Saturday, February 20, 2010


We moved our television studio out of JC's office -- it was hard for him to work, with light stands and stools, and the extra connections cluttering up his desks.

We had fun, chatting again about the kid who lives on Camano Island, near Seattle. We're more relaxed, upstairs, sitting in our red living room, with our supper simmering on the stove around the corner. It brought back memories of life in Redmond, Washington. (It's also the home of Microsoft.)

We lived there while JC was playing Holling The Bartender, in the television series, "Northern Exposure," and we produced my play "Shattering Panes" in Seattle's off-off Broadway, Aha Theater, with Seattle "kids" in our cast and stage crew.

Fun kids, who prided themselves on their liberation -- they looked like hippies from the sixties, with their long hair, Hawaiian shorts and sleeveless shirts in the middle of cold winter. Also, their "liberation" was behind the times -- our hiring a black actor to play the groovy CAT, who used black slang and put down "whites" in the play, seriously bothered them.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Here's the good news from last night...

Here's my NOT good news. I don't know if other people all over the country feel this, but there's too much Canada-for-Canada dialogue between the hosts -- it's like a theme song, played too often.

Especially because I read what happened to skaters and snowboarders who arrived early, hoping to try out the slopes and rinks. They were not allowed to use the areas until after the official opening of the Olympics -- they had to hang over the fences and watch the Canadians practicing.

I feel the local rah-rah pride stuff is belittling what the Olympics stands for.

Anyhow, while watching the men skaters earlier Wednesday evening, before the snowboarding, fear was in the air, like a jinx.

After Yevgeny Plushenko who did a quad and scored high, the next guy, and then the next goofed -- trying their triples, actually fell -- kerplunk -- and of course they were out, even as they bravely went on with their routines. And the jinx continued to infect all the skaters that followed. Even in the next group and the next group.

(Why oh why do so many of the skaters use quirky sounding "current" popular music, that doesn't support what they're doing?)

Evan Lysacek, the American, was tense -- so tense that it emanated from our kitchen TV. In an interview before his turn on the ice, he'd bragged, promising he'd win the gold (oh dear, never never should you do that before a contest). Well, he managed to do that first series of tricks quite well (triples, not a quad) but poor Evan was so pressured, so uptight, nervous, that he wept while he was waiting for his score.

I was relieved, but after he got his 90-something score, I didn't want to watch any more, and changed the channel.

We missed Shaun White's triumphant win in snowboarding, but here's what I found on line. The music the film people superimposed, is Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana." This video shows Shaun's fantastic double twist.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Hold on to your wits! There's a new THING to do! Is it a fad? Or is it a fortuitous conglomeration of factors -- like where we're at with our wars -- the untrustworthy politicians -- the possibility that some nut could press a button that might start the end of the world?

Maybe now IS the time to consider if, and why you and I might want to live longer.

There's a pill that will increase your life span. It's called "Resveratrol." Note the syllables, and pronounce it -- "Res vera trol." Should it be at the top of my get it/buy it/try it list?

It has amazed, impressed, and excited professors, doctors, health institutes, and Oprah, Barbara Walters, "Good Morning America," Time Magazine, and dozens of dot-coms. So it's something to consider.

(But what about the other miracle potions, that faded when the last new one hit? Is it like Atkin's "Diet Revolution?" Or another cookie diet? )

Well ... It's a pill that combines the ingredients in red wine, grapes and peanuts, according to Dr. Mehmet Oz.

(Oz has been on the Oprah Winfrey Show -- Oprah swears by him.)

The fact is, according to many reliable medical resources, there are new, very hopeful facts about longevity. Scientists say that a baby born in 2000 will live to be 100. And if the baby's female, she may live longer. Doctors are saying there are specific things to do right now, today, that will extend your life.

The first step for a longer life span, is to get back some of what we lose by living our over-fed, over-stressed, under-active lifestyles.

Scientists are thinking if you eat less you'll live longer -- restricting calories extends animal life, so they're testing -- they want to know if going hungry would help us too.

Dr. Oz, who is vice-chairman and professor of Surgery at Columbia University, a best-selling author, now host of the daily, nationally syndicated "The Doctor Oz Show," has the following suggestions for living longer.

Take Resveratrol.

Get 15 minutes a day in the sun, or take Vitamin D 1000, and Calcium 1000 with magnesium.

Chose foods that look the same when you eat them as how they look when they come out of the ground.

Oz recommends daily, vigorous physical activities.

Oz recommends sleeping more than 7 hours.

Have a purpose.

"Have a purpose!" Work -- being constructively busy -- learning a language, gardening, writing, painting, quilt-making, teaching, helping kids, elders -- take on a project, the bigger the better! (That's what I'm always saying to my friends.)

I looked at Oz's exercises -- some could do more harm then good. And taking Resveratrol -- yes, it's already being marketed. One Website says two a day -- a bottle of 60 tabs cost $4.99. Quite a few other Websites are offering a free starter bottle, varied prices, variations on the name, and the ingredients, and they're touting weight-loss, as well as energy. I'm not sure if what they're selling is a diet pill, a scam, or real Resveratrol.

Also, one well-known doctor says "soon" you'll be able to increase your life span -- another says "10 years" from now -- "by 2050" says another. Is it like the vitamin A retinol face-creams, like the one-hour-face-lifts that promise to make you look younger?

Oz is our latest new guru.

He's certainly an energetic, charming, articulate man with good ideas, like Oprah's Dr. Phil.

Dr Phil's show is interesting but I wouldn't consult Dr. Phil.

Dr. Oz's show is very interesting but I wouldn't consult Dr. Oz -- he's a fast-talking super charming, super salesman -- also, what Oprah falls in love with in books, styles, and gurus, I automatically don't trust -- she's a guru, and gurus are not for me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Former ice skater, Nancy Kerrigan, is at the Vancouver Olympics, as a reporter for Entertainment Tonight.

January 1994
(In 1994 she was competing in the Detroit figure skating finals -- out of the blue, someone appeared and bashed her knee with a stick. It didn't take long for people to suspect it had something to do with her competitor, Tonya Harding.)

One look at Nancy Kerrigan and I'm remembering her lovely, neat arabesque -- not high but perfectly placed -- her graceful, not very exciting, but always perfectly controlled double lutz, double toe loop -- her gliding along in her white, virginal-looking costume.

I'm remembering Tonya Harding -- her flashy outfits, her rather hefty figure -- always practicing her triple axels. She was the first woman ever to do a triple axel in the short program, the first to perform two triple axels in a single competition, the first ever to do a triple axel combination, with double toe loop.

Why did Tonya get her boyfriend to hire a pal to hurt Nancy's knee? Was it pillow talk, her whispering "I'm better than Nancy, if only I could get Nancy to quit?" Was it a feeling that everything wonderful happened to girls like Nancy, not to girls from the wrong side of the tracks? Or was it desperate, overwhelming ambition?

The details of Kerrigan's career before the shocking event are foggy. Not the event -- Nancy Kerrigan sobbing, rubbing her knee, moaning -- "Why, oh Why ?"

The media kept replaying that "why oh why" moment, while we were pulling for the girl, praying for her, aware of her pain as she tackled physical therapy. Golly, wow! There she was -- brave Nancy in her skates, practicing her short program. She performed it two times in a row in order to defeat her fears, and then, brave, wonderful Nancy performed it in the recap of the Detroit contest.

All this, while Tonya was investigated, then penalized, then barred from skating by the American Figuring Skating Association and the Olympic committee, who sent Nancy Kerrigan to the Olympics, instead of the second-place winner (much better skater), Michelle Kwan.

The name, the fame Nancy got, got her 9.5. million dollars from Disney, if she left the Olympics before the awards ceremony (she won the silver), and came home that night, to be in the Disney parade the next day.

In America on parade day, a camera microphone caught Kerrigan saying "this is dumb ... this is corny." There was talk about her being bitchy grumpy.

Nevertheless, Kerrigan's agent got her more money, higher-profile endorsements than Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi. (Kerrigan fit the "all-American" image, and Yamaguchi is of Japanese ancestry.)

Nancy K won many things as the years passed. She's had a big career, performing starring roles in ice shows, small parts in movies, money from endorsements, and a graceful retirement -- marriage to her agent, and two beautiful children.

What happened to Tonya Harding? When she admitted that she helped her boyfriend cover up the attack, proceedings to remove her from the 1994 Olympic team were initiated. Later, avoiding a jail sentence, Harding pleaded guilty, and received three years probation, $160,000 fine, and 500 hours of community service.

It was the beginning of slide, as if she were a snow-boarding, "butt-boarding." speeding down a long hill.

As the newlywed Tonya, her husband and the pal he paid to whack Nancy's knee, were further investigated, Tonya's calls to the police gained her page-two headlines. I thought (most people thought) "It serves her right" when we read about intruders, then robbers, dire threats, and a shocking gang rape.

(It occurred to me that Tonya was inventing these attacks to get attention, and I felt just a little sorry for her -- mastering a triple axel took years of practice, nerve, and skill, and now she was banned for life from participating in figure skating as a skater or coach.)

Her pornographic "Wedding Video" (clips of her and her husband making love), got plenty of attention, especially when stills from it were published in Penthouse Magazine. Her sequined outfit, her chubby appearance on a pro-wrestling show was booed; her one-night-stand in Portland with her band (the Golden Blades), got her booed off the stage. It was pathetic, and sort of amusing, typical Tonya Harding "bad taste."

There were mentions, here and there-- she was being stalked by someone driving a white Lincoln Town Car, she played a criminal in a film, "Breakaway." She was abducted at knife-point outside her home by a bushy-haired man who stole her truck.

These incidents, and her calls to the police, seemed to happen frequently -- I wondered if she was inventing them?

While Harding attempted a comeback as a professional speed skater, a fight with a new boyfriend got her booked on fourth-degree domestic violence assault charges, plus three days in jail, and that ended her return to skating.

During Harding's boxing career, she was cited for drunk driving, and canceled a boxing match, claiming she was getting death threats. Then, after not boxing for a year she fought again, lost the fight and retired from boxing, telling reporters it was because of her asthma.

After a 911 call about two masked men assaulting her, she was cited for being under the influence, then at 5 a.m. the next morning, a "personal friend" called the police and said, "Tonya's freaking out, she's seeing animals!"

I skimmed the article -- it sounded like she'd hit bottom, but she'd hit bottom too many time before.

Meanwhile, the Kerrigan-Harding affair was the central subject in Elizabeth Searle's novella, "Celebrities In Disgrace," which was adapted into a chamber opera, produced at Tufts and American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Later it was turned into a Rock Opera, that premiered on the West Coast in 2008. Tonya Harding attended the premiere.

(So, she wasn't freaking out anymore -- she was alive and kicking.)

She was the subject of "Tonya's Twirls", a song, a lament for lost innocence. Her autobiography, "The Tonya Tapes" was published in 2008. Her role in the Kerrigan attack has been widely referenced in sitcom episodes, music videos, and even in a speech by Barack Obama (according to Wikipedia).

Well, one of her dreams came true -- Tonya Harding is a NAME -- she's had more than 15 minutes of fame.

Why do I re-tell this story? Because it's an American tale that should be told or taught in schools, to kids who imitate what they see and read about, and dream the dreams of fame at any price.

Campaigning in Iowa, Barack Obama told a crowd, "Folks said there's no way Obama has a chance unless he goes and kneecaps the person ahead of us -- does a Tonya Harding," Obama joked. "We decided that's not the kind of campaign we wanted to run," he said.

So strip -- take off all your clothes, kids? Stalk celebrities? Threaten suicide, murder, act crazy, do something outrageous-- do anything to be somebody?

Tonya Harding conquered three axels. Wow! That's power, talent, a winning, stick-to-it energy -- it could have gained her other things, gained her much more than what she has now.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


As I was writing about two beautiful figure skaters, I came across a fascinating negative criticism of the Olympics by Christopher Hitchens.

In his recent Newsweek article titled "Fool’s Gold," Hitchens told how the Olympics and other international competitions bred conflict and brought out the worst in human nature.

It was fun to read, and it rang the bell that always rings when something is over-advertised, like the up-and-coming opening ceremony that promises it will outdo the last stupendous ceremony (which went on too long, and put me to sleep. )

Hitchens sifted through sports history, and wrote about "the most rank and depressing traits of the human personality." His article was decorated with revealing photos of some Olympian contenders looking evilly jealous, gritting their teeth, grimacing, stifling groans.

Like a doctor, Hitchens examined the weaknesses in teams, their leaders, and fans. And cleverly, constantly interspersed snide remarks, and slightly self-derisive humor, especially when he described the Vancouver ski team's spiteful, petty conduct. (As they rehearsed on the mountain, they refused to let outsiders test the ski run till the Olympics opened.)

Hitchens discussed how contests around the world led to orgies of hatred, and the steady decline of friendship between various countries' ethnic groups.

And, in italicized asides, Hitchens threw in, conversationally, remarks like -- "Wait! Have you ever had a discussion about higher education that wasn't polluted with babble about the college teams, and the amazingly lavish, on-campus facilities for the cult of athletic warfare?"

Returning to the Vancouver bosses with their "bloatedly over-funded spitefest," and other "don't care people" who ordered the "choppering of white stuff from the north" (to bring snow to the slopes), Hitchens ended his article with an amusing, prayerful, spiteful sentence -- "Don't let it snow, don't let it snow, don't let it snow."

Gee, I thought, as I put away the magazine, I would have written something about competition -- the mind and its instinct fears -- the courage it takes to transform a body and its reflexes into a winning machine. And it occurred to me that the 60-year-old Hitchens must have had athletic dreams once upon a time -- he's blaming what he couldn't do, on the powers that be.

I looked him up, and learned he's an ardent admirer of George Orwell, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson, and renowned for his excoriating critiques of Mother Teresa, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Henry Kissinger, among others. Also Forbes Magazine lists Christopher Hitchens as "one of the 25 most influential liberals in the U.S. media."

Oops, I'm thinking ... I'm attacking a famous attacker for seizing upon what he dislikes, and he's just doing his thing.

Reading more about Hitchens, I came across an exceptionally nasty, incisive commentary by another very famous columnist, Mark Steyn -- wow -- another famous intellectual writer who was writing about what I was writing about'

Steyn was lambasting, destroying everyone connected to the story of the Underwear Bomber ... whom he calls the "pantybomber" (hinting, and sort of tinting Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab as a homosexual).

I can't do justice to the tour de force, brilliant, nasty, ugly, scratching, stabbing, killer style of Steyn -- his poisonously sardonic insights, his borderline "sophomoric" distortions, and his use of big words, like "logorrheic."

I didn't want to look it up, so I read another page -- then, went back and looked it up, and learned it means "overly, extremely loquacious."

Annoyed with myself for being impressed, admiring and disliking what I read, I read on and learned ... ah ha! Steyn occasionally substitutes for Russ Limbaugh and Sean Hannity -- major bad guys in my No-fly, Cover- Your-Ears list.

Steyn is better (worse) than Hitchens. Both keep the reader wanting to read on, like page-turner, best-selling writers.

Gee, I was riveted to what these guys write ... should I imitate them?

NO! I can't! I don't have the background. Anyhow, I see villains, usually, with a touch of empathy ... pity...

Yes, I admire the style, the free mingling of introspective remarks and asides, as if the writer is reporting what the world sees, and letting you know that he finds it ridiculous, nonsensical.

So thanks, but no thanks, Christopher Hitchens and Mark Steyn -- you amused and entertained me, but your vision is yellowed, decayed by disillusion. I'd like to read something you write about what you love, admire, respect.

Monday, February 15, 2010


You probably know most of the story. Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab,. a Muslim Nigerian, attempted to detonate plastic explosives that he'd hidden in his underwear on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253, as it was hovering over Detroit.

He's been charged, and indicted on six criminal counts, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder of 289 people. Awaiting further investigation and a trial, he's currently in a federal prison in Milan, Michigan.

He's 23 years-old.

It's painful for me to look at his now famous, young face. I can't help thinking of what he did to his parents and his brothers and sisters.

What he tried to do ended all the dreams he had, and irreparably damaged his family. He is the youngest of 16 children. His Yemeni mother is his father's second wife. His father is one of the most prominent, richest men in Africa.

Underneath Mutallab's pious, deeply religious Muslim beliefs, there must be a son's rage, a need to destroy his father.

Back and forth, government officials, Senators, Congressmen, police, the FBI are asking how did this happen? Why, with the red flags on his name, wasn't he on the watch list? Which agency is to blame? Who didn't inform whom? Was it negligence? Shouldn't someone be fired?

Was the arrest and interrogation handled properly? Could the police have found out more? Why was Mutallab read his Miranda rights? What about water-boarding him? Why did it take three days for Obama to comment? Is Obama's weak on terrorism?

On and on, the same questions. I know a person's politics by their answers. theories, and comments.

I keep thinking about that other guy -- when was it -- was it 2001 when were we aware of John Wallace Lindh, a young, rebellious American citizen who studied at an Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan,

Lindh was captured as an enemy combatant during a violent Taliban prison uprising during our 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. He was charged with 10 counts, including Conspiracy to Murder, Conspiracy to provide material support and resources to foreign terrorist organizations.

He's in prison, sentenced to 20 years. Lindh was 20, born in 1981. Abdul Mutallab was born in 1986. They're children of the eighties.

Over and over, I wonder what attracts these young men, and how to stop Al-Qaeda from recruiting young men like them. How to educate parents, friends, relatives, so that lost, seriously confused, adolescents, desperately needing attention, are noticed, and helped?

Comparing Mutallab's background with that of 9/11 plotters, and London and Madrid metro bombers, I wonder if we're defining the enemy incorrectly. It's not poverty -- it's a vision of God, an intensely philosophical religious concept, an inability to share it with others -- an intense passion to fix what's wrong in the world that's conceived of by educated young men, often college educated child-men, who seek fulfillment in the romanticism of revolution.

We need to educate our children, not protect them from learning all they can about who these child men are, and why they are wrong.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


I watch the women figure skaters with hawk eyes, but rarely stay interested or involved with a skater's full performance.

The basis by which skaters are judged is "tricks" that take years, and much practicing to perfect. I remember when it was the double lutz-double toe loop. Now it's the triple lutz-triple toe loop. And there are men who do can do a quadruple axel though it hasn't been done yet in a competition.

What gets my attention is what I call "real dancing" -- movement that flows, just happens, and I'm not aware of technique -- I feel as if I'm dancing as I watch. Most of the time, my neck tenses as I'm watching an ice skater make the usual, accelerating half- circle, before taking off into the air for a triple.

I watched Kim Yu-Na at the Korean Skating Championships -- saw most of her program while I was cooking, and saw flashes of energy that made me want to see more. I saw some of Mao Asada's program. She was also interesting -- I wanted to see more. They seemed to be similar looking. Kim Yu-Na was more beautiful, but Mao Asada's legs were better trained balletically.

Today, I studied their films as if I were one of the judges. I went from one film to the other; boring myself, annoying myself for having to work so hard in order to decide which one would get Em's "Gold."

Mao has effortless elevation -- the line of her arabesque, her front extension are exceptionally good -- her flexibility is lovely. She does the triple flip-triple toe loop lightly, and perfectly. And wow -- Mao Asada has moments of "real dancing."

Kim Yu-Na -- her triple lutz-triple toe loop is effortless and brilliant and ... well, the line of her arabesque isn't as high or as perfect as Mao Asada's. Kim Yu-Na has a coltish, too-slender look, but her commitment to each second of movement is ... what? She's exciting, flashier -- non stop, amazingly full out.

Kim Yu-Na, 18, is from South Korea and got the highest score for the short program I saw. Mao Asada, 19 is the pride of Japan, and the first woman to perform two triple axels in one program.

(I'm not an expert in the subtle differences between triple lutz, triple flips, or axels, but real judges are.)

Here's Kim Yu-Na dancing:

Here's Mao Asada dancing:

I would give Mao my award. Who would you pick?

Who will win the finals in Vancouver on February 27th?