See Trump.  See Trump Headlines.  See Trump Sweat.

Truly – I am not one to wish a person ill.

But – I make one exception.

Trump.

May was an exceptionally good month for bad headlines for Trump.

I was not unhappy to see them:

May 3:

“The Trump Organization and the Presidential Inaugural Committee will pay a total of $750,000 to settle with the Washington, DC attorney general’s office over allegations they misspent money raised for former President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

“The Trump Organization will pay $400,000 and the PIC will pay $350,000, according to a person familiar with the settlement.  As part of the deal, the money will be directed to two DC nonprofits, DC Action and Mikva Challenge DC, the DC attorney general’s office said.”

May 11:

“Former U.S. President Donald Trump must pay a $110,000 fine and meet other conditions to purge a contempt of court order over his failure to comply with a subpoena in a civil probe into his business practices by New York state’s attorney general, a judge said on Wednesday.”

May 12:

“The Department of Justice has opened a grand jury investigation related to former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents, following the revelation in February that he had brought boxes of documents home to his Mar-a-Lago estate when he left the White House.

“At least one subpoena has been issued to the National Archives, and interview requests have been made to some former aides who were with Trump during his last days in office, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.”

May 25:

“Former President Donald Trump’s crusade for vengeance suffered two devastating blows after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger won their primaries Tuesday despite rejecting Trump’s entreaties to reverse his 2020 election loss.

“It’s a huge warning sign for the way Republican voters view the former president’s crusade to punish those who were not willing to overturn the will of the voters in 2020.”

May 26:

“They’re weary of the incessant conflicts.  The inability to get past the 2020 election results. An endorsement strategy seemingly driven by a bruised and restless ego, rather than the party’s best interests.

“Channeling growing fatigue among rank-and-file Republicans, some of the GOP’s best-known heavyweights are increasingly defying former President Donald Trump in the wake of internecine conflicts from Georgia to Pennsylvania.

“Bold-face Republican names have never been so comfortable crossing Trump as in recent weeks.  Former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Mike Pence, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were among those lending aid and comfort to one of Trump’s top enemies, Gov. Brian Kemp, in Georgia’s Tuesday primary.”

May 26:

“A court has ruled that former President Trump and his children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., are obligated to testify under oath in New York state’s investigation into the Trump Organization’s financial dealings, state Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday.”

“Trump’s potential testimony could be used against him in the criminal probe conducted by the Manhattan district attorney, AP reports.”

May 27:

“In the latest legal blow to Donald J. Trump, a federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit the former president filed that sought to halt the New York attorney general’s civil investigation into his business practices.

“The ruling, in federal court in Albany, was Mr. Trump’s second defeat related to the investigation in two days.”

“The ruling clears the way for Letitia James, the New York attorney general, to complete her civil investigation into Donald J. Trump in the coming weeks or months.”

May 27:

“Raffensperger, top aides among those who will answer questions behind closed doors”

“The Fulton County District Attorney’s wide-ranging criminal investigation into efforts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election is heating up, weeks after the seating of a special purpose grand jury with subpoena power.”

Ahhhhhh…

I would be remiss if I didn’t include some of the information from this article, updated on May 12:

“On both the criminal and civil litigation fronts, former President Donald Trump faces a bevy of lawsuits and investigations, with more cases likely to follow.”

E. Jean Carroll Defamation and Federal Tort Claims Act Litigation:
Carroll is suing Trump for defamation after he publicly accused her of fabricating a rape allegation against him.  The parties are currently involved in an appeal before the Second Circuit, where Trump (and so far, the Justice Department as well) is arguing that he had official immunity from Carroll’s defamation claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

Mary Trump Fraud Litigation:
Mary Trump is suing Donald Trump for defrauding her out of millions of dollars in an inheritance dispute.  The suit is pending in New York state court, where the parties are currently battling over former President Trump’s move to dismiss the case.
Update:  On September 21, 2021 Donald Trump filed a related lawsuit against Mary Trump, the New York Times, and several of its reporters.

Doe v. The Trump Corporation Class Action:
A group of anonymous plaintiffs have filed a class action against the Trump family and their business, alleging that the Trumps used their brand to scam investors into paying for worthless business opportunities.  The district court denied the Trumps’ bid to force the case into arbitration, and the Trumps are now appealing.

Reps. Karen Bass, et al. Incitement Suit for January 6 Capitol Attack:
Ten members of the House of Representatives, represented by the NAACP, are suing Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and two rightwing militia groups for conspiring to forcibly prevent Congress from counting the Electoral College votes on January 6.
Update:  On February 18, 2022 the district court denied Trump’s motion to dismiss the § 1985 claim against him.

Eric Swalwell Incitement Suite for January 6 Riots:
On March 5, 2021 Representative Eric Swalwell sued Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr., and Congressman Mo Brooks in federal court over the January 6 riots.  Swalwell alleges that the defendants violated federal civil rights laws – including the Ku Klux Klan Act – when they conspired to interfere with the Electoral College Count on January 6.  Beyond that, Swalwell also says the defendants should be held liable for negligently violating DC criminal codes on incitement, encouraging the rioters’ violent conduct, and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on members of Congress.
Update:  On February 18, 2022 the district court denied Trump’s motion to dismiss the claims under § 1985, negligence per se, DC anti-bias law, and aiding and abetting assault.  The court granted Trump’s request to dismiss the § 1986, emotional distress, and negligence claims.

Capitol Police Suit for January 6 Riots:
Two Capitol Police officers – both on duty during the January 6 insurrection – sued Donald Trump for injuries they sustained while protecting the Capitol.  Both allege that the rioters physically attacked them with fists, chemical spray, and other weapons.  They allege that the former president, by his incendiary words and conduct, directed the physical attack and emotional distress.
Update:  On February 18, 2022 the district court denied Trump’s motion to dismiss the claims under § 1985, directing and aiding and abetting assault, and negligence per se.  The court granted Trump’s motion to dismiss the emotional distress, punitive damages, and civil conspiracy claims.

Second Capitol Police Suit for January 6 Riots:
A second group of Capitol Police officers filed suit against Trump, the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and other affiliates involved in allegedly planning and executing the January 6 riots.  The seven officers claim that they were physically and emotionally injured by attackers that Trump instigated, and that Trump and his co-defendants conspired to disrupt congressional business in the certification of electoral votes.

Third Capitol Police Suit over the January 6 Riots:
A third suit was filed by a Capitol Police officer alleging that physical and emotional injuries he suffered were caused by Trump’s inciting the January 6 riot.  The complaint alleges that Trump directed, aided and abetted, and conspired to incite the riot.

Metropolitan Police Suit over the January 6 Riots:
Two Metropolitan Police Officers filed suit alleging that physical and emotional injuries they suffered were caused by Trump’s inciting the January 6 riot.  The complaint alleges that Trump directed, aided and abetted, and conspired to incite the riot.  The officers seek compensatory and punitive damages.

NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund Voting Rights Case for Post-Election Actions:
The LDF is suing Trump, the Trump Campaign, and the RNC for their efforts to overturn the 2020 election in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the Ku Klux Klan Act.  While the litigation is still at its early stages, Trump faces damages and a declaratory judgment that he did indeed violate these provisions of the law.

Scotland Unexplained Wealth Orders:
In February 2021, the Scottish Parliament voted to reject an investigation into unexplained cash transactions executed by the Trump Organization’s Scottish golf courses.  A non-profit group is now challenging that decision in Scottish court.

Trump Tower Assault Suit:
A group of six protesters are suing Trump over allegations that Trump’s security guards assaulted them outside Trump Tower in 2015.  The case is pending in New York state court.
Update:  On October 18, 2021 former President Trump sat for a four-hour deposition to answer questions about the incident.

Michael Cohen Retaliatory Imprisonment Suite:
Michael Cohen – Donald Trump’s former attorney who served a three-year sentence for Trump-related crimes – is suing Trump, the U.S. government, and other officials for allegedly retaliating against Cohen after he announced a tell-all book detailing his years of legal work for Trump.  Cohen alleges that, after the announcement, Trump and his co-defendants retaliated by trying to bar Cohen from using social media and by sending Cohen back to prison from home confinement.

Westchester, New York Criminal Investigation of Trump Organization Golf Course:
The Westchester District Attorney’s Office reportedly launched an investigation which probes, at least in part, whether the Trump Organization misled local officials on the property values of its golf course in order to reduce its taxes.

Trump is not invulnerable.

Even Superman has his kryptonite…

Happy Anniversary To…Me!

During the month of May I’ve been celebrating an anniversary:

My fifth anniversary of blogging.

When I started in May 2017, if someone had told me I’d still be at it five years later, I wouldn’t have believed them.

Yet…here I am…

…In my 690th blog post.

Prior to May 2017, I’d never considered blogging.  I’d spent no time reading blog posts.  I knew millions of people had blogs, and I couldn’t think of one good reason to become another one.

Then a work colleague mentioned she had a blog, and gave me the address.

I went…I saw…I got it.

That one good reason:

Blogging could be fun.

And it has been.

I get to write, a lot.  I get to choose to make the post long or short (rarely the latter); I get to choose or create images, do the layout, change the layout, change some text, and when I’m satisfied with what I’ve done…

And if nobody reads it, or if somebody reads it and likes it, or somebody reads it and doesn’t like it…

I’m OK with all of the above.

Because I’m having fun.

And at the same time, I’m researching and learning – about people and politics and geography and history and medical news and so much more.  My blog doesn’t have a theme, like books or recipes or relationships, so I write about anything I want to.

I like researching and writing about serious subjects, but sometimes I’ll realize that the topic is way too big and complicated for me to try and tackle – like the war in Ukraine.  So I leave that subject to wiser heads than mine.

I often write about the absurd behavior of some humans.

I love the absurd.

Like the post I did about Florida woman who hid an alligator in her pants; she’d captured it illegally, and was trying to conceal it from the police.

And the TV show Dr. Pimple Popper.  Yes, it’s even worse than it sounds.

And this bunch – they provided endless grist for my absurdity mill:

May those horrible days never come again.

So – I’ve been blogging five years this month.

How much longer?

I figure blogging is like shopping:

I figure I’ll blog…

Till it’s a…

I Never Thought I’d See These Two Words Together:

I have never heard the words “menstrual” and “leave” together, and never thought I would.

Then a small article with big news led me to this story…

*****

If you’ve never seen South Park, consider yourself fortunate.

It’s an American animated sitcom that debuted in 1997 and is still on the air.

So popular was the series from the get-go that just two years later the world was treated to an 81-minute movie, South Park:  Bigger, Longer & Uncut.

In that movie a male character, referring to a group of women, says,

“I just don’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.”

“Bleeds for five days.”

Humor from the two male creators of South Park.

Not so humorous for the countless females who since time immemorial have suffered from their monthly menstruation.

Also known as:

There are many nicknames for menstruation – this article listed 100 of them, and all of them “adorable”:

Written by a man.

A man who apparently thinks periods are funny.

Something that no woman has thought…

Ever.

There is nothing funny about an event designated with a medical term that sounds as bad as it feels:

“Dysmenorrhea causes severe and frequent cramps and pain during your period.  It may be either primary or secondary.”

And there is nothing funny about an event that, even before menstruation begins, can start with premenstrual symptoms, or PMS:

And then, when the blood starts to flow, let’s thrown in some/all of these:

Note the word “normal” in the image above.

It’s considered “normal” for a female to feel this way…

Every month…

Every year…

For forty years.

And that list of symptoms is mostly lacking in adjectives, so I’ll offer the following:

Over-the-counter medications don’t help.

Excruciating headaches.  Killer abdominal cramps.  Excessive bloating.

There are women who experience only a few of the above symptoms, and in a minor way, and their periods aren’t much more than a monthly inconvenience.

But why am I telling you all tlhis?  If you’re a female, you know it.  If you’re a male, you cannot, and never will, be able to imagine it.

For so many women – I’ve read estimates as high as 50-90% – symptoms can be bad, sometimes to the point of incapacitating.

And all that suffering has come with certain societal behaviors and attitudes toward menstruation, stretching back for centuries and handed down through generations:

  • Suffer in silence.
  • It’s a secret.
  • It’s shameful, dirty, nasty.
  • It’s something females must endure.
  • Those symptoms are all in your mind.
  • Do not ever, under any circumstances, ask your significant other to buy you feminine hygiene products.

There’s even a name for it:

“Period shaming.”

Something imposed on us by others, and imposed by us on ourselves.

The article cited some examples from a survey:

  • Fifty-eight percent of women have felt a sense of embarrassment simply because they were having their period.
  • Forty-two percent of women have experienced period-shaming, with one in five having these feelings because of comments made by a male friend.
  • Twelve percent of women have been shamed by a family member and one in ten by a classmate.
  • Forty-four percent of men admit to having made a joke about or comment on a partner’s mood when she was having her period.
Heating pads don’t help.

“Period-shame is something a lot of women feel, starting with their very first cycle, which can occur as young as eight years old.  Those feelings of embarrassment and self-hate are then reinforced by society, which tells women that their bodies should be clean and tidy, and if they aren’t, that’s not something to be openly and honestly discussed.  By anyone.”

Well, thanks to some legislators in Spain, plenty of people are discussing it now:

“Spain’s left-wing coalition government this week approved a draft proposal with a broad range of reproductive rights provisions, including one that would make Spain the first European country to grant workers paid ‘menstrual leave.’

“Under the plan, the government would foot the bill for women to take days off work if they are diagnosed by a doctor with severe menstrual pain.  More than half of women who menstruate experience some pain for one to two days each month, with some feeling pain so acute that it keeps them from doing normal tasks, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”

The article says that “Spain’s parliament will have to debate the draft bill, in an approval process that could take months.”

Perhaps those Spanish legislators could shorten that timeline by conferring with people in other countries that already have menstrual leave in place, including some for years.  Here’s an article from 2016:

  • Since 1947, women in Japan have been granted menstrual leave, and in South Korea, female workers have been entitled to a day off each month since 2001.
  • In 2014, Taiwan amended its legislation to grant female workers up to one day of menstrual leave a month and three of these qualify for half pay.
  • Women in Indonesia are given a monthly two-day menstruation leave by law.  

This last regarding Indonesia did come with this caveat:

“However, workers rarely take up this right because companies perform physical examinations on women before granting the leave.”

Not exactly an inducement to take care of yourself.

This May 19 article added to the list of countries:

“Zambia became the envy of other African countries when it passed a law in 2015 allowing women to take a day off work during their period, without giving notice or supplying a doctor’s note.”

And also noted:

“Some companies have not waited to be compelled by law to offer women menstrual leave.

“They include the Victorian Women’s Trust, an Australian gender equality agency, which offers employees 12 days of menstrual and menopause leave; Indian food delivery startup Zomato, which offers 10 days of period leave; and French cooperative La Collective, which gives staff up to one day of period leave per month.”

So menstrual leave being discussed by Spain’s Cabinet isn’t a first-of-its kind.

But I found it amazing, especially when I consider how much the topic is being discussed in our own federal and state legislatures, which is…

Unsurprising, when you remember that, according to the Department of Labor:

“Currently, there are no federal legal requirements for paid sick leave.”

And paid sick leave at the state level – Axios used the word “spotty,” which is generous:

The Axios article noted,

“The U.S. is the only advanced economy in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave to workers.”

“Advanced economy”?

Yes.

Advanced thinking with regards to women’s health?

No.

Because even if menstrual leave was considered in this country, if a woman must take it as unpaid time off…

How many women can afford that?

In my research I came across this May 17 article, written by a woman, who was not enthusiastic about menstrual leave.  (When you see slightly different spellings of some words, it’s because this is the United Kingdom publication):

I’m quoting her at length because she gave me a lot to think about:

“…but I find the policy horrifying.  I can’t imagine anything worse for the advancement of women in the workplace than legislation that effectively creates a risk for employers in which any female candidate they hire may work 15 per cent fewer hours (based on a 40-hour work week over a four-week month) than her male colleagues.

“Women have spent years vying for equal pay and equal treatment in the workplace – to then assert that simply because we own a uterus, we need legislation to give us extra leave is deeply harmful.  As a result, any employer that can’t afford to hire a candidate who may end up taking three days off a month will recruit male rather than female candidates.  Ultimately, women – including those whose periods are fine – will lose out.

Hot water bottles don’t help.

“Don’t mistake this for an argument that we shouldn’t take leave during our periods…But instead of focusing on women, what we really need to do is improve sick pay and make it normal to take leave for any ailment – be it period pain, back pain or colds.

“The pandemic…has taught us that dragging ourselves into work when we are sick is a terrible idea – your work suffers and you infect your colleagues – whose work then also suffers – ad infinitum.  So how about this for an idea:  instead of making ‘being born female’ into a condition so unhealthy it needs legislation to defend us, we take another step in the realisation that workers are not robots – and simply destigmatise ‘taking time off.’”

And this article pointed out another potential landmine:

“Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of the UGT, a leading Spanish trade union, even warned that the move could ‘stigmatize women.’

“‘In the long term, it may be one more handicap that women have in finding a job.  Because we all know that on many occasions we have been asked if we are going to be mothers, something that must not be asked and that men are not asked.  Will the next step be to ask us if we have period pains?’”

And speaking of men – can we fault them if some resent female colleagues getting paid time off for something most men can’t understand, and no man will never experience?

A broken arm?  Understood.  The flu?  Understood.  Cancer?  Understood.

I don’t know what the hell this is – but it won’t help.

But “ragtime”?

Don’t think so.

I anticipate many heated discussions about menstrual leave – now in Spain, and soon in numerous other places.

And I’ll leave that to wiser heads than mine.

Now, to end this on a somewhat lighter note…

In my research I encountered this May 15 article:

The article included this seven-minute video:

I was curious as to what the fruits and vegetables had to do with menstruation, so I watched it. 

Interspersed with some no-nonsense talk from a female gynecologist, I saw an apple being painted to portray a human egg cell maturing:

The mature human egg is approached by sperm cells that looks a lot like bean sprouts:

Here are the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries, with the apple-red human egg cell pinging around like a pinball:

Period pain is like a rotten pomegranate:

And if your period makes you fart more, as portrayed by this balloon…

No worries, because…

Update: OK, I didn’t end this when I said I would.

But now I will, and on a hopeful note:

Perhaps menstrual leave will be addressed in this country…

But by companies, not Congress.

According to this May 25 article:

“Nuvento, a global software company with U.S. locations in Kansas and New Jersey, recently announced that employees can take one day of menstrual leave per month.  Though the policy is very new, workers have so far welcomed it.”

A Good Mom Memory…From This?

I’m OK with going to the dentist, but it will never appear on “A Few of My Favorite Things” list.

I’m not fond of sitting – or rather, almost lying on my back – in the chair, mouth open for an extended amount of time, while the dentist or hygienist leans way into my personal space, poking my gums and scraping my teeth, while water is sloshing around in (and spilling out of) my mouth, and noise is hammering my ears. 

Lots of noise.

But I go, because I know that not going to the dentist can lead to tooth loss all sorts of other health problems.

I consider myself fortunate that I’m not afraid of going to the dentist; 36 percent of people in the U.S. have dentophobia – fear of going to the dentist – many to the point of not going to a dentist at all, according to this and other articles:

I attribute my lack of fear to my growing-up years.  My parents didn’t talk about going to the dentist – they just went.  I never heard them talk about hating to go the dentist, or talk about pain or blood or any of other less-than-pleasant possibilities.

So when it came time for Mom to start taking my siblings and me to the dentist – we simply went.

It wasn’t fun, but then it was over and forgotten.

And I did have my, “Look, Mom – no cavities!” Normal Rockwell moments:

I’d said that my parents didn’t talk about going to the dentist, but that isn’t quite true.

As a teenager, at some point I must have expressed resistance to a dentist appointment – no doubt some effort at independence on my part.  As an antidote, Mom shared a dentist story, and she made it funny.  And that story has stayed with me ever since.

Mom would have been in her late teens.  She’d been blessed with perfect teeth:  pure white, straight as piano keys, and perfectly shaped.  No cavities – throughout her life, she never had a cavity.

During a dental visit, the dentist had praised Mom’s lovely smile and told her that during her next visit he’d like to take pictures of her teeth.

Mom was thrilled!

She couldn’t wait for her next trip to the dentist.  Pictures!  Who knew where that might lead?  She’d have pictures of herself, taken by a professional person!  Could that lead to something…something like…a modeling career? 

Could she pose for toothpaste ads like she’d seen in magazines, flashing her perfect smile? 

And maybe…maybe…that would lead to Hollywood!  Models became actresses, right?  Like Suzy Parker…

1957:  Model-turned-actress Suzy Parker with Cary Grant in “Kiss Them for Me,” her first film role.

Mom had a very active imagination, and soon all sorts of exciting possibilities were filling her dreams.

Six months passed, and the big day arrived.

Mom donned her best dress, and took extra time fixing her hair and carefully applying lipstick.

She arrived at the dentist’s office and as usual, the receptionist directed Mom to the treatment room, where the dentist greeted her.

He explained that he’d take her pictures first, then proceed with her regular cleaning.

Mom was ready!

She smiled her best smile, but instead of reaching for a camera, the dentist reached for a different device.

A device that meant in her long-awaited pictures, she would look like this:

When the dentist had said he wanted to take pictures of Mom’s teeth, he meant it.

Her teeth, all her teeth…

And nothing but her teeth.

At this point in recounting her story, Mom said, “And this is what I looked like!”  She spread her fingers into each side of her mouth and pulled her lips back as far as they’d go, grimacing all the while.

Nice teeth, but otherwise…

Pretty bad.

No modeling.  No magazine ads.  No movies with Cary Grant.

We laughed together, and my dentist rebellion faded.

I’m smiling as I remember that story now, on Mom’s birthday.  She’s no longer living, but I’m so grateful for the years she did and the memories she shared.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

Mom’s lovely smile!

Elon Musk’s Mantra:

It’s widely accepted that Elon Musk is the world’s richest man.

Net worth:  Depending on who you believe – and what the stock market is doing – $207 to $268 billion.

I became aware of Musk back when I became aware of Tesla automobiles – the cars looked good and were electric, and what’s not to like?

As time passed I became more aware of the word “Musk” in the media, kind of like a pesky mosquito buzzing around my ear.  “Musk” and “Tesla,” then “Musk” and “SpaceX,” then “Musk” and “whatever.”

Then came “Musk” and “Twitter.”

Specifically, “Musk buying Twitter.”

Why, I wondered, would Musk – a guy who already had a car company and a space transportation company – buy Twitter?

Musk’s offer to buy twitter for a mind-boggling $44 billion garnered him lots of headlines:

Lots of headlines, and lots of attention.

And for some, attention is like an addictive drug

And like an addictive drug, there’s no such thing as “enough.”

Musk couldn’t just sit back, keep his mouth shut, and let the Twitter deal happen.  To keep the attention flowing, Musk started screwing with the Twitter deal, as recounted in this May 17 article:

“Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised that taking over Twitter would enable him to rid the social media platform of its annoying ‘spam bots.’  Now he’s arguing – without presenting any evidence – that there might be just too many of those automated accounts for the $44 billion deal to move ahead.”

“…the way this is playing out – in a highly public, seemingly erratic conversation on the very platform Musk wants to buy – has little precedent.”

More headlines garnered.

Lots of attention.

But for Musk – not enough.

Concurrently, the “Musk and Twitter” headlines are supplemented with “Musk and Tesla” headlines, like this May 18 story:

“The U.S. government’s road safety agency has dispatched a team to investigate the possibility that a Tesla involved in a California crash that killed three people was operating on a partially automated driving system.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Wednesday confirmed that it had sent a special crash investigation team to probe the May 12 crash on the Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach.

“…Since 2016, the agency has sent teams to 34 crashes in which the systems were either in use or suspected of operating.  Of the 34, 28 involved Teslas, according to a NHTSA document released Wednesday.

“Fifteen people died in the crashes that NHTSA is investigating, and at least 15 more were hurt.  Of the deaths, 14 occurred in crashes involving Teslas, the documents say.”

Too bad, so sad. People possibly dying because of Tesla flaws.

But…more headlines garnered.

Lots of attention.

For Musk – not enough.

Now there are new Musk headlines, like this May 19 article:

“SpaceX, the aerospace firm founded by Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man, paid a flight attendant $250,000 to settle a sexual misconduct claim against Musk in 2018, Insider has learned.

“The attendant worked as a member of the cabin crew on a contract basis for SpaceX’s corporate jet fleet.  She accused Musk of exposing his erect penis to her, rubbing her leg without consent, and offering to buy her a horse in exchange for an erotic massage, according to interviews and documents obtained by Insider.”

Ugly stuff…

But…more headlines garnered.

Lots of attention.

For Musk – not enough.

And again, Musk couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He followed up the accusations of his alleged sexual misconduct by joking about it:

Because when it comes to attention…

There is no “enough” for Elon Musk.

And I believe the reason is this:

Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD)

Here’s some information about HPD from the Cleveland Clinic website.  Cleveland Clinic was named the #2 hospital in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s “2021-2022 Best Hospitals” rankings.

See if you think – as I do – that this description fits Elon Musk:

“Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is a mental health condition marked by unstable emotions, a distorted self-image and an overwhelming desire to be noticed.  People with HPD often behave dramatically or inappropriately to get attention.”

“For people with histrionic personality disorder, their self-esteem depends on the approval of others and doesn’t come from a true feeling of self-worth.  They have an overwhelming desire to be noticed and often behave dramatically or inappropriately to get attention.”

“To get attention.”

Elon Musk craves a lot of attention.

And Musk gets a lot of attention.

And it may be that Musk doesn’t care if the attention is because his cars may be seriously flawed, or because a woman may have been damaged by his unwanted sexual advances, or because he sometimes says outrageously stupid things, like this tweet in March 2020:

And says this, another recent attention getter:

No surprise that Musk is going Republican – he has so much in common with another HPD Republican:

For Musk, attention is welcome. Needed. Necesssary.

But no matter how much attention Musk gets, it will always be…

Mr. Barnum, I beg to differ.

Maybe there is some publicity Musk doesn’t want.

Maybe Mr. Elon Attention-Craving Musk would prefer to not get certian kinds of attention.

Because for once, he had nothing to say about it:

“…Tesla’s shares have declined more than 40 percent since April 4 – a much steeper fall than the broad market, vaporizing more than $400 billion in stock market value.  And the tumble has called attention to the risks that the company faces.  These include increasing competition, a dearth of new products, lawsuits accusing the company of racial discrimination, and significant production problems at Tesla’s factory in Shanghai, which it uses to supply Asia and Europe.”

“Mr. Musk and Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.”

I Know I Did A Feel-Good Story Two Days Ago, But I’ve Got A Thing For…

I’ve got a thing for giraffes.

So on May 17, when a local TV news story mentioned “a giraffe,” I paid attention.

Because…I’ve got a thing for giraffes.

They’re so highly improbable, yet so amazingly graceful:

And while I make no pretense to expertise, it does seem to me that…

A giraffe’s legs are its life.

From the moment it’s born.

After a six-foot fall to the ground from its mother…

That giraffe calf has one job to do, and do quickly:

Stand up and learn to use its legs.

The calf must stand while it’s nursing:

The calf must walk to stay with the herd:

And keep up when the herd is running:

The calf will learn to kick to defend itself:

And while a giraffe in a zoo won’t need to defend itself against a lion, its legs are still its life.

So on February 1, when a female giraffe was born at San Diego Zoo Safari Park with abnormalities – a front limb bending the wrong way – that threatened the calf’s survival, the team knew they had to act to save her life, according to this news release from the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance:

The calf – named Msituni (pronounced see tune neee), which means “in the forest” in Swahili:

“…had a hyperextension of the carpi, bones that are equivalent to those in the human wrist.  This disorder had caused the giraffe’s front leg to bend improperly, and made it difficult for her to stand and walk.”

As Msituni overcompensated, the second front limb started to hyperextend as well.  (Her back leg joints also were weak but were corrected with specialized hoof extenders.)

Matt Kinney, senior veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, said in this article:

“Initially we stabilized that joint with casts while we had some time to purchase some braces, just off-the-shelf braces.  Applied those the next day and realized those weren’t quite strong enough and needed to take it a step up.”

Next, says this article:

“Msituni wore medical-grade braces for humans that were modified for her long legs.  But eventually Msituni broke one.”

That’s when the team reached out to experts in orthotics at the San Diego-based Hanger Clinic, including Ara Mirzaian.  Over the past three decades Mirzaian has fitted braces for everyone from Paralympians to children with scoliosis.

This time his patient was an animal.

An animal that was a 100-pound-plus infant that stood 5-foot-10-inches tall at birth, and was growing taller every day.

Following initial device fittings, the team quickly fabricated the custom-molded carbon graphite orthotic braces by using cast moldings of the calf’s legs and fit Msituni with her new devices:

After 10 days…

…the problem was corrected.

Msituni was in braces for 39 days from the day she was born, and then:

“Reunite with the giraffe tower” – a herd of giraffes is also called a “tower”?

Who knew?

And when giraffes intertwine their necks:

They’re called a “kaleidoscope.”

Yeah, I’ve got a thing for giraffes.

Msituni stayed in the animal hospital the entire 39 days. 

After that, she was slowly introduced to her mom and others in the herd.  Her mom never took her back, but another female giraffe has adopted her, and she now runs around like the other giraffes:

Though it will be a while before she’ll reach her top short-distance speed of 37 mph, which is faster than some horses and all humans.

So, a baby giraffe that, if born in the wild and couldn’t nurse or walk or run, eventually would have been left behind by the herd, to die of starvation or predators.

Instead, Msituni now has a great chance of surviving – and thriving.

That feels good.

I feel good.

Msituni feels good:

And…

Let’s Take A Bad-News Break And Enjoy A…

We could all use more feel-good stories, and this one is especially good.

First, some context:

On many levels, I think the idea of humans flying is preposterous.

Without giving it a second thought, many of us walk onto one of these…

…sit back, buckle our seatbelts, and assume that this 437-ton machine is going to leap off the ground, fly, and land in one piece back on the ground, taking us safely from Point A to Point B.

And it’s best that we assume instead of actually thinking about what we’re doing.

If we really thought about it, no one would get on an airplane, ever.

Preposterous.

That 747-400 pictured above is one extreme of flying – here’s the other:

This small plane is a Cessna 172.

Here’s a comparison:

The plane I’m going to talk about is a Cessna 172, and here’s the only reason I know what that is:

When I met the man who would become my husband, he was a licensed pilot and part-owner of a Cessna 172.

He loved flying, loved being a pilot, and had accumulated a goodly amount of time in the air.

So it was no surprise that, as our relationship progressed, he invited me to “go up” with him.

That is, go flying with him in the Cessna 172.

I’d never been in a small plane, never had a desire to be in one.  But I liked this guy and I said yes, and one gorgeous morning we arrived at a small airport.

I’d flown on commercial jets a number of times, so as we walked across the tarmac to his plane, I was struck by how small the plane was.

And by how few engines it had:

One.

And I started thinking, “What happens if that one engine conks out?”

Commercial carriers with multiple engines can lose an engine and still land safely.

But a single-engine plane?

So I was trepidatious before we’d even reached the airplane.

The pre-hub did his pre-flight, we boarded and strapped in.

Runway.

Airborne.

But I wasn’t focusing on the gorgeous scenery below us.

I was focusing on how afraid I was.

When you’re sitting in the cockpit of a small airplane right next to the pilot, you can see everything they’re doing.

And while I knew my pilot knew exactly what he was doing why, I didn’t know shit about anything.

His plane – like every plane – did not come equipped with one of these:

My modus operandi in a commercial airplane’s cabin in:  Ignorance is bliss.  I don’t want to know what the pilot and co-pilot in a commercial airplane’s cockpit are doing, any more than I want to know what a gastroenterologist is doing during a colonoscopy. 

But ignorance is not possible when you’re in a small plane, sitting next to the pilot.

We’d been airborne for maybe 20 minutes and I was starting to feel a teensy bit less afraid, until another thought struck:

“What,” I thought, as I tried to appear calm, “what if my pilot suddenly gets sick?  Too sick to fly the plane?”

My own knowledge of piloting was zero.

“I could DIE doing this!” I thought. 

I liked this guy, but not that much.

So there I was, in a plane I didn’t know how to fly with a pilot who could pass out and leave us in…

Deep guano.

And that’s brings us to our feel-good story:

It was the morning of May 10, and the transportation was a small, single-engine plane like this:

The Cessna 208 had taken off from Marsh Harbour International Airport in the Bahamas with a pilot and two passengers.  One of the passengers was Darren Harrison (pictured below), a 39-year-old Floridian and vice president of an interior design company

About 90 minutes into the flight, Harrison heard the pilot say he wasn’t feeling well.  Harrison saw the pilot slump back in his seat, and when Harrison tried to speak to him, the pilot didn’t respond.

The pilot had lost control of the plane, “sending it into a nosedive,” according to multiple media outlets.

We’d later learn that the plane had been at 9500 feet going 180 mph, then dropped more than 3,000 feet in just 16 seconds.

Terrifying.

No one was in charge of the airplane.

My small-plane-and-sick-pilot nightmare comes true.

Darren Harrison…

“…climbed over three rows of seats into the cockpit, moved the pilot out of his seat and scrambled to put on a pair of headphones and make contact with air traffic control…”

Here’s the interior of a Cessna 208 – the pilot is up front, the passenger behind:

While Darren Harrison was climbing over seats, the plane was still in a nosedive.

Here’s what a nosedive looks like:

The plane’s nose is pointing straight down toward the ground.

Or in our Cessna 208 situation, straight down toward the Atlantic Ocean.

Harrison is headed for the cockpit, knowing he has…

ZERO experience flying an airplane.

SECONDS to do something.

Of his thoughts during these few seconds, Harrison would later say,

“I’m going to have to land this airplane, because there is no other option.”

So, big-time props for his survival instinct.  It may have been that instinct that prompted Harrison to put his hands on the watchamacallit and pull back, which lifted the plane out of the nosedive.

Bigger props to Harrison for having the presence of mind to put on headphones.

Major props for figuring out how to use the headphones to make radio contact with anybody, let alone the air traffic control tower at Fort Pierce on Florida’s east coast:

Here’s a recounting the first part of the conversation:

Harrison: I’ve got a serious situation here.  My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane.

Fort Pierce dispatcher:  Roger.  What’s your position?

Harrison:  I have no idea. I can see the coast of Florida in front of me.  And I have no idea.

We’d later learn that as Harrison was pulling the plane out of the nosedive, he was also turning the plane.  Harrison would later credit “common sense” for figuring this out.

I’d say that kind of common sense is not so common.

Now this, from the Associated Press story:

“Minutes passed before controllers were able to locate the plane, which by then was heading north over Boca Raton.

“Then the man’s voice seemed to fade, so the controller in Fort Pierce asked for the passenger’s cellphone number to enable controllers at Palm Beach International Airport to communicate with him more clearly.”

Jeez Louise!

Not only is Harrison in charge of a plane he doesn’t know how to fly with two other people on board, but now he also has to talk on the phone?

Then, in a stroke of incredible luck,

“Palm Beach International Airport traffic controller Robert Morgan, a 20-year veteran, took over at that point…”

We’ll learn later that Morgan happened to be working an extra shift at Palm Bech International Airport that day.

We’ll also learn that Moran happened to be a certified flight instructor with experience piloting Cessna aircraft.

Incredible luck for Harrison.

Morgan and Harrison were able to determine the plane’s airspeed and altitude, and from there, Morgan began teaching Harrison flying basics.

I’ve heard of “learn while you earn,” but this was “learn or die.”

And since the plane was above land, there was now a serious risk to people on the ground, as well.

Departures at the Palm Beach International Airport were halted, emergency responders were dispatched, and vehicles and aircraft were moved away from the runway to make space, according to an FAA news release.

Morgan guided Harrison through slowing the plane down, and then, when the plane was on final approach…

The plane disappeared from radar.

Seconds passed…two, five, eight, 10…and Morgan kept trying to make contact with Harrison.

And then…on the radio…

Harrison:  I’m on the ground – what do you want me to do now?

Once on the ground, controllers instructed Harrison on how to brake and stop the plane:

Harrison – and Morgan – had flown the plane, saved three (and probably more) lives, and they made a safe landing around 12:30pm at Palm Beach International Airport. 

Here’s the path of the plane:

Throughout this miracle – and what else can you call it?  Darren and the passengers suffered no injuries. 

The pilot was taken to a hospital, and we’d later learn he had suffered an aortic aneurysm.  There was talk of releasing him from the hospital on May 16.

The story got international coverage including this May 12 article in Great Britain’s Daily Mail:

The article said,

“Once Harrison landed, Morgan ran out to meet Harrison and the two hugged on the tarmac.

“Morgan said, ‘It felt really good to help somebody, and he [Harrison] told me that he was going to go home tonight to see his pregnant wife.’”

Morgan (left) and Harrison.

Morgan would later tell an NBC reporter that Harrison was “My best student ever!”

That was May 10, and Harrison was reportedly not talking to the media – until the May 16 Today Show:

In this image Harrison was saying, “We were in a dive like this.”

Gosh, one flying lesson, and Harrison is talking like a pilot!  It’s well-known that pilots talk with their hands…

What we don’t know is if Harrison got out of the plane and did this:

Kiss the ground or, in this case, kiss the runway.

So…lots to feel good about in this story.

And as for me…

I married my pilot.

But I declined to “go up” with him again in his Cessna 172.

And he was fine with that.

And as for Darren’s and my small-aircraft situations, I can only heave a sigh of relief and say…

BHTM:

I Never Knew About This Skeleton In California’s Closet

On May 11, according to this May 12 story:

“Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland released the first volume of the 106-page investigative report as part of the 2021 Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative.”

This and related stories are getting a lot attention, and they should – and not only because the treatment of the children was “horrible,” as the headline put it.

But also for this reason, from Deborah Parker, CEO of the National Native American Boarding School Coalition, in a May 11 PBS Newshour interview:

“We’re written out of history books.”

Here’s another Native American-related story that’s also been written out of history books.

And it took place here in California.

California – the bluest of the blue states, the uber-liberal state, the territory that would achieve statehood in 1850, as a free, non-slavery state.

Non-slavery?

Let’s visit early Los Angeles, CA.

It wasn’t much:

Los Angeles in 1853. Lithographic drawing by Charles Koppel for the Pacific Railroad Survey. 

In 1850, the population of Los Angeles was about 1,600 people.  The city finally had its first post office and first hotel.  It had none of these, which are everywhere in LA today:

Palm trees were brought in from the desert, and paved streets existed only in the residents’ imaginations.

In 1850, Los Angeles also had this:

This was the Downey Block, on the corner of Temple and Spring Street.  The building was owned by Governor John G. Downey (1827-1894).

Why do I mention the Downey Block?

Because the rear of the Downey Block served as the Los Angeles…

Slave market.

A “flourishing” slave market, according to this article:

A flourishing slave market where Native Americans were sold in auctions from about 1850 to 1870.

Here’s how it worked.

California, the “free, non-slavery state,” had passed a law.

According to this article:

“In 1850 the California legislature passed an Act for the Government and Protection of Indians that essentially forced many Native Americans into servitude.  The law provided for the forced labor of loitering or orphaned Native Americans, regulated their employment, and defined a special class of Indian crimes with punishments.

“Forced labor” is, of course, another term for “slavery.”

Add that to the reality that Native Californians could not become citizens, vote, or testify against a white person in court, and you have a situation parallel to any plantation in the American South.

The above Slavery by Another Name article and others I found said the Act made it legal for whites to enslave Native people, and here’s what happened:

On Mondays, employers seeking cheap labor would come to the Downey Block slave market auction and pay the bail of men and women who had been arrested under the Act.  The accused native workers were then forced to work until their debt was paid. 

At the time, local ranchers and vineyard owners paid their Native Californian workers with alcohol, a practice that in turn encouraged public intoxication.  Local lawmen regularly conducted sweeps, arresting Native people. 

As this article put it:

“At the end of the week, if the Indians performed their work satisfactorily, one third of the sale price was given to the laborer.  Of course, this payment was usually in the form of more alcohol.  So the vicious cycle of alcohol-induced arrest and resulting servitude often repeated itself.”  

The article goes on quote Horace Bell, a chronicler of the early days of Los Angeles:

“Los Angeles had its slave mart, as well as New Orleans and Constantinople – only the slave at Los Angeles was sold fifty-two times a year as long as he lived, which did not generally exceed one, two, or three years, under the new dispensation.”

The slave auction took place nearly every week for almost 20 years.  That the practice became routine is demonstrated by an 1852 letter written by the administrator of Rancho Los Alamitos (in the area that’s now Long Beach).  He called upon his employer to “deputize someone to attend the auction that usually takes place at the prison on Mondays, and buy me five or six Indians.”

These auctions reflect the widespread discrimination and violence against Native Californians. 

Between 1850 and 1870, their populations in Los Angeles fell from 3,693 to 219 people.

Native American slave trafficking eventually faded, though not out of any discomfort on the part of the traffickers.  Instead, it was due to the decreasing population of Native Americans in the area as well as the increase in immigrants from other nations, namely China and European countries.

The Downey Block was torn down in 1905, and today that space is occupied by this:

The Los Angeles Federal Courthouse.

A certain amount of irony there.

Who were these enslaved Native Americans in Los Angeles?

Here’s a map naming the tribes in the Los Angeles area:

Southern California Indigenous tribes; the star indicates Los Angeles.

The articles I read didn’t identify the enslaved Native Americans by tribes, because they were unknown.  Their tribes were unknown because back then, nobody bothered to ask the Native Americans. 

As the above administrator of Rancho Los Alamitos put it when he was ordering up some slaves, “buy me five or six Indians.”

“Indians,” generic.

Another unknown is how many Native Americans were living in California before contact with Europeans and later, Americans.

Estimates for before range from 133,000 to 705,000, with some recent scholars concluding that these estimates are low.

After that contact with Europeans and Americans – and their diseases, enslaving, and murdering (because “the only good Indians are dead Indians”) – estimates are a reduced California Native American population as low as 25,000 in 1870:

Here’s another unknown.

There aren’t that many images of 19th-century Southern California Native Americans, and those I could find rarely included a name. 

Like this unidentified woman:

And this unidentified family:

And this, identified only as “Group of Indians”:

No names.  No tribal names. 

Nobody.

Perhaps the story of enslaved California Native Americans will include names – if, someday, it’s written back into history books

My research for this post included this thoughtful article from 2021:

“Despite the debilitating and long-lasting effects on numerous Native communities, the bondage of Indigenous people has largely escaped the ongoing dialogue about American slavery and its legacies.  Perhaps that’s because Native American bondage took various forms – convict leasing, debt peonage, child servitude, captive trading – making it difficult to classify, especially when compared with the multigenerational and brutally systematized chattel slavery of the South.”

“Yet this history – what the historian Andrés Reséndez has dubbed ‘the other slavery’ – is crucial, especially as Americans interrogate the legacies of exploitation and question what’s owed and to whom.  

“American slavery wasn’t the ‘peculiar institution’ of the South alone; it was a transcontinental regime.  And a diverse range of people was caught in its cruel embrace.”

In her interview with PBS Newshour, Deborah Parker talked about healing from the harm done to children in our country’s Native American boarding schools.

Her words from than interview apply to the Native American enslavement story as well:

Deborah Parker, CEO of the National Native American Boarding School Coalition and a member of the Tulalip Tribe in Washington.

“It has impacted so many of us for generations.  And it’s time that we tell the story…Hearing these stories, know that our relatives suffered so enormously is a lot to carry…The hope is that we find healing.  The hope is that we come together as a nation not only to tell of these truths, but also to begin to heal together.  Our communities have known this truth for generations.  It’s time the United States government understands these truths.”

Of course…

This is not the only story of Native American enslavement in California.

There’s the story of Native Americans and the 21 Spanish Catholic missions…

…where according to many articles like this:

“In the 65 years between establishment of the missions in 1769 and their secularization by the Mexican government in 1834, more than 37,000 California Indians died at the missions.  Around 15,000 of those deaths were due to epidemics aided by the missions’ crowded conditions, while a significant number of the rest succumbed to starvation, overwork, or mistreatment.”

Carmel Mission, unnamed Indians burial site.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald Said…

The rich are different.

Countless examples abound.

Including – they buy stuff that’s completely out of the realm of most people’s reality – certainly mine.

For example, buying stuff like this, which happened May 8:

According to a May 9 article in the New York Times:

“In under four minutes of bidding, Andy Warhol’s 1964 silk-screen of the actress’ face, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, sold for about $195 million to an unknown buyer at Christie’s in New York, making it the highest price achieved for any American work of art at auction.”

That price was small change, compared to this art purchase:

Prince and painting cropped smaller

In 2017, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman bought the Salvatore Mundi, a painting maybe by Leonardo da Vinci, for $450 million.

And this:

Dmitri and yacht cropped

In 2018, Russian businessman Dmitri Rybolovlev paid $250 million for this 360-foot yacht he named Anna.  Annual running costs:  $25 million for its upkeep.

And this:

Fur bag and woman no glasses cropped smaller

In 2022, yet another purchaser who wished to remain anonymous bought a Faux Wine Fur Bag from Frontgate.com for an undisclosed price.  Multiple media were quick to point out the striking resemblance between the Faux Wine Fur Bag (left) and Cousin Itt of The Addams Family:

Cousin It and Wine Bag cropped smaller

How did I learn about Frontgage.com?

The Backstory:

TMI Woman cropped smaller

Please bear with me while I briefly venture into the TMI zone.

TMI:  Too Much Information.

I was on the hunt for new towels for my husband, who’d developed a skin condition.

Among other things, the doctor suggested we invest in high-quality towels for him – the softer and fluffier, the better for his skin.

I’ll admit that our towels were somewhat old and tending toward threadbare.  Not as bad as this…

towels smaller

But there was definitely room for improvement.

So I went online to look for reviews to find the softest, fluffiest towels available.  And a number of reviewers let me to a company I’d never heard of:

Frontgate website smaller

Frontgate.

I read about something called “The Frontgate Difference”:

Frontgate Difference

And thought, “Uh-oh.  These towels are going to be expensive.”  And they were.

But my husband’s health was worth it, so we chose a set of towels and took out a second mortgage to pay for them.

Kidding.

Sort of.

The towels arrived and the hub used them and was pleased, so end of story, right?

For me – yes.

For Frontgate – no.

mail 1 cropped

Since then I’ve been barraged by Frontgate with postcards and catalogs and other stuff.  As soon as the first catalog arrived, I called Frontgate and asked to be removed from their mailing list.  The customer serviceperson assured me I would be.

But the stuff kept coming, the latest just recently:  a very-expensive-to-produce catalog that probably weighed about five pounds, was full color, 194 glossy pages with front and back full-color covers.

194 pages!

The barrage of mail began with this not-exactly-personal letter from Tom Bazzone, President, Frontgate:

Letter darker fixed smaller

The letter included a $50 gift card and an invitation to use the card “toward your next purchase.”

The “next purchase” I wanted to make wasn’t at Frontgate, but unfortunately, that’s the only place the gift card was valid.

So I thought, “Let’s go back to the Frontgate website and see what I can buy – for less than $50.”

I wanted to find something that the $50 gift card would cover, including taxes and shipping.  “That’ll show ‘em!” I thought.

I’m not sure whom I wanted to show what, but I thought there would be a certain amount of satisfaction in using that gift card at no cost to me.

On Frontgate.com I was introduced to a world of items that I didn’t know existed. 

And I was reminded that the rich really are different.

So much of the stuff on Frontgate was for people who live in a financial realm far removed from my reality, a realm that allows them to want, and to buy, for example…

Frontgate Float Bev Tray cropped smaller

A “Soleil Pool Float Beverage Tray,” $299 but for a limited time, just $239.20.”

“The floating tray is perfect for serving up snacks or drinks while you relax in the water.”

What they actually meant was,

“Your servants can bring out the floating tray for serving up snacks or drinks while you relax in the water.”

Perfect for me, except that…

  1. I don’t have servants.
  2. I don’t have a pool.
  3. It’s not under $50.

Back to searching.

Next up:

Frontgate Infuser cropped smaller

A “Porthole Infuser,” a steal at just $129, and perfect for…

Infusing every porthole in your mansion?

Further reading advised that:

“The Porthole Infuser is a striking infusion vessel that can be used to create cocktails, oils, teas, dressings, lemonade, coffee and more.”

Who knew?

There’s a video – underscored with dramatic music – that shows us we’ll require an engineering degree to disassemble this multi-part device, then reassemble all the parts, adding the stuff you want to infuse into other stuff:

Frontgate video clarity

So if you wanted to infuse something with, um…fruit salad?

Frontgate fruit salad clarity

Just add your ingredients, seal up the Porthole Infuser and…

Infuse away!

Perfect for me, except that…

  1. I have no idea what I’d infuse with what.
  2. I have no idea why I’d infuse what with what.
  3. It’s not under $50.

I was starting to feel like Frontgate shoppers don’t just live in a different financial realm, but on a different planet.

Back to my search.

But where, oh where, would I find something from Frontgate for under $50 including tax and shipping that might actually be useful in my less-than-McMansion life?

Voila 2 cropped fixed smaller

I found it!

Frontgate Two Wine Bags cropped smaller

“The Faux Fur Wine Bag is secured with a velvet string and has a luxurious look and feel that will make an impression.  Pair with a bottle of wine for an impressive gift.”

And they really do look like Cousin Itt!

Perfect for me, because:boones farm 1 clarily smaller

  1. The Faux Fur Wine Bag will keep white wine at that perfect 120-degree temperature.
  2. I most definitely will “make an impression” with my $3.99 bottle of Boone’s Farm Fuzzy Navel (pictured) tucked into the Faux Fur Wine Bag.
  3. It’s under $50!

So I’ve now revealed it:

The Big Story!

I do fit in with all those rich people who buy Pool Float Beverage Trays and Porthole Infusers and other things on Frontgate!

I – yes, I – am the purchaser who wished to remain anonymous!

I am the purchaser of the Cousin Itt – I mean, Faux Fur Wine Bag.

Or as Cousin Itt would say…and I’m quoting directly here…

Here’s A Silver Lining In The Anti-Choice Dark Cloud – But Will That Silver Lining Survive?

Back in mid-April I started drafting a blog post triggered by a story that was short, but full of what I considered to be very good news.

It had to do with some employers recognizing the potential impact of the then-expected Supreme Court overturn of Roe vs. Wade, and what those employers were doing in terms of helping their employees with regards to freedom of choice and other abortion-related issues.

I did a lot of research and a lot of writing, and what I was learning was admirable, upbeat and encouraging.

I put the post aside for awhile, distracted by other things.

The Supreme Court’s draft decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade was leaked to the public on the evening of Monday, May 2. As currently written, it gives states the power to severely limit – and outright ban – a woman’s right to choose.

I was, and still am, angry, disgusted and discouraged.

Then on May 5, this story caught my attention – for all the wrong reasons:

Let’s go back where my post was, back in mid-April:

This Was Then

It was only a three-inch article in my newspaper, but it caught my eye. And it heartened me.

That short article led me to this April 13 story:

“Yelp, the app for crowd-sourced business reviews, says it will pay for employees’ travel costs if they need to go out of state to receive an abortion. 

“Yelp’s health insurance already covered abortion care, but next month the company will also provide travel benefits for U.S. employees and their dependents who need to travel out of state to access these services.”

I had no idea that companies were considering this, much less actually doing it.

Hurrah!

Hallelujah!

And how hated by some:

Further research told me that Yelp is not alone.  Here are the companies I’ve found so far that are responding in some way to the massive effort by Republicans to deprive women of their right to choose:

CitiGroup:

“‘In response to changes in reproductive health care laws in certain states in the U.S., beginning in 2022 we provide travel benefits to facilitate access to adequate resources,’ the bank said in a filing on Tuesday.

“About 8,500 of Citigroup’s 65,000 U.S. employees are in Texas.”

And sure enough, on April 12 we heard from Republicans, according to a different New York Times article:

“A Texas legislator warned Citigroup that he would introduce a bill to prevent the bank from underwriting municipal bonds in the state unless it rescinded its expense policy.”

Here’s hoping CitiGroup hangs tough.

The New York Times story is dated March 17, and I don’t know how I missed something of such importance to me.

I guess the important thing is that I learned, and learned more:

Apple:

“On Friday, CEO Tim Cook spoke about the iPhone maker’s plans to support Texas employees affected by the state’s new abortion law, known as the ‘heartbeat’ bill.

“During an all-staff meeting broadcast to 160,000 Apple employees worldwide, Cook noted that Apple’s medical insurance would kick in to help cover the costs incurred by workers who need to travel because of Texas’ abortion access restrictions.”

A March 24, 2022 article in the San Jose Mercury News noted that

“Apple’s abortion travel benefits cover retail workers…”

Where that leaves Apple’s corporate employees is a question I’ve been unable to resolve.

Levi’s:

This article noted that the Levi’s benefit:

“…applies to any employee who participates in their healthcare plans.  A spokesperson for Levi’s said, ‘part-time hourly workers can seek reimbursement for travel costs incurred under the same circumstances.’”

Hewlett-Packard:

“Two companies with employees in Idaho will cover travel expenses for workers who seek abortions after one of the most restrictive laws in the nation takes effect April 22.

“Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Citigroup Inc. say they already provide reimbursement for workers needing medical procedures that aren’t available locally.  That benefit will ‘extend to abortions when the new Idaho law takes effect.’

“‘The benefit is not specific to abortion or a response to any state law,’ Adam Bauer, spokesperson for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which has 120 employees in Idaho, said by email.  ‘Our insurance plan has historically covered out-of-state medical care, and will reimburse lodging expenses depending on distance traveled.’”

I think Mr. Bauer is equivocating here, wanting to steer clear of the abortion association.

Which is fine, and long as Levi’s pays.

QuestionPro:

QuestionPro is a survey software company that Vivek Bhaskaran founded in Seattle in 2005.  He moved the company to California, and then to Austin in January 2020.

Bhaskaran said his company has hosted town hall discussions about the new [abortion] law and is prepared to “cover the costs” for employees in need of abortions as those situations arise.

“‘Every tech company knows attracting and retaining talent is becoming extremely challenging, extremely difficult – and this is not helping,’ Bhaskaran said.

“‘From our perspective, clearly this is not necessarily very conducive to our business, conducive to hiring.  On a personal level, as well as a company level, actually, we are obviously against it.’”

Ah – the difficulties of “attracting and retaining talent.”  More about that below.

Offering abortion-related travel benefits isn’t limited to huge companies – a six-year-old tech company was mentioned in this article:

“Laura Spiekerman, co-founder of New York-based startup Alloy, told Bloomberg News that reimbursing workers for abortion-related travel is the ‘low bar’ of what companies should do.  ‘I’m surprised and disappointed more companies aren’t doing it,’ she said.

“The company – which has a handful of employees in states with restrictive abortion laws like Florida, Arizona and Mississippi – in January said that it would pay up to $1,500 toward travel expenses for employees or their partners needing to travel out of state for abortions.  Alloy also said it would cover 50% of legal costs up to $5,000 if any employee or their partner had to deal with legal issues due to anti-abortion laws.”

These two companies are addressing the issue in a different way from those described above:

Match and Bumble:

“Companies behind the U.S.’s largest dating apps are reacting to Texas’ restrictive abortion law that was allowed to go into effect this week by the Supreme Court.

“Bumble, based in Austin, said it was creating a relief fund supporting people seeking abortions in the state.

“Match Group CEO Shar Dubey also announced in a memo to employees that she would personally create a fund to support Texas-based workers and dependents who needed to seek care outside of the state, a company spokesperson confirmed to CNBC.”

Here’s another approach:

Lyft and Uber:

“Lyft and Uber said Friday they would cover legal fees for drivers on their respective platforms who are sued under Texas’ restrictive abortion law that went into effect this week.

“Patients may not be sued, but people aiding the procedure, including doctors, people paying for the procedure and clinic workers are at risk.  That includes rideshare drivers who can be punished for transporting women to clinics to receive abortions, where the drivers could be fined $10,000.”

While these companies are offering help with relocation:

Bospar and Salesforce:

“One such employer is Chris Boehlke, principal at Bospar, a San Francisco-based public relations firm.  She says she saw too many professional women who, upon giving birth, had to decide between being a hands-on PR professional or a hands-on mother, and feels strongly that women should have the option of choice.

“‘We’re appalled by what has happened in Texas,’ says Boehlke.  ‘It’s a giant step backward for everyone.’  So, the company recently announced it would cover the relocation expenses for any employee wishing to move from the state.  Six of its employees – or roughly 10 percent of the company’s staff – currently live in Texas, and the company is looking to increase its workforce by 20 to 30 percent in the coming months.”

“Salesforce told thousands of employees in a Slack message on Friday that if they and their families are concerned about the ability to access reproductive care in the wake of Texas’ aggressive anti-abortion law, the company will help them relocate.

“‘…if you have concerns about access to reproductive healthcare in your state, Salesforce will help relocate you and members of your immediate family.’”

The above Inc. article also noted this change:

“Solugen, a chemicals company in Houston, said it plans to open a new research and development facility outside of the state because its social policies are making it difficult to recruit employees.

“‘We’ve come to the conclusion after talking to lots of candidates that they want to join Solugen but they don’t feel comfortable coming to Texas, so for us it’s become a no-brainer to have R&D facilities elsewhere,’ CEO Gaurab Chakrabarti told Axios.”

I’m not naïve – I know these and other companies, whatever their size, aren’t taking these steps solely out of the goodness of their corporate hearts.

Yes, we hear company leaders saying things like,

“We’ve long been a strong advocate for equality in the workplace, and believe that gender equality cannot be achieved if women’s healthcare rights are restricted.”

And…

“The ability to control your reproductive health, and whether or when you want to extend your family, is absolutely fundamental to being able to be successful in the workplace.

And…

“I’m not speaking about this as the CEO of a company.  I’m speaking about this personally, as a mother and a woman who has fervently cared about women’s rights, including the very fundamental right of choice over her body.”

I’m glad company leaders are saying this, and I hope more company leaders will.

But for all this corporate goodness-of-heart, there’s an equal or bigger reason for these abortion-related benefits.

This graph of the U.S. unemployment rate from TradingEconomics.com and the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics says it all:

Jobless claims are at their lowest since September of 1969, more than 50 years ago.

This is an employee’s market, and employers are having trouble finding, and then keeping, qualified staff.

And those qualified people are looking for more than a salary and paid time off.

This Is Now

That’s as far as I got, back in mid-April, when I was celebrating the employers who said they would support their employees in various abortion-related ways.

And I can add another employer to that list, according to this article:

“Online retail giant Amazon.com took a firm stance Monday pushing against a prevailing Republican-led push to restrict access to abortion, telling its staff that it would pay up to $4,000 in travel expenses for non-life-threatening medical treatments that include abortion.

“In a message sent to employees, obtained by Reuters, Amazon told its employees that the new work benefit would apply to an employee if an operation could not be done within 100 miles of their home and virtual care is not accessible.  That will be put in place for all corporate and warehouse employees or covered dependents enrolled in the company’s Premera or Aetna health plans, according to the memo.”

Ironically, Amazon’s announcement was made on May 2, just hours before Politico announced the Supreme Court’s leaked Roe vs. Wade draft decision.

Then on May 6, Tesla entered the arena:

“Tesla is covering travel costs for employees seeking out-of-state abortions, joining the ranks of major companies who’ve introduced a similar policy to benefit workers affected by new restrictions in the past few months.

“The company said in its 2021 Impact Report released Friday that it expanded its Safety Net program and health insurance offerings last year to include ‘travel and lodging support for those who may need to seek healthcare services that are unavailable in their home state.’”

What’s The Future?

Going back to the May 3 Fortune article at the beginning of this post, it cited a number of companies that I’d included in this post – CitiGroup, Yelp and others.

And some of those companies talked mostly about benefits for people directly affected by Texas’ anti-choice law.

What will they say when this disaster spreads far beyond Texas, to those 26 states “certain or likely to ban abortion”?

Those companies were committed back when the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade was a possibility…

But only a possibility.

Now it’s a reality.

Will these companies stay strong?

Will others join them?

“Dozens of companies, including Walmart, American Airlines and Disney, have yet to issue statements or respond to CNBC requests for comment.  The Business Roundtable, a trade group that’s made up of top CEOs, said in a statement that it “does not have a position on this issue.”  Microsoft, JP Morgan and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce all declined to comment.”

What Do These Have In Common?

I live in Oceanside, CA, the northernmost coastal city in San Diego County.

Rather than surfing or swimming in the Pacific Ocean, my relationship with water is as follows:

I drink a lot of it.

I pay a lot for it.

According to this 2022 article:

California has the third most expensive water in the country.

And San Diego County, says this article:

Has some of the highest water rates in the state.

One big reason is that 80 percent of our water comes from very far away.

About 50 percent comes from the Colorado River Aqueduct (CRA):

The Colorado River Aqueduct is a 242-mile system comprised of open canal, tunnels and siphons that carry millions of gallons of water a day from the Colorado River across the desert to people in Southern California:

About 30 percent of our water comes from the State Water Project (SWP):

The California State Water Project is the largest state-built water and power system in the nation.  The project collects water from rivers in Northern California and the water travels more than 700 miles down the heart of the state.  It’s operated and maintained by the California Department of Water Resources:

These two sources bring water to the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) in Los Angeles, which sells the water to the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), which sells it to my city’s Water Utilities Department (WUD), which sells it to me (ME).

So, most of my water is traveling more than 242 miles from one direction and more than 700 miles from another direction before it reaches my faucet.

Which explains, in part at least, why my water is so expensive.

And now, an additional charge may be forthcoming for Oceanside residents:

In 2021, Oceanside launched its WaterSmart Meter Program:

“Project completion is expected in 2023.  More than 44,000 WaterSmart meters will be installed throughout the City.”

According to the WaterSmart Meter Program website:

“This exciting modern technology is part of the City’s continuing efforts to enhance customer service, conserve water, replace aging infrastructure, be more efficient and reduce the environmental impact of our operations.”

City employees currently visit our water meters once a month, but these new devices do away with that:

“The new WaterSmart meters provide remote updates on an hourly basis.  Customers will have 24/7 access to this near real-time data, allowing you to view your water usage at any time and monitor use to more quickly identify the possibility of leaks and opportunities to reduce your water usage.  This will also provide increased billing transparency to all our customers.”

This new program comes with a smartphone app and stuff to sign up for and a WaterSmart portal and everything else we need so we can become Best Friends with our water, drip by drop.

But, says the above Union-Tribune article, a number of people who live in residences where those “more than 44,000 WaterSmart meters” will be installed are unhappy about the fact that if we can view and monitor our water usage…

So can the city of Oceanside.

And that, they feel, is an invasion of privacy:

“The AMI smart meter [pictured] is really a surveillance device masquerading as a metering device,” said one Oceanside resident.

(Consistent with my practice of leaving no acronym unexplained, AMI stands for Advanced Metering Infrastructure.  This is a new-and-improved-and-more-expensive version of AMR, or Automatic Meter Reading.)

Another resident said, “It’s unnecessary for the meters to record consumption hourly, when only a single reading at the end of the month is needed to send the customer a water bill.  This program would give the city much more information than is needed to generate a bill.”

“Hourly water consumption rates could show whether people are at home or away, when someone is ill, what time they water their lawn, and other information,” noted another.

So the city suggested to these and other concerned residents that they could opt out – they’ll still get a WaterSmart Meter, but the data transmitter wouldn’t be installed with the meter.

That sounded swell, until the city added, “There will be a monthly $20 opt-out fee for this.”

So now we have a situation of Oceanside residents saying:

  1. I didn’t ask for this.
  2. I don’t want this.
  3. I have to pay $240 a year to not use something I didn’t ask for and don’t want.

I can understand being miffed about this.

Though I find this concern about privacy somewhat ironic, because I’m betting that some – maybe most – of these same people who are so concerned about their privacy are on Facebook and YouTube and WhatsApp and TikTok telling the world what they had for breakfast and showing pictures of their dog’s latest accident on the family room carpet.

And those social media platforms are taking our data and monetizing it – selling it to marketing companies, so even more people have access to all sorts of information about us.

Or, as this article put it, back in 2017:

Privacy, schmivacy.

So, sometime soon, someone from Oceanside’s Water Utilities Department will show up at my house and install a WaterSmart Meter.

And if the city wants to count how many times a day I flush the toilet – and when – I don’t care.

As long as that water keeps flowing in from the CRA and SWP to the MWD to the SDCWA to my WUD and through the AMI to…

In case you’re wondering why I think this controversy in Oceanside, CA would be of interest to anyone outside of Oceanside, CA, it’s because the Union Tribune article said that “…cities across California are moving to automated metering systems.”

And as everyone knows…

For better or for worse…

It’s true – just think of all the socially significant, culturally vital, and historically important trends got their start in California.

Like this:

Here’s My Nominee For Employer Of The Year:

The rather bland-looking logo above stands for Better Mortgage, also known as Better.com, a “New York-headquartered digital-first homeownership company and the leading non-commissioned mortgage provider in the U.S.”

The company’s founder and CEO – and my nominee for Employer Of The Year – is Vishal Garg, 43 (pictured), an Indian-American entrepreneur who started Better.com in 2014.  Or maybe 2016, depending on which stories you read.

Garg’s net worth is estimated between $1-4 billion, and in October 2021 Forbes called the company a “$7.7 Billion Unicorn”:

My nomination of Garg for Employer Of The Years based on a series of events that started on December 1, 2021.

Garg had invited nine hundred employees to a Zoom meeting, about nine per cent of its workforce, but this was not a random group of employees – each was specifically invited.

And these nine hundred employees were in for some very special attention from Garg:

Garg fired them.

In a three-minute Zoom meeting.

According to this article:

Garg said,

“If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off.  Your employment here is terminated effective immediately.”

Just think of being one of those nine hundred employees.  It’s December 1, 2021.  You’re invited to a Zoom meeting with your CEO, maybe not a normal occurrence but you’ll attend and then get back to work.  And you’ve got a lot of other things on your mind:  the pandemic, the approaching holidays, your ever-increasing utility bill…

And then…

Here’s Garg in the meeting video, at the moment he says “Your employment here is terminated effective immediately”:

Slouching, sloppily dressed, and monotoned-voiced.  Bored, probably.  Disengaged, definitely.

The CNN story goes on to share how Garg empathized, how he felt the pain of what he was about to tell his employees:

“‘This is the second time in my career I’m doing this and I do not, do not want to do this.  The last time I did it, I cried,’ Garg said on the call, which remained short and emotionless.”

Oh. Wait.

That was all about his feelings.

Never mind.

“Garg cited market efficiency, performance and productivity as the reason behind the firings.  Fortune later reported Garg accused the employees of ‘stealing’ from their colleagues and customers by being unproductive and only working two hours a day.”

Employer Of The Year, yes?

The Zoom firing made headlines around the world – including Great Britain:

Canada:

And India:

Strangely, instead of feeling compassion for Garg and his near-tears experience, the public expressed outrage at his callousness after footage from the mass Zoom layoff went viral on social media platforms. 

So much so, that a week later, Garg apologized:

I think we know that Garg wasn’t sorry he fired nine hundred employees on Zoom.

But he is deeply sorry that the story got so much attention and now the world knows what an asshole he is.

So Garg did what any self-respecting autocrat would do:

He took some time off:

And then he came back:

During his PTO, Garg “reflected on his leadership.”

And – perhaps because Garg wanted to show that though he was a shit leader, he was proficient at something – in March he laid off more employees:

“This time, some employees said they saw severance in their payroll accounts before they were officially told, according to messages posted on Blind, an anonymous workplace forum.”

“‘This was certainly not the form of notification that we intended and stemmed from an effort to ensure that impacted employees received severance payments as quickly as possible,’ the company said in a statement.”

You’ll note that this time, Garg let “the company” do the talking.

Perhaps so he wouldn’t say something like, “The last time I did this, it was on Zoom, and for reasons still unclear to me, those people didn’t cheer for me at the end of the Zoom meeting.”

Then came Round #3 in April:

“The company has not said how many employees were included in the cuts, or disclosed the total number of people it will employ after this downsizing.”

The company hadn’t said, but this April 19 article did:

“It is unclear at the time of writing how many people were affected by the layoffs, but sources familiar with internal happenings at the company estimate that it ranges from 1,200 to 1,500, meaning that the company has effectively reduced its headcount from about 10,000 in December to less than 5,000 now.”

And in the midst of all this, Garg found time to whine about not firing more people, and sooner:

Garg said,

“We made $250 million last year, and you know what, we probably pissed away $200 million.  We probably could have made more money last year and been leaner, meaner and hungrier.”

After all this, the word that keeps coming to mind for Garg – besides “brutal,” “cruel” and “asshole” – is “shortsighted.”

That is, “lacking imagination or foresight.”

It seems to me that a supposedly hotshot entrepreneur – Garg – who starts a mortgage business would have some realization that like so many things, mortgage rates rise and fall and rise and fall.

Here’s an example from the Rocket Mortgage website, a mortgage company that – unlike Garg’s Better.com – has been paying attention:

  • Rates in 1971 were in the mid-7% range, and they moved up steadily until they were at 9.19% in 1974.  They briefly dipped down into the mid- to high-8% range before climbing to 11.20% in 1979.
  • Interest rates reached their highest point in modern history in 1981 when the annual average was 16.63%.  Fixed rates declined from there, but they finished the decade around 10%.
  • In the 1990s, inflation started to calm down a little bit.  The average mortgage rate in 1990 was 10.13%, but it slowly fell, finally dipping below 7% to come in at 6.94% in 1998.

I know next to nothing about mortgages, but even I can see the ups and downs.

Now let’s fast forward to more recent history, this time from TheMortgageReports.com:

  • The average mortgage rate went from 4.54% in 2018 to 3.94% in 2019.
  • Rates plummeted in 2020 and 2021 in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.  By July 2020, the 30-year fixed rate fell below 3% for the first time.  And it kept falling to a new record low of just 2.65% in January 2021.
  • Mortgage rates spiked in the first quarter of 2022.  The average 30-year rate jumped from 3.76% to 5.11% between March 3 and April 21 – and increase of 1.35% in just eight weeks.

When those mortgage rates were dropping, Garg was hiring people like crazy – to the point of Better.com “quadrupling in size,” as I mentioned earlier.  He saw a chance to make tons of money, apparently with no thought that rates would rise, the demand for mortgages would decrease, and many of those employees would become superfluous.

It appears it never crossed his mind to expand more slowly, and prepare for mortgage rates to once again increase.

Shortsighted.

Mortgage rates increased, and Garg started firing people like crazy.

And acting like a crazy person:

Invite 900 people to a Zoom meeting to fire them?

Maybe he is a crazy person:

The article cites a number of Garg’s questionable behaviors, including the example in the headline:

“In one deposition in 2019, he told a former business partner – once the best man at his wedding – that he was ‘going to staple him against a fucking wall and burn him alive.’”

And this in an email to staff:

“A sample email from Garg, which Forbes obtained:  ‘You are TOO DAMN SLOW.  You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS… SO STOP IT.  STOP IT.  STOP IT RIGHT NOW.  YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME.’”

“Dumb dolphins”???

Crazy.

I haven’t seen Garg and Better.com in the headlines lately, and I was hoping – foolishly, it turns out – that I’d see a story about how he’d gotten some form of comeuppance for how he’s treated his employees. 

Those 5,000 employees who got this:

Well, according to The Daily Beast article – as a comeuppance for his brutality, cruelty, and just plain asshole-ity – here’s what Garg got:

“Last year, as questions about oversight simmered, Better handed Garg a token of holiday cheer:  a $25 million bonus, paid entirely in cash.”

Once Again We See That…

I worked at a major art museum for almost seven years.

This experience exposed me to, and helped me learn about, art from ancient to contemporary times.

My primary takeaway was this:

There is no such thing as “great” art or “bad” art, regardless of what art “experts” – including art curators and art critics and art dealers and art historians and art collectors – proclaim.

All judgment of art is totally subjective.

And any value placed on art is determined only by what people are willing to pay for it.

Take, for example, the French post-impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890).  He sold one painting in his lifetime.  

One hundred years after van Gogh’s death, in 1990, his Portrait of Dr. Gachet (pictured) sold at auction for $75 million.

Van Gogh was destitute when he died.  When he gave his his drawings and paintings to people – including his mother – most of the recipients threw it away (including his mother).

One man’s (or woman’s) trash back then, now transformed into treasures because of what people will pay for it.

Art experts are in the business of pointing to what they consider “art” and deem it “bad” or “great.”

But the only worthwhile criteria are:

Do you like it?  Love it?  Would you have it in your home?  Not as an investment, but because you connect with it?

Then there’s that word itself:

What is “art”?

Definitions are easy to find – here’s one:

Art is a highly diverse range of human activities engaged in creating visual, auditory, or performed artifacts – artworks – that express the author’s imaginative or technical skill, and are intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.

So if I’m the “author” who creates this and I call it “art…”

Is this “art”?

Or does a so-called expert have to designate it as “art”?

It’s likely no expert would designate my creation as “art.”

But this, of which the above image is a part:

Why, this is not only “art,” it’s Great Art!  It’s a masterpiece! 

After all…

It’s by Picasso.

Phooey on that.

When it comes to art, this old idiom is SO true:

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Case in point:

Above left is how New York’s iconic, 73-foot-tall Washington Square Arch normally looks.  On the right is the same arch in 1980, after it was “wrapped” by then-famous artist Francis Hines. 

The wrapping required 8,000 yards of polyester gauze, mechanical devices, cables and ropes, and – according to what I read online – “the tension created represents the ‘human struggle to free itself from restricting forces.’”

Hines’ creation was also described as “a giant bandage for a wounded monument.”

The wrapping stayed in place for six days, was removed, and then the event was mostly forgotten.

And, eventually, so was artist Francis Hines.

Until this recent story:

According to this and other articles:

“Hines was born in 1920, grew up in Cleveland, served in World War II, and became an illustrator for magazines and department store ads.”

Hines made a good living, and at the same time was creating personal art.  But, says Peter Falk, an art historian and publisher (read:  “expert”), Hines’ personal art “was about the process, not about selling or displaying his work.”

I find that hard to believe.

Artists – whether they’re painters or sculptors or writers or actors or dancers – rarely (if ever) create just for the sake of creating.  When they paint or sculpt or write or act or dance, they want their efforts to be seen or read or heard.  They want recognition and validation.

And they want to get paid for it.

Of course they do!

Maybe Hines’ work wasn’t selling because it looked like this:

And in the 1980s, people were buying this:

So for decades, once Hines finished a piece, he would ship it from his New York studio to a barn he was renting in Watertown, CT where it would be wrapped in plastic and stored.

Falk also said – rather snarkily, I thought – “Francis Hines had his 15 minutes of fame in 1980, when he wrapped the Washington Square Arch.”

A different article put it this way:  Hines kept a low profile.

Hines (pictured) died in 2016 at age 96.

His estate decided to dispose of the massive collection because the Connecticut barn’s owner was selling the property.

Two 40-yard dumpsters filled with sculptures and paintings had already been hauled away to a landfill.

In 2017, contractor George Martin was helping dispose of the art.

Martin had a friend named Jared Whipple (pictured), a Waterbury, CT mechanic and skateboard enthusiast.  Martin thought Whipple might like some of the paintings – they were just going to the dump, after all – because the paintings included images of car parts.

Whipple arrived to find a dumpster, full of artwork – paintings, sculptures and small drawings – some of it individually wrapped in thick plastic, all of it covered in dust and dirt:

According to this April 17 article:

“But as they unwrapped the paintings, something clicked:  ‘And I’m just like, Man, this stuff!  Who is this guy?’ Whipple exclaimed.”  

It took some time for Whipple to discover artist Hines’ name, and Whipple, says the article…

“…became consumed by the mystery of Francis Hines:  ‘I was obsessed with the research.  Every day, whether I’m at work, whether I’m home.’”

Whipple, determined to resurrect Hines’ reputation, began calling New York art galleries.  “I got so many doors shut in my face,” he said.

“‘I’ve always been a mechanic and I’m known in the skateboarding world but not in the art world.  So trying to get people to even open your emails and take you seriously was a huge challenge,’ said Whipple.”

At this point, one man’s trash is still another man’s trash.

Somehow, Whipple connected with the snarky Peter Falk, who this time was considerably less snarky about Hines’ work:

“‘I was really impressed.  I mean, I was blown away by the originality that I saw,’ Falk said.”

When the CBS reporter asked Falk is there was value in Hines’ artworks, Falk said,

“Yes, it’s well into the millions of dollars, once all is said and done.”

By agreement with the Hines family, most of the art belongs to Jared Whipple.

Starting May 5, the Hollis Taggart Gallery in Southport, CT will exhibit the dumpster treasures; the paintings are likely to sell for over $20,000 apiece:

The exhibition description says, in part:

Unwrapping the Mystery of New York’s Wrapper revives Hines’ work and career, positioning him at the forefront of expressionists experimenting with wrapping, and demonstrating his unique vision to imbue his works with a tension and kineticism reflective of the changing world around him. 

“Hines’ paintings will be presented alongside archival material, including photographs and project drawings.  The exhibition contextualizes his work in the creative output as a groundbreaking style within the New York art scene of the 1960s through the 1980s.”

Sidebar:  You see those words “imbue,” “kineticism” and “contextualizes”?

That’s called “artspeak.”

It’s something I heard a lot of during my employment at the art museum.  Here’s an example:

“The artist uses the craft of painting to navigate through the transient obstacles and challenges towards a unification of concept and practice.”

Back to Jared Whipple and his trash-to-treasure story.

One of Francis Hines’ sons, Jonathan, said:

“I think that it is fate that Jared would discover my father’s work.  It had to be someone from outside the art world.  Had I not decided to throw out the art, none of this would have happened.”

Dad Hines’ treasure was his son’s trash.

And son Hines’ trash is now Whipple’s treasure.  

Some items he’ll keep, and some he’ll sell, but Whipple says it’s not about getting rich from something that was nearly lost to a landfill:

“I pulled it out of this dumpster and I fell in love with it,” Whipple told a news outlet.  “I made a connection with it.  My purpose is to get Hines into the history books.”

Remember what I suggested early on about worthwhile art criteria?

Do you like it?  Love it?  Would you have it in your home?  Not as an investment, but because you connect with it?

Artist Francis Hines’ work was rediscovered by Jared Whipple.

Whipple made a connection with it.

He fell in love with it.

He’ll have it in his home.

And that makes Jared Whipple an…