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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Our latest paper

This will be published in November in the Journal of Statistics Education (not our first choice, but a publication is a publication).

Application of an Online Reference for Reviewing Basic Statistical Principles of Operating Room Management

Franklin Dexter, M.D., Ph.D.
Danielle Masursky, Ph.D.
Ruth E. Wachtel, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Nancy A. Nussmeier, M.D.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Possible earthlike planet found in the "Goldilocks" zone

Possible earthlike planet found in the Goldilocks zone of a nearby star!

Exciting news - scientists say it is 100% likely to be habitable. And right in our neighborhood - just 12 trillion miles away.

[This is the first post I ever created directly from the website with the "blogger" icon - it worked great!]

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Extreme bullying

This week there are two high-profile stories about gay youth driven to suicide by the actions of others - one (Asher Brown) by bullying and the other (Tyler Clementi) by an invasion of privacy (Asher shot himself and Tyler jumped off the George Washington bridge).  I'm rather speechless - are these students still so isolated and still so targeted?  Texas I can almost understand, but New Jersey???  It makes the dad's rant at students who bullied his daughter (in Florida) seem much more reasonable - if this is how hopeless the kids end up feeling.


Turns out there were really 4 recent suicides: 15-year old Billy Lucas shot himself in Indiana and 13-year old Seth Walsh hung himself in California, both in September, after merciless bullying.  The conversations also included Phoebe Prince, who hung herself in Massachusetts back in January after bullying at her school (though she was on depression medication and had attempted suicide at least once before).

Here is what my Dear Husband has to say about this: "We have certainly become a nation of pussies.  There was bullying when we were young and you never heard about people killing themselves."  I have to admit, I was shocked by this reaction.  No sympathy for the victims, no condemnation for the cruelty of the bullies.  "Suck it up" was his advice. 


Monday, September 27, 2010

Dreaming of Don Draper

Woken up by my alarm from a sound sleep (which is rare) in the middle of a vivid dream - watching Jon Hamm being interviewed and then he turns to me and addresses me by name and my dream self was thinking that wasn't surprising because I'm such a big fan.  It was funny and weird.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weekend movies

Alpha and Omega - the kids and I went to see this one in the theater and I have to say that it wasn't really worth $22.  Not a bad movie, but nothing special either.

The Informant - what the hell were they thinking?  I wasted two hours of my life that I could have spent watching something else, or even doing something else. Based on what must have been a great book, but did not translate into a compelling film.  I spent most of the time wondering how anyone could think these events could be funny, and the rest of the time wondering what the hell was going on.  Reminded me a little of Flash of Genius, about the inventor of the intermittent windshield wipers, which was a total snooze.  Just not entertaining and rather appalling.  Waste of a great cast too.

Blue State (2007) - sort of famous among those who are politically inclined, about a young man (the always adorable Breckin Meyer) who takes a road trip to Canada after Bush is re-elected with a young lady who is not who she claims to be (played with her usual intensity by Anna Paquin).  Not quite what I was expecting, but worth watching.  The second half was better than the first half - how often do I say that?  I hoped it would be a little more talky, but I guess it made the point in less words that I favor.  And the ending was nicely sentimental, that made it worthwhile right there.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Synogogue drama

Our synagogue president resigned abruptly this week.  This seems like an indicator of serious issues regarding our institution.  He is not an especially thin-skinned person as far as I can tell.  I actually really disliked him when I was first on the Board, but I have developed a lot of respect for him in the past year and I feel really bad that things have deteriorated to this point.  He is very committed to the temple and his leaving cannot be a good sign for our synagogue.  His resignation letter talked about lack of trust in his leadership by the rabbi and Executive Committee, and, although I have no idea what the particulars are, it made me think of my own (much more minor) leadership debacle.  It's so easy for people to sit on the sidelines and criticize and undermine the person who's taking all the heat out front.  The irony is that we already had a leadership dilemma, since none of the current vice presidents wanted to take over when this president's term was over.  Now the term is truncated, and the "first vice president" is going to fill in, but likely under some duress  What are we doing, if we're burning out our most committed volunteers?


Friday, September 24, 2010

Great quote

“Courage is like a muscle. We strengthen it with use.” – Ruth Gordon


Thursday, September 23, 2010

A special book

I'm just loving the book that I'm reading - Fire by Kristen Cashore, a sort of prequel to Graceling (she calls it a companion book).  I think part of the reason I like it so much, and Graceling for that matter, is that in both, the heroine is lonely and beaten down by life, but she has special talents and is very principled, and all the good people in the book grow to love her because of it.  It's so poignant and makes for a very satisfying read.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gay hater = gay!

Yet another anti-gay rights pastor has been accused of  having sex with young men in his flock.  And this guy is black and his church is really famous - it's where Coretta Scott King's funeral was held.  From CNN.com

Two Georgia men have filed a lawsuit claiming that prominent Atlanta, Georgia, pastor Eddie Long coerced them into sex.
The suits, filed Tuesday in DeKalb County, Georgia, allege that Long used his position as a spiritual authority and bishop to coerce young male members and employees of his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church into sex.
A spokesman for Long told CNN on Wednesday that the allegations are "a case of retaliation and a shakedown for money by men with some serious credibility issues."

Long "categorically and adamantly denies these allegations," said spokesman Art Franklin.
"Defendant Long has a pattern and practice of singling out a select group of young male church members and using his authority as Bishop over them to ultimately bring them to a point of engaging in a sexual relationship," the suits allege.

Long is considered one of the nation's top black preachers. His church has more 25,000 members, according to the suit, and was the site of Coretta Scott King's 2006 funeral, attended by then-President George W. Bush and three previous presidents. King was the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The pastor took one plaintiff, Anthony Flagg, 21, on overnight trips to a half-dozen American cities in recent years, Flagg's suit alleges

"Long shared a bedroom and engaged in intimate sexual contact with plaintiff Flagg including kissing, massaging, masturbating of plaintiff Flagg by defendant Long and oral sexual contact," the suit says.
Long took the other plaintiff, Maurice Murray Robinson, 20, to Auckland, New Zealand, in October 2008 for his 18th birthday and engaged in oral sex with him, Robinson's suit alleges.
"Following the New Zealand Trip, Defendant Long regularly engaged in sexual touching, and other sexual acts with Plaintiff Robinson," Robinson's suit alleges.

"It is very unfortunate that someone has taken this course of action," Franklin, Long's spokesman, said Tuesday. "Our law firm will be able to respond once attorneys have had an opportunity to review the lawsuit."
Long frequently denounces homosexual behavior. A 2007 article in the Southern Poverty Law Center's magazine called him "one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement."
"Everybody knows that a bishop or church pastor ... cannot have any sort of sexual relations or sexual relationship with one of your parishioners," the lawyer, B.J. Bernstein, said at a news conference Tuesday evening. "And even worse to have it with two young men who trusted him and got to know him at a very young age."


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Don't Ask Don't Tell

Today the Senate votes on the defense authorization bill that includes getting rid of this stupid policy.  The House of Representatives already adopted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that could lead to the repeal of DADT in early 2011.

I heard some interesting commentary last night - it was mentioned that the policy was intended as a compromise and that the problem with it is that the military didn't hold up their end of the bargain, which was essentially to stop witch hunts.  Since it was passed in 1993, more than 13,500 service members have been fired under the law.

Lady Gaga has become a high profile supporter of the repeal and John McCain has vowed to fillabuster the legislation to prevent the repeal. 

According the the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, even high ranking military members are ready to let the ban go:  Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told Congress that repealing DADT is “the right thing to do.” Former Chairman John Shalikashvili agrees. Colin Powell say it’s time to re-examine the law.


McCain triumphed in this situation.  Fuck.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Christine O'Donnell

Boy, am I sick of hearing about her bullshit. If a Democratic candidate running for the Senate had the issues she had, they would be crucified by the right. That crap about dabbling in witchcraft would send the "values voters" over the edge. And the financial shenanigans would have the libertarian wing in hysterics. Instead, it's all being pooh-poohed by her supporters, including Karl Rove (to be fair, he criticized her and then later backed off when the hyenas turned on him for stating the excruciatingly obvious - that she is not a viable candidate). Meanwhile, none other Newt Gingrich is out implying that Obama will allow sharia law to be imposed in America. Just making shit up as they go along. It's infuriating and frustrating and sickening.

The small high point of the weekend was Colin Powell's defense of Obama - let's argue about "policy, not nonsense." A voice of reason in the orgy of insanity.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Latest movies

I haven't seen any movies in the theater lately, but I saw several on video in the last 2 weeks.

Sex and Death 101 - Much better than I expected, with the adorable Simon Baker (who was SO yummy in Something Different). The producer called it an adult sex comedy (in the Making Of video), which I would say is accurate. The sex is pretty explicit and the movie is a little odd, but it's fun and intellignet, and very much for grown-ups, and the ending is surprising and perfect. I really enjoyed it. Actually I think the title is the only thing about it that doesn't really work.  Side note - would make a great double feature with The Last Word - smart offbeat movies with Winona Ryder in a small but significant role.

The Ten - Another movie with Winona in a role, though Paul Rudd is the headliner here.  Incredibly and totally not for me.  Supposed to be a funny take on the 10 commandments, but it's SUCH a guy movie.  All the humor is rauchy and dopey, and there's nothing real about it.  Could have happily skipped this.

Diggers - Another Paul Rudd vehicle, also written by Ken Marino, who co-wrote The Ten (total coincidence that I saw both).  A semi-autobiographical story of 4 friends in a Long Island town where the clamming industry is dying.  Kind of Mystic Pizza with guys, though not nearly as compelling (Paul Rudd's character even has an affair with a rich girl, played by Lauren Ambrose from Six Feet Under).  Not bad, but not especially memorable.  Would make an interesting double feature with the Canadian movie, A Simple Curve, about a young man similarly on the cusp of changing his locale and his life, though with a somewhat different sensibility.

Gideon's Daughter - great cast: Bill Nighy, Miranda Richardson, and a very young Emily Blunt, and a promising story about a political consultant losing interest in the power games while he falls in love with a woman who lost her young son and deals with his daughter coming of age.  Sounds a lot more interesting than it really ended up being.  Not a bad movie, but not as gripping as it should have been (and not sure what the title means, since the daughter is a very secondary character).

A Single Man - gorgeous, of course, as everyone has said, but not as compelling a story as I had expected; more like some good isolated moments, but not a very satisfying film overall.  I especially didn't like the way it ended, it felt kind of like cheating.  Not sorry I saw it though.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ruminations on forgiveness

It's hard not to dwell on forgiveness during this holiday (Yom Kippur). In fact, I guess you're actually supposed to. Last fall, I had a very unpleasant interaction with a woman at my synagogue, and I haven't really spoken to her since. I thought she stepped way over the line, insulting me and calling me names, and continuing to tear me down until I was crying. Of course, I've been thinking about this situation during these Days of Awe, and I've concluded that forgiveness is not really the issue for me. I don't feel like I'm holding a grudge. I just don't understand what purpose would be served by pretending like it never happened. I suppose it would be more comfortable for her, but that's hardly my goal. My instinct is to stay away from her as much as possible. She's shockingly judgemental.  Her approach to the original situation was so inappropriate - trying to force me to change whatever it was she disapproved of by being venomous - just directing poison at me when she decided something I did or was didn't fit her view of the world. And not in a respectful way or a constructive way.  Just bam, bam, bam in your face.  Who is she to be my judge, jury and executioner???  What gives her that right?  Such arrogance.  She must feel justified in what she did, because she has never approached me, made any attempt to clear the air. I've certainly spoken sharply to people at times and when I've been frustrated, I haven't always managed to hide it, but I have never, never tried to hurt someone, berating them to the point of tears.  I can't just overlook this - it was so destructive. And what purpose did all this serve?  It's not like I magically became a different person - that wasn't going to happen anyway.  All it did was eliminate any respect I had for her, and ruin any possibility of a relationship with me and a few other people as well.  She's really a toxic sort of person.  I can't think of anything more sensible than just avoiding her completely, or at least to the degree that I can. I just don't need any additional malignance in my environment, if I want to face the new year in a peaceful state of mind.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Book club saga

I'm sort of determined to join a book club, as a validation of my adult self, my non-mommy self.  This summer, I signed up for the Meet Up one that my friend Michelle recommended, but then I had to miss it due to Jamine's visit in July and then Yaniv's in August (in September, the book club met the day school started and I wanted to be home with the kids that night). 

In the meantime, I tried the one that meets at the library.  They read great books, but the group wasn't really my cup of tea.  They don't really talk about the book in a very deep way, and the group is too big - almost 20 people came to the session I attended.  But I have to give them another try - I borrowed The Help from another group member, so I have to attend that session (in November).  It's good to try again - first impressions aren't always accurate. 

I can actually make the Meet Up group in October, and they're reading Water for Elephants, which I've wanted to read for awhile, and even more so, now that the movie is due out this spring.  Plus it turns out that it's the 2010 CNY Reads selection.  And the library system has 70 copies, so it wasn't hard to get one (bonus - it lead to my first visit to the main branch of the county library system, which is just blocks from my office).  However, I delayed starting the book because I've been quite enthralled by Fire, the sort of prequel to Graceling, by Kristen Cashore. 

I finally started the book club book (even though I haven't finished Fire) and I'm liking it a lot.  Luckily, it's a fast read, because I barely have 2 weeks to read it.  That's pushing it - I don't read very fast and I don't have much time to read.

It's impossible not to picture Rob Pattinson and Reese WItherspoon in the parts as I'm reading.  I'm even more interested in the movie now, to see what they did with this unusual story.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

The change of life

I believe I'm going through menopause. Wow, it feels weird to write those words. It makes me feel ancient. On the other hand, I'll be 48 years old in a couple of months, so I'm not even especially young to be starting this process.

I started getting hot flashes this summer, but it was hot in general, and I don't think I made the connection until I completely missed my period. It's now been over two months since I had it. And the hot flashes happen several times a day. I see my doctor in a couple of weeks, and we'll talk more about it then.

I feel kind of bummed, because I know that there will be more discomforts before it's over. But I'm done having kids, so I don't feel sad about that part at all. And I certainly won't miss the muss and fuss of menstruating.

UPDATE 9 /23/10

I saw the doctor today and it turns out that there's a test to see if you're in menopause (who knew!)  So I'll get that next month, as well as a sonogram of my uterus, and then I'll know for sure.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Moving my office

I had to move my office from the ancillary building I've been in since I was hired to the main hospital building.  It's a compliment to be given that space - close to the "action" (a secretary retired, and others were promised that room).  It's about the same size as the one I had, but it's an internal room, so I'm losing my window (good thing I got that full spectrum light last year; I hope my plant isn't too shocked by the change).  The room is really the other half of the mailroon, so it almost counts as a cubicle!  But it's not as high traffic as I expected and there's a refrigerator and microwave to use, which is important to me.

Moving is less complicated than I thought it would be.  I packed up faster than I expected, and unpacking wasn't too bad either.  It's good to have a chance to reorganize, though I didn't purge as much as I should have.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Election day results

There were only 3 races on the Democratic ballot when I went to vote. I voted for my friend Donna's recommendation for sheriff (Toby Shelley), but he lost to his better-known opponent, Joe Price (he will face the incumbent, Kevin Walsh, in the general). I voted for Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General, because he has positioned himself as a liberal and I wanted to reward that, plus Kathleen Rice was expected to win. Surprise - Schneiderman won! He faces Dan Donovan in the general; the Democrat usually wins. And I voted for Gail Goode against Kristen Gillibrand, though I have no problem with her at all, I just wanted to support the upstart even if she was not expected to win (and didn't). So only one of my choices succeeded (and that was kind of unexpected). I don't mind "throwing away" my vote to support insurgent candidates in the primary, especially since one Democrat is usually as good as another.

Living in NY is nice because, like Philadelphia, it's heavily Democratic. Of course, Onondaga county is very Republican, and Pennsylvania was pretty purple - very much a swing state. So I'm always living and voting in a grey zone of one kind or another.

The big news of the night is that "tea party" candidates did well, especially in Delaware, where Mike Castle was tromped by the long shot, Christine O'Donnell, for the Senate seat vacated by Joe Biden. She is not considered viable in the general election against Democrat Chirs Coons. In the Republican primary for governor in NY, party candidate Rick Lazio was soundly beaten by right-winger Carl Paladino, who doesn't have a chance against Andrew Cuomo in November.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Bus crash in Syracuse

At first I was surprised to hear that the DA was considering criminal charges for the driver - it was an accident after all. But since, I have reconsidered - the bus was TWO FEET taller than the clearly posted signs regarding the bridge height. It was late and the driver was lost, but still, driving safely is his job! Two of the 4 dead people are teenagers.

Here is a good summary from the NY Daily News:

A double-decker bus crash that killed four passengers and injured several more on Saturday was caused by a lost bus driver traveling on the wrong road in Central New York, police say.

Bus driver John Tomaszewski, "was looking for the Regional Transportation Center (on Park Street)," Onandaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh told the Syracuse Post Standard. "He was lost and unsure where he was."

The 13-foot-tall Megabus was supposed to stop at the Regional Transportation Center on Park Street, but at roughly 2:30 a.m., apparently due to the driver's confusion, it ended up on the Onondaga Lake Parkway.

The bus, carrying 28 passengers, slammed into the underpart of an overhead bridge and flipped over.

Passenger Reena Rai, 36, who had been dozing during the trip, woke up to horror.

"The next thing I knew there was a lady on top of me and her blood was just dripping on top of me profusely," Rai, who injured her back in the crash, told the Post Standard. "I yelled, 'Help, help!'"

Three men and an eighteen-year-old woman were killed in the accident, and 24 other passengers were taken to a local hospital. The crash shut down both sides of the highway for hours.

Walsh identified three of the four victims, including Deanna Armstrong, 18, of Voorhees NJ, Kevin Coffey, 19, a student at Temple University, Ashwani Mehta, 39, of India, and Rev. Benjamin Okerie, 35, of Malaysia, who was on a speaking tour of the United States.

All the dead and most seriously injured were sitting on the bus’s upper deck, Walsh said.

Tomaszewski, 59, suffered a head injury in the crash but was being interviewed by police. Walsh said he did not believe drinking or drug use was a factor in the wreck.

The American Red Cross reported four dead, four hospitalized overnight, five staying at the Crowne Plaza overnight and 15 released to go home, according to Red Cross spokesman Richard Blansett.

The Megabus left Philadelphia at 10 p.m. on Friday, and was due to make stops in Syracuse, Buffalo and Toronto, according to an executive for the bus operator, Coach USA.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

What a relief

First meeting of my women's group this morning without me having ANY responsibilities. I got to just show up, and eat, and visit with the other women. I didn't have to carry anything, didn't have to set up or clean up, or WORRY about anything, didn't have to fix any problems, didn't have to run around getting stuff, didn't have to take care of shit that someone else said they would do and then didn't. It was bliss.

Weird aside, though - someone I've known since I moved here pronounced Alana's name wrong in conversation with me. How can you know me for 4 freakin' years and not know how to say my daughter's name??? What's creepy about it is that I'm almost sure she's confusing my daughter with her friend's dog. Sheesh! But what was I supposed to say? Some people just have to be tolerated.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering what matters

Annabel Park of the Coffee Party blogged this on the anniversary of 9-11.

The building was on fire and there was no way down the stairs. She was calling to say goodbye. There was really only one thing for her to say, those three words that all the terrible art, the worst pop songs and movies, the most seductive lies, can somehow never cheapen. I love you.

She said it over and again before the line went dead. And that is what they were all saying down their phones, from the hijacked planes and the burning towers.
There is only love, and then oblivion. Love was all they had to set against the hatred of their murderers.

-- Ian McEwan's op-ed in the Guardian UK on September 15, 2001

British noveist Ian McEwan wrote this essay soon after reflecting on those extraordinary messages left for their loved ones by the victims all saying "I love you." In those terrifying days right after the Towers fell, I looked for guidance on how to understand what just happened. Reading this essay helped me to understand not only 9/11, but something important about life.

The simplicity of the truth stunned me: In the end, love is what matters.

Instead of being consumed by fear in the last moments of her life, this woman -- the caller, the victim -- was consumed by love.
When we fear death and destruction, love is what gives us strength as individuals.

When we need to summon courage for a dangerous operation or to pull ourselves together after we get into a car accident, we think of the ones we love and want to talk to them. We don't think of the ones we hate. Hate doesn't give us the strength to live.

Imagine a whole society consumed by hate. All too well, we can imagine this. Now imagine a whole society consumed by love. It's much harder to imagine.

So, why do we indulge in hate when it weakens us as individuals and a society? There is an illusion of power when we hate, when are we are angry. There is a burst of energy when chemicals are released into our brains that we mistake for power. We also feel a sense of unity and camaraderie with our fellow haters. We don't feel so alone when there is organized hatred. We feel like we are part of a group. But it is a bond that ultimately weakens us as individuals.

Imagine the same bond based on mutual love, not mutual hate.

Let's again try to imagine a society driven by love for humanity and country. By compassion for those suffering. To want to care for people who need care. Whether they are breathing in toxic chemicals in the Gulf, trapped in a mine is Chile, displaced and hungry in Pakistan, still homeless in Haiti or unemployed in Rockford, IL. Yes, it makes us cringe. It's painful to care when we feel that there is little we can do to help.

But think of the trapped miners in Chile. Knowing, that the world is watching and their loved ones are holding vigil in a make-shift tent just above and not leaving them, strengthens the miners. They know that they matter, that they are loved, that around the world, we care. This mutual situation of concern and love makes the miners stronger. It strengthens us as well to see the awesome resilience of the human spirit.

Love strengthens us. Hate weakens us. For at least today, let's imagine a world driven by the politics of love, not hate.

Ian McEwan editorial, September 15, 2001

I dare you not to cry.

Emotions have their narrative; after the shock we move inevitably to the grief, and the sense that we are doing it more or less together is one tiny scrap of consolation.

Initially, the visual impact of the scenes - those towers collapsing with malign majesty - extended our state of fevered astonishment. Even on Wednesday, fresh video footage froze us in this stupefied condition, and denied us our profounder feelings: the first plane disappearing into the side of the tower as cleanly as a posted letter; the couple jumping into the void, hand in hand; a solitary figure falling with a strangely extended arm (was it an umbrella serving as a hopeful parachute?); the rescue workers crawling about at the foot of a vast mountain of rubble.

In our delirium, most of us wanted to talk. We babbled, by email, on the phone, around kitchen tables. We knew there was a greater reckoning ahead, but we could not quite feel it yet. Sheer amazement kept getting in the way.

The reckoning, of course, was with the personal. By Thursday I noticed among friends, and in TV and radio commentaries, a new mood of exhaustion and despair. People spoke of being depressed. No other public event had cut so deeply. The spectacle was over. Now we were hearing from the bereaved. Each individual death is an explosion in itself, wrecking the lives of those nearest. We were beginning to grasp the human cost. This was what it was always really about.

The silent relatives grouped around the entrances to hospitals or wandering the streets with their photographs was a terrible sight. It reminded us of other tragedies, of wars and natural disasters around the world. But Manhattan is one of the most sophisticated cities in the world, and there were some uniquely modern elements to this nightmare that bound us closer to it.

The mobile phone has inserted itself into every crevice of our daily lives. Now, in catastrophe, if there is time enough, it is there in our dying moments. All through Thursday we heard from the bereaved how they took those last calls. Whatever the immediate circumstances, what was striking was what they had in common. A new technology has shown us an ancient, human universal.

A San Francisco husband slept through his wife's call from the World Trade Centre. The tower was burning around her, and she was speaking on her mobile phone. She left her last message to him on the answering machine. A TV station played it to us, while it showed the husband standing there listening. Somehow, he was able to bear hearing it again.We heard her tell him through her sobbing that there was no escape for her. The building was on fire and there was no way down the stairs. She was calling to say goodbye. There was really only one thing for her to say, those three words that all the terrible art, the worst pop songs and movies, the most seductive lies, can somehow never cheapen. I love you.

She said it over and again before the line went dead. And that is what they were all saying down their phones, from the hijacked planes and the burning towers. There is only love, and then oblivion. Love was all they had to set against the hatred of their murderers.

Last words placed in the public domain were once the prerogative of the mighty and venerable - Henry James, Nelson, Goethe - recorded, and perhaps sometimes edited for posterity, by relatives at the bedside. The effect was often consolatory, showing acceptance, or even transcendence in the face of death. They set us an example. But these last words spoken down mobile phones, reported to us by the bereaved, are both more haunting and true.

They compel us to imagine ourselves into that moment. What would we say? Now we know.

Most of us have had no active role to play in these terrible events. We simply watch the television, read the papers, turn on the radio again. Listening to the analysts and pundits is soothing to some extent. Expertise is reassuring. And the derided profession of journalism can rise quite nobly, and with immense resource, to public tragedy.

However, I suspect that in between times, when we are not consuming news, the majority of us are not meditating on recent foreign policy failures, or geopolitical strategy, or the operational range of helicopter gunships.

Instead, we remember what we have seen, and we daydream helplessly. Lately, most of us have inhabited the space between the terrible actuality and these daydreams. Waking before dawn, going about our business during the day, we fantasize ourselves into the events. What if it was me?

This is the nature of empathy, to think oneself into the minds of others. These are the mechanics of compassion: you are under the bedclothes, unable to sleep, and you are crouching in the brushed-steel lavatory at the rear of the plane, whispering a final message to your loved one. There is only that one thing to say, and you say it. All else is pointless. You have very little time before some holy fool, who believes in his place in eternity, kicks in the door, slaps your head and orders you back to your seat. 23C. Here is your seat belt. There is the magazine you were reading before it all began.

The banality of these details might overwhelm you. If you are not already panicking, you are clinging to a shred of hope that the captain, who spoke with such authority as the plane pushed back from the stand, will rise from the floor, his throat uncut, to take the controls...

If the hijackers had been able to imagine themselves into the thoughts and feelings of the passengers, they would have been unable to proceed. It is hard to be cruel once you permit yourself to enter the mind of your victim. Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality.

The hijackers used fanatical certainty, misplaced religious faith, and dehumanising hatred to purge themselves of the human instinct for empathy. Among their crimes was a failure of the imagination. As for their victims in the planes and in the towers, in their terror they would not have felt it at the time, but those snatched and anguished assertions of love were their defiance.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Low (rather than high) holidays

I wish I could report otherwise, but it was just not a very spiritual Rosh Hashanah for me. Wednesday night I was tired (and sleepy after a big meal) and then on Thursday I was distracted, not sure why. Couldn't focus, couldn't make the words mean something for me. Maybe being in the middle of the week was part of it. I'm back to work today, and the last 2 days feel like a blur. Plus, it's so early this year and I was very focused on getting the kids ready to start school. Next year the holidays are much later in the month - that may help.

I had a nice dinner on Wednesday night, though. Two people cancelled at the last minute, which was frustrating (I had already bought the food and ended up with too much). But the people who came made a nice group and even Larry said he enjoyed himself. I felt really organized this year too - the meal got put together with no stress and everything arrived at the table hot and delicious. That was rewarding.

Maybe I'll feel more connected at Yom Kippur.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Chris Matthews has had enough

I've heard Chris Matthews express quite a bit of frustration lately with criticisms of Obama, but he was especially withering when Haley Barbour's recent (absurb) assertion that we know less about Obama than any president in history. "He wrote a book," Matthews sneered. Obama actually wrote two books. But it's clear that, as the mid-term elections approach, Republicans are getting further and further from any sort of reality in order to try to fan the flames of doubt about Obama as a leader. I'm still confident that he will win reelection and that the mid-terms will not be a disaster for the Dems. We'll see if my optimism is misplaced.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

"Significant" independent films

I'd be interested to know what criteria they used - "significant" is a pretty broad word. Do they mean the movies made money (which is what this looks like) or that they had a cultural impact or something else? Some great movies on this list, and I'm happy to notice that I've seen almost all of these. I basically only missed one per decade - The Toxic Avenger, Braveheart, Trainspotting, Inglourious Basterds.

* * * * * * * *

The Independent Film and Television Association is marking its 30th anniversary by selecting the 30 Most Significant Independent Films from around the world produced in the past 30 years:

1981-1990: Amadeus; Blue Velvet; Dances With Wolves; Das Boot (The Boat); Gandhi; My Left Foot; A Nightmare on Elm Street; Platoon; sex, lies and videotape; The Terminator (Honorary mentions: The Killing Fields; The Last Emperor; The Toxic Avenger)

1991-2000: Braveheart; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Fargo; Four Weddings and a Funeral; Life is Beautiful; Pulp Fiction; Reservoir Dogs; The Silence of the Lambs; The Usual Suspects; Where the Day Takes You (Honorary mentions: Basic Instinct, Good Will Hunting, Trainspotting)

2001-2010: Brokeback Mountain; Crash; The Hurt Locker; Inglourious Basterds; Juno; Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring; Million Dollar Baby; Monster; The Pianist; Slumdog Millionaire; (Honorary mentions: Bowling for Columbine; Memento; Twilight)


Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Caleb suddenly said he was willing to get a haircut, and I'd been thinking of getting mine a bit shorter, so we ran over to Supercuts this weekend. At first I thought the stylist hadn't cut enough, but now I think it's perfect.


Monday, September 06, 2010

Twilight music videos

More music videos! I had fun on youtube, watching these.

I started with this one which I first heard about on the TwilightMoms website - hilarious parody of Katy Perry's Teenage Dream. Includes this slight variation on her lyrics - "Let's not go all the way tonight. No sex, just love." The video is smokin', even without the song. Only downside is that the singer's voice kinda sucks.

Then I saw this excellent video of Eminem's Love the Way You Lie - even better than the official one (which is amazing). Downside is that this is for Team Jacob. The creator did a wonderful job making the images fit the lyrics (e.g., Jacob jumps out the window as Eminem sings "watching you leave out the window, maybe that's why they call it window pane [pain]"). Made me want to watch New Moon again!

My favorite is this one of Breakeven by The Script - I always thought this song fit New Moon perfectly and shouldn't have been surprised that someone created a terrific video with it. They even went to the trouble of putting in Twilight footage in black and white to represent Bella's memories of happier times. Made me want to watch the original movie again!

Then this is fun - claims to be "all" the kisses between Edward and Bella from the first 2 movies. I'm not sure it's everything, but it's still a smokin' hot minute and 5 seconds. The background music is not a recognizable (to me) pop song, but the site says it's an instrumental version of Akon's Right Now. Nice.


Sunday, September 05, 2010

Mad Men Season 4

Just loving this 4th season. Every episode is riveting and mind blowing. Tonight was the best yet, and that's saying something. The scenes between Don and Peggy were a revelation, literally and figuratively. I've been rewatching the encore every week, so that I watch it twice in a row (once at 10 p.m. and again at 11 p.m.), but I still miss things that various posters on the Basket of Kisses blog point out. Obviously it's not that hard to make a great TV show - why aren't there more of them???


The day after I wrote this, the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine arrived, with a fantastic cover photo and excellent article about the show. I sat down to read it as soon as the mail was brought into the house - I couldn't help myself. You appreciate the show even more when you realize how unlikely and off-beat it was - even HBO had passed on it and most of the actors were unknowns (it's hard to imagine how Jon Hamm could have gone 3 years without a job - what a terribly fickle business).

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Ghostwriter

So disappointed in this movie. I had heard very good things about it, but I thought it was slow, super cliched, and predicatable - I figured out [SPOILER ALERT] that the wife was involved by half-way through, and I'm usually oblivious to these things. It also felt very derivative of State of Play (both the original British mini-series and the American remake) which was much more interesting and thought-provoking. Even watching the Making Of video on the DVD didn't help too much - I'm biased toward movies that come from books, but I thought they missed an opportunity with this story and especially with this cast.

Only up side is that I baked apple cake while watching, so I've got at least one thing done for erev Rosh Hashanah.


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Another music video worth talking about

How did I get so obsessed with music videos all of a sudden??? The latest if for Cee-Lo's song, Fuck You. I first heard about it in Newsweek of all places - they called it the anthem of the summer (I thought Katy Perry's California Gurls was that). Anyway, Cee-Lo's song is catchy as hell - the kind of song you find yourself humming long after you listen. This video just shows the lyrics (in a really cute, bouncy way).

The offical video is a story, but I think it's kinda stupid. In the song, the guy is complaining about a girl who left him for someone with more money. Funny. In the video story, a total dork keeps pursuing a hot girl who's clearly a bitch and he's shocked that she keeps rejecting him. But then he's totally disgusted when the non-hot girl catches his flowers (by mistake) and comes over to him. So how is he any different from the bitch? "Fuck him too" is my reaction.

I understand what they're going for in the "official" video - the rejected guy is a hot shot at the end and the hot girl is a zero. Plus, it's set in a 1950s style diner with backup singers like all the groups had back then. Cute. But I actually like the other one (with just the lyrics) better - where I can make up my own story!