Monday, March 09, 2015

Selma Redux

This weekend was the 50th anniversary of the civil rights  march across the Edmund Pettus bridge, where demonstrators walked from Selma to Montgomery in those days which seem so far away, yet so near. I was then 18, a freshman at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs which even then was a conservative backwater, nestled in the Rockies.  I'd been shooting pictures for two years, covering much of what was happening at school either for the yearbook, or just for myself.  These negatives, scanned last year, are a little rough: scratched (wet fingers trying to remove as much Photo-flo as possible to dry the film more quickly)  and not exactly washed in a perfectly archival way.  But the key is the image itself, and while I may not have yet become a great photographer, the images of the Selma Silent Sympathy Stand-In -- hundreds of students walking and standing at City Hall, without any noise -- stand the test of time.  One friend reminded me that on the way back to campus, someone started to sing "We Shall Overcome" and quickly was hushed down.  It was truly a Silent protest.

Shot with a Pentax H3v and a 55mm Takumar on Tri-x (probably hand rolled....)  We're just sayin'.... David

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

That Painful World Press Photo Decision

The tumult surrounding the World Press Photo awards for the last couple of weeks has been quite earth-shaking.  An Italian photographer, who had been awarded for "Contemporary Issues" was, finally, disqualified for having mis-labelled where a picture was shot (not in the town of Charleroi which was listed on the entry but 30 miles away in Bruxelles.)  Many of my colleagues have put pen to paper to complain about not only the manner in which this was handled, but to discuss the very basics of how the photojournalism community should act and re-act.  For those of us who try and live by the dictum that "it has to happen on it's own.. and not because we made it happen" - trying to settle the discussion of the winning entry was difficult. By his own admission, the photographer had arranged with his cousin to photograph said cousin having sex in a parked car.  This week, the phrase "and it wasn't his cousin" has taken on a whole new meaning - that of real work, done in real situations, and not fabricated as something that "might have happened."   We are in a tough place.  The credibility of the press generally, and photography in particular is under fire from many quarters.  We do need to try and stand for something.  I'm sure, at the same time, that everyone of us has from time to time skirted on the edge of what was right, and in hind sight, it might be obvious, but at the moment, that clarity is sometimes lacking.  We need to reaffirm what we think is allowed, and how pictures are not only taken, but handled in post, and continue to maintain a standard for our work, doing it ourselves, as surely no one else in society cares as we do.  At the same time I worry that there may be another precedent here of which we need to be extremely careful.  The Mayor of Charleroi wrote a long letter describing how the said photos maligned his city, and that the award should be rescinded as it didn't tell the 'truth' about the town.  Few of us have done work which someone, whether a Mayor or Press officer, or Publicist, or Media Relations person hasn't taken issue with.   In the end, the point of what we do very often is to say  exactly what these folks don't want seen or shown.  Merely pissing off a public official in itself shouldn't be enough to put a good story on the chopping block.  There was a time when many of us felt that annoying someone in power was a pretty good sign we'd done our job.  I hope that in going forward we can try to agree on some kind of standards...especially in post processing... which dont lead to witch hunts and torch bearing midnight raids.  Photography is too important to be left to those who haven't lived in our world.  In a time when everyone with a phone is a photographer, there remains a clear need for a corps of professionals who make great pictures, tell important stories, and show life as it is to the rest of society.  At the moment it sounds as if WPP is interested in moving the discussion along, after this long painful chapter.  Kudos to Bruno Stevens​, Yunghi Kim​, and Kenneth Jarecke​ among others, who felt the need to speak out.  Having been on the jury three times, I can tell you that as a juror, you feel you will never get it right --  your try of course, but you know that someone will always disagree with your choices. So be it.  But going forward I hope that this difficult couple of weeks can serve as a time to really speak of the issues, and try to find some comity amongst editors, contest directors, and most of all, the photographers whose work is where it all comes from.

Have Your Own Email Server?

Here we go again.  The blob I wrote last night is not to be found anywhere.  It's not in the Cloud and David thinks that it's probably in the Fog. We love the concept of “the Fog”. David is working on the promotional material.

What year was it when you first had no trouble writing a new number.  For me it was when we transitioned from 2012 to 2013. What's the point. Who knows? Does everything have to have a point? Ok, the point is that the older you get the easier it is to adjust to change.  Some may disagree and say that the older you get the less flexible a person gets. Let's be honest, Who  cares about “some.” But that's not what I wanted to blob about.

Is there anyone (in the entire world who is over thirty) that doesn’t think time is flying by.  Each year seems to get shorter and we can’t figure out how to stretch the time.  When we’re kids we can’t wait for time to pass so we can be older to vote, drink, or be allowed to go on all the rides on Disney.  It’s a wonder because friends and family who have passed remain so immediate but we can’t remember how long they have been gone. The years pass so quickly it’s unimaginable to think that any of our contemporaries have been gone for 20 years or more.  Yeech!

The thing is there is always something that happens daily that reminds me of those people.  I can hear their voices but when I turn around they are not standing there.  For example, everytime I make coffee I can hear my pal Penn reminding me that you don’t boil the water for coffee. You take it off the fire right before there are bubbles.  My friend Steve would always ask me if the vodka he poured from the Grey Goose bottle was real or had I simply filled the bottle with Smirnoff.  I marked the bottles so he never got the cheap stuff.  Although in taste test the Smirnoff often won.  But of course in those days there was no Tito.  And whenever I ordered something in a restaurant and I was disappointed with my selection, our darling Jeff would say, “How many meals do you think you are going to eat in your lifetime?  This is just a miniscule part of the overall number.”  Basically he was telling me to suck it up, sit down and shut up.  But in the nicest possible way.

There are many more examples.  You probably have had the same experience.  If not then you better make some dear friends.  When you are working in Presidential politics and you only see friends for a short time every four years, keeping track is even more complicated.  But none of this is what I wanted to talk about.

When my friend Pamela Harriman was Ambassador to France an unauthorized bio about her life (which was pretty steamy) was published.  She called and asked me how to respond.  My advice was not to respond at all because that would make it more important than it needed to be.  When we created the Special Events (Ha!) operation during the 1992 Clinton campaign, the chickens that appeared at President Bush events it went unnoticed, until the day that the President talked to the Poultry. At which point the national media looked and talked about the chicken everyday.  And this morning, when Obama responded to the Netanyahu speech, it not only was unnecessary, it elevated Netanyahu and the speech to a place it didn’t need to be.  There is only one more thing.  Hillary Clinton had her own e-mail system.  Anyone who has ever worked in the State Department knows that the clearance process is ridiculous and certainly not timely.  There is a story about when Colin Powell was Sec. of State and the US lost a seat on the UN Human Rights Commission.  The memo he needed to send took so long to be cleared, vetted, and get to him that it was still sitting on someone else’s desk when the critical vote was taken.  Yeah I think I’d have my own e-mail.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

Sunday, March 01, 2015

A Quick Trip to Italy

Guido and David at the Gallery
 with Albert
Cristina with the large format picture of Bob Marley

Guido & Albert
The first time I fell in love with Italy was in Switzerland in 1973. Doesn’t make any sense.  Well, what do I write that does?  We had been at a conference in a small town directly across from the Matterhorn. At breakfast, it was difficult to do anything but breathe and stare.  The air was crisp and cool. The mountain sparkled with sunshine and enormity.  When the conference was over our plan was to travel.  Was there a mention of the fact that we were traveling with an almost two year old child.  No one told us that in most places children were less welcome than dogs.  Which now, that I have a puppy and two adult children, makes incredible sense to me.  But not then.  Here’s what we learned.  France made the most ingenious baby equipment. In Germany, children were never clean enough.  And in the Italian alps, the people liked children and food.  There are so many stories, but this is not what I wanted to blob about.

We returned from Italy on Wednesday having had a glorious few days in the northern part of the country.  David was opening his Marley show in a small elegant gallery in Alba, (the Wall of Sound Gallery)  The trip came together in less than a month thanks to our cousin Joe Oppedisano, and our new friends Guido Harare, Christina  and Albert (the gallery proprietor and his family). Guido is not only a sensational photographer who has spent a lifetime shooting about every music personality on the planet, he is also fun, funny, generous, sensitive and brilliant

Thanks to Guido the trip included a great deal of press, PR and a gallery opening and presentation. As well as unbelievable food in Alba.  A wild web TV host in Bologna ( here’s the link to David’s 3 hour entertaining interview,  Culture, meals and shopping in Milan. (It was the Italy where there was food, culture and duomo’s everywhere).  Our favorite Duomo (church) was Mary Magdaline in Alba.  When it comes to Duomos we prefer the smaller more intimate type.  Our rule:  “one Duomo, then straight to lunch” began 20 years ago. The combination of feeding mind and body turns out to be an absolutely perfect feast.
the vineyards, in the hills above Alba

It was an unexpectedly fantastic few days. That statement deserves an explanation.  Whenever we go to to Italy we know we will never have a bad meal and there will never be a shortage of sights to see or things to do.  But this trip was a last minute working trip.  We truly didn’t know how much time we would have to lay back and just enjoy.  As it turned out, our host and David are so much alike that being with the Harari family was more like a reunion than an introduction. Oh my we did it again, adopted a new family.  

    Anyway, we are home and happy to be here. But we never stop wishing to be back in Italy -- I guess I need to buy a copy of Italian Rosetta Stone for the harvest. We’re just sayin’… Iris
Did we mention that ALBA is the Home of NUTELLA... & the Factory store?

Monday, February 09, 2015

Here's to 1715

In 1979, I partnered with two friends to buy a house in Washington DC.  The house, and my friends, were a Godsend.  My living arrangements, prior to that were sketchy at best.  A Fiat 500 station wagon was right on the top of the places I called home.  Then my pal Jane insisted that living in a car was unacceptable, so I moved into her townhouse on Capital Hill.  I stayed there for quite a while and then one day we were taking a walk near Dupont Circle and we happened upon an open house at 1715 Q Street.  We went in. The walls were deep brown. It was like walking into a cave.  “We’re going to buy this house” she said.  “We?”  But I didn’t have any money – the divorce, a terrible lawyer, and the cost of merely staying alive had taken care of that.  But Jane, who always had a good idea about everything said, “yes, you and me and Harold. We’ll work out the finances.”

And she did.  Our agreement was that they would each invest twice of what I could, but I would live in and manage the house so there was no need for them to spend another cent.  Although they said it would be a great investment, I knew it was more like, ‘you are our friend and we are going to help you through what has been a most difficult time.’

The first thing we did was to paint the walls pale gray.  There is no way to describe how much difference that made.  The house was gorgeous.  It was built in 1850.  There was a stone front registered with the National Historical Trust. This meant that we couldn’t make any changes to the exterior, but we could do whatever we wanted to the interior.  We didn’t want to do anything.  It didn’t need anything.  The house was a four story townhouse, counting a rental apt in the basement.  (Which I rented to whomever could afford it – but only once to female law students who were prepared to take you to court over anything, and called night and day if their toilet didn’t work. Oh and once to these two lovely young women who wore dresses when we rented to them and then after they signed the lease, reappeared in Goth attire.  They proceeded to punch holes in the walls and broke beer bottles in the kitchen sink.)  Other than that I rented every available space in the house.  The most income derived from the three parking spaces in the back alley.

1715 Q was legendary during the Carter Administration and Reagan Administrations.  We had a PR business that operated on the first floor.  Living quarters on the second floor and a rental apartment on the third/fourth floor. It was an ongoing Salon. There were activites every week.  Sometimes it was a dinner party.  Sometimes just a bunch of people appeared for political conversation.  There was a photo shoot for a book by Michael Evans, the White House photographer.  Every important person in the government came by to have their picture taken.
It would be difficult for me to describe all the activities,  We entertained celebrities and we sometimes rented the house for fundraisers and we would dress like caterer waiters to serve, and make sure everyone was having a good time.  There was never a time when we didn’t have a good time at 1715.

 I,  and then we (David) lived there for 9 years.  There was hardly a person in DC that didn’t live, visit, work, or stay at  1715.  When we decided to have a baby we needed to sell the property so we could move to Virginia for the schools.

 The house wasn’t in great shape. The walls in the kitchen were crumbling and at the last barbeque the dripping rivulets of rain came in through the walls   --  not the skylights or the windows, but the wall.  We sold the house.  It was sad but there was little choice.  Jane and Harold made almost no money  but they didn’t lose any.  The  people who bought it spent $200,000, to make it into a gallery.  Recently the house sold for $3 million.

When I visit DC I always walk past the house to pay my respects.  It was a magical house at a magical  time in my life.   I am forever grateful for having friends like Jane and Harold,. And forever thankful that 1715 Q was a part of my history.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Friday, February 06, 2015

Happy Birthday Baby Twinkie

When my baby brother was about six, (I was twelve) he had nightmares that scared him enough that he would sit on the floor between my room and my parents room, and sob.  My parents thought he would grow out of it, so they let him scream.  It was unbearable to have to listen to his night terrors so I would take him into my room.  He slept in my room for about two years. I am happy to report that having shared a hotel room with him for the last 5 days, it's easier sleeping in the same room, as he is not quite so inconsolable.

And why were these sleeping arrangements necessary?  About  a week ago my sister-in-law, who I think of as my sister, had to have open heart surgery.  She and my brother are in Seattle. I went out there to be with them and (if you ever need me), be an advocate for her (the patient). Whatever you think about the quality of the Heath care you are receiving in a hospital, we learned a long time ago that you should always have an advocate. But this is not what I wanted to blog about.

Today is Bob Marley’s birthday.  More importantly, it is also Jordan Kai Burnett's birthday.  For me, It is on my children’s birthdays that I so relish my memories of the things they did, coupled with what we did,  to make them the outstanding people they have become.  Blah blah blah. (Of course what we did was so much more important than what they did).  Isn’t that typical parent thinking?  And it is not even close to the truth.  I think it was Kahlil Gibran who said something like  “your children are not your children. They come through you but they don't belong to you.” 

This is what my mother said, “don’t you ever stop? (doing whatever), even the rain stops.”  Somewhere in between Kahlil and Rose, lies the truth.  Kids are who they are from the time they are born.  Sure there's some genetics involved, and certainly there are environmental factors, but I knew who they would be from the moment they took their first breath. I knew they would both be funny, smart, and artistic, in whatever their chosen profession.  Ok, I admit that when Seth was born I wanted to strain the air with chicken soup. This was not the case with Jordan. As many of you know I have two only children.  This is a consequence of their age difference.

And since  its Jordan’s birthday, I’ll take you through the steps that she might have had to climb to prove she came through me, but was not of me.  Jordan was the kind of child who would comfort the other 4 year olds when their parents left them at pre-school.  She was never unkind.  Even when the bully in first grade called her pig snot. When we were banned from the neighborhood play group, she pretended that she didn't want to go. She was outraged by any injustice. And when the soccer coach wouldn’t let her play because her dance lessons took too much time, she made me call the county and get the $15 fee refunded.  Or when the math teachers were paying more attention to the boys than the girls, she called them on it.  When she sold Girl Scout cookies she wanted to sell more than anyone, so she convinced my assistant at the State Department to help her sell them in the building. (And yes, she sold the most). But she was as  honest as humanly possible. She didn't steal, cheat or lie – ever.  And if she was on the verge, she felt so guilty it just didn’t happen. That was her father’s influence.  If she started to tell a fib, it was impossible for her to look us in the eye.  There was never a time she didn’t perform, always with costumes usually with music and often with a friend or her father as her co-star.
We marveled at her fierce and unquestionable loyalty for her friends…. Boy or girl. Hillarious, compassionate, determined ,independent, smart, a true sense of justice, fiercely loyal and loving.

Was she a perfect child?  What child is?  There was however, never a time when she wasn’t entertaining. Even if she was angry or unhappy.  Sure there was sometimes (as we in the theater call it) diva-like behavior. But it rarely got to the point where we would want to slap her upside the head. (Maybe her friends felt differently). However, the drama of her was always worth whatever the effort. 

On this special day, the “we’re just sayin” writers wish the “we're just sayin” progeny a happy birthday.  Much love. Much success. And it's more fun to sleep in the same room with you than Uncle Jeff. He doesn't chat and share secrets.   We’re just sayin’….  Iris (and D.)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Questions for the New Year

There are several questions for which I would like to have answers:

Who named  the crap in your nose boogers?

How does anyone know that a clam is happy?

Who is running the Communication office at the White House?

How does the head of the FBI, who was in Paris, not attend the largest rally in the Western world since WW2.

Wait, I’m just getting started.

Why is there any hesitation when it comes to calling breast cancer an epidemic?

What is the easiest way to get away with murder in NYC?    OK, I’ll tell you.   Hitting a pedestrian with a car…  
No joke, there are no consequences – it’s "clearly the fault of the pedestrian." Ask Cy Vance

At what point do you stop calling your grown up children, “the kids.”

Why is silence golden, when the only way to get anything done is to have a voice.
Did anyone who ever had a party think the more the merrier?

OK out there. I challenge you to come up with more relevant question.  We're just sayin'...Iris

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

the Basler Bomber (a DC-3 with a zillion hours, from

Everyone should have a cousin Eden in their lives.   It's lovely when people express their sorrow at a loss. Like our Aunt Esther, who died last week at 102. But my cousin Edie doesn't just express her sorrow. She is elegant and spiritual in her sorrow. Like her comment about Aunt Esther….

May her name be a blessing among the righteous.

 Wow. That's exactly right. Thank you my cousin..

And talk about a blessing. I have been truly blessed, but there were a couple of times I thought that there was no one looking out for me.  Today was one and in 1976 was the other.  The aircraft was called the Basler Bomber. Probably because it was Basler Airlines.  We had leased this aircraft for the Udall campaign because we couldn’t afford much else. We were flying fro NY to New Hampshire. Not a long flight. So when we realized it was taking much longer than it should we started to get concerned.  All the “A”  list press was with us because by that time, they thought we might actually come in first instead of  our usual place, which was second.

I was sitting with the candidate, Mo Udall, and I asked, “are we going to be Ok?”  He was a former pilot.  And he looked at me and said, “Sorry sweet child. I think we're going down.”  Mo always called me sweet child, which made everyone laugh, but not that night.  We were reported missing over New York or New Hampshire or Wisconsin. It is impossible to remember.  All I knew was that we were going to die somewhere. And no one would care about anyone but Mo. I hated the idea of being an after thought. Like “today we lost a great political figure, Morris K Udall. On the plane were all these great reporters, and a few insignificant staff (me).”   We ended up landing in New York or New Hampshire or somewhere in between. And we were alive.

We took off from Ft Lauderdale and got to about 30,000 feet when there was a horrible noise. It sounded like the plane was going to fall apart.  It was a deep-throated vibrato, with much sympathetic shaking, both on the plane and in its seats.   I asked David if we were going to die, and he said no.  It was iffy as to whether or not I believed him. We headed back to Ft Lauderdale Airport with hope that we would make it.  We did.  And then we rebooked our flight, rented a car and waited two hours for our luggage.

With respect to Jet Blue, they were not very helpful.  OK, they did not expect to have to cancel our flight. But they were totally unprepared to answer any questions, like “how do we retrieve our luggage”, or “are there any other flights going to Newburgh?”  You would think that once they cancel our flight, they might have determined that people want to have information.  And complimentary hotel or accomodation?  You must be joking. This is the era of “treat people like crap, so we don’t owe them anything.” 

When we flew on the Baessler Bomber, they never knew where or when we would be, but at least they pretended to know if we were going to stay alive. Today was a truly terrible experience. Frightening and unsettling. We have a will and all those things you need to have when you die. But somehow that was not reassuring. All we wanted to do was be on the ground.  And eventually that happened.  So we are going to fly tomorrow. Same flight, a day later. We are not afraid to fly. We are not afraid to die. But we agree that it would be terribly inconvenient at this point in our lives.  We prefer to be alive and well and able to decide when and where we end our lives. To be honest, we cannot leave the family at this point. They are just not ready to make it on their own.  And that's reason enough to defy any odds and fly from anywhere to anyplace.  We’re just Sayin’…Iris

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

the Boys and the Girls

Lounging in the Girls' yard, and ... "would you like to go in front of me?"
This blob is dedicated to all my Emerson friends in Boca, with whom we had breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Or gave us excellent suggestions  about activities which we pretty much ignored. Except in the case of “the Girls strawberry patch”  and “The Boys,” (I guess it's a farmers market), which I would call a free for all.  (Apparently this was a family with many kids who needed to serve the public.)

                         A shopper dashing thru the line, chaos in the Produce section 
and the Girls' vintage '51 Oldsmobile
 And why, you might ask, is it a free for all?  The people who shop there use both their cars and their shopping baskets, as weapons.  Visiting South Florida, like visiting  Palm Springs, is always an adventure.  (If you live in the East those people who want to get away from winter weather go to Florida, and if you live in the West you go to Palm Springs.) I know, one is a state and the other a city, and although they have some things in common, the character of the places is totally different. Let's use “The Boys” (TB) as an example.  It is unimaginable to think that the people in Palm Springs would ever behave like the people who shop at TB.

A little about the store. It is a mid-sized market with great fresh produce, a first rate bakery, meat and fish (I’m assuming so, because there wasn’t a chance we were going to get close), and every food product ever sold in this country or around the world.  No Joke.  There were things I saw there I had seen in the souks in Morocco, the market in China, and the border towns in Mexico.   It was fascinating and equally chaotic.  Everyone wants to be first. It doesn't matter what, or where first, just first. First to park, first in line, first to select a vegetable, just First.

Everyone knows there has to be a second, even a third.  But not these people. I doubt that anyone in that store suffered through the depression. But they must have heard stories and imagined it.  Personally, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, many of these folks are certifiably nuts.  There are a few people who laughed about other shoppers hitting them with a cart, or pushing their way into the front. But these folks have experience, they know what to expect.  We did not. Finally, thankfully, we finished walking through the people-maze and got into the check out line.

There was a guy in back of us had a very few items and I told him to go ahead. He asked me to repeat myself 3 times. “No really,” I said. “Get in front of me. It will probably never happen to you again, so go for it.”  He thanked me and suggested we visit “The Girls”, on the next block.
the chill factor at the Girls

the "cawing" never stops...

We drove instead  of walking, because we wanted to live. If you have ever driven in South Florida, you know why. We decided to take his advice.

It was peaceful and pleasant.  Just like in real life, the Boys was terrifying and the Girls was delightful. This was some family!  There were exotic multi-hued birds singing, beautiful parrots of all shapes and colors. There were farm animals, turtles,  and giant gold fish.  Although they didn't have strawberries to pick, they did have tomatoes and starfruit.  The only noise was the parrots talking, and little children laughing.

They were both places I would encourage everyone to experience at least once. Be sure to get a key-lime milk shake at the Girls. In addition, across the street is  Brooklyn Water-Bagels. The bagels are great. The staff knows what they need to do when you ask them to ‘scoop.’ The iced coffee is amazing (hint: the ice cubes themselves are made from coffee!)  and the owner is charming.  One caveat, however:  all the customers want to be First. I didn't mind being 3rd. We’re just sayin’… Iris

Saturday, December 27, 2014

I Tried to Call My Mom....

This morning, when I awakened, I tried to call my mother.  Not that I expected her to answer, but for some reason I was curious about who would answer. The number I called was her old number in Boonton, N.J.  The number was 201-334-9338.  That was not the number originally  in her house. That number was 201-334-3328, but she had it changed when there was a break-in, and her two pieces of silver were stolen.  It was unclear why she thought changing her telephone number would prevent future robberies, but it was always ridiculous to try to tell my mother about anything once her decision was made, Needless to say, the numbers were so close that it was hard to remember one from the other.

 Anyway, no surprise,  no one answered.  The funny thing is, I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had answered.  She knows there are things I would like to share with her, advice I would never have taken, and arguments that were never finished.  There are losses we just can’t get over.  They stay with us forever and every once in a while we think there might be a miracle—and when it doesn’t happen we move forward with just a touch of disappointment.

What was it I wanted to tell or ask her?  It doesn’t matter.  It happens all the time and once I make the call, it passes.

Today we worked on our holiday cards.  We usually try to have them out before next year – yes every year has a next year—so we figure if we buy the cards at Costco (usually before Thanksgiving),  take the picture of Jordan, (which we have been doing for 25 years), paste the picture in the card, put addresses and greetings in the cards, and mail them before New Years, something magical might happen.  That was just a make up story. We like to send greetings to friends, old and new. We don’t want to e-mail a “hello and have a great new year.”  It doesn’t matter how brief the message. The fact that we took the time to choose a lovely card with a secular sentiment, a picture of Jordan, and wrote a brief hello, makes it different from our everyday conversation.

Jordan Kai, in her 25th year of Xmas Cards, with Tyrone and Ernie
When we go through the names, we share memories and stories, and we spend time thinking about the past and the future.  It’s only one day a year that we take the time to sit and reflect, at the same table, for more than a few hours, doing the jobs we do every year. David addresses the envelopes because he says no one can read my writing. Then we write the messages to his, mine and our friends.  I put the cards in the envelopes and seal them.  I also buy and apply the stamps.  Then we argue about whether or not the cards will get to the right place if there’s no zip code. We speculate about the cost of stamps for overseas, put everything in a box and I mail them.

 It’s kind of like calling your mother although you know she won’t answer. We do it because we hope it will help us stay in touch. We do because we enjoy reaching out and reminding our pals that even though we don’t see them we are thinking about them all the time.

 We have lost so many friends and family over the last few years that anything we can do to remind us about how precious people in our lives can be, is worth doing.  Tomorrow I’m going to call my Dad.  He won’t answer either but it’s the call that matters, not the answer.  Oh and when they don’t answer, you have the right to decide what they would have said, and it always turns out to be exactly what you would have said.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Sunday, December 14, 2014

It Makes Me Sad....

This is not going to be a maudlin blob. Thought you needed to know that so you will keep reading.  Of course you will keep reading because you don't want miss any memorable thoughts or good gossip.

Anyway while me and Tyrone were walking home from puppy care we noticed an older woman walking her dog. Tyrone is the Midtown East animal Social Director. He stops and sniffs anything that looks like another dog or a bush.  When we were almost home he saw a dog that had the look of  a young pup with the body of a dog that had been around for at least 20 years.  Both the dog and the owner were walking, more like dragging themselves down the block. Ty knew he had to go easy, so he sat down and waited for Methuselah to get close.  Ty did sniff a bit but did not do his usual “jump and hump” move.  It was painful to see the want on Thusies’ face. He wanted to romp and play but physically,  just couldn't. It made me so sad. 

Then I started thinking about things that made me sad. Not things like the loss of a loved one but things like commercials that show children in poverty, or animals that have been mistreated.  It is equally sad to see those commercials about adult incontinence or kids with incurable diseases.  So, then I started to think about things like, people who are stupid or inflexible, or stingy. People (no age is too young or old), with no moral core or good manners.

This kind of thinking, which should only be done while meditating, can be dangerous because it takes you to places that are hopeless or irritating, like flowers that die but remain in a vase in full view.  Naked trees at the end of fall.  Cell phones that aren’t friendly. Words you can't remember. Drinking coffee that you think is decaf and it’s not.

Things that make me sad now, used to make me rage.  Like when you are on a plane and people are lolly gagging in the aisles. I used to want to shout “sit down and shut up.” Now I still want to shout, it but in my head it's a whisper.  Injustice used to make me rage.  Now a little head shaking is about all I can muster.

But that’s about rage not tears. And speaking of tears another thing that makes me sad (is that an oxymoron), anyway, when you get all dressed up, and you look great. Clothes perfect, makeup carefully applied, and you meet someone you want to impress, then you look in the mirror and your makeup is all over your face. It makes me sad that you can’t call those people and say, “but I'm really adorable and impressive, lets have a redo.”

End of the year television series catch up. Some of the shows are great but it makes me sad that another year has passed and I don't have enough time to do everything and see everything I want to do.  Happy Hannukah. It makes me sad that there's no one to give me one gift every night.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Friday, December 12, 2014

Trying out the Samsung NX1 Camera.. a new way to see

Trying out the new Samsung NX1 "mirrorless" reflex camera

 low light in a ships hold

 and I have always found photographing fishermen with a moustache is the best way to determine how sharp a lens really is

 I love the low light characteristics - especially in mixed "end of day" and artificial light
this is a series of pictures from Oman and Dubai, shot in late November with the NX1
I have been a photographer for a long time (does photographing President Kennedy count?) and throughout these several decades I have tried to match the gear I was using to the project I was working on.  For a long time, early on, I had but a single Pentax H3v, a sweet camera that had one of the best shutter noises of any camera I can remember.  Then I managed to get my first Nikon while in college, and expanded that through a series of Fs and Nikkormats, until my swap to Canon in 1978.  I feel like I have done a good deal of history with those Canon film cameras (AE-1, F1, EF, T90, Elan…. ah, the list goes on…) and eventually settled on the 5D, and 6D digital cameras.  When I was fit as a fiddle (there was about a two week period in 1982) I could carry all the stuff which we THOUGHT we needed to do the job.  Two zooms, short and long, a few primes, and usually three or four bodies.  The main thing about the extra bodies was having 3 or 4 rolls of film to shoot at a time.  Being artsy with  a solo Leica M4 and a 35mm lens was great, but if the fit hit the shan, you needed to have enough film to be able to get whatever the key sequences were.  That usually meant having several camera bodies loaded with what now seem like quaint little bitty rolls of 36 exposures.  It meant you could shoot a lot more before you had to stop and change film.

Gravity remains a force to be reckoned with, and no less so when you have to carry a whole suite of camera gear.  Eventually I was looking for something with great quality, and which wouldn’t turn my beaten up body into a mere shadow of my former self after schlepping them for a long day.  I always preferred the “smaller form” bodies anyway, since the big ‘professional’ cameras (D4, Eos 1Dx) were so heavy, that even though they would be great for shooting a sports sequence, they weren’t really designed to be carried in large numbers for a long day. 

The last few years has seen some amazing changes in camera design, in both standard mirror-ed digital gear, and the revolutionary mirrorless*  camera bodies (*that is aptly the new buzz word of this photographic decade.) I had a chance to get my hands on a pair of Samsung NX1 bodies, their two main pro zoom lenses, and a couple of primes, recently to try out this idea of shooting through the lens without a mirror.  In a word, it’s quite extraordinary: much smaller in size and weight, and yet amazingly crisp in the finder.  You’re no longer looking through the lens via a moving mirror. Now, the mini screen in the finder gives you that same “through the lens” view, but on a high rez screen in the eyepiece.  It takes a bit of getting used to, like all new techniques.  But with the extremely speedy auto focus that the camera employs, you very quickly understand that what you see in the finder is really what the camera is seeing.  The NX1 has a quick release (you know all those annoying delays on Point/Shoot cameras?… not here)  Look, there are a heck of a lot of great cameras out there. Not every camera is for every photographer.  It’s a personal choice, but the main thing is.. find something you like, that works for you, and spend enough time with it in hand that both you and the camera evolve into one.  The NX1 has a lot going for it.  A super crisp 28 megapixel chip which gives you astonishing files.  You can blow them way, way up, and they hold together beautifully.   I was a guy who always shot the slowest films available (Velvia, Kodachrome) and I tend to try and shoot with low ISO’s on my digital cameras, but its nice knowing you have the horsepower to go high.  It’s tough to tell a picture shot at 3200 from one shot at 400.  If you need the speed, it’s there.   One other thing which is, for me, a key feature.  In High-speed mode, the camera will shoot 15 frames per second.

 It was a mix of capoeira and ballet, with a side of gymnastics thrown in - at 15 fps
For a lot of seconds.  As someone who has chased Olympic athletes for thirty years, I can tell you that while you don’t always need a high speed camera (there are definately times when you go for ONE frame!) when you do need it, there is no substitute.  I shot recently with some athletes in Dubai and Oman, and the amazing thing when editing the images is to see how (for once!) little changes between frames, and when you find the one you want, you have a seriously sharp file to work with.

DB with the NX1 and my old Canon FD 135/2 (and yes, I did get a nap after I shot this!)

One last thing I love about the NX1: you can use your old glass, obviously in Manual Focus mode, on this camera.  I have a few old lenses (135/2 and 200/1.8) of Canon FD glass that I still love.  And with a small inexpensive adapter ring, I can use those lenses on the NX1.  With the ‘focus peaking’ feature, you can tell when a Manual lens is sharp, by the way the edges of the subject light up, letting you know it’s “in the zone.”  Going forward I’m looking at running my NX1 through the paces, but it feels rugged, it feels great in my hands, and at the end of the day I probably won’t need a trip to the chiropractor to put my shoulders back into place.  We’re just sayin’…. David

all photographs taken with Samsung NX1 with 18-200 zoom, 16-30 f/2 zoom, and 50-150/2.8 zoom

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Friends of Auld Lang whatever

New Years Eve 1947

New Years Eve 2002
There are not enough hours in the day to keep in touch with all the people you love, past and present. But think about the people who have made a permanent exit from your life. You never forget them and you still love them, no matter how much time passes. So, if you haven't heard from me and you are still alive, just know you are still an important part of every breath I take.

Would someone tell me why we sing “Auld Lang whatever” on New Years? Does anyone have any idea what it means. What it really means?  It’s always been a point of confusion.  In years past we always had a New Years Party with all our friends. For years we had caviar and I made bilini. Then when Jane realized she was allergic to caviar, we switched to lobster—which was (believe it or not) less expensive and equally decadent. Oh, and we made tenderloin for the meat eaters.  We drank gallons of vodka and David took the most divine pictures of everyone in the magic chair. (If you’ve been there it requires no explanation). There was a great deal of kissing and merriment. Then our friends, for absolutely no reason, started to die.  And New Years just wasn’t the same. It was so tacky to die just when we were all in the prime of life. What exactly is the prime of life? Lot’s of questions in the blob.

Back to love, loss and why it’s all important.  One of the reasons me and my beloved (the guy in the cafĂ©) have always stayed connected is because we understand the concept of collecting people we love. David has taken it to a new level because he finds people who have no idea why he would want to be in touch. Like my boyfriend from 3rd grade who lives in Denmark – He’s Danish, Duh!  I’m a little more discriminating. The people with whom I stay connected, might be dead, but they were always important and relevant in my life. Sure I have friends from elementary school – even pre-school, but we have always been in touch as much as possible.  Recently, my cousin asked me why I wasn’t making friends in Newburgh.  Quite simply, I don’t have anymore time to take care of people who become my friends. Taking care does not mean holding their hand but it does mean, when they need you, you are there. Besides, I have family in Newburgh and don’t have a need for new friends.  (Which incidentally, I have made).

Anyway, my commitment to friendship knows no bounds. And that’s the way it should be—at least for me. The only issue is that losing a friend is not easy.  It is quite debilitating. As I said initially, There are not enough hours in the day.  But you know what? It feels right no matter how much time it takes.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Sunday, December 07, 2014

I.... I .... I mean.....

There is something that needs to be shared with the people of the United States of America.  It should probably be a personal announcement, but I cannot start a sentence with “I”, both a special challenge and something that is taught in creative writing. Sure, it can be gotten around by starting with “But”, such as “But I”, however, everyone would know it was cheating. So what to do?  Here we go….

Have you noticed that when you ask for something and you get it, no one says “you are welcome.”  You’re welcome has disappeared.  Remember when saying,  “you’re welcome”, was  simply good manners – which have mostly disappeared along with “you’re welcome”.  It saddens me to announce that “you’re welcome” has been replaced by “no problem”. And it’s not just a kid thing. Adults are substituting “you’re welcome” with, “no problem.” 

What is so attractive about “no problem?”  It implies that there was a problem and now it’s not a problem. Seems like a stretch or a big Duh!  Are there other issues that are a big duh?  Of course there are.  Take for example, (please), the protests over the Ferguson, and Garner protests.  If this sentence were start with “I”, I would tell all those peaceful protestors how terrific I think they are.  There is never any social change unless there are well coordinated movements that encourage people to go out on the street.  For whatever reason, overt action is more effective than just sitting on the computer.

This morning the teachers from Newtown, Ct. talked about their effort to prevent anyone who is not a police officer or some authorized official person to have an assault weapon.
They talked how the need to wear seat belts and  stop smoking cigarettes became public service campaigns. They felt gun control could be part of the public conversation – despite the large and rich NRA lobbying effort,  In the same way, protests about issues that deal with injustice, are important and I hope, effective.  Does that mean there will be a rethink of what happened in either case.

It’s the end of football season.  There have been decisions about college champions, and final games for the NFC and AFC teams.  Football is one of my passions. Admittedly, the college football games are my preference. They are far more fun and exciting.  However,
I also love professional football or at least a few teams. More sharing, the Pat’s, Greenbay, and Seattle are my favorite teams.  Washington, is my least favorite. I always root for the NY teams, although it seems not to be helping, and there is a special place in my heart for Miami.  But all of this sharing appears to be a big , “so what?”

The important things to remember about this blob is that language can change, actions can determine outcomes, and wouldn’t it be nice if there was a spring as well as winter football league (which hopefully will happen sooner than later, in someplace other than Texas High Schools).  Oh, and when someone suggests to you that people kill people, not guns, go ahead with the biggest belly laugh you can muster.

If you can make it to Newburgh on Sunday the 21st of December, come and share in our celebration of David’s 2014 Winter Olympic pictures. From 2-6pm, at the Gallery Schubes - 50 Front Street, second floor. On the waterfront – it’s beautiful. Take a ride!  We're just sayin'...  Iris

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Of Cosby and such

This is one of those blobs that will probably be a series of random thoughts.  It was one of those confusing days. Outside it was 70 degrees. Inside it was 150 degrees because most of the buildings in the city turned on their heat.  Tomorrow it’s supposed to be 40 degrees and Wednesday it’s supposed to snow 6 inches.  And speaking of confusing…

Isn’t it just common sense not to be on your phone when you are walking down the street and there is a good possibility that you will walk into someone who happens to be walking on the same street. When the person (walked IN to)  happens to be me, at the very least, I expect some kind of apology. Isn’t that silly?  Instead,  the bump is usually accompanied by a dirty look.  Apparently, no one reads Miss Manners anymore.

Anyway,how about that Bill Cosby?   I might as well tell you here and now. Twenty years ago, on my birthday, Bill drugged me and we had sex. Or did we have sex and then he drugged me?  It was so long ago I don’t even remember if it was good sex.  But I do know that there has always been a casting couch, not limited to the world of entertainment.  Some years ago, there was a societal language change and the dirty deed transitioned from casting couch to sexual harassment. It. Never happened to me. There were hardly ever any guys who wanted to interview me on a casting couch..  If Bill Cosby did what these seventeen women said he did, twenty years ago, it was not out of the range of normal.  This is not to say that Bill Cosby deserves a pass. If all the allegations are true, it is despicable, and so is he.  So why did they all “come to Jesus”  so many years after their incident? Probably because powerful men expected young women to submit to whatever humiliation. In those days it was not out of the ordinary.  If you did what was expected, you got a job, a raise or maybe money.  But what do you do now?  What do they want from Mr. Cosby?  There are so many women coming forward that it unfortunately feels like piling on.

And speaking of despicable., there was not enough evidence to indict officer Wilson in the Michael Brown shooting.  They made the announcement at 9pm in a lengthy almost “Dancing with the Stars” kind of roll out about who gets  eliminated. The prosecutor knew they were not indicting at 3pm.  If they had made the announcement early in the day there might have been a chance for peaceful demonstrations.  And the split screen of the announcement and the rioting was horrendous.  The Prosecuter waited for the crowd to gather and then announced the result.  There is something wrong with the legal system in this country when the prosecutor represents the perpetrator rather than the victim.  But again, what, as a community, can you do to demonstrate your outrage?

I am not black or a powerful man of any color. The only time I was arrested was for posting political signs on telephone poles in New Orleans.  I just don’t get this wild west mentality that seems to permeate police forces throughout the country.  It is embarrassing for those of us who believe that people, no matter their color, have a right to be treated equally under the law.  And lately that hasn’t been happening. We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Sunday, November 23, 2014

the (Face)book of Life

One of the things that happens when you log into Facebook is that you realize the pages in the book of life change before you have a chance to read the first chapter.  You see pictures of children who were 3 or 10 or 15 when you last saw them, who are now 15, 20 and graduating from college.  It is a reminder that time is moving too quickly and you have no way to slow it down.

People always say that you need to make the most of each day.  But just how do you do that?  There are 24 hours in each day and you spend 6 or seven of those hours sleeping. This leaves you about 17 hours about which you need to make the most. (I could spend 16 of those hours trying not to end my sentences with a preposition.)  And speaking of sentences, you remember how you learned to diagram a sentence? Well, maybe that’s what we should do with our days. That way we wouldn’t waste any time.

But wasting time is inevitable and that’s not what I wanted to blob about. Yesterday, we (me and Tyrone) got up at 5:30. A little early to start the day, but puppies have to poop when they have to poop. I did not take him outside. He went while I stood at the door.  It took him no time because it was really cold. By the time he was finished it was 5:35. It was too early to do anything but write or make coffee. Or read through Facebook. The Sklar kids who I last saw when they were children, are young adults.  Same with the Simon kids. The people who were young adults when they were an everyday part of our lives, are grown up and have kids of their own (The Sklar parents and the Simon parents who were, when we met,  young political interns or college students (mine).

It was then 8am. We packed it up, put on warm clothing and headed to Kohls to take advantage of the supposed sales. Kohls. The most wonderful thing about shopping at Kohls is that even when the sale doesn’t exist, they tell you how many hundreds of dollars you saved.  By the time we finished shopping it was 10am and I had saved $180.95.  But savings is not what I wanted to blob about.
Anyway, got home, checked email and made a bagel. (One half with an egg and the other with peanut butter.)  Checked Facebook and saw that all the babies in my world were now in elementary school.  So, I did some writing and some work on “Gefilte Fish Chronicles, A Musical”… it is a never ending attempt to celebrate family, mostly mine.

Admittedly, I did not make the most of the rest of the day, until dinner, which I had with my cousin Joan. It was lovely, and we passed the time savoring stories about the things that used to be, and things we hoped would be.

A big part of the way we use the time we have is talking about the past.. remember when this happened or that happened? Or “this used to be a quarter and now it’s a dollar” or gas was $1.25 and now it’s over $3 a gallon. Just stuff. But its one way we turn the pages.

My grandfather always said that life was like a train. Early on you were on the local. Then, as you got older you got on the express.  The good news is that the seats on the  express are hopefully more comfortable and cost of the ticket never changes. There is no bad news. Our days pass too quickly, our birthdays come too soon,it seems  our monthly medication needs to be refilled before we take the first pill and  children grow up too fast.  But that’s not bad news because it just makes the book  more interesting.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, November 20, 2014

You, I Love

Sometimes,when while riding around, usually doing errands or some equally unimportant thing, a song comes on the radio, there is a familiar smell, or some unexpected feeling takes me to a place that is not easy to understand.  It generally feels OK, although sometimes it is accompanied by a wave of sadness or a memory that is not exactly unpleasant but it is uncomfortable.

Last week when Jordan was home, she came into my room for no reason and she noticed that the TV was tuned into the Hallmark channel.  It would have been possible to say that I wasn’t watching but,  that felt like a betrayal. Why, because my mother never missed a Hallmark movie… and there wasn’t always a channel dedicated to a celebration of sappy, sweet, always familiar plots and dialogue. She also watched Judge Judy , every game show she liked and always “The Golden Girls. “  But Hallmark movies were her favorite.
Hallmark movies don’t make you laugh or cry. They just exist and are usually produced by Larry Levinson and Robert Halmi, which is pretty ironic because you never hear anything nice said about them.  But that is irrelevant with regard to this masterpiece – which by the way was written yesterday and lost. This is a rewrite and will hopefully be equally brilliant.

When there is a Hallmark movie available (24/7) it’s like my mom is with me.  She comments, and makes appropriate sounds.  It’s easy to reproduce them in my head. As long as there is a Hallmark movie, Mom remains an active part of my life.

But there are other things as well.  My amazing friend Beth died much too early. She was a whirlwind of activity and stories. She collected people all over the world.  When she signed off in a letter or on the phone she always said, “You I love”.  Isn’t that terrific. Because it wasn’t just an “I love you” goodbye. It felt so much warmer and more personal.  So I have decided to do the same thing to keep her alive and always present.

When the leaves change, when there is weather of any kind, when I see people who have been strangers for much too long, or when I see a gift that I would buy for a specific person, or when I hear a song that I sing very loud whether or not I know the words. It always triggers some memory. But it’s more than memory.  It is a feeling that makes me smile, or maybe cry.  It is a feeling that comes over me and takes me to a place where I would like to be. It is not a matter of going back to some specific time. It is rather a feeling that elicits a feeling I had in the past.  It is a feeling that makes me want to go forward and yet not forget all those previous memorable emotions.

It would be dishonest to make a list of what happens, and when, because it is  unpredictable.  It is difficult to explain in words.  I just don’t have them. But suffice it to say, “You I love.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Rain In Spain ... and Then Some

The rain in Spain falls..... Who cares about the rain in Spain? In NYC, the rain keeps falling.  You know how when it rains really hard you say, “It can’t keep raining this hard. It’s going to pass.”  Well, not today. It keeps coming and coming and coming.  We need the rain, not as much as California but everyone need the rain. It prevents a drought, which could mean you can’t water your lawn or wash your car, except in California where they do all those things -- but of course they are delusional in California.

Anyway, when it rains in Metropolitan NYC, people lose their minds.  It’s not quite as bad as when it snows in the DC Metropolitan area. People in the south do not know how to drive in the snow. There is no reason for this because  DC is not the south.   It snows every year -- so it shouldn’t be a surprise.
There is no snow removal so people have lots of time to practice driving.

Back to NY and the surrounding areas. In NYC the highway on the west side, the Henry Hudson, as well as the highway on the east side, the FDR, both flood. As do the streets. It is almost impossible to walk without suffering the consequences of backed up sewers.  It’s gross. The cars and trucks go flying by without any concern for the people standing on the sidewalks being splashed with filthy water.  But pedestrians are not the point of this blob.  Drivers seem to lose their minds along with the ability to drive. And to make it worse the deliverymen on bicycles weave in and out of the traffic so the cars keep swerving, so as not to hit them. These people have no experience even  with swerving, it’s the city where there are millions of cars and terrible traffic so people go straight ahead.

There was a time when any weather put me in a bad mood. Rain, snow, wind, fog, everything but sunlight and and 70 degrees. This may be an exaggeration but not much of one. I moved to DC where there was mostly no weather except for an occasional snowstorm which crippled the city. And the humidity in the summer -- but everything was air-conditioned.  When, after 30 years or so, we moved we moved to upstate NY, where the snow started early and lasted what seemed like forever.  This shouldn’t be explained in the past tense because it is where we live now.  It’s my least favorite of all the weathers.  So where does a person who doesn’t like the weather live?

It’s beyond my decision making ability.  Oh, and I hate to have to drive to places where there are things people need everyday, like the supermarket, or the drug store, or the liquor store (kidding).  So LA, where there is hardly any weather is out.  This means a city is a more likely place for us than a suburb. Soooo, if anyone can think of a Burnett paradise, we are willing to consider it. Just remember the parameters:   no weather, no insane drivers, and no right wing political fanatics.  I know I didn’t mention that before but where there is weather, you are likely to find political zealots even though there are no statistics  about this. In fact, I may have made it up. But it was snowing this morning and now it’s raining hard , so even the most outrageous statements make perfectly good sense to me.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

What About Birthdays?

Some people love them and celebrate for days. And some people just want them to go away.  The expectations that people have about their birthdays are often disappointing. There is an expectation of big parties, grand presents, and full time adoration -- at least for the celebratory days.  Yesterday was my birthday. My apprehension about my birthday started when I was 35.  Up until that point the day of my birth was to be tolerated if not loved.  But at 35, my closest friends decided to gift me with a massage, facial and hair appointment.  It was a nice gift.

Unfortunately, I had an allergy to the oil they used for the massage.  When the hives started, I begged the masseuse to stop. And she refused because she said it was impossible for me to be allergic to the product. It was all natural and mild so it must have been something else.  I got up off the table and said that if she even tried to touch me I would have to bitch slap her.  Next was the facial. Yes, I must have had a number of blackheads, but my face looked like a moon crater.  35 and I would have to wear a ski mask for the rest of my life.  In addition, I had to take Benadryl for the hives, so I was falling asleep.

On to the hair salon. You know how it is when you explain to the hairdresser that you absolutely, positively don’t want them to cut your hair. And they say they will only trim it and shape it.  In the end, they have come as close to shaving your tresses as is possible without taking off your ears.

Needless to say, it was the most miserable day I had ever had to that point.  Friends  who always told the truth even insisted that it “wasn’t that bad.” That was no ringing endorsement.  No one said it was “nice” or good or even OK. It wasn’t.   It was awful.  Moving on ......

Yesterday was my birthday. It has never been my favorite day ... until yesterday. Part of it has to do with all the wishes you get on Facebook. I  never had any idea how many people would pop up to wish me well.  There were, unexpectedly,  a great many of them.  Most importantly, Jordan, Clare and my friends were visiting from Nebraska. I adore them and their kids.  We all went out for brunch at Alice’s Tea Cup (it is exactly what it sounds like).  Kim, the mom and a former student of mine, as well as a close political friend, later “ordered in” and had a terrific evening.

There’s nothing wrong with being with surrounded with people you love, and get greetings from people who want to remain part of your life.  So maybe this birthday was a turning point in birthday celebrations.  From now on and forever more I will look forward to my “special day” and I will just hope to always be surrounded with the people I love.  Doesn’t that sound like fun.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Who Told These Folks What to Do?

Some random political thoughts.  The Democrats took quite a beating on the 4th.  It was well deserved.  There were so many mistakes made, I don't even know where to begin. Well let's start with the fact that so much money was spent on places that were not winnable, and states where there might have been a chance, went the way of a Chicken without a head --  they supposedly run  around in circles.  Actually, I never saw a chicken without a head but my grandfather once described killing a chicken. He was not unkind or insensitive — he made his living as a  butcher.  Which reminds me of a family story we were oft told... Don't you love the word oft? It saves so much time and sounds almost elegant.  There was a woman who was the wife of a friend. She was a nice woman but she was also a kleptomaniac. Every Friday, winter or summer she wore a big fur coat, went into the butcher shop, perused the supply of dead chickens, picked  the one she liked best and hung it by the neck between her legs on a belt under the fur coat.  Her husband and my grandfather had a deal. She would abscond with a chicken and her husband would pay for it later.  It's just another chicken story and I was trying to make point, but I forgot what the point was.  Probably something that had to do with absconding or running around in circles.

Anyway, there are plenty of pundits who said that the results were a result of Obama's policies, not the man.  Well, of course, that's just bull pucky.  Not only did the Republicans despise what they considered a lack of leadership, the Democrats felt the same way. The candidates ran away from an Administration always on the edge of disaster.  The African Americans were pissed that candidates denied any relationship with the President, and then expected them to turn out the vote.  There are lots of reasons why candidates ran from the President, but how stupid of them to think there would not be consequences.  "Strategists"  who determined that support for the President would be a death knoll for their campaign were just wrong.  It would have been easy for every Democratic candidate to say " I don't always agree with the President, but look at the deficit, jobs, saving GM, and health care."  People generally do not vote for people who have no courage, no common sense, and no loyalty.  It does not matter what the President did or did not do. People were ready for a change.  The Republicans might have been obstructionists but the Democrats were In the majority and nothing got done Sooooo...

The election was a referendum on the party in power. There was nothing that was going to change the outcome. And look at who now represents the Republican Party. The candidates were young, enthusiastic and diverse. A much more interesting group of politicians.  A female war veteran, more women, even some minorities -- some. Not your grandparents’ Republicans.

Now what happens?  The victors move into their small crowded offices.  They have to learn the language and the subtleties.  They have to be put on committees, and they actually have to determine what they want to get done. This requires outlining goals and most important picking a staff that understands the difference between campaigning and governing.  Something the President and his people never did.

The new elected officials need to put away the trivia and understand there is no shame in having political operatives as part of your team. These are people who know how to get things done.  And who  can find ways to move the country forward. The only shame is not meeting constituent expectations and failing to play nicely with others.

You want a bottom line, because I happen to have one. The President is not going to change. Like any kid who went to upscale private schools, he can't believe he did anything wrong. He generally doesn't like people, let alone Republican people.  There are few political strategists that are as cynical as am I. However, these next few years are going to be a long haul for the Democrats, a desert without any possibility for an oasis.  We all need to pull up our big girl panties and be cautious but optimistic about the future, especially those of us who want our children to have a future... Bad or good, at least a future. We’re just sayin’… Iris

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Political Heroism

With all the garbage political ads on tv there is only one that makes any sense and showcases what it means to be a real political hero.  There are so many elected officials that give lip service to how important it is to work with the opposition, but none of them mean it, or for that matter,  know how to do that.  Sean Patrick Maloney, the Congressman from the 18th District in NY, defeated Nan Hayworth two years ago. His victory was a surprise, but it shouldn't have been. 
And though we like Sean and think his win is important for the district, he is not the hero about which I spoke.

Sean is openly gay, he has a husband and three adopted mixed race children. Nan has an openly gay son, who likes her very much and insists in a commercial, that she is not an extremist. In some of Nan's commercials she calls herself a radical. Maybe you can explain the difference between and extremist and a radical, but neither would be someone with whom I would feel comfortable.  Elected officials can be, and usually are Right or Left of center, but the radicals/extremists, like the Tea Party candidates, are ideologues who care nothing about moving the country forward. They are opposed to working with anyone who is not of like mind. And they admittedly do not like the government and simply want to get rid of it, without an alternative. The only issue about which they want the government involved is to prohibit abortion and women making their own decisions about their bodies.  Nan has repeatedly voted against human rights for women. And the level of her commercials is infantile. My favorite is when she has a number of giggling constituents calling Congressman Maloney, a phoney baloney.  Surely she should have thought that one through.  That commercial and the others she approved defend her record of consistently being out of touch.

The 18th District is fairly conservative and Republican. In fact, my choice of courageous hero is State Senator Bill Larkin, who is a Sensible conservative. Yes they do exist, but maybe not in the same way that Senator Larkin does.  In more than one of Congressman Maloney's ads Senator Larkin appears to say that Sean is a guy who crosses party politics to make a difference in the district he represents, and Sean has an excellent record on veterans’ issues.  There is no question that if Maloney is reelected he owes his victory to Senator Larkin, who makes the endorsement at his own political expense. But Senator Larkin cares deeply about the people he represents.  He is the real thing.  He is the elected official that everyone should want to call their own. Honest, visionary, a straight shooter, proud, and without any self-engradizing rhetoric, he says what he thinks and, it is always something we have have unfortunately very little of -- the truth. Oh and as an extra added attraction Bill Larkin is a good guy.  These qualities are sadly, not easy to find in many elected officials. The Senator is a hero. This from a liberal (but sensible) Liberal Democrat.

The idiocy of politics is that politicians think that in order to win they need to name call and lie about their opposition. Statistically, negative ads are more successful than campaigning with facts -- which is why we see so much of it. Wouldn't it be great if all candidates could cross parties and work together to make positive decisions about the future. If only we could clone Senator Larkin, the country would be in a much different place. We’re just sayin’… Iris

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


But the bananas are probably gone. Here's a quandary in which we often find ourselves. (Although I like to think we're unique, and in many ways we might be, this is not one of them.) Suppose you are having company and you want to make them as happy as you can. So you go to the store and buy all kinds of snacks, fruits and vegetables, and even some tree stuff in case you don't go out. They eat as much as humanly possible and then the leave--hopefully.  When this happens, you look around and you see you still have so much food left you could invite another 10 people and still have leftovers. And that is the quandary. We are not children of the depression, but throwing out perfectly good food — even  after you eat it as leftovers, seems sinful.

I'm not sure if this is what I wanted to blob about but it reminds me of a story.  When I lived in DC we used my house as a salon. People were invited or just showed up. There was always something to eat or drink.  Anyway my pal, Doug Coulter, decided that he wanted to change the venue and have people at his house. So we invited the usual crew to Coulter's. Lots of people came, but he had put the food in a remote room and no one could find it. It was fun, but we all had to go out for a late bite.

Coulter called me in the morning and told me that no one ate anything and he had tons of food left. We decided to make some quick calls and invited the people who went to Doug's to my house for leftovers. And it was terrific. Doug couldn't have been happier to have found a way not to discard some pretty great vittles and not to have spent time setting up and cleaning.

So back to bananas.  This week we packed up all the leftover food from the weekend and took it to friends with whom we were staying. We didn't eat it and when we left, we left it there. My guess is that they will discard everything but the eggs. At least I won't have to feel guilty about throwing it away.

It's almost Halloween. One of my recent blobs outlined my thinking about candy vs little gifts. Admittedly, despite any feeling about candy not being healthy, the truth is I can't throw candy away. It's stupid but I used to buy only candy I liked and it was impossible to part with it.  Oh those silly things we do and find ways to excuse them.

So, the bananas will go or, if I have the energy, I will bake a banana bread. See I just made up another cover for my inability to part with the things in the fridge. Do you think this quandary needs psychiatric help. I'll go eat something from yesterday and decide.

We’re just sayin’…. Iris