Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bob Dylan Revisited, John Lennon, J. Edgar and thoughts on enjoying life despite the bad stuff

The Times They are a Changin' is such a great song. I think we did change the world in the sixties and seventies with our dissent, but so much is unchanged and scary it amazes me. Yet we have to keep on exercising our right to speak out. And one very important way to do that is voting. The right to vote is so important and the GOP is trying to make it harder for the few people who do vote to have their say. What a woild.

Yesterday we saw a film on Sundance about what John Lennon & Yoko Ono went through when the government tried to deport them. Five years of crazy harassment. J. Edgar Hoover was right up there doing it, as he always seemed to be back them. What Hoover actually did to destroy people's right to dissent--and often their lives--was barely portrayed in Clint Eastwood's movie J. Edgar. None of the true viciousness and vindictiveness of this man was in the film. He was portrayed as being strangely eccentric and driven, but the true nature of the man and the damage he caused to American rights wasn't really shown. See the film The U.S. vs John Lennon to get  a truer picture of what happens when people speak up to power. And it's still going on here today with the brutal treatment of many of the Occupy demonstrators.

It was lucky Lennon was rich and famous and could afford to fight. But what about the rest of us? The Senate just passed a bill that includes the government's right to arrest U.S. citizens who the government thinks are terrorists--and put them in jail with no right to a trial. Who are these guys we elected? Check out this article for how each senator voted for the provision of the bill that allows "United States citizens suspected of terrorism to be held indefinitely, without trial, by the military." Scary stuff indeed.

On the bright side, we saw the play "Ann: an Affection Portrait of Ann Richards," which was such a wonderful reminder that many amazing people are on the side of people's rights. Her friends Mollie Ivens and Barbara Jordan were two others mentioned in the play. The world needs all three of them now as much as it did when they were alive. Heros all.

And our life is good--despite all the other stuff. The U.S. is a great country and Chicago is a great city. We see friends for dinner often. We go to neighborhood Soup Nights. On Wednesdays we go to Andy's for Dixieland music from the Windy City Allstars, such upbeat music--played and sung so well. On the first Monday of the month we go to Katerina's to see Jeannie Lambert, our favorite jazz singer. She sings jazz standards like no one else does. And there's so much more there--Bob Dogan on piano, Petra's Recession Seven doing 20's and 30's music, to name a few.

We go to the opera at the Lyric (so far this season we've seen and enjoyed Boris Gudonov and Ariadne auf Naxos) and at the move theater for MetLive performances (this season we've seen an amazing Siegfried that we thoroughly enjoyed and Satyagraha, which I'm ambivalent about, but glad I saw). For our blues fix, we plan to see Buddy Guy at Legends if he's there in January as he usually is.

Every year Chicago has the free Jazz Festival and Millennium Park free summer concerts with all types of music. There are so many small and large theaters. Art museums. The Cultural Center. There is such a rich life here. We are very lucky.

And most important of all, we have wonderful family and friends to get together with, do those things with, celebrate holidays with and just generally enjoy all year long. The best. All of them.

So it seems surreal sometimes that there is so much anger, brutality, pettiness and greed all around us as we lead our happy life. But there is, and it is. Go figure.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Some thoughts on 60 Minutes and Krugman's NY Times article “Boring Cruel Romantics”

I saw "60 Minutes" last night and was infuriated with Grover Norquist's smug unwillingness to go back to paying the 3% more in taxes that the rich paid in the Clinton years. I have no doubt that he and his cronies can afford to pay it--far more than the people who he wants to make money on by cutting the return on their mandatory investment in social security and medicare all these years.  

Isn't it interesting that the rich are only required to pay into those funds up to their first $108,400 earned? After that, they pay nothing on their earnings. So I can afford to pay on all of my earnings and they can't?  And now he wants to cut our payback instead of paying 3% more in taxes. What about the money you got away with by not paying on all of your earnings, Grover? Wasn't that enough? What a crock.

 I wish I could say to Grover, "then you will not drive on the roads and sidewalks my part of the taxes paid for or walk through my part the halls of the public buildings you work in, or even take my part of the public money you and your cronies make on defense contracts, overpriced meds and healthcare and all the other things you conspire to take out of my part of the taxes I pay. Use your own damn money to build your little world and stay away from the things my taxes pay for.

I read Paul Krugman's article today, "Boring Cruel Romantics" and then read this comment. I could not have said this better, so here is the comment:

Gilding the lily from behind rose-colored glasses must eventually give way to brass tacks. It is cynical, not romantic, to believe that the people must pay for the excesses of banker's manipulations. The GOP stands out for insisting on increasing taxes on the poor. With trillions in their wallets, the banks are driving the economy into the ground just to prove government doesn't work. Right-wing, fascist advocates endlessly blame "left-wing liberals" for all the out and out evils visited on us by their own party. Non, non, mon ami, this is not romanticism, it is dead serious extortion. These guys are not playing. They will take whatever they can get their hands on, and gleefully, laughing at the poor suckers who drink their kool-aid. They love it when factions of the poor blame each other and fight among themselves. The same party which abrogated the Bill of Rights, the Geneva Conventions, the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the criteria of judgment at Nuremberg now claim to support rights and freedom. That's not romanticism, it's bald-faced lies calculated to do damage they can profit from. Old money didn't get that way by being romantic, but by being hard-nosed and selling arms and ammo to every tinpot dictator and drug lord with do-re-mi. They're not responsible for ideals, for ecology, for women and children--whose nutrition programs they just voted to cut. As Napoleon said, "Money has no motherland. Financiers know no patriotism, no decency, only gain." One more quote and I'll spare you.

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country; corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in High Places will follow, and the Money Power of the Country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the People, until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed."
--Abraham Lincoln

Martin Weiss
Mexico, MO
November 21st, 2011
3:24 am

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Some thoughts on Fifth Avenue, 5 a.m., Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's and the Dawn of the Modern Woman by Sam Wasson

NY Times review of Wasson's book

In my book, A Sixties Story, I devoted a good deal of space in the first part of my chapter on New York explaining how "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (B at T) and Audrey Hepburn had influenced my image of what New York was all about. This book explained to me why I felt that way. 

I was only 15 when I saw the movie. I grew up in the age of conformity, aka the fifties. Rock 'n' Roll and I came of age at about the same time, except I was young, probably 10, when it got going for white people. B at T came along at a time in my life when I was questioning who I was and who I wanted to be. I never read the Truman Capote book it was based on, and I'm glad. According to Wasson, the movie was very different from the book, something Capote apparently wasn't happy about, but that difference is what made it so important to the inner workings of my teenage psyche.

I don't remember if I understood why Holly got $50 for trips to the powder room, but I know I didn't care. What mattered to me was that she was incredibly glamorous, lived the glamorous life on her own terms and it looked good on her and ended well. In the movies before B at T that were about free-thinking, free-living women, those women seemed to wind up wise and alone or punished for their sins. Not Holly. Despite her considerable what we would now call "emotional baggage," she found love and understanding and presumably lived happily ever after, at least in my mind.

Fifth Avenue, 5 a.m. is full of anecdotal information that flows like a novel. Wasson is a good writer who did a great deal of credible, solid research and wrote a fine book that covers all the bases. From the memorable stories of how Collette found Audrey and knew instantly that she was Gigi ("Voila, Gigi!"), to the difficulties of putting together a movie with a happy ending about a hooker in fifties America, Wasson weaves his story well. As the Times review says, ""Mr. Wasson approaches his subject from many angles. His book winds up as well-tailored as the kind of little black dress that “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” made famous."" 

At the end of the book there is an interview with founding editor of MS. magazine, Letty Cottin Pogrebin. She is about ten years older than me, I think, and was out of college and working at the time B at T was released. She talks about how after she graduated from college, although she was educated and qualified for many positions available, she could only answer want ads in the Help Wanted-Female section of the paper. So she began her career as a secretary, but soon moved to another publisher and was able to rise in the ranks. 

Pogrebin knew that in order to succeed, it was very important to make the men feel important. One way she devised for doing that was by not making it obvious that a woman was buying them lunch. Knowing that would be hard on their egos, she set up charge accounts with the restaurants. For Pogrebin, Holly Golightly was important because Holly was like her in that she was independent and making her way on her own. And Holly was unapologetic about having sex, which was totally different from how women were taught to be at the time.

I thank women like Pogrebin for their determination. They paved the way for me to have a chance to make it in the business world. Although I didn't experience discrimination that was as bad as she faced, I remember the silence that greeted me at meetings when I spoke and I was made aware that it was harder for me to be taken seriously since I was a woman. As it turned out, because of women like Pogrebin, the business world came around more quickly than many other fields, and women at least had access and a chance. 

I wasn't interested in marriage until my fifties and never wanted children, perhaps in large part because B at T made me aware that I could choose my road. I was also lucky too to have had a single mother who made it on her own and taught me the value of independence and, without her knowing the song, the meaning of "God Bless the Child That's Got His Own." Holly Golightly was a free spirit who lived the way she wanted to and because of her, I knew I could too.

Available at IndieBound and other bookstores online.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Occupy Chicago

Today we went to Occupy Chicago
It was a beautiful late fall afternoon. Occupiers rounded the northeast corner of Jackson and LaSalle Streets. Next to the building, there was a cadre of people in twos and threes . On the street side of the sidewalk was a small clean stand of plastic containers filled with fresh fruit, water and other food. Next to them were boxes filled with handwritten signs on a cardboard and poster board, a few had sticks to hold the signs up. The middle of the sidewalk was left open so people could walk through.

We picked our signs from the box and took our places on the light
metal barricade along the building side. At the corner there was an informal spin area where people with fairly large video cameras interviewed occupiers. People drummed on buckets around the corner from where we were. Often you would hear cars honk, hopefully in support of what we were doing.

The first thing that struck me was that this is a new concept in protest. Occupy is just that. Instead of speakers and chants, songs and bongo drums, like we had in the sixties, there was a wide variety of people holding signs, occupying either side of the sidewalk and talking quietly among themselves or to people who came up and asked questions.

The second thing thing that struck me was that there was one police car parked across the street and a little down the block from where we were. There were no police in uniform visible on the street. This was in stark contrast to the last demonstration I'd been to, which was against the war in Iraq, where speakers spoke through bullhorns to enough people to fill Federal Plaza and chanting broke out intermittently. Police appeared at that demonstration in full riot gear, surrounded the demonstrators and could be seen lining the surrounding blocks.

My question about the Occupy movement has always been, what are we doing? What is the overall goal? Clearly important issues are represented--from taxing the rich, to ending the wars, to fair wages and jobs for the middle class, to getting wall street out of politics, and more. All valid issues.

My main issue for the Occupy movement that we need to reform Wall Street so that they can never again bring the world to its knees by selling fraudulent products and ponzi schemes to an unknowing public. I'm for regulating the financial system, but I'm also for getting the big corporate money out of politics. I'm old enough and cynical enough to know that these things may not happen in my lifetime, but I do believe we must keep trying make them happen.

And I'm also very concerned that a jobs program has been blocked by the Republicans for political reasons while millions of people lose their jobs and homes--and so businesses lose their customers. Something has to break the spiral. People working and spending money will generate consumption so businesses will not be afraid to produce more goods and banks will not be afraid to lend money to businesses. First you need a market--consumers. That's where it starts.

However unfocused the movement my seem, the underlying theme seems to be that it is time to get the middle and lower "classes" on a more fair playing field with the rich. And the feeling harnessed in the Occupy movement has resonated all over the country and the world so it should not be dismissed.

Perhaps it resonates because it doesn't try to focus on a single issue, because it is simply people exercising their right to be dissatisfied and let the world know it. Maybe it isn't the job of the occupiers to have specific solution to all problems, but to let lawmakers--our representatives--know that we see there are problems and we elected them to fix them. And while they are at it, they are not to take advantage of those who aren't rich to do things that only benefit the rich.

We spent some time talking to a young man who was there with a busload of students from his college. The first thing he asked me was, what's a SuperPAC? I'm glad to report that because I'd watched Stephen Colbert give a very good description last week, I was able to talk somewhat intelligently about how they are a way of laundering money before it goes into PACs. PACs are required to disclose their sources of money. SuperPacs are not. So if you give your money to a SuperPac, the SuperPac can give money to a Pac, without disclosing the sources. So it's about transparency, the student responded. Transparency is the issue with the SuperPACs..

Then he asked me what a PAC was. I was a little fuzzier, I'm sorry to say. A political action committee, I could say with some certainty. And I said that PACs were able to sponsor ads with stands on issues. I forgot to mention that PACs lobby Congress furiously and with lots of SuperPAC money backing them up. We didn't get into the recent Supreme Court ruling that corporations can contribute just like people, which seems to admit that corporations vote in our elections--and have power in government. As much as money can buy.

We didn't stay very long. I didn't realize there was a marched planned for 7:00pm, but we probably wouldn't have stayed. We'll be back, I'm sure. I do miss speeches, guitars, bongo drums, singers and chanters. But this is a different movement and it's finding its own way--very successfully--to be heard.Occupy Chicago   Photos are from the Occupy Chicago website.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I decided to put all of these things on the blog so I could link it to FB and Twitter.  I know some of you won't care or already know about them. So, forgive me for the overlap and just skim through those parts that don't interest you.

(1) I just checked the the Occupy Together website and it looks like there's an ongoing demonstration at 230 S. LaSalle. Check it out if you're interested in a list of Chicago events as well as other dates planned in other cities.   
    No arrests planned. After going through the 68 convention, I think peaceful protesting is the most productive.

(2) A Touch of the Poet. An O'Neill play that isn't performed very often. Our friend (and maybe yours), Larry Garner, is in it. Here's a website URL for the play: 

Russ and Jeannie's performances for the next couple of months are:
(3) Jeannie will be at Katerina's on December 5. (Due to a conflict in bookings, Jeannie, our favorite jazz singer--standards are her forte--won't be at Katerina's in November for her regular first Monday of the month gig.)
    In the meantime, visit Jeannie's fantastic brand new website. It's well worth it.

(4)  Russ will be performing with Petra's Recession 7 (a great Dixieland band) at Katerina's on the third Thursday of the month. This is a really good group. If you missed them at the Jazz Festival this year, here's your chance to see them.
    And here's a URL for a live performance of the Recession 7:  

Here' the URL for Katerina's a jazz bar we know and love. We also saw Ponticelli's group there a couple of months ago and loved it.

(5) Russ will be at Andy's with the Windy City All Stars on Wednesdays in November and December, from
5:00pm to 8:30pm. (However, Russ will be at another gig on November 9th.). For those of you who were at our wedding, the Windy City All Stars, featuring Jeannie Lambert as bandleader, was our wedding band at Andys, and a great time was had by all. Lucky for us, Jeannie usually sits in on a couple of tunes with the Windy City All Stars when they are at Andy's. 
    To see the Windy City All Stars playing one of our favorite tunes on YouTube (and the tune that was the recessional at our wedding), go to :

Russ's website is where you can be treated to hearing him on his trombone on great standards from his CDs:

(6) While I'm at it, I have to mention that last week we went to see a great group at a really fun place: The Deep Chicago Rhythm Owls at the California Clipper.
    For a taste of the Owls "eclectic mix of traditional American Roots music," here's a website you can hear them on. (For starters, I recommend Hey, Hey, Daddy Blues):
    The California Clipper is a Chicago bar that shouldn't be missed. It's a beautifully "restored retro cocktail lounge that will take you back to the 1940s." Here's the URL. 
I love the home page:

And, moving on in our eclectic list of events:
(7) Performances we're going to the Lyric:
Boris Gudunov
Ariadne auf Naxos
The Magic Flute
URL for the Lyric:

(8) MetLive performances we're probably going to at Kerasotes City North, 2600 N. Western 
in Chicago:
The Enchanted Island

Hope to see at something. Let us know what you're doing!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This is the beautiful flower that blooms at night in the back yard of our wonderful neighbors across the street. He called us last year to let us know it was blooming and we went over to take this photo. 
We all miss you, Phil. You were the greatest!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

These are photos from our European adventure (and it was a great adventure). The photos bring back such great memories. Mark will be working on the captions. See more on Flickr--you don't have to join.

Denmark Viking Museum

Schoenbrun Glorietta

Berlin Pergamon Museum



Please comment and let us know how they work out.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Russ is always good, well, they all are. Take a moment to enjoy this. It's simply the best.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tom Paxton is telling it like it is.

Thanks to Kathleen for sending this YouTube link. It's so good to know that Tom Paxton and John Prine are still in the game. We decided to show our support for the unions on Saturday. It was great to be with like-minded people. The speakers were inspiring. It's heartening to know that people care.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You Tell Me Your Dream---Salty Dogs of Chicago

With all the serious stuff going on in our lives and the world, I was so happy to run across this great tune from the Salty Dogs. I sure do miss those years when the Windy City Allstars were at Andy's every week playing great Dixieland and lots more. And Kim was in our wedding band. The best ever!

Thanks for sharing the joy!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

When I Rise--a documentary that quietly says it all about the struggle for civil rights

When I Rise is a documentary about Barbara Smith Conrad, a talented woman who was among the first African Americans admitted to the University of Texas at Austin in 1957. This woman, who auditioned for and got the role of of Dido in the opera Dido and Aenaes, was then denied the right to sing by the Texas State Legislature only because of the color of her skin . Her representative to that legislature was the man responsible for having her removed from the role.

Her dignity and courage during that shameful incident and her subsequent successful career and the efforts by that same legislature and university to make it right, is the story that says it all about the struggle for civil rights. If I taught a class, I would use this film. She was raised during a time when African Americans rightfully feared for their lives at the hands of the white people in power. Although there are no dogs or hoses or beatings, it is her story, quietly and beautifully told, that so eloquently says why, to paraphrase what Dr. King said, it is the content of their character, and in Ms. Conrad's case, her absolute talent, by which people should be judged, not the color of their skin.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

mark & toni's blizzard adventure

We made it through the blizzard fine. Our awning ... not so fine.

So there we were, about 11:30pm safe from the raging blizzard outside, drinking wine, staying warm and watching TV, when we heard a loud banging at the front door. When we opened the door we saw our 6 foot by 6 foot awning hanging precariously by one corner and flapping loudly against the door. Suddenly, with a large bang! it fell on the porch. The whole awning was leaning heavily against the front door, making it impossible to open. The wind was howling around it and we didn't want it to blow through someone's window. So Mark was a real hero and had much greater presence of mind than I did. He braved the 50mph winds and driving snow and went out the back door and around the house to the front so that he could move the awning away from the door. Once we had the door open, we ignored the snow and wind and picked up the awning and moved it into the bathroom, dripping wet. Each time we passed the bathroom we marvelled that we had our awning in our bathroom. It's by the side of the house now and we're thinking the garbage men will take it away next week. The house looks a little bare without it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt -- a people's protest

This is so incredible--I am watching live coverage of what's going on in Egypt. Seventeen police stations were looted and all the weapons were stolen. So the police, who were attacking the demonstrators, are gone. The army arrived and was cheered by the protesters. What is amazing to me is that at this point the army has not attacked the protestors or the looters in the wealthy areas. The protestors are sitting on the tanks. Soldiers are talking and mingling with the protesters.

Two days ago, digital media and TV were cut off by Mubarek, but the protest goes on. A reporter said there are hundreds of thousands people in and around the main square. Some of them are camping out.

Mubarek refuses to leave and has appointed two of his old guard as Vice Presidents, which is to the protesters simply a reshuffling of the deck, so no one is leaving. And since the army has not attacked, there is a peaceful protest. In the sixties and seventies, I always said that when the police arrived, we knew there would be trouble. This seems to prove that.

The people want freedom of speech and free elections.

We have seen these relatively peaceful (48 people have been killed) protests succeed. The whole world is watching and several governments have publicly supported peaceful protests and more freedom and free elections in Egypt. They have not said directly that Mubarek must leave--and politically they can't. The biggest unknown is who would replace Mubarek and would his government support the peace agreement with Israel.

Israel is appropriately silent. They have the most to lose if the peace agreement is not upheld by a new government. If the muslim brotherhood takes power--they are the largest organized political party in Egypt--the peace agreement probably goes. The other question is what would happen to access to the Suez Canal, through which 35,000 ships passed last year.

Despite those unknowns, I am so heartened by this. I thought the army would brutally repress the people, and they still might, but they haven't yet and that is so amazing.

Power to the people takes on meaning in this protest. All of it resonates so fully with the protests we had in the sixties. The issues are not the same. We wanted to stop a war. But we were also fighting for the right to peacefully protest. We were repressed by the police and the national guard, but we kept on. Yemen and Jordan also have protests, which no one is reporting in any depth. Tunisia has already succeeded in getting rid of their president. I hope these protests produce more freedom for people in all of the Middle East countries. As a woman, I identify fully with women's struggle for equal rights in the Middle East. Women fought for 100 years in our country to get where we are now. They deserve the same rights we have.

Dec. 6 book reading--I couldn't upload the video here, but it's on FB

I couldn't upload the video of the reading I did at Katerina's during my book launch. I did upload it successfully to my Facebook A Sixties Story page, so you can see it there. The camera work is shaky at first, but then it settles down. Katerina is on after I read--don't miss her. She's great. And she was so wonderful to let me have my book launch at my favorite jazz club.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fourth graders remember the I Have a Dream speech ... don't miss this

These fourth graders are wonderful. This brought tears to my eyes. Dr. King would have loved this tribute to his words.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2011 a new year

Our old year moved into the new with a soundtrack provided by TV concerts. Bette Midler, the Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra and a symphony helped us ring in the new year. It was a great evening. We realized it was our twelfth New Year's Eve together. Our first was the one when 1999 went to 2000. As Mark says, our love spans the millenniums.

Mark and I are so looking forward to his retirement at the end of February. We say it'll be a lifelong weekend from then on. It's been a long time coming. Fifty years of working and saving and putting money in social security and now we will have time to enjoy it. Chicago is such an amazing city. We have so many free and affordable things to do--and so many that are a worthwhile splurge.

We had a taste of it this weekend. Friday night we saw the Mikado at the Lyric's fabulous opera house. We so enjoyed it. Even from the top of the top balcony, acoustics are great and the staging and costumes are easy to see. We thought Stephanie Blythe stole the show. It was funny and smart. We always go to the free lecture earlier. I'm new to opera, so the information is welcome. If you go to, you can hear and see parts of this wonderful production.

More enjoying Chicago on Saturday. We stopped at the Fine Wine Brokers for their Saturday wine tasting. It was so informative and we got a couple of special wines and one for the great dinner we had at Due Lire. We had a little time so we stopped at the Fiddlehead Cafe for an after-dinner drink.  Then we saw The King's Speech and really enjoyed it. As one who hates public speaking, I was on the edge of my seat through this courageous king's battle to overcome his stammer. I recommend it. And it was good to see the Davis Theater theater lobby crowded. We went to the 7:30pm showing and it was packed.

People have been getting in touch with me with their sixties stories, which I've so enjoyed. It makes me feel like I was right to want to keep the sixties alive by writing about them. The more people write their stories down or tell them, the better people will know about what happened. Not only do we all have stories of crazy adventures, we have the memories of what we believed in. As a friend of mine says, we changed the dress code and a lot more than that. Among other things, we wanted to create more tolerance for each other's differences in this land where tolerance is a cornerstone of what it stands for.

It's discouraging that these days, tolerance towards each other's differences of opinion seems to be very hard to find. I woke up this morning to the news of the horrible shootings yesterday. It seems surreal that during the same day we enjoyed so much, so many lives were shattered. No reason could ever justify this. Only a crazy person does these things. But a crazy person can get ideas from things that are said--and some violent things have been said in politics lately. In this country, where we should be able to disagree with each other without killing each other, that seems to be blurred of late, particularly in the extreme right wing and fundamentalist rhetoric. The price of intolerance is too high.