Sunday, February 27, 2011

Laughter Is the Best Medicine

It's time for another break from all the craziness going on in the world.  If we can keep laughing we will survive the insanity.  The following made me laugh and I hope they will do the same for you.

Thank God for church ladies with typewriters. These sentences (with all the BLOOPERS) actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services:

The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
The sermon this morning: 'Jesus Walks on the Water.' The sermon tonight: 'Searching for Jesus.'
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say 'Hell' to someone who doesn't care much about you.
Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.
Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow..
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered..
This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning  at 10 AM.. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S.. is done.
The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM.. Please use the back door.
The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM.. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new campaign slogan last Sunday: 'I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours.


Nancy sent the following video to me and if the laughter didn't make you feel better, this video surely will.  It's Sutton Foster  and the cast rehearsing a dance number for Anything Goes.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bill Moyers

 Oh how I miss Bill Moyers and his Journal.  Thank goodness that he hasn't "gone gentle into that good night".  (Bob Dylan quote is "Do not go gentle into ----)

Bill Moyers was the keynote speaker at the organization History Makers dedicated to factual broadcasting.  I will leave the link of the long transcript of the speech for those of you who have not read it.  Click on   Bill Moyers. for the full transcript.

Because the speech was so long, I am just posting a few paragraphs that I want to emphasize.  (Okay, a lot more than a few.  I highlighted the parts I want to stress so you can just read those if time is of the essence.)

Bill Moyers as duplicated on Alter Net

- we (Moyers and Fred Friendly) were naïve, but in those days many of us still assumed that an informed public is preferable to an uninformed one. Hadn't Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that, "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government"? And wasn't a free press essential to that end?

Maybe not. As Joe Keohane reported last year in The Boston Globe, political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency "deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information." He was reporting on research at the University of Michigan, which found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in new stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts were not curing misinformation. "Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger."

 Then -
While "most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence," the research found that actually "we often base our opinions on our beliefs ... and rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions." 

These studies help to explain why America seems more and more unable to deal with reality. -  that they pick and choose only those facts that will serve as building blocks for walling them off from uncomfortable truths. Any journalist whose reporting threatens that belief system gets sliced and diced by its apologists and polemicists (say, the fabulists at Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the yahoos of talk radio.) Remember when Limbaugh, for one, took journalists on for their reporting about torture at Abu Ghraib? He attempted to dismiss the cruelty inflicted on their captives by American soldiers as a little necessary "sport" for soldiers under stress, saying on air: "This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation ... you [ever] heard of need to blow some steam off?" As so often happens, the Limbaugh line became a drumbeat in the nether reaches of the right-wing echo chamber. So, it was not surprising that in a nationwide survey conducted by The Chicago Tribune on First Amendment issues, half of the respondents said there should be some kind of press restraint on reporting about the prison abuse. According to Charles Madigan, the editor of the Tribune's Perspective section, 50 or 60 percent of the respondents said they "would embrace government controls of some kind on free speech, particularly when it has sexual content or is heard as unpatriotic."

No wonder many people still believe Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, as his birth certificate shows; or that he is a Muslim, when in fact he is a Christian; or that he is a socialist when day by day he shows an eager solicitude for corporate capitalism. Partisans in particular - and the audiences for Murdoch's Fox News and talk radio - are particularly susceptible to such scurrilous disinformation. In a Harris survey last spring, 67 percent of Republicans said Obama is a socialist; 57 percent believed him to be a Muslim; 45 percent refused to believe he was born in America; and 24 percent said he "may be the antichrist."

The bigger the smear, the more it sticks.  Last year, Forbes Magazine, obviously bent on mischief, allowed the right-wing fantasist Dinesh D'Souza to tar Obama with a toxic brew so odious it triggered memories of racist babble - a perverted combination of half-baked psychology, biology and sociology - that marked the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan. Seizing upon the anti-colonial views of Obama's Kenyan father, who had deserted the family when the boy was two years old and whose absence from his life Obama meditated upon in his best-selling book "Dreams of My Father," D'Souza wrote that, "Incredibly, the US is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son."

In a sane political world, you might think at least a few Republican notables would have denounced such hogwash by their own kind for what it was. But no. Newt Gingrich, once their speaker of the House, whose own fantasies include succeeding Obama in the White House, set the tone by praising D'Souza's claptrap as the "most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama." D'Souza, said Gingrich, has made a "stunning insight" and had unlocked the mystery of Obama. November 2010." Once again, the right-wing media machine had popularized a false narrative and made of it a destructive political weapon.

Disinformation is not unique to the right, of course.  - the "9/11 truthers" (spread disinformation) that the Bush administration conspired to bring about the attacks on the World Trade Center).
 How did they discover this conspiracy? As the independent journalist Robert Parry has written, "the truthers" threw out all the evidence of al-Qaeda's involvement such as using long lists of supposed evidence to overcome the lack of any real evidence, the "truthers" cherry-picked a few supposed "anomalies" to build an "inside-job" story line. Fortunately, this Big Lie never took hold in the public mind. 

George Orwell had warned six decades ago that the corrosion of language goes hand in hand with the corruption of democracy. If he were around today, he would remind us that "like the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket," this kind of propaganda engenders a "protective stupidity" almost impossible for facts to penetrate.
But you, my colleagues, can't give up. If you do, there's no chance any public memory of everyday truths - the tangible, touchable, palpable realities so vital to democracy - will survive. We would be left to the mercy of the agitated amnesiacs who "make" their own reality, as one of them boasted at the time America invaded Iraq, in order to maintain their hold on the public mind and the levers of power.  

Control of the present rests on obliteration of the past. - The bureaucrats in the Ministry of Truth destroy the records of the past and publish new versions. . History is obliterated.

Memory is crucial to democracy; historical amnesia, its nemesis.

However, there's always another round; the sharks are always circling. Sherry Jones and I spent more than a year working on a PBS documentary called "Trade Secrets," a two-hour investigative special based on revelations - found in the industry's own archives - that big chemical companies had deliberately withheld from workers and consumers damaging information about toxic chemicals in their products. These internal industry documents are a fact. They exist. They are not a matter of opinion or point of view. They state what the companies knew, when they knew it and what they did with what they knew (namely to deep-six it) at peril to those who worked with and consumed the potentially lethal products.

The revelations portrayed deep and pervasive corruption in a major American
industry and raised critical policy implications about the safety of living under a regulatory system manipulated by the industry itself. If the public and government regulators had known what the industry knew about the health risks of its products when the industry knew it, America's laws and regulations governing chemical manufacturing would have been far more protective of human health. But the industry didn't want us to know. That's what the documents revealed and that was the story the industry fought to keep us from telling.
The industry hired as an ally a public relations firm in Washington noted for using private detectives and former CIA, FBI and drug enforcement officers to conduct investigations for corporations under critical scrutiny. One of the company's founders acknowledged that corporations may need to resort to "deceit" and other unconventional resources to counter public scrutiny. Given the scurrilous campaign that was conducted to smear our journalism, his comments were an understatement. To complicate matters, the Congressman, who for years had been the single biggest recipient of campaign contributions from the chemical industry, was the very member of Congress whose committee had jurisdiction over public broadcasting's appropriations. As an independent production firm, we had not used public funds to produce the document
ary. But even our independence didn't stop the corporate mercenaries from bringing relentless pressure on PBS not to air the broadcast. The then president of PBS, Pat Mitchell, stood tall in resisting the pressure and was vindicated: one year later, The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded "Trade Secrets" an Emmy for outstanding investigative journalism.

I am sad when I hear or read that factual broadcasting is passé - that television as a venue for forensic journalism is on its way out and that trying to find out "what really happened" - which is our mandate - is but a quaint relic in an age of post-structuralism and cyberspace. But despite all our personal electronic devices, people are watching more television than ever. 

I was pleased to discover that the web sites most frequented by educators are those of PBS and that our own sites were among the most popular destinations. That's what keeps us going, isn't it? The knowledge that all the bias and ignorance notwithstanding, facts still matter to critical thinking, that if we respect and honor, even revere them, they just might help us right the ship of state before it rams the iceberg. 

That's why, on balance, I count WikiLeaks a plus for democracy. Whatever side you take on the controversy, whether or not you think this information should be disclosed, all parties - those who want it released and those who don't - acknowledge that information matters.

At the Johnson White House, we circled the wagons and grew intolerant of news that didn't conform to our hopes, expectations and strategies for Vietnam, with terrible, tragic results for Americans and Vietnamese, north and south. I say: "Never again!"

Here's a sidebar: I remember vividly the day President Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): July 4, 1966. He signed it "with a deep sense of pride," declaring in almost lyrical language "that the United States is an open society in which the people's right to know is cherished and guarded." That's what he said. The truth is, the president had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the signing ceremony. He hated the very idea of journalists rummaging in government closets, hated them challenging the authorized view of reality, hated them knowing what he didn't want them to know. He dug in his heels and even threatened to pocket veto the bill after it reached the White House. Only the courage and political skill of a Congressman named John Moss got the bill passed at all and that was after a 12-year battle against his Congressional elders, who blinked every time the sun shined on the dark corners of power. They managed to cripple the bill Moss had drafted and, even then, only some last-minute calls to LBJ from a handful of influential newspaper editors overcame the president's reluctance. He signed "the f------ thing," as he called it and then, lo and behold, went out to claim credit for it.

It's always a fight to find out what the government doesn't want us to know. The official obsession with secrecy is all the more disturbing today because the war on terrorism is a war without limits, without a visible enemy or decisive encounters. We don't know where the clandestine war is going on or how much it's costing and whether it's in the least effective. Even in Afghanistan, most of what we know comes from official, usually military, sources.  

Thus, a relative handful of people have enormous power to keep us in the dark. And when those people are in league with their counterparts in powerful corporations, the public is hit with a double whammy. We're usually told the issue is national security, but keeping us from finding out about the danger of accidents at chemical plants is not about national security; it's about covering up an industry's indiscretions and liabilities. Locking up the secrets of meetings with energy executives is not about national security; it's about hiding confidential memos sent to the White House showing the influence of oil companies on policies of global warming We only learned about that memo from the Bush White House, by the way, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act.

I will close with an urgent appeal to you about one fight we won't win unless all of us join it. I'm sure everyone here agrees that we will eventually be moving to the web, all of us and that "free, instant, worldwide connectivity" is the future. But I'm sure you know that this incredible, free, open Internet highway is at risk, that corporations are on the brink of muscling their way to the front of the line. Media companies want the power to censor Internet content they don't like, to put toll booths on the web so they can charge more for the privilege of driving in the fast lanes, to turn it into a private preserve. 

You may have heard that last month the FCC decided to protect free/open Internet access only on landline connections, not wireless - which is to say, there's no net neutrality in most of the online world. As Jenn Ettinger of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Free Press reported in Yes! magazine just two days ago:

The rules that the FCC passed in December are vague and weak. The limited protections that were placed on wired connections, the kind you access through your home computer, leave the door open for the phone and cable companies to develop fast and slow lanes on the Web and to favor their own content or applications.
Worse, the rules also explicitly allow wireless carriers ... to block applications for any reason and to degrade and de-prioritize websites you access using your cell phone or a device like an iPad.

 . We can't relax our vigilance. In Ettinger's words:

The FCC still has the opportunity to put in place a solid framework that would put the public interest above the profit motive of the phone and cable companies that it is supposed to regulate. And the FCC should take immediate steps to close the loopholes it created, to strengthen its rules and to include wireless protections. The fight is far from over. We can work to change the rules, demand better oversight and consumer protections and make sure that the big companies can't pad their bottom lines on the backs of their customers.

Joseph Campbell told me years ago for my series "The Power of Myth." It seems a fellow rounding the corner saw a fight break out down the block. Running up to one of the bystanders, he shouted: "Is this a private fight or can anyone get in it?"
The Internet fight for democracy is a public fight. Come on in!

Obviously I was unable to cut as much as I had originally planned.  I thought his comments on the danger that  the Internet faces is one that should concern us all.  

It is no wonder that the Republican right wing want to silence NPR and PBS.  That media is not owned by, and under the thumb of, big corporations.

Friday, February 11, 2011


 Ronni Bennett who writes the wonderful blog  Time Goes By (click on link) posted her second publication on the subject of happiness.  I urge you to read it [after you have read mine, of course.  ;-) ].  Ronni included a video of a lecture on the subject by Psychologist Daniel Kahneman.

I recently flew on Southwest Air and their entire on-board magazine Spirit was on the subject of happiness.  Because of Ronni's  previous post on the subject I brought the magazine home.

I just re-read the article and Psychologist Kahneman was quoted in the article.  His statements included the illustration of the man who listened to a symphony and had it ruined by a screeching sound at the end.  The man said his entire experience of listening to this beautiful music was ruined by the ending.  Dr. Kahneman pointed out that he had enjoyed 25 minutes of listening to rhapsodic music before the end.  The question was, how much of our happiness is locked up in perception?  (To get the entire story go to the video on Ronni's post).

Sentences on happiness from the article jumped out at me. 

Happiness is sometimes called well being, life satisfaction, or (by those who study the subject) Positive Psychology.  We give it the nickname Happiness.

What it isn't is money.  A study found that people living below the poverty line rated their life satisfaction on a par with those above it.
(This seems contradictory to what Daniel Kahneman was saying.)

It isn't youth.  As we get older we tend to accentuate positive memories leading to higher overall contentment.

It isn't the opposite of sadness.  Dr. Sonja Lyubomirski, a researcher at the University of California, Riverside states she would use two different measures, one for happiness and one for depression.

Happiness isn't an emotion at all says Dr. Sonja - it's more an overall  characteristic or disposition.

Psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar says that it's a combination of meaning and pleasure .  We need what we're experiencing to be meaningful.

Dr. Sonja and her peers claim that we can change our levels of happiness. Much of our happiness lies in our perception.

She claims that happiness is a combination of meaning and pleasure. She states the we need what we're experiencing to be meaningful.

She, and many of her peers claim that we can change our levels of happiness.  She is convinced that we can become happier, but you have to work at it every day of your life.

Try to be grateful, try to be optimistic, to invest in relationships, or do whatever it takes to make you happy.   What all of us can do to perpetuate our happiness is to spread it to others through acts of joy and kindness.  It is contagious if we choose it to be.

There is an on-line test written by Dr. Martin Seligman can take to find out your happiness level is.   Register for Seligman test (click on link)

 My personal feeling is that there are levels of happiness.  If I get up after a good night's sleep with nothing hurting I have the contented feeling of all's right with my world.  If I am anticipating seeing a  member of my family or going to a pleasurable event my feeling of happiness rises.  When I see my daughter's smiling face as I enter the airport gate my happiness knows no bounds.  Psychologists claim it is not an emotion, but I am not so sure.  It feels like an emotion to me.

If you have been around a toddler recently you probably know the song "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands."  And I am sure you joined in singing it.  Didn't you immediately feel happier?  I think Dr. Sonja is on to something.

Okay - a one an'a two.  Lets all sing If you're happy and you know it clap your hands.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Belated Christmas Story

We keep saying that time seems to go faster and faster as we age and I do think it's true.  Then why does it seem like it has been eons since I promised to show pictures of my Christmas trip to California?  My excuse is that there was so much to do when I returned that I didn't have time to devote to writing a lengthy post.  Then other things intervened like the tragic shooting of our Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords (who is progressing beyond the doctor's expectations, thank goodness) that needed to be covered.   

Well, a promise is a promise and I am going to keep mine no matter how tardy I am.  

Christmas with my family is always so much nicer than being alone and I really enjoyed the visit.  It was rather a strange Christmas because it was the girl's dad's turn to have them for the holiday.  They were at Gail's Christmas Eve and we all opened our presents Christmas morning.  Then they left to have dinner at their father's house. 

Gail and I decided that it was rather dumb to cook a big feast just for the two of us and so we waited until New Years to celebrate.  My son, Mark and his wife, Karen drove up from Van Nuys New Year's Eve to be part of Gail's annual fondue party.  Unfortunately, Mark was sick and after helping Gail with preparations he went to bed while the rest of us dipped all sorts of goodies in the hot fondue oil.  There was also the traditional Swiss fondue with the appropriate cheese for dipping chunks of good bread.  The part the children loved was the chocolate fondue with fresh fruit and marshmallows for dipping.  I'm just a kid at times like that so I did my share of savoring the chocolate.  You know me; the chocoholic.

Lynne drove down New Years Day from Napa and it was just super having all three of my children together again.  

 We just sipped wine and chatted the rest of the time.  We didn't even drive out to see the Christmas lights so I didn't get the anticipated pictures of the displays to show you.  

I didn't want to take my good camera and heavy lens with me so I bought a little point and shoot Nikon.  The pictures are disappointing as a result.  They don't enlarge as well.  For what it's worth I am posting a few of them here.  Left click to enlarge. 

Other than going to the Mall twice we didn't do much else.

The pictures are of Gail (top) with her friend, Kelli (bottom), Rachel (now a blond) and her boyfriend, Danny, Sarah and her friend, Miranda,  The Mall decorations and a yard across the street from Gail's.  I leave it to you to sort them out.  

I got patted down at the airport because, now that I am a bionic woman, I set the alarm off when I walk through the device.   The only difference was that the patting down went up a little higher this time. ~ :-o. 

I had a non-stop return flight scheduled for all the good it did me.  There was some malfunction in the plane from Oakland to L. A. and we were all taken off the plane to wait two hours to leave for Tucson on a different one.  Both going and coming my planes were two hours late in arriving. Considering the time of year and the problems that the East Coast was having with canceled flights and crowded terminals I considered myself to be very lucky.  

All in all it was a wonderful trip to be stored in my memory.  I hope I haven't bored you with my flashback.  I did tell you I would report, didn't I?


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Humor to Relax By

Today I was trying to decide what to rant about.   Should I write about the terrible damage the Republicans were trying to foist on the unsuspecting public?  Would it be the stupidity of trying to end the funding to a very worthwhile organization like Planned Parenthood. cutting the funding for the remaining, and very frayed, social network for the disadvantaged, putting prayer in everything, privatizing Social Security, repealing the Health Care Reform act, removing the restrictions on the corporations fouling our air with pollutants, or ending the already weakened oversight on banks and corporations?

Thinking about all of the above made me feel discouraged, depressed, and angry.  I don't like feeling this way.

Then I got this in my e-mail today and I laughed out loud.  I think those of us who consider ourselves liberals or progressives need all the laughter we can find to keep us sane now that the ignorant are running the country.  

Instead of a rant I am posting the following:

Sometimes it does take a rocket scientist! 

 Scientists at NASA built a gun specifically to launch standard 4 pound dead chickens at the windshields of airliners, military jets and the space shuttle, all traveling at maximum velocity. The idea is to simulate the frequent incidents of collisions with airborne fowl to test the strength of the windshields.

 British engineers heard about the gun and were eager to test it on the windshields of their new high speed trains. Arrangements were made, and a gun was sent to the British engineers.   When the gun was fired, the engineers stood shocked as the chicken hurled out of the barrel, crashed into the shatterproof shield, smashed it to smithereens, blasted through the control console, snapped the engineer's back-rest in two, and embedded itself in the back wall of the cabin, like an arrow shot from a bow.

The horrified Brits sent NASA the disastrous results of the experiment, along with the designs of the windshield and begged the U.S. scientists for suggestions.

 NASA responded with a one-line memo --

 "Defrost the chicken."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Smile, Darn You, Smile

I had a good reason to smile a few weeks ago when another blogger visited me.   Her name is Anne and I am sure many of you will recognize her blog title 20th Century Woman.   Anne and her son, Ben, were traveling through Tucson and they kindly stopped in to say hello.  Anne is just delightful and her son is a charmer.  We went to dinner before they left to travel on to San Diego.  You can read about her trip here.

Doesn't Anne have the most beautiful smile?  
Now that you have seen my reason for smiling, here's one for you.

To write with a broken pencil is pointless.

When fish are in schools they sometimes take debate.

A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles , U.C.L.A.

The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes was on shaky ground.

The batteries were given out free of charge.

A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

A will is a dead giveaway.

If you don't pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I'll show you A-flat miner.

You are stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

Local Area Network in Australia : The LAN down under.

A boiled egg is hard to beat.

When you've seen one shopping center you've seen a mall.

Police were called to a day care where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

Did you hear about the fellow whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.

If you take a laptop computer for a run you could jog your memory.

A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.

In a democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your Count that votes.

When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine was fully recovered.

He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.

When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.

Acupuncture: a jab well done.