Friday, February 3, 2017

You ARE gonna make it after all

She's a rebel
She's a saint
She's salt of the earth
And she's dangerous

~~ “She’s A Rebel” by Green Day

Ken is out with his mentee at a hockey game tonight, so I was on my own for dinner.

I decided to watch a couple of episodes of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” on Hulu. With her recent death, I had seen a few clips of the show and remembered how much I enjoyed it. For whatever reason, it was one that I didn’t go back and watch multiple times like “I Love Lucy” or “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” But I watched it in real time back in the ‘70s, and I even watched the spinoffs, “Rhoda” and “Phyllis.”

I watched the first two episodes of the series and it was like a total wallop of déjà vu. When it originally aired, I was in junior high and high school, sitting around and watching TV after dinner, and with maybe five channels—tops!—it wasn’t difficult for me to be able to persuade my parents to watch a show like MTM. I mean, everyone loved Mary, right?

I was struck by just how engaging MTM was as Mary Richards. Kind, funny, smart, and as Mr. Grant said, “You’ve got spunk! I hate spunk.” Her movements, her body language, her expressions...just perfection. Valerie Harper as Rhoda was brash, self-deprecating, tough, but with a heart of gold. And Cloris Leachman as Phyllis was just brilliant. There was so much implied in what she said and did, and it was so subtle.

As I watched, I realized how much this show probably shaped my attitude about being a woman. Whether in the workplace or at home, married or single, Mary Richards was a role model for so many of us, even if SOME of us (raising hand) didn’t truly realize it until just now.

What really struck me was this exchange in the very first episode of the series. Mary’s ex-boyfriend, a doctor, comes to visit her in Minneapolis. There seems to be the possibility that they might get back together, but she quickly realizes that she broke it off with him for all the right reasons and she had no desire to get back together with him. He asks if she really just told him goodbye and she says yes, I suppose so.

He says: “Take care of yourself.”

She says: “I think I just did.”

Maybe it’s a matter of looking at that from a much older perspective from when I first saw it, and from having been there a few times myself, but HOLY SHIT. Is that one of the most powerful moments for a woman? Yes, it is! I think most of us have been to that point, where we know that it is time to put ourselves first. To come to the realization that you don’t give a fuck about what your parents will think or what anyone else will think, or that some people will completely shun you and be angry with you for your decision. That you are better off on your own. I speak from experience here. It’s better to be happy on your own than to be in a bad relationship.

To say, “Enough. I want to do what is best for me, and that means not having YOU in my life. I’m better off taking care of myself and I am perfectly capable of doing so.”

I was going to write that I’m sure that holds true for plenty of men, too, but you know what? It’s not the same. In 1970, when this show came out, it was still a pretty radical idea that women didn’t need to be married to have a fulfilling life. And when you come from a very conservative, religious family, divorce was still a stigma. When I got a divorce in 1989, I was worried that my parents would be angry with me. At one point, I felt like they were taking sides against me with my ex because for whatever reason they kept in touch with him for a while, and my Dad set me straight about that pretty quickly. He said they loved me totally and my concerns were unfounded. (Pro tip: maintaining relationships with ex whatever-in-laws is usually not a great idea, although there can be mitigating circumstances.)

So for Mary Richards to be a single working woman and to be happy and fulfilled was a big deal at the time. In watching those two episodes tonight, after not having seen any for decades, it made me realize that Mary Richards had an effect on me and I didn’t even realize it.

Here’s to you, Mary Tyler Moore, and here’s to you, Mary Richards. You were both trailblazers and I am grateful.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Rock and Roll saved my soul

August she was swinging low
Town of about a thousand-so
Out of school, ready to get out of here
Off to farm, off to State, each going our separate ways
Graduation message still sweet in our ears

~~ “Long Gone Long” by The Rainmakers

A few years ago at a dinner after the funeral of a family member, I was sitting at a table with some of my cousins, my Mom, and my sister Diana. I don’t recall exactly what we were talking about, but my cousin Curt said to me, “Since you’re the token liberal in our family, I’ll ask you this,” and my sister Diana didn’t say anything, but just raised her hand. Curt looked at her and started laughing, then said to my Mom, “What did you DO?!” Mom just kind of laughed and shook her head and said, “I don’t know.”

If any of that sounds mean-spirited, it wasn’t, not at all. It’s something I still laugh about, and Curt and I have been having interesting and respectful discussions since our college days. We still get a chance to have an occasional chat and I always enjoy them immensely.

It leads to something that I have pondered quite a bit: since I come from a conservative family, in a conservative state, and grew up in a very conservative small town, how the heck did I end up a flamin’ liberal?! Same with my sister Di and with Cousin Shane. This is something I’ve even discussed with Di and Shane, just because I’m curious about how that could happen. What was different about us?

A few things spring to mind.

Music

To continue to use the three of us (me, Diana, and Shane) as examples, we all got into music at an early age. Diana was a Beatlemaniac and I was listening to her 45s and albums from the time I was probably six years old. (She taught me how to do the Monkey.) Shane and I really started getting into music even when we were in grade school and things really took off when we got into junior high and high school. I think it’s fair to say that we were obsessed. We started off mild, with stuff like The Eagles and Journey, but then we discovered bands like Queen and Cheap Trick and Heart and then holy mama, PUNK ROCK hit us like a hurricane! I subscribed to Creem magazine and I think I subscribed to Circus for a while, too. We read about these crazy music scenes in New York and London and pored over lyrics and obsessed about the music as well as the musicians.

I grew up in a fundamentalist religious household and rock music was often seen as something satanic or evil. I was never forbidden to listen to it—that train had already sailed—but there were always sermons at church, or books laying around, about the dangers of rock music. I used to laugh about it at the time, but you know what? I look back at it now and I realize that there really was an inherent danger in the music.

Not that it was satanic or evil or contained occult messages—that’s just silly. But there was definitely a message there about thinking for yourself, questioning authority, being anti-establishment. And there was plenty of stuff about sex. I mean, hey, it’s rock and roll! So yes, that is dangerous to the conservative, religious atmosphere in which I was raised. Even beyond all that, it gave us a glimpse of a lifestyle other than our small-town Midwestern existence. There were big cities where things were happening, people were doing their own thing and being themselves, people were going out at night and just totally rocking out! Music was a taste of other things out there. Things we wanted to experience.

Intellectual curiosity

I was going to make that heading “books,” but I realized that Shane doesn’t read a lot of fiction books. I changed it to what I did because while being a reader means that you are undoubtedly intellectually curious, you can still be intellectually curious without being a reader. (Does that make sense?) Di and I have always been avid readers, both of nonfiction and fiction (and the occasional science textbook for me), but Shane has his own way of being intellectually curious. After a recent trip to Europe, he is currently working on learning some phrases in Polish. Just as with music, reading and continued learning allow us to get a glimpse of other worlds, other cultures, other ways of life. Shane and I also took a lot of German in high school (and I took some in college), and we agree that a second language should be mandatory in high school. It taught us so much about a different culture and really opened our eyes to a bigger world.

Travel

When we were kids, we went on a lot of trips with our parents. My family usually split our summer and winter vacations between Minnesota and Florida, respectively. Not a lot of variety there, but on the drives up to Minnesota or down to Florida, we stopped at a lot of places along the way to learn about history. Shane went on a lot of trips with his Dad, to places out East and to the western states. We all still love to travel and we all seem to have that same urge to learn things when we go to places. I always joke about how when I go to someplace new, I end up buying a half a dozen books about it! (I’ve got plenty of books about New Orleans and Las Vegas if you want to borrow some!) This is also related to the above categories because when you travel, you get to meet people and see cultures that you aren’t familiar with. You get to see that there is a lot more to the world than what is in your little local bubble.

Going off to college

This is the only one that applies just to me, and I think I might be the one who needed it the most. (Di and Shane both attended our local Indiana University extension.) I went off to the big city of Muncie, Indiana (haha) to go to Ball State University. Ball State is a good-sized state college, with an enrollment of maybe 20,000 when I was there. I lived in dorms my first three years and then off-campus for my senior year. What an eye-opener that experience was! All of it. I was around people from all over the state and some from other countries. There were party kids, there were studious kids (I tried to dabble at everything!), there were frat boys and sorority girls (we didn’t hang out much with them, although we partied a lot at the “Animal House” type frat), there were rich kids and there were kids like me. Not only did I get to meet all kinds of people I had never met before, it broke me out of that mold that I’d been stuck in when I was in high school: the nerdy bookworm type. I realize now that that isn’t a bad thing, but when it’s your senior year in high school and you don’t get invited to the prom, it’s kind of like, “Well...fuck.”

Anyway, all that changed when I got to college. People liked my weird sense of humor. They liked that I was into music. The guys at the local record shop got to know me and always had suggestions for me. I dated the drummer in a band called The Generics. I went from being an unpopular kid in high school to being voted Resident of the Year on my dorm floor my junior year. (I still don’t get that! I also got the Foulest Mouth award. THAT I understand! Some things never change.) I’m not sure how much anyone other than the professors were interested in my intellectual capacity, but that was okay. I got a good education but I also got the opportunity for people to like me for ME, and to not judge me based on what they had heard from someone else in a tiny school. As a painfully shy kid, I really needed that. I still remember the name of the first boy who told me I was beautiful: L*** V. R*****. Okay, fine, he was drunk...but it was stunning for me to hear that for the first time. So much so that I still remember his name after all these years! Like, “Hey, wait a minute...you can be smart AND pretty??”

(Aside: Holy shit! I just looked him up and he’s an accountant in Indianapolis! That’s why I redacted his name. Not cool to put someone’s name on a blog entry, even if it’s for something nice. Cheers to you, sir. Your words are a nice memory for me and made a difference in my life.)

Honorable Mentions to:

Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Second City TV, Beyond Our Control (a local show), Saturday Night Live, Fridays, Midnight Special, American Bandstand, Soul Train, and what the hell, even Dance Fever with Deney Terio!

I really don’t know if all of this culminated in me being a liberal in a red state. I do think that much of it had an effect on me. I read something a while back that I found shocking. There are a lot of people in this country who have never left their home state. I wish I could recall the exact percentage, but it was shockingly high to me...maybe 20%? When you are exposed to nothing other than the same influences you have had from your first moment, how can you learn and grow?

I hope this doesn’t come across as “elitist.” Heck, I live in the heartland...how can I be one of those coastal elites? Ha! And it’s not to say that those who didn’t do any of these things didn’t end up with the same outlook that I have. However, I do feel that my worldview is different from a lot of the people in my area. I don’t know the exact combination of factors that set me on a different path, but I’m glad it’s the one I took. I’m happy with being me.

And even though I never got to go to prom, I had plenty of chances to work it out on the dance floor later!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Let fury have the hour, anger can be power

You start wearing the blue and brown
You're working for the clampdown
So you got someone to boss around
It makes you feel big now

~~ “Clampdown” by The Clash

It’s been a weekend of extremes, as we watched what seems an obviously unconstitutional executive order issued by the Resident followed by spontaneous protests across the country.

Wow, that’s two weekends in a row! That’s gotta be a record, right? Well, I guess there IS something at which you excel!

The protests continue into this evening and I feel heartened by this response. The Yam seems to think that everyone loves him and loves what he is doing. I am pleased that so many of us are ready and willing to disabuse him of that notion.

I’m sure the Flamin’ Cheeto is absolutely fuming about the protests right now, especially because there is a significant one outside the White House. Hey, yobbo, look out the window! Surprise!

Now, I have no idea if this Twitter account is too legit to quit, but they have mentioned a couple of things that made it look like they really do have some inside info and are hearing things at their job. I cannot account for the veracity of this, so keep that in mind. However, after what we’ve seen this week, would you doubt it?

If this is true, I say…

BRING IT, MOTHERFUCKERS.

Here’s the deal. These are Americans exercising their constitutional rights to assemble peaceably. I read of no incidents or arrests at the Women’s March last weekend and only one incident this weekend when police had to use pepper spray on a handful of protesters. (I have no further knowledge of that incident so I cannot comment on whether or not it was justified.)

If you really want to see the shit hit the fan, mobilize the National Guard against Americans who are assembling peaceably. Have them bludgeon people, pepper spray them, hit them with water cannons. Please proceed, Governor.

Then you’ll see the true demonstration of power. That power lies not in your efforts to suppress the people of the United States. It lies not in your strong-arm tactics against all those who oppose you. It lies not in your pathetic attempts to be worshiped and adored by everyone, or your clumsy and obvious lies about the size of your crowds or your supposed standing ovations or your vote count or your non-existent mandate. Or the size of your hands, for that matter.

The true power lies in US, the people of the United States. Those of us whose families have been here for decades, if not centuries, and those who have just arrived on our shores, and everyone in between. WE THE PEOPLE will show you who holds the real power in this country.

Count on it.

(Aside: Please note that Mick Jones is wearing brothel creepers in this video!)

Friday, January 27, 2017

An Exercise in Futility

Now renegades are the people with their own philosophies
They change the course of history
Everyday people like you and me
We're the renegades we're the people

~~ “Renegades of Funk” by Rage Against The Machine

Tonight we went downtown to the county Democratic HQ for a meeting with the state Dem chair, John Zody.

The invitation said that it was designed to be a session in which to exchange ideas about how to proceed. I expected maybe a couple of dozen people and a chance to sit around and discuss ideas and strategies about how to strengthen the party and elect more Democrats locally, statewide, and nationally.

Instead, it was a packed house in the small DNC HQ building, bad enough that Ken and I had to ask people to not block the walkway to the door (we were standing against the wall) and try to get people to move through and find a place towards the back or wherever. I didn’t care, just don’t block the only point of egress, says Fire Marshall Beth!

Ostensibly, such a big turnout is not a bad thing. I was happy to see how many people cared enough to come out on a slightly snowy January evening. Unfortunately, it devolved into an airing of the grievances.

There was the young guy next to me who was pissed off that our Senator Joe Donnelly voted against the bill that would allow drugs from Canada to be sold here. I said it’s because we have the FDA and stringent regulations for a reason. (Did you hear about the miracle Hep C drug that is now causing liver damage? Yeah. That kind of thing.) There was the young woman who claimed that “young people” did all the work in the county in this last election. I think there were plenty of white-hairs in the audience who would dispute that claim.

There were a couple of people who said that everyone perceives us as “elitists” and that we have to be better about getting our message out there. Like we haven’t tried to do that! When right-wingers are getting all their news from ClusterFox, they are going to believe that we are “elitists.” We have to counter that with clear messaging. We do not have that yet.

There were Sanders supporters who were still pissed off about how they were treated. There were people who said that we need to forget social media and focus on meeting people face-to-face. There were people (like me—yes, I actually spoke up, and I don’t do that often in large gatherings!) who felt that social media is crucial, especially with what we are seeing with the gag rules and the “alt” government agency Twitter feeds that have cropped up in the past day. (Actually, I feel that we need both. It’s not an either/or proposition.) It got so bad that Ken finally said, “It is this kind of divisiveness that is hurting us.”

I realize that the majority of people were there because they are longtime Democrats and want to work to elect Democrats up and down the line. However, this was not a productive meeting. It reminded me of a lot of our lab meetings, where there was little focus and no one reining people in. It used to drive me NUTS when people would just be allowed to ramble and bitch about every damn thing that was bugging them. There is a time for such discussion, and that time is with your friends, or one-on-one with your supervisor. When you get a meeting together, the focus needs to be on identifying the problem(s) and coming up with ideas for the solution(s). To quote Sean Spicer, “PERIOD!”

It is not just our party that is facing an existential crisis. It is our COUNTRY, and our values as Americans and as human beings. The Yam is that crisis. I don’t want to hear whining about how your candidate didn’t get a fair shake. I don’t want to hear you bitch about how your Senator didn’t vote exactly the way you wanted him or her to vote. Grow the fuck up. No candidate is perfect and there will always be situations and votes on which we disagree. I have sent letters to both Democratic and Republican legislators about such things. You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes, you get what you need. And YES, sometimes you have to compromise!

It is time to put all these petty grievances aside and realize that we have a major threat to our country, our people, and to the world, and that threat is the current president. Get on board, dammit, or you are going to drown with the rest of the planet. No one is talking about blind allegiance to anyone or even to any party but for fuck’s sake, look at what is going on and realize that we need to unify behind the party that isn’t going to fuck over as many people as possible! Oh, you’re a Democratic Socialist? Well, fucking YAY FOR YOU. How is that working for you as we try to stop the Yam from doing damage to everyone who isn’t a white dude—and to the entire planet, for that matter? If he’s president for eight years, you probably won’t have to worry about your feelings, because you’ll be gasping for air on a dying planet.

Jesus.

We left a half an hour early.

As frustrating as this was, I can say that it left both me and Ken thinking about how we can get more involved. If nothing else, I’d love the opportunity to tell people to just stop all the nonsense and FOCUS.

Yes, there is a reason I wasn’t always popular in our lab meetings!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

More Like Badasslands

I am a human being capable of doing terrible things
You people are mistaken if you think that I’m awake
And celebrating anything that I’ve become

~~ “Run” by AWOLNATION

We are four days into the Yamocracy and the level of bullshit is already becoming untenable.

We went from the Resident’s little temper tantrum about how the media is so unfair to him and misrepresented the size of his, you know...CROWD, at the inauguration, to the new press secretary standing in front of the press and all the universe flat-out LYING about said crowd, to the soulless, unrepentant Kellyanne saying that Spicer’s LIES were merely “alternative facts.”

If all that weren’t bad enough (and I’m not even mentioning the executive orders we’ve seen so far), the Yam also imposed radio silence on, of all agencies, the National Park Service. Why? Because of his ongoing tantrum about their photo showing the size of Obama’s inauguration crowd in comparison to the size of the Yam’s (not even close). I’m sure the vast crowds in DC and all around the world for the Women’s March, which also dwarfed the inauguration crowd, did nothing to alleviate his fit of pique.

Someone at one Twitter account, that of Badlands National Park, was having none of it and tweeted out several facts about climate change, something they have done often.

What happened? Those tweets (seen above) were removed from the Twitter account.

You know something the Yam really does not seem capable of comprehending? Stuff on the Internet doesn’t just magically go away if you delete it. These things get screen captured and are widely available to share far and wide. (He also doesn’t seem to understand that videotape exists. We all saw you mock a disabled reporter, Yam. WE SAW YOU.)

Thank you, Badlands, for this small act of subversion. (We are proud, long-time supporters of the National Parks Conservation Association.) Small acts can add up to big results, and these things that might seem simple can cumulatively have a large impact. This is the kind of thing that we all need to be doing. We cannot sit idly by as we watch our precious planet be pussy-grabbed by the orange oaf.

Speak out. Stand up. Do not let yourself be silenced!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

To Sir, With Love


Those schoolgirl days
Of telling tales, and biting nails, are gone
But in my mind,
I know they will still live on and on
But how do you thank someone
Who has taken you from crayons to perfume?

It isn't easy, but I'll try
If you wanted the sky,
I would write across the sky in letters,
That would soar a thousand feet high:
"To Sir, With Love"

Those awkward years
Have hurried by. Why did they fly away?
Why is it, Sir,
Children grow up to be people one day?
What takes the place of climbing trees,
And dirty knees in the world outside?
What is there for you I can buy?

If you wanted the world,
I'd surround it with walls. I'd scrawl
In letters ten feet tall:
"To Sir, With Love"

The time has come
For closing books; and long last looks must end
And as I leave,
I know that I am leaving my best friend
A friend who taught me right from wrong,
And weak from strong -- that's a lot to learn
What -- what can I give you in return?

If you wanted the moon,
I would try to make a start... But I
Would rather you let me give my heart
To Sir, With Love

Friday, January 13, 2017

Still kickin’

Everybody smash up your seats and rock to this
Brand new beat
This here music mash up the nation
This here music cause a sensation
Tell your ma, tell your pa, everything’s gonna be alright
Can’t you feel it? Don’t ignore it
Gonna be alright

~~ “Revolution Rock” by The Clash

Well, howdy, strangers!

Whew, I don’t know about you guys, but it’s been super hectic for us lately! Some fun things happened.

We had a very nice Christmas and got to spend some time with family, including Niece Jen from San Diego.

We spent New Year’s in Kansas City and had a blast! (More about that in a moment.)

We got an Amazon Dot and enjoyed it so much we decided to get an Amazon Echo. I’ve basically turned off the TV all day and just listen to music while I read or do chores. You can get Amazon Unlimited Music for $3.99 a month with the Echo and it’s a vast catalog. I’ve heard unfamiliar songs even from bands that I love dearly.

We attended South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s Christmas party that he threw for supporters and had a nice time talking with Shane and Matt, and Mayor Pete chatted with everyone. He talked with us for a good 10-15 minutes and he is absolutely impressive. He recently decided to run for the Democratic National Committee chair and has gotten some very positive coverage from the national press. I don’t know if he’ll win it (he’s considered a dark horse candidate), but it’s obvious that he has a future in national politics. Personally, I’ve always said that he’s going to be President one day. I know he is a ways off from that, but get to know him, because you’ll be seeing more of him! (And learn to pronounce his name: it’s boot-a-judge.)

I met my personal reading goal for 2016 of 52 books and even passed it, with 54. My goal for 2017 is once again 52 books. Most that I read last year were quite good but I had a few stinkers in there, too. I suspect that 2017 will be similar!

Some not-so-great things happened, too.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks with a nasty cold virus that turned into bronchitis, so that wasn’t much fun! I’m still not at 100%...maybe 85%. But I’m feeling a lot better than I did, so I’m encouraged and looking forward to getting back to fighting form.

I have spent the past few weeks watching the Yam’s shenanigans (the Yamanigans?) with a combination of anger, disgust, horror, and amusement. It is eminently obvious to me that he is not going to be able to keep a lot of the promises that he made to his deluded followers (no, Mexico is not going to reimburse us for a fucking wall, geniuses) but that he and the Republicans will do great damage going forward. They are currently in the process of dismantling the Affordable Care Act, and millions of people will lose their health care. You know, that is something that I worry about...I truly worry about everyone that will be affected, no matter who they supported or their party affiliation. It’s too bad that the Republicans don’t care about them.

As for the latest, about the Yam’s possible probable fucking obvious ties with Russia, well, I’ll just wait and see how that plays out. And I’m sure that the other allegations about compromising videos have left the Yam feeling quite...pissed off. *cough cough* I think there is probably a lot more to this story and I’ll wait to see what hard-working journalists turn up. The rumor on Twitter is that Penthouse has video. Is it true? Who knows? Many smart people are saying so! Wheeeee! Or should I say Weeeeee!?

I’ll end on a positive note. Our trip to Kansas City was a wonderful little getaway! We got to see The Rainmakers two nights in a row, on the 30th and the 31st. They were absolutely fantastic, as always, and you could tell they were all feeling it and having a blast! Both nights, a couple of cool bands opened for them: Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds and American Slim. We got to have some amazing Kansas City barbecue, once at a place called Q39 and once at Jack Stack. We spent some time with our friend Bob (the lead singer) as we helped him tear down his December art show and then went to lunch. We were invited over to his and Michele’s house on Saturday for a soup lunch and got to chat with Pat (the drummer) and his partner Whitney.

[Note: I’m sorry I didn’t get a good picture of Pat either night. It’s always hard to get a good pic of the drummer!]

It was such a great feeling to talk with people with whom we have so much in common. I got to talk books with the super cool Michele, health concerns with the equally as cool Whitney, and music with the always cool Bob and Pat. It was a total blast for me to hear about their stories of years of making and recording music. Utterly fascinating for this music fanatic! I’m often awkward in social situations, but from the beginning, I felt relaxed and welcomed by the Kansas City gang. They are definitely part of The Tribe!

Talking with them gave me hope for the coming year. None of us knows what is going to happen (although we suspect that a lot of it won’t be good), but it helped me immensely to know that there are others who share my feelings and concerns. It is important for us to work together and oppose any and every effort to weaken voting rights or people’s civil rights. Knowing that there are warriors like them out there strengthens my resolve.

Oddly, the other thing that gave me hope was the opening band for The Rainmakers, a Kansas City band called American Slim. They are incredibly young...I guess a couple of them haven’t even graduated from high school yet! But they totally rocked! They played some covers (including an excellent version of “Sympathy for the Devil”...good enough that I thanked one of the members for not fucking up my all-time favorite song!) but also some originals. They have an EP of originals out and are apparently working on an album as well as getting gigs in the KC area. Hearing these kids play and totally rock out made me think that no matter what happens, there is always music. Go ahead and try to stifle our voices but as long as there is rock and roll, you will never succeed.

As Bob wrote to me, Keep the music on, there is more dancing ahead.”