Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year

Well, another year has passed and The Ancient One is delighted to be sending out greetings and wishes for a wonderful 2009. Our family holiday letter this year, penned by Donna, ended with, "We wish you all a year of joy and fulfillment, health and peace of mind, and for all of us a new start, a renewed spirit, and the love and affection of friends and family."

While I generally avoid political statements in these meanderings, I do feel that we are coming to the end of an 8 year national nightmare. While I have no illusions about the economy turning around immediately after January 20, I am hopeful that we are entering a new era that will gradually bring peace, prosperity and respect for what this country stands for. I am looking forward to a national leadership that listens to people and other nations and does not simply try to impose a narrow view of what is right and wrong on the rest of the world.

So, to all of you who pass this way, have a Happy New Year. I look forward to hearing about your thoughts and the events in your lives as they unfold in the coming year.

Life is good! Let us all enjoy what we have and strive to make it better.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Peahens on Parade

A few days ago I wrote about the PEACOCKS parading on our street (see previous post). Well, today was Ladies' Day as I spotted 3 PEAHENS strutting along while I was on my morning walk. (You may have to click on the photo to get a clear view.)

Shortly after I took the above picture with my cell phone camera, I was sitting at home and heard walking on the roof. Although I quickly dashed outside with the good camera and discovered that it was the hens I was hearing above my head, they would not cooperate and I could not get a clear shot.

That's it. The last peafowl photo of 2009. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holiday Peacocks on Parade

As I went outside this morning to pick up the newspapers, there before me were 4 adult peacocks with magnificent tail feathers parading up the sidewalk on the other side of the street. By the time I got my camera, I was only able to get a couple of pictures good enough to put up here. You will note in one of them that two of these royal birds are checking out the territory of a "reindeer" in a neighbor's yard.

I am still fascinated by the peacocks in our area even though it has been a few months since I offered up pictures. Rarely have I seen 4 adult males together with not a peahen in sight. And it is even more unusual to see them on our block. They don't often roam this far from their usual gathering places a few blocks away.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Still Thinking of You Bro’

Today is the 13th anniversary of the death of my oldest brother Jerry; he went too soon at the age of 70. I was thinking about him today and went to the web site of the Washington, D.C. law firm which still has his name first in the list of named partners. On their site, I found his biography which I am printing below in full. I'm sure his colleagues won't mind.

Jerry S. Cohen

Jerry S. Cohen was born on September 13, 1925 in Wayne County, Michigan. He died in December 1995. Jerry Cohen was one of the founding partners of the firm. In his seventy years, Mr. Cohen held a variety of jobs, filled a variety of roles and always had a story to tell.

Mr. Cohen served in the Marines and got both his B.A. and J.D. from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He began his career working for his father in Detroit and was fond of recounting his conversation with his dad explaining how he had managed to lose an uncontested divorce case.

Mr. Cohen went to work for the Michigan Attorney General as the assistant in charge of the Criminal Division. In 1961, he left Michigan for Washington, D.C. He worked at the Senate Antitrust & Monopoly Subcommittee and served as its chief counsel and staff director until 1969. Mr. Cohen always spoke with great admiration of Senator Phil Hart with whom he worked closely during those years. His interest in the small competitor and consumer grew during those years, which saw his work on the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act and the Truth in Labeling Act.

Mr. Cohen opened the D.C. branch of the Philadelphia law firm of Dilworth, Kalish, Cohn & Coleman. He was soon thereafter joined by Herbert E. Milstein and Michael D. Hausfeld. The firm's practice was originally concentrated in antitrust and securities class actions for plaintiffs and that plaintiff-side orientation has remained at the core of the firm's practice. Under Mr. Cohen's leadership, the Washington, D.C. office became an independent partnership in 1986.

Over the years, Mr. Cohen became involved in a variety of prominent cases. He brought the first successful sexual harassment case under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He was one of a team of lawyers litigating In re Corrugated Container Antitrust Litigation to a successful jury verdict in Texas. Mr. Cohen was also active in two massive environmental cases – the Union Carbide Bhopal, India gas leak in 1984 and the Exxon Valdez oil spill case in 1989. Mr. Cohen was chosen as one of two attorneys leading the combined cases to trial against Exxon on behalf of more than 34,000 plaintiffs including Alaskan fishermen, seafood processors, environmental groups, and coastal villages. For his work on the case, he shared the 1995 Trial Lawyer of the Year award presented by the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice.

Mr. Cohen was the co-author of two New York Times best-selling books, both written with Morton Mintz, a Washington Post journalist. America Inc: Who Owns and Operates the United States came out in 1971 and Power Inc: Public and Private Rulers and How to Make Them Accountable came out in 1976.

Mr. Cohen was well respected by both plaintiff and defense lawyers. Whether or not you agreed with him, you knew that, if he said he would do something, he would keep his word. He had a fondness for good arguments and not-so-great cigars.

Jerry was quite a guy. I still miss you bro'.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Colors 2008 – Banners 14

My first banner post was December 24, 2007 with colors of the holiday season. Today I offer the 2008 version and I have tried to avoid repeating those that appeared last year.

Here are 5 new banners/flags that were seen along the way on my morning walks.

Enjoy the flying colors of Christmas, southern California style!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukkah!

At sundown this evening the 8 day festival of Hanukkah begins.

Donna has decorated the house for the holiday. Both outside:

And inside (including many of the Hanukkiah she has collected over the years):

In the course of my lifetime, the celebration of Hanukkah has changed drastically. It was not a gift giving holiday. But that has changed; as Christmas became more commercialized, so did Hanukkah as the Jewish version of gift giving. The nightly candle-lighting tradition remains as does playing dreidel games and the food, especially potato latkes (pancakes) of which I still partake unofficially and in moderation. (Please don't tell my cardiologist!)

So to all who stop by this week, Happy Hanukkah!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Xmas Palm Trees

I grew up in the upper Midwest and spent most of the first 44 years of my life in places where winter meant snow and sub-freezing temperatures. Even though I have lived in southern California for nearly 27 years, I still chuckle when I see palm trees decorated for the season.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mother Was (Almost) Always Right

One month from today will be the 25th anniversary of my mother's death. She was 79 years old at the time. I mention this because the weather in southern California today leads me to offer a memory about Mom now rather than on January 17.

I moved to the L.A. area from Springfield, Illinois to start a new job in January, 1982. At that time, my mother was living here. The weather was delightful! I moved from snow and slush and cold to sunny days and warm weather. That seemed like heaven. Then as Spring arrived, the sun was harder to find. It seemed like it appeared only briefly during April, May and June (contrary to Chamber of Commerce claims). I learned new terms from local TV weathermen; they referred to fog as the "marine layer" and the daily lack of sunlight as "June gloom."

One day as I was complaining about the continually overcast weather, my always optimistic mother proclaimed to me, "The sun shines every day in southern California. Some days you just have to wait a little longer for it to appear." For the most part Mom was right. There were only a few exceptions; today was one of them. We are having our 2nd rain storm in a week. (I'm not looking for sympathy from my freezing, snowbound friends in other parts of the country.) Today, I did not see any sunshine.

Alas, my mother's assertion was wrong today. But that's all right. Just thinking about her and that statement brings a smile to my face nearly 25 years after her death. Once again I think of how "wise" I was in the "selection of my parents." :-D

I still miss you Mom!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

They Came to See His Barroom Close

This afternoon we went to the closing performance of The Face on the Barroom Floor at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School. As I mentioned last week, younger son Seth made his debut as a Director with this production. As a parent, I saw something very special at today's performance. About 10 (+/-) of Seth's friends showed up to see the last show of his first run. All were high school classmates and all but one had been "drama geeks" with Seth. If we counted right, 3 of them have been friends of his since grade school. Seth was looking good after the show surrounded by all these friends.

I don't know how many young adults continue to be close with their old classmates and school friends. Once I was out of high school, I only had 2 friends with whom I have remained close over the decades. But Seth is part of a group of friends that all seem like family to us. We see them all during the year. We have watched them grow up. And as I watched them today supporting their friend's success, I was a very happy and proud father.

Well, the Barroom has closed. Congratulations to cast and crew for a fine run. And thanks to all of you who were there supporting your friend!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Some Things Just Never Change

It is nearly 27 years since I left Illinois and moved to southern California. I had worked for 9 years at Sangamon State University (now the University of Illinois at Springfield). I was originally hired as Director of the Illinois Legislative Staff Internship Program which I headed for about 7 years. I also was the founding Director of the Illinois Legislative Studies Center at SSU.

So, it is understandable that I have been watching, with great interest, as the latest political scandal in Illinois is revealed; the alleged "selling" of Barack Obama's Senate seat by Governor Rod Blagojevich. All that I have been reading this week seems familiar. Many journalists have made reference to the way politics have been in Illinois for a very long time. From the years I was there, I even remember one popular, likable state official who was indicted for getting benefits from state contracts he awarded each year. It seemed to me as the case unwound through the legal system that he never understood what he had done wrong; he was just conducting business-as-usual in the state capitol.

The more I have read this week, the more I realized how much has stayed the same since I left Springfield. I guess that some things just never change!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It Was a Very Good Run

It's already 3 days since The Relevant Stage's production of The Christmas Carol closed. It was a good run with sizable audiences after the opening night. Once again, it was a pleasure to perform on the stage of the Warner Grand Theatre; it's a marvelous old house in which to work.

The Ancient One has just about recovered from the 5 performances in 4 days. Even though Jacob Marley's chains were made of plastic, they still added about 10 extra pounds to drag around the stage (and up and down the stairs to the dressing room). Yes, it was a "ponderous chain" that left me mighty tired for 2 days following the closing. There is one more small picture of Marley to share; it was taken by fellow cast member Alicia Wells.

When this project started, The Ancient One was concerned that there would only be 4 weeks of rehearsals (that was really 3½ when you count the time off for Thanksgiving. Was that enough time to prepare well. The cast was made up of actors of varying experience. As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about. Anchored by Rusty Vance, an amazing actor, as Ebenezer Scrooge, we emerged on stage as a very tight ensemble. Throughout the whole process I don't recall a single instance of the "drama" that often envelops cast and crew as they work toward opening night.

Thanks to Ray Buffer for both his direction of The Christmas Carol and his dedicated leadership of The Relevant Stage. Now it's on to year 2 for this fledgling theatre company and the bigger and better results that come with experience. Bravo!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Barroom Unlike Any Other

This past Sunday, I attended the matinee performance of Tim Kelly's The Face on the Barroom Floor at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School. It just so happened that this was the first directing effort of younger son Seth, the new drama teacher at the school.

If you like puns and really corny jokes, you will love this play. As the director noted in his program comments, it has the kind of humor he complained about incessantly growing up and listening to on a daily basis as it spewed from the lips of The Ancient One. I guess I would describe the play as a western farce and the jokes and laughing begin right at the start and continue through the most wonderfully rollicking final 10 minutes I have ever seen on stage.

The entire cast of 14 students was extremely talented and I hesitate to single out any one of them. That means, of course, that I am about to do just that. Zachary Barryte was absolutely delightful as the arch villain Roderick Rodent. Not for one moment did he stray from his character and his comic timing was perfect. I could probably say the same thing about the rest of the cast too but I have known Zach since he was about 5 years old and his family does live across the street from us. So, I offer my kudos to Zach and apologize to the rest of the cast for not mentioning their names while congratulating them all on great performances.

Barroom continues this week with 7 p.m. performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and a 2 p.m. closing on Sunday. Where? The PAC at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, Hawthorne Boulevard @ Silver Spur Road in Rolling Hills Estates, CA. Tickets online at: PENHIGHDRAMA.COM and information by phone at 310.377.4888 x830. If you are within commuting distance, don't miss it! The director's dad wants you there!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jacob Marley’s Self-Portrait

Last night was the final tech/dress rehearsal for The Relevant Stage's production of The Christmas Carol which opens tonight at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro. (I know, I plug the shows a lot!)

Jacob Marley (aka The Ancient One) finally got his ghostly makeup applied, donned most of his costume (the chains won't be available until tonight) and snapped a self-portrait on a cell phone with the help of a mirror. Oh, these character roles are so much fun!

Okay, time for some lunch and a long nap (didn't get home from rehearsal until 1:30 a.m. this morning). Then on to the Warner Grand for another opening.

Ticket information (another shameless plug) can be found at Marley hopes that he gets a chance to scare a few of you this weekend. Show times are 8:00 p.m. tonight, tomorrow and Saturday and at 7:00 p.m. Sunday. If you do get there, he will greet you in the lobby following curtain call.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Classic Example of a Brain Fart

It happened during the dress rehearsal of The Christmas Carol last night at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro. The Ancient One in a partial costume for The Ghost of Jacob Marley (chains and make-up will be added tonight) began his scene with Scrooge. His face appeared in the door as the ghostly voice intoned, "Ebenezer. . . Ebenezer." The scene then continued as Marley appeared on stage to warn Scrooge of the coming of 3 haunting spirits.

In the midst of his monologue explaining the chains that weighed him down, Marley turns away from Scrooge saying, "I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere! . . . . . . . ." And then silence for what seemed like an eternity. The Ancient One's mind went totally blank. He knew where he was; he knew there was more to the line. But there was not a thought in his head other than wondering what could possibly come next. What was the rest of the monologue he recites to himself many times each day. And it was one of those times where there was nothing the other actor on stage could do to help him escape from his dilemma. It was a classic "brain fart;" a total disconnect from what was going on; a total blanking out of the mind that appears randomly, without any warning and is an actor's nightmare.

The Director, Ray Buffer, finally saved The Ancient One by interrupting to make a minor change in the blocking of the scene. When the scene resumed, the monologue was delivered flawlessly. All the lines were there and the rehearsal continued.

Tonight is the final rehearsal for The Christmas Carol, the final production in The Relevant Stage's inaugural season at the Warner Grand. Then it's on to the 4 performances (tomorrow thru Sunday). If any readers stop by for the show, be sure to wait around to say hello to The Ancient One and the rest of the cast when they emerge from the dressing rooms into the lobby after the performance.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tis the Season. . .of Too Much Food

It starts with Thanksgiving and runs through New Years Day. Wherever one turns there is food, Wonderful food. . .but not very healthy food. Actually, for The Ancient One it begins with the leftover Halloween candy. Oh, that sweet tooth! Food, food, wonderful food!

A few years back, The Ancient One lost over 40 pounds. When asked how he did it, he always answered with one word, "Fear." Even after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1990, the weight did not go away. The diet changed to the extent that a fast food restaurant has not been visited in the past 18 years. Then came the coronary bypass surgery in August, 2004. That did get The Ancient One's attention and the weight came off and hit a plateau 3 months later. There is still a need to lose at least 20 more pounds but it is a constant battle. When faced with all that good food of the season, any season, there seems to be no will power.

So now there is a Thanksgiving resolution made while feeling the consequences of all that good food: Lose weight between now and New Year's day. I'll try but I'm not confident. I'll even try to keep it off with continuation of daily exercise. Getting exercise is more certain than controlling the diet.

It seems that The Ancient One is satisfied if at the end of December his weight is no higher than it was at the same time the previous year. That's really not acceptable any more. . .but, oh, all that wonderful, tempting, good food!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More Thanksgiving Colors – Banners 13

Just in time, here are a few more photos (of mixed quality) of Thanksgiving banners that have appeared in the neighborhood.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Heading Toward Sunset

I was driving home this afternoon when the sky caused me to stop; such an interesting mixture of colors as the sun was heading down toward the horizon. While clouds were overhead, the sky was still clear out over the Pacific. Unfortunately, the picture taken with the cell phone camera only suggests the spectacular view. But it does reflect why I so enjoy living near the western shore.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Family Hoops?

I took a slightly different route on my morning walk yesterday. Along the way, the following image caught my eye:

Two basketball backboards stood side-by-side in the driveway. One was poppa/momma size and the other kid size. I wondered: Is this an example of the old adage about, "The family that shoots hoops together. . ." The Ancient One Wants to Know. What about you?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

45 Years Ago Today. . .

I remember exactly where I was 45 years ago today when I first heard that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Everyone who had any awareness of JFK death on that day can tell you exactly where they were when they heard the news. The Ancient One was standing at the coffee pot on the 3rd floor of Caldwell Hall at the University of North Carolina where graduate students (his position in life at the time) and faculty gathered at various times during the day for caffeine and conversation.

This year there is additional depth to those memories. Kennedy was the first Catholic to be elected President. I remember the hope for a better future that he represented for many of us. This year Barack Obama as President-elect represents another first in the evolution of American political culture. And for the majority of us, he brings hope for significant changes in the role of the United States on the world stage as well as in this country.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Moving Along With Marley and Scrooge

We are now in the 3rd week of rehearsals for The Relevant Stage's production of The Christmas Carol. For The Ancient One, it has seemed like a very laid back process. As the ghost of Jacob Marley, he is in just one scene and was easily off book by last Thursday's deadline. Doing that one scene with Ebenezer Scrooge has been fun in rehearsal and will be more so on stage when the play opens December 4 at San Pedro's historic Warner Grand Theatre.

Scrooge is played by Rusty Vance, a fine actor. Last week, Director Ray Buffer took photos of Rusty in costume from which he created the following publicity photo card:

As rehearsals continue, I will be looking forward to moving on to the stage at the Warner Grand after Thanksgiving. This production also will bring a new experience to The Ancient One. For the first time, he will be wearing a microphone on stage. It will help the actors to be miked in this 1500 seat house. And in Marley's case I suspect that some reverberation will be used to enhance his ghostly voice. It should be interesting and fun. More information on the production can be found by clicking here on the link to The Relevant Stage. Now back to running lines: "Ebenezer!"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Smoke Gets In. . .

That's how it felt to The Ancient One when he woke up this morning; smoke getting in the eyes, the nose, the lungs. And we're the lucky ones. We live about 30 miles from the nearest of the major fires in Southern California this weekend. We are safe albeit downwind from the Yorba Linda/Corona/Chino Hills, etc fire. With the Santa Ana winds gusting, we knew that others were suffering by the smell and our stinging eyes

Actually, we did have a fire here in Rancho Palos Verdes yesterday. About 10 acres burned in a canyon near City Hall but no buildings were involved and firefighters had it out in about 1½ hours. We saw the smoke and smelled that one too. Below are a couple of pictures I took this morning on my daily walk. Remember, this is more than 30 miles downwind.

First, a shot from the same vantage point of the banner at the top of this blog:

And, a canyon along the way:

Right now our thoughts and prayers are with the tens of thousands people uprooted from their homes. And the hundreds of families who have no home to return too, over 500 of them from one trailer park in the Sylmar area of the San Fernando Valley. (photo below after the fire had passed and continued on its way)

We are hoping that the winds die down and the humidity goes up to assist the firefighters who are out there in the firestorms trying to get the upper hand. In the more than 26 years The Ancient One has lived in Southern California, these fires are absolutely the scariest events; much scarier than all but the biggest of earthquakes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reading Up A Storm

I haven't written much over the past 6 weeks but I sure have done a lot of reading, mostly on my daily walks. Six books have been devoured, all of them written by those on my "favorite authors" list. Where do I start?

I have long been a fan of John Sandford's Prey mysteries featuring Lucas Davenport. However, in Dark of the Moon, he moves Virgil Flowers, who works for Davenport to the forefront. While I liked Flowers and his path to solving a wave of small town murders, I missed the Davenport panache. This was a good mystery but it was different.

Two Patricia Cornwell books were on the reading agenda. One, Book of the Dead, won a 2008 "crime thriller of the year" award in Great Britain although I found it somewhat disturbing. While Cornwell's novels tend toward the dark side, this one was just a bit too dark for me and it became more of a bit-by-bit read than a can't-put-it-down one. In contrast, I found her 1993 Cruel and Unusual mesmerizing with a number of unusual twists that had me wondering what might happen next right up to the ultimate solution. For me, this was a case of liking her earlier writing better than the later effort.

Jonathan Kellerman was the author of two other books on the list, Compulsion (2008) and The Murder Book (2002). This was also a case of liking the earlier writing better than the latter. While Compulsion was good and well written, as are all Kellerman mysteries, I kept wondering why psychologist Alex Delaware was involved in assisting Milo Sturgis in the first place. It seemed like he was there because he had nothing better to do with his time. In The Murder Book, Delaware was understandably involved from the opening page and we learned a lot about Sturgis' early career as a detective as they pursued a cold case. For me this was a spellbinder and the 605 pages flew by. The unexpected twists and turns kept me glued to the book on morning walks and, on a couple of days I narrowly avoided walking into parked cars.

The final book of this group was David Baldacci's Stone Cold which I found top be among the best of the 9 Baldacci thrillers I have read. I was reunited with Oliver Stone and The Camel Club along with con artists Annabelle Conroy and her ailing father. Both of the parallel storylines were spellbinding. The action was intense. My only regret is that the ending makes it appear that The Camel Club will not appear in future Baldacci efforts. But then again, that possible conclusion comes from the unanswered questions that lead to speculation. We will see.

Well, that's a quick review of The Ancient One's recent reading without giving away any of the plot lines.


P.S. Previously I added links to so that interested readers could look more closely at the books I read and, perhaps, even order them. But alas, the particular style widget I used appears to be no longer available. If anyone is interested, I will add the titles to the reading list link in the right hand column.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Thanksgiving Colors Hanging – Banners 12

Well, we zipped right past Halloween and survived the excitement of Election Day. And almost immediately The Ancient One spotted the first colors of Thanksgiving hanging from houses in the neighborhood.

I can almost taste the turkey and pumpkin pie already (and there's 2½ weeks to go). Enjoy!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

It’s Fun to be a Ghost. . .

The first week's rehearsals are completed for The Relevant Stage's production of The Christmas Carol.

With the short lead time until we open December 4, we will be off-book before completing the 2nd week of rehearsals. The Ancient One is lucky in that regard. Not only does he have all the fun of portraying the Ghost of Jacob Marley but he has the advantage of being only in one scene, albeit the scene that provides the basis for Scrooge's journey and transformation. I'm guessing that Marley will spend more time in the make-up chair than he will on stage. But it's such a rich character role.

The actors also will serve as walking billboards to publicize the production. There's nothing quite like a T-shirt to advertise an upcoming event. I'll be curious to see if anyone actually stops me to ask about the play as I wear it on my daily walks.

Now back to learning the rest of my lines. I hope a lot of folks find their way to the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, December 4-7. As Marley's Ghost tells Scrooge, "I want much with you!" Do come out to see The Ancient One rattle his chains! It's a fine new script with plenty of Christmas caroling throughout.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It Felt Good. . .

I was driving home from a doctor's appointment this morning when my cell phone rang. It was Donna who proclaimed, "It sure felt good to vote!" She had just left the polling place after experiencing only a short wait before she cast her ballot. At first it seemed like a strange comment to make. Then I thought about all the years we cast our ballots for the "lesser of two evils" and came away feeling that we had fulfilled our civic duty even if it didn't feel very good. I understood exactly what Donna meant. I sent in my absentee ballot over 2 weeks ago and, yes, it did feel good filling it out and posting it.

My first presidential ballot was cast for John Kennedy in 1960. That seemed like a momentous election. But I do believe that this election is the most important one in which I have participated since I became eligible to vote in 1959. So much is at stake this year. While I have not broadcast my political preferences, I suspect that all who know me assumed, correctly, that I voted for Barack Obama. He was not my favorite at the beginning of the year. I voted for Hillary Clinton in the California Democratic Primary but once the convention came, there was no question about how The Ancient One would vote.

I must confess that I have never voted for a Republican in a general election in my lifetime. My political consciousness dates back to the 1940s when I was growing up in Michigan. When I first started teaching political science and my students would be curious about my own political biases, I would tell them that I was a G. Mennen Williams Democrat. Williams (nicknamed Soapy because he was of "that Mennen" family) was a Democratic Governor of Michigan in my youth; it was a time when my deepest political convictions were formed. During the 1950s, before I was old enough to vote, I became active in Democratic Party campaigning in my home state. As I recall, the party's electoral slogan was: "Make it emphatic, vote straight Democratic." I haven't wavered from that behavior my entire adult life and, if pushed, I can give very cogent, rational reasons for my long voting record.

But there is a lot more than the presidential race on the ballot today. There are congressional and legislative races to be decided. And here in California there are far two many referenda on the ballot. One of those has resonated more with me than the others. Proposition 8 attempts to reverse the recent California Supreme Court decision by rewording the California State Constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. I proudly cast a NO vote on Proposition 8. If it passes, I see it as clear discrimination against one group of citizens. In previous posts, I made clear my belief that majorities cannot be allowed to abrogate the rights of minorities. And I also deeply believe that we all must be respectful of the beliefs and lifestyles of others as long as they do not take away from our own right to live our own lives. To those proponents of Proposition 8 who are so sure of the "truth" of their position, I would ask you to ask yourselves, as I suggested earlier this week, "What if you are wrong?"

Okay, time to get off my soapbox. I held off writing these thoughts until today because it is not my purpose to use this space for political discourse. But I do feel good today. I just hope I feel as good when the votes are counted and the results are known.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What If. . .

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of The Ancient One's graduate education back in the '60s was learning to be a skeptic. In the process of becoming a critical analyst of the world around me, I learned to never accept anything at face value. While there was, perhaps, too much emphasis on gathering empirical evidence at the expense of expressing values, I was imbued with a deep rooted suspicion of any viewpoint whose advocates claimed that they had the "absolute truth." This skepticism addressed all aspects of life, including politics and religion.

This mindset was bolstered by what I observed around me. I remember decades ago when students of mine working in the offices of state legislators in New York and, later, Illinois, I would ask them to interpret what they saw during various political battles. Typically, one student would say that he knew the truth because he was there. Then another student would disagree, saying something else had happened of which he was certain because he was there too! On and on it went. Gradually the students realized that each had experienced a "different reality" based on where they working in the capitol. Each reality was affected by the legislator the student worked for; democrat or republican, assemblyman or senator, leadership or rank and file. In fact, there were as many realities as there were students in the room. Students learned that they had to go beyond what they saw or heard and try to place the entire experience in a broader perspective.

During the Vietnam era when students, as well as most adults, had passionate feelings about the war, The Ancient One asked a simple question to help his students understand what it meant to be skeptical and analytical. I never encouraged them to alter their beliefs even if I disagreed with them. I urged them to continue their work in support of those beliefs. But, I suggested, whenever you fighting for what you passionately believe is right, always ask, somewhere in the corner of your mind, the question: "What if I am wrong?"

Those who claim they have a corner on the truth and are absolutely right are the major contributors to polarization in society. Too much of the discrimination and killing that goes on in the world is caused by those who "know they are right," who cannot accept any opposing view as being legitimate, who cannot live in harmony with people who believe differently than they do. This has always been so.

Why is The Ancient One rambling on like this? Because in this political year, I see the advocates of absolutism all around me. I see it in the presidential campaign. I see it in local elections. I see it in the campaign on Proposition 8 here in California. In truth, I have seen it dominate political rhetoric in this country for much too long! The level of divisiveness in this world threatens this optimist's ability to have much hope for the future.

All I ask of those who have the authority to make decisions that affect the quality (and equality) of life of others is that they remember to ask themselves, at least once every day, as they pursue their goals, "WHAT IF I'M WRONG?"

Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Back on the Boards

Last night I auditioned for The Relevant Stage's production of The Christmas Carol which will be staged at the historic Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, December 4-7. Today I was offered, and accepted, the role of Jacob Marley.

Marley is a wonderful character role; chains and blood curdling screams. I played him, along with other characters, in a different version of the play several years ago. (Unfortunately, I have no photos from that 1995 production at CSUDH.)

Rehearsals start next week and I am both excited and ready to be back on stage. I hope friends in the Los Angeles area will find a way to see this production. (I believe that comment comes under the rubric of blatant self-promotion. What can I say?)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Visitor #7000

Visitor #7000 stopped by this afternoon, according to StatCounter. (SiteMeter had only recorded #6905 at the time.)

It appears that Ms. Fairway a relative new comer to the world of blogging over at Beyond the Fairway was the one who got that milestone to appear on the counter. Her first post was on October 2 and her visit here was soon thereafter. She also has left a few comments along the way. That is always appreciated.

Thank you Ms. Fairway for becoming a regular visitor. I am delighted that for once I recognized a milestone address.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

An Observation on Counting Visitors and Vanity

Some time back when I hit one of my "milestones," I mentioned my suspicions that Sitemeter (my visit counter of choice) was missing visitors to The Ancient One. I decided that I would test this out.

One month ago today I added StatCounter as a 2nd monitoring tool to determine how many folks were stopping by whether on purpose or by accident. The new counter was set at the same number as the old one.

Just before I started writing this post, I looked at the counters all the way down on the bottom of the page. Sitemeter read 6930 and StatCounter read 6980. Now a difference of 50 might not seem like much but if it is annualized it comes out to a difference of 600 over 6 months.

Yes, those of us who blog let our egos get in the way. We want more visitors; somehow it makes us feel like we are more important, or better writers, or have something to say that others find interesting. Whatever. The Ancient One is no different.

From this moment forth, while both counters will remain visible, milestones will be measured by the higher number. In a day or two I will announce my 7000th visitor according to StatCounter. (SiteMeter will take a few days longer to reach that number but I don't care.

Ah, the wonders of blogging and its ability to feed my vanity.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More Halloween Hangings – Banners 11

Since the last post more colorful Halloween banners have been spotted on my morning walks.

Some on houses:

Others outside classrooms at the neighborhood elementary school:

Just another reminder of what's coming next Friday. Enjoy!