Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jazz in July

"I saw what I saw when I saw it!" — Lou Costello, American radio, stage, television and film actor and burlesque comedian best remembered for the comedy double act Abbott and Costello

LAST NIGHT was the final performance of the year for Jazz in July. Held each summer and sponsored by the Metro Arts Alliance, Jazz in July offered a free performance somewhere in the Des Moines metro area 24 of the 31 days in July. Paul performed at two of them this year, one with the Des Moines Big Band and one last night with the Turner Center Jazz Orchestra.

It was so very, very hot, but inventive as he is, Paul came up with a clever way of staying cool. When he wasn't standing at the mic playing a solo, he wore a straw hat where underneath he'd tucked a gel cold pack. It was a little brain-freezy for the first few minutes, he said, but quickly became his salvation.

The Turner Center Jazz Orchestra is the house band for the Fred and Patty Turner Jazz Center, a state-of-the-art jazz performance and teaching facility recently built on the Drake University campus. The center is the result of a donation by Fred Turner in honor of his wife, Patty Turner, who he met when both attended Drake. Fred was one of the very first employees of what was then a fledgling company called McDonalds, and we all know how that little start-up turned out. Fred stayed and ended up serving consecutively as CEO, Chairman and Senior Chairman of the corporation until his retirement in 2004.

Paul, in the pink shirt, is playing a feature song last night
at Jazz in July, while Jim Romain conducts.

When we got home, we watched a 1949 classic comedy movie called, Abbott & Costello Meets the Killer: Boris Karloff being shown by Svengoolie on Me-TV. Svengoolie is produced by WCIU-TV from Chicago, one of the last locally-owned, programmed and operated stations in a major US market. It's a hoot!

Lou Costello


This station is a find. It'll take you back to the days of having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk after school while lying on the floor in front of the television watching a harmless and silly black and white movie. Everybody needs to be allowed to be ten years old again every once in awhile. Svengoolie is on Saturday night at 9:00 PM CST on cable.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A record to be proud of . . . and yet

"We are confronted primarily with a moral issue…whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated." — John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, radio broadcast June 11, 1963

I'M PROUD of Iowa for being a leader in civil rights. In 1839, seven years 
before Iowa had yet to become a state, and 26 years before the end of the Civil War, the Territorial Supreme Court of Iowa ruled that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped onto Iowa soil. And speaking of the Civil War, Iowa contributed proportionately more men to military service than any other state, north or south.

These are just a few of many enlightened, progressive accomplishments.

1847:  The University of Iowa became the first public university in the United States to admit men and women on an equal basis.

1851:  More than 100 years before the US Supreme Court banned miscegenation laws nationwide, Iowa removed all legal barriers to interracial marriage.

1851:  Iowa gave married women property rights. (Yup, before then our grandmothers and great grandmothers weren't legally 'people' enough to own property.)

1857:  African-Americans were included by the Iowa Constitution as having the "same rights" as every citizen.

1867:  The Iowa Supreme Court did away with the 'common law' that gave men absolute custody of children in divorce.

1868:  The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a 12-year-old girl could not be barred from attending a Muscatine school on the basis of race.

1869:  The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that Arabella Mansfield could not be prevented from practicing law due to gender. She became the first female lawyer in the US.

1870:  The Iowa General Assembly removed the "white male" requirement from the statute about lawyers

1873:  The Iowa Supreme Court ruled against discrimination in public accommodations 93 years before the US Supreme Court reached the same decision.

1875:  Iowan, Emma Haddock, became the first female lawyer to practice in United States Federal Courts.

1884:  Jennie McCowen, who graduated from the University of Iowa, became one of the first women in the United States to graduate from medical school.

1920:  Through national legislation, women finally got the right to vote in the United States (my grandma couldn't vote until she was 32 years old), and at the same time Iowa also made women eligible for jury service which most states still didn't do for a decade or more.

1949:  The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of Edna Griffin in her lunch counter integration case against Katz drug store, a ruling that didn't become a national law elsewhere until 1964.

1965:  Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965 established the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

1969: A landmark US Supreme Court case brought forward by Dan Johnston confirmed the right of students to express political views at school.

Iowan, Dan Johnston

1970:  The Iowa General Assembly made Iowa one of the first states in the country to establish no-fault divorce.

1971:  Iowa district court ruled that Adel High School's prohibition against boys wearing their hair long was unconstitutional.

1978:  The Iowa legislature struck down all sodomy laws 25 years before they were eliminated nationally.

1980:  The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that child custody orders in divorces must not be based on race, and community prejudice cannot be permitted to control the makeup of families.

1990:  Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa was one of the authors of the national Americans with Disabilities Act.

Senator Tom Harkin

2003:  In a unanimous decision, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that forbidding same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, making Iowa the third state in the country to permit same-sex marriage.

And yet . . .  Iowa has yet to have a woman governorUS Senator or Representative, even though we've had some extremely well-qualified candidates. We now have the opportunity to write another progressive chapter in our history by electing Christie Vilsack to replace that embarrassing wing ding, Representative Steve King, in the newly-formed Fourth District. Let's do it on behalf of the 51% of Iowans who deserve just as much of a voice as men.

Candidate Christie Vilsack is running for
US Representative in Iowa's new Fourth District. 

Thanks to Iowa Public Television and Wikipedia for having already gathered most of these names and dates.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Impossible perfection unless you're dead

"The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years." — Audrey Hepburn, British actress, model, dancer and humanitarian 

CHEERS TO the United Kingdom Advertising Standards Authority for banning an ad for Maybelline's Eraser foundation featuring Christy Turlington and an ad for a Lancome foundation featuring Julia Roberts. Both ads were deemed too misleading. The photos have been obviously altered to make their skin look impossibly smooth — unless you've had the services of a mortician.

Yeah, right.

I hope women are getting fed up with cosmetic companies ginning up evermore unattainable standards of perfection in order to encourage us to feel increasingly inadequate — and as a result, buy more of their stuff to fix our unacceptable selves.

Here's to Parliament member, Jo Swinson for spearheading the crackdown on over-the-top (hey, literally) retouching and photoshopping used to create these artificial faces in service of the unrelenting effort to convince us that we should look like that and we can look like that if only we'd buy the right products.

Thanks, Jo, on behalf of unretouched women everywhere.

PS: Did you know that L'Oreal owns L'Oreal Paris, Garnier, Maybelline, Redken, Matrix, Mizani, Pureology, Lancome, Biotherm, Helena Rubinstein, Shu Uemura, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, Cacharel, Diesel, YSL Beaute and more! So if you feel like it's a vast conspiracy — that's because it is!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Burns on Bachmann

"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out under another, then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence." — Rep. Michele Bachmann, April 28, 2009, speaking about the 1976 Swine Flu outbreak that actually happened when Gerald Ford was president  

BURNS ON BACHMANN. That sounds bad on a couple of levels. Douglas Burns wrote a snappy piece about Minnesota Congresswoman and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann for Des Moines' Cityview. Doug is a fourth-generation newspaperman who also writes for the family-owned Carroll Daily Times Herald.

Apparently, neither Michele nor any of her staff would take questions after she spoke at recent campaign stop in Carroll, Iowa. What's that famous quote? "Never pick a fight with a man who buys his ink by the barrel."

No one seems to know for absolutely, positively sure to whom to attribute the quip, but the consensus seems to be that Mark Twain was the originator. Sounds like him and sounds like good advice.

Douglas says that Michele Bachmann
refused to take questions.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Douglas by phone, and I can attest that he's as nice as he is sharp-witted and eager for a story. What I like best about him is that he seems to be cut from the same cloth as journalism icons of the past who took to heart the vital role of the press as the fourth estate — the watchdog of government.

I have to agree with Jon Stewart who, in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox "News", described journalists these days as "lazy. (Sorry, I can't help but editorialize about the "news" on Fox. Notice how almost no "news" of the whole Murdock/News Corp/News of the World scandal has appeared on Fox, which happens to be owned by Rupert Murdock.)

I long for the glory days of investigative journalism, not celebrity journalism. Of course there are notable exceptions like Douglas who itches to track down news, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel  who's also a stud-muffin IMHO  and CNN's Anderson Cooper. Heck, Jon Stewart is more of a journalist than most journalists, and he's a comedian!

Here's what Douglas had to say:

Bachmann playing by old 6-on-6 rules

by Douglas Burns for Des Moines' Cityview 

Michele Bachmann's staff is exceptionally smart. A-plus stuff, really.

They understand the GOP presidential aspirant thrives best in a cocoon. She can play offense, as long as she doesn't dribble the ball more than twice. Take a thought from A to B? Sure. But don't reach for C, especially if it involves American history and slavery.

Leave winsome Michele alone, fully miked and unstaffed, with no rip cord at the ready, and instead of just showing a blasphemous disregard for the history of the Civil War and civil rights, the Minnesota congresswoman may actually attempt to purchase a slave. Memo to Bachmann staff: watch her closely in South Carolina around black people.

And make sure she doesn't take unscripted questions. Just play your own game. Pretend Iowa is like it was in the 1960s when Michele lived in Waterloo.

For generations of Iowans, basketball was two different games. The boys played 5-on-5, the way the game stands today at all levels. Hawkeye State girls, on the other hand, went 6-on-6, with defensive and offensive duties split — a format that can be superior to watch from a spectator's standpoint, but sends a constant subtle gender message to the community of the walking and chewing gum variety.

In the 2012 Iowa Republican presidential caucuses, we are witnessing the resurrection of the old high school basketball regime: girls — Bachmann and the much-courted but not easily caught Sarah Palin — get the easy rules, the ones where you don't have to cross center court (or change subjects in a debate too quickly).

In an all-offense, no-defense plan, Bachmann and her staff refused to take questions from the local media during her recent stop in Carroll, something every other presidential candidate — Democrat and Republican — has done in Carroll (if they stopped here, and most have) in all election cycles we can recall.

Perhaps Cal Coolidge or Alf Landon or Woodrow Wilson snubbed us back in the day. But as for recent decades, the candidates fielded questions from local media. 

Bachmann had time to dance and sign autographs for the crowd, so she had time to take questions from the media.

 Newt Gingrich took our questions. So did Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty.

But on July 3, Bachmann was already in four-corners mode, seeking to run the clock and reduce opportunities for political turnovers. So she seeks friendly audiences. 

Her media schedule listed three separate appearances on FOX News just this past Tuesday and Wednesday, with Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Greta Van Susteren. Rupert Murdoch's folks probably won't even bother to hack Bachmann's voicemails to prep for the interviews.

You can't blame Bachmann for not taking questions. 

She's winning the Iowa caucuses.

In a recent poll conducted by The Iowa, Bachmann received support from 25 percent of likely Iowa caucus-goers, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (who finished second in Iowa in the 2008 caucuses) pulls 21 percent.

 What's more, the British bookmaking site has Bachmann favored to win the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses at odds of 7 to 4. She was at 5 to 2 just weeks ago.

But could this continue if she started regularly answering questions from Iowans who aren't cherry-picked by her earnest staffers? What if she faced questions from local newspapers in Iowa that can get deep into the weeds on rural issues, tire-kick the self-proclaimed Iowa-ness of this politician from Minnesota's Twin Cities.

Bachmann, 55, moved from Waterloo to Minnesota at age 12. Would she really bring an "Iowa voice" to the White House, or is she more of a suburban product these days, primped for American politics, reality TV-style. Bachmann is an attractive woman who makes head-turningly bizarre statements, which for some mysterious reason, resonate with older, rural men. Which is a more dangerous place in America to stand right now? Between a gaggle of teen-age girls and Justin Bieber or in the middle of Bachmann and a pack of rural retirees wearing seed hats in Iowa?

A more interesting place to be might be between Bachmann and God. God talks to her, gives her political advice, even. In Bachmann's universe, God is like Karl Rove, only with a long beard, booming voice and the ability to punctuate his thoughts with lightning bolts. According to Bachmann, God wants her to run for the presidency, just as she says He's wanted her to seek other offices. So if Bachmann falls short in her White House bid, can we presume God wanted her to lose as well?

One more quick note on this being-talked-to-by-God business. If we have attorney-client confidentiality and doctor-patient privilege, can't this same concept be extended to the God/worshipping-mortal relationship? Maybe God does talk to Bachmann. But shouldn't that be between them?

For the record, apparently God didn't want Michele Bachmann to be building any substantive legislative record in Congress — unless you count the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act. No joke. Bachmann introduced this bill March 1 (April 1 would have made more sense) out of concern that the United States is advancing too quickly with light bulbs.

"Her record in Congress, as I mentioned before, is, you know — again, great remarks, and great speeches, but in terms of results and accomplishments — nonexistent," fellow Minnesotan and presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of their state, told "Fox and Friends."

Bachmann's campaign no doubt responded with detailed accounting of her work on behalf of light bulbs. Or should have.

But we do know where Bachmann stands on slavery. It's better for black kids than life under Obama, goes Team Bachmann's line of reasoning.

 Bachmann signed a marriage and values pledge put forward by the Iowa organization Family Leader.

 The pledge included the following statement: "Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President."

The Family Leader removed that sentence from its introduction to the pledge. But it was there in black and white, and Bachmann, responding to a firestorm of criticism over her John Hancock on the document, issued a statement opposing slavery.

"In no uncertain terms, Congresswoman Bachmann believes that slavery was horrible and economic enslavement is also horrible," Bachmann's campaign spokesperson Alice Stewart told Politico.


A presidential candidate in 2012 is reduced to issuing a statement on slavery?

 Who does Bachmann think she is running against? Jefferson Davis?

Her supporters only wish. They'd switch to old Jeff faster than the tide turned at Pea Ridge.

Douglas Burns — Cityview.
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Saturday, July 23, 2011


"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage." — Martin Luther 

CONGRATULATIONS to all the same-sex couples who are now allowed, as of ten minutes ago, to legally marry in the state of New York. It's been legal in Iowa for two years and one month. It's still illegal in California. So who is the most progressive here would you say — New YorkCalifornia or Iowa? Ding, ding, ding — you're right, boys and girls, it's Iowa.

Here's a homegrown bouquet to celebrate.

Coneflowers and lilies in our backyard.
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Happy birthday Virginia

"It takes a long time to become young."— Pablo Picasso

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Virginia. Paul and I arrived with a bouquet, a ladybug cake and ice cream. Dena joined the party, and we overindulged and played Racko.

I can't believe I had the cake turned wrong way 'round,
so the ladybug's face isn't visible. 

Me, Virginia and Dena.
Paul was the photographer.

Virginia got more than a dozen birthday cards.
I always say, "It's sure too bad nobody loves you."
Most of the flowers for the bouquet
I made were from our backyard.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This just in!

"This is Iowa where you can't smoke a fag, but you can marry one." — Bob Vander Plaats supporter, spoken at a Vander Plaats meeting

I'D BEEN INTENDING to write a post about Bob Vander Plaats for several weeks, and then this video clip came to me hot off the press, er . . . microphone! 

In case you don't know who Bob is, let me cut to the chase; he's an embarrassment to Iowa

Iowa has taken so many progressive stands on behalf of equality, fairness, justice and human rights, then thanks to him we make the Colbert Report twice in three months — and I don't mean that in a good way. 

I can almost guarantee we'll be making a return engagement. He's just been caught on video cracking up over a homophobic joke that a person told at one of his whistle stops in the state, to which he adds, "Oh shoot, that's pretty good."

Scroll down to the last link to see his latest lack of tolerance towards gay people (or pretty much anyone who doesn't think exactly like he does). I've also attached the Colbert Report clips so you can get a better sense of who we're so NOT proud of, and there's a petition at the end you can sign if you want to encourage Bob to apologize.

The Colbert ReportAired: 04/12/2011
Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Threat Level: Rainbow

The Colbert ReportAired: 07/12/2011Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Family Leader's Controversial Pledge

Below is Bob's latest exposure.

Here's a petition asking Bob to apologize.
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Monday, July 18, 2011

Tour de Lance

"It's not about the bike." — Lance Armstrong, title of his book

I'M THINKING he's right, it's not about the bike. It's about the drugs.

The Tour de France has often been called the Tour de Lance because Lance Armstrong dominated it for so long, but as more allegations of doping surface, the question is — did he or didn't he. Unfortunately, I think he did. There's way too much smoke not to be a fire in there somewhere. Too many of his former teammates have come forward saying that they witnessed him in the act.


With guys like Roger Clemens, you gotta wonder why it takes so long to get it that odds are they're doping. When a player suddenly has a neck the size of a tree trunk, something besides power workouts has to be going on.

Roger Clemens or the Incredible Hulk?

Sometimes I question whether it's worth the effort to try and keep chemical enhancement out of sports. What if we let those who are so inclined ingest or inject whatever they choose? 

But what about the athletes who want to find out what their bodies are capable of purely on their own who would then be at a competitive disadvantage? I propose two separate 'divisions' for every sport — performance enhanced and au natural. We'll see whether it's Frankensports or unadulterated athleticism that pulls in the crowds. I vote for the latter. 
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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Unspeakably awful

"This is one of the most pervasive human rights abuses worldwide, with three million girls mutilated each year in Africa alone, according to United Nations estimates." — Nicholas D. Kristof

IF YOU'VE READ this blog more than a few times, you know that I'm a huge fan of New York Times op-ed columnist, Nicholas Kristof. I'm attaching an excerpt from a column he wrote May 11. I've saved it since then, but I sort of had to work up to sharing it. It's about genital mutilation. The practice is so unspeakably awful that words fail. Here's Nicholas to do the heavy lifting.

A Rite of Torture for Girls
Published: May 11, 2011

People usually torture those whom they fear or despise. But one of the most common forms of torture in the modern world, incomparably more widespread than waterboarding or electric shocks, is inflicted by mothers on daughters they love.

It’s female genital mutilation — sometimes called female circumcision — and it is prevalent across a broad swath of Africa and chunks of Asia as well. Mothers take their daughters at about age 10 to cutters like Maryan Hirsi Ibrahim, a middle-aged Somali woman who says she wields her razor blade on up to a dozen girls a day.

“This tradition is for keeping our girls chaste, for lowering the sex drive of our daughters,” Ms. Ibrahim told me. “This is our culture.”

Ms. Ibrahim prefers the most extreme form of genital mutilation, called infibulation or Pharaonic circumcision. And let’s not be dainty or euphemistic. This is a grotesque human rights abuse that doesn’t get much attention because it involves private parts and is awkward to talk about. So pardon the bluntness about what infibulation entails.

The girls’ genitals are carved out, including the clitoris and labia, often with no anesthetic. What’s left of the flesh is sewn together with three to six stitches — wild thorns in rural areas, or needle and thread in the cities. The cutter leaves a tiny opening to permit urination and menstruation. Then the girls’ legs are tied together, and she is kept immobile for 10 days until the flesh fuses together.

When the girl is married and ready for sex, she must be cut open by her husband or by a respected woman in the community.

Click here to read the whole article.

Nicholas Kristof

Here's his official NYT bio.

Nicholas D. Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times since 2001, is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who writes op-ed columns that appear twice a week.

Mr. Kristof grew up on a sheep and cherry farm near Yamhill, Oregon. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College and then studied law at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, graduating with first class honors. He later studied Arabic in Cairo and Chinese in Taipei. While working in France after high school, he caught the travel bug and began backpacking around Africa and Asia during his student years, writing articles to cover his expenses. Mr. Kristof has lived on four continents, reported on six, and traveled to more than 150 countries, plus all 50 states, every Chinese province and every main Japanese island. He jokes that he's one of the very few Americans to be at least a two-time visitor to every member of the so-called Axis of Evil. 
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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Say goodnight, Eliot

"My career was obviously cut shorter than I wanted it to be." — Eliot Spitzer 

ANYONE BESIDES ME doing the happy dance now that Eliot Spitzer is off CNN? IMHO employing him undermined the network's credibility. I'm personally really tired of a culture that turns doing something dishonorable and then lying about it into a smart career move. 

Say goodnight, Eliot.

I was also glad to say goodbye to Larry King. He and his weird personal life were creeping me out, and of course Glenn Beck's removal was practically the highlight of my spring. The one that makes Paul completely crazy is Nancy Grace for sensationalizing crime, feeding off the victims and turning tragedy into a spectator sport.

Au revoir


Paul is off to a gig in Colo, Iowa tonight with trumpet-master Jerry Stenstrom.  I'm sitting in the back yard listening to the cicadas, appreciating a breeze now that it's cooled off enough to be bearable, while I keep an eye on the furry children. 

Shye is sniffing the catnip plant that for their sake we've allowed to grow to gargantuan proportions; Boy Boy is lounging on the grass, and Shiva is under a bush. Time to gather the fur balls and take them inside.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cat's in the Cradle

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world." — Harriet Tubman, African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Civil War Union spy 

I CAME ACROSS this article about Harry Chapin. I had no idea he did so much good.


HUNTINGTON, N.Y. (AP) - Before there was Band Aid or Live Aid, a We Are the World or Hands Across America, there was singer-songwriter Harry Chapin - lobbying for change in Congress, pestering an already convinced President Carter to establish a commission on world hunger, and passing the hat for donations at concerts large and small.

Chapin has been gone now nearly as long as he lived. He achieved artistic and commercial success with a string of hits in the 1970s, songs like "Cats in the Cradle," ''Taxi" and "Circle" that aging Baby Boomers - and their babies' babies - still cherish.

His work as an advocate for the hungry is a legacy that resonates 30 years after his death at age 38 when a tractor-trailer demolished his car on the Long Island Expressway. Chapin died only hours before he was to perform a free concert before an expected crowd of 25,000 at the island's Eisenhower Park.

Harry Chapin

Now another benefit concert is planned by members of the Chapin family, including daughter Jen and his brothers Tom and Steve - also recording artists - at a town park in Chapin's hometown of Huntington, on Long Island. 

"Just to call him an inspiration would minimize his real impact. Harry Chapin, his life and his efforts, did an awful lot not only to stimulate the success of We Are the World, but its longevity," said entertainer Harry Belafonte, a driving force behind the 1985 benefit that raised millions to fight starvation in Africa.

"It's hard to overestimate the amount of good he did," added Sen. Patrick Leahy, a close friend of Chapin's who confessed he broke down in tears after he was summoned from the Senate floor on July 16, 1981, and told of the fatal crash. Speaking at Chapin's memorial service, Leahy said, was one of the most difficult things he's ever done.

The Vermont Democrat recalls a meeting with Carter in the White House, when Carter agreed to form a commission focusing on world hunger. Chapin's tenacious spirit almost kyboshed the deal, Leahy said.

"We sat around the Cabinet room and he starts telling the president we should do this. And the president's trying to say 'I agree with you, Harry.' And he's just getting all wound up and excited. I finally said, 'Harry, Harry, don't talk him out of it.' Everybody laughed."

Continuing his work three decades on is clearly a labor of love for the Chapin family, says Jen Chapin, a singer-songwriter who often performs with her father's guitar. She and other relatives have served on the board of directors of WhyHunger, a charity her father co-founded as "World Hunger Year" in the 1970s.

Since her father's passing, entertainers including Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Rogers and others have become forceful advocates on the hunger issue. Springsteen has for many years allowed local food banks to collect donations at his concerts.

"The fact of the matter is Harry was the greatest advocate for the homeless and malnourished in the entertainment business," says Ken Kragen, Chapin's manager for the last three years of his life. Kragen is credited with helping organize the We Are The World recording, and later was a founder of Hands Across America, another endeavor to fight hunger and homelessness.

"I think that he really inspired the events of the mid- and later 80s," Kragen said. "I would hope he would be very pleased at how much he has inspired."

Belafonte told The AP that he and Chapin were not intimate friends, but had met several times.

"We shared the platform on a number of occasions and I always responded favorably whenever he asked me to do anything, whether it was to write a letter or make a call," the 84-year-old singer said in a telephone interview.

"In that context, I grew to really admire him, not only for his commitment to the cause of hunger, but also the fact that he did it with such passion, such real commitment. As an artist, I certainly loved his work. Not only his music, but the content of his words. He spoke about the human condition with a sense of humor and as a lyricist he had his hand on the pulse of social needs."

Bill Ayres, a former Roman Catholic priest who has hosted a weekly radio talk show in New York since 1973, co-founded the organization now known as WhyHunger after first interviewing Chapin for his radio program.

When they started in 1975, there were only 28 emergency food providers throughout New York City. Today, he said, there are about 1,200. On a national level, he said WhyHunger works with approximately 8,400 community organizations, some of which deal with issues of hunger, while others help get jobs, health care and housing for those in need.

The organization conducts radio "hunger-thons" raising millions over the years, mostly in New York, but they have recently aired nationally over satellite radio. A WhyHunger spokeswoman said since its founding in 1975, the organization has raised more than $30 million to help more than 10 million families, children, veterans and others around the world gain access to nutritious food and vital services.

Ayres recalled: "Harry used to say 'when in doubt, do something,' and we have done a lot of things and it's still going on."
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pillow talk

"Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity." — Coco Chanel

LATELY I'VE BEEN enjoying the luxury of ironed pillowcases. I grew up ironing pillowcases. I can't remember when I stopped — a million years ago at least.

I've taken it up again. It started a few months ago after I left a load of sheets and pillowcases in the dryer too long, and they cooled and wrinkled under their own weight. I started to make the bed with them, but I just couldn't abide how completely wrinkled they were. I got out the iron and the very same old wooden ironing board I've used since I was tall enough to reach it.

I'd forgotten how deliciously smooth and cool a 100% cotton, ironed, pillowcase is to the cheek and how unwrinkled they remain the next day and the next. I've been ironing our pillowcases ever since. It's a luxury I can afford because I can do it myself. My head is on one this very moment.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Ice, ice baby, ice

"I didn't want to be an actress. I wanted to be a dentist, but you never know what life will bring you." Sofia Vergara 

PAUL HAD a root canal last month that he'd been putting off. To say I'm not good with anything medical is an understatement. I'll spare you the evidence; just believe me when I say that I'm really, really not good at it. 

The only way I can tell if Paul has cut himself or sustained some other wound is that he walks quickly out of the room to prevent me from seeing. There's a certain way he does it, though, maybe it's the speed and directness, but I can always tell — whereupon I say, "You've cut yourself haven't you," which unfortunately sounds more like an accusation than an expression of wifely concern.

Early on in our marriage he once said, "Okay, so just for my own peace of mind, if something really bloody and awful ever happened to me, you would try to do something, right?" Now there's a yardstick for measuring my lack of Clara Barton-ness.

I offered to drive Paul to the clinic for his root canal and be there to drive him home, but he said it wasn't necessary. Thankfully, it went really well and except for a headache later in the day, it was painless.

The whole dental surgery thing reminded us both of the time some years back when Paul had his first visit to the oral surgeon and had four wisdom teeth and another tooth pulled all at the same time. Knowing how bad I am in these situations, for days prior to Paul's appointment, I had been psyching myself up so that I might be resolute, stalwart and 100% the best caregiver possible.

I drove Paul to his appointment and waited while he was being worked on. When he was ready to go home, the nurse told me that he was conscious, but sedated. As we were leaving the clinic, I was handed his prescriptions for antibiotics and painkillers and told what to do for him; I was in a sort of dizzy blur, but I managed to focus just enough to memorize the words pain killers, ice, antibiotics. Pain killers, ice, antibiotics, pain killers, ice, antibiotics, pain killers, ice, antibiotics.

When I got Paul in the car, I had my first opportunity to really take stock of him. He was definitely not cognizant of his surroundings, his face — full of Novocain — drooped and sagged, and with his mouth distorted and full of gauze, he looked like he'd been worked over by Mike Tyson. Tears welled up in my eyes and began to run; so there we were, the two of us driving along — him with head lolling, eyes unfocused, drooling and bleeding, and me sobbing all the way home.

I got him home, put him to bed, put ice on his face, got the pills into him, and for the next three days I kept him on ice, pain killers and antibiotics 24/7. I was relentless; I was Nurse Ratched; I adhered strictly to the pain med/antibiotic schedule, waking him up if necessary to make sure the pills went down exactly on time, refilling the ice bag anytime it threatened to be less than freezing and putting it back on his face anytime it slid off day or night.

When Paul went back to the dentist to be checked, the oral surgeon was astounded. He said he'd never seen anyone have that much oral surgery with no bruising or residual swelling. Paul said, "Well, my wife kept ice on my face continuously since I had it done." "What?" said the doctor. "You were only supposed to be iced on and off for the first 12 hours. Well, I guess whatever she did worked. A little frostbite maybe, but definitely no swelling or bruising."

No wonder he didn't want me to take him to get his root canal.

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