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Florence Friedman (1916-2018)

She was born the day Woodrow Wilson was elected to his second term—before women had the vote—and on the day after her 100th birthday voted for the first woman to run for president from a major party.

Florence was a remarkable person. If she was behind something, people were all right with it. If she backed you, you didn't care who criticized you.

She lived to a month short of 102, funny, elegant, canny, loving.  Read More 
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How do we live?

"Don't ever give up beauty. We're fighting so that we can have things like this, so that we can have beauty again."
I've been thinking about the state murder of Sacco & Vanzetti in 1920, victims of right-wing politics & anti-immigrant sentiment. I've been thinking about David Wojnarowicz & the AIDS crisis of the 80s. I've been thinking about the millions of women who've been assaulted by men. I've been thinking that at one time or another immigrants, gays, women, POC always get the heady idea that they are people. Sometimes they become people—Italians, for example. But more often than not the PiPs (People in Power) shitcan them back to the Age of Cruelty.

Fight, lose, fight, win, lose, fight. It never ends.

We have no choice to be fight, but sometimes it's tough to remember that we are people. Read More 
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I just learned from Hito Steyerl in her book Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War that captchas (Completely Automated Public Turing Test[s] to Tell Computers and Humans Apart) were not just random but were once used by Google to check scanned texts (Google Books) & addresses (Google Street View) for accuracy.  Read More 
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Heartbreak House

London, 1940, just before the singalong that launched the play itself.
We liked this production, set in early WWII, which was incorporated into the play in a satisfying & illuminating way. At the Gingold, on Theater Row.

We used to go to a theater called Meat & Potatoes, on west 39th, which mostly produced Shaw. We were generally the youngest patrons, by decades (& almost still were yesterday). We were regulars until they produced a play by the theater's owner or impresario, with a two-hour Act I featuring naked men & not much else (no plot, no characters). It was so awful we fled at the intermission & never returned.

But the Gingold—we'll be back!  Read More 
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Monday Quote (Sukkot)

All my philosophy really comes from my cat.
A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.
~ Italo Calvino

Today [tomorrow as I write this] we read Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) in shul as part of celebrating Sukkot. We read this every year, & every year I am moved & provoked again. Definitely my favorite book of the bible, for both its poetry & philosophy.

[No post Tuesday.]  Read More 
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That's me: EN218.
Johnny finally understands that it's the glory not the cash that counts in HQ trivia (unless I were ever to take home the $100,000 winner-take-all pot).

When you win, all your guesses seem obvious, & your thinking sharp & quick (you only have 10 seconds to answer each of 12 multiple-choice questions—1 wrong & you're eliminated).

The winners split a $5,000 pot. They usually start out with half a million or more players & end up with anywhere from a couple hundred to a few thousand.

This was the second time in 6 months that I managed to make it all the way through. Now that they owe me $2.39 I may sign up for Paypal & collect. Read More 
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Where did the day go?!?!

It's already 5 & yes, I've done the laundry, some farflung errands & a little work, but not the things I got up early to do. Oh right, I got up so early I went back to sleep till 10. Onward, sisters!
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David Wojnarowicz

David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night, at the Whitney.
Such a great show—I joined the Whitney so I could go see it a couple more times (& see the Hoppers etc too). His paintings, photos, edge bring back the mid-80s, which never seemed so far away till I saw the docks & streets as they were then. Things never change all at once but they change totally, and in such a short time. I remember seeing him on 2nd Ave shortly before he died, already (& always) so far away.  Read More 
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Hey lady

who walked right out in front of me when I had the light & you didn't, causing me to slam on my brakes rather than hit you & skid in the light rain, in turn causing my bike to catapult & me to fly over the handlebars, while you went your karma-ugly way without a word or a hand up, you owe me $17 for the replacement brake cable. I'll wait out the sore wrist on my own.

I'm off tomorrow anyway for Yom Kippur.  Read More 
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Monday Quote

“Everything is so superb and breathtaking. I am creeping forward on my belly like they do in war movies.”
~ Diane Arbus

Isn't this great? I long for that feeling of awe & surprise, which happens so rarely. But it could hit more often, right? What can I do to get it?

Also, happy birthday to Hank Williams, William Carlos Williams, & the other half of the Double Yews, Annabel "Annie" Lee.  Read More 
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El in the middle

I am the most middling of middle children—the middle of 5 and the middle of 3. That is, middle of 3 close in age & 5 overall. My oldest & youngest sisters are both far away in age (17 & 10 years), whereas I'm the second of 3 kids born within 4 years.

The article (click on the caption to learn more about how wonderful we middles are) points out that with so many families now having just 1 or 2 kids, middle children are an endangered species. Not entirely—some 12% of women in their 40s have 4 or more kids.  Read More 
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My day

Man in a window, 6th Street. "America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." ~de Tocqueville.
Skip this one if you're interested only in deep thoughts. I've had a couple of small days of crossing ancient tasks off my to-do list: sending thank yous from last month & this, paying my yearly internet fee, buying pens at Staples & bread at the market, answering emails, cleaning out one big corner of my office—it's been smelling musty in here & I was a little worried there was a dead ferret among all the bags of melted cough drops, bookmarks, & unreadable notes. I sent my estimated taxes, a couple of invoices & a belated birthday postcard. I washed a canvas purse I haven't used in years but may now. And so on.

Not a memorable day perhaps but it's enjoyable to have tasks rather than crises.  Read More 
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Where to live

Vienna is now the world’s most livable city (passing Melbourne), according to a recent short piece in The Economist. Their rankings consider some 30 factors related to safety, healthcare, education, infrastructure, the environment. Six of the top 10 are in Canada or Australia, and midsize cities do better than large. Of course it depends on one's taste, expectations, desires, and more to make a place livable.

Why Vienna? I remember someone saying Vienna without Jews is nothing special. There's a searing documentary, Vienna Is Different, made 50 years after the Anschluss, & the people still took no responsibility—we were victims not monsters, was their basic attitude.  Read More 
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How can I get in a good groove when I'm interrupted all the time, in small ways (tea, anyone?) & large (the holidays started Sunday night, so I've just had 2 days off).

I like to think that in the way olden days this was the highlight of the year—a break from a rigid groove, a trip to the capital (Jerusalem), new smells & sights....  Read More 
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Monday Quote

If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.
~ Virginia Woolf

In the spirit of the New Year, I will be thinking about the truth of myself all day today & tomorrow.

I'm writing this the day before, Sunday morning. Right now I'm mostly looking forward to tonight's dinner but I'm hoping I slip into the spirit of self-searching & repentance in shul.

I will also think about what truth's I want to tell about other people, per Woolf.
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Norway poem

My first trip to Spain, I wrote a 5- or 6-page poem. This is all I managed in Scandinavia:

Scenery (Norway)

oh my god!
wow…. wow!
holy shamoly!
did you SEE that?!
did you see THAT?!!
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Despite having a landscape shockingly unlike anything I've ever seen, I knew where I was in Norway. I have no doubt that's because I grew up with predominantly Scandinavians, so all the faces I saw were the faces of home, of my schools & friends & neighbors. I recognized the rugged yet delicate men, the many tall fair women, even the cadence of the language hit my ear like the old days. Almost everyone I know from South Dakota has had the experience of meeting someone with a pronounced Minnesota accent, only to discover that they are actually from a Nordic country. I remember being surprised once in the old Norwegian part of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, that I felt so oddly (and comfortably) at home—this after living in New York's very different demographic for decades. A couple of blondes & a Lutheran church or two & I was right back in Sioux Falls.  Read More 
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I'm fortunate in having friends & relatives in many countries, and in the last couple years they have been willing to serve as tour director/guide. I got the insider view of Barcelona & the Costa Brava, Liverpool, London, & Norway.

We don't want to see tourist spots, my Norwegian friends said, we like seeing the places you care about, that visitors wouldn't stumble upon, or appreciate if they did. (Me too.) On my end, that usually means taking people to B&H. On their end it's telling us which fishing village not to miss, where to eat non-ham tapas, & Lewis Carroll's boyhood church.

Hard to say how much of itI would have found on my own. Not very much, since I'm pretty much a "let's see what happens" sort of traveler.  Read More 
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Jeg snakte norsk

I climbed a mountain, bought a lue (watch cap) AND spoke Norwegian
It was thrilling to actually speak Norwegian. I was happy that I felt little hesitation in trying. The reactions:
* An immediate switch to English. This was usually in a situation where the person didn't have time or interest in a slow conversation, such as in a restaurant.
* A surprised expression. You speak Norwegian? often followed by: WHY? From a utilitarian point of view there's no reason: I didn't mean anyone who didn't have serviceable or better English. I would say because I fell in love with your language, which didn't change their minds but made them happy, I think.
* No reaction, just a response to whatever I had asked. Whenever that happened, which it did fairly often, I was gratified.

Duolingo gave me grammar & vocabulary, Pimsleur the confidence to open my mouth. My wonderful friends there were patient, helpful & spoke slowly enough that I could manage.

Now I have to figure out how to keep having conversations in the States.  Read More 
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Scenic Norway

One more not-really-IT picture
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Svinøya (Pig Island) at Svolvær, Lofoten, northern Norway
So much to say about this fantastic country & trip.

One is that no matter how many photos I took, not a single one conveyed the true grandeur of what we were seeing. Maybe you had to also be breathing the bracing arctic air. Maybe no picture could represent the scale accurately.

I've never had that experience before. I was able to take pictures that closely resembled what I've seen in other places. It was fascinating & frustrating.  Read More 
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Monday Quote (Labor Day)

To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.
~ Leonard Bernstein

That seems like a good thought for Labor Day, no?

I pretty much took August off, what with most of it away & too hot & plenty work while I was here. But here I am again. Let's see where the fall gets us.  Read More 
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