Saturday, September 30, 2017

Giant of the Senate????

For 48 chapters and 12 hours, my husband and I recently listened to Al Franken's new book published in May of 2017 entitled "Al Franken, Giant of the Senate."  His upbringing in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, also home to Thomas Friedman, Bob Dylan and a bunch of other luminaries.  His rise to fame as a comedian and writer on Saturday Night Live and his eventual decision to run for the US Senate.  It's a delightful recount of an interesting life peppered with Mr. Franken's hilarious commentary.

Of course in Mr. Franken's subtle understated tone, he was humorously putting himself in the category of past giants of the Senate like Mike Mansfield and Lyndon Johnson among others, but what he really wanted to do was to convey to you the incredible amount of time and energy and commitment it takes to be a senator of the US and why in fact he chose to become one.

It's not very often that a non-fiction subject can hold one's attention for this lengthy amount of time, but, in fact, for the most part Mr. Franken who narrated the audio book did do so.  He's so funny and chatty that you just are always waiting for the next laugh.  There was only one place at the end when I thought it was the conclusion and then he went on to the next chapter that I got a little anxious.

As far as how the book relates to today's horrible divisive atmosphere, it actually encourages people to be civil, but I'm skeptical about whether the book will do that or merely "strengthen his base."  I, for one am much more moderate than Mr. Franken, but I did get some good ideas about how to be a responsible citizen.

I was surprised at how bright he was.  I did not know he graduated from Harvard. I was impressed at his devotion to his constituency and his attention to their issues.  I could see why he would get frustrated at not being able to get more accomplished.  And I wanted to meet his wife, Franny, who has been a devoted and supportive and helpful companion for more than thirty years.

Some of the best parts of the book had to do with his first campaign when he originally lost the election and slid by with a very tiny margin after a mandatory recount reversed the results.  Another highlight was his chapter when he discusses his difficulty in filtering some of the jokes he really wanted to make.  I also found his relationship with President Obama interesting as well as his success in preventing AOL/Time Warner from becoming a part of the Comcast/NBC conglomerate.

I love politics so I enjoyed hearing about "the process" maybe more than others might, but Mr. Franken's book is definitely an entertaining way to get a civics lesson and I highly recommend reading it. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

California Country

 It’s been a while since I’ve been to LA.  Much like revisiting New York, the scene changes every time I return.

As always, it’s total sensory overload, but more than that, it’s a collective mindset that the LA way is the only way.

Everyone looks great even though the styles today are kind of schleppy.  Grungy haute courtier is the style.  Lots of skin, tasteful tattoos, leggings and off the shoulder blouses for the ladies and untucked shirts and tight jeans for the men.  Only the old people, a growing population who are rarely acknowledged, wear tailored slacks and skirts, blouses with sleeves or Ivy League shirts.  Regardless of one’s ethnic or gender background or political persuasion, everyone is stylish.  LGBT’s, hipsters, actors.  It doesn’t matter. They’re all magazine ready.  

Everyone likes to “pose.”  In front of Jeff Koons’ Michael Jackson at the Broad Museum.  In front of Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall.  At the beach.  Wherever. 

Dogs rule.  You can take them anywhere.  And the dogs are all good looking too.  Protocol is to stop and talk each time you see a couple or three of them on a leash.  It’s just not polite if you don’t comment on how cute they all are.  Actually protocol is to talk to all humans too.  It points out how all inclusive LA residents are.

Shopping is by Amazon.  Packages in all sizes clump together in the downtown high rises and other condominium complexes.

Though food trucks are still important, the restaurants featuring all kinds of poke are even more in vogue.   Accompanying poke and other lighter fare are cocktails with like Bloody Mary's with unusual ingredients like cucumber or bacon. 

As usual, the highways are like a scene in “La la land.”  And when you visit with anybody, it’s all about the highways you’re going to take to get to the next highway to get to the next highway to get to your destination.  “Take the 405 to the 110 and then to the 470.” Or something like that.

Of course everyone is on their cell phones.  You especially need the apps which can tell you how many minutes delay one has on each highway and then suggestions on alternate routes to go.

And one can expect other forms of delays like when they’re filming a commercial and you need to stop in your tracks until the scene is cut.

More and more the “Old Hollywood” shows up as a reminder of the days when Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart reigned.  All those famous symbols look even more classic.  The Hollywood Bowl.  The Pantages Theater.  The Roosevelt Hotel.  The Beverly Hills mansions where all the movie stars used to live.

There are hundreds of venues for theater and nightclubs and other forms of entertainment like improv just for women or a film festival for Star Wars fanatics.  The larger than life billboards are ubiquitous and taut every new movie and televisions series that are on the cable and streaming networks.  Marvel characters, grizzly crime, dystopian topics.  Pick your flavor.

The bougainvillea and hibiscus flourish everywhere.  It’s what makes LA the most inviting.   Walk down even a somewhat seedy street and rich greenery embraces you.

What I find most interesting is the total acceptance of political correctness.  Everywhere you go the population is an amalgamation of black, brown and white and everyone seems happy and comfortable with each other, a belief that this state knows how to solve their problems and how to get along.

You have to be tough to live in a city of so many millions.  Just being on a highway takes guts and determination beyond the norm.  It’s like you’re playing a football game every day.  You’re always in offense and defense mode.

Returning to my hometown of Denver seemed a bit of a letdown.  The people aren’t as pretty and if they are, they don’t quite know how to show it off.  It just seems a bit boring after all the intense stimulation.   Our restaurant and entertainment ratio is much smaller.  We do have a plethora of pot places and soccer fields.

Hey.  It is a nice place to raise a family.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bannon Babble

So we finally got a chance to see Steve Bannon live and in person (well almost in person) last Sunday night on Sixty Minutes.  Charlie Rose's interview was amazing.  He certainly pressed on the issues that all of us were concerned in hearing about, most particularly his response to Charlottesville and to David Duke, the paragon of racism.

What struck me most about Steve Bannon was his belief that he knew better than the rest of us what was good for the country and for the president.  For the life of me, I can't figure out why we should believe him.  He's just a guy who made a bit of money in hedge funds and then in film.  And oh yeah, he spent a year strategizing with the Trump campaign, and helping steer the ultimate victory.

I don't know.  If I were looking at a resume, that background would seem a bit serendipity.  But then my resume isn't so great either.

Mr. Bannon's personna does reflect Mr. Trump's philosophy about running a country.  He knows better because he knows better.  Well, he did convince enough people to win the election.

I sort of think that Mr. Trump has a bit of the medicine man in him.  He talks a good game, but do those elixirs really work?  For a while, but then everyone discovers the real truth.  Like Chris Christie said about Mr. Bannon, let him enjoy his fifteen minutes of fame.

I already don't think anything Mr. Bannon says is based on the good of the country.  It's based on his own good.  That's what happens when you don't know what home and hearth is and you live your entire life in transactions and then you only read the materials that back up your beliefs.  He needs a good wife, but then these days good wives are hard to find.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

I'm Stressed

At my gym I work out next to two attractive seventy something gray haired ladies who are the best of friends.   They are known to hang together on the treadmill which they take verrrrry slowly, or to work the machines together taking turns doing their repetitions.  In between they chat with all the regulars and the trainers and frequently me.

I only know a little bit about their personal history.  One of them is traditionally married.  The other is not.

When I walked into the workout room the other day, the single lady was waiting for her friend and on the machine for quads.  For some reason we started chatting and she was saying she didn't know why, but for the last few days, she'd been feeling particularly stressed.  In my usual way, I empathized and blamed it on the constancy of the events that have been pummeling us daily since the election.  Just this week there was the Texas flood, the DACA crisis, the North Korean threat, the coming of Hurricane Irma, Trump's son testifying in a Senate committee for his meeting with the Russians during the campaign and the pathetic debut of Mrs. Clinton's book in which she blames everyone else other than herself for her defeat.  

I tell her I try to shut out the chaos with classical music and a resolve to only listen to the blabber for part of the day.

"Mmmmm," she said.  "I paint.  But maybe I ought to turn off MSNBC when I'm painting."  This seemed to cheer her up.

When her friend showed up right after our discussion, her friend asked her how she was feeling and she said she had been depressed, but now she was feeling better.  She had just decided to turn off MSNBC.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Melania's Shoes

This morning I was watching, as I do most Saturdays, Michael Smerconish on CNN.  This week he was trying to find a new angle on the week long depressing reports on the Texas floods. He began the show by talking about the President's and the First Lady's clothes and shoes.  Apparently Mr. Trump received criticism for wearing khakis to visit the flood site and Mrs. Trump was criticized for wearing seven inch spiky heels (I'm guessing the size.)

Mr. Smerconish dismissed Mr. Trump's dress noting that Presidents Obama and Bush wore khakis to their visits to their disaster visits of Sandy and Katrina. When it came to Mrs. Trump's heels, he just said in a very male fashion, "Who Cares?"

Actually I didn't see Mrs. Trump's heels this morning but I did see Mike Pence's wife Karen's approach to the dress of the day.  She was more casually dressed than I would have preferred.  She wore a blue silk short-sleeved tee outlined in black and indistinct nicely fitting jeans.  To be honest she's got a pretty nice figure.  I was a bit envious.

My less than expert commentary on the dress of both women is that they speak to who they are:  Melania always has to find a way to make a flashy statement even though she's trying really hard to be proper, and Karen in her "aw shucks" demeanor and her attitude of wanting to support her man, usually selects a look that says all I like want to do is get down to brass tacks and start helping. I'm as ordinary as you.

It is true that Mrs. Trump switched from her spiky heels and black pants and top and green combat jacket to jeans, tennies and a white shirt.  She probably could have worn one outfit and made it work.

So what would I wear if I were first or second lady?  First I'd consider the weather:  I know it's hot and humid.  Second, I'd think about the location and where I'd be photographed.   That would be walking on the tarmac to the plane and getting off the plane.  Third I'd think about my destinations once I got off the plane.  Fourth, I'd definitely want to be comfortable and not have to think about what I was wearing, and fifth, of course I'd want to look good.  As always, my clothes would have to be appropriate to my size, my stature, and my best assets.

Mrs. Trump definitely is good at using her height to accentuate the positive.  I credit her for that.  What would I change?   I'd make the heels the height of the ones she usually wears if she has to make a statement.  I see her in her red jeans, her white shirt, perhaps tucked in with a slimmer belt than she usually wears.  Maybe she could have worn a jean jacket at the start that she could take off if the weather became too warm.  I like the hat and pony tail, although an alternative might have been to not wear a hat and pull her hair back at the nape of neck.  She seems to have trouble going from harnessed appropriate to harnessed casual.

For Mrs. Pence, I'd wear jeans similar to the Not Your Daughter Jeans that are considered a regular fit rather than such a tight one or else some attractive khakis.  I'd wear a white tee shirt and over that a lightweight attractive blouse maybe in her blue of choice with sleeves rolled up.  For shoes, (she was wearing flats), I'd wear some attractive canvas shoes with flaps and no ties.  And I'd comb my hair or find some way to hold it in place.

In essence, I don't think either one of the women hit the mark.  Maybe they'll get better with time.  I'm pretty sure that Michelle Obama and Jill Biden would have known what to do.