Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Yesterday's doctor's appointment didn't go as well as one might hope. Three weeks from today (5/21) I will be having surgery on (or in?) my colon. This is for a problem that has bugged me for many years, and I've had a few minor procedures to keep it in check, but now requires more drastic measures.

It's actually a relatively minor bit of outpatient surgery, for the doctor. The operation will only take about an hour, then I'll be sent home by the end of the day. Then I should expect to be in bed, writhing in pain, for two to three days, followed by three or four days of staring at the TV in a drug-induced stupor.

And, as if that's not enough of a pain in the ass (pardon the blunt end of a pun), I've got jury duty the following week! I'm pretty sure I'll be able to use the surgery to get out of it, or at least postpone it for another couple of months.

At least this answers the question of what I'm going to do with my vacation time I've accrued so far.

Monday, April 29, 2002

Yesterday we went to the San Jose Art Museum (yes, we've got one - small in comparison to the museums in San Francisco, but they do get some good shows). The featured exhibit was called "Is the Medium the Message?"

This, of course, picks up from Marshall McLuhan's writings. He believed that the way we acquire information (the medium) is as important as the information itself (the message) in the way it effects us.

Anyway, a couple of excellent items that bear recording here. First and foremost was "Third Eye." Walking up to it, it looks just like an old red door in the wall, with the "Third Eye" sign above it. As you approach it, however, you hear music (Janis Joplin, the Doors, the Band, etc.). Look through the peep hole and you're transported back in time to a head shop from the last '60s. Done with miniatures, it was an incredible experience that I just couldn't get enough of.

I kept going back to look through the peep hole and examine more of what was going on there (including a strobe light, black light posters, a working ceiling fan, and more) and to listen to the music. The artist (Michael McMillen?) is also a set designer, and has worked on such films as Close Encounters and Blade Runner.

Another piece that bears recording was a set of old photographs - one of the artists mother, and one of the artists father - encased in Lucite. Okay, that sounds normal enough, but it doesn't end there. The photograph of the mother fades in and out of view in rhythm to a recording of the artist breathing. The photograph of the father flashes on and off in beat to a recording of the artist's heart.

Finally, is a more traditional (well, modern photo-realistic) painting, by James Doolin, called Shopping Mall. It's an aerial view the crossing of a pedestrian mall and a street, in a giant "X." What made this stand out to us was the location. It's the Third Street Promenade and Arizona Street in Santa Monica from about 1973. Clearly visible are stores we each remember, particularly Leslie, who grew up in the Santa Monica/Venice area, including her old optometrist (whom she hated).

The whole exhibit was quite excellent, those were just a few of the highlights, from our points of view.

Saturday, April 27, 2002

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple."
-- Oscar Wilde

Take the history of Nevada and above-ground nuclear testing. Is it a bit of Cold War history, that every Nevadan should be proud of? Was it their patriotic duty to absorb all that radiation? Or was it a crime, committed by the Federal government against the good people of Nevada? Is this something that should only be discussed in a court room when talking about the reparations that are due the families of those who died prematurely from radiation related cancers?

Well, the Nevada state legislature (a part-time club, that meets once only every other year) has come down on the side of fun. Yes, they're proud of their nuclear heritage and think it's the stuff license plates are made of.

Nevada Offers Nuclear License Plates, with a lovely mushroom cloud motif, to vehicle owners in the Silver State. There's no better way to say, "I'm proud to live in Nevada."

At least, until they offer plates with a picture of Ben ("Bugsy") Siegel burying bodies in the desert wilderness. That's when I'm moving to Nevada (or, at least, registering my car there).

Friday, April 26, 2002

This post marks the end of the first year of this blog. I haven't posted every day, that much is obvious, but some weeks, I did post daily. Over all, I think I posted at least three or four times each week, usually more. So, I'm going to guess there's at least 250 postings here, if you dig through the archives.

No wonder, then, that I sometimes struggle trying to think of what I should write. Getting in the habit posting [most] mornings helps some, but I think I self-censor too much, thinking that what I'd write that morning is not worth the trouble of posting and sharing.

Well, screw that. It's my blog, damn it. If I want to post meaningless nonsense and crap, that's my prerogative. Okay, folks, get set for year two of Random Thoughts, Notes & Incidents...

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Time out here for a moment to recognize another personal milestone: I've just been paying my bills here, and the check I wrote to CitiBank represents my final payment on any outstanding debt.

Right now, for the first time since I was eighteen, I am completely free and without any credit card dept. It's an odd feeling - one that makes me want to celebrate... but not by going on a credit binge...

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Even where there's good news, there's bad news. "Progress seen in Bethlehem stand off" and yet the Palestinians are executing their own people who are suspected collaborators with Israel. I guess they can't just sit around and wait for the Israeli Defense Force to kill them.

The Pope has formally acknowledged that child molesting does not belong in the church. That this most obvious point even needs to be said is a sign of how out-of-touch the church has been, and how little action has been taken in a scandal that has been unfolding for years.

Still, I get up each day and look for those little bits of good news, infrequent as they've been. What else can I do and still expect to survive?

Sunday, April 21, 2002

When Bad Names Happen to Good People
In the future, names will be assigned by committee upon graduation...

"683RQV!" The voice, the name, brought back a flood of memories. Could it be her? I looked across the crowded bus station and saw her running towards me. It was 429PYD. I ran to embrace her.

"429! You look fantastic!" I thought of how we'd grown up together, sharing so much: our first kiss, our dreams of spending our lives together, our promise to marry once we returned from Academy. "What are you doing here, 429?" I felt like an idiot the moment the words left my lips.

"Same as you, silly. I graduated! I'm here to visit my family for a few weeks before I receive my work assignment papers. I came to see you, too, or have you forgotten?" Before I had a chance to answer, she added, "And it's not 429 anymore, it's Melissa."

"Melissa!" Yes, she was a Melissa. I could have guessed that years ago. I knew she'd never end up a Shirley, or worse, an Esmerelda. Melissa; you have to sigh just saying the name. The Board had done well by her, as she must have done well at Academy. With a name like Melissa she'd be getting a plum work assignment.

She stared at me, and I realized that other than repeating her new name, I'd been silent for several seconds. "Well," she said. "What about you? You received a name, didn't you? You did graduate, right?" The excitement in her voice was palpable, as she leaned forward on her toes anticipating my answer.

"Yes, yes, I'm sorry. Yes. I graduated. I'm now Henry!" Her face registered immediate disappointment as she rocked back onto her heals.

After a moment she said, "Well, Henry is, umh, nice. Of course, I'd always hoped you'd be a Lance, but, Henry is, well, serviceable."

She was thinking the same thing that I was; Henry is a clerk. I'd get a decent enough work assignment, but I wouldn't be in charge of anything. I wouldn't be going to the same places or have the same opportunities as a Melissa. A Henry would only hold a Melissa back. A Henry needed a Shirley, as certainly as a Melissa needed a Lance. But yet, after all we'd shared, maybe there was still a chance for us.

I thought quick to change the subject. "Did you hear about 593YLV? They tried to make him a George and he bolted from the graduation ceremony and over the Academy wall! Nobody's seen him since."

"Yes, I heard," Melissa said, soft and sad. "He's already been caught and reassigned to underground duty." She was already in the know, just days after graduation, she was already beyond any place I'd ever be.

"Well, Melissa, I guess I'll see you during the break?"

"Oh, 683, I've just got so many relatives to see, and to re-introduce myself to, I don't know if I'll have time. But I'll call, I swear I will."

"I love you Melissa." It just came out; I had meant to say goodbye to 429.

"I loved you too, 683. Good bye, Henry."

As I watched her walk off I tried to think if there was anything I could say to bring her back. Just before she disappeared through the door I shouted out, "My middle name's Burt!"

(c) 2002 Ken Goldstein (as is everything I post here, you know)

Saturday, April 20, 2002

One of the duties of my job is to network with other nonprofit organizations. Often, that means attending meetings or luncheons at which we are all gathered. Yesterday, was such an event - and not my favorite one.

It was the annual volunteer appreciation luncheon for a local women's service organization. "Social Hour" started at 11:00 AM, and seemed to go on for several weeks.

Seeing some of the costumes people were wearing made me doubt I was at a nonprofit event, and wonder if I'd entered a reception for the extras on "That 70’s Show." Some of these leisure suits haven't been out of the closet since 1974, and neither have their wearers. Some of these older folks looked nice enough, but you knew just looking at them that their one great regret in life was that they'd never again have the opportunity to vote for Ronald Reagan.

It was frightening to watch these "women who lunch" descend from their posts, their Hostess ribbons waving in the wind, to direct the crowd first to the bar, then into the ballroom where the sound system was blasting "You are the wind beneath my wings," and "I believe that children are our future," and a whole genre of uplifting, hero-oriented, sappy pop songs I was never entirely aware of before yesterday.

I briefly thought about bringing a sexual discrimination suit against the sponsoring organization for their female-only membership policy, but I was afraid I might win the suit and actually have to join them.

Listening in on some of the conversations, and trying to politely nod and smile and fit it, I wondered if volunteering was really such a good thing. I got the distinct impression that some of those present used their volunteer experience to justify a right-wing politics that said, "There’s no need for government assistance: these lovely ladies have it all under control." I could just picture them congratulating themselves, then checking their mileage on the way home from the event to use as a tax deduction.

I decided then to start a campaign to stamp out all volunteerism. "A professional nonprofit sector only!" would be my rallying cry. These Stepford Wives (as one of my co-workers calls them) were just getting in the way of the real work that needs to be done. Why, the hair budget for this event alone would feed a family of five for at least six months!

After the initial welcome we were treated to a rousing live rendition of, need I say, "The Wind Beneath My Wings." I know the song won lots of awards, but it does lose something when you hear it three times in one hour. When the lunch was served, I tried not to think about the symbolism of the stuffed pork chops on my plate (stuffing and mashed potatoes - double starch doesn't bother these people) and listen to the program.

The emcee came out and started announcing the winners, and presenting the stories of what they had done. And then I softened up. As detached and unaware as many of the attendees were, the winners were all involved in doing great work. Whether it was working with the blind, or disabled children, or disaster relief, actual people-in-need were helped in very real ways by the award winners.

I was truly sincere when I congratulated a few of the winners and shook their hands. Okay, maybe we don’t have to get rid of all the volunteers.

(NOTE: This is a piece of satire, loosely based on my experience yesterday, and does not represent the views of my employer. If you represent an organization that you believe was made fun of here, please don't sue me. Really, I had a lovely lunch, thank you, and as the final paragraphs point out, my earlier prejudices were unfounded. I love volunteerism!)

Friday, April 19, 2002

It's been an extremely busy couple of days at work, so not much time (or personal experience outside of work) to write. So, instead, here's a few good quotes to think about:

"Integrity is doing the right thing, even if nobody is watching," Jim Stovall

"Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful," Samuel Johnson

"Men are like steel. When they lose their temper, they lose their worth," Chuck Norris

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Here's one final word (for the week) on the situation in Israel. First, an article on TomPaine.com: Israeli Offensive A Turning Point For Progressive Jews.

It's an excellent description of what many of us have been feeling, in our reluctance to give up on the dream of Israel mixed with our inability to defend her current actions.

Now, here's a quote from the article that I found particularly disturbing: "There were a handful of signs on the march which read 'Sharon=Hitler,' that equated the Star of David with the Swastika, one that read 'Palestine Yes/Israel No.'"

Take another look at it - particularly the second of the three signs described. Again, I have to agree with the Martin Luther King, Jr., quote I posted a few days ago. Scratch hard enough at the surface of an anti-Zionist and you'll find an anti-Semite hiding beneath.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

I remember once going clam digging in a hurricane. I was probably about ten years old, and we were all at my grandmother's house in Onset, on Cape Cod, with a variety of cousins, aunts, and uncles, when some older cousin got the brilliant idea to go down to the beach and dig for clams.

I'm sure the adults present (there must have been some adults present) pointed out that the weather was turning bad, but we didn't care. Probably the originator of the idea had some excuse about that being the best time to go claming, as the weather would somehow bring them to the surface. We had our buckets and trowels, and we were going to get some clams.

We stayed out for over an hour, without much luck, but plenty of fun. My younger cousin, Robin, was the first to turn in and head back to the house, but I felt the pressure to be a man, and remain on the beach. We all kept telling ourselves, and each other, "It's not that bad. It's not like a hurricane, or something."

Watching the storm got to be more interesting than digging for clams, as we watched the waves pound the shore, splashing us, and over-turning a couple of small boats in the harbor. Shortly after that, I turned back to the house as the sand in eyes was stinging beyond belief. The rest came in shortly after that.

Later, warmed up with fresh toll-house cookies and hot chocolate, we watched the evening news and discovered that yes, indeed, that was a hurricane. Shot after shot showed the destruction until, finally, came the shots of the boats we had watched over-turn off of Independence Point in Onset.

Forgotten was whether or not anybody got any clams (I don't think we did). Remembered was the time we were all young and crazy enough to go clam digging in a hurricane.

Monday, April 15, 2002

The Martin Luther King, Jr. quote from Saturday was posted to a listserv that I'm on. Below is a response it elicited, and my response to that:

> Hello,
> Jewish is not an ethnicity. Zionism does not call for Jews to return to their
> land, it calls for those who follow Judaism, regardless of their original
> land, to occupy the land once known as Palestine.
> There are Russian Israelis, African Israelis, and Israelis of many other
> ethnicities.
> Just as Jewish property was taken by Nazis during WWII, Palestinian property
> is being taken by Israelis.
> Anti-Zionism does not equate with anti-Semitism.
> When we kept Iraq from taking over Kuwait permanently, it never meant that
> Americans hated Iraquis.
> Please leave religion out of the argument; the problem is the policy on
> Zionism that the Israeli government is pursuing.
> The civil rights movement of the new millenium is occuring in Palestine.
> We can only hope for a Palestinian version of Dr. King.

... and my response that:

"Jewish is not an ethnicity." Perhaps you are technically correct. The ethnicity would be "Semitic" and serves as an important reminder that "ethnically" the Israelis, the Palestinians, and I are all brothers. Your point, however, is completely off-base.

Throughout history, Judaism has been considered a civilization unto itself from both within, and by our enemies. Whether you're reading "Judaism as a Civilization" Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan or "Mien Kampf" by Adolph Hitler, pretty much everyone agrees that Judaism is not "just a religion" but represents a specific people with historic roots in Israel/Palestine/Canaan - kind of like an ethnicity.

I (or many other members of this list) could list dozens of facts to refute many of your points, but let me just state one. Jerusalem is home to significant sites of three religions. In the last several hundred years, under Arab, British, and Israeli rule, it is only under Israeli rule that all three religions have had access to their shrines. I'm sorry, but anybody who asks to "leave religion out of [it]" has a lot to learn about the situation.

To return to the point of the original post of Dr. King's letter, to deny the right of the Jewish people to return to their historic homeland is anti-Semitism. Period.

You call for a new MLK Jr., and I second that wish. Both sides have had peace stolen from them by extremists. The Palestinians by extremists within their ranks - The Israelis by extremists within their government. They could each learn a lot from Dr. King right about now.

Finally, you say that, "The civil rights movement of the new millennium is occurring in Palestine." That's odd, I don't recall Dr. King instructing people to strap bombs to their bodies and walk into crowded cafes? The Intifada is no "civil rights movement," it's an armed insurrection. Support it, or don't support it - that's up to you - but call it what it is.


- Ken

Sunday, April 14, 2002

We just got back from a matinee, and quite a treat. "Changing Lanes" is that most rare of items: An actual good, intelligent movie that is also exciting enough to be mainstream.

First of all, Samuel L. Jackson is one of the great actors working today, and even Ben Affleck does a great job in this picture. But beyond the action scenes and the intrigue, there are actual moral and ethical issues being discussed, and characters who are made up of more than one dimension.

Shut off the computer right now, and get out to whatever local theatre is playing Changing Lanes immediately!

Saturday, April 13, 2002

Something to think about:

Anti-Zionism = Anti-Semitism
Selections from the Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

". . . You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely 'anti-Zionist.' And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God's green earth: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews--this is God's own truth.

"Antisemitism , the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently antisemitic, and ever will be so.

"Why is this? You know that Zionism is nothing less than the dream and ideal of the Jewish people returning to live in their own land. The Jewish people, the Scriptures tell us, once enjoyed a flourishing Commonwealth in the Holy Land. From this they were expelled by the Roman tyrant, the same Romans who cruelly murdered Our Lord. Driven from their homeland, their nation in ashes, forced to wander the globe, the Jewish people time and again suffered the lash of whichever tyrant happened to rule over them.

"The Negro people, my friend, know what it is to suffer the torment of tyranny under rulers not of our choosing. Our brothers in Africa have begged, pleaded, requested--DEMANDED the recognition and realization of our inborn right to live in peace under our own sovereignty in our own country.

"How easy it should be, for anyone who holds dear this inalienable right of all mankind, to understand and support the right of the Jewish People to live in their ancient Land of Israel. All men of good will exult in the fulfillment of God's promise, that his People should return in joy to rebuild their plundered land. This is Zionism, nothing more, nothing less.

"And what is anti-Zionist? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the Globe. It is discrimination against Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it is antisemitism.

"The antisemite rejoices at any opportunity to vent his malice. The times have made it unpopular, in the West, to proclaim openly a hatred of the Jews. This being the case, the antisemite must constantly seek new forms and forums for his poison. How he must revel in the new masquerade! He does not hate the Jews, he is just 'anti-Zionist'!

"My friend, I do not accuse you of deliberate antisemitism. I know you feel, as I do, a deep love of truth and justice and a revulsion for racism, prejudice, and discrimination. But I know you have been misled--as others have been--into thinking you can be 'anti-Zionist' and yet remain true to these heartfelt principles that you and I share. Let my words echo in the depths of your soul: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews--make no mistake about it."

From M.L. King Jr., "Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend," _Saturday Review_XLVII (Aug. 1967), p. 76. Reprinted in M.L. King Jr., _This I Believe: Selections from the Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr._ (New York, 1971), pp. 234-235.

Friday, April 12, 2002

I've got a new article on the Writer Gazette web site called The POD Rock Stars. If you always read my blog you'll recognize most of it as coming from my ramblings here. Still, it's nice of them to pick it up.

Well, another week is nearly over, and not a moment too soon. Leslie and I are each pretty much exhausted, and looking forward to the weekend. Hope your weekend is relaxing, too...

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Here. This will tell you something about Los Gatos, where I live.

Every city in America has some graffiti somewhere, it's just a fact of modern life. I don't care how squeaky clean your town is, there's graffiti somewhere.

So, here's what we saw while on our walk along the Los Gatos Creek path last Sunday morning. Scrawled under a bridge were happy faces and stars with the bold statement, "We are Good!"

So, now you know just a little bit more than you wanted to about Los Gatos.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Well, it's official: There's nothing good left to read. At least, that's the word from Oprah, who has discontinued her book club. Yep, it got too difficult to find even one book worth reading each month.

This is really a shame. As much as many of us made fun of Oprah and her book club, it really did introduce reading and literature to a lot of people who hadn't cracked open a book since High School. The loss of this platform is bound to hurt book sales over-all, not just for the Oprah selections.

We can only hope that the people who Oprah got into the habit of reading will continue to pursue new authors on their own, or find local book clubs that would be just as (and probably more) rewarding than watching one on TV.

I'm just disappointed that now I'll never have a chance to get on with "O" myself...

Monday, April 08, 2002

Waking up, drifting back to sleep, then the alarm going off again, in an endless loop. Only each time the alarm goes off it's a different clock, in a different place, and I'm drifting off to sleep in different locations: the bed, my desk chair, standing by the window, driving the car.

As I'm falling back asleep each time, trying to stay awake, I'm thinking to myself how dangerous it is that I'm so tired, since I've got to drive to San Francisco this morning. Then, when I do manage to get up, there's weird goings-on outside the window. Ambulances and stretchers with people laying in them scattered around a large parking lot. Off in the corner there are construction workers burning their materials in a dumpster and hastily packing up their truck. Then my eyes get heavy, and I feel that I'm drifting off to sleep again, only for the alarm to wake me again as soon as my eyes are closed.

That was basically my last hour to an hour-and-a-half of "sleep" last night. I was so tired when the alarm finally did go off for real, that I hit the snooze button. Twice. Each time I did fall back into that restless sleep. When it went off the third time (at least, I think it was the third time), I couldn't bear to repeat the cycle again and finally got up. So far, I think I'm really awake, and I'm willing take a stab at starting my day.

Saturday, April 06, 2002

"What will you miss when you die?"

"I don't know. The people? Sunrises? Fresh air? ... Sex? How about you?"

"I don't think I'll be missing a thing."

"I see: once you're dead, you won't be conscious to realize that there's anything to miss. Is that it?"

"No, I just don't plan on missing a thing. That's all."

"What, you're not planning on dying? Not very realistic, you know."

"Oh, I'm sure I'll be dead at some point. I just don't see why that should stop me from enjoying all those things you mentioned. Maybe I'll even learn to enjoy them more, once the shackles of physical being have been released."

"Is it too late to change my answer?"

Friday, April 05, 2002

Well, this morning my Barnes & Noble (.com) sales rank is number 152,928. Hey, out of a couple of million titles listed, that isn't bad for one day of sales!

Okay, I promise to start writing about something other than the damn book. Tomorrow. It's just been a very exciting time - I've gotten several nice emails from old friends replying to my announcement. Let me just revel in it for one more day...

Thursday, April 04, 2002

I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate. -- George Burns

Well, it's official now - I've emailed all my friends, family, and others who've joined my mailing lists with the announcement that my book is out. Now, whether or not the book is successful, I know I've been. I set out to do this thing, and I've done it.

Also, this morning, just in time for the announcement I'd sent out last night, Aaron's Intifada is now listed on Amazon: take a look!

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Education is a wonderful thing, provided you always remember that nothing worth knowing can ever be taught. -- Oscar Wilde

Aah, yes. Experience is the key. Ain't that the truth? Or, if I can get religious on you for a moment, here's one from Proverbs:

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. (Prov. 4:7)

Even with experience, not everybody quite gets it. Some folks go through life experiencing a lot of different things, but never take the time to think about what they've seen or done.

So, there you have it: Education, Experience, & Understanding. It takes a little bit of each to figure out what's going on in this world.

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

Alright... I've posted most of the new pages to my web site with ordering information about my book. I'll test that out for a couple of days, get all the links right, then do my formal announcement to my mailing list by the weekend!

This is all happening much faster than expected, but it's very exciting!
I just found a great quote:
It is easier to buy books than to read them,
and easier to read them than to absorb them
--William Osler
How true! There's a small, but steady, percentage of the books I buy that for one reason or another I never get into. Either I get busy and never finish reading them. Or I sit and read, but my mind is elsewhere. I turn the pages and don't remember what happened on the previous page. Then I have to turn back to see what new character I'm supposed to know about now.

When that happens it's easy to blame the author. After all, there are certain authors who do manage to keep my attention throughout a book (John Irving, for one, can hold me for 500 pages). But, I think I also have to take some of the blame for my lack of concentration. I need to work more on relaxing, and enjoying what I'm doing at the moment, rather than always thinking about what to do next.

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