Thursday, December 31, 2015

The lives they lived: Lesley Gore

‘‘I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to. You would cry too if it happened to you.’’ — Lesley Gore, It’s My Party

TO CLOSE out the year, here's another selection from my favorite 
New York Times Magazine issue of the year.

Lesley Gore

B. 1946


She made songs about loving and losing sound triumphant.

By Rob Hoerburger

December 27, 2015

That first hit, ‘‘It’s My Party,’’ lasted just 2 minutes 21 seconds, and still the phrase came at us more than a dozen times, each one, it seemed, with a little more mustard: ‘‘I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to.’’ Then, a few months later, there was ‘‘You Don’t Own Me,’’ its minor-key verse overswelling into a major-key chorus of ‘‘Don’t tell me what to do/Don’t tell me what to say.’’ With these declarations, Lesley Gore, the plucky teenager from Tenafly, N.J., brought a new kind of sisterly steeliness to the Top 40.

But there was something else going on, too, a quality in the voice — sockhop swing mixed with smoky afternotes of tenderness — if not in the actual words, that hinted at something she might have been trying to tell us, maybe even tell herself. In the summer of ’64, when she was 18 and holding her own on the charts at the height of Beatlemania, she enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College, a place known for seekers and dissenters. She studied English and American literature and initially stuck out for her pop bona fides: ‘‘I was a rock personality, which was not considered at all chic,’’ she said. ‘‘People at Sarah Lawrence were either into classical or folk music.’’ She still performed on the weekends and during vacations, and gradually the songs about unsuitable boys (‘‘Maybe I Know’’), about the need for self-reliance, took on a new dimension and authenticity, because over time, she realized she was gay.

By the time she graduated, though, pop music had changed, too. Gone were the days of hair flips and crinoline skirts, of songs that lasted just 2:21. Gore was now not just a gay woman trying to make her way in the music business, but also a 22-year-old has-been. She moved to Los Angeles and started writing more of her own material, often with her girlfriend at the time, the actress and writer Ellen Weston. But while pop music had become more ‘‘progressive,’’ America wasn’t quite ready to hear, at least from one of its former singing sweethearts, grown-up songs with maybe-gay subtexts like ‘‘Love Me by Name’’ and ‘‘Someplace Else Now.’’ She and Weston ‘‘were kicked out of more offices than you have hair on your head,’’ Gore said during one of her comeback attempts. She continued to mostly struggle, until 1980, when she wrote the words to ‘‘Out Here on My Own,’’ from the movie ‘‘Fame.’’ With lines like ‘‘I dry the tears I’ve never shown’’ and ‘‘I may not win, but I can’t be thrown,’’ the song became an anthem of empowerment for anyone who felt marginalized or discarded (and earned her, with her brother and co-writer, Michael, a Best Original Song Oscar nomination).

Gore did continue to sing ‘‘It’s My Party’’ and her other ’60s hits in concert, and one place her career experienced no lulls was my own house. ‘‘It’s My Party’’ was the first record I ever owned, and well into adulthood my two sisters and I continued to see her perform, in oldies big tents and intimate cabarets. We even used the unrepentant joy of Gore’s ‘‘Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows’’ as music therapy to help my young niece recover from a rare illness.

Like Gore, my sisters and I were following unconventional paths — single parent, Catholic nun, gay man — and I suspect we may have always connected to that searching quality in her voice. Leaving one of her concerts sometime in the ’80s, I turned to one of my sisters and said, ‘‘I think she must be gay,’’ though Gore had still not publicly come out. Years later, after she had hosted episodes of the L.G.B.T. newsmagazine ‘‘In the Life’’ and talked about her relationship with her longtime partner, a jewelry designer named Lois Sasson, she would nevertheless claim, ‘‘I can’t come out of the closet, because I was never really in it.’’ As Blake Morgan, a New York musician who knew Gore for almost 30 years, put it: ‘‘Sometimes when you slice into people, you get a little bit of them and then a little bit of someone else. When you sliced into Lesley, you just kept getting Lesley. She always said, ‘You gotta make your 16-year-old self proud.’ ’’

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Porter, Ginny and Monty learn to drive

"In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semihuman. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog." — Edward Hoagland, American essayist and novelist best known for his nature and travel writing

TOGETHER or apart, as we begin saying farewell to 2015, there are some of you I'm sure who wish you had the power to turn back the clock in order to savor moments that you didn't know would be your last with ones you love, while others are glad to see the back of this particular year.

Either way, let's share a little laughter. You can't not love this video and these dogs! For that matter, all dogs. I'm thinking that Porter drives better than some people I've encountered.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How to parent against rape culture

“If telling men ‘don't rape’ instead of telling women ‘don't get raped’, is like telling thieves "don't steal" instead of home owners to ‘lock your houses’, why don't we hear more victims of home invasion being told ‘you got what you deserved for having such a beautiful house on display for everyone to see’?” ― Miya Yamanouchi, Embrace Your Sexual Self: A Practical Guide for Women

A MEMBER of Paul's extended family, who is also a doctor and the mother of two small boys, recently shared this article from The Washington Post. I hope it will be widely circulated.

How to parent against rape culture (for one thing, start young)

By Stacey Steinberg and Jennifer Sager 
December 21, 2015

In the news, we’ve recently been bombarded with outrageous examples of male dominance, sexual control and coercion, and the objectification of women in very public forums. For example, a fraternity was recently suspended in Virginia after hanging a sign off their front porch that read, “Hope your baby girl is ready for a good time.”

On Facebook, an accused rapist wrote, “women are not people god just put them here for mans entertainment [sic].”

And Bill Cosby nonchalantly discussed his abuse of women in and interview surrounding his recent sex abuse scandal.

Rape Culture is a term coined to explain the very public and often pervasive attitudes in society that highlight coercion and control as central to a culture where sexual objectification exists. And while many parents discuss with older children and teens how to improve their safety in this culture, families are often silent about these issues during the early stages of childhood development. Yet it is during this crucial period that parents can give children the most effective tools to recognize these high risk attitudes in society.

By incorporating the following lessons into daily life, parents can empower their children to understand and regulate their emotions, responses, and reactions, and can teach their children to appreciate these same feelings in others.

1. Teach children that all emotions are important and should be respected. Children must be allowed to cry, to sulk, and to be disappointed. When we rescue children rapidly (with promises of candy or another present), we rob them of the opportunity to learn how to accept these feelings. By doing so, we also demonstrate that we, as the parents, are uncomfortable with our natural range of emotions.

2. When you say no, mean it and don’t backtrack. It’s well documented that inconsistent parenting can exacerbate a child’s behavior problems, but it also means the child does not develop the self-soothing skills needed to accept disappointment. In that same vein, allow your child to occasionally say no, and in those instances, allow your child to stand firm. When a younger child wants to play a game with her sister and the sister wants to play alone, it is tempting to require the older child to share with her younger sibling. But by doing so consistently, this teaches the older child that she needs to change her mind and ignore her own needs as she instead focuses on pleasing someone else. This also misses an opportunity to teach the younger child how to cope when things don’t go her way.

3. Allow children to backtrack. And when you backtrack (as parents inevitably will do), use it as a learning opportunity to teach children that we all have the right to change our minds. It may sound counter-intuitive, but think about it. Imagine packing everything up in the car, finally paying and getting into the ice skating rink, lacing up the skates, and hearing your child say “I don’t want to skate.” Our initial thought would probably be to feel exasperated. We might reasonably think, “I took all this time to get us here. You begged to come here! I paid for your skates. Last time you enjoyed it.” But 10 years from now, as parents, we hope that our daughter’s date respects her feelings if she changes her mind about sexual activity. If your child changes his or her mind about something, respect your child’s instincts and encourage your child to talk about these thoughts and feelings. In the end, your instruction as the parent must prevail, but use these scenarios as opportunities to foster your child’s intuition and to teach your child how to appropriately be heard and respected.

4. Recognize sexual objectification. Do not engage in body shaming. Learn to recognize instances when advertising makes a woman’s (or man’s) body into an object. Discuss this reality with your children and encourage them to think about people’s thoughts and feelings when they see images in the media and other outlets.

There is no way to inoculate our children from becoming victims or perpetrators of rape. But parents can help their children recognize and avoid the erroneous and harmful attitudes surrounding sex, power, control, and coercion. Teach children to respect their bodies, instincts, and emotions. At the same time, give them tools to recognize and respect the same thing in others. Perhaps by doing so, we can shift the dialog and begin to create a culture that fosters healthy boundaries and ends all forms sexual violence.

Jennifer Sager, Ph.D. is a psychologist. She often testifies as an expert witness in the field of sex abuse, trauma, and treatment. Sager is a private practitioner in Gainesville, Florida. Connect with her by visiting her web site.

Stacey Steinberg, J.D. is a legal skills professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Prior to law teaching, she worked as a prosecutor and child welfare attorney. Stacey often serves as a court appointed Guardian ad Litem in child abuse and neglect proceedings. Connect with her on Twitter @sgsteinberg and on Facebook.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Lying liars who lie: some more than others

“I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”  — HWSNBN

IF YOU FEEL like you're being lied to, it's because you are. For validation, here's an opinion piece written by Angie Drobnic Holan who is the editor of PolitiFact, a political fact-checking website founded by The Tampa Bay Times in 2007.

All Politicians Lie. Some Lie More Than Others.

By Angie Drobnic Holan
December 11, 2015

Washington — I’m a political fact-checker, which is usually an automatic conversation starter at parties. These days, I get two questions repeatedly: “Is it worse than it’s ever been?” and “What’s up with Donald Trump?”

I’ve been fact-checking since 2007, when The Tampa Bay Times founded PolitiFact as a new way to cover elections. We don’t check absolutely everything a candidate says, but focus on what catches our eye as significant, newsworthy or potentially influential. Our ratings are also not intended to be statistically representative but to show trends over time.

Donald J. Trump’s record on truth and accuracy is astonishingly poor. So far, we’ve fact-checked more than 70 Trump statements and rated fully three-quarters of them as Mostly False, False or “Pants on Fire” (we reserve this last designation for a claim that is not only inaccurate but also ridiculous). We haven’t checked the former neurosurgeon Ben Carson as often as Mr. Trump, but by the percentages Mr. Carson actually fares worse.

Carly Fiorina, another candidate in the Republican race who’s never held elective office, does slightly better on the Truth-O-Meter (which I sometimes feel the need to remind people is not an actual scientific instrument): Half of the statements we’ve checked have proved Mostly False or worse.

Most of the professional politicians we fact-check don’t reach these depths of inaccuracy. They tend to choose their words more carefully.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, for example, has ratings of Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire at the 40 percent mark (out of a sizable 117 statements checked). The former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s negative ratings are at 32 percent out of 71 statements checked, a percentage matched by two other Republican contenders, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Senator Rand Paul.

In the Democratic race, Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are evenly matched at 28 percent (based on 43 checks of Mr. Sanders and 140 checks of Mrs. Clinton). Outside of the primary campaign, we’ve continued checking the public statements of Bill Clinton since 2007; he comes out slightly ahead of President Obama in his truth-telling track record.

Falsehood Face-Off
Statements since 2007 by presidential candidates (and some current and former officeholders) ranked from most dishonest over all to least dishonest, as fact-checked by PolitiFact. “Pants on Fire” refers to the most egregious falsehoods.

The president has the distinction of being the most fact-checked person by PolitiFact — by a wide margin, with a whopping 569 statements checked. We’ve rated nine of those Pants on Fire.

Even though we’re in the midst of a presidential campaign full of falsehoods and misstatements, I see cause for optimism. Some politicians have responded to fact-checking journalism by vetting their prepared comments more carefully and giving their campaign ads extra scrutiny.

More important, I see accurate information becoming more available and easier for voters to find. By that measure, things are pretty good.

Mr. Trump’s inaccurate statements, for example, have garnered masses of coverage. His claim that he saw “thousands of people” in New Jersey cheering the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, grabbed headlines but the stories were about the rebuttals.

When Ms. Fiorina mischaracterized a video about Planned Parenthood during an early debate, it was a significant part of the post-debate coverage, while Mrs. Clinton’s sometimes misleading statements about her email accounts have been generating close, in-depth scrutiny for most of 2015.

Today’s TV journalists — anchors like Chuck Todd, Jake Tapper and George Stephanopoulos — have picked up the torch of fact-checking and now grill candidates on issues of accuracy during live interviews. Most voters don’t think it’s biased to question people about whether their seemingly fact-based statements are accurate. Research published earlier this year by the American Press Institute showed that more than eight in 10 Americans have a positive view of political fact-checking.

In fact, journalists regularly tell me their media organizations have started highlighting fact-checking in their reporting because so many people click on fact-checking stories after a debate or high-profile news event. Many readers now want fact-checking as part of traditional news stories as well; they will vocally complain to ombudsmen and readers’ representatives when they see news stories repeating discredited factual claims.

That’s not to say that fact-checking is a cure-all. Partisan audiences will savage fact-checks that contradict their views, and that’s true of both the right and the left. But “truthiness” can’t survive indefinitely in a fact-free vacuum.

If Mr. Trump and his fans saw video of thousands of people cheering in New Jersey, why has no one brought it forward yet? Because it doesn’t exist.

Fact-checking’s methodology emphasizes the issue at hand and facts on the ground. Politicians can either make their case or they can’t. Candidates’ fans may complain about press bias, but my impression is that less partisan voters pay a lot of attention to these media moments, especially when elections are close and decided by a few percentage points. Trust and integrity are still crucial assets for a politician.

Contrary to the prophecies that truth in politics is doomed, I’m encouraged by the effect that fact-checking is having. When friends conclude despondently that the truth doesn’t matter, I remind them that people haven’t started voting yet. I don’t take current polls too seriously because data suggests that most people don’t settle on a candidate until much closer to casting their vote.

In the end, it’s the voters who will punish or reward candidates for what they’ve said on the campaign trail. I’m confident that Americans have the information they need to help them choose wisely.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The lives they lived: Augusta Chiwy

‘‘I was just a nurse. I did what I had to do.’’ — Augusta Chiwy

MY FAVORITE annual issue of The New York Times Magazine is The Lives They Lived, a year-end salute to people we've lost in the previous 12 months. I'm often moved by these life stories and sad that some among them are no more — especially so because I didn't get the chance to know them and express my praise, thanks or sympathy.

In the introduction to this year's issue, author Jenna Worthas makes a comforting point: the internet and social media have combined to alter what we might consider as earthly existence, saying, "Perhaps the most profound side effect is that death no longer obeys any laws of finality." 

I rather like that idea. Here's the life story that moved me the most.

Augusta Chiwy

B. 1921


She saw so much and could say so little about it.

By Ruth Padawer

December 27, 2015

In late December 1944, as German bombs rained on the Belgian town Bastogne, an American Army surgeon named Jack Prior banged on the door of a local home, desperate for help. He had heard a nurse lived there. When a middle-aged gentleman cautiously opened the door, the surgeon asked if the man’s daughter could join him at the Army’s makeshift hospital close by.

Prior knew Augusta Chiwy was black — her father was Belgian, her mother Congolese — and he knew the American Army prohibited black nurses from treating its white soldiers. But he reasoned that volunteers weren’t bound by Army rules. And anyway, he needed help.

The situation at the hospital was dire. The only medics for the 50 or so wounded soldiers were Prior, a dentist and another volunteer nurse. The team had run out of morphine and bandages, and only one can of ether remained. Electricity and running water had been cut off by the Germans, who were quickly surrounding Bastogne. This was the Battle of the Bulge, one of the deadliest of the war.

Chiwy, then 23, was home for what was supposed to be a short Christmas break from her job as a general nurse 100 miles away. That post had not prepared her for what she now saw: gaping shrapnel wounds, broken bones protruding through skin, men shaking, screaming and dying, with no medication to alleviate their pain.

The other nurse, a white Belgian who couldn’t bear gore, focused on bathing and feeding the men. But Chiwy assisted Prior in everything, packing men’s intestines back into their abdomens and wrapping their wounds with ripped bedsheets. After local residents told them about a large supply of cognac beneath town hall, Chiwy and Prior used it as both antiseptic and anesthetic.

When Prior found gangrene on a soldier’s hand and foot, Chiwy, who was only 4-foot-8, gave the man cognac, then held him down as Prior sawed off the appendages with a standard-issue serrated knife. She and Prior also went to the battlefield to retrieve the wounded, as snow and earth flew up around them whenever machine-gun fire struck nearby.

Augusta Chiwy as a nursing student, front row center, at St. Elisabeth Hospital in Leuven, Belgium, in 1943. Credit Photograph from Martin King
On Christmas Eve, a 500-pound bomb hit Prior’s hospital. As the building buckled, 30 wounded men were killed, as was the white nurse. She would be called heroic and dubbed the Angel of Bastogne. Chiwy wouldn’t be acknowledged until decades later.

The explosion blew Chiwy through a glass wall, but she ignored her cuts and helped pull survivors from the smoldering heap. She then fled to her father’s empty home. The attacks continued as she crouched in the corner of the basement, shaking uncontrollably. Even after she crept out of the cellar, something inside her seemed to shut down.

With his hospital demolished, Prior moved to a bigger American military-aid station a half-mile away, where 600 wounded soldiers, many with gangrene, lay on a straw-and-dirt floor in what was once an indoor riding hall for cavalry practice. The handful of medics were utterly overwhelmed, so Chiwy joined them to do what she could. Besides, she adored Prior. Many of those soldiers were from the Deep South, and they recoiled from her, saying they didn’t want a black person touching them. Prior snapped back that they had a choice: be treated by Chiwy or be left to die.

Though Chiwy worked hard, she talked less and less. In early January, when a soldier near her was blown up by a land mine, she tried to scream, but no sound came out.

On Jan. 17, 1945, Prior left Bastogne to follow his division. Chiwy was devastated and fell mute. Her silence lasted two years. When she finally spoke again, she avoided discussing those days as an Army volunteer, even with her two children. It took her 20 years to return to nursing.

The historian Martin King had wondered who the uncelebrated black nurse at Bastogne was, and in 2007, he set out to find her. Eventually, he located Chiwy in a Brussels geriatric home and visited her weekly but for eight months could coax no details from her about the war: ‘‘She’d talk about the nice weather and the bad food, but whenever I’d ask about Bastogne, she’d just go quiet.’’ 

One day, she abruptly asked, ‘‘So, what do you want to know about Bastogne?’’ and Martin said: ‘‘Everything.’’ She said: ‘‘The corpses being stacked up outside the aid station. And the smell of death and blood and piss.’’

As she opened up, she seemed lighter, but waved off her heroism: ‘‘I was just a nurse. I did what I had to do.’’

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas at our house

“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas.” — Dale Evans, American writer, film star, singer-songwriter and third wife of singing cowboy Roy Rogers

IT SNOWED in central Iowa two days before Christmas, just enough to cover everything and make for a white Christmas Eve and Christmas. By this morning, the day after Christmas, it was all melted away by a warm rain.

Christmas Eve Paul played a church service at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Beaverdale where he got to put his new/old trombone through its paces. While he was gone, I was busy wrapping gifts for friends, family members and him.

Christmas day we opened our packages from each other in bed with help from two of the four furry-purries. 

Shiva thinks she ought to be the present. And of course she is — every day.

Boy Boy follows Shiva around everywhere and wants to do everything she does.
Paul wearing new jim jams and wrapped up in a fuzzy throw . . . and cats. .

One of my presents from Paul was a new toaster. He said he was reluctant to tell anyone that's what he'd gotten me. He figured it was only marginally better than a new bucket, mop and a bottle of Pine-Sol. But I really wanted a new toaster! I've been complaining for years about our old one which reliably burned bread on one side and left the other side mostly unscathed. I laughed and laughed so hard when I saw what it was. 

In early afternoon we met Paul's parents and Karl, Peg and Paul Schilling at Prairie Meadows for Christmas buffet. Karl and Peg are extraordinary bird photographers, and Paul Schilling is on a break before returning to Viet Nam where he teaches. Karl is also a consummate story-teller, providing the rest of us with lot of belly laughs — which was a little hard on the constitution considering how much we'd all eaten.

Paul's mom and dad and us.

First row left to right: Paul Schilling, Phyllis Bridson and Keith Bridson. Back row left to right: Peg Schilling, Karl Schilling, Paul and me.

In the evening Paul and I took Christmas dinner over to Mama Logli's: roast turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Paul and Mama Logli made gravy together. We stayed until the wee hours and came home in a food coma.

Mama wanted Paul to bring his trombone so she could see it and hear him play. He obliged with some Christmas carols, and I more or less played the only song I know on the piano — 
which happens to be Silent Night. 

Mama wanted a picture of her fireplace mantel. Th white figurines are angels we got her a few years ago.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Gifts we hope not to get

"I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts." — Will Rogers, American humorist, August 25, 1962

BY WAY OF a little present, here's New York Times columnist Gail Collins' take on the presidential candidates at Christmas. You're welcome.

The Donald Trump Days of Christmas

By Gail Collins
December 24, 2015

Happy holidays! I say this with some trepidation, because Donald Trump has vowed that when he is president, “We’re all going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.” That was a while ago, during his war on the Starbucks coffee cup design. So very much water has run under the Trumpian bridge since then.

But I’m still trying to figure out exactly how a universal “Merry Christmas” mission would be accomplished. Would there be a “holiday” gag order? Seasonal salutation checks at the border?

This is supposed to be a down period for presidential campaigning, since most of the population is focused on celebrating you-know-what with friends and families. But Trump has given us such a not-normal year that people will be drinking eggnog by the fire and discussing the proper use of the word “schlonged.”

The happiest holiday parties should be with Team Clinton, which clearly believes that going to war with Trump is good for her cause, and that having Trump as the Republican nominee would be even better.

Their current fight began when Hillary, in the last Democratic debate, said ISIS was “going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.” There is actually no specific evidence this is happening, although it certainly seems probable.

For the sake of perfect accuracy, Clinton should have said that ISIS “is bound to start going.” We would dwell on imperfect verb choice longer if PolitiFact hadn’t just announced that out of 77 Trump statements it looked into, 76 percent were rated Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire.

The Trump campaign is a new phenomenon. He mainly flies around on his planes, speaks at big rallies and calls into radio and TV news talk shows. Trump brags about his lack of interest in fund-raising, but he doesn’t seem to be spending much of his own money, either. This is a guy whose great keys to fortune were inheriting real estate and putting his name on things that other people often paid for. Maybe he figures he can become president just by branding it.

After the Hillary diatribes, Trump told a howling audience this week that he hates journalists, and he appeared to be mulling the idea of killing some of them. To be fair, he did conclude by announcing he wouldn’t do that.

For which I presume we’re supposed to be grateful.

Once, long ago, I was the subject of Trumpian ire — I had referred to him as a “thousandaire” — and his response was to send me a copy of the column with a couple of insults written over my picture and a note in which he misspelled the word “too.” So really, he’s not all that threatening. As long as he remains a private citizen, the worst he can do is to throw up an ugly apartment building or hotel in your neighborhood.

But the president thing is no longer a joke. You may have noticed that the competition is starting to fall away. This week Senator Lindsey Graham threw in the towel, or, in polite political-speak, “suspended his candidacy.” Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul and John Kasich seem likely to be consigned to the loser’s section when the Republicans have their next debate.

That brings us down to six people, one of which is Ben Carson, who’s fading fast. Also Jeb Bush, who was last seen wandering around New Hampshire, reminding people how many times he’s been there. At this point in the political cycle, if you’re a desperate candidate you go somewhere cold and try to get the population to fall in love with you just because they’ve had so many opportunities to shake your trembling, frostbitten hand.

Ted Cruz is doing something along that line in Iowa, where he’s ahead. But he’s also moved into a clear second place in the polls, terrifying the party establishment and many Republican billionaire donors, who regard Cruz as an obnoxious self-promoting egomaniac. There is nothing the oligarch class hates more than egomaniacs.

The big donors appear to be particularly fond of Senator Marco Rubio, the attractive, 44-year-old Floridian who has done very well in the debates. The other candidates find Rubio’s popularity irritating, particularly since he hasn’t been campaigning all that hard. Or doing anything else, it appears. Trump called Rubio a sweaty underachiever “with no money, zero.” This is, if nothing else, a campaign where the insults are meeting a new norm. Thanks almost entirely to the front-runner.

On the seventh day of Christmas, he gave to you and me …
Seven Mexican rapists
Six terrorist refugees
Thousands of Muslims partying on 9/11!
Four “loser” opponents
Hillary-bathroom sniping
Two birther rants
And a bromance with Vladimir Putin.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Paul's new, old trombone

“A frisky spirit makes my trombone sing.” — Chris Barber, British jazz musician best known as a bandleader and trombonist

WHEN Paul and I celebrated our anniversary in Kansas City last month, we brought along his late-60's King 3-B trombone so we could check it into the trombone hospital — BAC: Best American Craftsmen Music — for a complete refurbishment and customization. 

He's been waiting expectantly, and a little nervously, for it to be finished. Last week owner Michael Corrigan let us know his horn was ready, but with all the prep work for both the Turner Center Jazz Orchestra holiday concert and Santa's visit to the domestic violence shelter, we couldn't get away to pick it up. 

Paul felt like we had too much on our plate to be able to go this week either, but I really, really wanted him to have his new, old horn for Christmas, so last night I said, "Let's just jump in the car tomorrow and go get it." 

So we did, and wow, is the new version of his old horn something to see and hear, and is Paul ever a happy guy! It plays like a dream.

Merry Christmas, sweetheart. You deserve it.

Left to right: BAC owner Mike Corrigan, Paul and craftsman Darrel Wilson.

BACer, Trevor, said excitedly, "Let's play a duet!" And so they did.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

102 presents

“Has he ever trapped you in a room and not let you out? Has he ever raised a fist as if he were going to hit you? Has he ever thrown an object that hit you or nearly did? Has he ever held you down or grabbed you to restrain you? Has he ever shoved, poked, or grabbed you? Has he ever threatened to hurt you? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then we can stop wondering whether he’ll ever be violent; he already has been.” — Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

SANTA visited Children and Families of Iowa domestic violence shelter in Des Moines last night, and Paul and I were elves. 

Somehow between Thursday night's Turner Center Jazz Orchestra concert and Monday night's shelter party, we managed to see to it that 102 presents were wrapped and delivered so that every resident got a pair of new pajamas and a new fuzzy blanket.

I wouldn't have made it without lots of help along the way. 

Sandy Roan and the Echo Valley Country Club Women's Golf Club had a holiday party and not only collected dozens and dozens of pajamas, but donated $1000 which allowed me to buy additional blankets and fill in the sizes I was missing.

Jo Ann Dreckman held a Red Hat Society Christmas party where guests brought almost 100 pairs of new pajamas, and Dee Schreffler sewed 27 blankets which she brought to the party for me.

Some of the Red Hat Society ladies who donated pajamas.

Melissa Kuennen held another pajama drive this year at the Ankeny YMCA.

Melissa and her Y drive.

Char Vukovich and her friends donated additional blankets so everyone would get one.

Paul and I bagged 51 new blankets.

Anne Owen and Leigh Josephs did a lovely job of boxing and wrapping half of the pajamas. 

Paul and I were shopping and wrapping pretty much non-stop Saturday, Sunday and Monday. 

And oh my, were the children excited to see Santa! I happened to be wearing a pair of mostly red pants tucked into tall, black boots and a Santa hat (above), which was inspiration enough for one adorable little five-year-old to look up at me with big brown eyes and ask, "Are you Santa?" Heart-melting innocence. 

Amidst the charm of excited children meeting Santa and opening packages, were sobering reminders of the reality that is domestic violence: among the group gathered was a woman with a broken leg and a fresh bandage on her head, and during the two hours I was at the shelter, a mom and her three children arrived, having had to literally run for their lives. 

I'd brought extra blankets and pajamas just in case, and shelter director Catherine Reaman-Gerdes and I scrambled around to make sure all four of the new arrivals had packages the same as everyone else. 

Catherine said that one of them, a little girl, had big sad, tear-filled eyes as she watched everyone get something from Santa, sure that she wouldn't, and the surprise and happiness on her face when she got packages too, was heart-tugging. 

The next morning Catherine saw lots of mothers and children wearing their new pajamas and carrying around their new fuzzy blankets. That was the goal. So once again: mission accomplished — temporarily.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Rose Colella at TCJO's holiday concert

"You leave home to seek your fortune and when you get it, you go home and share it with your family." — Anita Baker

LAST NIGHT, December 17 was Turner Center Jazz Orchestra's holiday concert featuring Rose Colella. The concert wasn't just sold out, it was standing room only. She was worth standing for though, I promise.

Since she grew up just down the road in IndianolaRose was literally coming home for Christmas, at least the Christmas concert anyway, and her parents were in the audience just as proud as they could be.

After graduating from Roosevelt University in jazz studies, Rose stayed on in Chicago where she performs regularly at Jazz Showcase, Green Mill and other jazz clubs. She recently released her second album called Cocktail as a followup to her 2009 critically-acclaimed Small Hours. (Read The New York Times article about Rose following the photos. It's a story with an interesting twist.)

She can be reached at

Besides playing, Paul fronted the band, I floor-managed and we decorated the room from floor to ceiling. SO much work!! But the show was a huge hit. We hope to bring Rose back again next year.

Below are some pictures from last night, as well as one of me in my current circumstance: in bed with a soar throat. That's me buried in cats. No wonder Paul and I can hardly find room to sleep!

Covered with cats. In order from head to toe: Shye, Shiva and Boy Boy. I'm under there somewhere.
A Granddaughter’s Inspiration, at 78 R.P.M.

By Neil Tesser
December 16, 2011

Standing tall and cool in front of a small combo, the Chicago vocalist Rose Colella plumbs the Great American Songbook for her repertory, from Irving Berlin and the Gershwins through Cole Porter and Frank Loesser. In this respect, she fits the mold of many modern jazz singers.

But most vocalists did not learn these tunes from their grandmothers — and their grandmothers did not learn them from Ella Fitzgerald.

“She didn’t talk much about her career, probably because she thought we weren’t that interested,” Ms. Colella said, referring to her paternal grandmother, Alice Muriel Barbera, who went by Lola Bard, a glamorous but obscure vocalist of the 1930s and ’40s. “I knew she had been a singer, and I remember she would sit at the piano and teach me these songs and tell stories about bands she had been on. And finally I put it together that these were the songs she had sung as a professional.”

It took a bit longer for Ms. Colella, 32, to realize how those early lessons had sunk in. “Around middle school, it hit me that I loved these melodies,” she said. “My mother bought me a subscription to a sheet-music magazine, and I started to recognize some of the same songs Lola had sung. My favorite thing was to sit and play these tunes and learn them myself.”

Ms. Colella is a young veteran of the city’s jazz and cabaret scene, who collected warm reviews for the low-key “Small Hours,” her only album thus far. The Canadian jazz magazine Cadence praised her “coolly coquettish and swinging manner,” and Chicago Jazz Magazine called it “a solid debut.” In January, Ms. Colella will host a weekly jam session at the city’s famed Jazz Showcase.

Ms. Colella’s grandmother was born in 1912 and began singing on the radio while she was in college in New York. A couple of years later, when she met Tony Colella, a big-band trumpeter her age, she knew what she wanted both on stage and off.

They married in October 1938. (They would divorce a decade later but remain friends.) And in 1938, Lola Bard began her recording career, appearing on four songs with the trumpet star Bobby Hackett and on six more with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, which had made the first well-known commercial recordings classified as jazz in 1917.

Also in 1938, Ms. Bard’s commercial recording career came to an end. “It spanned exactly two days — Feb. 16 with Hackett, and Feb. 18 with the O.D.J.B.,” said Dan Morgenstern, the departing director of Rutgers University’s Institute for Jazz Studies.

But in an e-mail, Mr. Morgenstern mentioned another, never-issued recording of Ms. Bard from 1937, and he unearthed a photo from the April 1938 edition of Downbeat magazine with the caption: “Newest singing favorite of New York is Lola Bard.”

“Not exactly a household name,” he added, “though she sang very nicely on that handful of discs.”

Ms. Bard’s few recordings place her just a degree or two from some of jazz’s greatest names. The members of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band knew Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman, who spoke favorably about the band’s clarinetist. And she had a more-than-passing friendship with Ella Fitzgerald — as close to jazz royalty as you can get.

“Lola used to sing Ella’s hit, ‘A-Tisket, A-Tasket.’ One night in her dressing room, she heard someone yelling her name. She looked over the balcony and it was Ella, eating a box of chocolates, calling ‘Lola! Lola, it’s Ella, honey! I came to hear you sing my song!’ ” Ms. Colella said.

She also met Frank Sinatra, Ms. Colella said, “but Lola didn’t have a positive opinion of him.”

“She bumped into him once, and he said something so suggestive that she would never repeat it — something about her figure — and she was just offended that he would say something so brazen,” Ms. Colella said.

Despite the Colella family’s rich history, the members rarely played their matriarch’s recordings. “She hated listening to them,” Ms. Colella said, explaining that the old records must have been pressed at the wrong speed. “The music was faster, and her voice was higher than it should have been. There was quite a negative connotation to them, and we never listened to them when she was around.”

But after Ms. Bard died in 2000, Ms. Colella brought home some CD reissues of the songs, “and our jaws dropped,” she said. “We were finally hearing her the right way. We had thought she was just being hypersensitive, but it wasn’t the case. She had this low, lovely, warm quality, and this beautiful wilting vibrato.”

Since then, Ms. Colella — who shares her grandmother’s eyes and nose and some of her phrasing, but sings in a light soprano — has devoted herself to documenting Ms. Bard’s legacy.

“I found one of her old records at a big sale, I had no idea there were any floating around, and at that point, I started researching her online,” she said.

Ms. Colella has since acquired other 78 r.p.m. records, as well as sheet music with her grandmother’s picture on the cover, and old newspaper clippings.

“She inspired me by showing me this music in the first place,” Ms. Colella said. “My parents inspired me, by supporting me, providing lessons, sending me to college. But my model was Lola Bard.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mental health experts diagnose HWSNBN

“Narcissism falls along the axis of what psychologists call personality disorders, one of a group that includes antisocial, dependent, histrionic, avoidant and borderline personalities. But by most measures, narcissism is one of the worst, if only because the narcissists themselves are so clueless.” — Jeffrey Kluger, senior writer at Time Magazine and author of The Narcissist Next Door

THE BELOW article came from which borrowed the content from a recent Vanity Fair article and interview. It's not unusual for mental health professionals to have private concerns about the fitness of presidential candidates, but to have so many go on record is uncommon. Yup, they're talking about HWSNBN.

Top U.S. Psychiatrists Confirm Trump’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder, ‘Textbook Case’

By Randa Morris
November 22, 2015 

A striking number of leading mental health experts are concerned enough about the possibility of a Trump presidency that they’re willing to speak out, publicly, about the candidate’s “Textbook narcissistic personality disorder.”

During a recent interview with Vanity Fair, developmental psychologist Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, referred to Trump as “remarkably narcissistic,” while clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis  used the term “textbook narcissistic personality disorder,” to describe Trump.

Michaelis went on to explain, “In the field we use clusters of personality disorders. Narcissism is in cluster B, which means it has similarities with histrionic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. There are similarities between them.”

Going on, Michaelis described Trump’s constant belittling of other people as a ‘symptom’ of a deeper problem.

“To degrade people is really part of a cluster-B personality disorder: it’s antisocial and shows a lack of remorse for other people. The way to make it O.K. to attack someone verbally, psychologically, or physically is to lower them. That’s what he’s doing.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Not since 1920

​"It is a moral outrage and national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency." — The New York Times Editorial Board, December 4. 2105

FOR THE FIRST time since 1920, on Dec. 4 , 2015 The New York Times ran an editorial on its front page. The Editorial Board used this forum to call for greater regulation of guns. I'm sharing it with you in its entirety.

End the Gun Epidemic in America

By The Editprial Board
December 4, 2015

All decent people feel sorrow and righteous fury about the latest slaughter of innocents, in California. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are searching for motivations, including the vital question of how the murderers might have been connected to international terrorism. That is right and proper.

But motives do not matter to the dead in California, nor did they in Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut and far too many other places. The attention and anger of Americans should also be directed at the elected leaders whose job is to keep us safe but who place a higher premium on the money and political power of an industry dedicated to profiting from the unfettered spread of ever more powerful firearms.

It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday. They distract us with arguments about the word terrorism. Let’s be clear: These spree killings are all, in their own ways, acts of terrorism.

Opponents of gun control are saying, as they do after every killing, that no law can unfailingly forestall a specific criminal. That is true. They are talking, many with sincerity, about the constitutional challenges to effective gun regulation. Those challenges exist. They point out that determined killers obtained weapons illegally in places like France, England and Norway that have strict gun laws. Yes, they did.

But at least those countries are trying. The United States is not. Worse, politicians abet would-be killers by creating gun markets for them, and voters allow those politicians to keep their jobs. It is past time to stop talking about halting the spread of firearms, and instead to reduce their number drastically — eliminating some large categories of weapons and ammunition.

It is not necessary to debate the peculiar wording of the Second Amendment. No right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation.

Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition, must be outlawed for civilian ownership. It is possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way and, yes, it would require Americans who own those kinds of weapons to give them up for the good of their fellow citizens.

What better time than during a presidential election to show, at long last, that our nation has retained its sense of decency?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

NCAA regional volleyball finals

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” — Dolly Parton

OUR RAINBOWS couldn't quite come out from behind the clouds at the NCAA regional volleyball finals held tonight in Des Moines, losing in four sets to the University of MinnesotaThe Gophers are a machine, their defense a wall, and the combination of the two served to dominate the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine in the first two sets, but the Bows battled back to take the third set, only to lose in the fourth.

The championship finals will be held December 17 and 19 in Omaha.

Pictures below. (Hawaii in green and black; University of Minnesota in white.)