Lady Gaga… Speaking of Disasters?

Ok how do you know you are getting old? This is how. You watch Lady Gaga on television or youtube or whatever viewing poison you choose and you go WHAT THE ….????”??? I like all kinds of music. I think of myself in a minor way as a musician (amateur at best). I even like some of the things my seventeen year old likes (heaven forbid). But I don’t get Lady Gaga. The hair, the costumes, whatever. I just want to yell when are you going to start singing? Maybe she is singing and I’m so distracted I can’t hear it because my eyes are full. I note recently that quite a few acts, including the likes of the Black Eyed Peas, and a rapper whose name I can’t recall at the moment, are doing more and more of this silly overly costumed stage show and less and less actual singing. The songs are all dead boring repetitive with virtually no lyrics ~ usually about a line or two repeated over and over as if the songwriters union was on strike the week the music was written. Rap and Hip Hop have vast creativity, this crap doesn’t. The blues and jazz speak for themselves. Many artists who are hard to categorize are special and worth listening to. I like a good show but for us old rockers a good show was some guy slaving over his guitar to make as much music per minute as possible, or great multipart vocal harmonies. There wasn’t much costume to it. Country used to have a little more glitz, think Glen Campbell and rhinestones; some artists today still do but they too seem more involved in making the music. Think of the greats, Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Lowell George, Jerry, etc. Mostly a pair of jeans and an instrument; what more could you need? Certainly not a bleached wig and cheap star trek boob costumes. I am so missing the music.

Accessible Healthcare My …..

Yet again, driving along, listening to public radio. They are in the middle of their spring fund drive so my mind was kind of in float mode. Not paying all that much attention. As they are saying their sponsorships for Morning Edition I hear “the Aetna Foundation, dedicated to health, well-being and accessible health care”. I almost choked. I have a job. Through that job I have health insurance. I have had Aetna, for better or for worse, for six years. Each year my benefits have gotten a little worse and a little more expensive. For example I have never had a real deductible since I was in an open access HMO. This past year they ditched that and added a three thousand dollar deductible but it was waived for preventive and emergency room. Ok, I can live with that. It was just announced at my company that they could no longer offer Aetna because the plan premiums had been increased by 44%! Accessible healthcare my ass. So I will have to switch everything to United Health Care, where my drugs will cost more and my deductible will be five thousand dollars. Although this is waived for preventive care, it is not waived for the emergency room so our first visit this year will cost up to five thousand dollars! And if I am admitted, there is a very special extra deductible of five hundred on top of that. And then twenty percent of the bill on top of that. Don’t worry, unless I am dying so my life insurance will pay the bill, I won’t be going to the hospital any time soon. But I am grateful to have the insurance at all. Sickening that Aetna has a foundation for tax exemptions that markets them as a caring company. Forty Four Percent! Unaffordable for any but the wealthiest of us.

Violence against Women

So I am driving down the road, minding my own business, thinking about the world. And a crappy little rusty shitbox car in front me sported a bumper sticker that said “Loud wives lose lives”. Now I know that there is still a lot of gender discrimination, and domestic violence and misogyny in the world but OMG, that is just right out there; about as far out there as anything I can imagine. I think there may be lots of men who think it but in today’s world, not so many that would overtly shout it from the rooftops. This particular car also had an iron cross and a confederate flag on the car. Now no offense to those who feel the confederate flag is a simple symbol of their birthright but to some of us these symbols seem to belong together, the ultimate symbols of facism and racism. I am the first to admit that I know nothing more about the driver or owner of that car but I feel that I know more than I would ever want to know, just by what he chose to advertise on his car; and yes I assume it was a “he”. So later that night I am watching the Tudors, one of my favorites, and there is a young man, a beautiful fresh-faced young man, besotted with the new, very young and beautiful queen. He is obsessed with her and watches her constantly, discretely following her from place to place. In a later scene he talks of her desirability and his frustration. The next thing we know he is violently raping a peasant or farm woman while his fellows hold her down. Part of what is shocking about this scene is exactly how fresh and innocent he appears up to this point. And then how ordinary it seems to him, how acceptable to take this course of action as a perfectly acceptable way of alleviating his frustration. Finally, when her husband comes seeking justice, saying he will take him to the sheriff, he kills him thoughtlessly, with no compunction. I am slightly unsure why these two unrelated events in my life became linked in my mind, but they are. The medieval callousness toward woman and the modern misogyny. In a way it seemed to me to illustrate what a short distance we have come; despite how far we have come. The feminists of my age fought for the right to be paid for equal work, to engage in “men’s” careers, to wear pants. The feminists of the generations before fought and lost their lives for the right to vote, to hold property in their own names. And the women of ages past fought just to survive the injustices in their lives. That bumper sticker made me mad, made me sad, made me want to shake the driver til his brains rattled. He probably lives with a mother who still cooks and cleans for him, does his laundry, irons his jeans. I wonder if he knows how his mother feels about that bumper sticker.

Mudslides, Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters

On the news was a story about a train in Italy that was derailed by a flash mudslide. So far eleven deaths are reported. The mudslide was allegedly caused by the bursting of an irrigation pipe. We all have friends that have gone from diagnosis to death in short periods of time but even that gives a moment, a window, to try to prepare, to say goodbye. I thought about this most ordinary activity, riding the train; one moment riding, the next gone in a mountain of mud. What a terrible death. And then there are those swallowed or crushed by their homes and offices collapsing on them in an earthquake; or drowned in the wave of an unavoidable tsunami. This brought me the myriad ways in which sudden death happens ~ just think of those killed by drunk drivers in the flash of an eye. Sorry if you are depressed now. But trite as it seems, it made me stop and think how lucky I am. How lucky my family is. We have been touched by very little sudden or “unnatural” death; although there has been some. Maybe writing this will jinx that, but I don’t think so. I think luck is luck and life is life. As the parent of an only child (a hard found adopted one at that) I fear always that something will happen to him ~ opening our arms to let him fly is very hard but has to be done. My mother’s revenge is complete; she told me that once I had a child I would worry for the rest of my life. I can love her so much more now for worrying about me where I used to find it annoying because I understand it so much better; particularly as my child is driving and testing his wings. My prayers now are often just to keep my family safe, the love of my life, my child, my brothers and their children. This past year has taught us nothing if not that disaster can strike in the blink of an eye; a fire, a flood, a wreck. As full as my life is of the tasks that must be managed, job, child, dad, caregivers, husband, meals, shopping, whatever, it is time to practice what I would tell my friends, stop, smell, listen, breathe. The chores will still be there. So this Saturday, as an act of sheer gratitude, I did nothing at all. I lay outside and read until it grew too hot, then I lay on the sofa and read until it was time to eat or sleep. I worked on not feeling guilty, but just actually relaxing. The only armor I have against fear is gratitude and faith. I pray for the poor souls left behind, they are the ones suffering and I am grateful not to be among them.

Shabbat Shalom Y’all

About six years ago, we moved to the south. It was quite a culture shock. It is especially weird to go to Temple with blond big hair blue eyed goddesses with syrupy southern accents, especially after growing up in New York City with friends who ironed their seriously kinky brunette hair and had their birth noses reshaped! I realize that assimilation has taken a toll, as has intermarriage and the failure to affiliate. But its still funny. We grow up with stereotypes, which become stereotypes because they have grains of truth in them. I personally am married to a Jew by choice who celebrates St. Patrick’s day (ethnically speaking of course) so… stereotypes are dangerous as well. Nevertheless here we are. It is a beautiful spring day in full bloom here in the sunny south and Shabbat is coming. So Shabbat Shalom Y’all.

CHURCH REVIEWS??

I was listening to public radio in the car the other day when an essay came on about a new trend on the internet. When people who are church goers are moving from time to time or town to town they can look up the local churches on these web sites. Now these are not the web sites of the actual churches, these are “comment” web sites where anyone can leave a review. This is a weird concept, to say the least. It is weird on a lot of levels. My first and most visceral response to this is the idea that you would choose a house of worship by going on line. I mentioned this to an acquaintance who said that it might eliminate some and make the search easier. I even think that is weird. In some fundamental way, a house of worship is not just a spiritual home but also a family of a sort. To me, it is the sort of thing that you have to experience; first hand. Your immediate actual family you don’t get to choose, the other families you create throughout your life, you do. How do you choose a family without meeting them, hugging them, laughing and crying with them? At least you might want to have a sense of them, a real sense, not a virtual sense. How do you find a spiritual home without praying in it, listening to its leaders, its clergy? But ok, let’s assume you don’t mind finding your spiritual house on the net. On the show I listened to (at least one side of the story) they talked about what a great service this could be, making transitions for folks moving, with an emphasis on military families. What credibility do these “reviews” have? Who are the reviewers? What if the writer is someone with a personal ax to grind against a particular clergy person, or institution? Or its lay leaders? What if the writer is a hater of a particular religion? And regularly spews hate on the local representatives of it? How do you choose a religious home, or a spiritual family based on the opinion of strangers? The show likens the choice to that of choosing a hairdresser, grocery, family doctor, mechanic, etc. While I am certainly not likely to denigrate the importance of the right hairdresser, I’m thinking that the choice of a religious institution might be slightly more important, especially if you are a parent (keeping in mind that your kids really don’t care about your hair). If you are religious in the sense that you look to your house of worship to reinforce your core values and help you teach them to your kids; to create that “family” that acts as extended rold models for your kids, then its influence may extend beyond even that of the family doc in the long view of things. Do you really think it makes sense to allow anonymous (ok they might put their names) folks with their own agendas to drive this decision? Maybe you should choose your dentist on facebook.