C’mon, Californians!

van gogh framed cropped
The “van Gogh” is “Irises,” at The Getty Museum, Los Angeles

There’s a recent commercial in which male voice deep with gravitas begins, “To Simone, I leave the van Gogh.”

“To Harrison, the wine collection.”

“Grace, you get the beach house.”

This sounds like someone reading his will.

But why?

Each bequest has an appropriate image, and as the voice continues, the images keep changing…

“This rock” is El Capitan in Yosemite

“…my favorite chair…the family recipes…this rock…”

Nice images.  Nice voice.

I still don’t know why.

It’s appears that we may be looking at California.

More images, more bequests, and then:

“I leave these things to my heirs, all 39 million of you…”

OK – we are looking at California.  And we’re hearing California read its will.

Wait.  What?

And why?

After almost 60 seconds this image appears:

Keep it Golden

And we finally learn this commercial is from Energy Upgrade California, which I’d never heard of.

croppedA bit of research revealed it’s “a statewide initiative committed to helping Californians be more energy efficient, utilize more sustainable natural resources, reduce demand on the energy grid and make informed choices about their energy use at home and at work – all of which goes a long way for California.”

Not that Energy Upgrade asked, but I’ll suggest that Californians could be a lot more “energy efficient” if we worked less.

Less work means less “demand on the energy grid” from all those office computers and lights and landlines and heating and air conditioning and elevators and copy machines and coffee makers.

But less work and more vacation appear to be just what Californian’s aren’t doing, according to this recent article:

Headline (2)

Californians left 97 million paid days off unused in 2017, more than any other state.

Which is ironic when you consider that California:travel to CA_01

  • Is the most popular state for vacations.
  • Is the #1 “most fun state of 2018.”
  • Had over 30 cities listed on last year’s list of “most fun cities in the U.S.”

It appears that lots of people are using their vacation time to come here, while the drudges who live here mostly aren’t going…


Let’s look at paid vacation time for a moment.  When you take paid vacation time, your employer is paying you to not come to work.  Your employer loses the benefit of your productivity, and you get paid for not being productive.

are-you-fing-5b7334 croppedLogically, to give up that opportunity makes no sense.

Here, according to the article, are the “logical” reasons that Californians gave up 97 million paid days off:

Afraid of looking replaceable.

Don’t worry about this – you are replaceable.  Everyone is replaceable.  Even the president of the United States.  His vice president exists solely to replace him, and if the president is replaceable, so are you.

Heavy workloads.

This is another way of saying, “I am not replaceable.  I am indispensable.  I am responsible for way too much important stuff to take time off.”

This suggests that you and only you can do the work you do.  News flash:

Robots (2)

Lack of coverage at work.

This isn’t your challenge – coverage is your manager’s challenge.  Your challenge is deciding which beach you’re headed for on vacation, and which fruity, tropical drink you’ll enjoy on that beach.

happy-dogs-smiling-fb__700 cropped
You just told him you’re going on vacation.

Concerns about leaving pets behind. 

Seriously?  You’d give up that beach and that fruity, tropical drink because you think you’re indispensable to your pet?  Have you talked to your pet about this?

The article concludes with some statistics comparing the no-vacation drudges to people who use their paid time off.  No surprise – those who take vacations are:

  • 22 percent happier with their health and wellness.duh cropped
  • 13 percent happier in their personal relationships.
  • 11 percent happier in their jobs.

So, come on, Californians!  Let’s get serious about those Energy Upgrade California goals and do your part.

This year use those 97 million vacation days.  Remember, California bequeathed you:

“A big day in Big Sur…

Big Sur

“A wild weekend at Disneyland…

Characters in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle

“A tranquil week in Yosemite…

Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park

use it or lose it

What Did We Do With Our Hands…

Before we surrendered our hands to cell phones?

blow kisses drying tears_01
We blew kisses… We dried tears…
eating politely_01 shared bites._01png
We ate politely… We shared bites…
hand wrote_01 whistling
We hand-wrote… We whistled…
holding on_03 sympathize_02
We hugged… We sympathized…
applaud_02.jpg OK_02
We applauded… We gestured…
whisper.jpg hand covering mouth.jpg
We shared secrets… We kept secrets…
counting on fingers mother shushing
We counted… We shushed…
hands making heart_04 Ladybug_on_a_finger_(16232160426).jpg
We made hearts… We wondered…
thumbs up.png sleeping-with-hands-under-head-
We celebrated… We slept well…
Man with Bouquet holding books_02
We held flowers… We held books…
hold hand_01 holding feet
We held hands… We held feet…
hold eac other Group of friends at the beach
We held each other… We held on.

And now…

eating with phones.png eating with phones_01
We… And we…
driving with phone crossing street with phone.jpg
And we… And we…
Mother holding baby and talking on cell phone in bed on phone
And we… Don’t we?


Is It A Bird? Is It A Plane? No, It’s 1861 High Tech…

news on phone croppedI don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that today, when there’s a news event, large or small, or when someone speaks publicly, truthfully or otherwise, that event or that story is transmitted via the Internet and is on our phones and in our faces in seconds.

It just a fact of our fast-paced world.

This came to mind when I was watching a documentary and the narrator said, “On April 24, 1861, news reached San Francisco via Pony Express that the Civil War had started two weeks earlier.”

It stretches the imagination – it may even be beyond imagining – that news from the East Coast this momentous, this life-changing and eventually, world-altering – took two weeks to reach the West Coast.Pony_Express postmark

And the news wasn’t traveling all the way from the East Coast.  It was traveling from St. Joseph, MO to California – did you catch this? – via Pony Express.

That’s right.  News of the bombing of Fort Sumter and the start of the Civil War would have been telegraphed from the East Coast to cities in the East and Midwest, but only as far west as St. Joseph.  There was no transcontinental telegraph, so the quickest way to move news west was on horseback:  The Pony Express.

war starts_03 cropped
War begins – April 12, 1861.

Imagine just going about your life, then you hear or read a story that our country was at war – a war that started two weeks ago.

That’s how it happened in California.

And it only happened that quickly because a group of strong, young men on strong, fast horses was willing to make the treacherous, nearly 2,000-mile journey to deliver mail – and news – to the furthest reaches of the U.S.

For a brief 18 months, the Pony Express was the high-tech, fastest means of communication between the eastern and western United States.  The transcontinental telegraph made it obsolete in October 1861, but in its time the Pony Express was considered a marvel.  Advertisements promised “Letter 10 Days to San Francisco!” from New York – once (in a much smaller font) your letter arrived in St. Joseph.

In St. Joseph the mail and newspapers were loaded into a pouch, the pouch slung over the saddle, and the horse and rider would set off.  According to a Library of Congress article, “During a typical shift, a rider traveled 75 to 100 miles, changing horses every 10 to 15 miles at relief stations along the route.  Station keepers and stock tenders ensured that changes between horses and riders were synchronized so that no time was wasted”:

Pony_Express_Map_William_Henry_Jackson larger
The Pony Express:  From St. Joseph, MO (far right) to Sacramento, CA (far left), almost 2,000 miles on horseback in 10 days.

And who were these riders?

Frank Webner cropped
Frank Webner, one of the few identified Pony Express riders.

A Pony Express poster advertised for “young, skinny and wiry fellows…willing to risk death daily.  Orphans preferred.”  Most were in their late  teens and early 20s and earned around $100 per month, when a comparable wage for unskilled labor at the time was about $0.43-$1 per day.

Most of their names and faces are lost, but – incredibly – during that 18 months, Pony Express riders lost only one mail delivery.

Once that nameless but intrepid rider reached Sacramento on April 24, 1861, some of the precious contents of his pouch would have been dispersed locally, and the remainder sent via steamer down the Sacramento River to San Francisco.  News of the war appeared in the next day’s Sacramento Daily Union newspaper under the heading Startling Events:

Civil War Headline (2)

“The attack upon Fort Sumter, its destruction and surrender, are events which will produce a sensation throughout the country…the first scene in this terrible national tragedy…the overt act of treason committed by the revolutionists at Charleston has forced a condition of things which will compel every man to take sides either for or against the Federal Government…”

When the end of the war came four bloody, tragic years later, that news would have reached the West via telegraph in minutes, not weeks.

Now, this is by no means a history of the Pony Express – there are plenty of those online.

frowning_01Rather, it’s a reflection.

The next time we get frustrated because Facebook isn’t loading fast enough, let’s take a deep breath and remember that once upon a time, people were getting their news via Pony Express.

In weeks, not seconds.

Although, considering a lot of the news today…

You Say That (2)

I Can’t Help But Wonder…

Remember the game “Where’s Waldo?”

The goal of the game was finding a character named Waldo in cartoon illustrations of masses of people doing a variety of things at different locations.

Well, I’d like to invite you to a similar experience, this one entitled, “Where’s The Women?”

See if you can find any women in this picture:

Pope and men

How about this one?


Or this one?


OK, here’s a hint:  These are all pictures of gatherings of the Catholic Church hierarchy, which includes the Pope, and some combination of cardinals, archbishops and bishops.

Let’s looks for women again:


No luck so far?

This week, Catholic Church hierarchy are gathering in Rome for the first-ever “sexual abuse summit” to discuss how to protect minors.  The summit begins February 21, 2019.

Considering that the Boston Globe broke the clergy sexual abuse story in 2002, nobody can accuse these guys of being precipitous!

Let’s look for the women there:

Print 2 (2)

And here:

Print 3 (2)

No luck, again?  How about here:

Print 4 (2)

OK, you can stop looking.

That’s because when the hierarchy of the Catholic Church gathers, there are NO women members.

Not one woman holds a position of power in the Catholic Church:

church hierarchy_01 cropped

Top to bottom, it’s men.

So when the boys’ club of the Catholic Church gathers this week for the sexual abuse summit:

Print 1 (2)

There will be NO women included.

Except for the victims of Catholic clergy sexual abuse:

Vatican Sex Abuse
Members of the ECA (Ending of Clergy Abuse) organization and survivors of clergy sex abuse pose for photographers outside St. Peter’s Square, at he Vatican, Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. Organizers of Pope Francis’ summit on preventing clergy sex abuse will meet this week with a dozen survivor-activists who have come to Rome to protest the Catholic Church’s response to date and demand an end to decades of cover-up by church leaders.


More than 100 Catholic bishops will attend the sexual abuse summit, but no Catholic cardinals.  There are 223 Catholic cardinals – wait, make that 222 due to the recent defrocking of “Mr. McCarrick” – but apparently the cardinals, also known as “Princes of the Church,” were too busy doing…um…princely things.


The summit is officially called “Protection of Minors in the Church.”  It appears that the multitude of raped and sexually abused nuns will have to wait for another summit.


In an interesting bit of timing, we now have this piece of news:

CNN headline (2)

These children – called “children of the ordained” by the church – “are sometimes the result of affairs involving priests and laywomen or nuns; others of abuse or rape.”

The story features Vincent Doyle, who was 28 when he learned that the priest “he had always known as his godfather was in truth his biological father.”  Doyle, founder of the international support group Coping International, says the website has 50,000 users in 175 countries.


And finally, my prediction:  Anyone anticipating the outcome of the summit with great expectations is in for some great disappointments.  The summit will adjourn and the bishops will go home, with promises to continue to “pray and meditate” on the matter.

Even the Pope set the bar pretty low – he wants the summit to be “a powerful gesture* of pastoral responsibility in the face of an urgent challenge of our time.”

*Gesture:  An action performed for show in the knowledge that it will have no effect.

Update, February 20:

Devil (2)

The Pope said that those who criticize the church were “the friends, cousins and relatives of the devil.”

Whoa!  I guess I’ve misunderstood this situation.

The Catholic Church is the victim here, right?


Delta And Coke Said:

Did you say plane crush?

wait whatOh!  I thought you said plane crash!

Well, that’s a relief.

But…what’s a plane crush?

Apparently it’s a phrase invented by someone in Delta Airline’s marketing department, and appeared in news stories that – as so often happens – came and went in 24 hours.

But I thought the story was worth taking a second look.

Delta Airlines has what they call a “brand partnership” with Coke, and it appears they collaborated on what they thought seemed a good idea at the time:

Create a Diet Coke cocktail napkin that encouraged passengers to “write down your number & give it to your plane crush.  you never know…”

Napkin_small text

Why did Delta and Coke think this was a good idea?  The napkin explains, repeating that “you never know” reminder:

Napkin_01 side 1

Then on the reverse, a convenient place for your name and number:

Napkin_01 side 2

I can think of few less likely locations than an airplane to start a romance:

cattle cropped
An approximation of seating on an airplane – just the place for some in-flight flirting.

People are jammed together like cattle, and they’re cranky because the flight’s running two hours late and/or there’s a line for the bathroom and/or the guy in front of you has permanently parked his seat back in your lap.

So to lighten things up, Delta and Coke thought they’d encourage a little “old school flirting.”

It’s unclear exactly when Delta began using the napkins, but the Twitter storm started in January.  Some passengers loved the napkins (“cute!), others hated them (“creepy!”).  But Mike Huckabee’s tweet was the best of all:

“Dang!  That’s why so many flight attendants and nice-looking women kept giving me napkins on my Delta flight.” Mike_01 cropped

That’s right, Mike.  You just keep thinking that.

While some media outlets had fun punning:

“…helping love take flight…”
“…after their attempt to spark romance in the air didn’t take off…”
“…the Diet Coke ad fell flat…”
“…That idea fizzled…”

Others including NBC, CBS and The Washington Post appeared to take this event seriously:

Delta Headline (2)

After the Twitter tempest in a teapot, Delta and Coke apologized, and responded on Twitter with Coke saying, “Just here to keep things interesting” and the airline chiming in with, “So true.  You just never know.  Thanks for sharing.”

And that good idea – the airplane crush – crashed.

The napkins have been removed.

The tempest has quieted.

Until Delta debuts its new toilet paper:

Delta toilet paper cropped

Welcome To…

My – and your – worst nightmare has come true:

real-id logo

What the hell is REAL ID?

Background:  My husband and I each watch/read/listen to about two hours of news every day.

This takes place in the mornings and evenings, so I think we’re reasonably well-informed about current events.

Yet when a mailer arrived from the California DMV last summer, it was the first time either of us had heard about:

real-id logo
Wait – you had time to create a logo, but not to provide simple, clear information about this debacle?

We’d neither seen, read nor heard anything about REAL ID.

Yet the REAL ID Act, I’ve since learned, has been around since 2005.

And so has the confusion surrounding REAL ID.

Which should be no surprise, considering it involves – and requires the cooperation of –  the federal government, all 50 state governments, and worse – infinitely worse – all 50 states’ DMVs:

Govt Plus 50.jpg

dhsCan you imagine a more ineffectual combination?

I started doing some online research and there’s plenty of information out there, much of it baffling.  Here are just a few of those sources:  the DHS (Department of Homeland Security), TSA (Transportation Security Administration), the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), guidelines from all 50 DMVs, all sorts of media offering their interpretations of what we need to do, and plenty of websites that are opposed to REAL ID, including the Electronic Privacy InformationReal Nightmare Center (EPIC.org), the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom (CCHFreedom.org), and my personal favorite, RealNightmare.org.

What I couldn’t find was one website with one simple set of guidelines that were

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Easy to Understand

What was clear – and here’s the nightmare part – is that to obtain a REAL ID, you have to go to the DMV.

Because there and only there can you obtain one of these:  a REAL ID driver license or ID card:

REAL+ID_DriverLicense (1) FederalNonCompliant_DriverLicense
Forgers will appreciate all the details shown in the new compliant REAL ID (left) and non-compliant driver licenses.

Now, I’ve had major surgery, and I’ve been to the DMV, and given a choice, I’d far rather have that major surgery again.

The surgery didn’t involve standing in endless lines outside, then endless lines inside, then dealing with a surly clerk who treats me like scum, and paying – paying – to do all this.

That’s right:  I may not want a REAL ID, I may not need a REAL ID – I hadn’t been able to ascertain that yet – but if I’m going to get a REAL ID, I’ll have to pay for it:

Real ID Fee Underline

Lines at the DMV were already horrible, and now, thanks to REAL ID and the confusion that surrounds it, the lines are much worse:


Talk about worse!  Now lawmakers are involved, yikes!

In desperation, I decided to call my DMV.

Pure, total desperation.

I had what I thought was one, easy question:

If I have a passport, do I need a REAL ID to board an airplane?

The DMV recording said there was a wait “due to high call volumes,” of course.  Trust me, plenty of those callers were looking for information about REAL ID, due to all the misinformation out there.

If I wanted a callback from a “technician,” the wait was 60 to 90 minutes.  To the DMV’s credit, I did get a callback in exactly 58 minutes.

That’s the first and last time I’ll give the DMV credit for anything.

woman reversedI spoke slowly and clearly.  I was, after all, dealing with the DMV.

“I’m calling to clarify:  As of October 1, 2020, will I need a REAL ID to board an airplane, if I also have a passport?”

Her response:


She was certain.  Unhesitating.  Unequivocal.

“Well,” I said.  “I received a mailer from the DMV about REAL ID and I want to read to you what is says:

‘You will need a REAL ID, passport or other federally accepted document at airport security beginning October 1, 2020.’”

Mailer with arrow finaal_01.docx

I continued, “It doesn’t say ‘and,’ it says ‘or.’  So to me, that means I’ll need a REAL ID or a passport or other federally accepted document.”

Then I said, “I also found an infographic on the DMV website and here’s what is says:

Do you have a valid passport, military or ID or other TSA approved document?”  If “yes” then, “You don’t need a REAL ID driver license or ID card.”

Infographic cropped with arrow.jpg

There was a pause, then she said something about REAL ID being a “new program” and they didn’t know much about it.

Excuse me?  The REAL ID Act of 2005 is not exactly a “new program.”

And folks, if the damn DMV doesn’t “know much about it,” how are we supposed to?

The technician wandered around the DMV website for awhile, occasionally reading aloud some of the useless information I’d already seen, then she moved over to the TSA website, or maybe it was DHS website, and more reading aloud, until she stumbledyes no across something, read it and said, “OK, if you have a passport you don’t need a REAL ID to fly.”

Again, she was certain.  Unhesitating.  Unequivocal.

Just like before.

To clarify, I said, “So I think what you’re saying is, as of October 1, 2020, if I have a passport, I do not need a REAL ID?”

She confirmed.

The she said, “Of course the rules could change between now and then.”

Well of course they could!  Because there’s no f***ing way the federal government, all 50 state governments, and all 50 states’ DMVs could come up with a set of guidelines that are

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Easy to Understand

And then make the guidelines permanent.woman

I wanted to shout, “No, no, no!  No changes between now and then, now and forever, never, ever!”

But I didn’t.  I thanked her and we hung up.

And I’m still not sure what the answer is.

Here’s the one thing I’m sure of:

On October 1, 2020, there’s going to be chaos at airports.  Do I need a REAL ID or not?  Is my old driver license from a state that’s compliant with DHS standards or not?  Did my state get an extension or not?  Can I use my passport and old license or not?

The airlines will tell us to talk to the TSA, the TSA will talk to each other, nobody will know what the hell is going on, and lots of people will miss lots of flights and…



February 2019 update:  Here are my maybe-final last words on the California DMV and REAL ID:

Final Update (2)

Book Review: A Romance Novel For People Who Don’t Read Romance Novels

BookPublication date:  October 2018

Review, short version:  Four roses out of four.

Review, long version:

I love to read novels.

But I don’t read romance novels.

One Day in December is a romance novel.

And I loved it.


I don’t recall where I heard/read about this book, or why I paid attention to it – I don’t read romance novels.

But something about the storyline caught my interest.

And, surprisingly, the story held my interest, right up to the last page.  About half-way through I thought, “I don’t know where this is going – and that’s good.”  At three-quarters through I was tempted to skip to the end and satisfy my craving to know, but I resisted the temptation.

josie-silver-credit-justine-stoddart croppedIt was a struggle, but I’m glad I waited.

According to an interview with author Josie Silver (left), “I had always wanted to write about love at first sight.  It opens with a missed opportunity and then across a decade we see what happens to them and how it all plays out.”

So, not your usual bodice-ripping-uber-macho-male-and-fairly-helpless-female plot.

In fact, Laurie, the lead female character, is far from helpless, and Jack, the lead male, islove_triangle cropped more of a sweet, hunky, but uber-confused kind of guy.  We hear from both Laurie and Jack as first-person narrators, but the third side of the love triangle – Sarah – makes her presence felt on every page.

Along the way we’re treated to Laurie’s wry observations, like this one:

“I’m not a bitch, though; or maybe I’m just a quiet one inside my own head.  Isn’t everyone?”


“He has this intense way of looking at me that makes me feel the need to glance over my shoulder just to check if Jennifer Lawrence is lurking behind me.”

I find the story about the book as interesting as the book.  Silver had been writing novels and getting published under various pseudonyms for 10 years, but One Day in December was her breakout book.  Paperback rights have been sold in 26 countries, “there has also been some film interest,” says Silver, and as of February 10, 2019 the book had been on The New York Times best seller list for eight weeks:

NY Times (2)

There’s talk of several “six-figure” deals, and Silver has already sold her next – as yet unfinished – book, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, due out in the fall.  “It’s about a girl who loses the love of her life and then gets him back again in a very unexpected way…and that’s as much as I can say for now!”


That’s how I felt about One Day in December.

Love at first sight comes in many languages!

book england book danish cropped



book italian book hungarian



book romanian book portugese





logo_02And there’s nothing I can do about it.

Which makes me madder than Hell.


My favorite coffee creamer has been discontinued.

Arbitrarily.  Recklessly.  Thoughtlessly.

what-were-they-thinking-croppedClearly, Coffee mate® wasn’t thinking about me when it stopped making my flavor of choice:  The Original Fat Free, Cholesterol Free.

And since it’s all about me – what were they thinking?

That’s right:  After failing to find my flavor in three supermarkets, I called Coffee mate and was advised they’d discontinued making my one and only.

Really thoughtless.

Now, if you’re thinking, “Coffee creamer?  Is she serious?”

I am.

I love my coffee, and I love my coffee exactly so:

  1. Hot.
  2. Decaf.
  3. Artificial creamer.hands holding coffee mug

Well, I assume my Coffee mate is artificial when it lists ingredients including:

  1. Sodium caseinate.
  2. Dipotassium phosphate.
  3. Diglycerides.

But here’s why I’ve preferred my flavor of Coffee mate for years:

  1. It tastes great.
  2. Fat: 0%.
  3. Cholesterol: 0%.

Seriously, how many things have 0% fat and 0% cholesterol and actually taste great?

I wasn’t always enamored with Coffee mate (and yes, it’s two words, second word with a lower-case “m”).

flight attendant_01My earliest recollection is being on an airplane and asking for coffee with cream and sugar.  The flight attendant handed me a cup of coffee, a packet of sugar, and a small, flat package of something called “Coffee mate.”

“May I get cream?”

“This is cream,” she said.

“This” was as close to cream as North Pole to South Pole.

Opening the sugar was no problem – the paper was thin and tore easily.

But this Coffee mate stuff?  The packet was some sort of foil that was uncooperative, andcm packets_01 when I finally managed to open it, half of the powdery contents spilled onto my tray table.

Skeptical, I poured the remainder into my coffee, where it immediately congealed into pale, assorted-sized lumps that defied dissolving.


So I avoided Coffee mate for years, until I noticed a liquid form at the supermarket.  Still skeptical, I tried The Original Fat Free, Cholesterol Free and…

eureka_logo cropped

I made a commitment to Coffee mate, but Coffee mate didn’t make one to me.

Perhaps because they were too busy making other things, specifically, flavored Coffee mate, and now a veritable plethora of choices has crowded out my favorite:

flavors (2)

And since they have that Cheesecake Factory thing – Dessert-In-A-Cup, as it were – why woma_01not keep it going?

  • Bacon And Egg Flavor – Breakfast-In-A-Cup!
  • Big Mac And Fries Flavor – Lunch-In-A-Cup!
  • Steak And Caesar Flavor – Dinner-In-A-Cup!

Refusing to rest on their laurels, Coffee mate has also created new products:  Fifteen flavors of “natural bliss,” and yes, that lower case “n” and “b” are also deliberate.

Plus two more products called Artisan Café, and yup – they’re still doing that wretched powder stuff, with 11 to choose from.

Nearly 50 products – so many choices, and none of them mine.

So here it is – my last bottle of The Original Fat Free, Cholesterol Free Coffee mate, possibly the last one in existence.

And it’s final resting place:

original coffee mate cropped tombstone (2)

I thought the skull at the top of the headstone was a nice touch.

Movie Review:  Great Artist?  Maybe.  Great Man? Maybe Not.

Release date:  September 2018dvd bigger

Review, short version:  Thumbs up for the story; thumbs down for the subject.

Review, long version:

I worked at a well-known art museum for seven years, and if there’s one thing I learned, it’s this:

One person’s art is another person’s garbage.

Deciding what is art, and then what is great art, is completely subjective, that is, “based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.”

By that same token, deciding who is an artist, and then who is a great artist, is also completely subjective.

Case in point:  Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890).  Poor Vincent sold a total of one painting in his lifetime, The Red Vineyard, for around $2,000:

Van Gogh’s “The Red Vineyard,” the only painting he ever sold.

The most recent sale of a van Gogh painting – in 2017 – brought $81.3 million.

What changed?

About the painting – nothing.

About the opinions of museum curators, art dealers and other so-called experts?


Because I’m interested in art and artists, I recently watched an American Masters production, Wyeth:  The Life of Andrew Wyeth in Bold Strokes.

Wyeth (1917-2009) was controversial artist during his life and remains so after his death.  According one article, he was “one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.”

That’s one subjective opinion.  Here’s another, describing Wyeth’s art as

christinas world
Wyeth’s “Christina’s World,” 1948.

“…retrogressive, short-sighted, and strangely empty and banal…fanciful and idiotic…”

And that same critic, on Wyeth’s most well-known painting, Christina’s World:  “…glibly sentimental…I was stunned by its triteness.”

Was Wyeth a great artist?  It’s subjective.

Was he a great man?  After watching the Wyeth film, I decided…


In Wyeth we learn that Andrew Wyeth was the son of N.C. Wyeth, a wealthy, successful

Andrew Wyeth, circa 1935
Wyeth circa 1935.

illustrator, who encouraged Andrew and his siblings in their creative pursuits.  Thanks to his well-known and nurturing father, Andrew was free to focus on painting, and breaking into the art world wasn’t exactly difficult.

In fact, in 1937 at age 20, Wyeth had his first one-man exhibition of watercolors at a gallery in New York City and the entire inventory of paintings sold out.

No starving artist here.

Wyeth married Betsy James in 1940 and they had two sons, Nicholas and Jamie.  Of Betsy, Wyeth said, “She’s living with a man that’s wrapped up in my painting.”

As opposed to being “wrapped up” in his wife and children.  With Wyeth it was all about him; he often said, “I paint my life.”

Sounds like his wife and kids got the leftovers.

Just as I was wondering if the Wyeth film would cover the “Helga Paintings” scandal – it did.

helga braids
“Braids,” Wyeth’s portrait of Testorf, 1977.

Wyeth started sketching and painting Helga Testorf in 1971 and continued doing so until 1985 – without the knowledge of either his wife or Helga’s husband.

Every day, for up to eight hours a day, with Helga dressed or nude, Wyeth painted and sketched.  He promised Helga he wouldn’t release what became almost 250 works until after his death.

Instead – surprise, everyone!

In 1986 Wyeth sold almost the entire collection to millionaire L.B. Andrews for, according to an online article, “an undisclosed sum said by their new owner to be in ‘the multi-millions of dollars.’”  Andrews exhibited the works at the National Gallery in Washington, DC and then on a nationwide tour.

Whatever the aftermath, at the time the story was a sensation – and a scandal.  It made the covers of both Time and Newsweek – in the same week:

time mag newsweek
Time – August 18, 1986 Newsweek – August 15, 1986

So:  For the movie review, Wyeth:  The Life of Andrew Wyeth in Bold Strokes, it’s well-done and tells the story without making judgments.

But I’m not as fair-minded.

How did Mrs. Wyeth and Mr. Testorf feel about Andrew and Helga’s little secret?

How did Helga feel about that broken promise?

i think not croppedAre we really supposed to believe that this woman and this man spent hours together on an-almost daily basis for 15 years and they were nothing more than artist and model?

Andrew Wyeth was a great secret keeper, but not a great promise keeper.

Great artist?  You decide.

Great man?

I think not.

That’s my subjective opinion and…

Im-Sticking-to-It cropped larger

Rant:  What Are These People Doing?

The people in the above picture are:

  1. Participating in a respectful moment of silence before a meeting.
  2. Checking their social media accounts during a meeting.
  3. Having a well-earned snooze after a meeting.

If you guessed (2), you’re right:

Government Weekly Cabinet Meeting

They’re doing what not some, not many, but most people are doing at work:

“Mindlessly scrolling Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc…” according to a recent article, Kick That Social Media Habit.

There are all sorts of articles online suggesting that people spend too much time on social media, from Put Down Your Smartphone And Get A Life! to Social Media Is Toxic.

I usually don’t pay attention to them because I don’t have a smartphone.phone at work-02 cropped

But Kick That Social Media Habit caught my eye because it went on the premise that many folks are indulging in that habit…

At work.

That’s right.

At work.

The article wasn’t aimed at people who almost get killed when they’re checking TextingDriving081718 croppedFacebook as they cross a busy street.

Nor was it addressing those who catch up on texting while they’re driving 80 mph on the freeway.

No, this article was for people who are at work, getting paid by their employer to work, but instead are “liking” pictures of what their friend had for breakfast.

The article calls this “distractions that make it harder to be productive,” and offers some self-help suggestions, classified as “Moderate,” “Aggressive,” and “Extreme”:

  • Moderate: Delete the apps from your phone.
  • Aggressive: Put your phone on mute and lock it in a drawer.
  • Extreme: Ask a co-worker to hide your phone.

When did scrolling social media at work become so “normal” that it’s being addressed in self-help articles?

According to these statistics, lots of time at work wasted on social media for personal reasons is the new “normal”:

Time Wasted by Employment Level.png (1) cropped

Wow!  That’s a lot of time spent looking at pictures of what your friend had for breakfast!

But…Does this mean that the teacher is watching a YouTube video instead of helping your child learn to read?  That the firefighter is liking a Facebook post while your house surgeonis burning?  That the surgeon is checking Twitter while he operates on your brain?

Now, I’m not advocating that employers confiscate employee cell phones when they arrive at work, with no access until the end of the work day.

We need our phones available if, for example, a parent is called to pick up a sick child at school; a patient is expecting results from a medical test; somebody pushes the big button and nuclear war has begun…red_01 cropped

Well, if somebody pushes that big button, it won’t much matter what you’re doing at work.

In Kick That Social Media Habit, the author suggests that if all else fails, one can become “a born-again Luddite, joining the 23 percent of Americans who don’t own a smartphone.”

Rest assured, I am no Luddite.

Earlier I said I don’t have a smartphone, but I am into 21st century technology.

See?  Here’s my phone:

cell cropped

Leave My Comfort Zone Alone

Advertisers often exhort us to “get out of your comfort zone.”

As though comfort zones are a bad thing.

And if we buy their:

  • Automobilehair color_02
  • World Cruise
  • Hair Color
  • Sport Shoes
  • Mobile Device
  • Adult Beverage

We’ll be transported out of our (bad) comfort zones into a happier place.

And advertisers aren’t the only ones; work/life coaches, psychologists and other “experts” all tell us that the sure – the only – road to success lies in getting out of our comfort zones.  Here are some examples:

comfort comfort_01.jpg
comfort_03 comfort_3 cropped

They’re wrong.

I realize that if some people didn’t get out of their comfort zones to look for a better way, we wouldn’t have marvelous inventions like indoor plumbing, penicillin, and the Internet.

And while I’m grateful to inventors, we can’t all “boldly go” where no one has gone before.  Some of us aren’t wired that way.  Some of us are afraid.  And some of us simply comfort-zone-definition1 croppedchoose not to.

Remember, “They also serve who only stand and wait”?

Well, they also have lives who only stay in their comfort zones.

And that’s me.

And I’m unapologetic, because I know my comfort zone can disappear in one second.

one secondThat’s right – one second is all it takes to turn your life into something it wasn’t before, and never will be again.

Like the loss of a loved one.  Whether it’s a slow death that allows you some time to prepare, or a sudden loss from a bullet or a car crash or some other tragedy, when you lose someone you love, it changes your life.

We come to accept the loss of a loved one because we have no choice.  And our comfort zones will never be as comfortable again.

paradise_03 croppedOr a natural disaster.  Think of the 30,000 people who used to live in Paradise, CA until a wildfire destroyed their town.  They’ll get their lives together – well, most of them will – but it won’t the lives they had before.

And don’t tell me that a “new life is a new opportunity!”  Bullshit.  A “new life” without any trappings of the old – your home, your keepsakes, your memories?  Sure, for those who are alive, being alive is most important.  But the losses they suffered are forever.

Or a health disaster.  One minute you’re cruising along, and then – heart attack.  Or a stroke.  Or a cancer diagnosis.icu_02 cropped

Sometimes a new comfort zone can be created after a health disaster.  But if I have the option of staying in my current comfort zone – I’m staying.

And that’s the issue – I don’t have the option of staying in my comfort zone.  External and/or internal events, out of my control, can change my life, and I have no power to stop them.

So while I can, I’m hunkering down and staying right here, in my comfort zone.

That’s my road to success.

road to success

Book Review:  Oh, Susanna, I Want Another “Mariana”

Book My actual cover
My 1995 copy of “Mariana” is showing its age – creased, well-worn and well-loved.

Publication Date:  1995

Short version:  Four roses out of four.

Long version:

When I purchased Susanna Kearsley’s latest book, Bellwether, I was hoping for another Mariana, Kearsley’s 1995 book.

Bellewether is not another Mariana.

I’m not saying Bellewether isn’t a good story – it is.  All 12 of Kearsley’s books are good stories.  But over the years, as I read each one, I was always hoping for another…


Because it is one of my all-time favorite, if-I-was-stuck-on-a-deserted-island-and-could-only-have-one book…

Mariana would be it.

Red Lion Pub
Kearsley used structures in Avebury, Wiltshire for inspiration in “Mariana”:  The Red Lion pub…

I don’t know why Mariana has stayed with me all this time – perhaps that’s like asking why you’ve been close friends with someone for years.  You just are, and you don’t question your good fortune.

Mariana is set Wiltshire, in the southwest English countryside, and the lead character and first-person narrator is 30-year-old Julia Beckett, an illustrator of children’s books.  Julia leaves her life in London when she purchases Greywethers, an old farmhouse she’d seen once as a child and had, inexplicably, found again.

Greywethers turns out to be a portal between Julia’s world and the 17th century, so this story is what some would call “time travel.”

But Mariana is not like so many time travel stories; there are no sci-fi explosions, no flashing lights, no mysterious machine transporting Julia – and the reader – back three centuries.  In fact, Julia does nothing to bring this about – she’s just slipped seamlessly from one century to another, and back again.

Unwillingly at first and then…willingly.

Geoff's wing of the manor house
Richard and Geoff’s Crofton Hall is Avebury Manor in real life…Richard, oh, Richard…

In the 17th century Julia is fully aware that she’s Julia, while her physical self is that of Mariana Farr, a young woman whose parents are dead.  With nowhere else to go, Mariana has left plague-ridden London for her uncle’s house in Wiltshire.

The house is Greywethers.

As Mariana, Julia interacts with other 17th century people, and no one suspects that Mariana isn’t what she appears to be.  Some of these people are critical to the journey Julia must make to resolve the love story that began with Mariana 300 years earlier, and is continued into Julia’s modern world.

Mariana is wonderfully written, and I never get tired of re-reading it.  The first time I read a book there’s the pleasure of surprise; subsequent readings offer the pleasure of anticipation.  I know exactly what’s going to happen, and welcome the chance to again join Julia on her journey.

Greywethers inspiration Avebury Wiltshire
Mariana and Julia’s Greywethers, also located in Avebury, where the mystery begins.

But in addition to being a wonderfully satisfying story, I think Mariana resonates with me because it’s also about second chances.

And who doesn’t want one of those?

Second chances, historical fiction, mystery, romance, and suspense that will keep you wondering – will Julia get it right this time?

And characters that stay with you.

They’ve stayed with me since 1995.

And I have no intention of parting with them.