Wednesday, November 29, 2006

They've Just Now Realized This???

I first heard this on NPR this morning and then read it in the Chronicle. A judge has ruled that US money needs to be made to be more recognizable for the blind. "[U.S. District Judge James] Robertson said U.S. paper money violates the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in government programs. The opinion came after a four-year legal fight."

This put a smile on my face. Although I didn't cite a reason, I wrote about the need for this change over a year ago--you can read it here. And for some reason I can't figure out I keep getting hits on the photos in that post. Maybe the judge was doing some internet research???

Tis the Season . . .

. . . to sit back and check out of the madness.

Each year, right after Thanksgiving, I become especially glad to be Jewish. My big deal, lots to do holiday season is now a couple of months past. I stay out of the malls and let the Christmas specials just pass me by. I can easily opt out of the material feeding frenzy. With everyone else running around being a bit crazy, there's plenty of space left in which to relax.

I do love Christmas Day--it has the quietest morning of the year. I realize that inside houses there's probably lots of present opening hoopla, but the outside world is very calm. The change in the outside ambiance starts the night before. Funny, Christmas Day--Jesus' birthday--actually begins at Christmas Eve, the night before. Perhaps an homage to the fact that Jesus was a Jew?

There's one more reason for me to enjoy this season--it's the one time of year I can get Silk's "Soy Nog." It's tasty and rich; I heat it and drink it in coffee and tea. I have been known to add some rum--it's good for what ails you ;) And maybe best of all, it's pareve, so you can use it in desserts for any meal. Locally in San Francisco you can get it in some Safeways, Mollie Stones, Rainbow and Whole Foods. I assume it's available nationally wherever Silk products are sold. So if you like egg nog, check it out--it's a definite treat of the season.

Friday, November 24, 2006

American religions?

In today's SF Chronicle there was a profile of Ingrid Mattson, elected in August to the presidency of the Islamic Society of North America. Not only is this a first in regard to her gender, but she is also the first convert and the first non-immigrant to head the Society, ". . . the largest Muslim umbrella organization on the continent." The article goes on to state, "Her rise to prominence comes as more women and native-born Muslims are defining the faith, making Islam more of an American religion."

Although I understand what the writer is trying to convey, the phrase "American religion" seems to be an oxymoron. Whatever the reality is--and that's a whole different discussion--this country was founded on the principle of religious freedom, exemplified in the governmental division of church and state. I say that even as we have just embarked on this holiday season where Christmas is seen as universal and secular.

On the other hand, religion--in the spiritual sense of the word--needs be universal, transcending political and geographic borders.

I am glad that Ms. Mattson has risen to a position of such high regard in the Islamic religion. I think that this first step could have only been accomplished in a North American environment. I understand the important change that Ms. Mattson represents. I don't think that change should be to make Islam "more of an American religion".

The change is the breaking down of gender discrimination in religious practices. To recognize the value in the hearts, minds, and souls of all who seek that path.

Giving Thanks

It's not often that my prayer practice and my daily reading of the comics practice collide. In fact, I don't know if that has ever happened--until now.

Each day this week Patrick McDonnell, creator of the comic strip Mutts, drew only one frame. The scene changed each day, but the written message was the same.

"If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice."
---Meister Eckhart

A reminder that prayer has a meaning outside of any religious beliefs. The power of prayer is in its simplicity and its ability to unite us all.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Don't Show Me the Money

I just finished reading the AP article on Minnesota's Justin Morneau receiving the Baseball American League's MVP Award. It's not long and had all the pertinent information and statistics. One for the trivia books--Morneau is the second Canadian born player to win the MVP (Larry Walker is the first).

Another aspect of "the story" is that Morneau is not one of the high paid, superstar players in baseball--although he might be on the road there now. Ryan Howard, winner of the National League MVP award, is in that same category. To prove the point, the article mentions Morneau's salary this year, a mere $385,000 -- that is low using major league baseball standards.

But when the article mentions the runner ups for the award, do I need to know how much they each received as a bonus? I'm not naive, I know that major league sports is all about the money. I just don't always need to see the price tag.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Editing and Music

There are musical genes passed along in my family. My grandfather was a musician by profession--first in Eastern Europe and then in the US. He played bass for Paul Whiteman and Emil Colman among others. My dad had a scholarship to the NY Philharmonic for timpani before World War II came around and disrupted things. He played drums professionally as a second job for many years.

I've always felt that those genes are evident in my makeup when I edit.I have an innate sense of pacing and timing for a piece--whatever that pacing and timing need to be.

Someone on one of my editing user group listserves feels the same link between music and editing. As an example, he pointed us to this video on YouTube, which I now share with you.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Religion and the state of the world

As I continue to delve into and discuss with others the meaning of "organized religion" (see this previous post) there is one theme that continually surfaces. Often someone will say, "religion is responsible for most of the war and suffering in the world, both now and through the ages." I have argued against this, realizing that chances are I will not sway those who do believe that.

Jon Carroll, a favorite SF Chronicle columnist of mine, wrote a column to that issue in today's paper, which I encourage you to read. Carroll believes that the war and suffering are not religion's fault, "human nature is responsible for war and torture and intolerance . . . every institution we set up reflects our bestial nature." But there is more to our human nature, "there are good works, plenty of them--selfless behavior, charity, devotion . . .religion can serve as an organizing principle to make these virtues manifest on Earth." Carroll also points out that religion provides rituals that give comfort and solace to many people. So while you don't need to subscribe to any set of religious beliefs, there should be room to understand the good those beliefs bring to others.

In my previous post I started this discussion by trying to define religion, and Jon Carroll's column helps in this endeavor. I realize that this still doesn't address the problems with the organizational aspect of religion. Which gives us more to talk about through the year . . .

A Family's Loss

I've written before about my practice of reading the obituaries each morning. In part it is a way to honor those people, to hear the stories of their lives written by loved ones. There are the times when the information given is sparce and the story needs to be read between the lines. And then there are the stories, both in and between the lines, that touch my heart.

In this morning's paper, at the bottom of one column I read of the passing of Michael Shouliakovsky - "Born Sept 27, 1957 in S.F. and died tragically at home November 13, 2006." The only family connection mentioned is in the phrase "Devoted and loving son of Elizabeth and the late Walter Shouliakovsky."

At the top of the next column was a notice of the passing of Walter M. Shouliakovsky - "Passed away peacefully at home November 14, 2006 at the age of 84 years." The only family connection mentioned for him is "Devoted and loving husband to Elizabeth and loved father to the late Michael Shuouliakovsky."

My heart goes out to Elizabeth Shouliaskovsky, wife and mother, who must be grief stricken with her losses. May she find healing, and may their memories be a blessing to her.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Corporate Propaganda Masquerading as News

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a story today about an FCC investigation into the use of corporate propaganda in local news stories. The concern is that stations use material from Video News Releases (VNRs) in news stories without letting the viewers know about the source of that footage.

Now, as one who has edited more than a few VNRs in her day, I know they are created exactly for that purpose. As the article states, a VNR is ". . . a prepackaged segment that looks and sounds like journalistically reported information but is produced by either a public relations firm or a government body with a vested interest in the product or service being described." Many of the VNRs I edited consisted of a complete cut story; a second version of the story with the "correspondent" voice over on a separate audio track so that it could be replaced with the local reporter's voice; and a selection of material that could be used in a piece created independently by the station.

If the stations use the latter and put in either an audio or video ID of the footage--no problem. I know I would want to know that some company has developed a new drug to combat breast cancer. But I would also want to know any downside of the new product, or that its release in general use is years away--information I'm not going to get in a corporate promotional piece. Unfortunately, I would venture to say that many times the piece gets aired as is--down to the script provided by the company. That is the danger.

The disturbing part of the article to me is that the FCC is just now getting to an investigation of this issue. VNRs masquerading as hard news have been around for at least 20 years. And while it still is an important issue to face, the opportunity for this disguised propaganda to be spread over the internet through various kinds outlets is more serious as the next generation gets most of their news from the web. I wonder how long it will take the government to address that aspect of this issue.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Baruch Dayan HaEmet - Sylvie Braitman 1956 - 2006

It is fitting that the post that will be dropped off the front page of this blog to make room for this post is this one asking for healing prayers to be said for my friend Sylvie Braitman. Please now say healing prayers for her family - Sylvie took her last breath this past Friday, November 10.

I just returned from her funeral. While there was lots of time to prepare for this moment, you're never really prepared. So, there was lots of sadness, and there was, like Sylvie, lots of strength as well. Her family - her husband, Phillipe Chouraki, and children, Reuben and Maissa, had a sense of peace about them. Sylvie knew her time here was dwindling and I'm sure she left each of them with her spirit to carry them through.

The rain had let up a bit as we joined together at the gravesite after the ceremony at the chapel. The grey drizzle was appropriate for the occasion, the world shedding tears for our loss. The casket was lowered into the ground as Rabbi Lew recited prayers. We then lined up to fulfill the mitzvah of tossing dirt into the grave to cover the coffin. Rabbi Lew explained that this was symbolic of a parent covering a child with a blanket for comfort. It gives each one of us there a chance for one last goodbye. The sun came out as the casket was covered--maybe Sylvie's way of saying goodbye to us.

Of all the friends and family at the funeral, the presence that touched us all was that of Reuben's football team from Redwood High School in Larkspur, California. It was amazing to see these boys all wearing their football jerseys there to support their friend and teammate.

The family will spend this week surrounded by friends and loved ones. That is part of what the Jewish tradition of shiva is about. An evening service will be held at their house, supporting the family as they begin a year of reciting the mourner's kaddish, starting that process of healing.

Zichrona l'vracha - may her memory be a blessing.......

Friday, November 10, 2006

Healing on Veteran's Day

Veteran's Day is one of those national holidays whose meaning often falls through the cracks for me. I'm not part of the World War II generation, where everyone served in one way or another. I'm part of the Vietnam War generation where service largely depended on class. No one I grew up with served in that war. For the most part, they got student deferments and by the time those were up, the war was over.

Listening to the StoryCorps segment this morning on NPR, I felt that I really "got" Veteran's Day for the first time. Veteran's Day and Memorial Day fall six months apart--equidistant in the year, the flip side of each other. On Memorial Day, we remember those we have lost in war; on Veteran's Day, we honor those who survived.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but the difference didn't sink in until I heard Tom Geerdes, a Vietnam War veteran, a medic who returned home from his tour of duty in 1971 recall his healing moment ten years after his return.

The trigger was seeing a Vietnam War movie on television. Geerdes recounted that as the memories of his friends and the devastation came back to him, "Something just broke. I cried, I just sobbed like a baby for a couple hours. . .I really didn't plan on coming back."

The healing continues to the present, as Geerdes' daughter tells him "I'm glad you came back" and he replies quietly, "Me too."

Tomorow, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, let's commemorate the day by sending healing thoughts to all veterans, saying to them, "we're glad you came back."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Note to Performers with Websites

As a visual editor, I know that when you make a demo reel to feature your work, you keep the samples as short as you can and get to the juicy stuff as soon as possible. This way you keep the interest of the viewers and hope that if they like what they see they will keep looking--even check out some other pieces you provide.

Today I've been doing some internet research, searching for some scholar-in-residence possibilities for Beth Sholom. One route I'm investigating is music, in the realms of scholarship, leadership and performance. As I look at the performer's websites, I certainly listen to the tracks provided to get a feel for the artist. And that's where I've run into a bit of frustration.

So to any vocal performers with websites reading this post--GET RID OF THE 30 SECOND INSTRUMENTAL INTRO ON YOUR 2 MINUTE (OR UNDER) SAMPLE TRACK!!!! I want to hear your voice as well as your song. I don't want to hear your instrumentation--I want to hear you and as much of your song as I can. One sample went so far as to end just as the singing began. THIS DOES NOT HELP ME GET A FEEL FOR WHO YOU ARE!!. And it certainly doesn't help you get a booking. If you don't want to rerecord the track, make a version that fades up before the voice starts. Please, coming from an editor and a possible client--take this advice to heart.

Okay, I feel better now.......back to our irregularly scheduled blog.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Uniquely San Francisco

This is an accident that could only happen in San Francisco.

A SFMUNI bus - the 24 Divisidero - was heading North up Noe Street from 29th Street. It's an incline, although far from the steepest street in the area. It appears that while trying to pass a garbage truck, the bus lost power. These are electric buses that run on power from overhead lines. Bus poles separating from their power lines are a regular occurrence, as any SF rider knows. But I've never had it happen on a hill. Anyway, the driver got out to reattach the poles to the overhead lines. A man I spoke to said that the driver did empty the bus and put blocks behind the wheels to prevent the bus from moving backward. Obviously, they didn't hold. The bus careened down the slope hitting 8 parked vehicles before crashing into an apartment house at the bottom of the hill. Not far to go, but pit a big bus against small cars and trucks--well, you do the math.

The good news is no one was hurt--you can read the story here.

I took these photos two hours after the incident and can tell you that on my way home two hours later the bus was just being towed away.

A reminder why on my block, which is much steeper, there is not only no bus lines but no street cleaning. The garbage trucks do manage to make it up and down. I hope they never go out of control.

UPDATE: Here's a photo taken in the late afternoon. As you can see, everything has been cleared. Notice that no one wants to park there :) I'm sure the spots will fill this evening, but it will be interesting to see what the local news footage will be and if that will have any impact on the parking situation.....

Sunday, November 05, 2006

What is Religion?

Because of my known investment in my Jewish practice people tend to engage me in discussions about religion. One phrase I hear alot is "I don't believe in organized religion." I hear it from all age groups, from teenagers to adults in their 60s. Now, a look at my synagogue and the Conservative Jewish denomination it's affiliated with and one could say that if anything, it's Dis-organized religion--but that's a topic for other posts.

I've been pondering this concept of "organized religion" for the better part of this past year. On the one hand, I know what most people mean when they use those words--but what do they really mean? And why do so many people find the concept so unacceptable?

Today I realized I needed to first define religion--something that is a touchstone for some and a repulsive concept to others.

My definition of religion is a set of beliefs accompanied by the practice of rituals that are supported with a community.

Anyone care to add their thoughts? Comments are welcome.

This will be continued.........