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Archive for May, 2007

It’s almost, not quite, but creeping up on official that Fred Thompson (aka Arthur Branch on “Law and Order”) will become a candidate for President. With something like twenty people running on major-party tickets alone, it’s beginning to feel like a reality contest. In fact, the smart money is on those who run their campaigns as if they were trying not to get voted off the podium, which is why some of the contestants – oops, I mean candidates – need new material. Still, as we know, presentation is what get the votes and it’s good to have a gimmick. Say, “America’s Mayor” – how much more catchy can you get? But Mr. Thompson’s no slouch in the branding department. He’s got the voice, the presence, the creds with the conservative crowd and an awful lot in common with that other actor-turned- president and party icon whose memory still leaves ’em standing in the aisles.

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Having a Bad Here Day

I’m trying to enjoy the moment I’m in, which, according to “The Power of Now” is how to be happy (I haven’t read the book, which may be part of the problem). Yet I find myself unaccountably irritated today, which irritates me because it’s self-indulgent. I’ve got no excuses; it’s a beautiful day, got a roof over my head and the dog at my side. Maybe it’s the news: people forced to leave their homes because of sectarian violence; a single mother so at the edge of despair that she killed herself and her children. Maybe it’s because I can’t understand why Rosie O’Donnell had to spend her remaining minutes on”The View” bringing up old conspiracy theories about the collapse of Building Seven on 9/11. It’s coming up on six years since my husband was killed but damn if other people don’t have the power to haul me back to that day, another cloudless blue moment just like this one.

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Good Dog. Now Do Good.

We grownups sometimes weigh down our children with our own hopes, dreams and aspirations. Maybe that’s true with our pets too. I thought my Molly would make a great therapy dog, even though her priorities run more to bones, balls and sunny places to sleep. I believed that beneath her fun-loving exterior lay the focus, discipline and heart required to provide what the evaluators describe as “emotional support and comfort” to those in need. And so we trained and took classes and trained some more. Sunday she passed the fifteen-part test. After more paperwork and a standard visit to the vet, she will be issued a picture ID and certified to work at a variety of facilities across fifty states and a few other countries. Molly seems to know she’s accomplished something, what with all the treats and praise coming her way, not to mention hugs from one very proud mommy.

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An Englishman I was talking with at a barbecue yesterday asked me to explain the difference between Memorial and Veterans Days. I gave my best, albeit incomplete answer – that Memorial Day remembers those who have died in combat and that Veterans Day is more about honoring the living veterans. I managed to recall that Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day to mark the end of WWI but had forgotten (until I checked the Department of Veteran Affairs website) that Memorial Day began as Decoration Day after the Civil War, as a time to decorate the graves of both Union and Confederate fallen soldiers. Each observance was established in response to a specific conflict but has expanded to encompass so many more conflicts. How very sad that is and how challenging it continues to be to properly remember and honor both the dead and living warriors while lamenting the wars they are called upon to fight.

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For some reason, I’m caught up with revisiting, reworking and repairing today – trying to fix an old watch and reworking some old ideas I have. I’ve got reruns on the brain, mainly because I forgot to tape the season finale of “Lost” and will have to catch it when it repeats just before the fall season. The supposedly new shows this summer are retreads, especially the reality shows, with singing, dancing and surviving competitions and variations on one game show or another. The cycle of movie sequels shifts into full gear as we welcome back familiar superheroes, ogres and pirates. No matter that the critics have reacted with disfavor; “Spiderman 3,” “Shrek 3” and (might as well call it) “Pirates 3” are dominating the box office. I think the marketing folks count on the fact that we like to invest our hard-earned money and time on known quantities, whether it’s movies or coffee. Maybe it’s why we elect the same politicians over and over but it’s too nice a day and too close to the holidays to start down that road. Speaking of roads, they are filling up with drivers who, despite facing (once again) obscenely high gas prices, are heading in droves to other places. Meanwhile, I’ll be seeing and entertaining friends close to home – just like I always do.

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Sometimes I feel as if I’m living in a time warp – or maybe a worm hole. Roger Clemens is back pitching for the Yankees. Broadway is awash in Disney musicals based on movies we saw as kids. Half the clothes they’re showing for spring look as if they came out of my closet circa 1975. That might account for my cynical reaction to yesterday’s MSNBC headline that announced a “new strategy in Iraq.” All I could think of was: been there, done that.

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I’m up in Vermont, the Green Mountain State – which is certainly living up to its name – thinking about things green. I’ve thumbing though a copy of last Sunday’s magazine section on ecologically appropriate design, getting ideas for my “dream” house. Al Gore is explaining why he believes we humans don’t view global warming with alarm. If you can get through his intricate though at times convoluted thought processes, it boils down to this: we aren’t hard-wired to fear what we can’t see or feel or touch. Nor can we bring ourselves to try and tackle what we perceive as intangible, although I understand if you visit Alaska and see those disappearing glaciers and barren tundra, you get the picture. The front-page article in yesterday’s USA Today warned about “a runaway-train acceleration of industrial carbon dioxide emissions;” this morning we’re focused on who won “Dancing With the Stars” (Apollo). The thing is, we always feel helpless in the face of large-scale problems or disasters, yet there are all sorts of small and medium-sized steps we can take; look at California. Which is why I’m getting my ideas for my “dream” house from a series of articles on eco-design. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

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Everything Must Go

I’m doing some spring cleaning and have decided to sell my stuff on Craig’s list. I know the drill: take pictures, put everything in the garage, lock the door to the house, be willing to bargain. Couldn’t be easier, especially since everyone says Craig’s list is the fastest way to get rid of almost anything. For example, I just read about an ad posted not too long ago that invited folks near Tacoma, Washington to help themselves to the complete contents of a home in the area. Eager bargain hunters stripped the place of everything, including the water heater. Only problem was, it came as a complete shock to the woman who owned the house. Seems her niece was ticked off because Auntie evicted her mom so she placed the ad for purposes of, um, revenge. Gads, I wouldn’t refund that security deposit.

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Vested Interests

According to an NBC report, the body armor issued to U.S. Army troops may not as efficient as another, more expensive type, called Dragon Skin. This more expensive armor was banned by the Army – before, apparently, testing it. At the same time, it appears that elite squads guarding certain Army generals routinely wear Dragon Skin despite the ban and swear by it. Family members are incensed that they’ve also been barred from purchasing the allegedly superior armor for their loved ones serving overseas. Needless to say, Congress and the news media are investigating. That said, I’m stuck on a related point: how is it that parents, spouses and others who routinely send socks, sweaters and CDs to make our volunteer troops comfortable now feel they must also send a better body armor to make them safe?

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Crisis at the World Bank, crisis in the Middle East, ongoing crises in Africa: the news is dismal. Then there is the scandal plaguing professional cycling. I started watching the Tour de France in the early nineties but it was Lance Armstrong who really hooked me with his strength, his skill and his successful battle against cancer. We all bought the “Live Strong” bracelets in those years and we mostly discounted the rumors about artificially enhanced performance because he was our guy. But somewhere along the line money came into the picture, lots of it, what with all the endorsements, sponsorships and TV spots; then came drugs, notoriety and scandal. Now we have the disgraced 2006 Tour de France champion Floyd Landis spinning his wheels in a courtroom mired in tales of drugs used, drug tests failed and threats made by his manager against LeMonde, whose own difficult past has come to light. Looks like cycling hit paydirt; then the mud started flying.

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