Saturday, June 25, 2016

American't

Let's talk about flying  first class. Generally it means that you, having upgraded or paid extra, would be treated as a special guest. There would be a selection of movies, a goodie bag with sleeping mask, a toothbrush, mouth wash, and slippers. In addition, there would be an ice cream sundae and baked on board chocolate chip cookies. When I saw that my upgrade was first class instead of business I should have been suspect especially since there was no Admirals club, and there is always an Admirals club.  However, they did say that, since they were partners with Alaska, first class passengers would be welcome.  Not so fast you American Airlines passenger. Sure you were welcome if you had a "priority pass card". Does anyone even know what a Priority Pass Card is?  As it happens, the Burnetts have every travel card in existence.So I did have one, but it took me so long to find the club and the card, the plane was loading.  I ran to the gate just in time to make the flight.
(if you wanna see what it was like in 1952 on a TWA Constellation.... check this... go to 5m10s to see the meal!)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_HKnokmpqc
The plane that we were on, not only didn't have a choice of movies, it had one of those drop down screens that maybe two people can see clearly.  Very stylish if you enjoy traveling like it's 1980. That's when the DC-NY shuttle cost $50.  Grateful there was one movie -- that is certainly not a choice.  Usually, when you are seated in first class, there is a menu where the food is crafted by some famous chef.  The famous chef in this case was Bugs Money. The choice was lettuce with mystery meat or lettuce with grapes, green and red.  That was the closest anyone got to a choice about anything.  We were told that the limited selection was because it is was so late. What a lot of Pookey.  If you fly overnight with Jet Blue, you have 100 television stations, blue chips and cookies.


if this isn't First Class, I don't know what is...

Moving on. The steward (I guess that's what they are called), or maybe flight attendant, walked around the cabin with four bottles of wine, 3 red and 1 white and that was it. For the entire cabin and the whole flight. You may recall that there was a trip to Italy we took that was such a disaster we renamed the airline, American't and it took some years to get beyond that.  but we seem to be  right back there again.  We were assured there would be some kind of breakfast but he confessed it would be no better than the pork products with cheese.

It is possible that this whining is unbecoming to someone such as myself.  Ordinarily my complaining is about something more important than a seat, oh yes I forgot about the seat. It did not go back. It was not a seat in front of the exit row.  No, that would make sense (although not in first class") Instead of going back you had to slide it down.  There is no way to explain how you slide a seat down on an airplane.  Just trust me, it is not easy, and anything but comfy.

The good news was that the flight was on time. There were plenty of cabs. The cab driver did not argue when I asked him to take the 59th Street bridge, the weather in NY was gorgeous and my puppy was as excited as he could be to see me. Maybe I'll give American't another chance but not without a thorough investigation about the type plane.  We're just say in'....Iris

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Right Thing, Ellipically


This morning, while the elliptical machine whirred, John Lewis spoke eloquently to the Democrats who had just decided to stop their 25 hour sit-in on the floor of the House.  The Media said they stopped. But that was not the whole story.  Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House adjourned the Congress, to start their July 4th vacation. C-span is forbidden to cover House activities when there is an adjournment.  So, the Democrats broadcast their sit-in on periscope on the cell phone of one of the Democratic members.  Thank you new media.  John Lewis also said that they will be back to continue the sit-in on July 5th once they had talked to their constituencies in their home states.

John worked shoulder  to shoulder with Martin Luther King, quoted him by saying that it is every citizens right to protest when the government is not doing the right thing.  He went on to say that he was tired to spend a moment of silence and then move on to business as usual.

The Democrats recessed long after the Republicans fled the Capital to face the reality of Donald Trumps presumptive candidacy. Trump was in Scotland opening a new golf course. Do you think he even knew about the British voting to decide if they will exit the European Union?  Probably not. Doesn't he have to release his tax returns? Even the lowest paid person who works in the White House has to be vetted. And that includes looking at their tax returns.  In addition, how dare Paul Ryan the Speaker accuse the Dems as opportunists who were only protesting the gun laws or non gun laws as a fundraising tool.  One  problem is that Ryan and his other Republican colleagues  get so much money from the NRA that they fundraise without having a moral core about who gives them money, and how it connects to the legislation they oversee. Personally, I don't trust an elected official who lives in their office. Granted the Speakers office is a step up for him, but he lives and works in the same governmental space… How dopey is that.  Excuse the digression, these people are too bizarre.  Back to Hero’s instead of villains. And people who do the right thing.

Everyone who worked in the civil rights movement knew about John Lewis.  Although he was not the poet that MLK was, we still watched him bloodied and locked up for doing the right thing.  He said this morning, that because he followed his conscience that even when he was imprisoned after a protest, he felt free.  What a guy.

John is a friend of my friend Marthena, who you may remember from the book I didn’t write entitled, “Oy vey iz mere Marthena.”  And speaking of Marthena, she is going to Annapolis for a Jimmy Carter reunion this weekend.  Wish I could be there to celebrate the Former President’s life.  He may have become known as the best former President ever, but regardless of the things that made a reelection unlikely, he always had a real commitment to human rights that made all the Carter Administration staff proud to have served with him. Maybe I'll skype with them. Thank you again new technology.  Anyway, we worked for John on a number of occassions.  You will never find a kinder, lovelier man in Congress or anywhere for that matter.

After the sit-in ended and the Democrats exited the Capital to meet the media and real people, John led them all in a rousing rendition of “We Shall Overcome.” There I was, still on the elliptical, voice raised, unembarrassed and singing right along with them. It just felt like the right thing to do.  We're just sayin'.....Iris

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

the Bees Knees

Politics is pretty predictable and not at all interesting because it’s same same. Trump is name calling without substantiation, and Hillary is feeling great about the fact that she is able to back up her claims with facts. What more is there to say?

Anyway, my sister (in law -- but really, she is the sister I never had, except Tina), is a bee keeper. She has been trying to explain the “bee”  thing to me. So, here we go. I’m going to try to explain it to you with one or two political references, but you will definitely get it. She has two hives and has been wondering if there’s a queen in either of the hives. The bees apparently make a queen when they need one. How do you make a queen? Do all the bees register and they have an election? There are so many bees in one hive squished together that I couldn’t imagine how they voted on a queen. She laughed at me. Ok, they can’t have an election because they are distracted by more important things. All the worker bees converge on one bee and one egg that will eventually emerge as the queen. It’s like looking for the perfect egg and the perfect drone, not uncomplicated. Yes, I just introduced another item, “the drone.”

Here’s what happens, as far as I can understand. The presumptive Queen, much like the
presumptive Presidential nominee has to mate with the presumptive Drone. But, whichever the drone, they need to watch carefully until the queen takes off Into the air looking to get pregnant by the presumptive drone. Off they fly into the wild blue yonder. The queen playing hard to get -- as  most queens will. The drone follows the queen in hopes that there will be a mating opportunity.  If there is a mating, (and this is the gross part), the drones insides fall out and the drone dies. It’s not very nice but it is nature.

So wouldn’t it be amazing if people operated like bees. There would be a presumptive leader, who is agreed upon by the majority of the electorate. The leader has a responsibility to their constituency to figure out how to rule. The part that is left out is that once the ruler (queen) is selected, how high do they need to fly in order to have a drone (their staff), help them to develop a following before their insides fall out and they die.

The insides falling out is the piece that totally gets me because I get a visual image of these tiny
little insides dropping to the ground immediately after consummating the most important
relationship bees can have. Use your imagination. And then, there is no reward for doing their
duty and maybe getting a laugh or two. The bees in the hive kill all the drones because they are
not useful. It doesn’t seem fair. But in bee world, if you serve no purpose, then why would you hang out. What do you do? Sit around with all the soon to be eliminated other drones, talking about how you wanted to make that conquest? How the queen would have enjoyed it more with you.

Anyway, she feeds the bees sugar and water. I asked if they were all vegetarians. She said
every once in a while an ant or two wanders in and then it’s steak for dinner. As we say “a bees life”.  But much like in politics, nothing is for sure. You never know who is going to be the queen, or the presumptive drone, or what the outcome of that tenuous relationship will be.

What else is there to say, it’ a vicious cycle for bees and  it happens every couple of months, that’s the call of nature. .And for political people, it happens every four years. Whichever, it is too soon and not natural at all.  We’re just sayin’..Iris

Monday, June 20, 2016

Those Guys They Call Father

This weekend we celebrated David's mother's life with family and friends. She was the last of any of our parents to die.  It was pretty heavy for any number of reasons. On the top of the list is that no matter how old a person gets, it's never any fun to be an orphan -- especially on a day that celebrates parents. Yes, this going to be one of those sensitive no political bullshit blobs.

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Milt with Phil (ca. 1970) -- the Dads

The story goes that when I was born some of my grandparents were unhappy that I wasn't a boy.  Not my dad. He was thrilled that I was a girl. They still named me after his father, who was Izzie.  And when I opened my eyes the doctor penciled in a mustache, which at the time he wore proudly.  So I looked exactly like him, which apparently pleased him.

My father was just a great guy. Sadly, over the course of 30 years, an aggressive form of MS attacked his extremities.  By the time he was 45 he was totally disabled.  Because his mind was always sharp, no one ever thought of him as sick or different.  He just couldn't walk.  My mom, uncle Phil and cousin Dick, made sure he got to work, in the family handbag business. For a while he was the accountant and kept track of the numbers.  Then when he couldn't write, I don't know exactly what work he accomplished,  but he still went to the factory until it went bankrupt and closed.  

My father never had to feel terrible about his inability to participate in our childhood activities because Uncle Phil, my other dad, was always there to take us out to eat. To go on pony rides. To take us to art museums (which he wanted to do, so we tagged along.) And to just be a walking presence.  He made what could have felt like abandonment to children who didn't understand, never an issue. 
Milton (my dad) and Seth (my son, also a Father) ca. 1975
And our two fathers, both of  whom had served in the army, loved one another.  They were best friends til the end of their lives.  They married two of the seven sisters, and found solace in the fact that they had one another.  During WW2 Uncle Phil was shipped to China and saw combat.  My dad, who had third degree flat feet, never saw combat and always said it was the best time he ever had.  He traveled to Africa, Europe, and some of the states, as a master sergeant. He was one of those Guys who found whatever product the officers needed to have -- dope,   scotch, nylons, and chocolate.  When they came back from the war his MS was still in the distance. So the fathers played and worked hard.  The playing being on the top of the list. 

They lived their lives. Dad wanted to be a fur designer but when he was diagnosed he put that on the back shelf and worked in the family business. Uncle Phil was an artist who had an offer from Disney in California, but Aunt Helen didn't want to leave her sisters.  They both had disappointed dreams for their futures, and so there was no need for explanation about what their lives were to become.  They just moved along, surrounded by a family that never understood disappointed expectations.

And we also grew up surrounded by a bunch of interchangeable sisters. If you wanted to have dinner at Aunt Sophie's,  Aunt Fritzie’s or Aunt Helene’s,  you just appeared at their kitchen around dinnertime.  The Sisters called one another ten times a day, even when they had just played cards, or gone to the market.  But this is a blob about the Dads. 

What would they think of the way we live today? My brother lives in a trailer park, my niece is rebuilding a goat shack, my sister in law is a bee keeper, David  travels all the time, and I still can't figure out what I want to do when I grow up.  Nothing is what it appears to be. That being said, I think they both would have loved the fact that we are living the way we want to, and loving the people we are. We're just sayin'.... Iris

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Those Crazy GPS'

Yesterday we drove from Berkeley to Menlo park. Between us we had 3 gps, a Siri and a map.  We made the trip in 40 minutes, got off the freeway and then the trouble began.

Before I tell you the whole story lets go back to a time when Aunt Rosie and Uncle Jack were going from their house to anywhere. Because Aunt Rosie was always giving Uncle jack conflicting directions, Uncle Jack made her sit in the back seat.  They weren't riding in a taxi, so there was no partition between front and back. He could still hear everything she said.  But she didn't want to annoy him so she sat in the back seat and sang all the mistakes she thought he made. It went something like this (you pick the tune).  "Jack, you need to slow down or you'll miss the turn" or "Jack, we need to make a sharp left in 10 feet". For whatever reason, as long as she was in back, it didn't,t seem to bother him.

There are all those stories about how men won't ever ask for directions and women always want to know where they are going.and for both those reasons, someone smartly invented the gps.  However, if there is more than one gps in the car you may find that they don,t agree on how to get you where you want to go.

Back to yesterday.  When we had 3 gps devices a Siri and a map.  And three adults who were each advocating for their own device. Imagine one driver who was trying listen to all the directions and figure out to whom he should listen. Suffice to say, we got to Palo Alto in 40 minutes, and then got so turned around, trying to figure out where we were, it took another 40 minutes to get to our destination -- which was no more than 6 miles away.  Joe, who was driving simply couldn't hear a thing with everyone and 3 particularly demanding electrical devices shouting at once.  We decided that we had just lived through an absolutely hillarious comedy routine.

What makes us think that the gps is any better than a good old fashioned map. We have friends who have a lovely bed and breakfast (actually breakfast sucked but dinner was amazing) in a small village halfway between Rome and Florence. If you read a map to get there it was highways and than 5 or 6 miles of good back roads.  If you depended on a gps, which takes you the shortest route, you drove out of Rome and then you were directed to unpaved wooded cow paths. So instead of it taking two hours to reach San Casciano di Bagni, it took at least 6 hours.  Our friends, who never liked people from Rome, would instruct those people to just follow their gps.

So, wouldn't it be nice if the Gps solved all the arguing that goes on in the car between couples who ordinarily have a peaceful loving relationship. Yes it would. But it doesn't. Because now when the directions are right within reach, you wind up arguing with this inanimate object that keeps telling you you are an idiot and if you don't turn around and listen you will most likely wind up in a place where no one will ever find you.  We're just sayin'. Iris

Friday, June 17, 2016

Cast. Iron.

B Tyronious, in the kitchen, with the Black Cast Iron Pan on the stove

When we were growing up my mother and my aunts did certain things around eating and serving that most of my cousins and I are doing now. For example, they all kept kosher salt in a box or a small dish that you would season things with when preparing meals or, if the dish was lovely, you could put it on the table for additional seasoning.  You never put the milk carton or orange juice carton or any carton on the table.  All these liquids had to be contained in a pitcher or some lovely serving item.  Same with butter, sugar, cream, — you get the picture. The table was supposed to be attractive, whether or not there was company.

When they cooked there were specific pots and pans they used, depending on what they were cooking.  My mother had a pan she only used for blintzes. Aunt Peppy and Aunt Sophie had special baking dishes they used for cheesecake, and mandel bread.  There were pots they used for cholent, chicken soup, and chopped liver.  There were even bowls they used to mix tuna fish. 

When we were growing up they had service for 144 in dishes, flatware, and glassware because when they shopped, they bought the same product for at least four of their siblings. Most of the stuff was colorful, but only because there was so much of it.  There was never a time, as an adult, that I told my mother I couldn’t live without one of the settings. And besides my mother always looked for a sale on dishes which, when purchased, went directly to her attic.  Her attic was like a gift store, the closest thing I knew to “as advertised on TV.”  Whenever you needed a shower or wedding gift, all you had to do was visit Rosie’s attic.  Now that I think about it, we should have turned it into a business. When she died, we found at least three, never been opened sets of dishes, crystal vases, silver serving pieces, and all sizes of glasses.  She had bubbled glass Passover dishes (because we always changed dishes on Passover), that I still yearn for.  No one knows what happened to those.

Anyway, I still have my kosher salt and pepper in lovely little dishes I keep on the counter.  When my cousins visit they know right where to go to look for the salt — everything needs a little salt.  And you will hardly ever find a carton on my table.  But what you will find is an old cast iron pan living on my stove.  The pan has been used and reused for at least 45 years, although I did not always keep it on the stove.  But the thing is so heavy that at some point I decided it should just stay there.  What is so interesting it that one of my 4th quarter queen/sisters has hers on the stove as well.  So I bought two more. One for another fourth quarter queen, and one for Jordan, who I will continue this “black pan” phenomenon as a family tradition.

It is comforting to cook in that pan, which I do daily and for everything from eggs to onions, to meat and on and on.  It cleans up like all these new non stick pans, but everything tastes better, who knows why. Maybe because it remembers the tears of all those tough years when it was my only companion, and maybe because it helped inspire new recipes that I knew would work if they were cooked in that pan.  Isn’t it funny that as I grow older and decide to downsize, there are still those things that have become so precious and filed with memories, with which I could never part.  To be sure, you will never see it on eBay.  Now wasn’t this a refreshing change from my Trump blather.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Presidentialitis


Hillary has had media training so now she is not so shrill.  If I might take this opportunity, as a speech professional,  to interject some information.  Hillary appears to have had vocal training.  They are very different things.  As we have said here previously, She needed to learn to “open the throat”, and use the microphone as asset not a weapon.

So what’s Bernie going to do now?  There seems to be a great deal of scurrying about.  The visual image of political people scurrying about, for some reason reminds me of the rats in “Ratatouille’ racing hither and thither trying to find a piece of cheese and make an effort omelette.  Wait a minute, rats, cheese, it’s exactly the same thing.

We live in a democracy where we have a two, sometimes a three party system.  And this morning the leadership of one of those Parties, reused to comment on anything their candidate has said or done.  Mert  (the Blurt) has suggested that all Muslims be banned from entering the United States. If you do not remember the elegant/frightening words of Martin Niemoller in the 1940’s, let me refresh your memory.

They came for the Socialists, but I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Blah Blah Mexican, Blah Blah, Muslims….Blah Blah, Gays

People who think they are right about everything, and who do not have the ability to apologize simply cannot be trusted.  Certainly there are times when even I am wrong— though infrequent as it might be.

A  close Millennial friend told me that she was horrified that Bernie has not recognized the historical aspects of a woman as President.  Lest we forget Bernie is not a Democrat. And he has been stricken with that horrible disease we all know as Presidenaltiatis.  Some how they no longer any judgment  and they can’t get beyond the mindset of ‘it would be nice to be king”.

David had an extremely successful opening of his Olympic show last night.  We don’t know if
anyone purchased anything, but we do know that there were a million people in attendance.   It was crowded but it was thrilling. The kind of party where half the guests are standing in the street.  The show will be up for a few more weeks. It’s the Anastasia Gallery 143 Ludlow.  Its worth the trip

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Wow of the TONYs


This morning Mert called for President Obama’s resignation because he refuses to to identify these terrorist attacks as done by radical Islam.  Blah blah blah.  Here’s is my hope.  Once someone goes into the voting booth no one knows for whom they voted.  It is possible for someone who is perfectly sane,  to vote for Mert (the blurt).  Why they would is totally unexplainable but they could.  Right now, he seems to have compromised the Republican Party and leadership, with the idea that it doesn’t matter what the character of the candidate is (no moral core), as long as he is a Republican.  But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.  And as horrified as I am about the Orlando shootings, or the young woman who was murdered by a fan because it’s too awful and really, I can’t even imagine what my comment might be.  Except I hate when the media uses someone’s pain to entertain the public.

Let’s talk about the Tonys.  What a wonderful show. It seems that since everyone knew Hamilton was going to clean-up, they better do a phenomenal show. What can you say about James Corden?  He is a talent beyond talents.  He is a genius. Starting with the opening number, where he sang from at least 15 Broadway show, to Karaoke in the car, with James and Lin, then joined by Jane, Audra, and Jesse… it was absolutely delightful.  By the time Leslie Odum Jr., which was a total surprise, I couldn’t stop smiling.  But still it went on and on.  The last number with the Hamilton cast and everyone who wanted to be on the stage.  The fact during the show, actors stepped out to entertain the crowd on the street, was so generous.  The whole thing made me very proud to be even a little bitty  part of this incredible community.

So, hear is my question.  American Psychco, which team “We’re just saying” thought deserved some Tony attention, got nothing.  Oh, maybe artistic recognition— not enough.  But the show was imaginative and beautiful and funny.  The actors were talented, enthusiastic, and spot on.  You gotta  think there was something political going on.  So if anyone knows what that was, I sure would like you to share that with me.

It is tempting to dive right back into a political discussion.  Like a discussion about Mert determining that he was going to black ball the “Washington Post” because he didn’t like a headline they used.  It surprises me that someone who believes in 2nd amendment rights — the freedom to own and shoot weapons of war, but he doesn’t believe in freedom of  the press. Does anyone remember why it is important to have a free press?  Can you imagine what it will be like to have a President who operates without press scrutiny.  The media is not the enemy.  It is their job to report on everything a President or a candidate for President is doing and has done. They ought to make reasonable decisions regardless --- they are responsible to keep the public informed regardless of the issue. Woe is us/and the media, in a Trump Administration.
It is frightening to think about a person who is not stable to be in charge of — everything.

Anyway, the Tony’s were a “breath of fresh air”, at time when we need some space to just take one big breath.  We're just sayin' ......Iris

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Talkin' to Mom

When Hillary was interviewed before she went on the stage to give her acceptance speech as the presumptive nominee for the Democratic candidate for President,  (When did ‘presumptive’ become a word?  And there must be a way to rewrite that sentence so it’s shorter) she was asked what she thought her mother would say.  Her answer was predictable, but true.  Her mother would be very proud. Her mother had encouraged her to be her own person and strive to be successful. So far so good.  But, what she was not asked was:  “Do you talk to your mother?”  and “Is your mother still giving you advice?” 

Almost every woman I know who had some kind of a relationship with her deceased parents, especially moms, still has a conversation with her mom. It doesn’t matter how long She’s been gone or if, when Mom was alive, they “got on.”  My Mom never understood who I was, or anything I did. Word has it that she was very proud of me, but if so, she told strangers how she felt, not me.  Luckily,  her sisters were there for me, and she had six of them.  But it appeared to most people that we never had a loving mother-daughter thing. There were many wasted years when we hardly spoke.  For whatever reason, it was easy for me not to talk to people with whom   I was angry. So it was no big deal.  That being said, my brother and sister-in-law, and I took very good care of her when she started to decline.  My children adored her, and she adored them.
Mom, Honey, moi, Peppy, Rosalie -- the Girls

Then, after she died, I remembered things she did or said that were exceptional  — hilarious.  She, like my kids,  was very, very funny.  There were times when things she did or said sent us running from the room before we peed in our pants. Like the time Tina put on all her gold jewelry,  (fake of course) tons of it, and waited for my mother to react.  Straight faced and without missing a beat, she gave us the “Rosie look” and said, “it will always look better on me than on you.”

Anyway, when my dad had his leg amputated, she had it buried in some distant family grave. Since Jews don’t move body parts once they are in the ground, it was obvious that she was going to be buried next to his leg, and eventually to him. “Ma” we said, “If you both are buried there, its so far out on Long Island, that we will never visit.” She said she figured we would never visit her anywhere, so it didn’t matter. But it does. And  I do travel great distances to stand at her, as my aunt Peppy said, tombstone - to chat. At some point I realized I could chat with her no matter where I was.  So I find myself talking to her. And depending on the situation, I talk to my Aunts.  But mostly I talk to my mother.  Guess I am making up for all the time I didn’t speak to her. If I am confused or need someone to solve a problem, I ask her advice.  Does she answer me?  Well, I can hear her voice in my head, so I guess, yes.

There is a terrible hole in my heart, an emptiness that is always there.  It could be the loss of so many friends and family and it could be a vacancy that I can’t fill because who knows what the future will be. Dealing, or not dealing with the age thing is exhausting.  Probably because getting old is such a surprise.  Where did the time go?  Can you believe that we are so old that we are afraid to say how old— things like that. Things that have no answer. 


So does Hillary talk and listen to her mother?  Who knows, but my guess is she absolutely does.  We’re just sayin’….Iris

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

PolitiBlog - Post California, Post Primary

"The rain fell gently .... "

That's not what I wanted to write about. But the rain was hardly gentle. It might as well have been a hurricane it was so blustery.  I think I just always wanted to write something using the word gentle.

Anyway, The Hillary win is phenomenal. My guess is that Bernie gets what he wants at convention and he endorses Hill.  Actually, he has had an enormous impact on shaping the conversation and developing a Millenial constituency. If they actually vote, the election is ours. Mert (the blurt) aka The Donald, promised the people who still like him, that he'll behave.  He doesn't know how. Everything is about a Deal, and he is not someone who can apologize.  Anyone who thinks they are always right, does not have the capacity to judge right from wrong. So he will do something stupid, if not outrageous, again. Or maybe he will do something outrageous, if not stupid, again.

So now what happens?  Well, my guess is that Mert -- now using a TelePrompTer, as if that would help to control him, (in case he didn't know, he can stop using it), will go all out bringing up the same Clinton crap that was brought out during the Clinton Administration.  It might start with Vince Foster, wander through WhiteWater, and wind up with the Monica crap.  Or who knows, he might find a new and colorful way to present the information.  The kids who are going to vote, who never heard any of this, will think he's a desperate idiot.  The Millenials care about a vision, not pornographic information about a President who has been out of office for over 20 years. He will, after all, be First Lady/Person. That will be interesting.

I am going to take a break from political commentary, but not for too long I fear.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris


Tuesday, June 07, 2016

It's the Season for Two-a-Day Blobs

It's been a long time (maybe two hours) since I yelled at the TV.  Hillary called out AP to say there were still primaries so let's be careful about declaring victory. The right thing to say.  Hope the presumptive nominee crap doesn't hurt her.  So why was I yelling? The media is just annoying.  Where did these people come from?  The guy who wears a sweater and flays his arms around polling info and the state of the election. He looks like a character on “The West Wing”.  Who, by the way, I liked a lot.  But this guy (I wish I could remember his name but his commentary is so silly, that his name is irrelevant). Sure there are a great many young people, and MSNBC (the Place for Politics, supposedly) calls them the "Road Warriors”, (an insult to the movie), but they came out of nowhere and have no ideas about the intricacies of Presidential politics. And truly, in this day ’n age, Road Warriors?  Road Warriors were the people stuck in a mid-west or westTexas city with a few bucks in payphone change, maybe some bills to cover a cheap motel, and the obligation to create a crowd of 5000 for a candidate who may or may not arrive in 48 hours.  No cell phones, no laptops, no ipads.  Just moxie and the will to make it work.  THAT was a Road Warrior.  Anytime you can dial up dinner being sent to your room from your YELP app, its probably a bit of an exaggeration to use the term “Road Warrior.”   By the way, what happened to Alex Wagner? She was smart and insightful and could hold her own with people way older than she. 

These political jobs should be about life, history, insights and subtleties.  It appears that only the pretty people, male and female have anything worth listening to. Yesterday I wrote about Steve Schmidt.  Who is a clear thinking, shaved-head,  insightful Republican.  While I may not agree with him on policy issues, it is a joy to listen to him because he has something  knowledgeable to say.  He’s clearly BEEN THERE.

Here's another thought. Hillary will be a big “first”.    Does she need her VP choice to be another big first, or should she look at someone who has been a governor from a much needed state who happens not to be a minority? I don't have an answer but if you are a strategist then you think about alternatives to every question.  In fact, if you are a member of the media, you should probably do the same thing… Look at all the possibilities, stay neutral and move out of your own way.

Anyway, the primary results should be most revealing. I’m starting to feel a little sorry for Bernie. He, like Ralph Nader and many others who has never faced any scrutiny, has no idea what will happen when they start to look at his past and the controversy about his wife’s finances.  But he could be a spoiler and give the election to the Republicans.  In the words of team We're Just Sayin, he needs to sit down — and shut up….and I mean that in he nicest possible way.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Planning Ahead, Pt. II

Just in case you forgot.  “Morning Joe” gave Donald Trump a platform everyday for months before this last racist outrage and now they can’t stop talking about how he is a political monster.  It is so interesting to watch the press suddenly figure out that Trump might not be so entertaining anymore. If I were a Republican I would be pretty pissed that Mert is using an entire national political party to support what is a personal legal bad business issue. You got to say the guy is has chutzpa.  

The new attack on Hillary revolves around the fact that she is thinking about what needs to happen when she wins after transition. Thank God.  Unaccustomed as I am to telling a story here goes one about what happened after Bill Clinton was elected in 1992.  The campaign had paid a company to develop a computer system that would supposedly find the right people for the right job.  A few of us thought maybe we ought to test this miraculous  system. Which we did by entering people into the system who certainly should have been appointed to political positions.  It just didn’t work — simple as that. What we realized was that the President would be going into government unencumbered by any people but the Cabinet Secretaries.  

In order to run the government there must be thousands of political appointees in place.  Otherwise the President will not be able to transition from one Administration to the other. So, even if the government transitions from one party to the  same party, the new President wants to put their own imprint on the government.  That is not as difficult as transitioning from one party to another — like in ’92.  Hope that’s clear, but it’s the government, so nothing is clear.

Anyway, there we were trying to staff the government in a month.  Just FYI, there are thousands of politically appointed jobs.  You can find them all in a catalogue called “The Plum Book” —which, guaranteed Mert has never heard about — because his plan is to run the government all by himself.  Moving on… We needed to find “grown-up” people who at least knew something about life, if not the government.  It was not easy to find people who could take at least a few months to go “into” government. The result was that each person we identified had to be the temporary decision maker for two or three Agencies. For example, I sat at USIA, but supervised appointments and decisions for the Endowment for the Arts and for the Manatees, (not to be confused with the National Endowment for Humanities.  It was a 24/7 job. Oh, and we needed to fire all the Republicans before they burrowed (another way to keep a government job — read my book, “So You Think You Can Be President” — because it’s funny and this is just a blob). My point is, if you are a serious Presidential Candidate you need to think about life after transition.  So an attack on Hillary for thinking ahead is predictable but certainly short sighted. 

The media race to be first, AP and other media organizations had to crown her the presumptive nominee before the last primaries results.  How stupid.  It certainly doesn’t help Hillary. And maybe that’s their point.


We have a long way to go before the actual election, but I don’t think name calling (even your own staff) and outrageous attacks will get anyone elected. We can only hope that this is the part of the Mert meltdown.  So who steps in, Newt perhaps?   We’re just sayin’… Iris

The Executive Director of the National Endowment for the Manatees

D-Day+ 72

The trip began as a diversion from the post-election blues in Paris, 1974.  The French had just elected a new President. I’d been lucky enough to be his personal photographer (if you have a choice between driving to the event in Clermont-Ferrand, or hopping the candidate’s private jet, take my advice, go with the jet!)  Two good friends, Tom Herman and Robert Wiener, both of whom were living in Paris, reminded me that as it was the beginning of June, we should head on up to Normandy for what was billed as a big “thank you” to the Allied troops who had, 30 years before, taken part in the D-Day assault which eventually drove the Germans out of France, and ended World War Two.   So off we went in a rented car.   At the time, I hadn’t really put together that anyone I knew at home in Salt Lake, had much to do with the War. Mr. Tolman, whose magic at teaching History only became obvious to me decades later, had been a bomber pilot, and was perhaps the only one I’d met growing up who shared his experiences.  And his take, more impish and full of humor than heroism, included his description of the mandatory  “… and there I was…”  moments which I’m sure he’d heard too many of from his veteran friends.  (His “and there I was” moment usually involved a description of his plane dropping its bombs on a cow pasture….)  Later I would understand that those who lived though the tough stuff were generally much less inclined to share their stories than the REMFs who seemed to tell stories at the drop of a hat. 

On arrival  in Normandy, we made our way to most of the official events.  There was a mock-assault by current-duty US troops up Pointe du Hoc, watched by some of the Rangers who’d been there in ’44.  A tribute to General Omar Bradley, accompanied by his iron-willed wife, he being the last senior US commander to attend a reunion.  And the event which moved me the most, and opened my eyes to the reality of who these solders really were:  A lunch offered by the town of Vierville (Omaha Beach) for hundreds of vets and their wives that became a focal point for all my attention.  It was another chance for the citoyens of Normandy to say thanks.   

At the lunch, wine was served probably accompanied by a few things that most of the vets might have seen as inedible.  The French can be like that.   But beyond the dishes, there was a warmth and welcoming feeling, one which totally belied the old saw about the French being aloof, and not friendly towards the Yanks.  There was a moment when it all came into a frame for me (the Leica M4/35).   One of the vets was sitting opposite a very elegant French woman.  Well, at the least, she had very elegant hands.  Given this was the 30th anniversary, the vet was probably in his early 50s.  He looked as if he were still  of a working age, wearing an early version of a leisure suit.  There was nothing about him that seemed terribly special, but as we all know, special pictures can happen anywhere. 

He had handed over a snapshot of himself from the war, one of those portraits that everyone had done, and you can absolutely see his whole life.  From the rakish young man, mustache carefully trimmed, hair slicked back,  uniform fitting to a T, to the look of insouciance, as if he didn’t really have anything more important to do. He seemed very much at home with himself.  Comfy in his uniform, if not his skin.  Near me, on my side of the table, with a bottle of Muscadet on the ready, the French woman holds the picture, using her thumb and 3rd finger, her forefinger busy holding the most elegant cigarette ever.  You see the space of the the thirty years.  And in that moment something struck me.  The combination of American spirit, and Gallic formality.  The saved thanking the saviours in the manner they best know. 

I began coming back to Normandy again in 1979, then in 1984, and every ten years since.  It has become a story I can’t stay away from.  When you meet the vets - literally our uncles, our dads, our folks’ school buddies, you feel the appreciation for what they did, and how they did it.  They spent several years in uniform understanding they wouldn’t come home till the war was over.  They did their part.  Some saw months of combat, some drove trucks, some flew planes.  But they all understood that the ultimately the  job was about finishing what they had to do.  Over the years have I have done this story, I’ve felt a sense of envy for the camaraderie that they shared with each other.  How do you acknowledge those who did something for a cause greater than themselves.   I guess you say Thanks.   
June 6, 1974   Vierville sur Mer

Monday, June 06, 2016

Newt Next?

Here’s another take on all of this political hoopla.  Donald Trump is not having any fun anymore.  He has pushed the media as far as he can. Today he decided that the media are the racists and they should be called out by name.  My guess is that because he didn’t know the name of His African American he realized the value of calling out people by name.  It’s incredible that Mitch McConnell and all those Republicans who want to win regardless of cost, refuse to withdraw their support and admit that the guy is unstable and they made a mistake.

Except one. Newt Gingrich, with whom I hardly ever agreed, pretty much summed it up.  ‘Trump is a racist and he has made a terrible mistake.’  A story.  A few years ago when I was looking for people to write blurbs for my book, “So You Think You Can Be President”, (hey go buy the book!!!)   I ran into Newt and his wife at this breakfast place in Mclean, Virginia where political people hang out— mostly Republicans, but it is a place you can get grits.  Yes, I am from New Jersey so I know Taylor Ham, but I spent many years with Southerners so I do love grits, and am often heard saying, Yoa. That’s  y’all (“you all” ) the way people from the south say it.

Anyway, there we were at the Mclean Family Restaurant and Newt was sitting right nearby.  I don’t really know him but in Washington being a good pretender is a talent and a necessity. So I marched myself over and said that we had met when David was covering his campaign and I was writing a book and I’d love for him to do a blurb.  Without hesitating he said, “send me a memo” — which was far better than most anyone else did.  After a few days I got a note from him.  It said, “please send me the book so I know what I am endorsing”. Duh.  I sent it right away. The book is funny and bi-partisan (we go after everyone), but I didn’t know if he would actually write something.

This is what he wrote:  “At a time when Presidential campaigns have become too dull and the news media too negative, this book brings back the humor in thinking about politics and government—Mark Twain would have loved it.”— Newt Gingrich, author of the New York Times bestselling novel Pearl Harbor and Real Change: From the World That Fails to the World That Works.

Here’s my latest theory:   Newt is looking pretty Presidential.  He has had the courage to call Trump what he is, a racist — even if he’s only doing it to get attention.  Put this all together. Donald is not having fun anymore.  He now knows running for President is hard because at some point people will not think he’s entertaining. He is not above saying, “everyone is picking on me, and no one is being fair to me, so I’m outta here.”  Now all those Republicans who actually endorsed him are feeling very stupid because winning at any cost shows a lack of character.  So who is there waiting to be anointed — Newt Gingrich. And can he beat Hillary?  Who knows,  but it’s more likely that Newt can than Donald will.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

And I Said It First

The problem with not writing everyday is that when you finally sit down to write  you can not remember all the clever things you thought about when you said, “There’s something worth writing  about”.  The other thing is that when you write write something extraordinary, by the time you post it is no longer original thought.  Of course, then you write about politics because it’s constantly in your face. So let’s get it over with…

Until two days ago I thought Donald Trump actually could win.  But now he appears to be in total meltdown.  It was fun for him to be an asshole and blurt anything he wanted to blurt. Insults and name calling were amusing for a while, but the fact that he has to answer real questions about actual issues appears to be too much for him.  Yes, he is a racist and a sexist, and a moron, but he was also entertaining. The press loved the controversy at his every event.  But then ,when he started to call them (instead of Hillary or Cruz the liar) incompetent, evil, and sleazes, it wasn’t that entertaining anymore.  The fact that the press, who have been covering his campaign, sat through that horrible name calling press conference was inexcusable. Why they didn’t just walk out was mind boggling.  Apparently, the media are finally going to cover him like they do everyone else — asking important questions and not letting him get away with skirting around any question.

Enough politics.  Now the question is, can I remember what else would make a good blob. Taylor ham, a New Jersey favorite is now a national topic.  My dad had a taylor ham and cheese sandwich at least three times a week.  Taylor ham and eggs was a must at least once a week. But once you left New Jersey Taylor ham was no where to be found. It never occurred to any NJ person that it wasn’t available anywhere else in this great nation. Now, Dunkin Donuts has a New Jersey taylor ham and cheese croissant sandwich.  And you know once it’s a DD phenomenon it’s part of the future.

Today is the day the US stormed the beaches at Normandy.  In the cemetery at Normandy the graves are all facing west — looking homeward, an army at rest. What would those dead Americans, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Asians and Hispanics, think about this horrific election and Mert the Blurt Trump.

Moving on.  We are producing “Gefilte Fish Chronicles the Musical”, at the Chicago Musiclal Theater Festival in Chicago this August, so spread the word to friends all around.

OK back to politics, it can’t be helped.  While the tone of Presidential Campaigns can change every day, there are things that can’t change, like a Republican party continuing to support the racist statements because they want to win back the White House no matter what. Steve Schmidt, with whom I don’t agree on much, turns out to be quite amazing in a discussion about Trump and the Party.  He said, that with the exception of Newt, Republican leadership does not exist.  I would simply say the Media, until Mert’s statement about the judge, have also been incapable of confronting the idiocy of the Trump “campaign”.

Anyway, I was in Boston for an alumni reunion that was not my own.  I was invited for a panel about Presidential politics. It was terrific.  And it felt great to be part of a conversation with which I am and have been, a part.  The thing about, as my dear friend Angela calls our 4th quarter, is that you want to spend time doing what feels good. Spending time with people you love, doing things that are fun, and being respected for the work you have done and the compassion you have for others.  If they want a Republican party, the Republican leadership has to revoke their endorsements of Trump.  If they do that and show that what he has said over the course of this election is not acceptable, I think Mert will start to attack the Party that has been desperate to win, and he will just find a way to go away.  We're just sayin'.....Iris

Saturday, June 04, 2016

So Long, Champ

There are as many Ali stories as there are people, especially photographers, who ever met him. I covered a couple of Ali fights from the nosebleed sections, but it was never so much the fight itself as the days leading up to the fight, that his spirit and personality were so evident. In Kuala Lumpur in the summer of 1975, just weeks after the end of the war in Vietnam, Ali fought Joe Bugner. I'd been doing an East Asia swing through Korea, Hong Kong, en route to Thailand, when it seemed like stopping in KL made the most sense. Ali fights were those kind of events which were captivating in a way that is impossible to describe to a kid who has had a cell fone in hand for his whole life. 

The mid 70s was still the land of Telex, letters written by hand, and the very occasional trans-con phone call. The media, such as it was, consisted of weekly magazines (Time, People, Newsweek), the dailies & wires, and the tv nets, with their 16mm sound cameras. It all seems so quaint in the world of instant everything highrez on your wrist. The reason it worked, of course, was that there were no other options. The technology of reporting was still, by today's standards, very primitive. Which made Ali's world-wide reputation all the more amazing. There is no question that in 1975 Ali was the most recognizable, most "famous" person on the earth, and I suspect he kept that title for many years. A year later, branching out after most of the boxing giants had fallen to his jabs, Ali decided to fight Antonio Inoki, a Japanese wrestler in what became one of the first true Mixed Martial Arts matches, at the Budokan in Tokyo. The whole match, Inoki kept dropping to the mat, trying to scissor kick Ali's legs. Ali never really had much of a chance to lay on one of his punches, since his target was in that very unfamiliar territory. Rick Smolan, who was still on his first big Asian trip (which would last several years) and I covered the fight for Contact Press Images as best we could, and were happily surprized the next day when we were met in our hotel lobby by the Korean tae-kwan-do impresario Jun Rhee, who said, with great excitement, that he'd convinced Ali to bring his entourage to Korea for a couple of days, and would we like to accompany them. 

Ali and admiring crowds in Seoul

For Rhee, it would be an enormous feather in his hat (already famous for his many TKD parlors in the DC area) to pull off this PR master plan. I'm sure the Ali entourage was highly paid for their couple of days, but at the same time, he wouldn't have gone if he didn't want to. I believe Ali was always looking for new ground to see. In the mid 70s, just two decades after the war, Korea was just beginning to become the highly industrialized tech giant it is today. After a quick round of telexes to New York, I found I had a PEOPLE assignment, with the provisio that I also do the reporting. I'd been with a lot of reporters, but actually formulating, and asking the questions wasn't my strong suit. On the plane to Seoul I cornered Ali for a few minutes in the front cabin (one thing you have to say about Jun Rhee, he was generous!) and after telling me how sore his legs were from being bombarded by Inoki's kicks, there was a brief lull. I think I then threw myself on his mercy, and said "Champ, I need a good quote for this piece, can you help me?" ... and though history doesn't record (I can't find the notebooks!) the actual quote, I was at least able to file for the story from Seoul.

Ali after a weigh in, Salt Lake City
More amazing by far, though, was the welcome in Korea. From Kimpo to the center of town, the road was clogged, yes, clogged, with people 6 deep, all wanting a glimpse of the  most famous man in the world. Excitement was in the air. He spent a day at Camp Casey where the US Troops were barracked, near the DMZ, and did an exhibition match in an Army ring with a couple of the base champs. It was, above all, a chance to see the depth to which his presence could energize a place. As in KL the year before, Seoul became completely overcome with the simple joy and energy of having the Champ in town. I have always been rankled a bit by the fact that I didn't just get myself to the Thrilla in Manila or the Rumble in the Jungle. In today's world, where communications is so prevalent, and yet so little is often being communicated, those were the kind of trips which were absolutely rich for writers and photographers. And Ali was the once in a generation kind of talent who could actually back up what he said, thereby turning bragging into simple fact checking. Ali was his own social media. He certainly didn't need Twitter or FB. He was the medium. The last time I saw him was through a 400mm lens as he held the Olympic torch twenty years ago in Atlanta. There was nothing in his Parkinsons affliction that could interfere with the glory and presence of the man, and I suspect a few tears might have been coloring the view in my finder. I consider myself lucky to have lived in the time he was Champ.  We're just sayin'...David

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Burn of the Bern

Who would ever have thought that not only would Donald Trump be the Republican nominee but that he would be a serious opponent. And who could imagine that Bernie Sanders, (the now angry old Jew from Brooklyn, I’m Jewish so I can say that), would still be in the race ?    Does the name Ralph Nader resonate?   At some point, when a person spends so much time campaigning to be President, their ego and perspective prevent them from thinking rationally. By this time I am sure they have negotiated a Bernie night at convention, as well as Bernie supporters on the platform committee. So, at this point why is he still presenting a political distraction, and anger at Hillary and the DNC. But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.

This morning, on Morning Joe, they showed the two new Hillary commercials. I don’t know who produced them but they are awful. (Personal opinion). Last semester one the groups of undergraduate students in my Presidential Politics class (Emerson College / LA)  produced a commercial for Marty O’Malley that was so good Marty asked if he could use it for future whatever. Here is the link,

http//www.you tube.com/watch?v=nZS4tLnrXYg

The commercial was a great introduction to the candidate, but more than that, by the end of watching it you really felt like you knew him.  That you liked him. And that you would vote for him. Ok it was after he dropped out, but it was still terrific.

There is no reason for Hillary to be struggling at this point. Yes, she stayed in the race through
all the primaries in 2008. But once it became clear that Obama would be the nominee she did
the classy thing and asked her supporters to work for him. This was not easy. Presidential politics never is. But a great many Hillary supporters were not going to vote, and what a disaster that would have been.

During the Vietnam war there were a great many protests. People yelled and screamed and
despite National Guard murder of students at Kent State. But I have never seen that kind of disruption happen at a campaign event. Until now. The boo’s and chair throwing that we have witnessed at the Nevada Democratic convention are horrific, and even more important disrespectful. My guess is that Bernie really thinks he can swoop in and scoop up some super delegates. He might have been able to do this at some point before he went nuts, but not now. People are afraid of that kind of noise. And my other guess (two is better than one because your chances of being right increase), is that there is NO one in the Clinton campaign who has the guts to tell Hillary that, with a few tweaks, she can do better. If you want to hear about tweaks (not tweets), check in with us tomorrow. Right now I am going to stick my head in the oven and
hopefully, when I take it out, this will all have been a miserable nightmare.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

Thursday, May 12, 2016

It Has Come To Our Attention.....

It has come to my attention that the author’s of “Were Just Sayin"… have not been saying much lately.  How can there be a blob when no one is writing it.  We have been remiss. And we have turned our attention to other projects. But we are back to talk about this ridiculous Presidential election.  Who would ever have believed that Donald Trump would be the Republican candidate and Hillary Clinton would have to worry about it.  

For the last four months I have been teaching a course called Presidential Elections and Campaigns with mostly Millenials in the class.  Bernie Sanders was their candidate of choice because, although nothing he said had anything to do with reality, at least he had a vision. At least the things he talked about were things that were important to this important group of potential voters (emphasis on potential).  

It was a most enlightening 4 months. When the class began the students asked how a person becomes a political expert. It’s simple, you just have to have a title in some campaign and you have to be available. I explained that each person in the class knows as much as the people who appear as “strategists” on the 24/7 news channels.  Point in fact, they designed a political commercial for Martin O’Malley that was so good, the Governor asked if he could use it for future whatever.  

But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.  The description of young reporters as “Road Warriors” is inaccurate. They are on the road, but they are hardly warriors. They are covering campaigns where the candidates want them to be there as much as possible, because they are the link to free media for the campaign. They get paid for what they do. Yes there are long hours, but there are no battles, other than perhaps wrangling some old bittie’s iPhone out of the way of a Selfie.  The real “Road Warriors” are the Advance people, who fight every day to make sure that the candidate is seen in the best possible light. These people cannot afford to have dignity as we know know it.  These folks have to work under the worst possible circumstances. No one wants them in any community because they do the things they need to do to win the war. Things like flushing all the toilets in the places where the candidates, their staff and the media stay.  The advance people are flushing toilets while the media “Road Warriors” are drinking in the bar with their press pals.  Those of us who were Advance people in the 60’s and 70’s never had a break.  We started, usually on our own, early in the day, and went to the bar at night, not to drink, but to convince the media that they needed to cover us the next day. (And we did all of this in an era lacking the invention of cell phones.)

But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.  It’s hard to wrap my head around that concept, (I never understood that concept. How do you wrap your head around something? That must hurt).  Anyway, Donald Trump could be the next President of the US.  At first, all the Republican elected officials were as horrified by this as am I. The Democrats simply laughed and said, “Well this will be easy Ha Ha Ha.” Guess what, it’s not funny.  This media star/bully, could win the election. Not only that, but now all the people who dissed him for months, are “jumping on the band wagon”, (also not something I understand because there is no band).  

Moving on.  The irony is that this guy with the stupidest hair anyone has ever seen, has to become part of the establishment or he won’t win. He is not doing it in the traditional way, he doesn’t have to do anything in any way he doesn’t want to do. He controls the “purse strings”. (Can you imagine the Donald carrying a purse — well maybe, but it would be a designer item).

While Hillary would make a great President, she needs her staff to recognize her campaign weaknesses, simple stuff, like she appears to be the disciplinarian that we all feared.  Like Gore, who would also have made a great President, no one is comfortable with the smartest kid in the class. And in conclusion loyal reader, we are in for quite a ride.  We all have a ticket to this circus. But at what price.  “We’re just sayin…Iris

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The "Bureaucratic" Facts of Life


Here are the facts:

The United States government is a bureaucracy.  What does this mean. There is an Executive Branch, A Congress, and a Supreme Court. One person cannot do anything they want because there are checks and balances--and a great many people who only want to say No to whatever a President wants to do. Like build a wall and drag illegal immigrants back to their own country. Even if their own country  happens to be the United States of America. The Departments (State etc.) and 162 or more independent agencies, (National Endowment of the Arts etc.), are populated by civil servants, foreign service officers, and political appointees, The first two categories of the aforementioned categories, think it is their job to maintain the status quo. What does that mean?. It means that they hate change. They want nothing to change because as long as nothing changes, they don't have to adjust to anything new at their jobs. Of course there are exceptions, but I challenge you to name 10. I got all the way to seven.

The last category, or political appointee, serve at the pleasure of the President and it is possible for the civil servants or Foreign Service Officers, to make sure that no matter what the President wants them to do, it will be impossible to do it. There are exceptions, but they are also hard to find. If you find them they are probably people who started out as a political appointee and instead of having fun, when their President leaves office, they burrowed and have become a part of the bureaucracy they once despised.

Confused?  My point is coming right up.   If Dump wins, (you know who I mean), I predict, that because he won't be able to get anything done, he will resign.  Can you imagine him sitting in the Oval office with nothing to do.  Talk about dangerous. He doesn't need the perks that most Presidents, who are not billionaires, have available to them -- planes, security, on whom they can blame anything, staff and servants, often immigrants.  He will resign because it is only fun to be President when you can appreciate all the goodies.

No need to discuss a Cruz Presidency because he is not going to win --- he’s too mean, too nerdy, a liar and unpleasant.  And the Governor of Ohio should continue to be the good governor he thinks he is.  The brokered Republican Convention that Republicans are hoping for, if  Dump has the votes, he will be the nominee. Bernie --- who doesn’t love Bernie?  But unless Hillary gets indicted the numbers don’t work. It appears we are facing a Clinton-Dump race. And perhaps,  if the Republican wins, we are facing a mystery person Presidency. We're Just Sayin....Iris

Monday, March 07, 2016

Forty years ago this week, I was the happy recipient of what I like to call “the magic phone call.”  It was an era where the publication of magazines was thriving, and part of what those magazines produced - let’s face it, it was like the loss leader at a big store - were the photographs which drew the eye, and interest, of a viewing public toward the page.  In the era of  “citizen journalists,” and countless iPhone users — all of whom think of themselves as photographers in this neo-visual age, it is hard to understand what the importance of a wonderfully fulsome system was.   It was one of those “Golden Age” periods of photojournalism, hallmarked by three forces:  Magazines with pages to fill,  Photo budgets which let editors keep photographers “in the field” pursuing new work, and above all, a desire for the magazine entity (in my case mainly TIME) to beat the tar ouf of the competition (mainly Newsweek)  every week.  This wonderful intersection of means, ends, and desire, created an ongoing and quite impressive pressure which not only hoped for, but demanded good work on an ongoing basis.  It didn’t always mean that the work ended up being properly displayed in the magazine, but now, decades later, one realizes that the real magic was that the work was created in the first place.  It was a formula which so many of my generation knew and appreciated, and which the current beginners in photojournalism will seldom know.  As we live in the age of ‘everyone is a photographer,’ it becomes harder and harder for those starting out to find the kind of funding which lets them pursue a story which is farther away than one’s own neighborhood.   (It is, nonethless,  an axiom of photojournalism that everyone lives within a block or two of a great story.  But doing those stories never seems to be as exotic and beguiling as something halfway around the world.) 

And so it was that one day in early March, 1976, I received one of those “magic phone calls.”  It came from John Durniak, the flamboyant and near-genius picture editor of Time.   In what was common for the 1970s, we had a very brief phone call, the gist of which was “we’re doing a story on this new kind of music called Reggae, and we want you to go to Jamaica and do some pictures.”   In what might have been considered a hand-shake deal, the assignment was made, though in fact in five decades, I can recall only one or two actual handshakes.  It was all based on your word.  The word of the editor, and the word of the photographer.   Within a few minutes I was dealing with the actual picture researcher who was working the story, who made sure I was hooked up with the reporter, David DeVoss, who was an old pal of mine from 5 years earlier in the Saigon bureau.  I booked a ticket to Ocho Rios, and drew a bunch of film (something like 40 Tri-x and 40 Kodachrome - you had to ask for 70 or 80 rolls for someone to even raise an eyebrow) and some old Graflex strobes. Cause you never know when you might need some light for a dingy lit stage.  Somehow, now,  I am free to admit that as I got on board the plane for Jamaica, I didn’t really have any idea who Burning Spear, Fabienne, and even Bob Marley were.  But that was what journalism was about:  Finding out about something, and sharing what you came to learn in pictures with your audience. 

Island Records, the young label whose clever owner Chris Blackwell had signed many of the big reggae groups, was helping move our trip along.  These days, I suspect, the whole thing would be paid for by the company (if the magazine would accept such gratuities) but we paid our own way, and let them do the magic of hooking us up with the talent once there.   Five years later, I would spend considerable time in Jamaica (15 weeks scattered over 3 years) but in 1976, inspite of a pretty good ear for language, I was challenged by the Jamaican patois.  Later, as I “got it” it became clear what a poetic and expressive version of English it truly was.    David and I spent several days meeting with musicians, (Burning Spear, Ras Michael & the Sons of Negus) and other Rasta musicians who were the core of reggae.  At the end of each meet up, some one would ask us, “when you gonna see Bob?” as if this were the one thing we couldn’t pass up if we hoped to really understand reggae.  On the fifth day we drove over the island to Kingston, then as now a scrappy, tough place, with wonderful people if you can only get to meet them.  We visited Randy’s Records, a hub of island music, wandered briefly through Trenchtown, and on the last day saw Bob.  What was perhaps the coolest  part of the afternoon we spent with Bob Marley was that aside from someone from Island getting us there (to make sure we made it to the right house…)  there were no publicists, no hangers on, no one to say “you can’t ask him that.”  We spent several hours in a sitting room with Bob, with DeVoss asking him about everything from the idea of justice, to ‘Gun Court’, and of course music.  As a photographer, you tend to tune the audio out during interviews, spending far more energy eyeballing the subject and trying to find a picture that might be lurking. (“That window is a little too back lit, but if i bother trying to move him around, that probably will mess up the mojo of the moment. How do I use that light… maybe it’s better over there…”)  You scramble, you hop around, you try not to be obvious, and you hope that it might be  a little better just over there.  In the end, we spent several hours with Bob, and he couldn’t have been any more welcoming.   We talked, we shot pictures, and just before we left, I asked him to run across the yard, in front of the garage, a dozen times, trying to shoot with an old 35mm camera I’d converted to a “Race-track Finish-Line” style of camera.  He was a great sport, though I think he must have wondered what the hell I was  doing.  A year later when I met him with the band in Paris, for the start of the Exodus Tour, he saw that streaky  picture, and I reminded him  “Remember when I had you run back and forth in front of the garage…”  and he broke into a big smile.   At that moment, I was in for the next four days on tour.  Spending those few days with a guy who I realized was so wise, was like a gift.  Like so many stories when you meet someone you don’t know, learn about something you were clueless of, it helps you to create something which your viewing public can see, and appreciate.    Forty years later, these pictures,  an ode to Tri-x, mean more to me than when I was the clueless, but lucky photographer, just looking to make a few good snaps. And a tip of the hat to Chris Murray of Govinda Gallery in Washington DC, who convinced me that you could to a photographic book with material shot in only a few days.  If it’s the right subject, and the right few days, it can definately work. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The City of (Little) Angels

Tyrone, doing his thing, West Coast style

the city from our East window 
 
a view up Sunset Bldg
Tyrone and his mom have made a number of  discoveries  in this glittering city of broken dreams. Here’s what happens. We pick a place where we think we might like to go. We look a google maps and I  write down all the directions. We don’t use a GPS because  want to educate myself about the city and it’s environs. So far we have been to Glendale to visit Costco,the Glendale Mall, and Americana, the other Glendale mall. Needless to say it is a shoppers heaven but we only shop at places where there are sales.  We have been to Santa Monica, Northridge, and the market n Fairfax and 3rd. We found the post office and the library and any number of cool places to eat.

We (Tyrone and his mom) live in a studio apartment, which I set up so it’s quite livable.  We have a kitchen, bedroom, dining room and a living room.  It’s perfect place for me and my puppy   and we look for adventures wherever we go.  Mostly we see things that I would consider very LA.  Yesterday when we were driving  down sunset blvd, we saw a sign on an office that said Dearly Departed Tours.  You figure out why anyone would take a tour of places dead people might have lived, and places where they were buried.  It is not something I understand, but there are many things in LA I find remarkable. Like you never have to worry about finding a parking space because there’s always valet parking. And if you want your car washed while you do whatever, that's always a possibility  People are nice and polite almost all the time.That must have to do with the weather.  There is very little political chatter because its all about the business  —auditions,managers, casting agents, producers, actors, and trying to make a living.  I am not part of the conversation but I have a political expertise that people seem to find attractive, she said modestly.  We are just talking about how you come part of any conversation and sadly, it’s always about the money.

In the realm of wonderful discoveries is the rediscovery of my college suitemate.  Angie has been on the west coast and Hawaii since we left school.  She remains one of the most caring loving people I have ever had in my live. But forgetting about all her goodness, she is still incredibly fun. Well laugh all the time and figure out how, the 4th quarter queens will spend the rest of our ives.  She is 30 minutes away so we see each other as often as we can.

Now the weather, one of the California attractions.  It’s gone from being beautiful to being rainy, to freezing with winds like a hurricane.  But theres no snow. There is no snow.I couldn’t be happier. The thought of livindhere doesn’t appeal to me, but getting out of the winter is very attractive. The class I am teaching is amazing. Could there be a better time to teach a course in Presidential politics and elections.  I don’t think so. 

Anyway, I am enjoying the life of a single person in a dormitory, because David is back and forth across the country.  This venue, the Emerson LA campus, is located on the walk of fame, where all the important actors have a star on the sidewalk. In the morning when the sun comes up,the iron shutters on the outside of the building close —so you don't get direct sunlight in your apartment.But you still get to see the beauty of LA during the sunrise and at night, you see the lights and the beauty of the city at night.
 I miss home, family and friends.  But this is wonderful place to be to get out of the snow and learn about politics from my students.    We're just sayin'... Iris

Friday, January 15, 2016

Children Will Listen

"Children will listen” -- a few of the words to a Sondheim song that always makes me cry. Maybe because it touches something in my heart that can not be identified with a simple explanation.  OK, you already know this probably won’t be one of our funnier blobs, but lets see where we go.

Yesterday was a memorial service for a friend, Evelyn Leibowitz.  We met when she was in the White House and I was not. But I was responsible for underwriting the cost of White House personnel traveling overseas. As you can imagine it was complicated but since neither of us ever lost our sense of humor — or the absurdities of Presidential issues, we had a great many laughs.  In fact, when she was the Deputy chief of Staff for President Clinton, ours was more of a problem solving (with a sense of humor) relationship, than a close personal friendship, but I liked and respected her a great deal and I think she felt the same about me.  But that’s not what I wanted to blob about, although she and her husband Ed had a charmed marriage.  Just an example, Evelyn worked at the Smithsonian for 13 years. She was an invaluable advisor, manager and executive.  Quite simply she knew what she was doing.  Anyway, everyday, (worth repeating) everyday, her husband waited outside the building where she worked, on a bench, always with a flower to give her.  Lovely right?  Not the end of the story. In this city of insensitive self important people, the leadership at the Smithsonian is acknowledging their love with a plaque on the bench that simply says, “waiting for Evelyn”. Gives me goosebumps.

Back to, Children Will Listen.  When I was six, my dad was diagnosed with degenerative type MS.  In those days, this diagnosis meant he would probably not live for more that 10 years and would eventually be, at best, totally incapable of moving his arms or legs.   At that time my mom was pregnant. The doctors assured her that it was not a genetic disease so not to worry about the kid she was carrying, my darling brother.  (Always the Golden Child— and I get it).

There were many things that happened around that time.  We were living in a large one family house with my aunt, uncle, three year old Sheila, and Stevie, who was two weeks older than me and from whom I had never separated — not at home or in any school we attended.  Like twins, we had our own language, celebrated our birthdays together and our parents were interchangeable.  We also had a multitude of aunts, uncles and cousins who were always around, and the mothers were interchangeable.

My parents were constantly looking for a cure which required all of us or them to travel to many different places. Nothing worked. But when they went and left us, we were stored at the home of one of the 4 aunts all who lived within a mile. Or with the other siblings who lived an hour away, but also within a mile of one another.

Where were we? Oh yes, as a child I believed that I was going to lose my dad.  He was a great dad.  Chocolates in a beautiful box on Valentines Day, unconditional love, and the belief that if I set my mind to it, I could do anything I wanted to do.  But he wasn’t going to be around for very long.  It was clear that I couldn’t love him very much because I was going to lose him.  Do I have abandonment issues or what.  just FYI, My dad lived longer than 10 years, but I knew he was going to leave me sooner than later.

Loss is a big deal. I figured that I better invest my love in friends, not blood relations.  Well, what didn’t work because my friends are much too dear to me — and it happens that lately they are dropping like flies.  So now what?  The decision has to be whether you remain unattached to anyone who you might love, or you just love and forget the consequences of investing that love in someone who you will eventually lose — unless you are lucky enough to go first.  Obviously, there is no good decision and I am not prepared, after delaying the decision for so many years, to make it right now.  There are people who I do love unconditionally, I just can’t help it and they know who they are.  But loss is horrible.  Loss sucks. Loss isn’t easy.  Oh yeah, maybe you should surround yourself with people who will support your fear with a simple, “put on your big girl panties” and help everyone you love “put on their big panties” even if they wear jockey shorts! We’re just sayin’… Iris

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Katrina, Ten Years On...

Ten years ago this week, I hopped a plane to Houston, rented a car, and headed north to the Louisiana line. Even though it was already 5 months since the calamity of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, getting through the National Guard roadblocks took a bit of negotiating. Once across the border, I found myself in what had been Holly Beach, LA, part of what was known as the "Cajun Riviera." Nothing was left standing, with the exception of a few sturdy toilet bowls. What had been a thriving beach community was shredded in the cuisineartstyle winds of Rita. You could see by the outlines of the remainders of house foundations where there had been something. But it was gone, turned to dust, and spread out for miles. It was a sobering sight, and as I drove on to Lake Charles to find a place to spend the night, the visions of that destruction weighed on me. I was doing my first National Geographic story in 21 years (also known as the "I just had a kid, and don't want to be away for 8 weeks any more..." break) and had brought with me my small, varied arsenal of camera gear: A Canon 5D, a Holga, and a Speed Graphic, the latter equiped with lenses from the FDR era. When you shoot for Geographic you have to keep in mind that no one will see the pictures for months, maybe years, owing to the long lead times. So, swirling in the back of your mind all the while is that little voice which is urging you to try and forego the obvious picture, whatever that might be, and look for something which hopefully has a bit more staying power, and relevance. Of course at the moment, you have no fricken idea what might be relevant, so you enter the crap shoot, keep your eyes open, and tread gently.

Herbert Gettridge, 83, was the first person to move back into the Lower 9th Ward, walks into his flooded house for the first time. He built his house wall by wall, room by room, in the 50s and 60s, and wasn't about to just give it up.
At the end of the 2nd day I'd arrived in New Orleans, the epicenter of the Katrina destruction. At first glance Canal street didn't look so bad. I checked into a nice hotel whose commo still had not been restored (that would eventually take months to complete.) I wandered on foot about the French Quarter, which was one of the few parts of the city to still feel like the pre-hurricane NOLA. The next morning, I was ready to roll: the 5D was armed and ready, the Speed Graphic & accompanying film holders were out of the bag and crying out to be picked up. I went to Cafe du Monde, that one unchanging spot of morning good will, and had an order of beignets, sticky sugar and all, and a large cafe au lait. Then I wandered the 20 minutes back to the hotel, walked into my room, now festooned with bits of photographica in every corner, grabbed my notebook, sat down, and remained in a paralyzed stupor for the next 10 hours. The tv was on, probably CNN (in some kind of hopeless gesture that I might 'learn' something...I'm sure that didn't happen) and I sat in that room till sunset. Thinking. Worrying. Pondering. Worrying. Imagining. Worrying. Wondering, and a little more Worrying.

The weight of expectation was taking a giant toll. And God Forbid! I thought, that my wonderful editors at NGM might learn I was there a whole day without doing a damn thing, without taking a single picture. I may have picked up the Speed Graphic once or twice, maybe even cocked the shutter, and fired it, just to hear that reassuring sound of rubberized cloth and spring steel. The third day, I got in touch with the photographer David Rae Morris, a NOLA transplant who knew his way around, and who generously helped me to find a way to start actually shooting pictures. David had a blue pick up truck, and we'd throw gear in the back and do slow meandering passes though some of the toughest hit neighborhoods, looking, 5 months post facto, for pictures to tell the story. At one point, we were going thru a neighborhood which didn't look too badly hit (there were some) and in a moment of complacency we were speeding along, as if to some pre-defined photographic location. "Slow down..." I said, and as he slowly braked the truck, David asked what I'd seen. "Nothing," I said. "It's just that I feel we're dishonoring this place by driving through it so quickly that we can't really see." For the rest of our several weeks, I don't think we ever drove any faster than 35 at the most.


In a neighborhood whose dyke broke, unleashing water and sand, a forlorn Mustang sits, half buried.
 
 
Eventually, as I became more comfortable with figuring out the where, and how of the city, the pictures started to come. But it was always the simplest moments that were the strongest for me. In the magazine, the story was pegged to be on the likelihood of a new wave of "Killer Hurricanes." Yet for me, the pictures which mattered most were those which told very personal stories. The traces of what life had been just a few months before. In many ways , much of what has changed in the last ten years has to do with the media world. The magazines that I'd known and worked for since the 70s have gone through wrenching changes, and as their lunch is served up rather unceremoniously by the new digital online world, I realize that finding a magazine with resources to send you for a month on a story like the post-Katrina coast is just plain unlikely. Photographers are trying to fill those gaps by self-funded projects, looking for a rare assignment here or there, but the pickings remain remarkably slim.

At a gathering of National Geographic photographers and editors (Jodi Cobb and Sam Abell among them) a few years ago in Georgetown, I very hesitantly related my story about the paralytic fear I'd experienced that first day in New Orleans, even then fearful that my reputation would be tarnished by such "child-like" behaviour. Immediately after I'd done my mea culpa, both Sam and Jodi related the same exact stories on jobs which they'd done for the Magazine. Sam Abell had the best story about day 1 of his first ever assignment, staring at a TV set in a motel room for the better part of a day. I felt an enormous sense of relief as I realized it wasn't just me, but that pretty much every photographer I know has had a moment, a day, perhaps even two, in which they stewed in their own befuddlement. In the end, we bring our own formulae to the construction of our images. There is no one single way that is the right way, and since photography retains a little bit of the unleashing of the genie in the lamp, we all have to do it our own way. We're Just Sayin... David