Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Civility and the Windigo

Yesterday I was drawn into an online discussion with a Libertarian who accused “the left” of being riotously uncivil; of being incapable of argument and logic and dedicated only to name-calling and innuendo. I was so incensed I had to get in there and do a little name-calling of my own!  Yes indeed the left is louder and ruder and more blatantly blasphemous than I can ever recall in my lifetime, because we are mad as hell and we just can’t take it anymore. 

It is not a pretty thing. But I needed to point out that this now-common warcry from the right is really really really the pot calling the kettle black. If anyone else is old enough, cast your mind back to the first time you heard such rude meanness in the media (well, except maybe for the Vidal-Buckley bruhaha in 1968 – for which they were roundly punished, BTW). For me it was “conservative” talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, and my reaction to him and the fact of people actually listening to him was a sick stomach. I was appalled, my friends were appalled, my family was appalled. Limbaugh was the top radio host in Sacramento, CA by 1984. 

In 1986, the Fox Broadcasting Company opened its competing network of sensationalist reporting and the Fox News Channel followed in 1996, sporting King o’ Rudeness Bill O’Reilly and The O’Reilly Factor. 

In the meantime, Jerry Springer brought voice to the least common denominator in his daytime tabloid talk show where name-calling and on-stage fights were encouraged. My face is red with shame at the eagerness with which my species devoured (and still devours) this kind of vitriolic “entertainment.”  By the end of the century, the bounds of civility had been shattered. 

Maybe someone with a better memory than mine can come up with an entry from the left during this period. There was of course response from skewered politicians and commentary from comedians. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert started in 1996. Stewart and Colbert are no slackers, but they are not the mud-slingers of the right, and an argument could be made that they both instead have upheld a standard of civility in their satire, that this was one of their main goals. Certainly they engaged the right in argument (sometimes directly, as Jon and Bill on many occasions) and challenged them to respond, but that response was always more character assassination, beside the point and vitriolic. No one was spewing spittle from our side of the fence.

Air America radio network specialized in progressive talk radio from March 2004 to January 2010, famously led by Al Franken and Rachel Maddox. Commentary from the left got a little sharper, but it didn’t last. Probably because it wasn’t mean enough. 

The thing is, mean is not the default for most lefties. We are lefties because we want good things for everyone, because we like people and want them to succeed, because we are empathetic with our fellow men and women – we have to be driven to be mean. Not that some have not learned to compete to gain power, but the blue masses do not qualify. 

Now the election of pond scum like 45 and his own incredibly ugly and mean statements have finally driven us to that place. Truthfully, we are not very good at it. This is one fight we will never win because we just don’t understand how to be so underhanded, selfish, uncaring, and ruthless. To us, that is despicable behavior and the fact that we have fallen low enough to respond in kind, however incoherently, is an eye-opening commentary on the limits of patience. 

Are we mean enough yet to actually take back the polity? To restore civil discourse? To rebuild to a more inclusive society? 

And if we are that mean, will we even want to any more? 

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Art of Curation

It’s a lovely word, “curator.” Not everyone has worked with museums as I have, but I notice that the concept and use of the term has spread in the last few years to apply to almost any kind of presentation, any organization of diversity. 

“Curation” has always implied for me a studied and judicious ordering of elements into some recognizable group; some affinity of characteristics that organizes chaos into a shape. If it is done well, the affinity becomes commentary and points out a new thought or an important lesson, perhaps even creates an aha moment. It is an admirable and worthwhile undertaking.

It is time to curate my own life; to comb, sort, and recognize the worth of the eclectic mess that fills my drawers and closets, graces my walls, and clutters my hard disks. Butcher, baker, candlestick maker – I have done it all, and written about it as well. And as no good deed goes unpunished, I am currently averting my eyes from portfolios, binders, baskets, boxes, scrapbooks, photos, thumb drives, and all those shelves in the basement! Why oh why did I save it all?

And that indeed is the question. For what reason did I save this, and is that reason still viable

•I don’t have enough years left to do half the print projects I started and put away – do I have enough energy to do some of them? Are they still worth doing? 

•What will my kids want to have? Should it all be didacted it so as not to embarrass them? 

•My home videos, professional photos, print and computer resolution files on every media format – surely I could at least eliminate the doubles, triples, quadruples, and store everything on like devices. . .

•Is there value in framing the best of the portfolios full of art originals? Where would I put them as my walls are all full up already? Should I just order them chronologically? Does anyone give a rat’s ass?

•Big tins of inherited family photos that I have begun sorting, scanning, and matching to ancestor information could go dark here in the middle of such a curation storm. 

•What about the diaries? There is poetry in them thar pages if I want to mine it to use. Or maybe I should just burn them whole before they are left to the eyes of others. . .

•Six feet of shelf space for the products of a lifetime in publications. OMG. 

I don’t feel so studied and judicious any more; organizing principles elude me as I begin to topple, and for now, I think the best thing to do would be to go home and take a nap.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Scalawags 2040

Minneapolis's new 2040 Plan is getting a lot of reaction. The Scalawag Overlord Brigade (SOB) that installed the new bicycle lanes on 26th and 28th avenues in the dark of the night (su-prise, commuters!) kept it all close to the vest until just weeks before several public meetings were announced and a public commentary period of three months declared. I hang with some real knee-jerkers, so I was hoping to be able to react to this plan with an open mind if not open arms. But now that I have done a little research, goddamn it, throw the scalawags out!

It actually didn't take much. Nearly 300 collected email comments (and many more from other venues) are available to read at https://minneapolis2040.com/received-public-comments/  and they are about 95% negative - loudly in some cases and convincingly in others. And don't think people didn't notice the sneakiness (well, a "lack of transparency" to be more politically correct). 

The goals of the city growth plan wouldn't melt in your mouth: dealing with climate change, which requires a radical reduction in car use (hence no parking requirements for new developments, heh, heh, heh); and racial equality, which means that all those historically redlined neighborhoods should have new four-plexus built wherever a developer wants to put them in order to end the "affordable housing crisis" (and I have a bridge in New York I would like to sell you. . .).

You can get the full monte on the problems with this plan as countered by Minneapolis's long-range planning director, Heather Worthington, from Minnpost's 7/24/18 article at https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2018/07/fight-over-minneapolis-controversial-comprehensive-plan-proposal-explained. Check out the butter. 

The plan must address education, jobs, skills training, small business support, yadayada somewhere, but you can't miss how it waxes fantastic about rezoning and building "affordable housing" in every neighborhood, differentially and apparently depending only on the whim of the developer.  It is outrageous - 4-unit buildings zoned in so that lower-income people and smaller houses get pushed out as the taxes go up and developers scarf up properties to build. Now I am all for making housing affordable - maybe by getting people JOBS so they have enough money? But then, we would not NEED new units, n'est pas? 

And another thing. I want to know what the city means when it says "affordable." To find out, I first called the Community Planning and Economic Development office (CPED) (and I recommend all of you do the same, since the simple request for a definition confused them so much!). The receptionist, flustered at my question, demurred about who might be best for me, then sent me to Nancy, who also did not know anything but sent me to the Mayor's Office, where I encountered the brightly smiling voice of Jacob Frey, MAYOR OF MINNEAPOLIS:), telling me to leave a message and he would get back to me. Right. Back to the CPED, I chose a random Development Coordinator who answered his own phone and tried to help me by reading to me the same description that I had found in the site's policy:

a) For residential rental projects, at least 20% of the units shall be affordable to and occupied by households earning 60% or less of AMI (Area Median Income). 
b) For residential ownership projects, at least 10% of the units shall be affordable to and occupied by households earning 80% or less of the AMI.
c) The affordable units (both rental and owner occupied) shall be reasonably distributed throughout the project and comparable in size, number of bedrooms, quality and finish to the market rate units in the project as determined by CPED staff. 

which tells me WHO can rent or buy, but not HOW MUCH THEY WILL PAY.  My young friend at PRG tells me that HUD publishes the Section 8 income guidelines on their website for the metro area and it’s broken down by household size and defines landlord limits for those parameters, but no one with the city can (or will) tell me if these guidelines are followed if no federal funds are involved. Anyone want to bet?

Finally, I sent a very specific email to SOB President Lisa Bender's office three days ago (August 1) asking for a definition, but so far no response. I sent the email because both phone numbers for my councilperson wanted me to "leave a message please I will call you back," and in the case of D'Ana Pennington, Council Aide to Ward 10, because she is "out of town from July 9-13 and will call back when she returns." Would that be in 2019? Has it really been over two weeks since she checked her messages? Maybe something happened to her. . .

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Abandoning the Castle

We have all seen the syndrome in our parents' generation, the inability to leave the home they lived in for so many years. There are many good reasons for this, of course, and I am sympathetic; more so since I have reached the age where these decisions must be made, to leave with control or to stay and take your chances. Either way, there are hurdles.

Of course, not everyone has the choice to leave, at least voluntarily, before they carry you out on the door. But most of us middle-class types do. Should we downsize while we are still capable of doing it? Perhaps our home is small and single-storied and in a nice neighborhood; perhaps it is already without too many steps to climb or old ceilings and electrical outlets that need attention; perhaps it is ideal and the best bet is to stay and get whatever services you might need as time goes along.

But what if it has lots of steps, bedroom on the third floor, laundry in the basement, so much space that one room or another needs maintenance on a continuing basis? And what if those rooms are all filled to the top with stuff, stuff you have been putting lovingly in place for years?

First to consider is attachment - the caress of memory at everything your lay your eyes on: this was a gift from the first grandchild, your daughter made that in first grade, you bought that before you were married. . . these moments of sighing satisfaction are not easily given up.

Second, there is fear of change - who knows what a new place would be like: whether in a retirement community or a smaller house, you will not know that place like the back of your hand and as for the neighbors!! OMG!!! What might you be letting yourself in for?

Finally, there is the simple overwhelming nature of a project so large as to sort and move a lifetime's collection - no matter who tells you they will help and if you can afford to have someone else pack it all up, you have to sort it yourself because IT ALL WON'T FIT IN THE NEW PLACE. I particularly sympathize with this problem, because if I were to move, I could not take half of what I have. And all the boxes and file drawers and closets that are mixed full of detritus and treasure would have to be culled one by one, assigned to the flames or saved for a new, probably very small closet. And don't kid yourself that your children and their spouses will be lined up to get any of it. They don't want your stuff either.

In addition to these commonly discussed roadblocks to change, I see, more often but not always in the men, that this change means not just the loss of a house, but the loss of a dream; that they worked their whole lives to create this space and they are not only house-proud, their egos are bound to it. If this is the case, moving anywhere else is the last thing they can consider, no matter how difficult the climbing or the fear of falling, no matter how frustrating the leaking pipes or the chipping paint, and no matter how extensive the paid services. The house represents their vision of themselves, their reward for a job well done, a safe haven after the storms of adulthood. This kind of attitude will cause resentment of whatever life changes cause a separation, be it medical or practical. The loss will leave an agenda.

For those of us who have anticipated this moment and placed themselves in appropriately supportive housing situations, Bravo for the foresight. For the rest of us, woe to those couples who disagree and their children as well - buckle up your seatbelts, the future is going to get rough.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Walls of Antiquity

If I were the historian of my life, I would compare myself to a medieval castle, and I would have to say that the time has come when my walls have begun to crumble. I am thinking this is what the Third Stage is all about.

When I was young, I was joyfully aggressive about building a truly grand structure, and I have done that. When I was middle-aged, I was as smart and dedicated in expanding that structure and building defensive walls as my energy could make me, and I rejoiced in it. But now, near the end of my sixth decade, I am definitely slacking. I no longer feel a real need to attend those walls, as if it is just too much trouble.

I might have thought this was owing to encroaching feebleness, except that I don't feel very feeble and in fact still have trouble sitting still. It is not that.  Instead, I think the torches have been passed, the bridge has truly been crossed, and there is just no need for the constant upkeep any more. Let those walls crumble!

It strikes me that this is not simple capitulation to age and powerdown, not just the unfortunate breakdown of bodies returning to earth - this is the gradual process of freeing the energies I once put into building, in my life the most significant investment I have made. And I am not just eroding out my energies, I am unearthing the dedication to pathways that reaped those gains, the focus that required a lot of unconscious censoring of behaviors and thoughts that were detrimental or even just extraneous to my goals. I think they call it The Straight and Narrow. I habitually don't window shop because long ago I knew I would never have enough money to purchase frivolously. I have quit reading serious literature in favor of murder mysteries because it is too distracting. I am known as level-headed, grounded, and calm (if not always rational). These are rocks cut for my walls.

The decisions that shaped my castle, including long-suppressing conventions and the desire to not offend, are no longer required. I find the crumbling is releasing fairy dust, covering my goal-meeting faculties with irrelevancy. I am not likely to be able to meet anyone else's deadlines any more. Likewise I cannot bring myself to care much who hears me rant or what they think about me. There is a general freeing of suppressed self that is coming up through the cracks. I think it is kind of exciting, to get to know me again. I am wearing purple!

For that is what it is - the self does not seem to change within a life, just to gain perspective. The cement that held the stones of my castle in thrall was my own determination to build it that way.  It now is crumbling from time and age, yes, but also from my recognition of having already had a fabulous lifetime, from my satisfaction with the structure I built. Any future joys are pure gravy, the laurels on which I am learning to comfortably and eagerly rest.



Thursday, July 19, 2018

Outrage Exhaustion


I saw this term used by a friend of a friend and have not been able to pass up any opportunity to use it since. SO PERFECT!  The last two years have been a helluvaride, but I am sputtering to a stop here - or at least a slow glide. You can only keep up frenzy for so long!

And it was a frenzy at first when 45 "won" the election. Geez geez geez, how could there be enough idiots to even get him close? I read, and signed petitions, and donated my little heart out until it became obvious that nothing anyone said was making any difference.

So I gave up on the petitions, thinking that the flood of lawsuits by People Who Matter would be more effective at taking the whole cohort out. A year passed, and whoops maybe not - whatever happened to those lawsuits? Those absolutely constitutional legal arguments? Those surely-this-will-do-the-trick, certain-to-impeach efforts? Nada. In the words of the old Fugs song, "Monday nothing, Tuesday nothing, Wednesday nothing, Thursday nothing." I quite sending money to politicians I can stomach and just read.

But surely that rat-bastard Mueller's team would get them, and get them good. It did strike me as ultimately ironic that the tried and true FBI lead liar (pants on fire) had become our new Savior, but whatever, go for it, Son. I even gave up scoping the deep state anymore so I could maintain a modicum of support for this effort and not tie myself up in any new knots. But here it is a year later and we have some low-life scum on display with no upward mobility in sight. And if Mueller Mueller He's Our Guy can't do it, who can?

I, like everyone else I know, have outrage exhaustion. I have begun the long trek to save my sanity by unsubscribing to every damn political or social email I get. The race to get Progressives into congress looks exactly like the race to get Democrats into congress looks exactly like the race to get any politician anywhere - Give Me The Money. I can't watch it any more, much less participate. I have instead scheduled far too much yard work and social time this summer to read a thing outside my murder mysteries. Too painful, too useless, and too too fatiguing.

It will take a lot to get my head out of my ass. It seems the only safe place to be.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Well, the dust seems to have settled. It is July of 2018 and I have been peering through the storm for a year, trying to sort my Small Projects (SPs) into some kind of approachable landscape while maintaining a feet-on-the-ground attitude about growing increasingly old. Retirement looms like a balloonful of psychedelics, distant or in my face OMG, but not yet. I fret and mow the yard and manage Mimi, the new puppy Silver Fox and I added to our pack. And once again, I will be sharing my thoughts through this looking glass, an SP to which today I return. The post below is from August, 2017 - a reminder of last year's plans and this year's reckoning:) Welcome back, everyone:)


The thing about VLPs (Very Large Projects), is that they prioritize things for you. To a person like me, whose list of I'd Like To Dos gets longer every day, that focus is invaluable. But the cost of VLPs gets higher with every passing year, and while I would like to have found that new wisdoms will balance those costs, for me they did not. Frustrations with learning curves, late-night tasking, time management issues, loneliness - Nevermore; I have foresworn.


And that leaves me with SPs - Small Projects. Lot and lots of them. I dream them, some float through my thoughts, conversations spark them, and I am inundated after traveling somewhere new. I want to paint; I want to make a photography book; I want to travel with my family; I want to sew up a pattern I have in my head. . . these SP visions begin to swirl through my mind until I am dizzy. If I pick one to work on I am easily distracted. If I start something new I am easily frustrated. I find it easiest to rant at whatever comes my way and just be reactive rather than proactive. This is not the way I want to live!

Take electronics, without which I cannot continue publishing. I bought a new phone and suddenly my music is gone and I have Silver Fox's instead. Ummm. My camera takes these cute little series of pics on each shot that makes action for a second before it stops. Those transfer to IPhoto as a whole load of photos taking up who knows how much space that you can't just grab and move, or choose only one, or anything easy, as apparently you have to click on the whole set to even delete. How do I make my camera stop doing that??? Now I have a new SP learning all about my new phone from the internet, a lengthy proposition for my slow old brain.

The world is going crazy, and the last time things were so bad I was right in the middle of it. I want to help, but I can no longer be the foot soldier I was then. And regardless of how we third-stagers puff ourselves up about wisdom and experience, no one will listen. I should read and write more; I should send money; I should sign petitions; I should write congresspeople; I should be part of the answer.

My physical regimen for the summer has been almost exclusively landscaping and gardening. What the hell am I going to do now???

Around and around they go, blowing up large for a moment and then receding while the next blows up, like those folder and desktop application functions that wax and wane as you run your mouse under them. I hate those. The views are too small and they move to fast, just like my imagination.

Becoming the belledame has, however, had unforeseen impacts. Having crossed that bridge when I came to it, I find myself now transitioned, bedamed if you like; and one thing I seem to have less of is tolerance for foolishness, in myself and in others. I can fix this and be dizzy no more. Today I have a plan. I make a list of all the SPs I currently know about and decide what to do about each, then get help. I will sign up for Apple phone training. I will send money and shut up about injustice (well, maybe a rant here now and then). I will get a yoga teacher. I will delegate, and, following another of my newly crystallized dame precepts, I ain't gonna do anything I don't want to. If an SP requires me to do something I don't want to, it is out of the band. The new-agers say this is a year to clear:)

And when the dust settles, I will too.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Traveling Companions

I know who I am; remember still the passing.
But who are these the souls I love
and why do they surround me?

Such profound and lasting lashings flex among us, bend to wind,
dance to every circumstance,
hold each other dear.

Chance wins knowledge, new lives sprout and wind throughout our mortal coils,
Who are these the souls I love?
Ripples in still water.

Tit for tat and favors granted, travelers through space and time,
this life of mine and all of theirs
committed to the hope

that every lifetime meets a need to learn and change and grow
to solid soul immense and whole
magnificently with joy.








Thursday, August 17, 2017

Two Four Six Eight - I Must Learn to Delegate

The thing about VLPs (Very Large Projects), is that they prioritize things for you. To a person like me, whose list of I'd Like To Dos gets longer every day, that focus is invaluable. But the cost of VLPs gets higher with every passing year, and while I would like to have found that new wisdoms will balance those costs, for me they did not. Frustrations with learning curves, late-night tasking, time management issues, loneliness - Nevermore; I have foresworn.

And that leaves me with SPs - Small Projects. Lot and lots of them. I dream them, some float through my thoughts, conversations spark them, and I am inundated after traveling somewhere new. I want to paint; I want to make a photography book; I want to travel with my family; I want to sew up a pattern I have in my head. . . these SP visions begin to swirl through my mind until I am dizzy. If I pick one to work on I am easily distracted. If I start something new I am easily frustrated. I find it easiest to rant at whatever comes my way and just be reactive rather than proactive. This is not the way I want to live!

Take electronics, without which I cannot continue publishing. I bought a new phone and suddenly my music is gone and I have Silver Fox's instead. Ummm. My camera takes these cute little series of pics on each shot that makes action for a second before it stops. Those transfer to IPhoto as a whole load of photos taking up who knows how much space that you can't just grab and move, or choose only one, or anything easy, as apparently you have to click on the whole set to even delete. How do I make my camera stop doing that??? Now I have a new SP learning all about my new phone from the internet, a lengthy proposition for my slow old brain.

The world is going crazy, and the last time things were so bad I was right in the middle of it. I want to help, but I can no longer be the foot soldier I was then. And regardless of how we third-stagers puff ourselves up about wisdom and experience, no one will listen. I should read and write more; I should send money; I should sign petitions; I should write congresspeople; I should be part of the answer.

My physical regimen for the summer has been almost exclusively landscaping and gardening. What the hell am I going to do now???

Around and around they go, blowing up large for a moment and then receding while the next blows up, like those folder and desktop application functions that wax and wane as you run your mouse under them. I hate those. The views are too small and they move to fast, just like my imagination.

Becoming the belledame has, however, had unforeseen impacts. Having crossed that bridge when I came to it, I find myself now transitioned, bedamed if you like; and one thing I seem to have less of is tolerance for foolishness, in myself and in others. I can fix this and be dizzy no more. Today I have a plan. I make a list of all the SPs I currently know about and decide what to do about each, then get help. I will sign up for Apple phone training. I will send money and shut up about injustice (well, maybe a rant here now and then). I will get a yoga teacher. I will delegate, and, following another of my newly crystallized dame precepts, I ain't gonna do anything I don't want to. If an SP requires me to do something I don't want to, it is out of the band. The new-agers say this is a year to clear:)

And when the dust settles, I will too.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Step Right Up. . .

I have done something today that I have never done before, and that is to sign up to help a political campaign. Damn! Things are that bad. I can hear the organ grinder and see the hootchie cootchie girls already. . .

Here in Minnesota, where we have been hiding behind the skirts of the fabulous Mark Dayton for the last eight years, change could come on big fat elephant feet - and I am going to do my best to stop that stampede. It is bad enough that the legislature is republicon, and it is a tribute to Mark that he has both held back the tide and reversed the damages of the previous Pawlenty piracy. But it will just happen again if we are not careful. Therefore, I am doing something else I have never done before today - I am endorsing candidates. If you read this and like it, pass it on please. I probably won't do it again. Okay, I promise I won't do it again.

The Minneapolis race for Mayor is just as important for those of us who live here. This one has me seething, for I have watched thirty years of white privilege skirt issues, ignore injustices, misdirect good intentions, and in general pretend that the economic and judicial disparities between whites and people of color in this town are nonexistent, not to worry our pretty heads about. Pisses me off so much. The recent increasing intensity between the Blue Union and its charges, however, have pushed issues to the front of the podium, now (but not for much longer) occupied by Vapid Betsy, champion of bicycle commuters and the black hole into which any reason (or perhaps funding, we don't know) around the now-three-year reconstruction of downtown Nicollet Mall flowed. She doesn't stand a chance.

And now I have been called on my cell phone number, which I don't ever give to organizations or websites, by the candidate who appears to be the DFL's pick for Mayor, a perfectly nice married gay man whose best qualification seem to be that he loves loves loves it here. I am so sick of this. . .

So forward into the breach, or ditch, or whatever kind of mudslinging convention politics draws up in difficult times. We have very good choices for each of these positions, candidates with experience and the right stuff to deal with matters at hand. I am not going to cite their qualifications - use the links.

 For Governor, Former Speaker of the House Paul Thissen,  http://www.paulthissen.com/



For Mayor, Rev. Dr. Nekima Levy-Pounds, http://www.minneapolisfornekima.com/platform



Go to it, Babies - pass these names around.