Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Black Lives Matter - specifically

In response to the phrase, and movement, Black Lives Matter, sometimes phrased as #blacklivesmatter, I often see or hear "All lives matter!" And I didn't get why that was an inappropriate, even hurtful, response until I heard, yet again, in response to "Are you a feminist," some celebrity say something like, "No, I'm not a feminist. I'm a humanist. I fight for all humans." And I cringed all over - and then, bing, I got it.

When you say you are a feminist, you are NOT saying that women are better than men, that you hate men, that women should receive assistance but men shouldn't, etc. When, in response to being a feminist, you say you are not a feminist but, instead, you support all humans, what you are saying is: "Women have not been especially, particularly oppressed more than men. People have not been especially, particularly targeted for violence because they are women. Women don't need distinctive, purpose-built help to correct the history of violence, oppression and discrimination. Just give general help to all people and that general help is all women need to eventually be treated equally in the eyes of the law and society, to be paid the same for the same work as men, to get the same opportunities to life choices, etc." You are, in fact, dismissing feminism and all that it stands for.

I now cringe when, in reply to "Black Lives Matter", people say "All Lives Matter." I get it. Of course all lives matter - Black Lives Matter activists aren't saying otherwise. The Black Lives Matter movement is meant to focus on black Americans, specifically, because black Americans are being especially, deliberately targeted with violence and oppression, they are being singled out specifically for this mistreatment and discrimination not only because they aren't "white", but because they are BLACK. To respond with "all lives matter" is to say that you deny that reality, that you dismiss the specific, unique concerns and issues of Black Americans.

Tamar Rice was 12 and shot and killed on site by police, no questions asked by those police, doing what white kids do every day and are NOT shot for: playing with a toy gun - and in an open carry state, so even if we take the police at their word that they thought he was an adult with a gun, then he was, in fact, doing nothing illegal. John Crawford, also black, was shopping in that same open carry state - Ohio - at Walmart, and picked up a BB gun that wasn't packaged and had been sitting on the store shelf for two days, and continued to shop, and was shot and killed by police, no questions asked - while white people that do the same, or worse, aren't shot. The way black protesters in St. Louis were treated versus how the white and armed protesters in Eastern Oregon that are menacing people that live in and around Burns are being treated is stunning - and undeniable. These are but three examples of why Black Lives Matter.

It seems only right, given my enormous respect not only for Alan Rickman's art but also his political passion, to take a very public stand on this. And so, I am: Black Lives Matter.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Alan Rickman

I knew who Alan Rickman was before I had ever seen his face or heard his voice.

It was Spring 1987, I was a junior at Western Kentucky University, and the theater and dance students were all abuzz about the shows on far away Broadway - productions we would very likely never see, because we had no money for the trip, let alone for the tickets. We had no Internet, yet we knew about so many of the shows - who was in them, who directed them, why they were successful or why they wouldn't last long, and on and on. We knew people who had seen the shows. Or knew people that knew people.

And the non-musical play I heard about most of all was Les Liaisons Dangereuses, starring Alan Rickman. Yes, even in Bowling Green, Kentucky, people were abuzz about Alan Rickman on Broadway, someone none of us had ever seen or heard - but, oh, the stories we'd heard about his performance. He was the primary reason I watched the Tony Awards that year - to see and hear him, at last, even for just a few seconds. When I got the opportunity to go to London in the Fall of 1988 for two weeks with the WKU theater and dance department, getting to see nine theatre productions, including Les Liaisons Dangereuses, I was beside myself - I knew Alan Rickman was long gone from the production but, hey, he had been on THAT stage, speaking THOSE lines. Good enough for me. Jonathan Hyde was excellent in the role of Valmont - no disrespect. But when I re-read the play - and I do, every other year or so - its Rickman I hear and see in my head.

In the summers, I'd go to the Henderson Public Library and look through a book that had photos and summaries of Broadway productions for the previous season. It was the closest I could get to Broadway. I would stare at the photos and try to imagine the live performances. I did it with Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and there was Alan Rickman. In Henderson. At least on paper.

I may never have said I was a fan of David Bowie, even though I was, but anyone who really knows me knows that I am a HUGE fan of Alan Rickman. Massive. That his brilliance could translate to film was what all us oh-so-deprived Kentucky theater fans were dying for. He was so obviously, overwhelmingly awesome in the first shot scenes of Die Hard that an extra scene with his character and Bruce Willis' meeting face-to-face was written in while shooting was still happening. Watching him steal Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was hysterical. Years after they were released in theaters in the USA, I finally tracked down Truly Madly Deeply, which is the role he's known most for among his most diehard fans, and Bob Roberts, which gave me a hint of his political leanings. Sense and Sensibility, Dogma and Galaxy Quest are my favorites of his films - I own all of them. In fact, I have more movies in my own library featuring Alan Rickman than any other actor - even Harrison Ford. By far.

I'll never forget watching Sense and Sensibility yet again, this time with my dear Spanish / Catalan / Swedish / global tribal friend, Alexandra. She was tired through most of the movie, and almost dozed a few times. But when Colonel Brandon came out at the end of the movie in his British uniform after his wedding, she almost flew off the couch. "Stop it, stop it now, rewind the movie, look at him, oh, so handsome, why didn't you tell me he would wear this?!?" We rewatched that scene three times, and the next day, she found a photo from that scene and made it the background of her computer screen at work.

Part of the reason I became so endeared to Benedict Cumberbatch was because his imitations of Alan Rickman are absolutely hysterical. I loved that Stephen Colbert took a few moments out of one of his show to acknowledge Rickman's death and contributions to film - it's not like Rickman was a household name, but Colbert is so obviously a fan. How could anyone not be?!? I'm so sorry I didn't hear what Jimmy Fallon said during his show - I'm sure he said something, because he was absolutely giddy whenever he was around him and about him.

Oh, the missed opportunities to see him live... when I moved to Germany in February 2001, I didn't know he was in the London West End in a revival of Private Lives, and didn't hear about the production until it had moved to Broadway. When I would go to London, I would always be on the lookout - is that him over there? Or there? Or there?!? And when he did Seminar on Broadway in 2012, I didn't fly to New York City - Stefan and I were hoping to buy a house (and we did!), and I was trying to be a grownup. BTW, my biggest regrets in life are over what I didn't do, when I chose being a grown up over doing something crazy and wonderful and expensive... I thought my time would come, another, better opportunity would happen, and I would somehow see Alan Rickman live, in-person, on stage. Somehow. It would happen.

It didn't happen. And now, it never will.

Alan Rickman died the day before my 50th birthday. My sister was with me when it was announced, and she knew before she turned and saw the look of horror on my face what the news would do to me. She's probably never seen an Alan Rickman movie in her life, but she knows me. And oh how I cried. I had a wonderful time celebrating my birthday, but, honestly - every now and again, amid all the joy, I would remember: Alan Rickman is gone. And it would hold me back just a little, just a bit.

The Voice is silent. Too soon.

NPR remembers.

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie

There was a poster of David Bowie on her wall. I don't remember who "her" was. She was a babysitter or someone's older sister. But I remember staring at a man with red hair and full makeup on a poster on her wall, and being told it was David Bowie. I probably wasn't six-years-old. I remember thinking, "I'm too young to understand this." Really, that's what I remember thinking - this is beyond me right now. Probably around the same time, I remember crying over "Major Tom." The song would come on the radio and I would tear up, thinking of poor, poor Major Tom, dying all alone in space like that, leaving behind his beloved wife.

But the David Bowie song I remember really jarring me in the same way it jars me now is "Fame." I remember getting it. That song came out when I was 9. And I got it. I remember picturing my own little music video every time I heard the song: a party, with perfectly-coiffed people, none smiling, looking at each other and trying to out-cool each other as they stood silently, glances at others, judging...

No matter what the era in my life, if felt like there was a song by Bowie on the charts. Always. Whether the radio station was rock, oldies or pop/top 10, they always found a way to play a Bowie song. He was so larger than life, I didn't think of him as human - he was BOWIE. I never said I was a fan of David Bowie - you don't have to say such things. Are you alive? Are you breathing? Then of course you're a fan of David Bowie. I've heard the musical and artistic merits debated of many a musician among friends or DJs or whatever - but I never, ever remember hearing such a debate regarding David Bowie.

After my first summer working at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, in 1988, I lived, briefly, in Queens - in August and most of September. And before my second summer working at the WTF, in 1990, I lived briefly on the upper West side - in March, April and May. I don't remember if it was 1988 or 1990, but I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art one day, the only time I've been there. I was mesmerised by just being in New York City, and it just felt so right to be at the museum that day, like it was exactly where I needed to be. I felt so good that day. I walked over to look at a small painting in a big hall, just outside of some special exhibit. There was a couple already looking at it - a short, thin white man and a thin, very stylish black woman. I stood next to them, looking at the painting, and heard his voice saying, "look at the colors..." It was David Bowie. I was inches from him. I stopped breathing, a thousand thoughts going through my mind: it's David Bowie, he's going to think I'm scary fan, I don't want him to think that, I don't want security called on me, be cool, don't acknowledge it, you're standing next to Bowie, be cool... I slowing drifted to another painting by the same artist and Bowie and his companion moved into the special exhibit. I don't think it was Iman, since, supposedly, they didn't meet until 1990, but I could be wrong.

That was my Bowie moment. I cherish it. My dear friend Louise actually met him, formally - talked to him and all that. I don't think I could do that. I don't think I could have been formally introduced to David Bowie. I think I would have imploded into nothingness. The only thing I could think of saying to him, other than, "Oh my god, do you know who you are?!?" would be, "Thank you. For everything."

I've cried all morning at the news that David Bowie has died. I'm comforted at just one thought: somewhere, always, there will be someone that will discover David Bowie for the first time. Maybe she'll be going through her grandmother's album collection. Maybe he'll hear something on the radio. Maybe a friend will say, "You gotta hear this..." But he, or she, will be jarred, be inspired, be transported, maybe even comforted. And he, or she, will make friends with people who say, "Oh, you're into Bowie too?!" As long as there are humans on Earth, that will happen.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Fabulous at 50?

Happy birthday, Elvis.

A week from today, I'm also having a birthday. I'll be turning 50.

I always celebrate my birthday in some way. I'm glad to be here! In the past, I've sometimes been surrounded by friends, dancing to a band. Or touring The Art of Star Wars exhibit in 1995 in San Francisco as only a geek girl can (yes, I teared up). Maybe seeing a play with friends - but not telling them it's my birthday, because I'm enjoying friends just being friends, for no special reason. Maybe it sitting in an ancient Roman amphitheater listening to an Arab man play the bagpipes in Jerash, Jordan. For 50, if all goes as planned, Stefan and I will be in the Carribean, though a month after my birthday (long story why it's been delayed). But it still counts: I will be somewhere fabulous in honor of my birthday. More on that trip later...

I've never feared a birthday. 30? Wahoo! 40? Bring it on! I didn't care if, at 30, I didn't look like someone in her 20s, or if at 40, I looked 40. Age - who cares?!?

But I'm having a big problem with 50.

I'm not thinking, oh, what have I done with half a century?! I'm quite pleased at what I've done with my life up to this point. I've been to more 35 countries, I've worked in a conflict zone, I've met movie stars, I've been quoted in lots of major news outlets because of my work, for a few years I was the only person on Earth with a particular area of expertise - I've had amazing times. And so many of the great things I've experienced have just dropped right into my lap, with little or not pursuit by me. I've done enough for a 100 year lifetime, and given modern living standards and my family history, I may have another 50 years to make more memories: 50 was the age of my material grandmother when I was born, and she's turning 100 a week after me - and I hope for the life she has at 100 if and when I make it there.

So, wahoo, more great things to come, right?

But at 50, my knees are shot. I can still hike long distances, but I can't run. Watch me get up off the floor - it's sad. I can't use a ladder at all. It feels like there are tiny, razor sharp pebbles under my knee caps when I bend them with any weight on them at all. It's half the reason I've gained so much weight - the other half are my damn genes (shakes fist at Beasley genes in particular). It snows and I'm immediately scared of falling and breaking a hip. Four different doctors have had no help for me regarding my knees - just take some ibuprofen and hope for the best. I eat less than I did at university, when I was a size 8 by the time I graduated - yet, here I am, at a size I won't even say. I also have chronic acid reflux, and if I don't have my meds with me, my motorcycle ride or night of camping or night out with friends is ruined - I have to go home immediately or spend hours in agony.

At 50, there are sags and lines all over my pudgy face. There are times I look in the mirror and think, I look like my Dad in drag. That's not a good look. My gray hair isn't coming in gorgeous white or Emmy Lou Harris fabulous - it's dishwater dingy dirty, and ages me by 20 years if I don't get it covered up. I look frumpy most of the time, even when I try to look nice.

At 50, I'm not working full-time, or regularly part-time. Men my age, with the same experience, are enjoying the height of their careers in senior management positions. I'm floundering. Type finding a job at 50 into Google - yikes. I feel like I am at the pinnacle of my professional abilities, with so much more to do - but the struggle in trying to find someone to pay me to apply those skills and experience is tiresome and, I fear, hopeless.

In my 20s, 30s and the start of my 40s, I charged ahead, throwing myself into my career and life in general. I had plenty of outlets for my many passions. And it was great. But now, it's like I'm charging ahead in an endless, empty desert landscape, at least professionally. There's nowhere to put all this passion, all this experience. I still get up early, I write, I research, I reach out, I still get oh-so-excited and inspired - but it just doesn't get me anywhere anymore. Neither jobs nor awesome experiences just fall into my lap anymore. My inspirations die away more often than anything comes of such. Everything I want to do, even on just a daily basis, seems to take so much more planning, so much more work, and even after all that planning and work, the job doesn't materialize, the big plans fall through, the goal is completely out of reach... I've lost my mojo.

It really shouldn't matter what I see when I look in a mirror - it's totally normal to look this way at 50, right? We can't all look like Helen Mirren at 50. Or Susan Sarandon or Oprah Winfrey or Jamie Lee Curtis at 50. I need to channel some Carrie Fisher attitude. My cholesterol and blood pressure are terrific, I don't smoke and I eat so much less meat now than I did early in life. - except for my weight, both my lifestyle and my genes greatly reduce my risk for cancer. That's great news. And unlike many Kentuckians, I have all of my teeth (except for four that were taken out when I got braces, and my wisdom teeth - you think I have a big mouth but, in fact, literally, I don't).

Also, I have a future that includes a rather wonderful person - we have more plans for travel and adventures than we could possibly undertake in TWO lifetimes, and the financial means to do many of them. Stefan will support me in any life endeavor - I just have to pick the endeavor, and be ready to work much, much harder than I've ever worked before to get it.

Maybe I've been spoiled up to this point, and I'm only now realizing my loss in privilege. There are millions of people that would love to have my life right now - how dare me complain?!

But, even so, I'm stumped. And stagnant. And scared. And restless. 
 I wish I was the moon tonight.

This is usually the kind of diatribe I save for my personal, paper diary. Why am I sharing it so publicly? I'm so tempted not to. I guess because I'm hoping for some meaningful advice. But looking for wisdom via the Internet is, me thinks, really dumb. The people who feel fabulous at 50, that share it online, are happy that their kids are grown (no kids) and they can now start pursuing life - otherwise known as the things I've been pursuing since long before I approached 50.

Like it or not, I'm about to be 50. I just wish it didn't feel all downhill from here.

Okay, on that downer note: if you'd like to honor the birth of me, please

  • register to vote, and if you are registered, make sure you are registered to vote 
  • put primary voting days and election day on your calendar
  • make a donation to your LOCAL nonprofit animal shelter/local humane society, and/or 
  • donate to Nowzad Afghanistan, rescuing stray and abandoned animals in Afghanistan, and getting them spayed and neutered, and/or 
  • donate to Mayhew International, which not only rescues stray and abanded animals and gets them spayed and neutered, but also trains vet techs locally and helps teach compassion and responsible pet ownership all over the world, including in Afghanistan, Romania and Russia - three places that really need it.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

No entitlements to careers, including ranching

I believe in entitlements, like access to health care, to non-exploitative job opportunities that pay at least a living wage, to safe, clean housing, to a safe, secure environment, and to nutritious food.

But I don't believe in entitlements to careers. No one is entitled to any career. You are not entitled to be a professional actor. Or a software developer. Or an aid worker. Or a banker. Or a journalist. Or a doctor. Or a tobacco farmer. Or a rancher. Or a coal miner. You can want to do those things, you can train to do those things, you can try to do those things, but you aren't entitled to make your career from any of those things, not in the USA.

My heart breaks when someone suddenly loses their job, particularly when it's the only job they've ever had and/or the loss is unexpected. When someone has a job, and financial security and peace of mind for the future this week, and then loses it the very next week - that's awful. Those people really struggle. You cannot plan for absolutely every scenario, and a lot of people do not see coming the closing of their office or the move of a company - it's a jarring, horrific surprise. They deserve sympathy and support.

But there are other people who whine about their loss of livelihoods that I don't have as much sympathy for.

I'm from Kentucky. When I was a kid, coal mining, horse racing and tobacco farming were dominant industries. My hometown, then less than 25,000 people, had TWO horse racing tracks, one for thoroughbred racing, one harness racing. My grandfather had been an underground coal miner before I was born, I could easily recognize a strip mine - and a site that had been stripped mine - before I was in double digits. And I knew a tobacco barn as soon as I saw one as well, despite no immediate family members that were farmers.

But I also knew, before I was a teenager, that these were three dying industries. The messaging and signs were everywhere. Yet, here I am, almost 50, and I hear people back in Kentucky decrying the demise of "their" industries. "I'm a fourth-generation coal miner! It's all I've ever done! This town was built by the coal mines!" is the kind of refrain I'll often hear when I'm back in Kentucky. And all I can think is - didn't you get the message? I did, more than 35 years ago. You've had an incredibly long amount of time to train for and pursue something new, to redefine yourself professionally and your community economically - why didn't you?

This is on my mind here in Oregon, as I hear people in Eastern Oregon outraged over the transition of ranchland, mining fields and timber lands to wildlife refuges and other pursuits that preserve land and water and history. Mining, for gold, mercury and a few other minerals in Eastern Oregon - from the early 1900’s to the 1930’s, cinnabar mining was king around Prineville, Oregon (mercury was extracted to use in silver and gold mining industries) - is in decline, though it does continue, as does the clean up from dangerous chemical contamination in lands and water. Lack of profitability and environmental laws against dredging and other destructive practices have closed many mines. Oregon remains the number one lumber producer in the U.S., but the industry, and many logging towns, are furious that logging on federal lands is now severely restricted. Ranchers ignore that consumption of meat in the USA, especially red meat, including beef, is in a serious, sustained, long-term decline and demand, though away from the public eye, to continue to receive a range of hefty government cash benefits to keep their dying industry afloat: the US government charges 93 percent less for cattle grazing than private landowners. As of 2014, grazing fees only accounted for 15 percent of the total cost incurred for the Bureau of Land Management to manage land for cattle grazing - the other 85 percent comes from we, the taxpayers. In Nevada, home of the Bundy family (yes, the same one the leader of the armed group in Oregon is from), 80 percent of the state’s land is owned by the federal government. But ranchers get to lease that land for their own private businesses at a huge discount. According to an investigation by The Atlantic, the lease discount program cost taxpayers anywhere from $52 million a year to $200 million, when accounting for all of the administrative overhead involved in managing the program. If the armed men in Eastern Oregon really wanted the “independence” from government they whine about, their businesses would be underwater.

National wildlife refuges pumped $2.4 billion into the economy, employed more than 35,000 people and produced $792.7 million in job income for local communities in Fiscal Year 2011. A 2012 study by North Carolina State University researchers for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that metro-area homes near wildlife refuges are worth far more than those farther away from these havens. From 2006-2011, over 46 million people visited the National Wildlife Refuge System generating a total of $2.4 billion in economic output. Considering that every $1 of investment in the refuge system yields around $5 for the economy, national wildlife refuges are among our most economically productive national investments. Every year, millions of bird watchers, hikers, hunters, fishermen, and outdoor enthusiasts visit the National Wildlife Refuge System. No question: wildlife refuges are, in fact, SUSTAINABLE economic engines for local communities.

Having one big industry dominating the economy of a town does not work - not forever. Times change. It's also an epic challenge to transition from one industry to something that's prosperous and more diverse, yet, Ashland, Newport, Hood River, Astoria and Bend in Oregon show that it is possible. It took those cities decades of planning and work to do it, however. They saw the writing on the wall, and they did something about it.

I got a B.A. in journalism, and by the time I graduated from university, I already had professional experience as a journalist - but I decided it wasn't what I really wanted to do, and I took my career in another direction. Within a decade of leaving newspapers, some of my fellow journalism graduates had also left, seeing the writing on the wall with the growing popularity of the Internet and free avenues for news. They anticipated, they retrained, they re-directed, and they are all now employed in other industries. That's what you do in the USA when you realize your career choice is going nowhere. Times change. No one is entitled to any career - not miners, not ranchers, not farmers, not journalists, not you.

The armed ranchers and other armed people currently occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refugee are costing that community thousands of dollars in tourist dollars, and contributing to a reputation that Oregon does NOT need - one that will keep tourists, and their money, away even after the occupation ends. They need to get out, go home, and rethink their career choices - if your industry is dying, it's time to pursue something else.

Jan 12 Addendum: In this editorial, a rancher whines about dreaming as a kid to be a rancher, about wanting to "work on the land," about saving money to start his own business, about realizing his dream but how the evil government - specifically, the President - is ruining his livelihood with rules and regulations. "Most of the time, those regulations are written by people with no agriculture experience, and little understanding of what it takes to produce our nation’s food. The agencies that control these lands can add burdensome regulations at any time. Often, they will begin aggressively enforcing them before ranchers have a chance to adjust."

Imagine a teacher had written exactly the same thing during the Bush administration, about dreaming as a kid to be a teacher, about wanting to teach children, about taking out loans and saving money to go through the government-mandated training and certification to become a teacher, but how the evil government is ruining her livelihood with rules and regulations. "Most of the time, those regulations are written by people with no education experience, and little understanding of what it takes to prepare our young people for the future. The agencies that control of public schools and funding can add burdensome regulations at any time. Often, they will begin aggressively enforcing them before teachers have a chance to adjust." People would have screamed about what a whiney person she is, how if she can't deal with the changes, she needs to get out of teaching, and on and on.

This is what is known as a double standard. Look it up.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Lucy wears snow booties for first time

Lucinda the dog wears snow booties for first time:

We bought these snow booties at Goodwill in Forest Grove last year. I wasn't sure they would fit her, but they do, quite well - they didn't come off until we'd gone almost two miles, and that was because she was jumping around with another dog - and because I probably didn't have them on entirely correctly. Yeah, she hated them - and the sound of her crunching through the ice-crusted snow and slush was hilarious. Walking Lucy in soft snow is one thing, but this sharp ice and slush - her baby-soft paws, the result of living for her first seven months in dog shelters - would get cut to pieces.