Credibility.

I believe Christine Ford. I understand completely why she would have waited so long to come forward.

I was eighteen when I was sexually assaulted. [Warning: rape/suicide triggers.] Although I told a few others, I did not tell anyone in my family until after my Mom died. I was fifty-five.

When I told my eldest sister, after expressing sorrow that this had happened to me, said that it was a good thing I hadn’t told anyone, especially my father.

This is why I now tell my story. I want to help bring things like this to light.  Maybe if enough women do, it will be harder for men to claim they’re lying.

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Art: silly v. interesting.

I am not an artist, nor an art historian, but I do have my opinions. Among them: Jeff Koons annoys me.

More accurately, the art of Jeff Koons annoys me. It seems to have an arrogance, a brattiness. It isn’t helped at all by museum art guides who solemnly try to impart ridiculous meanings into relatively silly works.

(No, a smiling kitten in a sock on a clothesline is NOT a crucifixion metaphor. That Koons — or whomever wrote the audioguide narration — thinks so simply indicates he (or they) have no idea what the crucifixion is about, theologically, spiritually, or emotionally. Andres Serrano made a more informed — and certainly more interesting — statement on the same topic with “Immersion (Piss Christ).” And the metallic balloon rabbit does not carry “overtones of quiet menace,” at least not for anyone over the age of seven. Sheesh.)

I don’t require art to be serious all the time. The one Koons work I love dearly is quite silly — “Puppy” is a West Highland White Terrier rendered in flowers.  I like a lot of works that can be best described as lacking in serious intellectual content.  Art communicates, and like all other forms of communication, it sometimes says things that are funny or frivolous. (Yes, this includes those works of the “art for art’s sake” philosophy. What those communicate is an invitation to look at the world.) Nor does my annoyance at Koons arise from a disdain for realism in modern art — I am, generally speaking, not a fan of abstraction. (There are some exceptions: Mondrian, some Pollack, some Richter. Then there is Chuck Close, who straddles the line between the two.)

Koons is not the only artist whom I find bratty. I tend to roll my eyes at some of the more excessively “pretty” Pre-Raphaelite works — Rossetti’s “Prosperine,” for example — even as I find them interesting visually. (Of course, I am willing to admit that my feelings about Rossetti’s work are colored by what I know about his personal life.  “My heart is broken so I will bury my poetry with my first wife” followed by “I’m in love again — with my friend’s wife — so I will dig up my first wife so I can retrieve the poetry” just appalls me.)

I am thinking about all this because of a PBS special on an artist at the other end of the silly v. serious spectrum: Jean-Michel Basquiat.

In 2015, on one of my trips to Spain, I had an opportunity to visit the Bilbao Guggenheim. I did not see much of the permanent collection of the museum, spending much of my time enveloping myself in the wonder of Frank Gehry’s astonishing building, and checking out the sculptures outside. (Of special note is “Maman” (“Mother” in English), Louise Bourgeois’s sculpture of a giant spider.) The three exhibits I did see were a Richard Serra installation (which made me claustrophobic but was generally interesting), Koons, and Basquiat.

I spent my time in the Koons exhibit, shrugging. (Especially at the pictures of him and his porn-star-turned-parliament-member wife (gotta love Italy) having sex against romance-novel backgrounds. I’m not a prude, but really.) And, quite honestly, a little bit bored.

I spent my time in the Basquiet exhibit thoughtful and engaged. His work is less realistic than Koon’s, and more real.  It spoke of a grittier, more lived reality: a world in which a successful and educated young artist (and protegé of the most important artist in the world at the time) took limousines because taxis would not stop for a young black man with wild hair. I’m not saying I completely understand all of Basquiat’s work — I think I lack the lived experience to get all of the nuances.

Even so, Basquiat’s work speaks to me. I found myself wanting to see more, to learn more, to understand better.  I had no desire to see any more Koons.

If I write more here about Koons than Basquiat, it is because I find it easier to write about annoyance than connection. It is also because Basquiat’s work moves me, in a way that I find difficult to articulate.

In the words of the old saw, I may not know art but I know what I like. And what I like is art that calls me to think, to engage, to try to understand. And I know which one of these two artists produce such works.

It’s not Jeff Koons.

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Sometimes the dog whistles are so clear, even I hear them.

This controversy has been brewing over the past few days; I am rather late to the party. I would be very surprised if someone has not written something like the post below, only better.

Recently, Eric Trump referred to Bob Woodward as selling out the country “for a few shekels.” Anti-Semitism! A call out to neo-Nazis! After all, as Katie Tur of msnbc commented, that’s what it had to be. “Who uses language like that?”

She’s wrong. A call out to white supremacists it may be, but that’s not all it is. It is also a dog-whistle to Christians, particularly fundamentalists. It is not only about Jews controlling the media…

It’s about Judas.

The shekel is used throughout the Bible as a measure, usually of silver. And although most translations use the phrase “thirty pieces of silver,” there are translations which refer to Judas’s reward for betraying Christ to the Pharisees as “thirty shekels.”

When I was growing up, with a devout Southern Baptist grandmother (church on Wednesday as well as Sunday), I heard about Judas and his thirty shekels. My grandmother was a racist, but she was not an Anti-Semite, as far as I could tell. That’s just what she had been taught.

Eric Trump’s use of the phrase ” a few shekels” has a very clear message. Woodward (and by implied extension, all media) is not merely a crass opportunist, he is a  Judas. He is not merely un-American, he is the ultimate traitor. he must be stopped.

At least, that is what I heard, and having been around my grandmother growing up, I am positive that would be the message she heard. She would not be alone, either.

I doubt Eric Trump came up with the phrase on his own. I doubt he was raised with either white supremacy or fundamentalist Christianity to the point that the phrase “a few shekels” would come to his brain if it hadn’t been planted there.  From what I saw on msnbc, a Donald Trump supporter at one of his rallies had used the phrase on a sign. Eric must have appropriated it.  It is catchy, after all.

The dog-whistle is so loud and clear even I can hear it without even thinking. I can’t tell if that is a good thing or not.

 

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My new hero.

Last week, Fox News “discovered” actor Geoffrey Owens, who had been on the Cosby Show, working as a cashier in a Trader Joe’s. Fox did a predicticably nasty little piece.

They picked on the wrong guy. First of all, the vox populi responded that there was nothing wrong with being a grocery checker. More importantly, Owens, with quiet dignity, defended himself.

He spoke out against being  “job-shamed.” He talked about the satisfaction he got from his job. He never indicated that this was some temporary gig until he got his acting career back on track.

I saw him being interviewed by Ari Melber on msnbc. Owens repeated the axiom I have tried hard to live by. “We have to get away from the idea that some jobs are better than others,” he said. “All work is honorable.”

“All work is honorable.” My father taught me that. I wish I didn’t have such a hard time living by it.

I went to prestigious schools. I was trained to be part of a high-status profession. My classmates have done amazing things — they have been successful and, in some cases, powerful.

That’s not what I have chosen to do with my life. I raised children, and after that came to an end (what do they think they are doing, growing up like that?), I have worked a series of temporary jobs which, for the most part, I found enjoyable, if for no other reason than I have usually worked with wonderful people. These were low-level, low status jobs which were part of larger efforts: working on the census, getting a progressive elected to the county commission, and most recently, helping to make sure that the wheels of the democratic process run smoothly.

Any enterprise needs people like me: grunts who do the dirty work, who process the census questionnaires or the ballots, or (lowest of the low) call people to convince that a) our candidate really was the best choice and b) they needed to vote. (One of my favorite memories from that last job was the woman who defiantly stated in 2012  that she was voting for Romney. “I don’t care if you vote for a pink polka-dotted penguin, as long as you vote,” I replied. This was not the stance of the very liberal organization I was working for, but completely reflected my views.)

I find my most recent (and hopefully future) job incredibly satisfying. It requires a mix of problem solving and artistic judgment that is right up my alley. I am damn good at it. And yet…

“All that education to waste,” the voice sounds in my head. “Why aren’t you out changing the world?”

But I am changing the world. I am making sure people’s voices get heard. People like me matter. It’s not important that, in some sense, we are totally replaceable. We are doing this work, not those who could ostensibly replace us — and we take pride in it. I just need to remember that “all work is honorable.”

Thank you, Geoffrey Owens, for reminding me.

Posted in Who I am, Work! | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Fear.

I fear.

I fear because I hope too much.

I fear because what I feel now feels like the hope I had in the September and October of 2016.  And we all remember — are reminded every waking moment of every day — what happened next.

I fear so much that sometimes my stomach ties itself in knots when I think of the state of the country, and where we are heading.

I don’t want to think of the Democrats winning the House. It is less threatening to believe in the status quo. Work to change it, yes, but don’t expect those efforts will bear fruit.

Too much gerrymandering. Too much voter suppression.

I hope. I despair. I am paralyzed by both.  Does this mean the bastards have won? Does this make me a “Good German”?

I honestly don’t know.

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Wow. Now that’s a DOG.

There are species or breeds of animals that you know exist because you watch them on television. Yet they seem mythical, because you never see them in real life.

This is especially true of some of the stranger breeds of dogs. I am a fanatical viewer of televised dog shows, so I know that breeds like the Brussels Griffon and the Borzoi are out there somewhere. I see such breeds in the movies (for example, Hooch in Turner and Hooch was a Dogue de Bordeaux) but I never even heard of them until I saw The National Dog Show for the first time.  I live in a relatively diverse dog neighborhood (leaning towards big dogs like Briards, Bernese Mountain Dogs and Saint Bernards, although I have also seen a wide variety of terriers and toys — chihuahas seem popular) but there are still many breeds that might as well be chimeras. (I want a Novia Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, although I have never seen them in the flesh. I do doubt if I have the energy for one, though.)

Last week, while returning from a trip to San Diego, for the first time,  I saw two Neapolitan Mastiffs.

Oh, my God. They are impressive… downright scary.  Forget pitbulls — if I wanted a guard dog I would get one of these. Even if they are well-trained and gentle, just their appearance would make the staunchest burglar think twice about trying to get past them.

They are huge. According to the AKC, males weigh 150 pounds, which pretty much matches what I thought when I saw them. Each of the pair easily outweighed the young woman who was walking them, or more accurately, held on to the leash while they deigned to walk in the direction she led, up until an athletic  young man walked up and relieved her of her charge.

They are also beautiful. Their face is weird, granted, but they are a stunning steel blue-gray color that reminded me of Pandora (our Russian Blue cat).

I could never own a dog like this. They would take up too much room in a small house — besides, I have heard they both snore and drool.

But I’m glad someone does. The world is a more interesting place for animals like that.

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Muppets!

This is the best thing I’ve seen in a long time.

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