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Friday, July 31, 2009

Noah's memorial service

All photos from Mike Martin. This is just a small selection.
In this photo, I'm in the 3rd row looking off to my left. Lisa is in the black dress standing at the end of the 2nd row. Noah's ashes are in the black box in the front row.
Jon sang "All kinds of love."

Leo spoke very movingly and read a poem that he wrote.
Ian played an original composition titled "The Unexplained."

Jerry finished with a reading from the Episcopal Book of Prayer.


This is what I ended my short eulogy with -
the last two stanzas of Kahlil Gibran's On Beauty:

[Beauty] is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear,
But rather an image you see though you close your eyes
and a song you hear though you shut your ears.
It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,
But rather a garden forever in bloom and a flock of angels forever in flight.

. . . beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.

Releasing ashes

After the service (it was dark by then), we each dropped handful of ashes off the bridge. Amy took this photo of me. Emily loaned me the flower braclet that I'm wearing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Daily Sun obit

Our hometown paper in Flagstaff. THis appears at the top of the page. (Not sure why the photo quality is so bad - I sent them a jpeg file.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 5

Today I sent obituaries to the Flagstaff and Tucson newspapers. I talked to the Special Uses Coordinator about scattering cremains in the Coronado National Forest (they neither issue permits for, nor "condone," this activity). I left a message at Heichal Ba-oranim, the synagogue in Flagstaff. Over the weekend, I spoke to several old friends. I got more messages on Facebook and on this blog. Rather than making Noah's death seem more real, all of this makes it seems more surreal. Outside the sun is shining. On the way home from work, I have to stop at the store and get deli meat for the kids' lunches. Life goes on, and meanwhile, the gaping hole in the universe that was my baby brother remains.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 2

Horrible day. Jeannie, Leo, Lisa and I spent the whole day going around and around on the phone, trying to make arrangements. The autopsy will be done today and Noah's body will be released. We're scattering his ashes in Madera Canyon, south of Tucson, next Friday night. Leo is convinced Noah took insulin when his blood sugar was already low. Jerry says it would kill him almost instantly. Leo says "death by mistake." It's just so senseless. We're all still staggered. I cried at the children's service tonight at the temple, just so grateful for my children and so sad for Jeannie who lost her child. It's the first time I've really cried, but not the last, for sure. People have been lovely. I've gotten so many kind calls and emails. Every life touches so many others.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The first day

I've been through a million different emotions today. I'm still stunned and I can tell that it hasn't really soaked into my brain yet. Each time I've told someone, I can't believe the words when I say them - "my brother died." Mostly I'm so angry at him for letting this happen, for not taking his illness seriously and for letting himself become so isolated that there was no one to watch over him. Talking to so many people today makes me realize how many lives we each touch, even a person as reclusive as Noah had become. His dying leaves a big hole in the universe; it's just not right. 34 years shouldn't be anyone's allotment.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Noah Masursky, R.I.P.

Noah died today (February 13, 1975 - July 22, 2009). He was 34. He's been diabetic for over 20 years. Leo saw him on Tuesday and he was sick, probably just a virus. Then his landlord, Greg, called Leo on Wednesday - he didn't bring in the trash cans, which apparently he always does. They went over to his place and found him in bed. It probably had to do with his insulin - Jerry said that when you're ill, it's easy to misjudge how much insulin to take. The ME's office will do an autopsy, so we should know more soon. Jeannie said they will probably have him cremated and decide what to do with his remains later. I'm not sure if there will be a funeral. [This photo was taken in December 2004.]


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"The Shuffle President"

Matt Bai makes an interesting observation in the latest NY Times Sunday Magazine:

Obama is the nation’s first shuffle president. He’s telling lots of stories at once, and in no particular order. His agenda is fully downloadable. If what you care most about is health care, then you can jump right to that. If global warming gets you going, then click over there. It’s not especially realistic to imagine that politics could cling to a linear way of rendering stories while the rest of American culture adapts to a more customized form of consumption. Obama’s ethos may disconcert the older guard in Washington, but it’s probably comforting to a lot of younger voters who could never be expected to listen to successive tracks, in the same order, over and over again.


Monday, July 20, 2009

On to Mars!

How cool is it that the Apollo 11 astronauts are using the publicity surrounding the 40th anniversary of the moonwalk to talk about Mars exploration:

The astronauts who first landed on the moon aren't dwelling on their small lunar steps. Instead, two of them are urging mankind to take a giant leap to Mars.

In one of their few joint public appearances, the crew of Apollo 11 spoke on the eve of the 40th anniversary of man's first landing on the moon, but didn't get soggy with nostalgia. They instead spoke about the future and the more distant past.

First man on the moon Neil Armstrong only discussed Apollo 11 for about 11 seconds.Second man on the moon Buzz Aldrin said the best way to honor the Apollo 11 crew would be to follow in their footsteps and aim for Mars. Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins said the moon was not interesting, but Mars is.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sotomayor hearing is a missed opportunity

Excellent Newsweek column on Sonia Sotomayor by Dahlia Lithwick. I especially loved the final paragraph:

There is little doubt that Sotomayor will be handily confirmed. Her judicial record is unremarkable, and her life story is exceptional. And this is the paradox of the Confirmation Foxtrot: we learn too much that is trivial and not enough that is important. The whole process is constructed around the fiction that nominees are hideous monsters in the eyes of half the Judiciary Committee. But calling someone an unintelligent, racist bully under the bright lights of C-Span leaves scars the nominee may never forgive or forget. This game is insufficiently serious to vet a lifetime appointment to the high court, yet serious enough to create lifelong resentments and grudges (think of Clarence Thomas). Confirmation hearings are both surreal and far too real. The court, and the country, might be better served by a bracing dance-off and a viewer poll.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

"A Farewell to Harms"

A friend recommended this terrific Peggy Noonan column on Sarah Palin. I'm not a huge fan of Noonan, but she really nails the issues. Here's a brief excerpt:

Here's why all this matters. The world is a dangerous place. It has never been more so, or more complicated, more straining of the reasoning powers of those with actual genius and true judgment. This is a time for conservative leaders who know how to think.
[ . . . ]
The era we face, that is soon upon us, will require a great deal from our leaders. They had better be sturdy. They will have to be gifted. There will be many who cannot, and should not, make the cut. Now is the time to look for those who can. And so the Republican Party should get serious, as serious as the age, because that is what a grown-up, responsible party—a party that deserves to lead—would do.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Audra Shay - need head of Young Repugs

I heard nothing about this story until Bill Maher talked about it on his show, Real Time, tonight. Holy mackeral! I got the following info from a blog. Note that she still won the YR election (and she's 36 years old!)

Audra Shay of New Orleans has been considered a shoo-in for election as president of the Young Republicans. (A 'young' Republican is anyone aged 18-40.)

One of her stands has been that the party should embrace all technology and the internet to reach everyone possible.

Audra got into a discussion on Facebook in which a commenter said:“Obama Bin Lauden [sic] is the new terrorist… Muslim is on there side [sic]… need to take this country back from all of these mad coons… and illegals...”

To which she replied: “You tell em Eric! lol.”

A couple of Republican friends called her out and questioned the exchange. She deleted them from her Facebook friends.

That exchange and some cute noose talk [see below] have given pause to many.

Reported in TheDailyBeast:

In October 2008, in the wake of news that an effigy of Sarah Palin was being hung outside an affluent Hollywood home as an offensive Halloween decoration, Shay replied, returning to the “LOL” style that she employed after the “coons” comment: “What no ‘Obama in a noose? Come on now, its just freedome [sic] of speech, no one in Atlanta would take that wrong! Lol.”

She picked up the thread again the next morning with a clarification and a new insight. “Apparently I could not spell last night. I am wondering if the guys with the Palin noose would care if we had a bunch of homosexuals in a noose.”


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bad movie

O.K. I'm not watching videos with Larry anymore on "school" nights because he falls asleep halfway through and I stay up until midnight watching some dreck like Knowing.

To be fair, the first half was great - gripping, touching, intriguing. But what were they thinking? The last 30 minutes were just not worthy of the rest. It's such a mish mash, borrowed from tons of other movies.

They clearly wanted to make a movie with some awesome action scenes, so they had to shoehorn a bunch of plot into it that would allow them to do that. What purpose does any of that serve for the actual outcome of the film - zilch.

A lot of other plot developments are completely pointless as well - the time capsule serves no real purpose, the tortured child from 1959 who can predict the future isn't really necessary to the end either. And why do the trench-coated men continually threaten Nick Cage's son (named Caleb!!)? Why not just rescue him and get on with it? And what was with the black stones - talk about a red herring. And why is Caleb writing a long list of numbers at the end of the movie like Lucinda did at the beginning? He's about to get whisked away to a new planet - what could the list mean and who would it be for? Totally random stuff seemed to get thrown in without much concern for explaining it.

Every single idea in this movie has been done before, and done much better. For example, the kindly aliens helping us prevent or survive the end of the world can be seen in The Day the Earth Stood Still or Contact. The recently deceased mother/wife made me think of Signs, which has some similar themes about faith and loss, and, while not a great movie, actually manages to be coherent. The derivatives go on and on.

What was really annoying was the half-assed religious symbolism, like references to Ezekiel and the Garden of Eden. Having Nick Cage's character be a scientist whose father is a minister should have given the filmmakers an opportunity to consider science vs faith (done to good effect in Contact), but they never do much with this subplot. They seem to be making some kind of statement about the necessity of religion, but Cage's scientist was right about the sun flares (validating science). There's an intriguing presentation of determinism vs randomness at the beginning of the film, but where the movie stands on this issue is a mystery even after the credits roll (does having kindly aliens rescue a few members of mankind count as determinism or randomness?) The movie really doesn't seem to have any idea what it wants to say about anything.

I would love someone to take the first half of this movie and give it the denouement that it deserves. Of course, watching Nick Cage's character drive through Manhattan just before the world ends, passing people looting the NY Public Library, you do feel like the human race gets what we had coming to us.

Not a waste of two hours, but damn close to it. Super frustrating, because it had the potential to be a lot better than it was. And Nick, really dude, you made Birdy and Cotton Club. Get a grip on yourself.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"In Search of Dignity"

I'm anything but a fan of David Brooks, but I thought he said some insightful things in a recent NY Times column about the demise of dignity as a social norm. Here are the final paragraphs:

The old dignity code has not survived modern life. The costs of its demise are there for all to see. Every week there are new scandals featuring people who simply do not know how to act. For example, during the first few weeks of summer, three stories have dominated public conversation, and each one exemplifies another branch of indignity.

First, there was Mark Sanford’s press conference. Here was a guy utterly lacking in any sense of reticence, who was given to rambling self-exposure even in his moment of disgrace. Then there was the death of Michael Jackson and the discussion of his life. Here was a guy who was apparently untouched by any pressure to live according to the rules and restraints of adulthood. Then there was Sarah Palin’s press conference. Here was a woman who aspires to a high public role but is unfamiliar with the traits of equipoise and constancy, which are the sources of authority and trust.

In each of these events, one sees people who simply have no social norms to guide them as they try to navigate the currents of their own passions.

Americans still admire dignity. But the word has become unmoored from any larger set of rules or ethical system.

But it’s not right to end on a note of cultural pessimism because there is the fact of President Obama. Whatever policy differences people may have with him, we can all agree that he exemplifies reticence, dispassion and the other traits associated with dignity. The cultural effects of his presidency are not yet clear, but they may surpass his policy impact. He may revitalize the concept of dignity for a new generation and embody a new set of rules for self-mastery.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

LOVED this show

Just finished watching the BBC production of State of Play (2003) - remade this year into a movie with Russelll Crowe and Ben Affleck. The movie was good, but the mini series was exceptional, maybe the best thing I've ever seen on TV. Six riveting hours, with perfect casting and really terrific writing. I may buy the DVD so I can watch it again.


Monday, July 13, 2009

"Why we must ration healthcare"

Superb piece in the NY Times Sunday Magazine about rationing healthcare. Here's a brief excerpt, but the whole piece is excellent.

There’s no doubt that it’s tough — politically, emotionally and ethically — to make a decision that means that someone will die sooner than they would have if the decision had gone the other way. But if the stories of Bruce Hardy and Jack Rosser lead us to think badly of the British system of rationing health care, we should remind ourselves that the U.S. system also results in people going without life-saving treatment — it just does so less visibly. Pharmaceutical manufacturers often charge much more for drugs in the United States than they charge for the same drugs in Britain, where they know that a higher price would put the drug outside the cost-effectiveness limits set by NICE. American patients, even if they are covered by Medicare or Medicaid, often cannot afford the copayments for drugs. That’s rationing too, by ability to pay.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Noam Chomsky on Obama

My friend Michelle recently sent me a link to Noam Chomsky's first major speech after the election on November 24, 2008, in Boston. He says a bunch of interesting stuff, but here's my two favorite paragraphs:

Take the second poorest country, Bolivia. They had an election in 2005 that’s almost unimaginable in the West, certainly here, anywhere. The person elected into office was indigenous. That’s the most oppressed population in the hemisphere, that is, those who survived. He’s a poor peasant. How did he get in? Well, he got in because there were, again, mass popular movements, which elected their own representative. And they are the source of the programs, which are serious ones. There are real issues, and people know them: control over resources, cultural rights, social justice, and so on. Furthermore, the election was just an event that was a particular stage in a long continuing struggle, a lot before and a lot after. There was day when people pushed the levers, but that’s just an event in ongoing popular struggles, very serious ones. A couple of years ago, there was a major struggle over privatization of water, an effort which would in effect deprive a good part of the population of water to drink. And it was a bitter struggle. A lot of people were killed. But they won it, through international solidarity, in fact, which helped. And it continues. Now that’s a real election. Again, the plans, the programs are being developed, acted on constantly by mass popular movements, which then select their own representative from their own ranks to carry out their programs. And that’s quite different from what happened here.

. . . the institutions that run the elections, the public relations industry, advertisers, they have a role. Their major role is commercial advertising. I mean, selling a candidate is a kind of a side role. In commercial advertising, as everybody knows, everybody who’s ever, say, looked at a television program, the advertising is not intended to provide information about the product, right? I don’t have to go on about that; it’s obvious. The point of the advertising is to delude people with imagery and, you know, tales of a football player or a sexy actress who, you know, drives to the moon in a car or something like that. But it’s certainly not to inform people. In fact, it’s to keep people uninformed. The goal of advertising is to create uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices. Those of you who’ve suffered through an economics course know that markets are supposed to be based on informed consumers making rational choices. But industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year to undermine markets and to ensure—you know, to get uninformed consumers making irrational choices.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Great revenge!

Tyler Perry is paying for all those kids who got kicked out of the Philadelphia swim club to go to Disneyland!

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Lust, Caution"

I was going to write an imdb.com user comment on this movie, but this young lady wrote exactly what I was going to say, so she saved me the trouble. (A lot of people disliked the movie because it was "boring" or too long" but I disliked it becasue it was misogynistic as hell. It's not that I didn't get the point of the film, I just strenously object to it.)

Pointless & insulting to women
11 January 2009
Author: kyrat from CA, USA
*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

Group decides to target evil traitor. Innocent girl forced to seduce him. He violently rapes her (which we are forced to watch). He's shown to be a sadisitic control freak, treats her like a whore, she tells how he f*cks her until she bleeds and uses rough sex to dominate her.

She does not want to continue in her act - wants the assassination done with. You see her SUFFERING through the (ANYTHING BUT erotic!) sex by staring at a gun she could use to kill him. Then suddenly evil bad guy buys her a GIANT SHINY DIAMOND.... and apparently that overcomes all patriotism, pride or self-esteem... so she tells him to run away. (we we supposed to believe she loved him???? Or was it really because it was a HUGE DIAMOND? Or did he finally just break her?) Evil bad guy escapes being killed and then rounds up all the conspirators in the group and they all die (including her). The end.

So what exactly was the point of those 2.5 hours? We watched this poor woman whose family didn't want her & whose friends only used her - have sex and play mahojng and that's pretty much it. I expected much better from a great director, great actors and even the movie had great potential!


Thursday, July 09, 2009

Lobbying Rocks!

Spent my lunch hour at the federal building in downtown Syracuse, delivering healthcare petitions to Senators Schumer and Gillebrand's offices (demanding that a public option being included in any legislation). Here my Assemblyman, Al Stirpe, addresses the crowd. SUNY Upstate President, David Smith, was also there. I saw several people I knew, which made it even more fun.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


Fascinating interview with the author of a new book, Methland - Nick Reding on NPR's All Things Considered. His point is that meth is not just a drug problem, but an indication of larger issues, like the destruction of small town economic structure. Sounds like a Must Read:

[Meth] addiction encapsulates what has happened to many small towns in America. Reding says meth is a drug of the American working class, because it gives people "inordinate amounts of energy."

"You don't have to eat, sleep or drink water, so if you're somebody who works on a manufacturing line or does farm work or meatpacking work, for instance, it's a drug that can come in handy, in terms of helping you to work harder," Reding says.

Reding says that the agricultural industry has consolidated over time, and the working class has had to work harder for less — which has made meth more attractive.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

"Hot and Bothering"

Excellent commentary by Jennifer Pozner, regarding the media's approach to women in power, specifically Sarah Palin:

Consider the bipartisan parade of male politicians whose arrogance, greed – and, let's be frank – penises have been responsible for endless ethical and legal breaches. They've paid prostitutes (David Vitter; Elliot Spitzer), sexually harassed pages (Mark Foley), cheated on their wives with staff members (John Ensign; John Edwards), redefined "hiking the Appalachian trail" (Mark Sanford), and committed flagrant corruption (Rod Blagojevich; Ted Stevens). Yet it is Sarah Palin – not these immoral, egomaniacal hypocrites – who the press has diagnosed as mentally ill, questioning whether she has "Narcissistic Personality Disorder." Apparently, breaking laws and vows is just something "the big dogs" do, but if a self-centered woman inappropriately spends campaign cash on clothes and surrounds herself with sycophants, she's clinically insane.


Monday, July 06, 2009

"Public Enemies"

Larry and I went to see Johnny Depp's blockbuster tonight. Kind of disappointing. A well-made movie, and JD is excellent, as always, giving a really nuanced performance and making the movie very watchable. But it wasn't as good as it should have been. The first half is better - very interesting, with some nice scenes about the development of the FBI and the culture of the times. But overall, it's pretty predictable. And it really wastes the talents of the many fine actors it employed - Christian Bale gets very little to do with what should have been a fascinating character. Billy Crudup, as J Edgar Hoover, is only in 2 or 3 scenes, which is a shame. Even Marion Cotillard does what she can, but her character is seriously underwritten. There are at least 4 other movies of the Dillinger story. If Michael Mann felt compelled to make another one, he should have tried to do something fresh and different, instead of a fairly standard bio pic with a very standard story arc. And despite being based on a new book about the era by Bryan Burrough, a quick perusal of Wikipedia and a couple other sites reveals that the film took substantial liberties with historical fact. That diminishes the film even more, IMO. Not a waste of time, but not an especially memorable movie-going experience either.


Friday, July 03, 2009

Sarah Palin quits

My thought was "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out." But NPR's Michel Martin says it much more eloquently:

When I heard that she had decided to quit the Alaska governor's office with 18 months left on her term, I'll be honest with you, my first thought was, which kid was sick and with what? Was it strep, was it flu, a fever that wouldn't go down, a cough that just wouldn't go away?

Can I just tell you? I do not know a single working mother who does not dream at some point, even if just for a minute, about packing up that desk and heading for the homestead, even if that fantasy is about as realistic as the one about supplementing unemployment with Powerball winnings. And I bet that's why so many mothers, who work outside the home or not, were rooting for Sarah Palin, at least at first.

Whether you shared her politics or not, Palin was somebody you wanted to see in the game, trying as she was to balance a very demanding job with the equally demanding job of raising five children and maintaining a decent relationship with her husband. She seemed to have so many attractive qualities. She seemed practical, honest, unfazed and down-to-earth, exactly the qualities people hope newcomers in general and hopefully women will bring to public life. And she is making no judgment at all about the whole campaign shopping spree thing, stylish, which I for one appreciate.

But then for some reason, maybe it was the glare of the national spotlight, maybe she was that way all along, Palin seemed to morph pretty quickly out of Superwoman into just another Mean Girl — ridiculing people who don't make the same choices she does, and then crying about it when the rest of the world bit her back.

It started at the Republican National Convention, where she trashed Barack Obama and community organizers in general, saying that as a small-town mayor she was just like them except she had actual responsibilities. Now she's decided to chuck those responsibilities, but she still wants to, as she said in her farewell announcement, have an impact on public debate. So what does that make her? A community organizer? She complained about the unwelcome attention she has received since she joined the national ticket, while conveniently forgetting that much attention has been provoked by her own choices and behavior.

Like everybody else interested in politics, I am dying to know what Palin does next. But I particularly want to know if her time in the hot seat has left her with any more compassion than she has demonstrated to this point about how hard it can be for so many other people to put a life together. And even more important, I'd like to know what ideas she has about how to make things better for the next Sarah Palin.