door?”) who had been the Treasury chief for two years.   We were in what seemed to be a roiling in the credit markets, and an incredibly fast-moving series of collapses of some of the biggest and most noteworthy financial institutions in the country.  (I wonder why they are always “financial institutions” instead of “financial companies” - I guess because we think they will always be there.)  In the middle of that September, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns each disintegrated within days of each other, turning billions of dollars into nothing more than mere dust. And not Gold dust.  Just dust.  As if the country was the Titanic, and one by one, bulkheads popped, letting waves of seawater rush in, and if you had been the Captain on the bridge, you would have understood that in just a few minutes, the mighty behemoth would be nothing more than a metalic ruin, easily overrun by the sea.

I arranged with the Treasury  Public Affairs folks to show up about 7:15am the next morning, giving me time to put up a portable backdrop, and even set a light or two if needed.  Paulsen was leaving a live Today show interview in his office, was en route to the Oval to see President Bush, and I would have about a minute or three on the West end of the Treasury building, on a small veranda of grey marble, as he left one building headed for the next. 

I had probably two, maybe three minutes with him.  In those pressure-packed moments where you realize it’s quite easy to blow it, you become surprisingly unaware of the passage of time, other than it always goes too quickly.  In your head you want to slow everything down, have a minute to ponder, engage the subject, come away with something remarkable.  But it almost never works like that.  So you shoot a few this way, a couple that way, maybe a third something of some kind, and by then the press secretaries are chomping at the bit, trying to get their boss to the White House without getting yelled at (which is, by the way, the main reason anyone does anything in Washington.)

I shot furiously with my 5D, and did manage to make a couple of frames of Paulsen with my Speed Graphic.  In 2008 I tried to shoot a few large format pictures on every job.  The old camera usually was self-supporting: that is, most subjects would find it curious enough as an artifact to actually let me stretch another minute or two of their time, to make a picture.  But here is what I really remember from that morning:  Paulsen, the boss of the Treasury, the lion of the FInancial industry, a man who made more million dollar phone calls in his life than probably anyone I’d ever photographed, was scared shitless.  Positively Scared Shitless.   He knew what had broken, he knew what was about to break, he understood the depths to which the waves of catastrophic collapse were about to occur.  That is what frightened me.  I’d been listening to the news of that week with increasing worry, like most people.  But it was what I saw in Hank Paulsen’s face that scared the shit out of me.

It’s rare as a photographer you are in the position where time, space, and circumstance intersect, and that you can make a picture which reflects it all.  I’m not really sure my Type 55 of Hank Paulsen rises to that level, it probably doesn’t.  But what I do know is that whatever one’s personal view is of the Obama 8 years, it’s simply unimaginable to hear people say that things are worse now than they were in 2008.  We have a helluva lot of problems to deal with, both at home and in the world at large.  But the demeanor of Hank Paulsen, as he saw the world he intimately knew starting to crumble before his eyes, is a reminder that we were perilously close to a ruin far beyond anything any of us have ever known.  We're just sayin'... David

Saturday, September 10, 2016

chez the Copley Square Hotel in Boston

    The Copley Square Hotel,  tucked away but just steps from the Prudential Center,  the beautiful new wing of the Boston Public Library, steps away from the charm, restaurants, and shopping on Newbury Street, the majesty of the Trinity Church, and the quiet beauty of the Boston Garden, is this well appointed, both people and pet friendly boutique hotel.
    If you are touring or working in Boston, and you would like to feel happy about being in a hotel that is welcoming and relaxing as well as a place where people like to come together to celebrate the activities of the day, this is the place for you.  
    In the lobby is which includes many different comfortable couched areas, including a mini bar, a gourmet but simple restaurant, and as well as  places to socialize, is populated, not with gigantic overwhelming flowers but but elegant, delicate succulent plants — much more interesting to see and investigate. And if you are at the hotel between 4 and 6pm, everyday there is a wine tasting.  We just missed the tasting for some of the days we were there, but a member of the staff always went to get us a glass of an excellent red or white.
    The sleeping rooms are a bit small but thoughtfully decorated so you don’t feel cramped. We work and rest in a hotel room, but even though not sprawling, at the Copley Square there it is pleasant to be there. 
    Having traveled all over the world and sampled so many different kinds of hotels, the Copley Square is very well thought out. The people who manage this excellent place to stay have made very good choices.  It is worth discovering all its possibilities.

We’re Just Sayin….Iris

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Way it Was Meant to be

The Visit

Tomorrow is the day my cousins do the cemetery run.  It is something they have always done. Actually, there was a time when all the aunts went "to visit".  Early on they went to visit their parents, who buried in New Jersey, Long Island, way out on Long Island, and Newburgh NY. As time passed, so did the husbands and the siblings. And the number of the visitors dwindled. But still they went to every cemetery to visit everyone resting in peace.  You may wonder what they do when they get there. What does anyone do at a graveside.  If you are Jewish you don't leave flowers. You leave a memorial stone. And if you are my family you say a prayer -- at every grave.

This burial thing has always been an issue with me.  My mother told me that she would consider not being buried on the Island.  But then my dad had his leg chopped off and it got buried on Long Island -- Beth Something.  I asked her why she had decided to do this. It happens I know that the whole body has to be buried in one place and cannot be moved. She said that we would never come to visit so it didn't matter. But of course, I always go to visit. And what a pain in the ass, but let's be honest, when she made that decision it was not without thought. The irony is that her whole life she wanted nothing more than to be with her sisters. And in death, she sleeps forever with people who she never even liked -- except my dad.  When it snows or is incredibly hot, I still worry that my mother is not comfortable.

People get to decide their own fate.  So she did what she wanted to do knowing that the cousins would visit for as long as they could.  Here's the thing.  We have decided to be cremated. I want to be cremated like a cholent, with onions and carrots and potatoes and seasoning.  David doesn't care about the seasoning.  I want my ashes to be put into film cans and anyone that wants to be part of my ceremony should release my ashes in whatever place they would remember me.  I don't want anyone to have to come to a place to have an in depth conversation with me. And whenever I visit my parents,  I do have lengthy conversation with them.  It usually
starts this way, "Maaaa, where are you when I need you to answer important life death questions. Like, are you still playing cards with the aunts?"

It gives me comfort to know that my cousins are checking to make sure everything in the cemetery is in order.  Dad has perennial care but I pay for Mom yearly because when I,m gone there is no one else who will go, and the cemetery, (whether you have care through eternity or  yearly care) doesn't take care of the graves, unless they are right in the front-- which we are not.

I feel sure my cousins Lovey and Suzy will send my love and do all the right things. And at some point I will get there to ask  more questions that go unanswered. But that's the way it was meant to be. And yes Ma, I always feel guilty, and that's the way it was meant to be.  We're Just Sayin'....Iris

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Comfort Zone - Chicago

The Chicago Musical Theater Festival seemed a perfectly reasonable place to position “Gefilte
Fish Chronicles — the Musical”. Lots of theaters, lots of talent, and not too costly for a festival — if you live and work in Chicago. But for GFC, there is a Comfort Zone. And if we have our director  (Emily Maltby) and the man who orchestrated the music (James Higgins) we feel OK about using local creative and admin people. And they were great (Jermaine Hill, and Stephen
Kossak). There no shortage of local talent. Our cast is amazing. There was some kind of
misunderstanding and one of the lead actors can not perform in the last production, so it looks
like we may have to cancel that.  As Matty and Emily say, three solid performances is better
than three solid performances and one lame show.

When we arrived in Chicago, we had rented an apartment through CraigsList which turned out
to be a hoax. It was an expensive hoax and I lost $4000— which was 3/4 of our budget. I spent
two stressful days on the phone and couldn’t find anything, when I happened upon the Guest
House on Clark.   Sara, who does the booking, was amazing. She not only understood our
predicament but as a part-time Stage manager, she felt our pain. They gave us a beautiful
apartment at a most reasonable rate. Having travelled all over the world, I can honestly say that
when you are tired and stressed, there is nothing better than being welcomed by family and
being able to collapse into a comfortable space.

In their book of hotel facts there are actually terrific restaurants that deliver, and if you are tired
and have had nothing but a frustrating day, a hotel like this is a priority. And they are pet friendly.
They loved Tyrone. Even though his favorite thing was to throw the pillows on the couch in the
lobby off the couch. Throwing pillows, being couch or bed, is on the top of his favorite list. Here
is what I will say, there are probably more luxurious places to stay, but there are none that are
so well equipped, friendly and comfortable. And as a bonus, they are very close to Andersonville which has some of the best restaurants in the city.

If you are going to Chicago, think the Guest House at 4872 N Cark. You won’t be sorry. We’re

just sayin…. Iris

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

"the Best Tradition of US politics...." Geo. Bush

In 1992, when we watched the Republican Convention, (which we did so we could get a feeling for who they were), but they spent a great deal of time talking about how the Democrats were not Americans. It was outrageous. I called a few friends, Paul Sullivan, Eric Sklar, Alicia Smith, and Brenda Marks in Dallas— just to see if they found it equally appalling, and no surprise, they did.

But what were we going to do?  We didn’t know exactly what to do but we figured our pal Ron Brown, (Aunt Peppy would say “Blessed Memory”) who was Chair of the Party would have some ideas. But he thought we already knew what we were going to do, so he asked how much ‘this thing” (he didn’t really want to know) was going to cost?  And I said, for no good reason, $165,000.  Sully said something about taking on the whole Republican party, and I agreed.

When we got to the street, Sullivan said, OK big shot, exactly what are we going to do. And we had a good laugh. The next day the candidate  — the first George Bush, said it was unlikely that he would participate in a debate.  And there it was…. Chickens.  Why Chickens?  First of all they are funny.  And I remembered that during some NY Senate campaign, the nutty advance people planned to release live chickens at the opposition’s big event. That never worked,  but I felt confident that we could send costumed chickens to Bush events with double sided signs, that said poultry supports Bush on one side but as soon as they got into the event they would turn it and it would say, “Bush is a chicken because he won’t debate.”

Our message directed independent campaign, continued to appear at Bush rallies, until one day the President talked to our poultry.  As you can imagine, it got press coverage and we never had to send our chickens out again. (“The President Talked to a Chicken”)  Other people got it and sent their own chickens.  We roasted a chicken, and transitioned to Pinocchio’s, then the “Harry Truman Truth Squad,” and finally “Witch George Bush.”  Those were our costumed characters but there was no end to the Anti-Bush messages we developed. And just so you know, George Bush is a very classy guy.  We never interrupted him or were we ever disrespectful. In fact, he passed a note to one of the chickens that said, “To the Clinton-Gore folks   
You guys did it right  For your team- but polite
and in the best tradition of U.S.  politics.   Don’t
work too hard against me!  Thanks.... George Bush”  

That’s the one posted on my Facebook page.

Anyway, Our day began with a conference-comedian-meeting-call in the AM and putting together comedy writers from all over the country.  The majority of people who worked with us would have been considered dinosaurs, but we were experienced political message people — which is why we were so successful.  There’s lot’s more but you’ll have to pay for the rest.  So what should we do this political year … we have some ideas.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Wrinkled Knees (No! Really!!)

This political year has been a combination of my dream come true and my worst nightmare.  Who would have believed that Donald Trump would be the Republican Candidate for President of the United States of America?  And why hasn't anyone told him that a his hair is simply   Ridiculous.  And how does he get away with not releasing his taxes? This blob has become a broken record of Trumps inadequate preparation for anything other than TV host and bully.  It will take some discipline, but I'll try to move on.

In the category of  things your mother never told you, yesterday when I looked down, I saw that my knees were wrinkled. Everyone knows about the hanging skin under your arms, and the veins in your legs and arms, but wrinkled knees?  She also forgot to share her wisdom  about how to remember names. Actually she never remembered anyone's  name, and it never mattered. Once she decided what your name was, that's what it was.  It seems I have started to do the same thing. It doesn't matter how many times I have been told a name, it still happens. At which point, ‘darling’ or ‘honey’, come in handy.

She never told us about how to be stylish, because her sense of style embarrassed my brother.  For example, she always wore a fur coat to the supermarket, winter and summer -- with curlers in her hair. All my Aunts did the same thing, but because she was my mother I thought it was terrific.  One evening, I am not sure of the occasion, Tina put on all of mom’s bulky gold jewelry. She was covered, jutting gold in every direction. All of us thought it was hillarious, and my mother thought it was Perfect.  Even when I was young, I knew she set her own style, which she did not pass on to me, but Jordan got it.

The other amazing quality she had was getting people to take care of her. Don’t get me wrong, she took good care of my dad who was disabled, and that was a full time job, but she knew how to get people to take care of her. Whatever she wanted or needed her sisters or friends provided. Like when she played cards:  it was never at our house.  Someone else did the entertaining.  But she’d love to go out and have fun.  Whether it was cards, mahjong, or dancing, she loved it all, and she had to be the best. Even now everyone who remembers her says, she loved to dance, and won every contest.

It’s not her birthday or any somewhat related holiday, but when I looked at my knees I was surprised about the wrinkles there. For whatever reason that reminded me of a sentence from a Judith Viorst essay, when she says that, if your husband is late, you know he has either been hit by a truck, or he’s having an affair. And you pray he’s lying bloodied on the street.  You ask yourself, what does that have to do with Judith Viorst and the essay? It doesn’t but she has written other books about aging, and I didn’t want to go there.

Back  to my mother and politics: when I worked at the 1980 Convention as the Director of Security (Editor’s Note: the only woman EVER to have been Dir. of Security for a National Convention),  mom came for one evening.  She and her friend Cynthia sat with the President — of the United States.  It made me so happy to be able to show her what an important political person I had become.  She even had a room in the hotel that was strictly limited to Political VIP’s. She didn’t think they, or I, needed to pay for a whole night since it was so late, and they were only staying half the night.  OH NO. Instead, these two characters from N.J walked, in the middle of the night, to the bus station and took a bus back home.  They never told me they were leaving, so I figured they were hit by the same bus that didn’t hit my husband, and were lying dead on some NYC street.  The story goes on, but I won’t.  Suffice it to say, my mother loved Hillary. She ate at the White House Mess during the Clinton Administration, and hated Donald Trump on TV because, “who did he think he was”. That pretty much says it for so many of us.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Convention 2016!

It finally happened.  Someone told Debbie Wasserman Shultz she couldn't open and close the convention. Or it was perhaps when the Florida delegation booed her in their caucus.  It just seemed to drag on and on.  It was real politics, with no one making the decisions that made sense.  Where is Evelyn Lieberman when we need her. I guess God needed her more. With what's going on in the world, it makes sense.  
backstage, Philadelphia with "Team Convention 2016"
And speaking of politics, I am on my way to Philly to catch up on the campaign gossip and see who's taking credit for so many things we did in the olden days.  For example, there are now a vast number of people taking credit for the Counter Events Operation during the ’92 general election.  When we designed the operation, no one wanted any part of it because, "what if someone called us the dirty tricks effort."  We never did dirty tricks.  The Clinton campaign told America why he should be president, and we told America why George Bush shouldn't stay in office. We were a carefully crafted effort to make the Republicans responsible for what they did in the White House. Oh yes, there were people dressed as Chickens at the Presidents events, and Pinocchio's and a Harry Truman Truth Squad, as well as the Witch George Bush effort. But we were always respectful to the President and in fact he wrote one of the chickens a note that said, “what you are doing is in the best spirit of American politics. “  Sully and I raised the money and designed what was a successful communication campaign. So now, we will set the record straight and I have witnesses.... No one but me and Sully and Kim and Sue and Caroline and Mark and the comedy writer from all over the country and Alicia and Ron Brown had anything to do with Counter Events. 
I should mention that Michael Elliot, a wonderful writer for the Economist who sadly died recently, did write a piece about us -- without mentioning names. We were at Annie Groer’s for dinner and he was so fascinated by what we were doing (Counter Events) , he snuck away from the table into the bathroom and took notes.  It wasn't too long but he got it.  I wish I could find the story.

My latest disappointment is that Conventions just aren't what hey used to be.  OK, it's hard not to be in charge of anything when you are used to being in charge of everything, but that is not the point.  The credentials were very specific. If you had a Guest Floor Pass, you couldn't leave the floor to visit friends in any delegation. And if you have a podium credential, you can get up on the podium but no where else. That's no fun. So I found a place at the door to the podium and saw all my friends, who were speaking from the podium.   That was fun.  

For someone who can build a crowd of 100,000, but can't stand to be in a room of more than ten, there were times when it was frightening.  But I lived to see another tomorrow.  And I'm on my way to Chicago to open Gefilte Fish Chronicles the Musical.  Yes, I am torn between my two loves, politics and the theater, and now I realize that there's no reason to only pick one, I can do both while avoiding having to be in a crowd.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Monday, July 25, 2016

Forty Five Years On...

I sometimes wonder if our parents thought about time, and the passage of time, in the way we do. Though I can’t recall any conversations with my folks about it, I suspect they were more concerned with just trying to deal with the next day, week, or month, and didn’t have the time or inclination to ponder their aging world and how they fit into it. My whole adult life has been spent taking photographs, for the most part for magazines, as a story teller of the most-decidedly analogue variety. For most of the five decades I’ve been working, film and the necessities it demanded were part of the picture (literally!). But tonight after dinner, I had one of those moments when all of a sudden, the date gave me pause. It’s July 23, 2016, and being a former math major I started doing the obligatory backtracking, and realized that this week is the 45th anniversary of my first TIME Magazine cover story. Forty five years. It’s not Diamond, nor Silver, and probably not even Tin. But it might be The Plastic Stuff Film Cans Were Made From. Yeah, forty five.
A man carries his mother through the rain to a refugee tent cover, W. Bengal
That summer of 1971 I had been living in Saigon for the better part of a year, had more or less become one of the TIME photographers working that bureau, and that is when news started flowing out of West Bengal about the refugees fleeing persecution in East Pakistan. (Six months later, following a war between India and Pakistan, East Pakistan would re-emerge as Bangladesh.) David Kennerly, then working for UPI out of Saigon had just come back from spending a week in India working on the refugee story, and told me it was one of those stories which really needed to be covered. People needed to know this was happening. I had sent a note to Timepix New York for approval to head to Calcutta to cover the story, and the next day a telex came confirming that I was on assignment.
a young boy clings to someone close, Refugee camp, W. Bengal
I arrived at DumDum airport late the next night, my first time in India, and soaked up the amazing, unforgettable sights, sounds and above all, smells. The woody smoke from cook-fires mixed with the myriad sounds creating that first impression that still remains. I took a room at Grand Hotel, and though it wasn’t as Grand as Garbo’s, it was a great place to operate from and featured a bar whose denizens of the Fourth Estate gave unending combinations of fact and fiction over Pimms and Gins. I hooked up with a Bengali photographer from the Statesman (Symadas Basu) and we roamed the border areas for the better part of a week, searching for photographs. You didn’t have to look very far or very hard to find something. There was a virtually unending stream of people, on foot or oxcart, slowly but inexorably heading West. I remember looking at the faces of those people as our paths crossed, thinking that what they were fleeing must truly be awful. Millions would not simply give up all, and move, unless there was something very terrible on the other end.
crowds of refugees seek space to lay down, to sleep, in a W. Bengal camp
Each night when I’d return to the Grand, I would make a packet of film (Ektachrome 64) for New York and through the miracles of modernity, 30 hours later my cassettes would be on John Durniak’s desk. Captions were always rather broad and hazy, but the pictures for the most part would speak for themselves. It was still very much the age of Telex (look it up!) and when I received word that the next week’s magazine would feature my picture on the Cover, along with a four page spread inside, I felt I had done right by the story. It was truly a different time, and while today’s weekly magazines are a slim notion of their former selves, at the time there was satisfaction in knowing that in the week following, some 20 million people would see your story. (This was still a decade before the founding of CNN!)
D.B.  age 24, Khe Sanh, VN  1971  (*photo © Chris Callis)
When you have worked for nearly fifty years as a photojournalist, almost every week offers some modest or major anniversary of some kind. Most are forgettable to all except the few that lived them. I noticed in the last few years that too, too many of my discussions with friends would start with something like “…that reminds me of a story I did 35 years ago,….” and I think that perhaps I’m the only one finding those moments so prescient and full of vibrant memory. We Baby Boomers were given much, perhaps too much, but perhaps the one thing we might be worthy of are our memories of the 20th century. I have worked long enough to see many of my stories morph from journalism into history. That alone has reminded me that a life with camera in hand was perhaps a worthy one. But I’m sure I’ll keep doing the math here and there, finding some little anniversary which will let us focus again, if briefly, on a moment of our times.  We're just sayin'.... David

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Stupid Candidates or Violence?

Almost Everyone in this country is asking the same question.  “Why are people killing each other?” The answer of course is that people have access to weapons. All kinds. Knives, shot guns, machine guns, machetes and you take it from there.  What are the consequences of this repeated horrific violence?  The perpetrator, (who was a vet) in the Dallas shooting of five police officers said that it was revenge for the senseless killing of all those young black men.  He was making a statement about how Black lives matter.  People who respond to that with, All lives matter, just don't get it.  Are the police shooting white drivers who have a missing tail light?  And do white 4 year olds, who have just seen their father murdered by a cop, get searched and handcuffed?  Not so much.  Yes, we do have our share of idiots with guns, but what happened to that second step -- the Taser.  Ok it goes like this: the black guy gets stopped for some violation. Maybe a broken tail light, maybe for selling cigarettes one at a time.  The next logical move for the officer is to say, “sir you have violated whatever.”  The black guy says, “really -- what did I do?” The cop says, “you get that light fixed” or “you stop selling cigarettes.”  The supposed criminal says, “OK.”  The cop, isn't satisfied with an OK, so he says, “step out of the car.”  The human being says why?  The cop, sensing nonexistent danger, shoots to kill.  As citizens, aren't we allowed to ask Why?  No, My mistake.

Along with access to guns, and thanks to grants from Homeland security and the Pentagon,  every police officer, and police department carries military weapons.  So, what should they do with them?  Kill people of course.  Have they been trained to use the artillery, or in good manners? Probably not. My son posted on Facebook this morning that the hoodlums who he grew up with became police officers.  Funny but the same thing happened where I grew up. (Except for Art Lefkowitz)   It is possible that this is what happened in every city and town. So a good percentage of these police officers grew up as racist thugs. And we armed them. This is not to say all cops are lunatics. Where they work in the communities they protect and get to know the people who are their constituents, the senseless violence is far less likely to happen.

Moving on to the Presidential campaigns. And briefly, my last cab driver was laughing uncontrollably. It was 6am, why would anyone think anything was so funny. My eyes were closed in hopes for additional sleep. That was not going to happen. "What's so funny?" I asked. "Donald Trump," he said.  " I love this guy. He says anything he wants. And he loves everyone."

"Where are you from?" I asked. "West Africa. But I've been here for 28 years. The only thing is I can't vote in the primary because I want to be independent. But I'll vote for him in the general election.  So will all my friends. He's very funny."  People have voted for candidates for stupider reasons. I don't know any, but there has got to be at least one.  What is with this election?  People ask me what's going to happen and for the first time in too many years, who knows.

As I have said before and although it is painful for the Democrats, it is possible for Trump to win the nomination and maybe even the election.  How can that happen? People are tired of same same. They are angry about the government and their elected officials’ inability to get anything done. And people like celebrity and entertainment.  It is why it's hard to find a network that hasn't decided to make all the morning shows entertainment based. It is also why the evening news struggles when there is an alternative on cable. It is also why someone like Trump ... An incredible asshole, is probably going to be the nominee.  Although his statements about the Mexican-American judge from the Midwest who had never been to Mexico,  and who Trump felt could not be unbiased, might have been a turning point. Do we really want Trump to make Supreme Court appointments? Think about that.

It is unclear about which of the items discussed here is the worse one. Violence or stupid  candidates.  The consequences for each is dire beyond belief.  We’re just sayin’... Iris

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Top Security? Take a Deep Breath! (And Hold It!)

During my first 3 months at the State Department in 1978, as the Director of the Office of International Visitors, I had Top Secret clearance. I had no idea how they knew they could trust me, but… One afternoon some Top Secret material landed on my desk.  It was frightening. I didn’t know what it was, but TOP SECRET was no joke, or so I thought.  Anyway, I put the envelope in my underwear and traveled by State Department bus over to what was called Main State.  My office was in an annex.  Once there, I located the Deputy in the Visitors  office because she had Top Secret clearance, and more importantly, experience.  She was in some half-assed meeting, which was not a rarity at State, and I pulled her out of the meeting and into the Women’s room where's I pulled the Top Secret document out of my underpants. She looked at it and started to laugh.  As it turned out, it may have been Top Secret but it was not for me. 

This is not a excuse for Hillary’s sloppy treatment of Top Secret emails, or her private server.  The hours I spent in security training were numerous, so I get the importance of respect for these important documents.  During  the Clinton administration my position demanded an even higher level of security clearance. There was never a time when I put the documents in my underwear.  This was different. The documents that came to us, all of which we read, hardly merited a top security clearance.  Usually they were delayed because of demanding  State Department clearances, and if you actually wanted to get something to someone in a timely manner you figured out a way to circumvent the system.  Again, this is not an excuse for Hillary, it is the reality about an antiquated system. The real question is, why didn’t someone on her staff tell her what she was doing was questionable.  That is the real question. 

I get that no one likes to be told they can't do something—certainly I don’t — but that being said, this “entitled” bullshit is just foolish, and can be dangerous.

That’s not what I wanted to blob about. How about having a gross  surgical procedure?   What qualifies as gross?  Certainly giving birth and absolutely having a colonoscopy – which I did today — not the birth thing but the tuchas thing. People always talk about the beauty of birth. And truthfully, the results are worth whatever but….  Here's what I remember.  Three weeks past the due date, (July 3) I marched into the doctors office and announced that I was not leaving the office until I went to the hospital. He checked and agreed.  We went to the hospital where he induced labor. For the next 12 hours I suffered from a back labor. It was like a Mack Truck running me over every 5 minutes. In those days we did an unmedicated birth—which added to the torture. When the time came they wheeled me through a hallway where a painter was on a ladder painting the wall. There I was, legs spread in the air. Nothing was humiliating when you were in pain.  When people say you never remember the pain, that is a lie. You have this precious reward at the end of the process, but the pain, nope, it’s not something you forget. 

The other procedure, a colonoscopy, is  mostly unpleasant prior to the surgical procedure.  You drink mega amounts of this gross liquid and spend the next 12 hours on the throne.  They perform this delicate maneuver at the “Endoscopy Center,” and of course my question was, “which End?”  You have to do this in order to prevent colon cancer. But how does a medical student decide that their dream job is to look up a tuchas for the rest of their lives.  You understand that the Definition of gross doesn’t always mean blood, pus and guts.  It can mean humiliation, pain, or doing something stupid, like messing with Top Secret material.  Unlike birth or a colonoscopy, that is totally  avoidable.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Let's talk about flying  first class. Generally it means that you, having upgraded or paid extra, would be treated as a special guest. There would be a selection of movies, a goodie bag with sleeping mask, a toothbrush, mouth wash, and slippers. In addition, there would be an ice cream sundae and baked on board chocolate chip cookies. When I saw that my upgrade was first class instead of business I should have been suspect especially since there was no Admirals club, and there is always an Admirals club.  However, they did say that, since they were partners with Alaska, first class passengers would be welcome.  Not so fast you American Airlines passenger. Sure you were welcome if you had a "priority pass card". Does anyone even know what a Priority Pass Card is?  As it happens, the Burnetts have every travel card in existence.So I did have one, but it took me so long to find the club and the card, the plane was loading.  I ran to the gate just in time to make the flight.
(if you wanna see what it was like in 1952 on a TWA Constellation.... check this... go to 5m10s to see the meal!)
The plane that we were on, not only didn't have a choice of movies, it had one of those drop down screens that maybe two people can see clearly.  Very stylish if you enjoy traveling like it's 1980. That's when the DC-NY shuttle cost $50.  Grateful there was one movie -- that is certainly not a choice.  Usually, when you are seated in first class, there is a menu where the food is crafted by some famous chef.  The famous chef in this case was Bugs Money. The choice was lettuce with mystery meat or lettuce with grapes, green and red.  That was the closest anyone got to a choice about anything.  We were told that the limited selection was because it is was so late. What a lot of Pookey.  If you fly overnight with Jet Blue, you have 100 television stations, blue chips and cookies.

if this isn't First Class, I don't know what is...

Moving on. The steward (I guess that's what they are called), or maybe flight attendant, walked around the cabin with four bottles of wine, 3 red and 1 white and that was it. For the entire cabin and the whole flight. You may recall that there was a trip to Italy we took that was such a disaster we renamed the airline, American't and it took some years to get beyond that.  but we seem to be  right back there again.  We were assured there would be some kind of breakfast but he confessed it would be no better than the pork products with cheese.

It is possible that this whining is unbecoming to someone such as myself.  Ordinarily my complaining is about something more important than a seat, oh yes I forgot about the seat. It did not go back. It was not a seat in front of the exit row.  No, that would make sense (although not in first class") Instead of going back you had to slide it down.  There is no way to explain how you slide a seat down on an airplane.  Just trust me, it is not easy, and anything but comfy.

The good news was that the flight was on time. There were plenty of cabs. The cab driver did not argue when I asked him to take the 59th Street bridge, the weather in NY was gorgeous and my puppy was as excited as he could be to see me. Maybe I'll give American't another chance but not without a thorough investigation about the type plane.  We're just say in'....Iris

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Right Thing, Ellipically

This morning, while the elliptical machine whirred, John Lewis spoke eloquently to the Democrats who had just decided to stop their 25 hour sit-in on the floor of the House.  The Media said they stopped. But that was not the whole story.  Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House adjourned the Congress, to start their July 4th vacation. C-span is forbidden to cover House activities when there is an adjournment.  So, the Democrats broadcast their sit-in on periscope on the cell phone of one of the Democratic members.  Thank you new media.  John Lewis also said that they will be back to continue the sit-in on July 5th once they had talked to their constituencies in their home states.

John worked shoulder  to shoulder with Martin Luther King, quoted him by saying that it is every citizens right to protest when the government is not doing the right thing.  He went on to say that he was tired to spend a moment of silence and then move on to business as usual.

The Democrats recessed long after the Republicans fled the Capital to face the reality of Donald Trumps presumptive candidacy. Trump was in Scotland opening a new golf course. Do you think he even knew about the British voting to decide if they will exit the European Union?  Probably not. Doesn't he have to release his tax returns? Even the lowest paid person who works in the White House has to be vetted. And that includes looking at their tax returns.  In addition, how dare Paul Ryan the Speaker accuse the Dems as opportunists who were only protesting the gun laws or non gun laws as a fundraising tool.  One  problem is that Ryan and his other Republican colleagues  get so much money from the NRA that they fundraise without having a moral core about who gives them money, and how it connects to the legislation they oversee. Personally, I don't trust an elected official who lives in their office. Granted the Speakers office is a step up for him, but he lives and works in the same governmental space… How dopey is that.  Excuse the digression, these people are too bizarre.  Back to Hero’s instead of villains. And people who do the right thing.

Everyone who worked in the civil rights movement knew about John Lewis.  Although he was not the poet that MLK was, we still watched him bloodied and locked up for doing the right thing.  He said this morning, that because he followed his conscience that even when he was imprisoned after a protest, he felt free.  What a guy.

John is a friend of my friend Marthena, who you may remember from the book I didn’t write entitled, “Oy vey iz mere Marthena.”  And speaking of Marthena, she is going to Annapolis for a Jimmy Carter reunion this weekend.  Wish I could be there to celebrate the Former President’s life.  He may have become known as the best former President ever, but regardless of the things that made a reelection unlikely, he always had a real commitment to human rights that made all the Carter Administration staff proud to have served with him. Maybe I'll skype with them. Thank you again new technology.  Anyway, we worked for John on a number of occassions.  You will never find a kinder, lovelier man in Congress or anywhere for that matter.

After the sit-in ended and the Democrats exited the Capital to meet the media and real people, John led them all in a rousing rendition of “We Shall Overcome.” There I was, still on the elliptical, voice raised, unembarrassed and singing right along with them. It just felt like the right thing to do.  We're just sayin'.....Iris

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

the Bees Knees

Politics is pretty predictable and not at all interesting because it’s same same. Trump is name calling without substantiation, and Hillary is feeling great about the fact that she is able to back up her claims with facts. What more is there to say?

Anyway, my sister (in law -- but really, she is the sister I never had, except Tina), is a bee keeper. She has been trying to explain the “bee”  thing to me. So, here we go. I’m going to try to explain it to you with one or two political references, but you will definitely get it. She has two hives and has been wondering if there’s a queen in either of the hives. The bees apparently make a queen when they need one. How do you make a queen? Do all the bees register and they have an election? There are so many bees in one hive squished together that I couldn’t imagine how they voted on a queen. She laughed at me. Ok, they can’t have an election because they are distracted by more important things. All the worker bees converge on one bee and one egg that will eventually emerge as the queen. It’s like looking for the perfect egg and the perfect drone, not uncomplicated. Yes, I just introduced another item, “the drone.”

Here’s what happens, as far as I can understand. The presumptive Queen, much like the
presumptive Presidential nominee has to mate with the presumptive Drone. But, whichever the drone, they need to watch carefully until the queen takes off Into the air looking to get pregnant by the presumptive drone. Off they fly into the wild blue yonder. The queen playing hard to get -- as  most queens will. The drone follows the queen in hopes that there will be a mating opportunity.  If there is a mating, (and this is the gross part), the drones insides fall out and the drone dies. It’s not very nice but it is nature.

So wouldn’t it be amazing if people operated like bees. There would be a presumptive leader, who is agreed upon by the majority of the electorate. The leader has a responsibility to their constituency to figure out how to rule. The part that is left out is that once the ruler (queen) is selected, how high do they need to fly in order to have a drone (their staff), help them to develop a following before their insides fall out and they die.

The insides falling out is the piece that totally gets me because I get a visual image of these tiny
little insides dropping to the ground immediately after consummating the most important
relationship bees can have. Use your imagination. And then, there is no reward for doing their
duty and maybe getting a laugh or two. The bees in the hive kill all the drones because they are
not useful. It doesn’t seem fair. But in bee world, if you serve no purpose, then why would you hang out. What do you do? Sit around with all the soon to be eliminated other drones, talking about how you wanted to make that conquest? How the queen would have enjoyed it more with you.

Anyway, she feeds the bees sugar and water. I asked if they were all vegetarians. She said
every once in a while an ant or two wanders in and then it’s steak for dinner. As we say “a bees life”.  But much like in politics, nothing is for sure. You never know who is going to be the queen, or the presumptive drone, or what the outcome of that tenuous relationship will be.

What else is there to say, it’ a vicious cycle for bees and  it happens every couple of months, that’s the call of nature. .And for political people, it happens every four years. Whichever, it is too soon and not natural at all.  We’re just sayin’..Iris

Monday, June 20, 2016

Those Guys They Call Father

This weekend we celebrated David's mother's life with family and friends. She was the last of any of our parents to die.  It was pretty heavy for any number of reasons. On the top of the list is that no matter how old a person gets, it's never any fun to be an orphan -- especially on a day that celebrates parents. Yes, this going to be one of those sensitive no political bullshit blobs.


Milt with Phil (ca. 1970) -- the Dads

The story goes that when I was born some of my grandparents were unhappy that I wasn't a boy.  Not my dad. He was thrilled that I was a girl. They still named me after his father, who was Izzie.  And when I opened my eyes the doctor penciled in a mustache, which at the time he wore proudly.  So I looked exactly like him, which apparently pleased him.

My father was just a great guy. Sadly, over the course of 30 years, an aggressive form of MS attacked his extremities.  By the time he was 45 he was totally disabled.  Because his mind was always sharp, no one ever thought of him as sick or different.  He just couldn't walk.  My mom, uncle Phil and cousin Dick, made sure he got to work, in the family handbag business. For a while he was the accountant and kept track of the numbers.  Then when he couldn't write, I don't know exactly what work he accomplished,  but he still went to the factory until it went bankrupt and closed.  

My father never had to feel terrible about his inability to participate in our childhood activities because Uncle Phil, my other dad, was always there to take us out to eat. To go on pony rides. To take us to art museums (which he wanted to do, so we tagged along.) And to just be a walking presence.  He made what could have felt like abandonment to children who didn't understand, never an issue. 
Milton (my dad) and Seth (my son, also a Father) ca. 1975
And our two fathers, both of  whom had served in the army, loved one another.  They were best friends til the end of their lives.  They married two of the seven sisters, and found solace in the fact that they had one another.  During WW2 Uncle Phil was shipped to China and saw combat.  My dad, who had third degree flat feet, never saw combat and always said it was the best time he ever had.  He traveled to Africa, Europe, and some of the states, as a master sergeant. He was one of those Guys who found whatever product the officers needed to have -- dope,   scotch, nylons, and chocolate.  When they came back from the war his MS was still in the distance. So the fathers played and worked hard.  The playing being on the top of the list. 

They lived their lives. Dad wanted to be a fur designer but when he was diagnosed he put that on the back shelf and worked in the family business. Uncle Phil was an artist who had an offer from Disney in California, but Aunt Helen didn't want to leave her sisters.  They both had disappointed dreams for their futures, and so there was no need for explanation about what their lives were to become.  They just moved along, surrounded by a family that never understood disappointed expectations.

And we also grew up surrounded by a bunch of interchangeable sisters. If you wanted to have dinner at Aunt Sophie's,  Aunt Fritzie’s or Aunt Helene’s,  you just appeared at their kitchen around dinnertime.  The Sisters called one another ten times a day, even when they had just played cards, or gone to the market.  But this is a blob about the Dads. 

What would they think of the way we live today? My brother lives in a trailer park, my niece is rebuilding a goat shack, my sister in law is a bee keeper, David  travels all the time, and I still can't figure out what I want to do when I grow up.  Nothing is what it appears to be. That being said, I think they both would have loved the fact that we are living the way we want to, and loving the people we are. We're just sayin'.... Iris

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Those Crazy GPS'

Yesterday we drove from Berkeley to Menlo park. Between us we had 3 gps, a Siri and a map.  We made the trip in 40 minutes, got off the freeway and then the trouble began.

Before I tell you the whole story lets go back to a time when Aunt Rosie and Uncle Jack were going from their house to anywhere. Because Aunt Rosie was always giving Uncle jack conflicting directions, Uncle Jack made her sit in the back seat.  They weren't riding in a taxi, so there was no partition between front and back. He could still hear everything she said.  But she didn't want to annoy him so she sat in the back seat and sang all the mistakes she thought he made. It went something like this (you pick the tune).  "Jack, you need to slow down or you'll miss the turn" or "Jack, we need to make a sharp left in 10 feet". For whatever reason, as long as she was in back, it didn't,t seem to bother him.

There are all those stories about how men won't ever ask for directions and women always want to know where they are going.and for both those reasons, someone smartly invented the gps.  However, if there is more than one gps in the car you may find that they don,t agree on how to get you where you want to go.

Back to yesterday.  When we had 3 gps devices a Siri and a map.  And three adults who were each advocating for their own device. Imagine one driver who was trying listen to all the directions and figure out to whom he should listen. Suffice to say, we got to Palo Alto in 40 minutes, and then got so turned around, trying to figure out where we were, it took another 40 minutes to get to our destination -- which was no more than 6 miles away.  Joe, who was driving simply couldn't hear a thing with everyone and 3 particularly demanding electrical devices shouting at once.  We decided that we had just lived through an absolutely hillarious comedy routine.

What makes us think that the gps is any better than a good old fashioned map. We have friends who have a lovely bed and breakfast (actually breakfast sucked but dinner was amazing) in a small village halfway between Rome and Florence. If you read a map to get there it was highways and than 5 or 6 miles of good back roads.  If you depended on a gps, which takes you the shortest route, you drove out of Rome and then you were directed to unpaved wooded cow paths. So instead of it taking two hours to reach San Casciano di Bagni, it took at least 6 hours.  Our friends, who never liked people from Rome, would instruct those people to just follow their gps.

So, wouldn't it be nice if the Gps solved all the arguing that goes on in the car between couples who ordinarily have a peaceful loving relationship. Yes it would. But it doesn't. Because now when the directions are right within reach, you wind up arguing with this inanimate object that keeps telling you you are an idiot and if you don't turn around and listen you will most likely wind up in a place where no one will ever find you.  We're just sayin'. Iris

Friday, June 17, 2016

Cast. Iron.

B Tyronious, in the kitchen, with the Black Cast Iron Pan on the stove

When we were growing up my mother and my aunts did certain things around eating and serving that most of my cousins and I are doing now. For example, they all kept kosher salt in a box or a small dish that you would season things with when preparing meals or, if the dish was lovely, you could put it on the table for additional seasoning.  You never put the milk carton or orange juice carton or any carton on the table.  All these liquids had to be contained in a pitcher or some lovely serving item.  Same with butter, sugar, cream, — you get the picture. The table was supposed to be attractive, whether or not there was company.

When they cooked there were specific pots and pans they used, depending on what they were cooking.  My mother had a pan she only used for blintzes. Aunt Peppy and Aunt Sophie had special baking dishes they used for cheesecake, and mandel bread.  There were pots they used for cholent, chicken soup, and chopped liver.  There were even bowls they used to mix tuna fish. 

When we were growing up they had service for 144 in dishes, flatware, and glassware because when they shopped, they bought the same product for at least four of their siblings. Most of the stuff was colorful, but only because there was so much of it.  There was never a time, as an adult, that I told my mother I couldn’t live without one of the settings. And besides my mother always looked for a sale on dishes which, when purchased, went directly to her attic.  Her attic was like a gift store, the closest thing I knew to “as advertised on TV.”  Whenever you needed a shower or wedding gift, all you had to do was visit Rosie’s attic.  Now that I think about it, we should have turned it into a business. When she died, we found at least three, never been opened sets of dishes, crystal vases, silver serving pieces, and all sizes of glasses.  She had bubbled glass Passover dishes (because we always changed dishes on Passover), that I still yearn for.  No one knows what happened to those.

Anyway, I still have my kosher salt and pepper in lovely little dishes I keep on the counter.  When my cousins visit they know right where to go to look for the salt — everything needs a little salt.  And you will hardly ever find a carton on my table.  But what you will find is an old cast iron pan living on my stove.  The pan has been used and reused for at least 45 years, although I did not always keep it on the stove.  But the thing is so heavy that at some point I decided it should just stay there.  What is so interesting it that one of my 4th quarter queen/sisters has hers on the stove as well.  So I bought two more. One for another fourth quarter queen, and one for Jordan, who I will continue this “black pan” phenomenon as a family tradition.

It is comforting to cook in that pan, which I do daily and for everything from eggs to onions, to meat and on and on.  It cleans up like all these new non stick pans, but everything tastes better, who knows why. Maybe because it remembers the tears of all those tough years when it was my only companion, and maybe because it helped inspire new recipes that I knew would work if they were cooked in that pan.  Isn’t it funny that as I grow older and decide to downsize, there are still those things that have become so precious and filed with memories, with which I could never part.  To be sure, you will never see it on eBay.  Now wasn’t this a refreshing change from my Trump blather.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, June 16, 2016


Hillary has had media training so now she is not so shrill.  If I might take this opportunity, as a speech professional,  to interject some information.  Hillary appears to have had vocal training.  They are very different things.  As we have said here previously, She needed to learn to “open the throat”, and use the microphone as asset not a weapon.

So what’s Bernie going to do now?  There seems to be a great deal of scurrying about.  The visual image of political people scurrying about, for some reason reminds me of the rats in “Ratatouille’ racing hither and thither trying to find a piece of cheese and make an effort omelette.  Wait a minute, rats, cheese, it’s exactly the same thing.

We live in a democracy where we have a two, sometimes a three party system.  And this morning the leadership of one of those Parties, reused to comment on anything their candidate has said or done.  Mert  (the Blurt) has suggested that all Muslims be banned from entering the United States. If you do not remember the elegant/frightening words of Martin Niemoller in the 1940’s, let me refresh your memory.

They came for the Socialists, but I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Blah Blah Mexican, Blah Blah, Muslims….Blah Blah, Gays

People who think they are right about everything, and who do not have the ability to apologize simply cannot be trusted.  Certainly there are times when even I am wrong— though infrequent as it might be.

A  close Millennial friend told me that she was horrified that Bernie has not recognized the historical aspects of a woman as President.  Lest we forget Bernie is not a Democrat. And he has been stricken with that horrible disease we all know as Presidenaltiatis.  Some how they no longer any judgment  and they can’t get beyond the mindset of ‘it would be nice to be king”.

David had an extremely successful opening of his Olympic show last night.  We don’t know if
anyone purchased anything, but we do know that there were a million people in attendance.   It was crowded but it was thrilling. The kind of party where half the guests are standing in the street.  The show will be up for a few more weeks. It’s the Anastasia Gallery 143 Ludlow.  Its worth the trip

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Wow of the TONYs

This morning Mert called for President Obama’s resignation because he refuses to to identify these terrorist attacks as done by radical Islam.  Blah blah blah.  Here’s is my hope.  Once someone goes into the voting booth no one knows for whom they voted.  It is possible for someone who is perfectly sane,  to vote for Mert (the blurt).  Why they would is totally unexplainable but they could.  Right now, he seems to have compromised the Republican Party and leadership, with the idea that it doesn’t matter what the character of the candidate is (no moral core), as long as he is a Republican.  But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.  And as horrified as I am about the Orlando shootings, or the young woman who was murdered by a fan because it’s too awful and really, I can’t even imagine what my comment might be.  Except I hate when the media uses someone’s pain to entertain the public.

Let’s talk about the Tonys.  What a wonderful show. It seems that since everyone knew Hamilton was going to clean-up, they better do a phenomenal show. What can you say about James Corden?  He is a talent beyond talents.  He is a genius. Starting with the opening number, where he sang from at least 15 Broadway show, to Karaoke in the car, with James and Lin, then joined by Jane, Audra, and Jesse… it was absolutely delightful.  By the time Leslie Odum Jr., which was a total surprise, I couldn’t stop smiling.  But still it went on and on.  The last number with the Hamilton cast and everyone who wanted to be on the stage.  The fact during the show, actors stepped out to entertain the crowd on the street, was so generous.  The whole thing made me very proud to be even a little bitty  part of this incredible community.

So, hear is my question.  American Psychco, which team “We’re just saying” thought deserved some Tony attention, got nothing.  Oh, maybe artistic recognition— not enough.  But the show was imaginative and beautiful and funny.  The actors were talented, enthusiastic, and spot on.  You gotta  think there was something political going on.  So if anyone knows what that was, I sure would like you to share that with me.

It is tempting to dive right back into a political discussion.  Like a discussion about Mert determining that he was going to black ball the “Washington Post” because he didn’t like a headline they used.  It surprises me that someone who believes in 2nd amendment rights — the freedom to own and shoot weapons of war, but he doesn’t believe in freedom of  the press. Does anyone remember why it is important to have a free press?  Can you imagine what it will be like to have a President who operates without press scrutiny.  The media is not the enemy.  It is their job to report on everything a President or a candidate for President is doing and has done. They ought to make reasonable decisions regardless --- they are responsible to keep the public informed regardless of the issue. Woe is us/and the media, in a Trump Administration.
It is frightening to think about a person who is not stable to be in charge of — everything.

Anyway, the Tony’s were a “breath of fresh air”, at time when we need some space to just take one big breath.  We're just sayin' ......Iris

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Talkin' to Mom

When Hillary was interviewed before she went on the stage to give her acceptance speech as the presumptive nominee for the Democratic candidate for President,  (When did ‘presumptive’ become a word?  And there must be a way to rewrite that sentence so it’s shorter) she was asked what she thought her mother would say.  Her answer was predictable, but true.  Her mother would be very proud. Her mother had encouraged her to be her own person and strive to be successful. So far so good.  But, what she was not asked was:  “Do you talk to your mother?”  and “Is your mother still giving you advice?” 

Almost every woman I know who had some kind of a relationship with her deceased parents, especially moms, still has a conversation with her mom. It doesn’t matter how long She’s been gone or if, when Mom was alive, they “got on.”  My Mom never understood who I was, or anything I did. Word has it that she was very proud of me, but if so, she told strangers how she felt, not me.  Luckily,  her sisters were there for me, and she had six of them.  But it appeared to most people that we never had a loving mother-daughter thing. There were many wasted years when we hardly spoke.  For whatever reason, it was easy for me not to talk to people with whom   I was angry. So it was no big deal.  That being said, my brother and sister-in-law, and I took very good care of her when she started to decline.  My children adored her, and she adored them.
Mom, Honey, moi, Peppy, Rosalie -- the Girls

Then, after she died, I remembered things she did or said that were exceptional  — hilarious.  She, like my kids,  was very, very funny.  There were times when things she did or said sent us running from the room before we peed in our pants. Like the time Tina put on all her gold jewelry,  (fake of course) tons of it, and waited for my mother to react.  Straight faced and without missing a beat, she gave us the “Rosie look” and said, “it will always look better on me than on you.”

Anyway, when my dad had his leg amputated, she had it buried in some distant family grave. Since Jews don’t move body parts once they are in the ground, it was obvious that she was going to be buried next to his leg, and eventually to him. “Ma” we said, “If you both are buried there, its so far out on Long Island, that we will never visit.” She said she figured we would never visit her anywhere, so it didn’t matter. But it does. And  I do travel great distances to stand at her, as my aunt Peppy said, tombstone - to chat. At some point I realized I could chat with her no matter where I was.  So I find myself talking to her. And depending on the situation, I talk to my Aunts.  But mostly I talk to my mother.  Guess I am making up for all the time I didn’t speak to her. If I am confused or need someone to solve a problem, I ask her advice.  Does she answer me?  Well, I can hear her voice in my head, so I guess, yes.

There is a terrible hole in my heart, an emptiness that is always there.  It could be the loss of so many friends and family and it could be a vacancy that I can’t fill because who knows what the future will be. Dealing, or not dealing with the age thing is exhausting.  Probably because getting old is such a surprise.  Where did the time go?  Can you believe that we are so old that we are afraid to say how old— things like that. Things that have no answer. 

So does Hillary talk and listen to her mother?  Who knows, but my guess is she absolutely does.  We’re just sayin’….Iris

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

PolitiBlog - Post California, Post Primary

"The rain fell gently .... "

That's not what I wanted to write about. But the rain was hardly gentle. It might as well have been a hurricane it was so blustery.  I think I just always wanted to write something using the word gentle.

Anyway, The Hillary win is phenomenal. My guess is that Bernie gets what he wants at convention and he endorses Hill.  Actually, he has had an enormous impact on shaping the conversation and developing a Millenial constituency. If they actually vote, the election is ours. Mert (the blurt) aka The Donald, promised the people who still like him, that he'll behave.  He doesn't know how. Everything is about a Deal, and he is not someone who can apologize.  Anyone who thinks they are always right, does not have the capacity to judge right from wrong. So he will do something stupid, if not outrageous, again. Or maybe he will do something outrageous, if not stupid, again.

So now what happens?  Well, my guess is that Mert -- now using a TelePrompTer, as if that would help to control him, (in case he didn't know, he can stop using it), will go all out bringing up the same Clinton crap that was brought out during the Clinton Administration.  It might start with Vince Foster, wander through WhiteWater, and wind up with the Monica crap.  Or who knows, he might find a new and colorful way to present the information.  The kids who are going to vote, who never heard any of this, will think he's a desperate idiot.  The Millenials care about a vision, not pornographic information about a President who has been out of office for over 20 years. He will, after all, be First Lady/Person. That will be interesting.

I am going to take a break from political commentary, but not for too long I fear.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

It's the Season for Two-a-Day Blobs

It's been a long time (maybe two hours) since I yelled at the TV.  Hillary called out AP to say there were still primaries so let's be careful about declaring victory. The right thing to say.  Hope the presumptive nominee crap doesn't hurt her.  So why was I yelling? The media is just annoying.  Where did these people come from?  The guy who wears a sweater and flays his arms around polling info and the state of the election. He looks like a character on “The West Wing”.  Who, by the way, I liked a lot.  But this guy (I wish I could remember his name but his commentary is so silly, that his name is irrelevant). Sure there are a great many young people, and MSNBC (the Place for Politics, supposedly) calls them the "Road Warriors”, (an insult to the movie), but they came out of nowhere and have no ideas about the intricacies of Presidential politics. And truly, in this day ’n age, Road Warriors?  Road Warriors were the people stuck in a mid-west or westTexas city with a few bucks in payphone change, maybe some bills to cover a cheap motel, and the obligation to create a crowd of 5000 for a candidate who may or may not arrive in 48 hours.  No cell phones, no laptops, no ipads.  Just moxie and the will to make it work.  THAT was a Road Warrior.  Anytime you can dial up dinner being sent to your room from your YELP app, its probably a bit of an exaggeration to use the term “Road Warrior.”   By the way, what happened to Alex Wagner? She was smart and insightful and could hold her own with people way older than she. 

These political jobs should be about life, history, insights and subtleties.  It appears that only the pretty people, male and female have anything worth listening to. Yesterday I wrote about Steve Schmidt.  Who is a clear thinking, shaved-head,  insightful Republican.  While I may not agree with him on policy issues, it is a joy to listen to him because he has something  knowledgeable to say.  He’s clearly BEEN THERE.

Here's another thought. Hillary will be a big “first”.    Does she need her VP choice to be another big first, or should she look at someone who has been a governor from a much needed state who happens not to be a minority? I don't have an answer but if you are a strategist then you think about alternatives to every question.  In fact, if you are a member of the media, you should probably do the same thing… Look at all the possibilities, stay neutral and move out of your own way.

Anyway, the primary results should be most revealing. I’m starting to feel a little sorry for Bernie. He, like Ralph Nader and many others who has never faced any scrutiny, has no idea what will happen when they start to look at his past and the controversy about his wife’s finances.  But he could be a spoiler and give the election to the Republicans.  In the words of team We're Just Sayin, he needs to sit down — and shut up….and I mean that in he nicest possible way.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Planning Ahead, Pt. II

Just in case you forgot.  “Morning Joe” gave Donald Trump a platform everyday for months before this last racist outrage and now they can’t stop talking about how he is a political monster.  It is so interesting to watch the press suddenly figure out that Trump might not be so entertaining anymore. If I were a Republican I would be pretty pissed that Mert is using an entire national political party to support what is a personal legal bad business issue. You got to say the guy is has chutzpa.  

The new attack on Hillary revolves around the fact that she is thinking about what needs to happen when she wins after transition. Thank God.  Unaccustomed as I am to telling a story here goes one about what happened after Bill Clinton was elected in 1992.  The campaign had paid a company to develop a computer system that would supposedly find the right people for the right job.  A few of us thought maybe we ought to test this miraculous  system. Which we did by entering people into the system who certainly should have been appointed to political positions.  It just didn’t work — simple as that. What we realized was that the President would be going into government unencumbered by any people but the Cabinet Secretaries.  

In order to run the government there must be thousands of political appointees in place.  Otherwise the President will not be able to transition from one Administration to the other. So, even if the government transitions from one party to the  same party, the new President wants to put their own imprint on the government.  That is not as difficult as transitioning from one party to another — like in ’92.  Hope that’s clear, but it’s the government, so nothing is clear.

Anyway, there we were trying to staff the government in a month.  Just FYI, there are thousands of politically appointed jobs.  You can find them all in a catalogue called “The Plum Book” —which, guaranteed Mert has never heard about — because his plan is to run the government all by himself.  Moving on… We needed to find “grown-up” people who at least knew something about life, if not the government.  It was not easy to find people who could take at least a few months to go “into” government. The result was that each person we identified had to be the temporary decision maker for two or three Agencies. For example, I sat at USIA, but supervised appointments and decisions for the Endowment for the Arts and for the Manatees, (not to be confused with the National Endowment for Humanities.  It was a 24/7 job. Oh, and we needed to fire all the Republicans before they burrowed (another way to keep a government job — read my book, “So You Think You Can Be President” — because it’s funny and this is just a blob). My point is, if you are a serious Presidential Candidate you need to think about life after transition.  So an attack on Hillary for thinking ahead is predictable but certainly short sighted. 

The media race to be first, AP and other media organizations had to crown her the presumptive nominee before the last primaries results.  How stupid.  It certainly doesn’t help Hillary. And maybe that’s their point.

We have a long way to go before the actual election, but I don’t think name calling (even your own staff) and outrageous attacks will get anyone elected. We can only hope that this is the part of the Mert meltdown.  So who steps in, Newt perhaps?   We’re just sayin’… Iris

The Executive Director of the National Endowment for the Manatees

D-Day+ 72

The trip began as a diversion from the post-election blues in Paris, 1974.  The French had just elected a new President. I’d been lucky enough to be his personal photographer (if you have a choice between driving to the event in Clermont-Ferrand, or hopping the candidate’s private jet, take my advice, go with the jet!)  Two good friends, Tom Herman and Robert Wiener, both of whom were living in Paris, reminded me that as it was the beginning of June, we should head on up to Normandy for what was billed as a big “thank you” to the Allied troops who had, 30 years before, taken part in the D-Day assault which eventually drove the Germans out of France, and ended World War Two.   So off we went in a rented car.   At the time, I hadn’t really put together that anyone I knew at home in Salt Lake, had much to do with the War. Mr. Tolman, whose magic at teaching History only became obvious to me decades later, had been a bomber pilot, and was perhaps the only one I’d met growing up who shared his experiences.  And his take, more impish and full of humor than heroism, included his description of the mandatory  “… and there I was…”  moments which I’m sure he’d heard too many of from his veteran friends.  (His “and there I was” moment usually involved a description of his plane dropping its bombs on a cow pasture….)  Later I would understand that those who lived though the tough stuff were generally much less inclined to share their stories than the REMFs who seemed to tell stories at the drop of a hat. 

On arrival  in Normandy, we made our way to most of the official events.  There was a mock-assault by current-duty US troops up Pointe du Hoc, watched by some of the Rangers who’d been there in ’44.  A tribute to General Omar Bradley, accompanied by his iron-willed wife, he being the last senior US commander to attend a reunion.  And the event which moved me the most, and opened my eyes to the reality of who these solders really were:  A lunch offered by the town of Vierville (Omaha Beach) for hundreds of vets and their wives that became a focal point for all my attention.  It was another chance for the citoyens of Normandy to say thanks.   

At the lunch, wine was served probably accompanied by a few things that most of the vets might have seen as inedible.  The French can be like that.   But beyond the dishes, there was a warmth and welcoming feeling, one which totally belied the old saw about the French being aloof, and not friendly towards the Yanks.  There was a moment when it all came into a frame for me (the Leica M4/35).   One of the vets was sitting opposite a very elegant French woman.  Well, at the least, she had very elegant hands.  Given this was the 30th anniversary, the vet was probably in his early 50s.  He looked as if he were still  of a working age, wearing an early version of a leisure suit.  There was nothing about him that seemed terribly special, but as we all know, special pictures can happen anywhere. 

He had handed over a snapshot of himself from the war, one of those portraits that everyone had done, and you can absolutely see his whole life.  From the rakish young man, mustache carefully trimmed, hair slicked back,  uniform fitting to a T, to the look of insouciance, as if he didn’t really have anything more important to do. He seemed very much at home with himself.  Comfy in his uniform, if not his skin.  Near me, on my side of the table, with a bottle of Muscadet on the ready, the French woman holds the picture, using her thumb and 3rd finger, her forefinger busy holding the most elegant cigarette ever.  You see the space of the the thirty years.  And in that moment something struck me.  The combination of American spirit, and Gallic formality.  The saved thanking the saviours in the manner they best know. 

I began coming back to Normandy again in 1979, then in 1984, and every ten years since.  It has become a story I can’t stay away from.  When you meet the vets - literally our uncles, our dads, our folks’ school buddies, you feel the appreciation for what they did, and how they did it.  They spent several years in uniform understanding they wouldn’t come home till the war was over.  They did their part.  Some saw months of combat, some drove trucks, some flew planes.  But they all understood that the ultimately the  job was about finishing what they had to do.  Over the years have I have done this story, I’ve felt a sense of envy for the camaraderie that they shared with each other.  How do you acknowledge those who did something for a cause greater than themselves.   I guess you say Thanks.   
June 6, 1974   Vierville sur Mer