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THE FLOOZIE, THE FELON AND FAKE NEWS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Last week I was researching the history of Pulga, a small town in Northern California, for some copy I’m writing for their website.  As it happens, this town is very close to Willows, where our dad’s family settled in 1829.  Our dad was born and raised there and the land is still owned and ranched by members of our extended family.  When I wrote our family history six years ago I discovered that we had something of a colorful past – our great-great grandmother, Julia Billiou, was murdered while sitting at her dining table.  That’s not something you find on Ancestry every day.

When I was writing our history I was lucky enough to connect with a third cousin (I think twice removed but I can never keep that stuff straight) who had a treasure trove of information about Julia and her husband, Joseph Billiou, including copies of the newspaper accounts of her murder.  The local papers in Oroville and Chico reported that the Billiou’s 16 year-old Chinese cook, Hong Di, burst out of the kitchen on the night of April 7, 1887 and in a drunken rage, shot the ranch foreman, William Weaver, in the shoulder.  He then shot Julia as she rose from the table, striking her directly in the heart and killing her instantly.  Our great-grandmother, Annie, was shot at three times, but by that point Hong’s aim was a bit off and he missed her each time.  Hong ran from the ranch, hiding in the brushes near the local creek for three days until he was caught and brought to trial.  The jury found him guilty, but instead of the normal death sentence for a murder, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

It would be a vast understatement to say that the verdict did not go down well with the local townspeople.  Before the judge and jury had even left the courtroom there was shouting from the gallery calling for Hong’s lynching.  The mayor called out the posse to guard the jail that night but a raucous band of 200 vigilantes stormed the facility.  They found the cell in the basement where Hong was detained and demanded a full confession.  This confession is what was reported in the local papers – that he’d imbibed in too much whiskey and that he didn’t mean to kill Julia as she had been kind to him.  Nevertheless, the vigilantes dragged him down the street to the train turnstile and hung him.  According to the papers, there was great celebration that night over the “justice” that was carried out.  None of the vigilantes were ever arrested for their actions.

Joseph Billiou – jerk or jilted?

Fast forward to last week when I was doing research on Pulga.  I decided as long as I was studying the local area I’d Google Julia’s murder to see if there was anything I’d missed.  It turned out to be a lesson in “be careful what you wish for” because there was new information and it did not reflect well her.  A recently published book about lynching in California has a full page devoted to Julia’s murder and Hong’s hanging. The author wrote that both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Sacramento Bee published the FULL account of Hong’s confession while the local papers chose not to run the full story because it “impinged on the good character of one of the town’s most beloved citizens”.  To say the least. It turns out that a couple of months prior to the murder, while Mr. Billiou was in San Francisco on business, Hong stumbled upon Julia and Mr. Weaver in a “compromising position” up in the hay loft when Joseph was out of town.  Mr. Weaver threatened Hong with death if he told Mr. Billiou about the affair when he returned to the ranch.  Hong’s full confession also stated that his real target was Weaver and that he had great affection for Julia because she taught him to read and write English.  So in that spring of 1887 I think it’s safe to say that tensions were running a little high in the household.  Julia was cheating on her husband, the ranch foreman was fooling around with the boss’s wife, and the cook was scared of being killed at any moment.

These new revelations have me taking a second look at Julia.  Her track record for fidelity wasn’t so great to begin with.  Shortly after she arrived in Willows from Ireland she was engaged to Joseph’s brother, Michael.  When Joseph arrived in California to join Michael, Julia broke off the engagement and married Joseph.   That had to make for an awkward Thanksgiving.  Then at age 50 – which was like 100 in 1887 – she has a fling with the ranch foreman.  Maybe Joseph was a real jerk and she could only find true love with Mr. Weaver.  She took her secrets to the grave, not even leaving a photograph of herself behind, so she’ll forever remain an enigma.

All I know is that I will never again look at all those prim and proper women in my family tree in the same way.

 

There’s No Business Like $how Busine$$

by Bob Sparrow

Indeed, there is no business like show business when it comes to spending time, energy and money patting themself on the back   We have now just concluded what I call the ‘Actors’ Aggrandizement Season’; there’s been the Golden Globe Awards, the People’s Choice Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and new to the party is the Made in Hollywood Honor Awards, because apparently Hollywood felt we were one awards show short of genuinely honoring actors and actresses. And now finally (I think!) we’ve endured the just-concluded Oscars – excuse me, the Academy Awards ceremony presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where winning an Oscar means . . . “I can ask for more money for my next movie”.

Watchers of the Oscars were subjected, ad nauseam, to the emotional thank yous from the beautiful people, to their agent, their psychiatrist, their current spouse and of course, us, the fans who they believe, wish we were them. We heard how wonderful the acting ‘craft’ is and of course we heard not what they were wearing, but who! Really?! Most of all, these thespians wanted to make sure they used their celluloid platform to express their banal opinions on domestic and world affairs – forget that most of them couldn’t find Syria on a map if they were adopting a baby in Damascus, much less understand the intricacies of our foreign and domestic policies. Yet, they have opinions and they are free to express them – unfortunately they all have the very same opinions. Where’s the diversity they so cherish?

Aside from similar opinions, one of the other things they have in common is a large, fragile ego. Do you remember when they used to open ‘The Envelope’ (which now cost $200 each!  Yes, just the envelope!) and say, “And the winner is . . .”? They don’t say that anymore, because saying ‘winner’ would imply that there are ‘losers’, so the presenters were asked a few years ago to change the phrase to say, “And the award goes to . . .”.  Now that is standard phraseology for ALL the award shows.

Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu Beach, Kauai

And under the heading of ‘all participants should get a trophy’, gift bags or ‘swag bags’ as those on the inside call them, are given to all of the nominees in the actor, actress and director categories. The bags include such things as a 5-night stay on the island of Kauai, a full wardrobe of women’s clothes from Belldini, a stay at an Italian hotel overlooking Lake Como, and while they’re in Italy they have a three-night stay at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria which overlooks Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast, the cost of a suite there is $1,800 a night. They’ll get another week at an exclusive spa, a Casper mattress for each nominee AND THEIR DOG, and many, many more items. The value of the swag bags last year was approximately $230,000 . . . that’s not for all the bags, that’s EACH! There is no business like show business!  Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that $3.4 million could go to a better cause than 15 wealthy movie people.

Oh, I almost forgot, under the category of ‘any publicity is good publicity’, the Razzies, or more formally, The Golden Raspberry Awards, were handed out last week recognizing the worst picture and actors of the year. I didn’t watched them, but I wonder if they said, “and the loser is . . .” Nah!

My sense is that actors and actresses are generally not people that I would want to spend a lot of time with or have my children emulate. Their morals are questionable, they spend money foolishly, certainly too much on houses, cars, psychiatric help, and ex-spouses and wherever they are, it is always all about them. Going on location to shoot a movie always takes precedent over going to their kid’s soccer game. Generalizations I know, some do get it, but most don’t. Contrast these statements from two famous actors:

When is Robert Redford really acting?

Robert Redford said of the recent passing of Mary Tyler Moore, “The courage she displayed in the movie Ordinary People, taking on a role darker than anything she had ever done was brave and enormously powerful”. Really?? OK, I liked the character The Sundance Kid and I thoroughly enjoyed watching Mary Tyler Moore in her own show as well as The Dick Van Dyke Show and was saddened to hear of her recent passing, but I felt that Redford must have been acting when he said that, or does he really believe that playing a character in a movie is “brave and enormously powerful”?

Contrast that with what Denzel Washington said when he was sitting around the table with a group of fellow movie people and was asked how tough it was to make his latest movie, Fences. He said, “Making a movie isn’t tough, sending your kid to Iraq is tough! Making a movie is a luxury; it’s just a movie!”  Thank you!

Hidden Figures

As unimpressed as I seem with the acting profession, I have watched most of the aforementioned award shows. Why? The truth is, I love movies, I love a great story well told. I don’t know the political leanings of the three women who were in Hidden Figures, nor do I care, but the movie, told a great, true story of three incredibly smart and courageous women who succeeded in spite of having to overcome significant obstacles (There, Mr. Redford is bravery and courage . . . in real life). You don’t have to like Mel Gibson to recognize his performance as William Wallace in Braveheart, another great story based on historical events.

Good actors make good movies, and I love them.

But they’re just movies.

MY HOBBY IS … SLEEPING?

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I have been knitting since I was 14 years old.  It is a passion that has held me in good stead through my youthful dating years (more sweaters knit for undeserving boyfriends than I can count), marriage, divorce, singledom again, and re-marriage.  I have turned to knitting in good times and bad and the craft has not only provided me warmth and some Zen-like moments, but a whole host of friends with like-minded interests.  Only someone who also has a passion can understand the joy of immersing yourself in a hobby and learning everything you can about it.  I came to that realization a few years ago when I hosted a dinner party with people who also had a passion for something.  One guest was having a long conversation with a man about her horse show experiences when she suddenly said, “Oh, I’m so sorry.  I’m sure I’m boring you to death with this stuff.”  To which he replied, “No, I get it.  I love racing cars.  So while I don’t understand the horse show particulars, I can relate to anyone who has a passion.”  I’ve never forgotten that moment.  It was when I realized that it was less important what my hobby was than the fact that I had one, even if some people think of it as a “grandma” sport.

As I gave more thought to hobbies I decided it might be interesting to see how other people choose to spend their time – what tickles the imagination or gets people wound up.  I found the latest Harris Poll on the subject and the answer is so discouraging that I wish I could “un-know” it.  First of all, there is a wide definition of what constitutes a hobby.  For example, the number one hobby in the United States is reading.  Okay, I get that reading could be a hobby, especially if you are researching or have a particular interest in a subject matter.  But “reading” also included romance novels and magazines which, frankly, sound more like something one would do in the bathtub or while waiting for the clothes to come out of the dryer.  But at least “reading” has some virtue to it which was comforting because the second most popular hobby is “watching television”.  Wow.  Under that definition everyone who sits on a Barco lounger eating Doritos and drinking Miller Lite is taking part in their hobby.  I know people who have gotten divorced over one spouse spending too much time with their “hobby” during football season.

Gardening and fishing are also very popular, depending on the region of the country you live in, but “Computer” beat them both out.  I’d like to think that some people listed that as a pastime because they are learning about programming or graphic design.  I think the reality is that people are watching cat videos on You Tube or playing endless games of Candy Crush.  “Shopping” cracked the Top 15 in terms of hobbies but that also seems like cheating to me.  I think shopping falls into two categories:  1) things that are necessary like work clothes and groceries or 2) stuff we don’t need but buy because we’re bored/lured by a sale/haven’t hit the limit on the credit card yet.  Housework and sleeping were also on the list, which again, seem to be skirting the real definition of a hobby.  For many years my former company asked people to list their hobbies on the employment application and I can tell you that not once did anyone list “sleeping”, although we later found out the hard way that it was, in fact, their strong suit.

I’m glad that I have my knitting to sustain me.  I have a walk-in closet full of yarn and feel quite confident that in the event of a nuclear holocaust I will be able to remain in my home and entertain myself for weeks on end.  I have recently purchased a knitting machine which, despite how it sounds, is an entirely different craft and is keeping my feeble brain exercised in trying to master it.  Another reason I’m glad I knit is that I also golf.  As any golfer knows, the very act of swinging the club wreaks havoc on just about every body part.  So, as my knitter-golfer friends like to say, golfers who have no other passion are just one bad back – or rainy day – away from having nothing to do.  Maybe those guys on the PGA should learn how to knit.

Blurred Horizons

by Bob Sparrow

We’ve had our share of rain this year, thank God! On one of those cold, rainy February mornings here in southern California I headed to the coast, thinking it would be a great place to get perspective. It was. So I jotted down a few thoughts . . .

The contrast in my mind was stark

On this brisk, rainy February morning at the beach

By summer Frisbees will be flying

Music playing under colorful umbrellas

The smell of Coppertone

Kids splashing in the surf

A seaside calliope

But here and now the beach is empty

Save for an occasional walker and his dog

And a lonely surfer in a wet suit

A light rain drips off my wide brim hat

As I look for a place to take refuge

In the solitude of this chilly ashen day

I walk down a deserted beach

A leaden sky hangs over a steel gray ocean

Making it difficult to tell where the water stops

And the sky begins

A blurred horizon

My nostrils widen as the scent of salt rents the air

I pull my collar up against the morning chill

And affix my hat securely

Against the off-shore breeze

The smell of coffee

Draws me to a beachside café

I find comfort on a sheltered bench

And gaze pensively at the horizon

I am drawn to the mercurial surf

Rushing in with such urgency

Then thunderously breaking on shore

Only to retreat in an easy measured cadence

Natures melody of moving water

Music to my ears

The cup of coffee warms my hands

As I listen to the steady pattern of the surf

Hypnotic in its redundant rhythm

I fix my stare on that blurred horizon

The vastness of the ocean gives me pause

I feel at once tiny and inconsequential

And yet significant enough to be connected

To all of this in some universal way

As the leading player in my own life

In spite of pounding surf and an occasional squawking seagull

There is a quiet serenity pervading the coast

Alone and uninterrupted

It feels good to be here

I solemnly contemplate those resolutions

I made just over a month ago

And affirm that they’ll find purchase in this new year

I turn and walk back to the busy street

Cars rushing by and people hustling to work

Punctuate the pleasure of my time alone

It’s was good to get away even for a little while

To think, to get perspective

To recharge batteries

It’s going to be a good year

If I make it so

 

WE PLAN, GOD LAUGHS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

This blog was supposed to be about Santa Fe.  I had planned a trip there last weekend to attend a birthday bash for one of my closest friends.  I planned to eat a lot, drink too much and soak in the sites.  I planned to roast her with a birthday tribute and re-connect with old friends.  Those were my plans.  But on the Tuesday prior to the event the honoree’s 45 year-old daughter died of a pulmonary embolism. Suddenly, our plans changed.  Instead of flying off for a fun, celebratory weekend in Santa Fe, we were boarding a plane to Chicago to attend funeral services.  Oh, how quickly our lives can change.

As we reach “senior status” it becomes more common to experience loss.  In the last five years both my brother and I have lost our mother and our childhood best friend.  Numerous friends have lost spouses or are supporting them through life-changing illnesses.  Somehow we expect to encounter these events as we grow older.  But losing a 45 year-old, in the prime of her life, happily married and with a 12 year-old daughter just seems so wrong.  It is wrong.   And it is a good reminder that tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.

That notion was hammered home to me many years ago when a friend lost her husband to cancer at an early age.  After his diagnosis she lamented, “I think about all the hours I stayed at the office doing busy work when I could have gone home.  I wish I had those hours back.”  Her sincere regret about her prioritization had a profound affect on me.  After that I never spent more time at work than I needed to.  I resisted the “how late did you work last night?” competition that seemed to pervade every workplace.  I had seen first-hand the downside of that game.  It was a good – if painful – lesson on making sure those around us know how important they are.  It’s why, as sappy as it sounds, I never leave the house without telling my husband that I love him and I end each day by telling Dash the Wonder Dog how much I appreciate all that he does for us.  Dogs don’t live nearly as long as they should.  But then again, neither do some very good people.

My friend’s life is forever changed and those who care about their family are also struggling to make some sense of it.  I think most people when faced with these horrible events take some stock.  It’s a good reminder that we can’t take anything for granted.  All of our checklists, day planners and to-do lists can be just wishful thinking.  And it’s a wake-up call (at least for me) on how we spend time.  It’s too easy to get sucked into surfing the internet on the iPad or watching dog videos.  It’s also worth remembering that not all things – or all people – are worth our time.  We need to make each day count, spent with people and activities than enrich, rather than detract.  For me the only small way that I can think of to pay tribute to a life lost too soon is to cherish every day I’m given and live it to the fullest.

Rest in peace, dear Staci D’Ancona Levy.

 

Heroes

Recently I was on a conference call at work, the subject of which was marketing to seniors; we were referred to an outline of a book by Dan Kennedy entitled, No BS Guide to Marketing to Lending Edge Boomers & Seniors: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Take No Prisoners Roadmap to the Money.  Quite a long title and I was to later learn that the only thing worth remembering is the ‘BS’.  As a senior (I’m not sure if I’m a ‘Leading Edge’ senior, but I thought I had a pretty good idea of what works in marketing to me and my peers), so I listened and read the outline with particular interest.

There is a section in the book that talks about our heroes and that people selling to us should be aware of who our heroes are and talk them up when possible or at least don’t degrade them during your communication with seniors.  I couldn’t wait to see the list.  When I saw the list, I was waiting for the punch line, this couldn’t be real!  Who was on the list of heroes you ask? John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Sally Field, Oprah and Meryl Streep.  These are people that we supposedly ‘identify’ with.  Really?!!!  Five very polarizing people – 2 very conservative male actors and 3 very liberal female entertainers.  I thought this list was totally contrived.  I identify with none of these people and they are certainly not on my list of heroes.    So I wondered whether I was out of step with my generation or the author was, so I did a little research on the author, Dan Kennedy.

I quickly learned that he felt very highly of himself as being a ‘leading edge’ Boomer.  In his book introduction he states, “I have, and in random rotation drive, three classic automobiles including a Rolls-Royce convertible previously owned by Dean Martin.  I also have a stable full of Standardbred race horses and two homes, blah, blah, blah”.  He goes on to liken himself to Paul Newman, who used to race automobiles as a hobby, while Dan harness races for fun.  He then says, “I am the gold standard for seniors, if you can figure out how to successfully sell to me and satisfy me as a customer, you can open the vault to all boomer and senior gold . . .”

I guess I should have been impressed, but I’m typically more impressed with people who don’t have to tell me how wonderful they are, but still I wondered where he got his list of heroes and was he out of step or was I?  So I sent an email blast to about 25 of my peers asking them who their heroes were and to send me at least one male and one female ‘hero’.  I said nothing else, I didn’t give them the list of five that Kennedy put forward, no coaching, no prodding, just give me your heroes.  The results are in and my initial reaction to Kennedy’s list was justified and my faith in our generation renewed.  Four key findings from my survey:

  • The most popular response was a parent or parents or grandparents
  • Many cited heroes that were just people they knew, ordinary people who did extraordinary things to make this world a better place in which to live.
  • Five world leaders were named: Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela, George H W Bush, Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill
  • Not a single actor, actress or entertainer was named!

Other ‘heroes’ named included: Jesus Christ, Condoleezza Rice, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, Pat Tillman, Carly Fiorina, Thomas Sowell, Dr. Ben Carson, Clarence Thomas, Anne Frank, Rosa Parks, John Glenn, Alan Shepard and Sally Ride. 

Hero groups: Navy Seals, Mercury 7 astronauts, anyone in the armed forces

Thank you to those who participated in the survey!

I realize that my sampling was very small, but I’d bet Mr. Kennedy’s Rolls-Royce (then maybe I’d be a Leading Edge Senior) that if he actually did the survey, instead of providing his own BS that he wouldn’t find many entertainers as heroes for our generation.

Care to chime in?  We’d love to hear who your heroes are.

ONCE UPON A MATTRESS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

We bought a new mattress last week.  For those of you who have not ventured into the nightmare that is mattress shopping I have one piece of advice – DON”T.  We put off buying one as long as we could but my aching back required some relief.  Thus began the “mattresses shopping experience”.  I have to admit, a lot has changed since we bought our last mattress 17 years ago.  The Mattress Manufacturers Association suggests you buy a new one every 8-10 years.  So we were a little overdue.  We did buy one of those foam mattress toppers about eight years ago which over time has developed a decidedly large hump down the middle.  It looks like we’re trying to hide an elephant.  My husband has been perfectly comfortable with this situation but I think “the hump” was getting to him too.

So on a rainy Sunday afternoon we traipsed down to our local mattress store.  I did a bit of research ahead of time – I was not going to let some slick salesman bamboozle me into buying more mattress than I needed.  I was under the naïve impression that reading Consumer Reports would protect me from being the lamb going to slaughter.  I was wrong.  The first thing I learned is that there is a very wide variety of mattresses out there – coil, hybrid, foam, pillow top, gel, water, memory foam, and latex.  If you’re interested in buying a horsehair mattress for $100,000 that’s available too.  It’s a dizzying array and then to make matters worse, once you decide on the type of mattress you then have to zero on the “firmness”.  Ah…and there’s the rub, so to speak.  What is firm to one person is soft to the next.  What is firm for one brand is medium-firm for another.  We found ourselves flopping down on mattresses like flounder on a ship’s deck.  And this is probably the place to mention that lying on a bed with your spouse, trying to replicate your actual sleeping positions while a salesman looms over you, is quite awkward.  Only to be outdone when the salesman puts you on a mattress with a moveable foundation.  There we were, lying on the mattress with him at the end of the bed wielding the remote control like a mad scientist.  Our legs and feet and shoulders were moving all over the place.  Then he started the massage feature.  I hated it.  It had all the soothing qualities of those massage beds you used to find in cheap hotels where you inserted a quarter and the mattress jumped around for five minutes.  But I must say I loved the idea of being able to sit up while reading in bed.  And the salesman, assessing our age, also noted helpfully that if one of us was ever incapacitated the mechanics of the bed would help us get out and on our feet easier.  We could choose from dual mattresses with individual controls or one big mattress.  And that’s where we ran into problems.  How would we handle Dash?

Despite my early intentions that our dog would never sleep on the bed, Dash and my husband conspired against me.  Dash now has a full-size pillow right between us at night.  I have to admit, I love hearing his breathing and he is always cuddling so now I wouldn’t think of kicking him out.  My husband has gone so far as to say he’d kick me out before the dog.  It’s always nice to know your station in life.  But…back to the mattress.  The problem with dual control is that there is a huge split down the middle of the bed – right where Dash sleeps.  The one big mattress with one control is – in my opinion – just another way to fight with your spouse.  Since everything moves at once you have to be in perfect agreement about when to stop reading so you can lower the bed.  I don’t know about your house but in ours we seldom turn off the light at the same time.  So all I could envision were endless arguments about bed raising/lowering and we have enough trouble just agreeing on the thermostat setting.

After trying out so many beds we were as confused as when we walked in.  I discovered that testing mattresses is a lot like wine tasting – after a while you have a tough time distinguishing between them.  Finally, we were, in fact, bamboozled by the salesman’s pitch and purchased the Tempurpedic mattress that can sense our body temperature, understand our pressure points, and adapt to our weight (good luck with that, buddy!).  It was twice the price of my first new car.  They will be delivering it this week and all I can say is – I hope Dash is happy.

 

 

Postcards and Postscripts

by Bob Sparrow

You would have had to be living in a cave for the last several weeks to not have seen a tribute or two about Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, after their passing on Dec 27th and 28th of last year.   We were reminded of how Debbie, at 19 and with zero dancing experience, partnered up with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Conner to create one of the most beloved musicals of all time, Singing in the Rain. She went on to have a number of successes as an actress, singer and businesswoman. But for my money, Carrie was the most talented one in that family.

I was first introduced to Carrie Fisher not in Star Wars, which came out in 1977 (and I didn’t see until sometime in the 90s), but by my dearly departed amigo, Don Klapperich, while he was in Saudi Arabia. We were not only sending music and audio cassette tapes back and forth to one another (prior to Al Gore inventing the Internet), but also our writing efforts in the hopes of publishing something. After reading a few samples of my efforts he recommended that I read the novel Postcards from the Edge (1987) by Carrie Fisher, that that seemed like the writing style I was trying to master. I read the book and loved it and of course he was right, it was indeed a style that I have tried to emulate without really knowing it . . . and without really much success.

Carrie followed Postcards, which was turned into a movie starring Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep , with a number of other novels, all of which had semi-autobiographical themes, as the heroine usually had a number of issues from which Carrie suffered – bipolar disorder, alcoholism and drug addiction.  She has also written some non-fiction books, the best in my opinion is Wishful Drinking, which she subsequently turned into a one-woman show that she performed to rave reviews! I’m sure some of you have seen it, but it’s worth another quick visit and for those who haven’t seen it I’ve inserted below a 10 minutes ‘taste’ from the hour+ performance. One of the highlights of that performance, which I could not find a short enough clip to insert here, is her explanation of her ‘family tree’ to her daughter Billie, when Billie asked if she could date Reese, the son of Mike Todd and Elizabeth Taylor, or were they somehow related?  Very entertaining!

Her life was filled with many highs and lows as she both dwelled in the limelight and suffered from failed relationships, but she has indeed left her mark.  If you’re not familiar with her work, I’d recommend taking a look; she’ll make you laugh as well as give you some very candid insight into relationships.

I’m thinking Don and Carrie would have made a great couple – great intelligence, great wit, a flare for the dramatic and both were just a bubble off plumb.

THERE’S A GADGET FOR THAT

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

This past weekend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was held in Las Vegas.  It’s a major event for high tech companies; an opportunity to showcase their latest innovations and launch trial balloons on some pretty goofy gadgets.  I love technology, although the relationship is not always reciprocated.  My language while trying to fix our computer, iPad, Direct TV or cell phone systems would make a sailor blush.  But still, I am fascinated by gadgets so it is with more than a passing interest that I follow the CES each year to see what’s on the horizon.  For those of you who are sensible and don’t pay any attention to this stuff let me give you a bit of background.  CES was started in 1967 in New York and featured such marvels as pocket radios, the Scottie record player (pictured) and the first TV’s with integrated circuits.  Integrated circuits meant that TV’s no longer had those blasted tubes, which invariably blew out right before the Ed Sullivan Show or Gillette’s Cavalcade of Sports.  Each time a tube faded out it required the services of a repairman to come and replace it.  Or at least it did in our house because our dad could barely tell a screwdriver from a hammer.

                            Kuri – the nag

Over the years the CES has become the place for companies to showcase their latest inventions.  It has featured such advances in technology as the cordless phone (remember when we had ONE phone in the house and it was attached to a wall?!)  and the cassette tape, which eliminated vinyl records from the mainstream for decades.  This week I’ve been reading about the trends for the coming year.  They range from the scary to the ridiculous.  First, virtual reality seems to be huge, with phone attachments and special glasses that can sweep you into another dimension.  I guess given all of the drama of 2016 maybe a little “virtual” in our reality isn’t such a bad thing.  The other popular trend is robotics.  There is the Kuri, a home robot that has a cute little face and will perform tasks or provide information at your command.  It can autonomously patrol around the house and – get this – has its own unique personality.  Somehow that seems just the slightest bit creepy.  Maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of Westworld but I am highly suspicious of a robot with personality.  Oh sure, at first it’s bringing me my newspaper and giving me the answer to who starred in On the Waterfront, but what stops it from telling me that I shouldn’t have that second helping of chocolate cake?  Or that I really should clean up the mess in the kitchen before I sit down to read.  With my luck I’d get a Kuri that had the “personality” of a nag.   I think I’ll stick with Dash the Wonder Dog getting my newspaper for now.

There are all sorts of “connected” gadgets this year – ones that hop onto your wireless network and interact with each other or with you, even in your sleep.  The Sleep Number company has a new bed that can sense what you’re doing all night long and make adjustments.   It will automatically adjust if you snore, add an automatic night light on the bed if you get up in the middle of the night,  and pre-warm the mattress to toast up your feet on a cold night. It also connects to an app to offer information on how you’re sleeping.  Do we really want a machine “sensing” what we’re doing all night long?  Just imagine if your local neighbor’s 15 year-old hacked your system and sent that information around the neighborhood?  Or worse, if somehow the Sleep Number bed and Kuri teamed up.  Maybe a robot’s idea of fun is to goof around with the Sleep Number elevation system.  You’d be bobbing up and down all night.

The Vacuum Shoe

I think I’ll stick with lower tech gadgets for now.  The best thing I saw come out of the show is the Shoe that Vacuums.  Yes!  You can buy a pair of shoes that will pick up dust and crumbs as you stroll along your carpeting.  Now that is innovation!

 

The Unexamined Life

by Bob Sparrow

“The unexamined life is not worth living”

Spoken by Socrates at his trial after he chose death rather than exile

philosopherIt was suggested by more than one reader that my last blog, the one about ‘creative’ Christmas gifts, was simply filler, fluff, no real depth, mailed in, not intellectually challenging, stimulating or provocative.

I offered excuses about the hustle and bustle of the season, my new work schedule, another birthday, travel demands (Dallas, Salt Lake and Vegas in the last 60 days).  But after searching for the many layers of that last blog, I discovered that it was a piece with no layers at all and in fact had no redeeming social, or for that matter, antisocial, qualities. So, as an apology I proffer a Top 10 list (along with my cogent comments) espoused by an All-Star cast of deep, philosophical thinkers to help you put your New Year’s resolutions in perspective.

  1. I will say yes to life

Nietzsche, means rediscovering the seriousness one had as a child at play.  (Pretty heavy when you think about it)

  1. I will grow collective

Badiou commented that when people find love, they realize life offers them more together than it does alone. (Can we really trust a guy whose name is BAD  I.O.U.?)

  1. I will be present for others

Authentic engagement is world-disclosing work. Implicitly, by trying to enable the other, I acknowledge the value of sharing a world with them.  (I think he means, wherever you are, be there!)

  1. I will be a giver not a taker

Ask yourself, ‘What unique contributions can you make that could empower others?’ (Great arm farts probably don’t count)

  1. I will focus on the things I can control not the things I can’t

Genuine self-control is equal parts focus, drive and humility. (and perhaps some prozac)

  1. I will be a meaning maker

We must be prepared to disrupt ourselves every now and then in order to see the unexpected opportunities in daily events and take our lives in new directions.  (We have to look no further than the latest election to affirm that we have indeed disrupted ourselves)

  1. I will convert negative emotion into creative energy

Anger can be a gift. Channel it into a creative activity (Some are more ‘gifted’ than others)

  1. I will question everything

By learning to think skeptically, we are not only better able to identify things that have real meaning, relevance, and value in life, we are also enabled to identify the things that lack meaning, relevance, and value (I know what you’re thinking – this blog lacks meaning, relevance and value)

  1. I will celebrate abundance

Everything is fed by the flow of radiation from the sun. Hold out your hands to the sun. Feel it vitalize the molecular flows of your body.  (Sun worshiping – it’s all come full circle)

  1. I will never give up

Sartre argued that authenticity involves making a fundamental choice about how to live – as a philosopher, writer, communist, whatever. The caveat is that we acknowledge that this is only a choice, and there are other choices we can make in life. Camus argued for what is ultimately, I think, a more uncompromising position: that existential authenticity demands that we admit to ourselves that our plans and projects are for the most part hopeless and in vain – and struggle on regardless. This, for Camus, is existential revolt – to affirm the absurdity of life and continue. (I couldn’t have said it any better myself, actually I couldn’t have said it at all!)

Final words to think about when making your resolutions, from former publisher of Success magazine, Darren Hardy . . .

“Resolutions tend to focus on what you are not (skinnier, wealthier, punctual).  As you try to focus on the life you want, you’ll be fixated on the things you haven’t accomplished”.  He suggests that resolutions should start with your abundances and expand them.

Or you could forget about resolutions this year and just curl up with your new Santa Farting Butt Pillow.