Category Archives: Learning

How A Judgemental Know-it-all Can Change Her Mind

Dear friends and family,

I wrote this Blah, Blah Blog yesterday.  This morning I read about the  new approach the prosecution is preparing for the impeachment of our former President.  I now think the trial is going to be a constructive and instructive history lesson for all Americans and frankly, for everyone in the world who is interested in “FREEDOM AND JUSTICE FOR ALL”.  So here’s what I’m going to do.  I am going to share what I wrote yesterday as a look into my own thought processes which normally are hidden and unfathomable even to me.  I’d like to think it shows with continued exploration and investigation,  I can be reached and even to the point of , dare I say it, changing my point of view.  I don’t know about you, but in the climate of today’s polarizations on almost everything, that is a really big deal. 

YESTERDAY’S THINKING AND WRITING:


A dear friend recently asked me if I was going to watch the televised impeachment trial.

I said I would not.

Not because I am not curious and concerned which I most certainly am.

My personal belief, after listening many times to his speech to the gathered mob in front of the White House on January 6th,  is that our former President is guilty of inciting a mob to attack the Capitol.  Also, my personal belief is that in counting the votes, it is most unlikely he will be found guilty.  I ask myself, “Myself, why do I want to put myself through the disappointment of once again watching as the course of justice moves along “party lines”.  And listening again to the rehashing of the lies, the same ‘ole-same ‘ole of no one listening to no one, which is utterly negative and depressing.”  And so I shall await the expected verdict as I finish reading the extraordinary autobiography of Frederick Douglass.

Like I said, it’s an old childhood coping mechanism I developed against disappointment.

Allow me to elucidate.

As a child in a very large family where I always felt like an alien, my first defense was, of course, I was adopted.  These were not my real parents.  And these were not my real siblings.   But my most favorite coping mechanism was my fantasy of being rescued. 

 

Many were the nights where I would go to the living room where the radio/phonograph was (no television at that time) and put on a record of classical music (it mattered not which… although I did tend towards Chopin and Johannes Strauss waltzes) and danced until I dropped or until someone in the family complained (a frequent occurrence).  The dancing was definitely a release but the dream that attended the dance was more important.  As I danced, my fantasy was that Cecil B. De Mille was walking by my house (in Boro Park, Brooklyn), heard the music, looked in through the windows to see me giving it my all, immediately  he went to my front door, My mother would answer. Mr. De Mille would give her his card and tell my mother that he needed me desperately for his next movie. Reluctantly and sometimes not so reluctantly she agreed, packed my ballet bag with my leotard, dancing shoes, and a package of Twinkies and I was off to Hollywood where I had always known I had belonged.  

Eventually, I had to come down from fantasy to reality, my parents still owned me and being number 7 of 8 meant my siblings claimed me for errands and punishments befitting my station which meant I had to affect my own escape when I was able… it took a while, but I did.   The best part of these childhood fantasies? They have moved with me. 

At 87 years of age that child is still alive and well in me and I’ve got some doozie headline fantasies to prove it:


TODAY:

That was yesterday’s mashed potatoes and tomorrow I hope the promise of a more vital prosecution is fulfilled. And just remember, if not… there are always reruns of All In the Family.

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. Randy Rainbow did this fabulous political parody from the musical, Fiddler on the Roof. For me, this says it all! ENJOY!

P.P.S. Don’t let your blood pressure rise during the trial.  Here’s my remedy:

MEA CULPA (or THE INSIDIOUSNESS OF SYSTEMIC RACISM)

Dear Friends and Family,

First, let me tell you a story.  

After the story, I shall share a very important article from The Atlantic and a really sharp video from a comedienne I’d never heard of before, (how unaware can an aware person be?) regarding the same subject from different people with the same ideas. Are you bored, yet? Well, after I tell my story, I promise, you won’t be.

Over a week ago, I received an email from a dear friend from across the pond (Atlantic Ocean for the uninitiated). London, England to be specific. She and her husband have been in real lockdown since the discovery of the more contagious variant of Covid 19.  So no complaints about what you can or cannot do…. they cannot do or go ANYWHERE! Get it? Good!  

Well, as they sit long term in their home, computer working, staring into space counting steps and other things, they have become Titans of Television. They are oh so grateful to the streaming services.

In particular, in her email, she mentioned a Netflix series called Lupin.  She exclaimed how wonderful it was… a very clever French Detective Series with wonderful scenes of Paris and an extraordinary leading man. She had never seen him before and she raved about what a great actor and how gorgeous he is. She is as critical as I am (amazingly, on certain occasions she can be even more judgmental than I can… hard to imagine) but since we usually agree on what we read and see… plays, movies, television, I knew I would have to watch it.

The very next night I turned it on. At the beginning of episode 1, the script brings you into the bowels of the Louvre, where the cleaning staff gathers to do their nightly chores. For the first 10 minutes of the episode, I searched for and could not find this extraordinary leading man. All the cleaners passed before my eyes and I kept waiting for him. Finally, it occurred to me that this very beautiful black actor, Omar Sy, was the man. 

I couldn’t believe me! Consciously, I never thought the leading actor she raved about would be black.

OK… going back to title of this piece, it never occurred to me the lead would be an unknown-to-me black actor, who is actually very well known in France.

Shame on me. 

My own systemic racism showed itself. I am a voracious reader of writers of all persuasions, as well as a writer myself who is appalled not just by systemic racism, but by all the white overprivileged people who chant, “I AM NOT A RACIST!”. It is the rare white person that is truly color blind. I grew up in Brooklyn. I went to schools in Manhattan.  My classes were always mixed. I shall not use that ridiculous phrase, “Some of my best friends are…” Even so, I thought I was one of those rare white ones.  

I am not. For me to feel comfortable again, and I confess after this self revelation, I am so very uncomfortable, I have to crawl out and away from my dark denial into the light of  who I really am… with all my zits and warts, and work this denial out of my system. 

Now let me talk about my journey with and in denial. My experience tells me I use denial to protect my ego. I believe the ego is my defense system and you can’t be an artist without a strong ego.

As an artist, rejection is a primary color. Every artist exposes themselves to a very personal onslaught of slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The product involved in this rejection and criticism is ME… my soul, my heart, my very skin. Without risk, there is no art. It is easy to say “you win some, you lose some”. In risking, the artist completely exposes him or herself. Without the defense of the ego, aka: denial, I would have evaporated a long time ago. As I matured, and please believe me, I am never going to finish that process… (no complaints, just a confession.) Over the years, I realized very slowly that denial was losing it’s sparkle. It was a growth inhibitor. While I thought it was protecting me, it actually made it very easy to repeat some very negative behaviors: abusive relationships, unhealthy habits like smoking and eating, and exposing some personality and character traits that developed from being brought up in the usual normal dysfunctional family.

Previously, if there was something in my life that was too painful to bring into consciousness I kept it buried (denial) in what I thought was a safe place. Now, I work very hard at acknowledging my denial. And when I do acknowledge, make no mistake, peeling the layers of denial away to tell myself the truth is a very painful process. And that is why most of us back away from exposing that denial.

My mother always told me, “Sally-Jane, the truth will set you free, but first it’s really gonna piss you off.” Actually it wasn’t my mother, it was one of my many therapists.

Yes, my sweet friends and family, coming out of denial is extremely painful. Birth usually is.

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S. A few quotes that will help me along the way come from Richard von Weizsacker, circa 1985, making a speech as the Federal President of Germany commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the end of World War II:

Seeking to forget makes exile all the longer; the secret of redemption lies in remembrance.

***

Whoever refuses to remember the inhumanity is prone to new risks of infection.

***

All of us, whether guilty or not, whether old or young, must accept the past.

P.P.S. Before I forget… (A great title for a one woman show), here is the Atlantic Article

Denial Is the Heartbeat of America.

And Amber Ruffin’s monologue:

Switching Gears… but first….

My Dear Friends and Family,

I feel a little bit like Peter Finch in the film Network. Remember he played a television broadcaster who amidst the pressure of his work world and the world around him, had a mental breakdown on television screaming, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!!!”

Well, as I watch the media play into the hands of Trump as they did in 2016… not realizing, or maybe conspiratorially they are aware that by their incessant Trump coverage bad, good or indifferent, they are going to get him elected.  In this day and age, the PR pundits from P.T. Barnum to Rush Limbaugh, are right:  There is no such thing as bad publicity.  

I cannot hear or see about anyone except Trump. If I were someone who watched a great deal of television and I wasn’t sure about my vote I wouldn’t even remember who the other guy was so, “what the hell…”.  For those who think I am exaggerating, I AM NOT!  And  at the same time, OMG! I hope and pray I am wrong.  

But like Howard Beale, Peter Finch’s character in Network, I can’t take this anymore!! 

So I’m going in another direction where the human experience offers an opportunity to alter a self destructive path to planet annihilation.  And you thought I was going to make a funny.

Well, in the hopes of the return of my sense of humor, I want to offer for your consideration, two fantastical documentaries on Netflix:

This is about Craig Foster, a videographer living in South Africa, fast approaching a Howard Beale-esque burnout and how he saves his life, by making a 180 degree turn, removing himself to a hut on the Atlantic Ocean near the Cape of Good Hope. He begins a daily swim and dive in the cold and stormy Atlantic. \He encounters an Octopus. He makes this discovery the center of his daily dives for almost a year.  

OK, my only experience is watching other people eat the poor animal.  Not an animal I would consider pet worthy. But I’m a Brooklyn girl and not too many pet Octopuses in my experience.

This is not about pets.  This is about our relationships in what is left of the world we live in and I promise you… in a time of  pervasive meaninglessness you will find meaning and purpose in his journey.  And here is the best part: You can apply his journey to your life.  Of course it’ll be different because we all are different. Basic human geshrai is basic… and it needs to be visited… NOW!

This gentleman… and literally he is a gentle man… at 93, takes us painfully through the decimation of our planet from the year of his birth through today. When he was born, 1927, our world was in what was called the Holocene Era where there appeared to be a balance between wild places (aka nature) and modern civilization (the industrial revolution gone mad).

For me, it was extremely painful to watch the not so-slow-destruction of our planet because during most of my particular generation we gave very little thought to other geographic spaces that held the natural balance. Oh, yes, we wanted to travel to foreign, distant and unique places around the globe, but never thought about what was happening in these habitats; the flora, the fauna, the air. 

For those who want to see what and how it happened and most importantly what we can do to reverse the death of earth planet, David Attenborough gives a balanced, measured and simple accounting. It’s not about climate change. Although, that is in it. It’s not about blame. Although, it’s impossible for you and I and all us humans not to acknowledge our responsibility. He explains how we are losing the battle to save the planet and at the same time, he gives us hope.  I’ll run with that. Actually at 87, I shall walk with that.  Join me!

I chose these two documentaries because in each we have an opportunity to correct some negative, hopeless, scenarios. I don’t want to feel shamed in front of my children and grandchildren that I left them such a crappy place to live.

This is my response to a special feeling of being pelted by media negativity. As a mere mortal, I have a limited ability to withstand the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortunes of their depressing onslaught.  

Repeat with me what Howard Beale of the Network said: 

“I’M AS MAD AS HELL AND I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!

And then go outside and PLANT A TREE!!!

My Love, Sally-Jane

Plant a tree for a better tomorrow…

There’s a Place For Us

My Dear Friends ~

We are in a desperate search for stories about positive human connections. Here is my nomination for one the best stories…

I just viewed a PBS documentary film:

Harbor From the Holocaust

Upwards of 20 thousand Jews that were saved from Hitlers holocaust by their ability to get a visa to Shanghai. 

All others countries had closed their doors to Jews. A quirk of timing allowed a Chinese diplomat in Vienna to issue thousands of Jews visas to Shanghai just before the Japanese invaded China. 

The story is beyond moving and oh, so relevant today considering our own  difficulties with immigration and assimilation.

Please don’t miss this documentary. We all need the hope and the caring and love of one another.

I promise it’ll make you feel good.

Love ~ Sally-Jane

P.S. My friends, here is further reading on the history of the Jewish diaspora to Shanghai – GERMAN AND AUSTRIAN JEWISH REFUGEES IN SHANGHAI from the Holocaust Encyclopedia.

We the People… (Except Black People…)

My Dear Friends and Family,

A friend recently sent me a link to this article by George Conway in the Washington Post. To say I had a strong reaction is an understatement! I couldn’t understand how reading a list of his bona fides insanity and ridiculousness could possibly be worth my time. Between the pandemic news of the day and the election news of the day, we are taking a battering.

After my reply to her that there was no payoff for me in reading it, I picked up and started reading Isabel’s Wilkerson’s latest book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

(You may recall my rave review of her book,The Warmth of  Other Suns in a previous blog.)

Well, my friends I had to interrupt my reading at Chapter 2 to write to you…

WE ALL NEED TO READ THIS BOOK! It reveals the truth of how the monster made it this far and what we all did or didn’t do to contribute to our current painful reality. It is from this painful acknowledgement that the solution can be found.

And if I didn’t believe there was a solution to the absurd and terrifying situation we are in, then I’d go out without a mask, touch my face, never wash my hands, go to school in Georgia and buy a Harley so I can join the South Dakota Bike Rally. 

So while I finish this book, I hope you’ll start it. Then, let’s tawk! 

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S.

P.P.S. And finally, amidst all this confusion someone speaks how we can understand and come together…

M&M’s: Pandemic Essentials

Dear Friends and Family, 

I really don’t get the hullabaloo concerning masks.  If I understood that if I didn’t wear a mask I would be affecting and infecting not only myself but friends, relatives and neighbors and I couldn’t go shopping or walking about, why would I even give it a second thought?  I would say to myself  right out, “Put the mask on, jerkball!!”

Of course, if I didn’t believe that people had been and were continuing to be deathly ill and dying and dead from Covid 19 and that it was nothing but a  political manipulation by “The Enemy”, (and will someone please tell me what the enemy looks like so I can be prepared?), I might think differently.  But please tell me, what human in the universe has not heard of or know someone who has contracted the virus.  If you are someone who is that someone (talk about isolation!) please tell me where is your desert island and aren’t you just a little bit lonely?

Below is a very simple demonstration of why the mask is essential to your and everyone else’s health.

If anyone is still skeptical after that video, which is as apolitical as it gets,  then all I want to say to you is, “Don’t be a jerkball.  I don’t care who you vote for but I do care that you LIVE.  Got it!  Get it!  Good!”

And now let me give you a slice of hope and happiness as an antidote  to those the little germs from the previous video. I think it is interesting how  even in social distancing (and such distances in this video… around the world and back), these wonderful people obviously use their creative juices to give themselves and others joy and beauty. 

I firmly believe, as others tear at the fabric of civility in whatever is left of this civilization, this is the kind of enterprise that is destined to keep us together.

Right?  Of course, right!

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S. And whatever you think or do or say, never lose your sense of humor. Survival isn’t possible without one. Thus spake the Oracle (and my cousin Bernie).

There are all kinds of masks…

And there is all kinds of music…

A Stew Full of Thoughts

My Dear Friends,

THOUGHT 1: Yet another fallout of the Pandemic…

Every time I think I have a handle on how to handle the world I and fellow beings presently inhabit, I lose the handle.  Why can’t I keep a steady hand on the wheel of my life?  I know the rules of safety.  I try my best to follow them… Social distancing, masking, hand washing, sanitizing, travel limits.

I am kidding you and myself because, of course I know why I can’t keep it steady.  I am not in control.

I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place. I know the feeling well because I have been there many times before.

I think I am being vigilant. But then, I watch others out of my control, threaten themselves and others with their choices.  It then becomes my responsibility to set limits and put out the no vacancy sign.  It is so alien to the nature of this here beast. 

My door has always been open.  In the world today that is not an option. I can make some adjustments. And for this I am so very grateful that I am able to set up for a meal in the garden or the porch with safe spacing, masks and whatever else is necessary for the safety of all. 

THOUGHT 2A review of The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

I did not know the depth and the extent of the migration of Black Americans from the South to the North and to the West from 1915 – 1970.   For me, Ms. Wilkerson’s narrative is the foretelling of the ongoing struggle for Black equality we are experiencing at this time. She has chosen three protagonists from three different locations in three different decades of the migration.   Their detailed journey from the white racism of the South that followed them to the white racism of the North and West is shocking and a necessary and important tool in understanding how racism, subtle and not so subtle works. 

At the end of the book Ms. Wilkerson writes some notes about her methodology in putting this brilliant study together. She quotes from a 672 page report by a white-led Commission on the Chicago Riots of 1919 wherein the commission admonishes all.

THIS MUST CHANGE!

It is important for our white citizens always to remember that the Negroes alone of all our immigrants came to America against their will by the special compelling invitation of the whites; that the institution of slavery wast introduced, expanded and maintained by the United States by the white people and for their own benefit; and they likewise created the conditions that followed emancipation.

Our Negro problem, therefore, is not of the Negro’s making. No group in our population is less responsible for its existence. But every group is responsible for its continuance… Both races need to understand that their rights and duties are mutual and equal and their interests in the common good are identical… There is no help or healing in appraising past responsibilities or in present apportioning of praise or blame. The past is of value only as it aids in understanding the present; an understanding of the facts of the problem — a magnanimous understanding by both races — is the first step toward a solution.

Excerpt, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, page 543

The report came out in 1922. Last time I checked my calendar it was 2020.

THOUGHT 3:   IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE OBIT, EAT BREAKFAST

There is no way that I am going to leave you without a smile on your face and a laugh in your heart.  Even though my go-to cheerleader, Carl Reiner, left for quieter climes. 

I am sure Carl and Snoopy were in complete agreement.

Here is a documentary he narrated when he was only 94:

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. Happy July 4th. It’s way past time to put our money (and our votes) where our mouths are…

Video

Music, A Book & Thou

My Dear Friends,

This won’t take long. In this blog I share two videos. One is a professional production. The other is what happens during pandemisolockatine.

First is a song, Build a House by Rhiannon Giddens featuring Yo-Yo Ma. Here is the introduction from Yo-Yo Ma’s Facebook Page:

There are so many stories made invisible: too-often-violent histories hidden beneath the surfaces of our cities, our institutions, our music. It’s our job to keep looking, to make them visible, to take action. Today is always a good day to learn. I’m honored to mark this 155th Juneteenth with a new song by the incomparable Rhiannon Giddens.  #blacklivesmatter #juneteenth #songsofchange

Lyrics to “Build a House” – Rhiannon Giddens featuring Yo-Yo Ma

You brought me here to build your house, build your house, build your house
You brought me here to build your house and grow your garden fine

I laid the brick and built your house, built your house, built your house
I laid the brick and built your house, raised the plants so high

And when you had the house and land, the house and land, the house and land
And when you had the house and land, then you told me “go.”

I found a place to build my house, build my house, build my house
I found a place to build my house since I couldn’t go back home

You said I couldn’t build a house, build a house, build a house
You said I couldn’t build a house, so you burned it down

So then I traveled far and wide, far and wide, far and wide
And then I traveled far and wide until I found a home

I learned your words and wrote a song, wrote a song, wrote a song
I learned your words and wrote a song to put my story down

But then you came and took my song, took my song, took my song
But then you came and took my song, playing it for your own

I took my bucket, lowered it down, lowered it down, lowered it down
I took my bucket, lowered it down, the well will never run dry.

You brought me here to build a house, build a house, build a house
You brought me here to build a house. I will not be moved.

No, I will not be moved. No, I will not be, I will not be, I will not be moved.


I am also reading a book that I think is important and that you might want to check out. It is titled, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S. And don’t forget…

History Doesn’t Repeat Itself…

My Dear Friends,

In a recent coffee klatsch with my new very best friend, Voltaire, he reminded me, “Sally-Jane…

In light of this very wise and prescient statement, I am all too aware of how little we know of American History.  Of course, it didn’t help that history books until a recent time had a very one-sided version of what happened before, during and after the founding of these United States of America.

I am old enough to remember that my history books taught that many American Indian tribes were our enemies, but not how the enmity originated.

I don’t remember reading about President Andrew Jackson forcing them off their ancestral lands in the East onto the infamous march West… The Trail of Tears.

I don’t remember reading about President Andrew Johnson shredding Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation promises, aided and abetted by Confederate officers and soldiers into proclaiming Jim Crow as the law of the South and founding the KKK.

I could go on but I think I would rather present you with a cornucopia of gifted artists and writers who will, through document and performance, enlighten your way .

It has been spoken.  It has been written.  You cannot grow… You cannot know…

Where do I come from…?

How did I get here…?

Read on MacEveryone….  

Don’t ask me why I chose this book, She Would Be King: A Novel by Wayétu Moore. I knew nothing about it.  Maybe because I was celebrating my bookstore having finally  come out of its pandemic hibernation.  And the title was definitely quirky.  I chose a winner.  The author is black and beautiful and she writes like a dream.  In fact dreams have a lot to do with this magically and very realistic story.  I never understood what it meant to read a book of magic realism.  I’m not sure I do now but I am beginning to understand this category mixes the reality of the founding of Liberia in the 19th Century and the fantastical but oh, so real journey of the three main characters towards their destiny.  Their imprint is indelible in my psyche, my soul, but most of all, my spirit. 


In the PBS program, Twilight: Los Angeles, award-winning director Marc Levin weaves, Anna Deavere Smith’s powerful one-woman theater piece of the same name with news footage and interviews to create a portrait of rage, sorrow, loss, and battered hope surrounding the 1991 Rodney King beating, the violent aftermath of the 1992 verdict, and the lasting impact of the L.A. riots on America’s conscience.


I have a confession to make. I am usually not a podcast listener.  But I have an investigative reporter feeding me with brilliant podcasts.  She also happens to be my daughter.  

Here is what Dianne wrote to me about Jonathan Capehart’s podcast with Carol Anderson about her book White Rage:  The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide.

“Mom, Bottom line is all these policies that have kept black people down have kept all of us down in many ways.”

From the mouths of babes… she was one once… I have the pictures.

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S. The best way to combat all racial inequalities is to use your voting power!!

P.P.S. Keep your sense of humor and your distance…

A Young Artist In and Of and By and For the Modern World

My Dear Friends,

When was it???   

Historically, logically even, enlightenment followed the Dark Ages.  First the Dark Ages after which follows the Age of Enlightenment… dark and then light… get it?!

I’m not talking about those kind of ages… eras… I am talking chronological ages.  Like I’m 86. Really????  Reallly!!!! That kind of age. 

I am at the age/stage when occasionally I actually peek out of my navel long enough to think – as the song of the same name goes, what’s going to happen,  AFTER I’M GONE.  Listen my  friends, since 2016,  I don’t hold too much hope for the last and coming years.

How many times have we heard these phrases?

The children are the hope of the future.

We will create a better world for our children.

 The  Children shall lead us out of the dark into the light.

How is that possible?

Leading the future towards a better world is out of the question. The children sit, walk, ride, bounce with their faces glued to their electronic instruments.

I think we would  call that the blind leading the blind. So am I just another olden person intolerant of the youngen person.

My granddaughter Ellie Maza is 18 and a budding artist. She is bothered by the direction the world seems to be taking her and her “bother” takes the form of collages, photographs, recycled furniture and clothing depicting a world gone mad in its excesses.

I shall stop here and simply exhibit her photographs for your perusal.



I am inspired by her depiction of the world going mad. She is young. She is witness to the excess. She notes it to help others to see it. If enough people see it, might it curb our appetites and slow the disintegration.

What do you think????

Love, Sally-Jane