Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Seeking Balance on the Highest Court

Following Justice John Paul Stevens’ retirement announcement and Obama’s subsequent nomination of Elena Kagan to fill Stevens’ seat, there’s been a lot of buzz about “who’s what” on the Supreme Court.

Per the opinion of some, New York already is over-represented. Per the opinion of others, the potential lack of a Protestant seems cause for alarm.

Neither of those possibilities bothers me. New York happens to be incredibly well-populated, and it always has been. So, statistically, it makes a certain amount of sense that it would be home to a disproportionate number of well-educated, well-qualified professionals.

As for the religious stuff, I’m not convinced that a person’s affiliation with a particular dogma adequately defines him or her. There are too many examples of elected officials whose “walk” is at odds with their “talk.” And then there are those on the other end of the spectrum – those who may attend mass a few times a week and still genuinely honor the separation of church and state.

So, since those particular “identifiers” don’t really concern me, I decided to raise my own question regarding the matters of who and what. I decided to throw another demographic query into the mix. What is the astrological breakout of the current Supreme Court, and how does nominee Elena Kagan fit in?

Go ahead and laugh at my question, but here’s the deal: I’m a Libra. My sign is the sign of the scales. And oh no, honey, I’m not talking about the scales you dread standing on after a weekend that included two consecutive all-you-can-eat buffets. I’m talking about the scales of JUSTICE! Mine is the sign of an individual who weighs, balances, and pursues fairness.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a few Libras on the Supreme Court?

Let’s check it out…

Okay, first: Stevens – the guy who’s retiring – was born on April 20th. That’s the first day of Taurus (an EARTH sign; the sign of the bull).

Elena Kagan, nominated to replace him, was born on April 28th. Also a Taurus. And while I am absolutely sure that Obama did not consider this fact when planning to fill Stevens’ seat, I think it’s fabulously coincidental.

(I also relate to it. In fact, if you saw an accounting of the men I’ve invited into my boudoir over the course of my adulthood, you’d see that I’ve often replaced a Taurus with a Taurus. I don’t know what it is about the bull, but I always fall for it.)

Oh, sorry, this really isn’t about me…

Okay, so the rest of the court:

John Roberts was born on January 27th, making him an Aquarius (like Libra and Gemini, an AIR sign.)

Samuel Alito’s birthday is April 1st. What? April Fool’s Day? Doesn’t that just seem so wrong in this context? Anyway, Alito’s foolish birthday makes him an Aries, which is a FIRE sign.

Two other fires are on the bench: Anthony Kennedy was born on July 23rd, the first day of Leo. And Stephen Breyer, also a Leo, was born on August 15th .

The rest are WATER signs.

Two Cancers: (Clarence Thomas – June 23rd, and Sonia Sotomayor – June 25th).

Two Pisces: (Antonin Scalia – March 11th, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg – March 15th).

That’s four WATERs, three FIREs, one AIR, and one EARTH.

And not a single goddamn Libra among them.

Frankly, I’m offended.

And here’s another thing: With a near majority of justices in WATER, I can’t help but consider a certain homonymic phrase: Row versus wade.

We’ll just have to see what happens.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reconsidering the Names of Things

When I conduct funder research for my nonprofit clients, I use a software that amuses me with its typos. Regarding those typos, I don’t necessarily fault the folks behind the software. It is their job, after all, to enter absolutely every grant over $4,000 for which they have a foundation profile (and they have thousands of profiles). That kind of work has got to make a person a bit cross-eyed.

So: when I see that a grant went to the “Skrewball Cultural Center,” I don’t conclude that the data entry specialist was trying to make a joke. Rather, she or he is probably super tired. (I also know, because the grantee is here in L.A., that the listing should say Skirball Cultural Center.)

Likewise, when I see that the purpose of a grant was for developing “literracy cumfculum,” I don’t immediately assume that the person entering that information is illiterate (or even illiterrate.)

The other day, I conducted a new search on the software in question, and when I perused the results, I smiled for a reason having nothing to do with typos. This time, I smiled because the name of a grantee leapt out at me. The grantee is called the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning.

I’m sure I could do some googling and learn what the OMG stands for, but… we all know what it stands for, right? OMG! The Oh My God Center for Collaborative Learning got a grant!

I’m also sure I could do some googling and discover whether the OMG Center has undergone a name change in the past couple of years. (The grant listed in the search was issued in 2001.) God knows, if it were my nonprofit organization, I’d come up with something a little less meaningful to cyber-communicators.

On the other hand, this discovery gave me an idea. Why not create some nonprofit organizations with names that are not only appropriate to the nonprofits’ missions but also are significant to texters and others? I have a few suggestions:

* The IMO Center for First Amendment Freedoms
* The FWIW Interjection Partnership (and its pet project, the BTW Summer Institute)
* The BFF Pen Pal Project (okay, that one is totally ironic)
* The LOL Program on the Study of Humor
* The B/C Corporation for Research in Reasoning
* The NNTO Brevity Collaborative

and, drum roll, please…

* The WTF Coalition on Environmental Issues in the Gulf Coast

So, that’s what I got, people. Your suggestions are welcome.


P.S. It’s highly unlikely that you know less than I do about text-speak, but if you’re stumped by the list above, here’s the legend:

IMO = In My Opinion
FWIW = For What It’s Worth
BTW = By The Way
BFF = Best Friends Forever
LOL = Laugh Out Loud
B/C = Because
NNTO = No Need To Open (used on the subject line of emails when the subject line says it all)
WTF = What The F&%k (most often followed by an exclamation point or question mark)
TTFN = Ta Ta For Now

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Smile Therapy

I’m the first to admit that I’m a person of many moods. I’m not like the “united states of Tara” or anything, I’m just… I don’t know, emotional. I feel what I feel, you know?

My ex-husband, who had a great sense of humor, used to deal with my moodiness by sharing an adage from his homestate. “It’s like we used to say about the weather in Michigan,” he’d tell me. “If you don’t like it, just wait ten minutes.”

Being old enough now to understand my rhythms, I appreciate that my ex was onto something. My mood (particularly if it is a negative one) is unlikely to last. My life just never sucks that much, and so I have no reason to drop into irretrievable doldrums. When I’m in a low mood, I pretty much only need a little pick-me-up. And because I’m in a low mood, I need for that pick-me-up to be provided by someone else.

As prescriptions go, this seems like a fabulously affordable solution. Don’t need to wait for 2014, when universal healthcare kicks in! Oh no, just give me one other person – one other contagiously cheerful person. That’s all I need.

But that also is the caveat. I am self-employed, you see. And so I spend a good part of my day at home alone. I spend a good part of my day sitting at my computer. If I have a co-worker at all, it’s the radio, and if my co-worker can be identified as a downer, it’s only because I’m hooked on NPR. (Let’s face it, the real news is not exactly uplifting these days.)

I’ve been self-employed now for ten years, but this is not the first go-round with independent work. I also took a stab at it from 96 to 97 or so. At the time of that first stab, I had no artistic outlets and so I was at risk of being particularly morose. The isolation did a number on me. A painful number. I remember once, running some errands in the middle of a weekday. I had gone into a store and I happened upon a conversation between a father and his small son. Hearing their dialogue made me smile, and when I smiled, I also made a mental note: “That felt good.”

Yup. Smiling felt good.

I don’t want to think how long it must have been since my last smile, but the fact that I felt it and appreciated how it changed the contours of my mood speaks volumes. The fact that I felt it indicates that, like a good stretch, it was a body maneuver that needed to happen and was long overdue.

These days, there’s more art in my life, and that brings me joy. There also are more friends with whom I share art. There are more friends who know the artist in me.

Still, though, there are days when the isolation gets heavy. When working alone threatens to turn me into Michigan’s worst cold front. But I know what to do in those moments. I just smile. And, cheesy as it sounds, I feel better instantly.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

20 Years Later

This month marks my 20th year living in Los Angeles, and Los Angeles also is the place where I have lived the longest.

Although I was born in Connecticut, most of my first 17 years were in Virginia, under the care of my parents (granted, that care was rather remote during my three years in boarding school).

From Virginia, I went to New York, where I would experience my four years of college life within the confines of university housing. Thereafter, there were about seven years of apartment-sharing with roommates.

Then, I met a man with a lease, and I fell in love (not with his lease, mind you).

For a while, the man and I shared his lease in a dismally unpopular area of upper Manhattan. After we married, we moved to a better neighborhood in Brooklyn. Nearly three years into our marriage, we loaded our worldly possessions into a 15-foot rental truck, doused the cats with the prescribed dosage of Dr. Goodpet’s Homeopathic Stress Drops, and drove across the country.

I don’t want to talk about the first L.A. apartments my ex and I shared. We ran a bit of a gamut until we figured it was the marriage, not us, that needed to be “moved.” Suffice it to say, where I live now is the place I moved to when I ended that marriage. Where I live now is the place I’ve lived longer than any other place in my life.

So, here I am, in a place that I have got to call home.

What makes it so?

Something that struck me early after moving to L.A. is that this city is so many things. Unlike New York, which is in your face the minute you walk out into it, L.A. is – potentially – whatever you want it to be.

Are you a surfer-dude? Live in Venice. You’ll find your ilk.

Like shopping? An apartment near the Americana in Glendale will probably work well for you.

Need quiet? Tuck yourself away in some corner of the Valley or find a place in a remote area of Brentwood.

I’ll admit that for the first four years of my living here (i.e., before I ended my marriage and landed in Los Feliz), I was giving serious thoughts to moving back east. It just didn’t feel right to me. But now, I’m in the ‘hood I need to be in. It’s urban. It’s diverse. It’s not altogether safe. It’s alive.

I love my Los Angeles.

It’s funny. In New York, with the hustle and bustle of so many people cramped together on so small an island, you don’t have to define yourself beyond simply being a New Yorker. And if you can just get through your day, make it home, and remember to pick up the dry cleaning, you are an activist.

Los Angeles, an equally populated city, is utterly different from that.

I recall a line from Kramer vs. Kramer in which the Meryl Streep character, during the courtroom scene, referred to moving to California “to find myself.” Within the context of that movie (and perhaps because I first heard it from a Manhattan movie theatre seat), the concept of finding oneself in California sounded very touchy-feely. Like the character had probably gone to some commune in the Big Sur area. Perhaps engaged in some activities meant to release energies otherwise trapped in an inhospitable chakra.

But there is some truth to the concept of “finding oneself” in California. And it doesn’t all relate to East Coast prejudices about this wacky state that’s likely to fall off the continent following the next big tremor…

When I arrived in Los Angeles, I knew only one thing about myself: I was a New Yorker.

And, guess what? Los Angeles didn’t give a shit!

And so… I had “to find myself.”

The good news is that I did.

And I’m guessing that if I weren’t okay with the self I found, I wouldn’t still be here.