Holiday Indulgence

“Remember, Sparky—no matter what they tell you—you can never have too much sugar.”

— John Travolta as the Archangel Michael in Nora Ephron’s film MICHAEL

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Before and After

“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

“After enlightenment, carry water, chop wood.”

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Praha, Česká republika #01

Where do these doorways lead? Invent your own answer.


プラハ, チェコ共和国
Praha, Česká republika





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Better Than Fireworks

This past Friday, the last day of June, I was watching a report on the White House request for voter information. A map of the USA showed which states were refusing to comply, and Oregon wasn’t one of them. Why not?

I called Secretary of State Dennis Richardson to voice my opinion and objections. A recording informed me that the Elections Division was receiving “a great many calls” concerned about the White House request, and that Secretary Richardson would soon be issuing a statement on this matter.

I was glad to hear that I wasn’t the only one calling our Secretary of State, but I still wanted him to know how I felt, so I sent off an email. Here is my letter:

“I am writing to say that I think the White House request for voter information is unconscionable, and I strongly object to having my voting record turned over to an administration I do not and cannot trust. To begin with, there is nothing to substantiate that there is any widespread “voter fraud” in this country, and I object to our taxes being used to investigate a problem that doesn’t exist. Additionally, I fear that the Trump administration will use voter records and information to manipulate future elections and/or distort records to make voting harder or impossible for those with a record of voting for Democratic candidates.

I am a United States citizen and an Oregon resident. While serving with the U.S. Army in World War II, my father gave his life to preserve and protect this country and the rights of all American citizens. I am asking you, Secretary Richardson, to protect my voter information and records, and the voting records of all Oregon citizens. Please do not comply with this request for voter information from the White House.”

Ten minutes later, I received a copy of Secretary Richardson’s letter to Kris W. Kobach, Vice Chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The letter detailed the ways in which Oregon’s vote by mail system and automatic voter registration had implemented “tools and processes to establish and maintain…clean voter rolls.” It encouraged sister states to look to Oregon’s model: It provides greater access, is easier, more convenient, more secure and less costly to administer than traditional polling place elections, and automatic voter registration has enabled Oregon “… to validate citizenship data.”

The letter pointed out that Oregon has little evidence of voter or registration fraud, and that most cases involved “…a spouse signing the other’s ballot or a parent obtaining permission from a college-aged child and then signing the student’s ballot.” Oregon has procedures in place that prevent those ballots from being counted.

Mr. Trump claimed that there were “millions” of fraudulent voters in the last election. According to Secretary Richardson, here are the actual numbers in my state: “There have been 15 individuals indicted or convicted of voter fraud since 2000.” Let me repeat that: 15 cases in 17 years, in a state with 2,571,722 registered voters.

The letter informed Mr. Kobach that Oregon policy prohibits the disclosure of certain information, such as social security numbers and drivers’ license numbers, and “Oregon law provides that any person may receive a statewide list of electors upon payment of $500.” In brief, the answer from Oregon was: you can have only what is lawfully a matter of public record and, like everyone else, you must pay the state’s cost for providing those records.

This response made me proud of my state and every other state that has refused to comply, proud of every citizen who made phone calls, sent emails, and generally made noise objecting to this White House request. Better than fireworks on this independence day: red, white, and blue citizen noise. Happy Independence Day to you all.

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昼下がりの散歩から #105

I love this beautiful new photograph from Flaneur. It gives me a sense of peace, calm. Step by step we make our way, noticing the clover and pebbles along the path.


恵比寿, 東京
Ebisu, Tokyo

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Whoa…Before You Sign That Petition

Petitions are delivered to my email inbox every day. The organizations that send them my way know I’m a Democrat, a liberal, and in my own moderate way, an activist. I usually agree with and care about the issue(s) these organizations want me to sign onto. Not always, but often, I do sign the petition.

Yesterday, I had an unusual experience. My take on the petition I was being asked to sign differed from the one expected of me. Credo Action and Democrats.Com Unity want me to rail at NBC for their recent hires, and I think those hires are, at least potentially, a good move on NBC’s part. Here is the Petition to NBC executives: “Stop hiring extreme right TV personalities and pushing out progressive and Black and Brown voices.”

Joy Reid

The part of this petition I agree with is that MSNBC , under the leadership of Andrew Lack, has sidelined people of color—Joy Reid and Al Sharpton were moved to weekend spots. Lack also pushed out Melissa Harris Perry and Alex Wagner. These are personalities I enjoy, with viewpoints I appreciate hearing. They are people I want to see more, not less.

But included in the list of “extreme right TV personalities” are Nicole Wallace, George Will, Greta Van Susteren, and Megyn Kelly. These are all smart people. I’ve mostly disagreed with George Will over the years; he’s often seemed insufferable. And there are times when he’s really pissed me off. But every time he’s sounded off about Donald Trump, George and I have found common ground.

Rachel Maddow

I first got to know Nicole Wallace because Rachel Maddow often had her on TRMS—Rachel excels at exchanging views with people who may have a different, or opposite, perspective. Watching her back and forth with Rachel, I found I liked Nicole Wallace. I was sorry when The View let her go, and I was always glad to see her at the table with Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and Lawrence O’Donnell during the 2016 campaign. I’m not that familiar with Greta Van Susteren, but Rachel gave her a big welcome to MSNBC, and the Maddow stamp of approval is good enough for me.

I keep hearing that we have to learn how to hear the other side; we have to learn to talk to each other. I’m in favor of hearing the viewpoints of intelligent people—left, right, and center. And if there’s conservative and Republican talent on MSNBC, they will undoubtedly pull in conservative viewers, and those conservative viewers might start tuning in to people like Maddow, Matthews, and O’Donnell. This is a good thing, people. We liberals and conservatives might start finding issues we agree on, ways of meeting in the middle, ways of moving forward once more to an America of shared values, instead of this morass we’re in with DJT.

I think bringing conservatives into the fold at MSNBC is a good thing. What do you think?

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“Fired” by Kim Stafford

You’re fired up now—now
that the alpha boss is Boss
of the world. You’re on fire
to testify for fact, ready to stand
before the bulldozer plowing
sacred ground, thrilled to call
every congressional father,
mother, daughter, son
to witness for the plucky
and the good. No more
apprentice seeking to be
hired. You already have
a job: join to guide the man
to a proper understanding
of who we are in this nation
now on Earth.

He can’t fire you,
but he can fire you up.

Reprinted by permission of the author from The Flavor of Unity: Post-Election Poems, by Kim Stafford (Portland, Oregon: Little Infinities, 2017).

“Inside Silk” © 1983 by Cristina White

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So-So About La La Land

La La Land is presented in Cinemascope, the definitive wide open, space-forever film format. It struck me as odd that the film opens on an LA freeway where the cars are bumper-to-bumper, with everyone stuck in their vehicles in the hot southern California sun. Instead of enjoying the sweep of the wide screen, I immediately felt claustrophobic. Then a young woman opens her car door and comes out singing, followed by several other women and men who join in the song—only I couldn’t understand what they were singing. These supposedly ordinary people begin dancing, but the dancing is only “okay” because, I think, the director doesn’t want them to break out of being ordinary commuters. Is this a musical or what? Mostly, it’s what.
Emma Stone is an actress who’s working as a barista in a movie lot café, looking for her big break, Ryan Gosling is a jazz pianist who dreams of opening his own “pure” jazz club and earns his living playing standards in a supper club. I seem to like Ryan Gosling no matter what he does, and I like him in this. He has his moments as a dancer, but he’s not a dancer. Neither of our stars can sing. There were times when I felt like Rose in Gypsy, wanting to yell at Ryan and Emma – “Sing out, Louise!” There are no memorable songs or lyrics in this movie, no melodies you hum to yourself as you leave the theatre.

I blame the director. Musicals, real musicals, always make me want to sing and dance. They lift me out of the day-to-day into a world where the constraints of reality are cast off, and whatever the story, people have to sing about it, and dance, dance, dance. In La La Land, you recognize the set-up for the musical numbers, which is fine—but the numbers never quite deliver. Most have a promising start, but seldom have a definite close. The only number that really succeeds is at the end, a long fantasy sequence that has a sense of all-out joy and pays no attention to the “ordinary.” It also works because no one sings. There aren’t any voices that transport you in this movie.

When I heard the director Damien Chazelle interviewed by Terry Gross, I realized that Chazelle made this movie for people who don’t like musicals. He thought if he went full-out musical, the skeptics in the audience would get up and leave—he used the analogy of putting a frog in boiling water; it feels the heat and jumps out. But if you put the frog in cold water, and gradually warm the water, the frog won’t realize it’s boiling and will just stay there and die. Thanks a lot, Mr. Chazelle. For those of us who love musicals, there was nothing for it but to sit in lukewarm water, awash in pretty settings and perfect lighting, bored by the mediocre voices and barely acceptable choreography.

The film is pleasant, I’ll give it that. And this review matters not one whit, because Hollywood is in love with La La Land. It swept the Golden Globes and will no doubt outperform every other movie at the Oscars. To each their own. As for me, I’ll take Chicago and Singin’ in the Rain. I can watch them again and again. One is dark and sexy and cynical. The other is innocent, romantic, and exuberant. Both movies commit to the form and deliver in no uncertain terms. Still, the fact that La La Land is winning awards and praise may mean that people still want and need the escape that movie musicals give us. And if that inspires more musicals, thumbs up, La La.

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Coolest Cape Ever: Doctor Strange

Wanna get away? I doubt I’m the only one who feels the need for escape from our current political reality. Dear friends, for the price of a ticket, you can take a short trip to a superbly entertaining movie universe inhabited by one Doctor Strange.

In the opening minutes of Doctor Strange, we are in a dark library with books illumined by a dim amber gold, giving the scene a somber and shadowed aura. Within seconds a group of cowled monks appear, led by a ruthless man who imprisons the librarian in coils of light, murders him, and then rips a page from a tome the librarian was trying to protect. The prized page secure in his possession, the villain and his henchmen burst through a door into the bright daylight of a Manhattan street.

tilda-swintonThey are instantly pursued by a tall figure in a saffron robe. It is Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. Swinton is one of the most unusual and striking screen actors of our time, and her shaved head in this role adds yet another facet to her strangely compelling beauty. The fight between her and the villains is an incredible, exciting, and dazzling sequence—turning the architecture of New York inside out and upside down, with the geometry of the buildings tumbling and folding in a breath-taking array of ever-changing images. It’s almost as if the director Scott Derrickson is saying, okay, now that I’ve got your attention, we can tell our story.

The story is about Stephen Strange, a brilliant neurosurgeon at the top of his game. As played by Benedict Cumberbatch, he is arrogant, wealthy, and condescending to the merely capable surgeons and doctors around him. He pays a high price for his hubris: while speeding along a curving mountain highway in his Lamborghini Huracan, he sideswipes another car and crashes into a river far below the road.

When he wakes up, he is a badly battered and broken man. The worst injuries of all are to his hands. He spends his fortune on experimental surgeries, all to no avail. Fearing he’ll never be able to work again, he sinks into a state of despair. He learns about a man whose injuries made him a paraplegic; after dropping out of sight for a long time, he was seen again on the streets of New York, walking without so much as a crutch or cane. Impossible, says Strange. He goes to see this man, who is playing basketball with friends. Strange is told that if he wants to heal his trembling hands, he must find a place called Kamar-Taj in Kathmandu.

Once admitted to the hidden sanctum of Kamar-Taj, Strange at first mocks the Ancient One. She shows him, in a matter of moments, that nothing is impossible. He becomes her pupil and devotes himself to the study of the mystic arts. Just as he was a brilliant surgeon, Strange is a gifted sorcerer. And in the course of becoming a sorcerer, he learns something about being a decent human being.

benedict-as-dr-strangeWhen he accepts his new identity, Stephen Strange trims his beard and takes on the look of the magician Doctor Strange. It’s a great look, with a touch of silver at the temples that sets off his thick dark hair. But the look is not really complete until his “relic” comes to him—a deep burgundy cape that Cumberbatch wears beautifully. It gives him the power to levitate and fly, and it sometimes moves entirely free of Strange in order to protect and defend him in ways that are downright funny. For my money, it’s the coolest cape ever, and Cumberbatch wears it with verve and style.

Cumberbatch fits into his Doctor Strange role as perfectly as his cape fits him, and the movie is well cast, with fine performances from Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, and Benedict Wong. There’s a great blend of humor, metaphysics, philosophy, and the inevitable battle between good and evil, all set in a film realm of astonishing special effects. Doctor Strange is fun and visually beautiful – transporting us easily and often between our own world and other realities. The movie plays with film as masterfully as Doctor Strange commands the sorcerer’s art.

I got hooked once again into believing, at least for two hours, that it is possible to become one with the mysterious energy of the multiverse, and wield the mystic power that enables us to fight and defeat evil. Sure could use some of that magic power now.

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The Secret Chord

Saturday Night Live: Kate McKinnon is sitting at a grand piano, in a white jacket. Those of us who have tuned in tonight see her as Hillary, because we’ve been watching McKinnon and Alec Baldwin skew Hillary and Trump for the last several weeks, serving up brilliant comedy out of a pre-election season that was often its own version of ultra-strange satire. And we want to know: what is SNL going to do on this post-election night? The unthinkable has happened. Donald J. Trump is our President-Elect. What kind of comedy can they make out of November 8, 2016?

What they do is tell the truth. They bypass comedy, and go straight to the center and soul of what millions of us are feeling. Kate’s hands press down on the keys, the music begins, and she sings.

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah…

leonard-cohenThe great Leonard Cohen left this earth one day before the election, and our sadness at his passing was interwoven with the misery and shock more than half the nation was experiencing the day after the election. Kate is singing Hallelujah, his signature song. In this song, we hear Leonard’s compassion, and the depth of mourning in him. It is music that breaks the heart, and Kate’s voice, the feeling she brings to these words, moves me to tears.

As she comes to the last verse, Kate is transformed. She is herself, and she is Hillary, singing lyrics that seem to have been written for Hillary, written for this moment.

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

And then she turns to us and says, “I’m not giving up, and neither should you.”

In that single sentence, Kate McKinnon-as-Hillary has struck the secret chord. It was two days before I first heard it. It happened while I appeared to be walking upright, getting on with life, while inside I was stumbling, wounded, grieving, with my sense of safety ripped away. As a part of the LGBT community, I felt ice in my veins, the same icy cold sent to steal the breath from minorities, immigrants, muslims, women, the disabled, progressives, liberals, and all those who care about the fate of our good earth. I felt under threat in a way I could not have fathomed before this new reality, the reality of Trump-Pence.

Thrown back on my heels, the air knocked out of me, I called friends who were at a distance, and spoke to a few that were nearby. I checked in with my internet tribe. Scanning my Facebook wall, I came across a photo of Trump and Pence with the headline, “Trump will roll back Obama’s LGBT rights, protections, Mike Pence confirms.” A surge of anger and rebellion welled up in me, and I added my own voice to the string of comments posted there: “They can try. We’re not going to let them. Believe me. We won the popular vote. And we will not be silenced. Nor give up the rights we have and deserve to have as American citizens.”

In stating that, I felt the blood begin to course through my veins again, my breath move more evenly in and out, my muscles flex.

That is the chord that must hum in all of us now, that we must stay tuned to in ourselves and in each other. We must band together and raise our voices against the forces that want to strip us of our rights and our love for all that is decent and fair and good. All together now: Hallelujah.


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