Tuesday, September 29, 2009

And By the Way: E. is Back

Salt Lake City, Utah / ソルト・レーク・シティ (ユタ)Image by Jose P Isern Comas via Flickr

Last night on flight 4667 from Salt Lake City, where the Air Gods put her for 30 minutes to taunt the old Mormons with the fact that a harem of dozen is nothing compared to her, a collection of crumbs after the cake is gone.

When she came through security and I saw her as beautiful as a girl (or as beautiful as a girl should have the good fortune to be, having been burnished by time), naturally Wordsworth came to mind as I strained to capture the moment. (My heart leapt up, you know?)

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.

It was nine at night and not dawn, but you get the idea. You can be too literal. Love is not literal, not the kind that finishes the marathon.
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Coming Soon: A Poetry Salon! (Give Me Some Zombie Fries and I'll Get You In)

Go left and down and hit Salonista Central if you're curious. It's a wiki. I posted this today in the "memories of the salon" section. When it comes to words, I like to multipurpose.

MR: Just to start the ball rolling, I'll recount a fairly recent salon moment burned into these old retinas -- and into the old stirrup and anvil, too. It was a salon hosted by Lyle and Matt to which Lyle had invited some of her classiest musical friends, those interested in your classical music of equal amounts beauty and obscurity, a wonderful ride on the wayback machine, don't you know?
But these delicates did not know much about the salons and (I assume) assumed there would be a certain daintiness about the proceedings.
*Then came Wieder.*
He did a where-are-they now bit in which he managed to defame the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and all the Kennedys. Ah, the moment dances in memory, as half of us howled for the wit of it but also for the *Wieder* of it. But some of Lyle's guests physically recoiled, having come to the zoo to enjoy the peacocks and prairie dogs only to see the monkeys F**K.
You see, you have to earn the right to be at a salon. Wieder plunges you into an acid bath. When it comes to Wieder, that which does not destroy you, makes you laugh.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Man's Work

My Friend GaneshaImage by h.koppdelaney via Flickr

Went online and chose seats for E.'s return tomorrow. Checked in her bag and printed her boarding passes, which I then faxed to her.

Look up "helpmate" in most dictionaries, and you'll find my picture.

A Funny Comment I Better Write Down Before I Forget It. And While You're Up: More Zombie Fries!

He is ethically dyslexic. If he says it's right, you can count on it being wrong.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Black Cat Month is Coming

I took this picture of Lilith, a black cat fou...Image via Wikipedia

Or so they say over at About Cats, my website of choice for unlimited (and perhaps even untethered) cat love. I believe we must have us a black cat soon. I'm told that they are harder to adopt out and more likely to be abused because of their association with witches, evil and bad luck. We've had two, and they were the sweetest boys.
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Would You Like Zombie Fries with That?

Spent a happy hour-plus on a conference call with our Florida lawyer, E. and her sister being on location in the actual lawyer's office, talking about how to settle Mom's estate. The estate consists more or less of a ten-year-old car, some dishes and stuffed animals, enough knickknacks to jump start the Victorian age and some decent pieces of furniture in which E. and I (snobs to the core) have no interest.

If the estate seems vacuous, as you know nature -- and the legal profession -- abhors a vacuum, so we are expected to keep tossing money into that vacuum to "get things settled." (Editor: Insert sound of shrugging shoulders.)

After I got off the phone, I went biking with Big Pat. We struggled. It took us an hour-five to cover a distance Pat used to do in half that, and probably still could if not encumbered by me.

Then I dropped by Pat's apartment to look at Rose, his dachshund, who may be near her end, if a dachshund can be said to be near her end. (Sorry).

She is such a gallant little dog. Her rear legs twitched frantically as she tried to control them. We made hopeful noises and suddenly she walked six inches and produced a handsome example of dog excrement.

That fine turd is her ticket to ride. As long as she eats and eliminates, Pat will keep her alive. Her gaze is still strong, and she cornered me with a flurry of barks when we came back to the apartment. Perhaps, I should say I carefully positioned myself in relation to her barking so that we achieved the semblance of cornering. It's all about respect, which Rose deserves .

Then we walked down the block to Berkeley's finest Nepalese restaurant -- there are three, which is wild -- where I had a Blue Himalaya beer and a lamb curry with extra naan and a big serving of vegetables, which should reassure E. that she also has me cornered when it comes to healthy living.

Continuing the dog metaphor: Lassie, come home. I hope by Tuesday she will.
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Monday, September 21, 2009

The Berserker

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Weren't beserkers Norse warriors who cultivated a fine madness when they went into battle?

Yesterday lightning strikes at the Tampa airport delayed my US Air flight into Phoenix, where I missed my Oakland connection by ten minutes. I did get a good five hours sleep at the airport Crown Plaza so I can't pretend I slept on a hard bench in the airport to save money.

Arrived at Oakland at 9:30 a.m., home by a little after 10, time to dab the armpits, put on the crisp shirt and fight bridge traffic -- which the new wiggle detour near Yerba Buena island has certainly slowed down -- and made it to class with a full five minutes to spare.

But my brain was roasted, and I fear I was rather random in my remarks *and you could see the fear in the faces of the lambs.* But a good night's sleep and I probably won't remember at thing.
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Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Funeral is Over

Les PaulLes Paul via last.fm

I don't think I'm going to blog about it. I think writing about the funeral I will need to do a little Les Paul, that is, lay down some tracks, which certainly is one way of describing writing, revising, going through drafts.

E. wrote a beautiful tribute to her mom, characterizing her mom by thanking various friends and family members, identifying the reasons mom felt gratitude. This was both specific and generous. It's funny how often funeral tributes are sometimes more about the speaker than the subject of the tribute. The speaker is the circle, and the person being honored is the tangent.

Some of the tributes were like that a little more than I like. It would seem that I am writing about the funeral. This is just the first track. What is harder to write about is the ambiance, I guess you'd call it -- the Protestant hymns, the insistence that tears are all right but that Mom is with Jesus so (implication) get a grip people.

Unless you aren't really a Christian. Hah! Imposter, bowing that head but not closing those eyes, nodding not in agreement but in time with the tides, the crumbling atoms, the rhythms of the sky, the rhythms of all the fancy words I've just disgorged.

And the hymns, some of them are treacle and some will break your heart, particularly Amazing Grace, a capella. This being a wretch thing, also feeling and/or being lost, I can identify with that, with the problem, just not with the solution. Very complicated afternoon.

So, track one.

Winding Down

The Burghers of Calais. Photo by Jeff Kubina.Image via Wikipedia

The funeral is at 2 p.m. After that, it all goes to the lawyers, who will make a thin meal of it except on us.

There's no money left. But that doesn't mean there won't be a fight over a china plate, a corner cabinet, a mug shaped like a burgher's head.

E. has the advantage of not wanting anything except some of the stuff we gave Mom, though personally I've always had my eye on that burgher's head.
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Friday, September 18, 2009

So Far So ... What?

Duelling wills, the new one placed in E.'s hand after the visitation tonight. Cue the music. Play us off, cat.

The Haircut. The Visitation.

Scene from Book XXIV of the Iliad: Hector's co...Image via Wikipedia

Got a nine dollar haircut and some advice besides from J. the stylist, who tells everyone -- me, the salon cat, his parents -- that funerals weird him out so he will never ever go to any. His parents understand, he says. I think they have spent their lives understanding.

And now to the visitation, 5p for family, 6-8p for hoi polloi. This will be a moment. We have not seen mom's body. If tears heal, let's drag in the lepers and the hard of heart because I think I know what's to come. If not now, when? J. the stylist said one of the things he does not like about funerals is what he considers how many of the tears sad are false, or at least irrelevant, since (and I'm paraphrasing here):

What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her?

Perhaps, that's true. But give true tears credit, and false tears, too, for I think some don't weep in the moment, but store their sorrow up for later on. It's natural as flowers in spring. Just wait.

And let us remember the rest of Hamlet's thought.

Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech;
Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears.

We Are Working on Eulogies Today

heavily-carved beech treeImage by Benimoto via Flickr

I have two minutes. I do my best:

Henrietta Matilda Landrith was born in Frankenmuth, Michigan in 1911. She died in Winter Haven, Florida, in 2009. She spoke only German until she was eight years old. Once she learned English, she made up for lost time.

She was a missionary for eight years, and paraphrasing the poet, we think that she might say, “Open my chest and you will find carved into my heart a single word, and that word is Africa.”

She was the wife of Loren Joseph Landrith for 51 years. At my father’s funeral, my mother asked me if I thought there will be sex in heaven. That is a profound question, and one I would not attempt to answer. But I can say this. Today once more my mother-in-law will lie beside her husband.

Henrietta Landrith is survived by daughters Mary Iaquinta of Venice; Edith Landrith-Robertson of Oakland, California; Esther Hardesty of Winter Haven; Lois Landrith of Weaverville, North Carolina; sons-in-law Sam Iaquinta and Michael Robertson; granddaughters Deborah Iaquinta of Weymouth, Massachusetts, Michelle Iaquinta of Austin, Texas, and Shirah Hartfield of Plano, Texas; great grandsons Elijah, Isaiah and Noah Hartfield. And her name is carved into all their hearts, as it is into those of so many in this room.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

So Far So Good IV

[Walter Blair, catcher, Rochester, Internation...Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

A very good day in that E. seems to be navigating a straight path between her two sisters Scylla and Charybdis and, in fact, is handling things very well. However, I'm starting to get a little frayed, though it may simply be the result of someone doing a little hit-and-run on the front fender of the rented car. But this is the first time I've had a rental dinged in 40 years, so it was undoubtedly due.

Otherwise, it's just wear and tear. Let me use a baseball metaphor. I'm the catcher -- the hitless wonder -- who has come in to catch the knuckle-baller. There are a lot of bad hops, but I'm getting my body in front of them and taking them off the torso, the arms, the mask. I believe I am developing a case of cumulative woe.

And it's too hot, and I'm not sleeping, and I'm trying to keep up with email, but I'm going to come back home 10 days behind in grading. Also, I have no idea it will take to sell this damn house -- which we will need to do because of the reverse mortgage we got in Mom's name -- and we'll have to pay all the incidentals to maintain the house, and that includes paying a sister to stay in it. We could rent, of course, but wouldn't it be quicker just to blow it up ourselves?

A slow day in a hot and humid place.
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Your Streamlined Newspaper

Your Streamlined Newspaper

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mom and I Give a Little Mouth-to-Mouth to a Dying Industry

Click it big. Click it big.

So Far So Good III

YPRES, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 05:  A stone cutter ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I guess that I am now the family patriarch if the patriarch is the one who pays for everything. I don't even blink. Of course, E. would have retired five years ago if it weren't for family, and she makes more than I do, which makes me a bit of an imposter, perhaps a usurper.

But it's the South, Big Daddy country, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, etc. So patriarch it is.

With the role comes responsibilities. If no one else sasses the waitresses -- this is the South and they expect to be sassed -- I must do the sassing, though it's probably more bluster than sass, a kind of post-sexual bluffing.

Again: It's the South. One blends. Also, one overtips, if one is a patriarch, particularly a sassy one.

In addition to eating large portions at chain restaurants, today we went to the cemetery to look at the grave site. In doing so, we destroyed, or at least drastically reconfigured, a family myth. I've been telling people for years that Mom was one of those thrifty seniors who when burying a mate and having a tombstone carved some years ago, saved a nickel by having their birthdate carved in, plus the first half of the year of their demise: 19--.

But that's not so! The gravemarker is bronze, and the birth/death dates are bolted on, detachable. E. swears, however, that Mom did have her first two digits done back there 20 years ago, that at minimum Mom did have her little bronze plate done with a "19" on it. E. swears she saw it, saw that "19" and that it must have been stamped on a bronze plate, and that plate is now missing, probably unbolted sometime early in 2000 when the cemetery folk did not want to be reduced to a laughingstock.

It was a good myth. Losing it has taken some of the fun out of all this. I think I need to refer to someone else as Big Red and give them a 20 percent tip.

Oh something else. Everyone -- and I do mean everyone -- if they choose to comfort us say some variation on, Now she's in a better place.

No I don't have the stones to answer Yes, on Amazon Island with Wonder Woman and the Goddess at last.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

So Far So Good II

Cover of "Soylent Green"Cover of Soylent Green

This afternoon we went to the funeral home, a trip that filled me with dread because. even though Mom had pre-paid for her funeral, that was 20 years ago, which meant the funeral industry scum had 20 years to lose the paperwork, change the rules, begin operation under new management -- Soylent Green, Ltd. I believe the new group is.

To my dismay -- the dismay of having to improve one's notion of the fundamental decency of one's fellow human being -- when we told the funeral people that You know what? We've lost every scrap of record of Mom's prepaying, they poked around for a couple minutes and reappeared with a photocopy of the original agreement. The funeral director explained several times that mom had bought a $8,500 funeral for $3,700. I didn't mind. It's okay to preen occasionally.

We were so thrilled that we were not being ripped off that I bought several gaudy nonessentials -- yes, Mom will now have an eternal website of pictures and tributes and so on of which I shall be *webmaster* -- because, damn, if I don't go thousands of dollars out of pocket during the next few days.... Well, what's the point of having in-laws?

Though this is my last one. I thought Mom's advanced age -- actually only 98 years, five months -- had steeled me against any emotion other than relief that her suffering, which was wonderfully brief, is over. And I felt quite a lot of anticipation that E. and I will be at home for Christmas for the first time in five years and will be able to spend all of December together for the first time in five years. The relief came washing over me, you might say, before there was pain to wash away.

But at the funeral home today one of our tasks was picking out a bit of poetry for the cards that will be handed out at the service. They had several pages of samples, and I choose a handsome sentiment by Emerson -- though the funeral home spelled it Emmerson, which error I graciously pointed out. And then, just because my Ph.D. is in English Lit, with a specialty in 19th Century British, I read a poem by Tennyson because I thought E. and Esther would like it and I like doggerel because doggerel reads well.

I read the first two lines of the poem, and then I began to weep, pretty damn loud, real weep-track quality if there is such a thing. And for what? Only cliche can come after that question, but if cliche happens to be the truth, well, you can't just go around making shit up to be all cool and Steven Sondheim.

And for what -- as I was saying -- did I weep? For my mother-in-law who gave me my wife (thank you); who said she loved me in spite of the fact I was not handy around the house when I came to visit, though I tried; who was so fierce in her joy and her sorrow and who laughed madly in her gladness, laughed as her daughter laughs, loud enough to embarrass you to be honest, if it happened in public.

Actually, Mom cackled, and it was nice finally to be able to say, So that's what that word means.

And I cried, mind you, over Tennyson. But that's a good thing because it shows the tears were genuine, all mine and none of the poet.

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,

And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,When I embark;
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place

The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

I concede: Isn't it pretty to think so?

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Mom 18 Months Ago

So Far So Good I

Just listened in on a call between E. and Esther and Mom's minister. This is sad, but my reaction to preachers is usually: And just how full of crap are you? But this guy is good. That is, he has obviously done lots of funerals and lots of grief counseling, and he knows how to ease the hearts of those in emotional need.

Two problems:

* Mom laid out exactly what she wanted done at her funeral -- hymns, etc. There were apparently multiple copies of her preferences, but no one can find any of them. The preacher was very good at reassuring "the girls" that whatever they decided would honor Mom and make her happy.

* What to do about pallbearers! E. still remembers her dad's funeral 20 years ago when the family members -- cousins and nephews -- who were chosen to bear the casket were so old and feeble they almost dropped him. I (I overheard) am considered pretty old and feeble, and I may be the best of the eligibles. But the preacher said he could find church members to cover as needed. (I am tempted to say something about muscular Christianity.)

By the way, as I tell E., all this family nonsense of the moment -- nonsense I will leave richly vague; just let me say there are other sisters -- all of it just doesn't matter. The job has been done. The job was done brilliantly. The job was taking care of mom during her last difficult six years -- oh, the cash flow, and now all the money gone and no God in heaven to give us credit for it -- and now the job is over.

We have been good and faithful servants. Cool.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Well, mom died, and we are in Florida. So far so good in the sense that tensions that will probably arise when sisters are in proximity have been avoided by keeping sisters out of proximity. Let's see how long I can keep that up.

Graveside wrestling. There's the reality TV people want to see.

Mom died okay, lying there with her daughter beside her. Esther said that mom's breathing was labored but regular. And then there was a breath followed by quite a long pause before the next breath. Esther said she urged Mom to *breathe*. But she didn't.

Nine-eight and one-half years is a long time, some of it remarkable But that's something E. needs to write about, herself being one of the more remarkable aspects.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Morphine Says It All

They've put mom on morphine. We know what that means. E. is on the plane tomorrow morning. They haven't said this is it. But I think this is it.

Dishonest Smiles, Duplicitous Nods, Iniquitous Twinkles

An interviewImage via Wikipedia

The topic of the first essay in my journalistic ethics class is the "ethics of interviewing," which I put in quotes not simply because it's a title but also because one sometimes uses quote marks to indicate that which is quoted is not to be considered in the common way, that it may be ironic or equivocal.

What is equivocal about interviewing is its hiddenness. What happens in interviewing stays in interviewing, even when interviews are videotaped since questions are often edited out. But for print reporters for whom jotted notes are the only record of what went on -- why borrow trouble by even suggesting you have questions about how you question?

I like to say that the reporter's task is to pump the interviewee dry -- the implication being that broad ethical latitude should be given as to methods --but that the real ethical heavy lifting comes when you decide what to do with what you've pumped out. I suppose my operative principle is that you, as interviewer, need to know everything but that your reader -- and indeed your editor, that cold-hearted bastard -- need not know what you know. Some things are meant to stay in your notebook.

You might say this is more of a feature writer's approach and that a news reporter would, of course, empty the notebook onto the page without compunction. I think not. I think every good reporter gets information about which he/she does not feel the benefit of publication outweighs potential damage to the source of the information, even if the only damage comes from identifying the source.

But returning to the techniques of interviewing, one profits (I think) from questioning how you question. Naturally, as a teacher of ethics, I would feel that way. That's the point of the course. Prethink. Rethink. And *then* having said *that*, I warn against analysis paralysis. If the only lesson the kids take is to be timid deferential interviewers, didn't we spend the Bush years relearning how ill democracy is served by timid deferential *ethically fastidious* interviewing?

La ronde, or do I mean thesis/antithesis/synthesis? Mulling is such a good word. In ethics class we spend a good deal of time mulling.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Brother Pabst Pointed to This: Media Chaos = Darn Good Fun (for Those Pointing the Finger)

How does this affect teaching journalism. I'm not going to come up with the solution; I just hope I recognize the solution when someone else comes up with it.

Health & Wealth

Alexander cuts the Gordian Knot, by Jean-Simon...Image via Wikipedia

As I wrote earlier in the week, our niece slashed the Gordian knot when she advised her mom, who is caregiver for E.'s mom, that if E.'s mom is in terrible pain and the nursing home staff shrugs and says those suffering from dementia (which mom isn't) groan as if in pain.

But we are wise and know they aren't.

Our niece's advice was elegant in its simplicity. Ask nursing home staff to call 911 and do it yourself if they won't. So Esther did. When mom got to the hospital, the admitting doctor looked at her and about six seconds later said: "Dehydration. Massive infection."

They are treating. No prognosis yet. A family friend called E. this morning and reassured her that the friend has asked the nurses to let her know if they think mom's death is imminent, so the other daughters can be summoned. Aforementioned family friend thinks Esther, the caregiver, will be in denial to the end.

Finally, mom seems to be getting proper treatment, and that made me think about the very rich like Howard Hughes and Michael Jackson who are able to afford not just the very best treatment but also the very worst from quacks and charlatans who will play to their patients' psychological weaknesses. Jacko hired his own death panel, and he got what he paid for.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

When Hospice Folk Are Idiots

On the phone today with the hospice rep whom mom's nursing home called in to help E.'s sister Esther deal with the fact mom is dying. We called the hospice rep after she'd left the unit so we could talk frankly about Esther's state of denial.

First question, however, was what can you do to deal with mom's pain? Oh the nursing home is handling that, the rep said. Your mother is moaning and groaning because that's what people with dementia do. No pain medicine needed!!

After some euphemistic what-the-fucking, we told the rep she didn't know what she was talking about, not so euphemistically. So that was a quick phone call. But what to do? Mom is in pain. The nursing home is dithering and evading. Oh what to do?

Esther's daughter in Dallas made us proud. She told Esther to tell the nursing home folk that they could call 911 or she could call 911 but someone was going to call 911 and get mom to the hospital.

I felt somewhat embarrassed. Here was direct, effective and compassionate action, though apparently the nursing home has easily hurt feelings and won't let mom come back. But that's a problem for later.

Turns out -- duh! as they used to say back in the day when you and I were young -- that Mom has a temperature and an infection, which the hospital will get after toot sweet. Maybe mom will end up plugged in and her end prolonged, which I wanted to avoid. But as long as they deal with her pain, we can deal with ours.

Obama OKay. I Think.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Medica...Image via Wikipedia

But more than okay depends on what flows from the speech. It seemed to invite a delay of the public option, and that is either smart politics that will someday produce a public option, meaning an inevitable expansion of Medicare to the masses.

Or not.

But it was passionate and eloquent. Maybe it will be many things to many people, inspiring some, goading others. Maybe it provides cover for those who waver. But if only the spirit of LBJ would ooze up from beneath the White House floorboards and inhabit BHO for a couple hours a week.

By the way in Journalism Ethics today I wanted to use the mainstream reporting of the disruptions at the congressional townhalls during August -- the question being were the disruptions cherry-picked and exaggerated.

And Dah Babies didn't seem to know what in the hall I was talking about. Or maybe they did and they were shy. Sometimes, I flare my nostrils and stamp my feet too much. I must be terrifying.
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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I am Duty Bound to Blog About Obama's Speech

I'm a blogger. That's what bloggers do. They blog. If they stop blogging, they aren't bloggers. It's a very existential thing: existence before essence.

But what to say? Then again, that's not a question that has ever stopped a blogger from blogging. But when you are not quite sure what to say, the answer is:

Bullet Points. And here they come.

* I will be more disappointed in Obama if he fails to hit at least a 6-of-10 on the goodness scale with whatever healthcare reform Congress passes than I was with Clinton when he failed to get anything at all through. It's the Southern thing. I felt in my bones that Clinton was flawed, Faulkneresque. I had more hope than expectation (being Southern).

But Obama seemed like a new thing, and even though any analysis of his record in the context of Illinois politics suggested how very moderate and cautious he was, one could not fail to project upon him what was possible rather than what was likely. His blackness (such as it is; what there is of it) filled one with conviction that he was an outsider, which I interpreted as meaning he would come charging into the temple like Jesus among the moneychangers.

There was no particular reason to think this, only to be convinced of it. So if Clinton was from Faulkner, where is Obama from, fictionally speaking?

Moby Dick, All the King's Men, Death of a Salesman, The Great Gatsby -- damn, all my fav American lit is depressing. I think perhaps I must fall back on Shakespeare and Henry V.

Barack. About that speech tomorrow: Adapt, adopt and improve.

(Liberals as "we few; we happy few." That works.)
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Sunday, September 06, 2009

YoYo (Woo Woo): Old Ladies in Nursing Homes

The Florida nursing home commissars called in E.'s sister Esther, who is their mom's caregiver, to say that mom is "dying" and that they are "bringing in hospice." Now we have to figure out from a distance what that means. There is dying precipitously and there's dying gradually, and at 98.5 with assorted systems visibly degrading, obviously we know mom is "in process," as it were.

It's our understanding that going into hospice simply means death is anticipated within six months, so in one sense we have learned nothing new. I retract that. It confirms our conviction that mom will never return to equilibrium, that state in which we knew she had recurrent problems but there was a solution for each of them, a "reset," as it were.

The practical concern here is determining when E. goes back to Florida and how often. She was just there for a week. She is planning to go back in November when Esther goes to Texas for the birth of a grandchild, but if mom is *dying* dying -- the big Double D -- of course she'll go back earlier. But we don't know, and Esther is in a kind of denial about the whole thing, an attitude both brave and virtuous since she's caregiving like crazy, but not useful in terms of clarity and post-mortem planning.

Well, as one of my deans likes to say: There you go.

Meanwhile, my mom back there in Tennessee in *her* nursing home, my mom who is pretty much a sad vegetable, had a sudden burst of manic energy that stunned her caregivers. My sister caught the tail end of it. To the happy Baptist nursing home came some Gospel singers, and there my mother (91.5) was pumping her fist, going "woo woo" and saying "you are awesome."

Where this came from no one knows, only that very quickly it went away.

A friend wonders how we can afford all this. With my mom, it's velvet. We managed to enroll her in CalPers nursing home insurance eight years ago and paid out about $25,000 in monthly premiums -- my older sis and I split the costs while my younger sister sponged away all my mom's money. Isn't that a nice symmetry? A little more than two years we "stole" my mom from my younger sister -- long ugly story -- and put mom in the Happy Baptist and started collecting from CalPers. Mom was not eligible for Medicaid because of the way my younger sister had dissipated mom's nest egg. When it came to selfishness, my younger sis doubled down.

Ah well. Thank you, CalPers.

Meanwhile, we failed to get E.'s mom into the CalPers program, and now she is on Medicaid because our heroic efforts to keep her in her home dissipated her nest egg. (And we didn't skim a nickel. More fool us.)

Here's a hint: If your aging parent has a little too much monthly income to qualify for Medicaid even though having no savings, there's something called a qualified income trust that solves the problem. And if you get a reverse mortgage on Aged P's house, that money is not considered as regular income and thus is outside the rules of the qualified income trust.

Okay, writing about this is depressing. But, reduced to its essence, I'm saying that both of our moms are what passes for all right, at least in the kingdom of the ancient where death is the dawn and all is in shadow. Or, less smarmily, it ain't pretty, but it's not unbearable.
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Friday, September 04, 2009

How Often Is This What I See When I Stare Out at My Classes? Well, Sometimes.

For the backstory and the ethical implications (twice removed) check out the journalism ethics blog.

A Manly Exchange of Emails Concerning Football, Football, Biking and Poetry

Group performance using pom-<span class=pons." style="border: medium none ; display: block;" height="202" width="300">Image via Wikipedia

Pat and I are going to a UFL game in beautiful Frisco. (To which many will say: Huh?) Notice that Pat *spelled pom-pons correctly.


I had to pull in some favors, but being a sports columnist and all I was able to get two seats on the 50 yard line. A miracle no one grabbed these tickets.

So, it’s New York Sentinels vs. California Redwoods, October 17, 2009 6:00PM PST @ AT&T Park - San Francisco, CA.

Of course we must purchase the appropriate jackets, hats, cushions, coolers, pom- pons, and the rest.

On another topic. Can’t think of a graceful way to back out of this but I can't (make it) to your ancestral cottage to watch the Cal game,



I am there on October 17. As for the Cal game, I thought you had invited me to your digs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Crossed paths would have been funny. But it’s now moot. Turns out we have A’s tickets, which I want to use more out of curiosity than anything else. We went to a game about a month ago where the announced attendance was 12k, but it looked like half that. Eydie said let’s move closer down to an empty row – that vixen – and she seemed to enjoy the game on account of the weird emptiness. Also, I felt obligated to shout a lot to fill the silence, and that amused her.

But no more about that. My mind is filled with thoughts of Redwoods- Sentinels. Oh I did brag a lot about our biking success to Richmond Marina and beyond on yesterday, that showed (in Tennyson’s words) much have we lost but much remains.

Go, Redwoods.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Parameters of the Fall 09 Reporting Class Beat

Bounded by Parker, Turk, Masonic and Golden Gate. Click it big.

I Forgot. And That's Not a Bad Thing.

Ice cubesImage via Wikipedia

I was trying to promote a liquid lunch with a former colleague and suggested "Friday/11." He reminded me of the "trappings" that surround 9/11. So we'll push it back a week. That's not because I think anniversaries are pointless, not if you regard them as a moment to recalibrate, to focus on a fading moment (and everything fades) or even to accept that you have forgotten it. Or sometimes to conclude that all the meaning the moment had was imposed, not discovered, not your meaning.

I'm not disrespecting 9/11. It is useful to rethink 9/11 carefully if only as a reminder of how stupidity flows as naturally from righteous anger as water off asphalt, or as JD over a couple ice cubes. We got drunk on anger, and it's been one hell of a hangover.
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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I Need to Determine the Order in Which Students Will Post on My Journalism Ethics Blog

The students learn I am not only fair but gadget-obssessed. Oh. Each line in my grade book is numbered.


Students: I figured there would be a random number generator on the web, and there was. So *without human intervention* here’s the lineup for posting dilemmas on our blog.

Brause (next Monday)













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