good reads and time-wasting projects for lazy unproductive people

The best part of having a couple of bad weeks of teeth-and-jaw-pain is not feeling bad about doing the things you most enjoy to the exclusion of almost all else. Reading in my case. I often put holds at the library on some of the newly published books, and wait my turn to read them. Sometimes, as happened recently, they all seem to become available at the same time. I was reading the new book about the Duchess of Windsor THAT WOMAN, when suddenly SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED, Anne Lamont’s new book written with her son Sam, came up. I read reasonably fast, but not that fast, and besides, there are all kinds of other things to interfere in my schedule. I decided all I could do was carry on, read as fast as I possibly could and hope it worked out.

Then I fiddled away an hour and a half at the library while Hubby attended a meeting there. Have you ever noticed how some things just seem to call out to you only, so loudly you can’t possibly resist? Like Oreo cookies for one. And books. With so many books all around, how could I resist picking up another  to have a look at while I waited? Bad mistake.  By the time we left, I had another book checked out–now I had three books I needed to finish in three weeks! THAT WOMAN, SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED, and HINDI BINDI CLUB.

I was already well into THAT WOMAN (by Anne Sebba). I had read quite a bit of books about Wallis Simpson, beginning in the late 1950s with her own autobiography (1956), THE HEART HAS ITS REASONS, so I already had an idea of who this Mrs. Simpson was. Social climber, right? I thought so then. I find that reading now, at 70, as opposed to reading about her when I had barely reached the age of majority, gave me quite a different take. I plead guilty to falling for all the hype about this “poor relation of a southern bourgeois class,” but by the time I finished this book, I’d changed my mind. At least I’d decided that no one except the Duke and Duchess themselves will ever know the truth, and they’re not talking. What seemed to be true isn’t necessarily. Depends on viewpoint, and mine had changed a lot the past 50+ years.

I remembered a taped interview of Martha Gelhorn I’d seen a few weeks back–after I watched the HBO movie about Gelhorn and Hemingway. In fact I’d viewed her through the same lens I’d used to look at Mrs. Simpson. I wished I could see or hear her to see for myself. That’s what led me to find the archived video interview with Gelhorn herself on YouTube (26 minutes). She may have started off hanging onto the coattails of Ernest Hemingway, but she sure learned to make her own way by the time that interview was done.

Wouldn’t it be nice to hear what the Duchess really sounded like? I thought I remembered seeing the two of them on 60 Minutes once. Maybe I could find that, leading me to still another online search that turned up a fascinating BBC broadcast from 1970. For about 48 minutes The Duke and the Duchess together discuss their lives, expressing opinions on modern youth, smoking, the Establishment and the role of women in society. The duke speaks candidly about his lack of a conventional job in the working world, and shares memories of his royal family. Makes me glad I wasn’t born royal. The question came down to Duty to family and country, or the right to love and marry the one who makes you happy, and we know what he decided. Who can say he was right or wrong? For sure the Monarchy under  King Edward VIII (and Wallis?) would have been far more modern than it was under King George V and Queen Mary or, for that matter, the present queen Elizabeth II.

On to Anne Lamont’s new book written with her son, Sam, SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED, which is her take on becoming a grandmother and Sam’s on becoming a father at 19. Like all Lamont’s books, for me thi was not a disappointment. What she brings to her writing is the feeling that she’s just like the rest of us, living from day to day trying to make sense of it all, looking for the answers when we don’t even know the right questions to ask. I especially enjoyed the several chapters (she hesitatingly spent away from her grandson) as she accounted her visit to India. She said it all the way I wish I could have. I’d recommend anyone who wants or plans to visit India to read it before you go, if for nothing else, then for the advice about how to respond to the deluge of beggars, not to mention the guilt you feel for having so much when so many poor and uneducated people there have little or nothing.

Well, now that I’d heard Martha Gelhorn, and Wallas Simpson and the Duke speak, my inquiring mind needed to know what Anne sounded like, so off I went to find her. Here she is in a video taped interview with her son. At just under an hour it’s a tad long, but I fast-forwarded through parts of it. When I was finished I wanted to move to California and become her neighbor.

Two down, one to go; it was time to pick up the impulsive pick from the library, a debut novel from 2007 by Monica Pradham. Clearly a “fast read.”  THE HINDI-BINDI CLUB wasn’t written quite as well as the other two books, and I admit I couldn’t help comparing it unfavorably to Amy Tan’s JOY LUCK CLUB, but the recipes for regional Indian dishes at the end of some chapters looked tantalizing. No doubt I’ll have to try a few.

I decided to give the novel some slack–it was a first book after all–I thought there were enough really good moments that made up for it. To my surprise, I began to like the characters, even though it was difficult at times to discern who the speakling. and I even look forward to book two if/when it comes along. The theme weaves the stories of different generations of women, mothers who grew up in different parts of India in different class systems and from what became Pakistan and their American-born children. They learn  from each other, after a series of life tragedy, what they need to know in order to sustain traditional old-world values while accepting the inevitable differences of their daughters. Likewise, the women growing up in the U.S. learn to appreciate the people their mothers were and are. Several visits to India reveal India herself changing subtly along with them. As much as I thought I already knew a lot about India, I still learned from this book. Isn’t that what we’re all hoping to do when we read?

One final word about Miss Pradham. I learned in the credits at the end that her parents settled in Pittsburgh in the late 1960s where she was born. Hubby and I lived there several years from the mid-1960s, and we were somewhat active  in the Indian Society at the University. It’s quite reasonable to think our paths may have crossed somewhere. Small world, isn’t it?

all the world’s a stage . . .

I’ve said over and over again to whoever paid attention that the key to appreciating life lies in your own attitude. After hearing a line affirming that fact in the movie reviewed in my previous post, I can’t think of anything offhand that doesn’t depend on what we choose to bring to the experience. I thought about it as I was driving home yesterday from a meeting of my new writing club. One of the members, Polly, is a petite, silver-haired senior in her eighties. She’s one of those charismatic people I think of as born story tellers. Though she doesn’t call undue attention to herself in a crowd, as you get to know her you realize she’s not sleep walking through life, she’s always living an adventure. I always say to her after a long absence, what new adventures do you have to share with me, Polly, and she always has at least one. It may be how she decided to get out the step ladder and fix that malfunctioning security alarm system herself. After struggling with screwdrivers and socket wrenches and the sort, she soon felt frustrated enough to call the people who designed the system and ask them to walk her through it–what color wire goes here, etc.–so she could fix it herself rather than calling on her busy adult son. Then there were the trips she’s taken with her grandchildren–two so far, involving three adult grandchildren–and the beautiful stories of their serendipitous adventures together. I’ve no doubt traveling as adults with their grandmother–with an age-span of 60+ years–has surely given them a much larger picture of graceful aging than society does in general. In fact, I began to realize early on that Polly sees the world much differently than I. Being a former dancer and teacher with a flair for drama, Polly’s world comes choreographed where mine comes with stories.

I love the occasional glimpse into the world as others see it, and I get that opportunity–seeing Polly’s choreographed world–regularly at our monthly writer’s meeting.  Yesterday, when she shared two more adventures, I suggested she should be sharing with a wider audience than the four of us at the meeting, but she demurred suggesting a certain aversion to computers in general. So I begged, and she graciously agreed to be my guest blogger for today’s Wintersong. I hope my readers will be inspired through it to take a second look at ordinary people on an ordinary day. After all, wasn’t it Shakespeare who said All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. 

* * * * * * * *

When discussing a good way to get an idea for a story, one of our writing group members suggested that we go to a restaurant and sit close to others in order to listen to bits of conversation. When shopping at Costco the other day, I decided to have lunch. I forgot about sitting close to others and, as is my habit, sat as far away as possible from others. I could not hear any conversations–just the general cacophony of the crowd. In watching those around me, I began to be intrigued by an elderly couple who came into view.

When the gentleman started to sit down, his wife–with a sweeping gesture of her arm and index finger–pointed to another place, he raised himself and went to the spot she had designated. Right away we know she is “Mrs. Take Charge.” He then took something from his pocket–a Kleenex, a rag or a handkerchief, not sure which–and proceeded to clean his eating area with a rotating motion; first it was clockwise and then counterclockwise. She sat down across from him, but not for long. She popped up in jumping-jack fashion, turned away from him toward what I saw were the free napkins, and darted across the room. She returned with a wad of napkins. Standing in front of her plate, she began pressing the top of her meal with a handful. She pressed and released, pressed and released; it was similar to a plié and releve at a ballet barre. I think she was squeezing the grease from her meal while her husband continued to clean his area of the table. I watched their gestures–she, going down and up; he still going in a circular motion–as if I were watching a dance recital. That was just one table.

When glancing to the right there was another table, this one with a large family. Their gaggle of small children were like a pail of worms on fast forward. Under the bench and around the table, back and forth they’d go. Every once in awhile one would stop and cling to a parent. There was a constant and rapid circulation of little people. Here I am in this scene, watching Mrs. Take Charge and her obedient spouse, and the squirming children. Out of the blue comes a woman with big thighs and breasts laboriously pushing her heavy cart. She flopped down into a seat, exhausted from the effort of managing her cart and huge self. All I could think of was that out of this scene there was an idea  for a new dance! To think, one eight-inch all-beef hot dog on a roll topped with sauerkraut with a 16 ounce drink–my lunch–and all it had cost me was $1.50! The “extra” was watching what strikes me now as the makings of a dance program. And the show was all free!

a movie for mature audiences

I’ve written a good bit on my own travels to India, and many readers expressed quite a bit of interest over the years. No matter what words you use, however, I’ve always regretted that it’s impossible to convey what India is without being able to share the sounds, the colors, the chaos–the wonder–that India is. Hubby and I recently attended a pre-viewing of a wonderful movie that can change that a little, and I want to share it with my readers here. We’re members of a preview audience of movie lovers who are invited to pre-view current movies for free a few days or weeks before their opening dates. It costs us nothing but a few hours of our time plus whatever gas the car uses to get to the theater. All we have to do is give electronic feedback afterwards. It’s a pretty good deal, and out of the nearly dozen movies we’ve pre-viewed I’ve only seen one bomb, at least for my mature age group, and that was American Reunion. There is more to life, after all, than horny sex and bathroom pranks.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opened in England the end of February. On May 4 it will open in movie theaters around the United States. An assorted group of English pensioners facing uncertain economic circumstances in their retirement (portrayed by an admirable lineup of mature actors: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup), are  enticed by advertisements for THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, a seemingly luxurious sanctuary for “the elderly and beautiful” in Jaipur, India. Their retirement takes an unconventional turn when, upon arrival, they discover that the hotel falls somewhat short of the romantic idyll promised in the brochure. Most are gradually won over by the ever-optimistic young manager Sonny (Dev Patel from SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE), who has troubles of his own. They tentatively embark on this new adventure, and most find that life can begin again when you let go of the past. The cinematography beautifully conveys the culture shock any westerner will probably feel in any (so-called) third-world country they encounter for the first time. You’ll also vicariously experience the chaotic sights and sound and color–just about everything but the smells (good or bad), and even those are easier to imagine (!) afterwards then anything I’ve ever been able to share through my writing.

So if you or your friends have ever entertained the idea of visiting India yourself someday, or even if you know you’ll never be able to afford that kind of adventure in real life or even desire it, I urge you to go in reel life by seeing this movie. If you watched the trailer above, you  may have picked up on a couple of lines that sum up pretty well my feelings about India. The first is from Sonny, the manager, as he’s fond of saying throughout,  “Everything will be all right at the end,” implying that if things aren’t all right yet, then it isn’t the end yet. The other memorable line is by Judy Dench. “India is about what you bring to it.” Those two lines express very well my feelings about India. It grows on you, just like the characters is this movie. And I believe that’s what you’ll take away if you see this movie.

 

 

 

 

learning to unplug

Are you “plugged in” to technology–iPads, iPods, iPhones, laptops, PCs and Macs–for the majority of your day? Think about it before you answer. I became concerned about my own “plug-in” problems a couple of weekends back. It was the Sunday I decided to pull the plug on my computer. The decision started with a concern for my physical health. I was experiencing a lot of neck stress, headaches, and my fingers were feeling stiff. It had been only a little more than two months since my last RA infusion; I’d hoped to make it at least six months, the average length of time between symptoms, before needing another, but each patient reacts his own way so the rheumatologist asked me to call him if I felt a flare before six months. Since chemotherapy last year that left my veins uncooperative (or what the nurses called “shot to hell”) we were hoping for at least six months reprieve between needle stabs. The only way to know if my pain was the beginning of flareup, or simply too much time in front of the computer, as I’d begun to suspect, I decided to pull the plug for 24 hours.

The next day there was a slight difference, but still a lot of neck strain. Then Hubby noticed I was squinting and looking upward, straining to see the computer screen through my bifocal. I decided to pull out some old computer glasses I’d had made a few years ago to use with the computer. Voila, after only a day or two I felt the difference. Experiment successful. I was really happy that it wasn’t an arthritic flare after all. But after that Sunday unplug, I had become aware of another, potentially much more serious mental problem that might require more effort to fix.

It was a lot more complicated than just the time spent keeping up with this blog. There was all that time I spent reading and commenting on other blogs. Much of that part is good, I’ve decided, as it leaves me with a sense of connection with the world. All day long on unplug day, I kept thinking of things I wanted to do that required my PC. Answers. To all kinds of things! I’ve gotten in the habit of running to my PC for every little nonsensical thought or question that occurs to me. I click Google or Bing, insert a few keywords and bingo, I have access to everything I want or think I need to know. Medical symptoms. Recipes. Movie reviews. You name it. It’s all there and then some.

Remember in the old days you’d wake up in the middle of the night with this burning question–really serious stuff. The answer would come to you, you knew that, so after you worried with the question for awhile you’d eventually fall asleep again. If you were lucky, the answer floated into your consciousness the very next day, or maybe several days later. But I don’t remember a time when the answer didn’t come eventually. Alternately, you’d run into a friend or co-worker who might know. They either would or not. But it wasn’t that important anyway. In my class on the neurophysiology of the brain the following week, I asked the professor if google could be injurious to our brains and our ability to remember. She admitted she didn’t know, and that she worried a little about that herself. There just wasn’t enough research yet to know. Another student suggested that the harm may be offset somewhat by the work our brains have to do to come up with the right set of tag words to get answers, suggesting we were still assisting the plasticity of our brains to keep them working better as we age. That’s a little of why I blog. To keep reaching for the right word to convey to meaning in my communications, I reasoned, would be a good exercise for my bain.

Back to the Sunday experiment. It hit me at some point that day that I could use my lazy Sunday afternoon to scan recipes from a library loaned cookbook so I could try them at will and go ahead and return the book. But no! That would require plugging back in–to two machines, my scanner/printer setup AND the PC to store them in an electronic file. Couldn’t do that until tomorrow. When I actually started preparations for dinner, at some point I needed to be close to the kitchen to monitor things, but make that time go faster at the same time. My office is right across from the kitchen, so I’ve gotten into the habit of sitting at my computer with an ear to the kitchen and play online cards. Long story short, throughout the day I was drawn like a magnet over and over again to my computer. But Monday morning I felt triumphant! I’d managed to go a full 24 hours without plugging in, not even to check email.

Which brings me to the video below. Last night, Hubby and I attended a lecture/movie at a local college. The movie by a San Francisco filmmaker, Tiffany Schlain, was entitled CONNECTED. It premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Using animation, archival film footage and much of her father’s writings, the movie explores the idea of how and why people are connected through technology. As in all of life, however, there’s always a balance to be achieved between the GOOD and NOT SO GOOD elements of every new discovery that impacts humanity.

Should you be interested in seeing CONNECTED, it’s available on video (to members) on Netflix. In the meantime, this 16 minute video interview with the filmmaker will give you many things to think about. Maybe you’ll have a clearer understanding, as I do, why we’re hearing “where does the time go” over and over again, even by young people. I understand that the majority of these YouTube sharings are rarely seen, but if you’ve ever wondered “where did my day go” or “is all this focus on technology good for me,” I think you’ll indulge me the nudge to watch. Maybe, like me, you’ll decide technology is good overall (perhaps, though the jury’s still out) but, maybe it’s good to unplug now and then.

sleeper class from delhi to madras

From first hand experience, I think it’s safe to say that the best way to see India is not on a plane at 35,000 feet, but at ground level on the Indian railway system.  In fact, no visit to India is complete without experiencing the bustle of Indian railway stations. After Independence in 1947, India inherited a total of 55,000 kilometers of British Indian railways, much of that in bad state having endured WWII and passing through Pakistan. New construction was thus necessary in order to reroute through Indian territory. The 42 separate railway systems left behind by the British, including 32 owned by former Indian princely states, were joined together into and referred to as the Indian Railways. By 1985, electric and diesel locomotives took over the steam locomotives, and the entire railway reservation network was computerized in 1995. It’ll be interesting to see the changes in this, the largest railway network in Asia and second largest in the world, but remember, this narrative is written about first impressions of a first visit in 1980, more than 30 years ago.

Trying to sleep on a sleeper train from New Delhi to Madras became another study of the extremes of India. The entire journey–way back then in 1980–took two nights and a full day of train travel. We left Delhi around 7:30 in the evening on what was booked as a first class, air-conditioned, sleeper car.

When arrangements for the first class sleeper were made, I immediately worried that our berths wouldn’t be private, that we would be forced to be a little more up close and personal than I liked with strangers. I’d seen and been exposed to many modes of travel, from the man-powered bicycle rickshaws, motorcycle rickshaws, tourist buses, local buses and trains, taxis, private autos with professional drivers, so I was already familiar with the differences in travel standards between India and the U.S. After all, America was created by space-loving space-hoarding “give me land, lotsa land, don’t fence-me-in kinds of people”–the kind I’d grown up around–who don’t cotton well to strangers invading their personal space. That’s why so many of them own cars and drive themselves places. That’s why public transport has such a hard time getting the financial and social support it needs to catch on in this country–except of course in New York and other large cities with high populations.

With kids in tow, we’d boarded local buses that were already loaded to capacity by American standards and had somehow managed to miraculously shove ourselves into tiny openings, only to look up and see another group pushing through with suitcases and parcels hoisted over their heads. How they got through, or where they disappeared to wasn’t clear, but somehow they seemed to manage. We did as well, but I hated, and eventually requested, we not use local bus commutes if possible. I found I preferred the noisy phut-phut of auto rickshaws instead. While a family of four were crowded in one, the space was open and it was easy to see everything going on around you, and no one else was able to tag along.

I was told, if I remember correctly, that there could possibly be other passengers in our car during the daytime, but at night the four berths in our car would be ours exclusively. Vaguely I remember a nicely dressed young man, most likely a student, riding with us in the beginning, but by the time the girls and I were ready to sleep we were alone, and whether the student reached his destination or chose to invade another car, I do not know. Hubby may have a different memory and will clarify it if so.

The girls, probably exhausted with all the excitement, seemed to sleep throughout the night, or if they stirred it was only for a moment. They had their books and games and, most importantly, their favorite stuffed animals along to comfort them. Hubby, if he can sleep through my snoring–as he had for 11 years by that time–seemed to sleep too. As for myself, two words: cacophony and symphony. All night long it seemed I was witness to one or the other as we pulled through and sometimes stopped at other stations along the way it was an ongoing cacophonous clank of metal scraping other metal, train horns honking, shrill whistles and bells, and wheels on the track and engine noises.

The motion must have lulled me into unconsciousness eventually, however, for I remember being lulled awake very early in the morning before the light of day to a symphony of vendors voices. We were stopped on a train platform and it felt strange to be motionless yet still moving inside my head. Outside the train from one end of the platform came a cadence of  Chai, chai, chai (tea). Immediately from the other end came the response, koppee, koppee, koppee (coffee).

Chai, garam chai . . . koppee, koppee, koppee. Over and over and over, and floating over all opposing sounds was the mesmerizing odors of food cooking. As had been the pattern of India almost from the beginning, India tossed out mighty heaps of confusion mixed in with tiny little triumphs like the single flower that I noticed blooming all alone on the bare clay soil on the way in to the Taj Mahal complex that made up for the deprivation.

The night before, a porter had stopped by and taken orders for breakfast to be delivered to our sleeper car at the appropriate time. Of course this was preceded by cups of steaming koppee and milk and juice for the girls. Hubby knew his three girls were starved for the taste of more Western type food, so he’d ordered omelets for all of us. The first eggs we’d seen since leaving London. They were delicious even if they weren’t the light fluffy omelets we were used to at home. And they came with the most delicious tomato sauce I’d ever tasted, which was a simple Indian-style Ketchup. I don’t yet know the secret of its success, probably a lot of sugar, but I’ve never been able to duplicate it nor have a better one. I remember it was not the rich red color of a Heinz, but more orange. I think it’s safe to say that breakfast on a train was a big hit for all of us. Even Hubby seemed to enjoy it.

Later in the day, Hubby’s sister and her family would meet us at the train depot for a short visit during a short stopover period in Nagpur. We’d traveled by that time a little over 1000 kilometers or somewhere around 600 miles. We wouldn’t arrive in Madras to visit my mother-in-law until sometime the next morning.

 

Coming up next:  onward to Mother-in-law’s bungalow in Madras, scenes and glimpses of Indian life along the way.

a late christmas story

Not many weeks ago on a windy evening as we were hurrying to the entrance of the Broadway–to see  MORNING GLORY I believe–I saw the familiar face of a skinny man with shaggy beard and knitted stocking cap standing outside the theater holding a beat-up cello he sometimes plays if enough people are about for an audience. I’ve seen him many times before and wondered about him but was always in too much of a hurry and a little bit afraid to get involved.

Most people usually are in a hurry–trying to get to the theater on time, trying to get out of the rain or cold, and many pay him very little mind. Then there’s also that bad experience I had a few years ago when a mentally-unbalanced or drug-crazed homeless man in a wheelchair seemed to be chasing me down the street, haranguing me about the government’s bad treatment as I hurried to get away from him. I’m often reluctant to look directly at street people sometimes, I think, because there’s the thought that in different circumstances that might have been me. Had I not had the family I had, the advantages I’ve enjoyed, known the people I’ve known.

So there was that little man again, and how I was going to act this time? I hurried to catch up with Hubby–I was a good 8 or 10 steps behind him as he walked briskly ahead of me to secure a place in the line inside the entry door where the line was already snaking up the stairs. For some inexplicable reason though, instead of hurrying by, that night I paused and looked straight at this strange little man standing there alone with his cello, and without even thinking  about it I said something, can’t remember exactly what–probably some pleasantry about the weather–but it didn’t really matter because I smiled as I hurried on this time.

“You are a very kind lady,” he called after me.

Taken somewhat aback by his response, I remember shaking my head and saying “No, not really,” admittedly more to myself more than him.

Later, thinking back on it, I could still feel the warm feeling that always creeps in unbidden when you let your guard down just a little during those what I call serendipitous moments just being yourself.

When I opened the paper a day or two before Christmas I was gratified to finally have part of the mystery of that little encounter solved.

My street musician had a name after all. Eli Potash. He says he’s not that “good a musician” but “you know what I am? Good with my hands” and for 15 years he’s been playing his cello downtown, mostly for moviegoers outside the Broadway Cinemas. Sometimes he rests and warms up from the cold at a nearby bar where a local trio plays. That’s where he met the Daniel Day Trio, who sometimes play in the Red Door martini bar. From the Tribune feature story I read that the group had struck up a friendship with Potash and occasionally play with him, collecting donations from listeners. Day noticed the beat-up cello and remembered an old one of his that had been collecting dust a few years. One thing led to another–someone else donated labor to refurbish it, then the trio purchased a new instrument case for it from the donations because, as Day said, “He’s (Eli) somebody who could use some love and some care and some thought.”

And so it was that on another windy night not long passed, during the holiday festivities, they all played a rendition of Silent Night together in front of the Broadway. After they finished, they presented Potash with the new cello, all wrapped up in giftwrap. All this was caught on video by Sidewinder Media’s Rusty Sessions, and it’s been posted on YouTube. It’s not polished and slick, and it does lag in places, but it is a perfect example of the real spirit of Christmas, and it’s the Christmas story I was hoping to write. Here it is if you’d like to see it yourself. (At 11:21, it’s a bit long, but Eli’s Silent Night begins about 4 minutes in if your time is limited.)

turning lemons into lemonade ?

“You can tell you have created God in your own image when it turns out that he or she hates all the same people you do.”
Anne Lamott

I’m mad as hell about some of the craziness going on in the world lately. It starts with little kids in our school yards picking on other kids, and all kinds of people verbally and physically attacking any group or minority not fitting whatever is considered the cultural norm of the moment. I could go on ad infininum but the list is too long to commit to here, and gets far far worse.

It goes all the way to the likes of Sharon Angle running against Harry Reid for Senator of Nevada. In defense of her pro-life platform that would refuse abortions even to victims of rape or incest, the only one she seems to be running on, her ignorant defense when challenged is that as mere mortals how do we know why these things happen? “They may be part of God’s larger plan!”  The victims should  therefore be forced to go ahead and have the baby, no matter how young they may be.  What kind of God, one who is supposed to be omniscient, would ruin the life of a child–or any woman or other human being–as part of his larger than life plan? What about the rapist? Should we begin passing out Medals for those who “carry out the bigger picture of God’s plan?”

“Two wrongs don’t make a right. Lemons can be made into lemonade.” –Sharon Angle in a radio interview in late June

I may be ignorant about religious matters, especially as taught by the fundamentalist religious right, but if we relate all suffering to God’s larger plan, would that not mean that any kind of act we might consider evil, and I can think of more than a few off hand that fall under that same category of “part of God’s bigger plan: ethnic cleansing that still goes on all over the world all these years after Hitler’s death,  rape of all ages from babes in arms to frail old women, or murder, admonishing women–as in the 1998 Southern Baptist Conference resolution that “a good wife submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of the husband” to name just a few that bother the hell out of me. Therefore, either evil does not exist because any- and everything could, or might be, part of God’s bigger plan.

Makes you want to practice Yoga, right? In an effort to find some sort of peace in a world gone mad? But wait! If you’re a Christian, then practicing Yoga would be a sin! Just today Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler is calling for Christians to avoid yoga and its spiritual attachments because the stretching and meditative discipline derived from Eastern religions is not a Christian pathway to God. He objects to “the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine.” Any good Baptist knows the only way to God is through blind faith. (And I do mean BLIND!)

Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher. For him the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, peace and freedom from fear, the absence of pain, and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and evil, that death is the end of the body and the soul and should therefore not be feared, that the gods do not reward or punish humans, that the universe is infinite and eternal, and that events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space. His take on God was this:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? – (Epicurus)

If you’re getting tired at my harping on religion, I’m really sorry to bore you, but if–at 68 years–I have not learned to be true to my convictions, and willing to stand up for what I believe in, even if it invites criticism, what good are all those years I’ve lived? Maybe if more of us do so, there will be less intolerance is the world.

I admit I’m swayed much more by old Epicurus than I am by the fundamentalist Christians. Using their own logic, if I am Christian–and I was born one–can I not say that He sent Epicurus to try to instill reasoning power so that readers of the Bible question the veracity of taking on face value what the writers assert. They were only human. Or, as Christine O’Donnell in Delaware might point out, they were ME. Therefore, say I unto Sharon Angle there’s more than one way to interpret this verse from the New Testament.

Hebrews 4:13 –And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

In my eyes, Sharon Angle is a lemon! So are the Southern Baptists who believe in and support their 1998 Conference resolution and Albert Mohler (above) and Christine O’Donnell too. According to the Polls, Nevadans seem to be trying hard to make lemonade out of Sharon. Republicans I’ve been watching may be crazy enough in their desperation to hold on and gain seats in both houses are working real hard on a recipe for both Angle and O’Donnell. But no matter how much sugar they dump into it, I’m not having any !!!!