Congratulations Bob! I first published this on his birthday:
Bob Dylan turned 75 yesterday. Spotify and I are honoring him this morning, playing one masterpiece (When I Paint My…) after another. Just now, up came Mr. Tambourine Man*. I felt myself driving through Pittsburgh’s Liberty Tubes with the music as loud as it could get in a Corvair, singing and dreaming; hoping for a fraction of the vision and gift he offered us.
I’m five years and three days younger. He belongs to me. He spoke to me then and he still does. Then it was hope and there’s lots of that to this day. Today, though, it’s tempered with the knowledge and experience gained in the 51 years lived since the song appeared on Bringin’ It All Back Home. All the dreams and disappointment, the innocence and the learning, the love and the pain. It’s all here:
Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow
More than the brilliant political songs that became anthems for all of us, this one remains in my heart. Happy birthday Bob.
*Played 15 million times on Spotify alone…
“How the hell do we get out of here?” That dilemma evoked our plea to a kind guide at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence – “Where’s the door?”
Her answer: check above.
There are two major parts of the David experience here in Florence: Seeing the amazing creation that emerged from Michelangelo’s imagination when he was just 25 years old, and watching the incredible responses of each individual in the overwhelming sea of visitors who had joined us there.
Tattoos, weird clothes, tee shirts with funny pictures on them, pink hair, long hair, scruffy hair, sticker-saturated computers — and brilliance, geek humor, and deep respect for one another over generation, gender, gender identification, religion and race: that was what I saw last week at the Internet Archive Decentralized Web Summit* — called partly to discuss the technology and ethical questions behind an increasingly centralized Web.
I kept thinking all weekend about this diverse crew of genius conference attendees as the horror of the Orlando shootings unfolded. With it will come the inevitable racial and religious generalizations and this international crew of brainiacs included probably 20% who, because of name or skin color or accent face a higher likelihood of reflexive suspicion, potential online monitoring, extra security checks at airports, and frightened glances in elevators, Starbuck’s and movie lines.
Over the next weeks and months, we must decide how our country should respond to what is clearly an increasing threat, especially since mainstream security experts have implied a need for more surveillance, not only in person and through interviews but also online.
I have no answers and am barely fluent in the technologies powering these surveillance tools so there’s very little I can add either to this question or the sad jeopardy into which it may place so many of my new conference friends. For me though, it’s another – and very important – ripple in the pool of our outrage.
We are bringing together a diverse group of Web architects, activists, engineers, archivists, scholars, journalists, and other stakeholders to explore the technology required to build a Decentralized Web and its impact.
Call to action
The current Web is not private or censorship-free. It lacks a memory, a way to preserve our culture’s digital record through time. The Decentralized Web aims to make the Web open, secure and free of censorship by distributing data, processing, and hosting across millions of computers around the world, with no centralized control.
NOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ve reposted a milestone post each day. But since tomorrow is The Day I went back and grabbed a bunch of photos – watching years fly by. Here they are – in no particular order.
NOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ll reprise a milestone post here each day until the end of May. Today – from July 9, 2008
From the day Richard Nixon was nominated in 1968 until Tuesday afternoon, forty years later, when John McCain began running this “Love” commercial, Republicans have been running against us. All of us who share a history of opposing the Vietnam war and working to elect an anti-warpresident. Against everything we ever were, believed, dreamed, voted for, marched against, volunteered to change, spoke about, created, sang, wrote, painted, sculpted or said to one another on the subway or the campus or anyplace else from preschool parent nights to Seders to the line at the supermarket.
How is it possible that what we tried to do is still the last best hope to elect a Republican? They used it against John Kerry. They used it against Max Cleland. They did it every time (well, almost) they were losing policy battles in the Clinton years. They called CSPAN and said unspeakable things. And now they are using the history of people my side of sixty to run against a man who was, if my math is right, seven years old during this notorious “summer of love” which – I might add, had nothing to do with those of us working to end the war. In fact, there were two strands of rebellion in those years. The Summer of Love/Woodstock folks and the political, anti-war activists.
At the 1967 National Student Association Convention in Maryland, I saw a room full of students boo Timothy Leary off the stage, literally. We didn’t want to “turn on, tune in, drop out” we wanted to organize against the war. The anti-war movement was not a party. I know that’s not a bulletin but it is so hard to see all of us reduced to a single mistaken stereotype. Those who chose to find a personal solution weren’t nuts; communes and home-made bread were a lot more immediate gratification than march after march, teach-in after teach-in, speech after speech. “If you’re goin’ to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” Tempting, romantic – and not us.
Even more painful is the fact that the cultural and political divide is still so intense that research (I assume) told the McCain guys that this commercial would work. That our patriotic, committed efforts to change our country’s path, and the cultural alienation that drove others toward the streets of San Francisco, combine to become a stronger motivator than all the desperate issues we face today, this side of those 40 years. Perhaps even worse, these Bush years have dismantled so many of the successes we did have, so that in addition to facing, yet again, this smear against the activism of 1968 (and I repeat, that wasforty years ago — longer than most of the bloggers I know have been alive) there’s the awareness of what we did that has been undone.
I need to say here that I grew up on the shores of the Monongehela River in Pittsburgh and my classmates were kids who mostly went into
the steel mills or the Army after high school. I knew plenty of supporters of the war. I went to prom and hung out at the Dairy Queen with them. But it never occurred to me to demonize them, to hold against them their definition of patriotism.
I’m not writing off or looking down upon those who did support the war; I’m saying that this cynical, craven abuse of the devotion of people on
both sides to the future of their country is reprehensible and precisely the kind of behavior that has broken the hearts of so many Americans, on those both sides of the political spectrum, who just want their candidates to lead us in hope for what our country can be, not defame others whose dreams aren’t quite the same as theirs.
NOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ll reprise a milestone post here each day until the end of May. Today – from September 17, 2007.
Not to be too obscure here but think about this: Marcel Proust’s REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PASTwas inspired by the scent of one cookie (a fancy one called a Madeline.) Sense memory is a powerful thing.
I saw Tom Jones 44 years ago, with my high school “film club.” The club was just 6 seniors and our creative writing teacher. Our mill town high school wasn’t a culture haven but this young teacher was. He handwrote Irwin Shaw short stories onto “ditto sheets” because there was no budget for the books, started a literary magazine (I was the editor, naturally) took us to Shakespeare performances and — started the film club. At first we rented films (screened on a projector in his classroom) and then moved on to evening journeys “downtown” to local art houses. We saw LA STRADA and THE SEVENTH SEAL, SUNDAYS AND CYBELE and SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER — and TOM JONES. The films were so intelligent, so clearly different from the “movies” we saw on our own; the theaters served espresso andeveryone was smoking. How sophisticated we felt!
This morning as I watched this nearly half-century old film – still funny and charming even though the playful sexual innuendo recalls a more tender time, that 18-year-old girl I’d been came back – all of her. I didn’t know whether to be sad — miss all that I was then – all that’s changed — lost — or just plain passed – or to be grateful for the remarkable kaleidoscope of experiences that my life has been. From the adventure of a 36 year old marriage to the joy of raising two of the most spectacular young men on the planet to presences at royal weddings and presidential inaugurations, travel all over the world and great music experiences to a gentle childhood with talents acknowledged and appreciated to memorable private moments at weddings, bar mitzvahs, graduations and other celebrations with family and friends, a lot has contributed to the wiser woman I am today. I know there’s no way to live the life I’ve lived – or any other – without losing some of the shiny stuff of youth but even so it’s a shock when awareness of those losses lands on you in the middle of an unambiguously optimistic movie 44 years old.
Here’s what I think: there isn’t a person on the planet (despite Edith Piaf) who has no regrets. Recalling days that seem idyllic is a privilege – many haven’t got many to recall. Sadness about the joys of the past emerges only from an accumulated reservoir of happiness that is a blessing in itself. As Auntie Mame used to say“Life is a banquet, and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death.” My sisters and I swore we would live by that.
I’ve tried – and I’m still trying. That’s why this blog is called Don’t Gel Too Soon. Wherever that 18 year old film fiend has gone, parts of her are still part of me – informing and enlivening the person I’ve become. The real challenge in this portion of my life is to hang onto the enthusiasm and curiosity of those years – never freezing in place. The last line in Tom Jones, one of my favorite anywhere, was written by John Dryden – way before movies or even radio. It still works though, and I offer its wisdom for us all. “Happy the man, and happy he alone, he who can call today his own; he who, secure within, can say, tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.”
NOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ll reprise a milestone post here each day until the end of May. Today – from September 10, 2008. This post appears now because it’s about demagogues and politics and the Indiana primary is today.
Of course by now we’ve all seen this.
I wrote much of what appears below without knowing just how to begin it – and those wacky Republicans solved my problem. The response to this boilerplate Obama statement was to issue a vicious attack accusing him of sexism because of Palin’s convention speech “lipstick/hockey mom/pitbull” quote. This despite the fact that the metaphor has often been used by Republicans including Dick Cheney – to say nothing of John McCain – look here:
The McCain campaign, not only in its choice of Sarah Palin but in how they use her, is leaning on very scary tactics that are similar to the successful exploitation of voters illustrated by some of the mostmemorable characters in American political films. Watch this trailer for Tim Robbins’ Bob Roberts; see if it isn’t more familiar than you wish:
Creepy, isn’t it? A demagogue making his way to the top by lying about his opponent and manipulating the alienation of the American people for his own ends. That could never happen in real life, right?
It’s so depressing — and enraging — to watch this campaign peddling pseudo-folksiness to win over its public. It’s time for that to stop working in our country. Stakes are too high to permit us (or the press) to fall for the most approachable (and least honest) over the most excellent.
Finally, remember Robert Penn Warren’s remarkable novel, clearly based on Louisiana’s Huey Long – All the King’s Men? It portrays a politician on his path to becoming a dangerous demagogue. Yeah, I know it’s melodramatic but does it feel at all familiar?
Clearly we should consider these archetypal characters as cautionary tales; instructive representations of our future if we allow this kind of campaigning to prevail. Movies are our largest export (unless video games have taken over while I wasn’t looking) and often reflect, if not our truths, at least our ghosts, shadows and neuroses. It gave us The Body Snatchers in the 50’s, Easy Rider in the 60’s and Working Girl and Wall Street in the 80’s. It’s easy to be seductive, to manipulate language and truth; easy to pretend to be one of the people in order to win them. The vicious, craven strategies of this campaign – and Sarah Palin herself – are perfect examples; John McCain, whom I used to admire, has allowed, no encouraged, this shameful campaigning in his name and surrendered all the positions of principal that he once held. If we don’t want (another) Bob Roberts (He does remind me of GWBush) or a cynical populist pretender or a MS Wilie Stark as our government, it’s up to use to exercise vigilance and fierce commitment to fight off these transparent manipulations and to ensure that it does not happen.
NOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ll reprise a milestone post here each day until the end of May. Today – from April 17, 2007.
Saturday night we went to my friend Rona’s 60th birthday party in LA. The photo is me, Rona and our Today Show colleague Coby. It was really fun – how often does Famous Amos bake you cookies and Brian Wilson sing to you on a Bel Air tennis court turned party heaven? How often do you see photos of yourself, your friend and your husband at Today Show shoots and crazy parties? And how often, in the unexpected chill of an April Los Angeles evening, do you see a pile of blankets for guests that includes the one you made their now 14-year-old son when he was born?
I’ve written about Rona before but Saturday night was a real reminder of the nature of a gifted friend. She asked everyone to stand up. Those who knew her 5 years or less, sit down. Then ten years. Then fifteen. We were feeling pretty cocky since we were in the 20 years or less category – until we saw how many people – from New York, DC, Hawaii, San Francisco, LA and God knows where else – were standing at 30 – and even 40 years! And Rick and I knew many of them; we’d been to birthday parties or holiday events or just dinner with them over the years. I once heard someone quote Wendy Wasserstein as saying that you could judge someone’s character by how well they kept their friends. In that as in so many other ways she was a star.
On the tables were CDs for all of us – with a photo of her at Woodstock on the cover (one that I’d used in our 20 year anniversary piece (it was really great) to close it out. Sunday I was driving around LA while my husband was at his conference so I stuck the CD into the player. The next thing I knew I was driving down the 10 Freeway in tears — not sweet little showers but huge wracking sobs. Not really sadness, it was more a recognition of all the treasured time that has passed – of how much I loved so much of it and how real it still feels to me. I’ve never read Remembrance of Things Past but I’m told that the entire epic emerges from memories evoked from the smell of a Madeline (a kind of French cookie – they sell them at Starbucks I think.)
Well each song – Van Morrison or Bob Dylan or Paul Simon or Marvin Gaye took me someplace. The thing is – sad as I was, I was also absurdly grateful to have the memories and moments so powerfully evoked by the music. Not until I hit 60 did I realize you really DO get older – that some things are in the past for good. When the music is there, though, nothing’s really gone. Memories and senses arise in all their glory and float me back where I came from. Not for long – and not entirely – but enough to remind me of the privileges of my life and the wonders of life itself. Corny but oh so true – music brings the gift of memory and joy. Yet another thing to thank birthday girl Rona for adding to my life. Happy birthday one more time, my sister.
NOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ll reprise a milestone post here each day until the end of May. Today – from October 16, 2006
I’ve never been to CBGB OMFUG. Why do I care about a punk music club whose entrance was always spattered with graffiti and most of whose musical appearances were by people I knew almost nothing about — except Bruce Springsteen [he wrote this with Patti Smith] , Patti Smith [two favorites: People Have the Power, Peaceable Kingdom], Joan Jett [I Love Rock and Roll] and a few others? (I don’t t know the lore all that well – but it always seemed to me that women really got a crack at center stage at CBGB.) I think it was just nice to see it there – waving its fist in the air. It has closed – maybe to reopen, maybe not – and I’m just kind of sad to see it losing its lease to what some have called “the suburbification of Manhattan.”
Patti Smith, whom I had the honor to meet at last year’s Media Reform conference in St. Louis, was a real CBGB heroine and I felt, meeting her, a deep connection. We’re the same age. She’s a heartbreakingly honest person who lost her husband way too soon (and wrote People Have the Power partly at his instigation) — a mom and a singular human soul. The music she made was remarkably articulate (she is a poet after all) and inspiring. I’ve linked above to two of my favorites — one of which, People Have the Power, was an anthem of the Vote for Change election tour in 2004.
So what do the final days of a gritty music club where I never went have to do with my life as an observant Jew? Believe it or not – plenty. Both of them were fascinating universes I always observed from the outside and wondered about. Both stood for making one’s own way to truth. That search has taken me, for some reason I’m still grappling with, to the Orthodox Jewish community where I’ve found a home and spirit that brings a new kind of meaning to my life.
At my last big birthday I complained to a friend about my age and her response was “but you’re completely reborn in this new life – you’re not old AT ALL!” In some ways she’s right. I certainly feel that there’s a universe I’m traveling through that’s new, moving, inspiring and mysterious. Sometimes though it’s also a pain. For the past several weeks, from Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) to the end of Simchas Torah (Ending the annual, week-by-week reading of the Torah: the five books of Moses – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and beginning again) the holidays consumed days of time: in synagogue, inviting guests to meals and going to meals at friends, building and dismantling a sukkah and observing the prohibition on driving and work. Since this year many of these days fell on weekends it meant NO catching up on work on Sundays and no farmer’s market. (two weird examples, I admit.) Since it’s the end of tomato season that last was sad though not critical to the future of the human race or my household.
Even so, all these small requirements, which I try to follow since I’ve made this commitment, can consume time and tax serenity and spirituality. I’ve come to love the prohibition on the Sabbath and enjoy the quiet days reading, taking walks, visiting, napping and sharing ideas. But the surrender to and acceptance of all these rules is a peculiar experience and I grapple with it daily. Even so, the quest, like that of the young rebels who put CBGB on the map, is a great adventure – and the learning is exhilarating.
Go listen to People Have the Power whether this post makes sense or not. It will make you happy on a Monday – although that’s easier here today since it’s the third amazingly gorgeous fall day in a row – with leaves turning and leaf smells beginning to fill the air. Which, I just realized, takes us right back to faith and gratitude for the world’s beauty when it shows up.
NOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ll reprise a milestone post here each day until the end of May. Today – from August 24, 2006
OK – so I should be used to it by now. I’ve been — as I often say, a walking demographic Baby Boomer as long as I can remember. But on this morning after the re-opening of THE FANTASTICKS* – which ran off-Broadway for 42 years, I read “adults 55+ adapting online.” Of course they are — sooner or later whatever I’m doing becomes part of a generational wave.
Don’t worry – there IS a connection.
I saw THE FANTASTICKS with my college room mate and her mother during fall vacation of my freshman year. That was 1964 – four years after it opened. At the end, all of 18, I was crying so hard that the woman sitting next to me – probably 25 or so – handed me the rose her date must have given her at dinner. I kept it on the wall of my room for years.
El Gallo — the irresistible seducer and originator of the “hurt’ without which “the heart is hollow” — was first played by Jerry Orbach. [hear him sing Try to Remember here.] I met him when I was close to 50 – and told him I’d seen the show when I was 18. His face just changed – not a trace of Lennie Briscoe but a combination of affection, nostalgia and pleasure. We spoke a bit more and then I apologized for approaching him at a reception and acting like a groupie. He replied “You saw the Fantasticks when you were EIGHTEEN! That wasn’t an interruption that was a pleasure.” So I guess the story had the same impact on the cast that it had on girls like me. “Please God please,” the young girl (“the girl”) cries out – “don’t let me be NORMAL!” That was me alright. Please let me be singular – not like the others!
Well it hasn’t turned out that way. Whatever I come to, my peers hit within a year or so. It made me a great talk show producer – never a visionary too far ahead to be relevant, just enough ahead to know what story to do next. I guess that’s why I accommodated to my role as close enough to normal but with an edge — rather than the downtown woman I had once wished to be.
I know about this headlong Boomer journey online because my older son, in the industry, had read a similar study. Last weekend I told him that I seemed to be getting a lot more online consulting work and his theory was that companies need boomer consultants more because more “civilian” boomers are finally hitting the web. I always knew we would; the tribe that is the baby boom loves to be connected. The web was a perfect home for us. Just like THE FANTASTICKS.
*OK Feminist friends, there’s an element of sexism in this original fairy tale (they’ve rewritten the only really troubling song) but I have chosen to ignore it. It just can’t trump the wonder and poetry.