Winnie the Pooh and the very big brain

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 26, 2017 10:16 PM

My hatred of exclamation points is a running joke amongst both my friends and my clients. As a writer, I feel that if you need to tell someone something is important, then maybe it isn’t. If you need to shout READ ME, maybe it’s not written very well. Everyone who deals with me on a professional basis learns this very quickly. It is something I bring up often in the first conversation about a project as I seek to learn more about what they need, what they want, what they like and don’t like. I will tell them, especially if they’ve sent me drafts done prior to me, drafts littered with exclamation points, that we can do better. The words should be exciting and powerful and compelling enough that when someone reads them they get all of the wow without needing the scream at the end. Without needing the “!”

Writers who resort to exclamation points, in my humble opinion, are lazy. The exception - and there is one - is something that’s purposefully tongue in cheek. The other exception - so there are two - is email, text, and social media communication. These latter are often in place of a phone call where the person or persons on the other end can hear your voice inflection; can tell if you’re joking or having fun. Exclamation points in emails, texts, and social media serve, then, as stand-ins for emotion. Throw in an emoticon or bitmoji and it’s a complete conversation.

Bad writing is not the only place where exclamation points presage the awfulness. It happens in film, too. The movies of Oliver Stone come to mind. His films are the cinematic equivalence of exclamation points, in my opinion. Every time I’ve seen one, I always feel like I’ve been hit in the head with a baseball bat. Pay attention. This is important. LEE HARVEY OSWALD DID NOT ACT ALONE. !!

Michael Moore’s films are like this, too. Though to his credit, he’s more open about acknowledging it.

Which leads me to Winnie the Pooh. Stay with me. I promise I’ll make a connection.

A.A. Milne, the creator and writer of Winnie the Pooh, his band of cohorts in the Hundred Acre Wood, and all of their fabulous adventures. Whether he meant to or not, Milne imbedded a fabulous philosophy inside the yellow bear as well as and sometimes even more inside his best friend, Piglet.

Winnie the Pooh was not a smart bear. He was, by his own admission, a bear possessing a very small brain. But from that brain came profound statements. 

“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”

There is currently something flaccid and yellow in the White House. I can’t call him a bear because it’s an insult to bears. That White House creature finds it necessary to tell everyone all the time how smart he is, how he has the best words, the best education, the most standing ovations, the highest IQ, the biggest brain.


He is the walking equivalent of a subhuman exclamation point. Every time he exclaims something absurd, trying so hard to tell us all, SHOUT AT US, that he is the best human being to ever be created, I feel rage and revulsion. And I feel sad.

Then I remember Pooh. Humble in his wisdom, confident in his place in the world. Accepted for who he is. It makes me understand what a truly big brain is. It’s honest. And that’s something to celebrate.

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Shelter in place

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 19, 2017 8:13 PM

It’s not uncommon for us to see a lot of creatures up here on the hill. During the summer, many tend to be of the reptilian variety but now that we’re heading, albeit slowly, into fall and cooler temperatures, the warm blooded animals of the desert are reappearing. This morning, we had a desert rabbit just outside the bay window in the master bathroom and just above the drive. As we walked west with the dog, we encountered a mama javelina and her little javelin-ette. They were standing in the road, staring right at us, daring us to come forward. We stopped, they continued frozen. Finally Kevin put his hands up in the air as if to say “WTF?” and the baby nudged the mom – “Come on, mom, let’s goooooo!” – and she turned and off they trotted into the desert south.

Further down, there were two deer in amongst the rocks of a wash. We stopped to look, they looked back. Then we continued on and we assume they continued to forage for food. 

On the way back, the deer were gone, but we encountered another single javelina in the road. Normally, these animals travel in packs so it was odd. We stopped, Riley whined, and then this one lumbered across and disappeared into the desert north. 

We continued on our walk, finally ascending the road that leads to our house. We do this walk four to five times a week, always taking Sundays off – the day of rest, we jokingly call it – and often Wednesdays. If it’s particularly hot or we’re too tired or it’s too late, we don’t go. The last climb is difficult and though we’ve been making it now for some two and a half years, it never gets easier. We get to the top and we are always winded, tired. In the summers, sweating profusely. We tell ourselves that it’s good exercise, that the dog needs his walk, both of which are true. But the real truth is that we’d both probably never do it again if we had our druthers. 

Druthers is such an interesting word isn’t it? I love that word.

I digress.

As we started across the driveway toward the front door and thus sanctuary and coffee, we heard a strange noise from above. It didn’t quite sound like a bird; we thought perhaps it was some type of cat, maybe a mountain lion or a bobcat. We don’t see them often but we know they do haunt the hills. We stopped and listened, and then, over the rocks to the east, came a single deer. She leaped down and across other rocks, then slowed as she picked her way through the cactus. 

It’s not unusual for us to have deer above the house. It happens fairly regularly though we haven’t seen any recently. This one stopped above us, ears pointed and twitching. We watched and said “hi,” as we often do. When Riley started to whine, I brought him in the house, and shortly thereafter, Kevin followed. 

From the kitchen window, we could see her. She moved slightly toward the west, then stopped behind a saguaro and turned back to the east, so still she could have been a statue. Kevin got his camera and we watched through the zoom lens. We could see her muscles twitch, her breathe in and out. It seemed that she was either waiting for the rest of here friends or family to join her, or, if there had been a cat, she had gotten away and the word in the herd was to always shelter in place.

She stood there for at least 45 minutes, maybe closer to an hour. We kept waiting for others to appear. We scanned the hillside with binoculars, looking for movement, signs of more. We never did find any and eventually we had to go to work. When we came back for coffee a while later, she was gone into the desert.

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And, doves

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 18, 2017 8:11 PM

When I was a baby, my grandmother gave me a silver chain with a silver dove on the end. I don’t remember getting this gift, but I remember the necklace and wore it for years. I went through a phase in my teens where I preferred gold so I stopped wearing the dove and eventually forgot about it. The serpentine chain curled up into an odd spiral and sat wedged in the bottom of my jewelry box. I went through college and then moved west. My jewelry box and my dove traveled with me.

At some point, I got my left ear pierced again so that I had two holes in that lobe. For a while in the 80s I wore the big, dangly, wild earrings that went with the big hair of the era. When I was just around the house, though, I tended toward small studs in each ear. I was forever looking for something that would be interesting for that second hole. And then I remembered the dove on the serpentine chain. I found my old jewelry box, long stuffed under the sink in the bathroom, unraveled the chain to remove the charm, and inspected the now tarnished silver dove. It was as I remembered it. I was still wearing mostly gold so I had an idea: have another made in gold. I found a jeweler who would do just that, and within weeks I had a duplicate dove in 18 karat gold. I slipped it onto a small gold loop earring and wore it nearly every day. I still have it and still wear it regularly. It’s not necessarily sentimental even though my grandmother has now been gone for some time. It’s more nostalgia. And I actually like it. It brings me peace. Funny how a small talisman can do that.

This morning, from the bedroom, we could see there were birds on the railing just outside the breakfast nook. From our room, we have a view nearly straight through the house. One bird became two became three and soon a dozen, probably more. As we got up and inched quietly toward the great room, we could see they were doves. Some were sitting on the railing, some were in our planters, with four alone sitting in our lantana, nestled amongst the pink and purple and orange blossoms.

We had never seen so many birds, let alone doves sitting on our deck at one time. We have a number of doves that we watch flitting through the desert, landing on an ocotillo or a saguaro. We wonder how they do that – how any bird does that – without impaling themselves. They bob and peck their way across the driveway and the road. They coo. But to see all of them there at once was a sight.

Riley decided he wanted to see, too, but we called him back and made him sit while we crept ever closer to try to take pictures before they flew off. We got a couple, and then they were gone, leaving small downy feathers in their wake.

Doves symbolize peace. They have long appeared in religions from Judaism to Christianity to Paganism. They are depicted by the military and pacifist groups alike. Ultimately, they are a symbol of innocence, gentleness and freedom. They represent what is good and right and beautiful in the world.

In this time of constant outrage and fear, of continuing stress and angst, I choose to embrace that. Perhaps that’s why the dove from my grandmother has been with me so long, has traveled with me, has lasted some 50 plus years. Hope endures. It’s something to hold onto because even when it flies away, it eventually returns and that’s something to celebrate.

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Along the Silverado Trail

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 11, 2017 8:29 PM

The Silverado Trail runs mostly north, from just northwest of downtown Napa. You get to it off Trancas Street. It’s a long, glorious road, lined on either side by wineries and acre after acre sporting row after row of grapes. It is the official red grape growing region of Napa Valley and includes the famous Stag’s Leap district of 20 wineries and some 1200 planted acres of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Zinfandel, and even a little Chardonnay. There are actually 2700 total acres in the area, and wineries include Baldacci, Chimney Rock, Hartwell, Pine Ridge, Silverado, Stag’s Leap and more. A 1973 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon took top honors in red at the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting made famous by the fabulous film Bottle Shock. 

We have spent many a lovely day wandering up and down the Trail, meandering through tree lined drives to get to wineries in order to taste wines, and undoubtedly, to buy some as well. For Bobbi’s 50th birthday, we rented a phenomenal house on top of a hillside, surrounded by 25 acres of planted grapes, and visited Chimney Rock, Stag’s Leap, Baldacci, Hartwell, and Pine Ridge to name just a few. I think we could have all lived happily up there for the rest of our lives. A stunning view, surrounded by deep red wine; where the hills roll and fold into one another and the weather is glorious. 

I am a wine lover and have been since first discovering Napa in the mid-1980s. It is a passion that has only grown. My husband shares this passion, as do our best friends in the world, Roy and Bobbi. There is something about being amongst the vineyards and in the wineries, about the musty smell of grapes fermenting, the dedication of those who make wine. There is pride there, rightfully so. Wine, to us, is art. It is exquisitely crafted for bouquet, color, and taste. It flows into a glass, leaving long “legs” in its wake. To me – to all of us – it’s food, something to be tasted and savored, explored and celebrated. As the Italians say, in Latin, in vino veritas. In wine, truth. 

For the last several days, I have watched in horror as the vineyards and wineries of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino have exploded in flames. I have read the stories of workers standing next to wine makers and owners, trying desperately to save their structures, their wine aging in wooden barrels; their grapes. Several of our favorites have been destroyed including Signorello, off of the Silverado Trail. 

I don’t know what makes one building susceptible while another nearby survives. It’s not important anyway. Regardless, the destruction, the devastation – the fear is visceral and real. 

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been there, because I consider Napa and Sonoma, indeed wine country, one place where I feel most at home; maybe it’s that I remember the feeling of peace that I experienced when we were there. It’s something that’s hard to find these days, and now it’s made even harder. 

California’s wine industry contributes $57 billion to the state’s economy and is responsible for 325,000 jobs. It’s also produces great, lasting, liquid art. My heart breaks for those who have lost their homes and their livelihoods, for those who have lost loved ones, including pets.

I watch the flames and weep.

Tonight I remember driving along the Silverado Trail and marveling at its absolute, unassaulted beauty. I celebrate that memory and send my love to one of my favorite areas on the country. Tonight, I’m raising a glass.

Leaf peeping

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 9, 2017 10:00 PM

I grew up in the North East and never appreciated it. I understood there was history but didn’t care because I was young and stupid. Living near Boston, I should have embraced the legacy of the Kennedys, visited the presidential library, but at that point in my life I wasn’t very political. I don’t think I even really thought about what political party I gravitated toward. All I cared about was me, as most kids do. 

The winters were brutal. Cold, miserable, sloppy, and gray. By the time March would roll around, I was pretty much done with the whole place. Then spring would come and everything was green, and the flowers would bloom, and my lilacs would grow wild along the roadways. It made it OK, even though there was often humidity and mosquitos. There was also poison ivy. But everything was dense and green, almost tropical in a thick pine and maple tree sort of way. 

Then came fall. Suddenly the lush and thick green became a virtual Crayola box of colors. Yellows, golds, oranges, reds, and every combination imaginable. The trees would start slowly, almost tentatively, as if they weren’t quite ready to let go of their chlorophyll. They hesitated. Then, once they embraced the inevitable, they turned themselves over to nature and New England especially, an area that is mostly white (save for parts of Massachusetts) became densely, prolifically colored. It was breathtaking. 

I never paid much attention. But my mother did and does. Every year. As do a huge majority of individuals throughout the country, and maybe even the world. Fall is peak tourist season in New England as the masses descend (ascend?) for what is known as leaf peeping. 

When I first heard that term, I thought it had to be a uniquely New England, like wicked and ah-yup. The fact is, no one really knows the origin of the term though it could have something to do with momijigari. Momijigari is a Japanese custom, the word formed from momiji, or red leaves, and kari, or hunting. Hunting for red leaves. It is a Japanese tradition of going to visit areas where the leaves have turned, said to have begun in the Heian era which ran from 794 to 1185. I would think the journey was made on foot, perhaps by horse. Today, the journey is made via car or SUV, perhaps after flying into Boston’s Logan International Airport or Manchester, New Hampshire, or Portland, Maine and renting a car. Of course, there is also leaf peeping to be peeped across the country. In Colorado, Montana, Northern California. Here in Southern Arizona, we get Ocotillo Peeping when the tiny leaves on our ocotillo cactus bleed red. 

I didn’t appreciate the leaves when I lived back east. They were pretty. They fell to the ground and needed to be raked. Blah blah blah.

But now, I have a newfound appreciation. I only wish I could be there to peep this fall.

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Sometimes you have to dance

by Lorin Michel Sunday, October 1, 2017 8:09 PM

We listen to a lot of music, almost all of it via internet radio. When we built the house, we made sure to have it wired so that we could have speakers and thus sound throughout. We have two in the ceiling of the master bath, two in the ceiling between the kitchen and the breakfast nook, two in the garage, two out on the deck, and two in the ceiling in the great room which join three addition speakers, one on either side of the TV and one underneath (for surround sound). Oh, and a subwoofer.

We have a variety of favorite types of music, ranging from classical guitar to classic rock and everything in between. Depending on the time of day and what we’re doing, we choose accordingly. Working in the shop in the garage and cleaning the house requires some great 70s rock, or John Mayer – sometimes The Rolling Stones. Evenings usually require some sort of jazz while Sunday mornings are about something quiet and soothing.

Kevin went out to work in the garage this afternoon. He’s building wine racks for the wine room, so he’s been busy cutting and sanding and planing and jointing. There is sawdust everywhere. But he absolutely loves it – if he could do anything in the world, he would happily spend his life in the shop, building stuff. 

“What kind of music do you want me to put on?” I asked him. 

“Something new,” he said, to which I asked what does that mean? 

“Surprise me,” he said with a smile. 

I pulled up iHeartradio and looked at what they thought might be something I’d be interested in. And there was Rod Stewart. We love Rod Stewart. So I touched the button and Maggie May came on. Good so far. 

For several hours, Rod and friends played throughout the house. Around 5 I took a break from my computer and wandered out into the garage to see what progress he’d been making. As he was showing me his mortise and tenon joints, and we were discussing the best way to attach all 18 staves to both sides of the posts simultaneously, the Bee Gees came on. Staying Alive. And we both stopped talking and started dancing. Not very well, mind you, but dancing. 

It made us both laugh, and we stopped and tried to talk more about the racks. But we couldn’t. The music and the beat was too overwhelming. Pretty soon we were moving and grooving again. Swaying and boogying. Looking completely ridiculous and having an absolute blast late on a Sunday afternoon in the garage, surrounded by sawdust, with our musical choice drifting down over us.

See, here’s the thing: sometimes, you just gotta dance. It makes everything else in the world better and more fun, especially if it’s dancing to Staying Alive.

via GIPHY

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In which Lorin has a cold and begins speaking Latin

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 26, 2017 9:31 PM

I used to get a cold every Thanksgiving. I don’t remember when that stopped happening but I think it was when I started having less meetings. The less time you spend with other people, the easier it is to not be around germs. I’m no germaphobe, believe me. But I hate being sick. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had the flu (that sound you here, even through the internet, is me knocking on wood) and I think it was before I had Kevin. Since Kevin, I’ve had bronchitis once and a wicked case of strep throat, both of which cleared right up with antibiotics. Also a sinus infection. 

When I would get colds, or not necessarily feel completely 100%, my way of dealing was to ignore it. I would still go for a run. I would psych myself out of being sick and sometimes it actually worked. 

Colds are upper respiratory tract infections caused by viruses. These viruses are transmitted through microscopic droplets in the air when someone who’s already sick coughs or sneezes, laughs or talks. Evidently, a cold virus can also spread by shaking hands or sharing things like toys, phones, spoons; a glass of wine. For some reason, and according to the Mayo Clinic, people are more susceptible to colds in the fall and winter, though they don’t say why. They also say you can catch a cold any time, like if you’re at school or on an airplane; in other words a target-rich environment. I was on a plane (actually four of them) two weeks ago. I was with a bunch of people in a closed room. I’m also in school. 

But I don’t think that’s why I’m sick. I think I’m sick because I’m tired, which is not to be confused with sick and tired, which I also am, but in this case that particular fact is immaterial. I tend to welcome cold viruses with open arms, ears, mouth and nose when I’m rundown, haven’t been sleeping well, and just have too much going on.

To wit:
There’s work. There’s the house to take care of (though I have a phenomenal husband who more than does his part). I have friends that I love spending time with. There is school, which officially started yesterday. Did I mention work? Oh, and I somehow tweaked my back so I’m walking like an old person, and because it’s impossible to get comfortable when one’s back is tweaked, I haven’t been sleeping well, as in almost not at all. 

Today, I woke up with a stuffy nose to go along with my tweaked back, and just the hint of a scratchy throat. I am not happy. First, I don’t do the sick thing well, largely because I don’t get sick all that often (see the first paragraph of this post). Second, the whole idea of a cold is dumb. 

Allow me to get existential here for a minute. A cold is not caused by cold weather, which we currently don’t have. It doesn’t necessarily cause one to feel cold, or to have chills. Ergo, a cold is a misnomer. It would make more sense to call it scratch and sniff, or SAS. Scratchy throat – check. Sniffy stuffy nose – check.

The name “cold” follows the theory of post hoc ergo propter hoc. For fans of The West Wing, you’ll probably remember this scene:

After this, therefore because of this. I have a cold because I have a cold. Blah.

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Experimenting with fall

by Lorin Michel Sunday, September 24, 2017 8:33 PM

Sometime in the past two weeks, and probably one night when I took Riley out after sundown, I noticed the air felt different. Not exactly cool but something underneath it that felt like cool, like something hiding under the blanket ready to spring out when least expected. Except that it is, of course, expected. It’s nearly the end of September. The cool is coming and with it, fall.

We’ve had an odd summer. It’s always hot; it’s the desert. But June was especially brutal, with our weather station up here on the hill showing temps reaching as high as 120º several times. When it’s that hot during the day, even when it cools off at night, it’s still in the mid 90s. No relief and lots of AC. 

July ended up being the wettest on record. We had storms nearly every day, totally nearly six inches of rain. It kept the temps cooler, though still in the 90s, but the humidity was high and the bugs were prolific. August was just hot and miserable. But then September eased in and temperatures started to abate. The last few days have only been in the 80s, and the nights have been comfortable if not yet cool. 

That changed last night. Last night, it actually was cool. I tested the concept by wearing my new UNH sweatpants, still with a t-shirt and flip flops but long pants have been almost non-existent for me for months, the only exception being when I was in Sacramento for business. I didn’t think it would be professional to wear shorts to my meetings. We sat out on the deck well into the evening, after the sun had set. We made the decision to turn off the AC and open all the windows. The cool air poured in; there was almost a chill in the air. 

This is early for us to have the AC off and the windows open. Usually it’s around the first week in October when it finally becomes comfortable enough to experience the fresh air of the desert rather than the staler air of the air conditioning units. We’ve only been here four years but each year, we look forward to this time. When we built the house, Mike couldn’t believe we actually wanted windows that opened. Evidently people in the desert are averse to fresh air. We were insistent; he was belligerent. But ultimately we won because we were paying the bills. We got windows that open in the master bedroom and the guest room, along with sliding French doors, two sets, in the great room. Both have screens. 

This morning it was 55º. The cool air was drifting in through the open windows. It was more than comfortable though not at all cold. We heard the paper get delivered. Just before 7, a road runner on the roof started tapping at the skylight in the bathroom. It sounded like someone was pounding on the window. Any thoughts of sleep now being gone, we decided to get up and start the day. I pulled on a pair of shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt. Kevin looked at me. 

“Long sleeves? Really?”

I grinned. “I’ve decided to experiment a bit with fall,” I said.

Here’s hoping the experiment lasts.

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Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 23, 2017 8:22 PM

One of our favorite movies is the 1995 film The American President. It’s a political romantic comedy that’s smart and honest and real. It stars Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepherd, a widower about to run for re-election, and Annette Bening, a lobbyist named Sydney Ellen Wade who becomes his love interest. It was written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Rob Reiner. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a real gem.

One of the central posits of the film is that President Shepherd is playing it safe, too safe. His erstwhile rival for the presidency is a republican senator named Bob Rumson, played by Richard Dreyfuss with nasty political glee. He repeatedly skewers the president for being liberal, and then attacks the president’s girlfriend, Sydney, as an ultra-liberal flag burner. He smugly dismisses the president’s education by saying that it doesn’t take a “Harvard education.” Shepherd, watching, irritatingly tells the TV “I went to Stanford, you blow hole.” That last phrase has become a favorite around here lately since I’ve been taking classes at Stanford and start my official 2-year program there on Monday.

President Shepherd’s staff as well as Sydney tell him to “go after this guy.” But Shepherd steadfastly refuses. He and Sydney split up, he has a fight with his chief of staff (the always wonderful Martin Sheen who went on to also play one of Sorkin’s presidents), and is about to lose his one big bill, for crime prevention. His approval ratings have plummeted, he is shedding supporters even in his own party. So naturally, he attacks black athletes who peacefully protest inequality and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. 

Oh, wait. That would be a president I don’t like. 

I read the news today – oh boy – and once again all I could do was shake my head. I am continually amazed, even though I shouldn’t be, that we have as our president a man who is perfectly content to sow the seeds of discord and division. I honestly don’t care if athletes kneel during the anthem. We have free speech and freedom of expression in this country. Many veterans as well as those currently on active duty have said that they get the protests; that it’s why they fought and continue to fight. For our rights as Americans. The athletes aren’t all black though most of them are. And most of those criticizing them, including the toddler in chief, are white. As if any of us white folk can imagine for a minute what it’s like to be black, to live with the issues that that segment of Americans live with. I’m not black and don’t know what it feels like so I choose to respect that they do.

Their protests are peaceful. They’re not causing riots. They’re simply making a statement. But last night, Trump decided they should be fired. He called an unnamed athlete who is widely thought to be Colin Kaepernick a son of a bitch. Kaepernick is the one who started these protests. He currently can’t get a job in the NFL, partly because he hasn’t been as good the last few years but I have no doubt that it’s mostly because of the protests. I think that’s sad.

We rally around the flag when it’s convenient and easy but most people rarely stop to think about what that flag stands for. Freedom, the constitution, our bill of rights. It is a beacon. It’s a symbol. But it’s not all that America is. It’s just one representation. Another is how we conduct ourselves in the world, the face we show to others, our insistence on human rights, our welcoming of refugees. The White House is a symbol; the Statue of Liberty is a symbol. Our despotic president is another, sadly. And he is making us worse, making our flag disrespected all over the world. Do the people who want athletes like Colin Kaepernick fired realize that? Do they care? Does Trump? 

Andrew Shepherd finally realizes the error of his ways, and does the right thing, junking his terrible bill, and taking on Rumson in a fabulous speech in front of the White House press corps. He doesn’t do it to get Sydney back, as he later tells her. He does it because “the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.” 

Watch the whole speech and tell me it doesn’t make you a little nostalgic for a truly American president:

Tell me it doesn’t make you want to celebrate the genius of Aaron Sorkin.

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The end is nigh

by Lorin Michel Thursday, September 21, 2017 9:58 PM

There is actually a doomsday clock. It was started in World War II, after we dropped Fat Man and Little Boy on Japan, and is maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board. It has long represented an analogy for the threat of global nuclear way though since 2007 it has also been adjusted to reflect catastrophic changes in our climate. Should the clock ever get to midnight, we’re f&#%ed. In 1947, it was set at seven minutes to midnight. It has moved 22 times with the closest we ever came to midnight occurring in 1953 and the farthest away in 1991. Since January, it has been set at two and a half minutes. It advanced with the inauguration of the biggest threat to our survival I have known in my lifetime. Before that it had been at 3 minutes. It was at 14 minutes to midnight in 1995.

I had a friend in 1995 who believed that the world was coming to an end. She blamed Bill Clinton, who was then president, largely because she was a republican so naturally a democrat would hasten the destruction of our planet. Funny that it’s the republicans who refuse to believe in global warming and climate change and who are actually the ones hastening the end of our lives as we have come to know them. I asked what her evidence was and she cited an earthquake in Turkey and torrential rains, horrendous storms, biblical flooding. Obviously the end times.

At the time, I pointed out that I suspected those things had always happened but that they seemed worse now because we got news about them instantly. Then, it was 24-hour news organizations like CNN. The minute something happened, it was reported on the air. It’s only gotten worse with the advent of Fox News and MSNBC, all cable news networks that have 24 hours each day to fill with news. It’s fairly obvious how they salivate when there’s a natural or manmade disaster somewhere. The coverage is wall-to-wall. Most times there is a logo and theme music and the ever-present “Breaking News” banner. Enter the internet and calamity can’t be far away. 

Lately the world seems to be on the verge of ending. Again. In the past month alone, there have been devastating hurricanes (Harvey and Irma), flooding, and disease spread by the rising waters. There have been earthquakes and there is never-ending war. Famine spreads through Africa, still. War destroys families and cities in eastern Europe. Most people are blissfully unaware. It’s sad how unengaged people remain. Perhaps disengaged is a better word. People don’t want to know, don’t want to be bothered, so they don’t and aren’t. That apathy led to the single most destructive human being (and I use the term “human” lightly) to ever sit behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office. 

I despair. 

Health care access and insurance is once again under attack for reasons that I admit I honestly don’t understand. Why do republicans want to eliminate people’s ability to get good affordable health care, to be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions (including acne. Acne!), to condemn the poor to death? Dramatic, I realize. But if someone makes no money and is diagnosed with a disease, how do they afford treatment? If someone could explain to me the rationale for denying Americans the ability to have good insurance, I would truly love to hear it because all I hear today is that they promised for years they were going to do it, so they have to or else they’ll lose their re-election prospects. 

Losing their re-election is obviously much more important than ordinary Americans losing their health insurance. 

I despair.

Climate change is a hoax. Scientists are to be ridiculed. World leaders are to be mocked. Threats are made easily. 

So I find myself wondering if maybe the end really is nigh this time. This week, the toddler went to the United Nations and proceeded to embarrass us yet again, threatening to destroy a country. Interestingly, what he said is exactly what the regime in North Korea has been telling its people for decades. Now they have footage that doesn’t even need to be edited to show that they have always been right. Does he think this will end well? 

I’m no longer friends with the woman who was, once upon a time, concerned that the world would be ending soon. I couldn’t stomach her politics anymore. I have friends now who are republicans and I have no trouble with them. But there was something about the doomsday attitude, coupled with supporting people who were bringing it about that just rubbed me the wrong way.

If the world ends soon, I will have been proved wrong and my once upon a time friend will be exultant. But we’ll all be dead so it won’t matter. And at least I won’t have to worry anymore about affordable health insurance.

Tick tock

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