Thursday, December 31, 2015

Post 100

Talking to Omar is like talking to a 40-year old. Omar is 10. His mother says he talked before he walked. Omar loves words - the bigger, the better. I love words, too. For much of my life, though, I kept the best words inside. I am a great introvert conversationalist. More recently, with blogs and poems, I have shared my thoughts. Over the past few months, I have created this blog just to write. I might think of a topic while on my morning run. Or something I read might inspire a post. Some posts were pretty lame; some were pretty good.

As I was thinking about the words I would write in this last post, I started reading a book about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. That is a great example of serendipity. According to the author, Arab sea traders once called Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) Serendib. An 18th century story about the island featured three princes who stumbled upon wonderful things by chance. Thus, serendipity entered the English language. 

I don't know how I would describe the path of my life if that hadn't happened. Don't talk to me about fate; serendipity is the driving force.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Ring Out the Old! Ring In the New!

The week between Christmas and New Year's is a time of disorientation. Living in the present is not possible; looking ahead is stressful. When I was working, these seven days were either marked by intense activity (preparing the Mayor's budget submission for the District of Columbia) or calm respite (taking time off from doing deals during investment  banking days). 

This year is particularly fraught. I stepped back from political activity in 2015; I know I will be very involved in 2016, but I'm not sure how. The uncertainty is making me anxious. How will I manage conflicts between the new role I assumed in 2015 (taking Beba to soccer games and the movies, picking her up at school) with the organizer's job of getting the team together to register voters, phone bank and canvass? 

Death is more of a presence as I look ahead to 2016. Leslie's brother-in-law died a few days ago after a long and painful illness. He was five or more years younger than I am. This year marked 30 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the past few years, important people in my life have died, especially Comer, my former boss, mentor and dear friend for 40 years. The lighted candles pictured on the cover of my poetry book seemed appropriate for poems that celebrated memories of my dear departed family and friends.

I can't stop on this rather tragic note. I am resilient and resourceful. My survival instincts are strong. If nothing else, I know 2016 will be interesting. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Here are a few of the existential threats I'm thinking about this holiday season:

  • AI (Artificial Intelligence): Will deep-learning computers and other forms of AI become so smart that humans are rendered obsolete? And what exactly is transhumanism?
  • Islamic Jihadism: Entire school systems are closed by a single email. People eye their neighbors with renewed suspicion. Close the borders! Close the mosques! Close our minds to any hint of rational thinking!
  • Global Warming: Yes, I know the Northeast had one of its coldest, snowiest winters ever this year. But now it is really warm. And the oceans are rising. What about the beleaguered reefs off Australia?
  • Ebola and Other Pandemics: Everyone likes a good movie about killer germs. Will the people against childhood vaccinations change their minds?
  • Republican Candidates for President: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Book Review

Tsvi Bisk was known as Howard when we went to high school together in Philadelphia. Tsvi has spent his adult life in Israel. He is a futurist and an author. Here is my review of his most recent book, The Suicide of the Jews. 

The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
William Butler Yeats

The lines of the poem kept coming into my mind as I read Tsvi Bisk’s latest book, which describes, with extensive historical support and up-to-date detail, the forces that could bring about the end of Israel as a Jewish State. The book’s message resonated with me on many levels. While the fate of Israel and the Jews is vitally important to me, I am also deeply concerned about what is happening politically in the United States and in Western Europe. The political parties of the far right are gaining power while the center/left struggles to make itself heard. The historically low voter turnout in the United States for the 2014 mid-term elections is one indicator of the failure of the center/left to overcome the disappointment and malaise affecting a large part of the electorate. This is the picture that Bisk paints for Israel, but it is not an isolated case. If you care about Israel, read this book. If you care about the fate of Western Democracies, read this book. If you care about the future of the human race, read this book. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Coliseum Books

When I moved to New York in 1983, Coliseum Books, just a block away from my apartment, was my favorite hangout on Sunday afternoons. It was a real, independent bookstore. It was huge and maybe a little dusty. It was clear that the staff actually read books. There was jazz or other good music playing in the background as I browsed the shelves and tables, finding new reading delights.

During the economic downturn following 9/11, the Coliseum store at Broadway and 57th closed. A new store opened a few years later on West 42nd Street, but it wasn't the same. Now that store has closed, too.

One bonus of my book organizing effort yesterday was finding several Coliseum Books bookmarks, all in pristine condition. As I mark my place in my new reading matter, I will feel the glow of those Sunday afternoons in the best bookstore ever. 

Ground Game 2016

I just drafted my first post for 2016, for my Ground Game 2016 blog. So much for living in the moment.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Crossing Levick Street

One of the happiest days of my life was when I got my own library card. An even happier day was when Mom said I could cross Levick Street on my own, thus clearing the way to solo trips to the library. Yeah!

Books have always been a big part of my life, but they were becoming too big a part of my small apartment. For a few years, I donated books to the JCC seniors program. I haven't made the effort for a while, put off by the almost 2-hour round trip and the departure of the people I was close to from my stint as interim executive director of JFGO, in the same building. 

So when I saw the young man from the Orange County Library in the lobby of the movie theater where Gisela and I saw The Peanuts Movie, I asked about donating books to the library. He told me all I had to do was show up at my local branch with books in hand. On Friday, that is just what I did with about a dozen books.

The young woman at the desk was so helpful and pleasant, I was inspired to go through all the books in my apartment to find more to donate. I spent about three hours this morning pulling books off shelves and out of cabinets and storage containers. After a thoughtful reorganization (all the fiction books in the red Chinese cabinet are in alphabetical order by author, for example), I have restored order to my personal library.

One surprise: I have a lot of poetry books, now nestled together on the first shelf in the computer alcove. I didn't think I had read that much poetry. 

On Monday, I will head back to the SW Branch with about 30 more books to donate.