Friday, January 29, 2010
Thank you, Mr. Flaherty, for turning History from a dry and stuffy, yawn-inducing topic to one that was exciting, interesting, and even entertaining. I looked forward to attending your classes. I've really grown to love History - especially my family's - and continue to delve further and further into it, just to understand how we have come so far as a society, and determine where we may be headed.
My thanks to Sister Marcine who used to say things to us like "Your head is like a sieve" so that we would pay attention. Paying attention - something so underrated and yet so necessary.
And Mr. Zanotti, you are the one who encouraged me to be a writer. The desire to be a published author propelled me at the age of twenty to embark with about a hundred dollars in my pocket on a hitchhiking journey across the United States from Michigan to California , where I intended to "just do it." It wasn't easy and I am glad it wasn't, so I can now enjoy the "riches" of my dream fulfilled.
Thanks to all of you dedicated teachers for the lessons upon which to build a happy life, and one worth living to the fullest.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
As a puppy I was raised by my Mom, Sally Blake. I’ll never forget the day when I was 18 months old and it was time for me to return to the facility. Mom said it would be like I was going off to college. We both knew we would miss each other but helping people was my destiny.
Well, I worked really hard and went through all ten phases of the training. Mom watched my progress online, cheering me on. Guide Dogs must learn to relieve on command and I just couldn’t hold it for that long… especially with all that exercise. Well, some people will say I did this on purpose and I must admit that all around, it turned out pretty good for me.
Puppy raisers have first option to get the dogs they raised back. Of course, Mom wanted me back. She loves me very much. What’s not to love… right? At two years old I returned to her. We were both thrilled about it. She wanted to keep me working, though. She said I wouldn’t be happy unless I was working in some way. So off we went to the Delta Society so I could get certified for Pet Therapy. It was pretty much a breeze for me. They had ten practical tests involving obedience and being around hospital equipment.
Mom had read how animals were doing amazing work with sick people. Studies prove that the presence of calm animals can lower a person's blood pressure and that the comfort of a dog like me can be quite healing. We’re also lucky enough to be walking distance from Tacoma General and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. These progressive facilities allow this new innovative treatment.
We go to the Children’s Hospital and Adult Oncology once every week. I love it!! It’s a tough job but I'm the dog for the job. I’m even thinking I like it better than guide dogging. I can tell which patients really like dogs. Sometimes I gently hop up into patients' beds and cuddle. With some people I will put my paw on their arm and look into their eyes. Sometimes I will lay my head into the crook of their neck. Some patients and their families really enjoy my kisses. Mom has commented that sometimes I bring a smile to a really sick person and their inner essence shines through and they forget they are sick. Sometimes patients say I really made their day. And sometimes people just pet me. I am really soft, if I do say so myself. My ears are the silkiest in the West and this lanolin shampoo I have been using really keeps my coat very soft.
Some patients tell stories about their pets or lives. We hear a lot of good stories! The kids are really fun. They love me. I save a gentle lick on the nose for the smaller children. Some just can’t believe there is even a dog in the hospital at all! I love taking their minds off their troubles. I help family members and all the great people who work at the hospital, too.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me at my Mom's website, Voice on Fire.
I also have my own Facebook page (Lira Blake) Have a grrreat day!
And now a word from my mom:
Remember Mighty Mouse? "Here I come to save the day!" That's Lira. She has so many friends, you wouldn't believe it. She has this tremendous capacity to love and comfort those who need it. She makes every person feel special.
I couldn't begin to tell you how many special moments there have been when we go to the hospital. The first time I saw her place her paw lovingly on a patient's arm, I was touched beyond words. I knew this was her real destiny. I feel so lucky and blessed to experience this. I had to retire early from firefighting after a rewarding 21 years, due to an injury. The hardest challenge was to figure out how I could continue to serve. And then in bounded Lira, the amazing pet therapy dog.
Since retiring from the fire department I have been working tirelessly, building my voice-over business. Hence the name "Voice On Fire." Talk about taking a leap of faith. Can you think of anything more different? It's been difficult, but I will tell you this... I am working hard and will not give up. I am striving for that work that will get me more work. I'm sure you know the drill. I can't say Lira has helped me in my new career but she has given me purpose in my volunteer life.
There are so many ways to utililize working dogs in our world today. There are dogs trained to alert about diabetic sugar levels, epilepsy, bomb threats, drugs, and search and rescue, to name a few. It seems to me that we could alleviate some national security issues with dogs in airports. The possibilities are truly endless.
Fun Facts: Lira's hobbies include Playdates with her best buddy, Gaston, and cousins, Bozer and Heidi Ho, taking daily walks, playing catch, updating her Facebook page and sleeping. Yes, she does sleep on the bed at night. If any dog deserves it, she does!
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
January 21, 2010 statement from Doris “Granny D” Haddock in response to the Supreme Court’s decision that day to kill campaign finance reform.
Ten years ago, I walked from California to Washington, D.C. to help gather support for campaign finance reform. I used the novelty of my age (I was 90), to garner attention to the fact that our democracy, for which so many people have given their lives, is being subverted to the needs of wealthy interests, and that we must do something about it. I talked to thousands of people and gave hundreds of speeches and interviews, and, in every section of the nation, I was deeply moved by how heartsick Americans are by the current state of our politics.
Well, we got some reform bills passed, but things seem worse now than ever. Our good government reform groups are trying to staunch the flow of special-interest money into our political campaigns, but they are mostly whistling in a wind that has become a gale force of corrupting cash. Conditions are so bad that people now assume that nothing useful can pass Congress due to the vote-buying power of powerful financial interests. The health care reform debacle is but the most recent example.
The Supreme Court, representing a radical fringe that does not share the despair of the grand majority of Americans, has today made things considerably worse by undoing the modest reforms I walked for and went to jail for, and that tens of thousands of other Americans fought very hard to see enacted. So now, thanks to this Court, corporations can fund their candidates without limits and they can run mudslinging campaigns against everyone else, right up to and including election day.
The Supreme Court now opens the floodgates to usher in a new tsunami of corporate money into politics. If we are to retain our democracy, we must go a new direction until a more reasonable Supreme Court is in place. I would propose a one-two punch of the following nature:
A few states have adopted programs where candidates who agree to not accept special-interest donations receive, instead, advertising funds from their state. The programs work, and I would guess that they save their states more money than they cost by reducing corruption. Moving these reforms in the states has been very slow and difficult, but we must keep at it.
But we also need a new approach––something of a roundhouse punch. I would like to propose a flanking move that will help such reforms move faster: We need to dramatically expand the definition of what constitutes an illegal conflict of interest in politics.
If your brother-in-law has a road paving company, it is clear that you, as an elected official, must not vote to give him a contract, as you have a conflict of interest. Do you have any less of an ethical conflict if you are voting for that contract not because he is a brother-in-law, but because he is a major donor to your campaign? Should you ethically vote on health issues if health companies fund a large chunk of your campaign? The success of your campaign, after all, determines your future career and financial condition. You have a conflict.
Let us say, through the enactment of new laws, that a politician can no longer take any action, or arrange any action by another official, if the action, in the opinion of that legislative body’s civil service ethics officer, would cause special gain to a major donor of that official’s campaign. The details of such a program will be daunting, but we need to figure them out and get them into law.
Remarkably, many better corporations have an ethical review process to prevent their executives from making political contributions to officials who decide issues critical to that corporation. Should corporations have a higher standard than the United States Congress? And many state governments have tighter standards, too. Should not Congress be the flagship of our ethical standards? Where is the leadership to make this happen this year?
This kind of reform should also be pushed in the 14 states where citizens have full power to place proposed statutes on the ballot and enact them into law. About 70% of voters would go for a ballot measure to “toughen our conflict of interest law,” I estimate. In the scramble that would follow, either free campaign advertising would be required as a condition of every community’s contract with cable providers (long overdue), or else there would be a mad dash for public campaign financing programs on the model of Maine, Arizona, and Connecticut. Maybe both things would happen, which would be good.
I urge the large reform organizations to consider this strategy. They have never listened to me in the past, but they also have not gotten the job done and need to come alive or now get out of the way.
And to the Supreme Court, you force us to defend our democracy––a democracy of people and not corporations––by going in breathtaking new directions. And so we shall.
Doris “Granny D” Haddock
Dublin, New Hampshire
Note: Granny D turned 100 on January 24th. Happy Birthday, Granny D! I for one think you are the cat's meow! - Patty Mooney
Friday, January 22, 2010
Robin Williams - His affinity for Lance Armstrong, bicycle racing and tight red Lycra is known far and wide.
The Police - Sort of an "Abbey Road" thing with bicycles....?
Pee Wee Herman - Early Trials rider
Pamela Anderson - Loves to live dangerously: no helmet, one hand holding a latte, and Ugg boots????
Lieutenant Uhura - Looks even hotter on a bicycle than at the helm of the Enterprise.
Mr. Bean - What's that in your wee basket, mate?
Matthew Modine - After 20 miles, the seams on those pants are gonna really chafe!
Lance Armstrong - Now that's what I'm talking about!
Kate Hepburn - That's a hot mama. Look how she tied the pants so they wouldn't get chain grease on 'em.
Jake Gyllenhaal - He's doing it right; he's got a good helmet, a pair of tights, a reflective jacket and the correct shoes. He is a true cyclist.
Harrison Ford - Fully equipped with bike horn, basket and kick stand. Fully stylin'! Except, WHERE'S YOUR HELMET??
Elvis Presley - makes cycling look cool!
Brad Pitt - No, no, no.... Another parent who outfits ONE of his children with a helmet, and then does not wear one himself. And the young one's cranium is fully exposed to mishap as well. It's one step away from when Michael Jackson dangled his child out of a window.
Audrey Hepburn - Very sleek and sensual; an ageless beauty.
Mark Schulze and Patty Mooney - intrepid mountain bike video pioneers prior to performing a few "world's firsts" with their bikes in "Full Cycle: A World Odyssey"
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Jerry Sanders has been a steady helmsman through the roiling seas of his two terms as Mayor. During times when the state has been robbing the coffers of its cities to pad its fall towards bankruptcy, and when budgets for many of the city's beloved programs have to be slashed, Sanders's has been a voice of reason and practicality.
Mayor Sanders is a Republican, but not a typical one. In 2007, he changed his mind about the issue of gay marriage. He had been against it, but one day in 2007 held a press conference where he let the world know that he had been wrong about his stance. He stood up to say that he intended to "lead with his heart" and that he wanted to support his gay daughter, Lisa, in her desire to marry the person she loved.
I have always thought that, especially here in the United States, each person has the right to love whomever they want, to pursue happiness (as long as it does not infringe upon anyone else's rights), and to choose whether or not to bear a child. Seems like a no-brainer to me; however, there are intolerant people who seem to feel it's their business to prevent gay marriage, the right to an abortion, stem cell research, etc. Without getting all political in this little discussion about a politician, I have to say I admire Mayor Sanders for standing with his daughter. I was touched when I saw his press conference in 2007, and again last night when the news stations aired his testimony in opposition to Proposition 8.
In approaching these issues that all fall within the realm of choice, we must all remember that we each have one person to answer to - ourself. We should not throw stones if we happen to live in a glass house. We should not force our opinions upon others when we ourselves are imperfect. We should be tolerant of each other's feelings, needs and desires. We should treat others as we wish to be treated. Instead of censuring someone over their lifestyle choices, we should concentrate on making our own lives meaningful. And celebrate the choice of love.
As Mayor Sanders said, "We're on the eve of a momentous occasion, and that's when the Supreme Court has the opportunity ... to do the right thing for everybody in California. ... Many of us have worked for years and years and years to bring justice and enlightenment and equality to every community in San Diego. This battle is obviously one that's personal to each of you. It is personal to me. It's personal to my family. And I think it should be personal to everybody in California. Because when one group starts taking rights away from other groups, it could happen to any group." It's very simple. If you can love others, no matter how they choose to live their lives, then you will find enlightenment, and love will come to you.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Ed Asner's voice fills the character of Up's Carl Fredricksen with such huge emotion - yet in such a subtle way - that the viewer is along for the ride of a lifetime at every step.
We are introduced to Carl and Ellie, his wife-to-be, (although they certainly don't know it yet) when they are children. They are both enamored with a Hemingwayesque explorer by the name of Muntz who has inspired Ellie to put an adventure scrapbook together of "Stuff I'm going To Do." Her big dream is to go to Paradise Falls in South America, where Muntz disappeared after vowing that he would return only when he could bring back proof that a rare 15-foot bird he claimed to have seen, really existed.
Carl and Ellie grow to adulthood, get married, and then settle into the kind of marital bliss that keeps them leashed to their home. Their dream of Paradise Falls fades into the distant past as they settle into a domestic groove of cooking, cleaning, gardening, reading and looking into each other's eyes. Then one awful day, Ellie dies and leaves Carl behind, stunned that an entire lifetime has vanished and now he is alone to sort things out.
Life continues to happen around him, including the demolition and redevelopment of his surrounding neighborhood. Of course he has refused to sell the home that he has shared with Ellie for all those decades. When a member of the construction crew crushes the mailbox that Ellie had lovingly painted, Carl goes into a rage and knocks the offender on the head with his walker. Now Carl is vulnerable to the outside world that believes he is unsound and needs to be carted away to a nursing home.
This is when Carl, a balloon salesman by vocation, decides it is finally time to bring the Paradise Falls dream to reality. He affixes the house with thousands of balloons and on the day the nursing home employees have come to fetch him, the house lifts off into the sky. There's one slight problem, though. Russell, a young Scout who wants to earn his last badge by helping an old person, is an unwitting stow-away.
"Up" is one of the most touching films I have ever seen, maybe a three- or four-choker (i.e., the viewer will be choked up with emotion at least three or four times) as Carl meets the challenges of a new and adventurous life, even at his age. Russell is the child who poses as a mirror in which Carl can see himself. And the spirit of Ellie permeates the house, along for the ride every step of the way.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Through the years I have been aware of their existence, the San Diego Chargers have been a "teaser team." A team that COULD QUITE POSSIBLY go ALL THE WAY. We have boasted such players as Lance Alworth (who played before my time), Charlie Joiner, Kellen Winslow Sr, Junior Seau, Dan Fouts, and most recently, LaDainian Tomlinson and Phillip Rivers. Over the last few years, these last two players seemed to conjure the chemistry of a team with well-oiled machinery and the illusion that our team could steamroll into victory at the Superbowl.
2010 is the 50th anniversary for the Chargers. Many of us dreamed of a Superbowl featuring the Chargers versus the Saints, the team Drew Brees - the quarterback we had cast off when he hurt his throwing arm - has been leading to victory all season long. And where Reggie Bush, a Helix-high school alumnus, also makes big plays. We figure that no matter who won, we would still be a happy camper.
My most surreal moment Sunday occurred about a half hour before the game. My husband, Mark, was at Qualcomm Stadium as a camera operator shooting the pilot of a reality show featuring San Diego Charger, John Runyan, who recently signed on as a Charger. He intends to play for a year and then retire to run for Congress. When I returned from the Farmers Market and walked into the house the phone was ringing. When I picked it up, Mark said, "Turn on Channel 8." I did this immediately. Mark said, "See Kyle Kreska? (San Diego sports reporter)... And the big guy in the blue shirt? Look beyond him." My eyes lasered in on Mark on his cell phone talking to me. It was hilarious.
The Chargers had accrued a very strong record, having lost three games at the beginning of the season, and then winning 11 in a row. But it seemed like the hype about Darrelle Revis, the newly minted New York Jets cornerback, had hit its mark whether intentionally or not. I think the moment when Revis collected a ball bounced off intended receiver, Vincent Jackson, and ran it for a few yards, was the definitive play of the game.
As Hank Stram said, "The team that makes the least mistakes, wins." That is what happened Sunday, and what brought an end to our 2010 Chargers season.
Everyone left in a rather somber mood. However, no one could deny what a great time we had shared together, over barbequed chicken and pork chops along with macaroni salad and a guava cake I had baked with a cream cheese frosting. Marisa even shook a few lemon drops for the vodka lovers. Everyone had a great time. It was not so much the Chargers losing that depressed everybody; it was that we would not converge against until next season.
Bad Bolts!" was our plaintive cry. "Bad Bolts!"
And... "Go Saints."
Photo of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shawne Merriman was taken by Mark Schulze.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
It took me a long time to figure out what made me happy. When you are young you don't yet know all the options open to you. You're at the mercy of parents, teachers, and circumstances over which you have no control. But I believe I always had an inner core of happiness. My dad's nickname for me as a kid was "Smiley." And when I pore over photographs of myself as a child, I do seem to be smiling a lot. (That's me in the striped shirt on the left in the photo.)
I enjoyed spending time with my Grandma Richard and Grandma Mooney. Both of them informed me that I had many choices that I could make as an adult. I could be a mommy, a teacher or a nurse. None of those careers really inspired me at the time, and it's a tribute to pushy women like Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Billie Jean King that the choices widened up by the time I was ready to embark on my own career.
It's when I hit my "teen angst years" that a cloud of depression and gloom descended upon me. I had no idea what my future held, but my dreams kept me buoyed even as dark events threatened to pull me into the undertow. My beloved grandmothers both died. When my father got a job transfer, my family had to move from Kansas City where I was surrounded by friends who adored me to east Detroit where no one cared. After I fell down a set of stairs at school, an orthopedic surgeon operated on my knee and scraped away all the cartilage so that for the next four decades I suffered with degenerative arthritis, culminating in a Total Knee Replacement just last year. One of my darkest moments was getting raped and then left on a highway shoulder in west Detroit. When that occurred, I thought I could never be happy again.
But all those events faded into memory as I bloomed into my adulthood and began to achieve my dreams. I hitchhiked to California to start my life as a writer. I met my soulmate on Valentine's Day of 1982 and we have been together ever since. We traveled down under together, backpacking for two months in New Zealand, Tahiti and Fiji. In 1986 we drove around the United States, Canada and Alaska in a small Chinook for nine months (and 25,000) miles.
We built our video production company up from doing weddings and bar mitzvahs to where we are today, shooting high end productions for broadcast and corporate clients. A month ago I was laughing so hard I was crying as I commandeered a long-lens camera to record a Mystery Science Theater 2000 Christmas show. (It was a lock-down shot for much of the show, so I could laugh all I wanted.)
In the course of my work, I have chatted with stellar talents like J. Craig Venter, the man who mapped the human genome and is now working on a way to provide energy sources from algae, and former football star Kellen Winslow Jr. I have interviewed Hillary Clinton and Hilary Swank. I can tell you that Charlize Theron and Kim Kardashian are astoundingly beautiful, that Gene Simmons kept five crews waiting on a red carpet for two and a half hours, that Carrot Top has bulked up like he was tired of having sand kicked in his face, that Stan Lee is the epitome of graciousness, that Jerry Springer likes to sing Karaoke and is good at it, that Arnold Schwarzenegger is smaller than he looks on the big screen, and his hands are the size of hams.
I believe that those acne-ridden teenage years are sort of like the annealing process of the human being. If you can make it through alive, then you can choose to be happy. It is up to you whether you want to dwell in the pit of darkness or not.
I saw a news piece about Avatar the other night. The reporter mentioned that many viewers go to see it multiple times, and that when they leave the magnificent cinemascape of Pandora and emerge back into the light of Planet Earth, they are depressed and suicidal. It sounds to me like people have chained themselves too long to their computer monitors and big screens. A writer named Richard Louv, whom we recently interviewed about his book, "Last Child in the Woods," has coined the term, "Nature-Deficit Disorder." He points out that children need exposure to nature, like a plant needs sunlight. Their parents set them in front of the mindless babysitter, the television set. This is not only a disservice to children, but to society. To achieve a balance of good health and happiness, you've got to go out there and get your dose of Vitamin D. Go take a walk around the block. Ride your bike. Go to the beach or your local park.
In San Diego we are fortunate to have the largest city park in the country, Mission Trails. I ride my mountain bike there a lot, or hike to a small set of waterfalls. There's Cowles Mountain which I have blogged about before, the highest mountain in the city of San Diego. There are many other fun destinations where my friends and I go to ride our mountain bikes or hike. There are creeks to swim in, boulders to climb, shaded areas out in the mountains to bring a bottle of wine and a picnic. We do it at least once a week, and sometimes twice. Can you ever really get "enough" of nature? (P.S. When you spend time in Nature, you'll be less likely to let bad things happen to it.)
As in the animated movie, "Up" (on which I plan to write a film reflection), people just postpone their adventures until they are too old - or dead - to do them. Don't let that be you. Go and have a little fun with your "Mother" (Nature). Do it today.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Less work means more play for me. I started paying more visits to our local museums. Last week at the San Diego Museum of Art, I saw this riveting piece, "The Triumph of Death" - a woodcut on paper (gigantic panels pieced together) and snapped some photos to share with you, my blog pals.
The artist is Artemio Rodriguez, a Mexican printmaker who was born in 1972 in Tacambaro, Michoacan, Mexico. His work is "as current as a graffiti wall, yet grounded in traditions that reach back to the Middle Ages," according to Scott Rothstein ("Art Found Out.") "Primarily a print marker, he has departed at times from paper to apply his imagery on cars and even skateboards."
Scott goes on to say, "In form, his work pays tribute to the Mexican master, José Guadalupe Posada. Like Posada’s woodcuts, Rodriguez’s prints are aggressive and provocative. Both artists excel at pushing the simple craft of woodcut printing to its limits. These are not artists that use the print as a secondary form of expression, but rather they use the technique as their primary medium.
"After living in Los Angeles for many years, Rodriguez has recently relocated back to Mexico. Now residing in Tacámbaro, Michoacán, he is currently the driving force behind El Huerto, Centro de Ecologia y Artes (The Orchard, Center for Ecology and Arts)."
I was so enthralled by Rodriguez's work, I snapped several detail shots. Apologies for any fuzziness; no flash is allowed in the museum.
I think that the Mexican culture has the right attitude about death. They do not fear it; they embrace it, i.e., Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). But as we see here, this is not a celebration of death, it is diatribe about the point we seem to have reached collectively as a civilization.