Saturday, April 30, 2016

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody (1987)

Whitney Houston [1963–2012] performs “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” which is the first single and title track from her second studio album, Whitney. The single was released on February 3, 1987; and the album on June 2, 1987. The song won a Grammy for Houston at the 30th Grammy Awards, in 1988, for “Best Pop Vocal Performance.” Whitney Houston, a mezzo-soprano, was referred to as “The Voice.” She died tragically and accidentally, on February 12, 2012. The official cause of death is drowning due to drug intoxication. She was 48.

It is within the realm of human nature for people to cast harsh, unforgiving judgments on her life choices, particularly her long use of narcotics, which led to in her spiral downward and her eventual death. But I am not one of those people; for one, I do not know the circumstances of how and why she made such choices, as self-destructive as they might be and as foolish as they seem today. It is not that I am condoning it, but I am also not able to condemn it. Judgment is easy when the focus is on someone else and never easy when the spotlight is on you.

Honest self-examination and -appraisal often leads to a more forgiving view of others. This is always true, even when it is given little credence or denied. Why is it so easy to judge and so hard to forgive? Are humans hard-wired this way? Who knows? You do know, however, the (moral) story of what takes place when you point a finger of accusation at someone else. It comes back to haunt you.

So, I continue to remember Whitney Houston chiefly for the joy that she gave me (us) with her singing and with her exceptional musical performances, and also be reminded that without love there is something important, essential, missing in the world, including in the world of our personal lives. Rare is the person who wants to be completely alone. This is not mere sentimentality, or romanticism, but a time-tested fact of life. This is the title track of life. There are times when I am at odds with it, with its sentiments and declarations, but I soon return to it.

If some of us are lucky to find it—“love”—we have indeed found something valuable and need to hold on to it with dear life.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)
By George Merrill & Shannon Rubicam

Clock strikes upon the hour,
And the sun begins to fade.
Still enough time to figure out,
How to chase my blues away.

I've done alright up till now.
It's the light of day that shows me how.
And when the night falls...
The loneliness calls.

Oh I wanna dance with somebody,
I wanna feel the heat with somebody.
Yeah I wanna dance with somebody,
With somebody who loves me.
Oh I wanna dance with somebody,
I wanna feel the heat with somebody.
Yeah I wanna dance with somebody,
With somebody who loves me.

I've been in love,
And lost my senses,
Spinning through the town.
Sooner or later the fever ends,
And I wind up feeling down.

I need a man who'll take a chance,
On a love that burns hot enough to last.
So when the night falls,
My lonely heart calls.

Oh I wanna dance with somebody,
I wanna feel the heat with somebody.
Yeah I wanna dance with somebody,
With somebody who loves me.
Oh I wanna dance with somebody,
I wanna feel the heat.
Yeah I wanna dance with somebody,
With somebody who loves me.
(Somebody who somebody who)somebody who loves me,
(Somebody who somebody who)to hold me in his arms.
I need a man who'll take a chance,
On a love that burns hot enough to last.
So when the night falls,
My lonely heart calls.

Oh I wanna dance with somebody,
I wanna feel the heat with somebody.
Yeah I wanna dance with somebody,
With somebody who loves me.
Oh I wanna dance with somebody,
I wanna feel the heat with somebody.
Yeah I wanna dance with somebody,
With somebody who loves me.
Don't you wanna dance with me baby?
Don't you wanna dance with me boy?
Don't you wanna dance with me baby?
With somebody who loves me,

Don't you wanna dance
Say you wanna dance
Don't you wanna dance... X3
With somebody who loves me

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Shifting Fortunes Of Life In Mongolia

Old Traditions

Herding Cultures: Mongolian herder culture is becoming rarer, in large part due to changing weather patterns, marked by increasing dzuds (a summer of drought followed by a winter of cold and snow)which have killed many animals. It is safe to say that in such places the dictates of weather play an important part in the (mis)fortunes of life. Thus, it is also safe to say that life on the steppes, or grasslands, can be rewarding, but it can also be harsh, compelling many to abandon this way of life. Nathan VanderKlippe writes (“Dying Steppe;” April 29, 2016) for the Globe & Mail: “Driven in part by the emotional toll of losing animals under their care, herders themselves are abandoning the steppe. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of Mongolian herders fell from a half-million to 300,000.” The caption for this photo says and explains much: “Gantumur, a 51-year-old Mongolian herder, rides past a dead cow near Adaatsag, Mongolia April 16, 2016. Gantumur has already lost 60 of his 100 goats and sheep, after a fierce winter that has taken a grim toll on the Mongolian steppe.
Photo Credit: John Lehmann, Globe & Mail
Source: Globe & Mail

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Olmsted’s Trees & The Life Of Parks

Urban Parks

Central Park Site: The Library of America (LOA) writes: “A rendering of the area surrounding the lake in New York’s proposed Central Park, 1858. Frederick Law Olmsted & Calvert Vaux, Greensward Study No. 5: View Southwest from Vista Rock on Reverse Line of Sight from Study No. 4.” Frederick Law Olmsted [1822–1903], the father of American landscape architecture, is responsible for the design of New York City’s Central Park (1856) and of hundreds of others in the United States and Canada, including the U.S. Capitol Grounds (1875), Chicago’s Jackson Park (1893), and Montreal’s Mont-Royal Park (1876), a place where I spent many happy hours as a child. We can thank Olmsted, who was also a journalist and social critic, for making urban living more bearable, more beautiful and more breathable. It is all about trees and what they bring to us humans, LOA writes in showcasing Olmsted’s 1882 essay, “Trees in Streets and in Parks”: “Olmsted explained his aesthetic, and the central role of trees in it, in an 1882 essay, in which he resisted colleagues and tourists who saw ‘nothing in a park but an airing apparatus, to be made attractive by decorations’ and argued instead for something more holistic: ‘scenes and objects [that] touch us so quietly that we are hardly conscious of them.’ ”
Image Credit: NYC Municipal Archives; digitally enhanced by Library of America
Source: LOA

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The World Is A Lousy Person

Short Story

Ms. Blumenthol:
Image Credit: Rolli
Source: The Walrus

A short story, by Rolli, in The Walrus gives an insightful view of humanity; it depends on whom and what you encounter and take in. At times, all it takes is one person and what he has to offer. It might be a different hat or a cigarette. In “Ms. Blumenthol,” Rolli begins:
The World Is a Lousy Person. I want that to be my epitaph. Hooman’s is At Last . . . Peace, which is idiotic; he was in perfect health when he dropped dead. His daughter picked it out. She paid for the headstone. Hooman and I weren’t technically married, which was fine by me. Marriage is a solemn vow that you’ve run out of ideas. I’ve still got a few.
When Hooman died, I gave up smoking, though I still smoke. Only when I get—grippy. I get grippy, and if I don’t lay my hands on a cigarette fast . . .  If I were hanging from a cliff and someone held out a cigarette, I’d take the cigarette. I only met Hooman, really, my soulmate, because of cigarettes. That was ten years back. On the worst day of my life.
Let’s face it: Life is often shit; people are often vile assholes. Such is the story of our lives; filled with too many horrible days to count or even remember, and filled with encounters with nasty and vulgar people who would never do anything for another, except take the shirt off his back. You make judgments based on collected experiences, the most recent having the greater power of persuasion. Even so, it can turn on a dime. But this takes an encounter with humanity.

For more, go to [TheWalrus]

Monday, April 25, 2016

Financial Confessions Of A Middle-Class Writer

Financial Insecurity

Money Talk: It is far easier to talk about anything in America than about money, Neal Gabler writes for The Atlantic: “So I never spoke about my financial travails, not even with my closest friends—that is, until I came to the realization that what was happening to me was also happening to millions of other Americans, and not just the poorest among us, who, by definition, struggle to make ends meet. It was, according to that Fed survey and other surveys, happening to middle-class professionals and even to those in the upper class. It was happening to the soon-to-retire as well as the soon-to-begin. It was happening to college grads as well as high-school dropouts. It was happening all across the country, including places where you might least expect to see such problems. I knew that I wouldn’t have $400 in an emergency. What I hadn’t known, couldn’t have conceived, was that so many other Americans wouldn’t have the money available to them, either.”
Image Credit: Hugh Kretschmer
Source: The Atlantic

An article, by Neal Gabler, in The Atlantic says that almost half of Americans suffer financial insecurity, and it more than likely that a good number feel some sense of shame and failure about it, perhaps thinking that they are in poor company.  In “The Shame of Middle-Class Americans” (May 2016), Gabler writes:
Since 2013, the federal reserve board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?
Well, I knew. I knew because I am in that 47 percent.

I know what it is like to have to juggle creditors to make it through a week. I know what it is like to have to swallow my pride and constantly dun people to pay me so that I can pay others. I know what it is like to have liens slapped on me and to have my bank account levied by creditors. I know what it is like to be down to my last $5—literally—while I wait for a paycheck to arrive, and I know what it is like to subsist for days on a diet of eggs. I know what it is like to dread going to the mailbox, because there will always be new bills to pay but seldom a check with which to pay them. I know what it is like to have to tell my daughter that I didn’t know if I would be able to pay for her wedding; it all depended on whether something good happened. And I know what it is like to have to borrow money from my adult daughters because my wife and I ran out of heating oil.
I also know what it’s like, joining million of others in the U.S., Canada, etc. Like the writer of this article, I, too, used to earn a decent living as a for-hire writer until about 2008, when assignments became harder to get and fees plummeted—the Internet changed everything for freelancers. What was previously considered a rewarding yet precarious profession suddenly, and without warning, became an unsustainable and unrewarding one.

So, yes, I understand. I have made similar confessions of the difficulty of being a middle-class writer on this very blog, starting five years ago, even though at first I did so with some hesitation and a great deal of reluctance. Life, however, became worse, more precarious. Against your will and your noble ideals on the value of hard work, you find yourself being dropped into the rabbit hole of a parallel universe, where the reality is foreign and unknown. Truth be told, it takes time for the new reality to sink in, to permeate through the lies and fictions, to take root in the fertile imagination of desire that well-paying gigs are not at hand and are not likely to ever hit your inbox. Eventually, the anger, the denial and the self-abasement ebbs, since it serves no real purpose. Self-doubt and fear turns to quiet acceptance.

Even so, it is not easy to admit that you are failing, that you are not winning the fight against poverty or financial insolvency. That you have no savings, no retirement income, no money for children’s college. It is hard to admit that your higher education hasn’t saved you from the embarrassment of not having a full-time job (or its equivalent) the last number of years. Most of all, it is not easy to admit to your children. Or to your community. (What do you do with your time? some people ask. Most avoid the subject altogether.)

But, then you read more articles and find out that few are winning, that many are losing, despite their best efforts. The middle-class is finding out what the working poor have known for decades. The shame is that there ought to be no shame. The more that articles like this are published, the greater awareness there will be of this long-term problem. (It will not go away soon, not with any new American president or Congress, since a known reality is that no one has any genuine interest in fixing a broken system that favors only the wealthy.) The fault lies elsewhere: in a system that is no longer able to keep the promises it made long ago. It is no longer sustainable. Here is a fact worth thinking about: There are not enough (bread)winners to keep it going.

Isn’t that shameful?
For more, go to [TheAtlantic]

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Maccabeats: Dayenu

The Maccabeats, an all-male a cappella group, perform Dayenu, a Passover song, which the group performs in various ways with humor. The group was originally formed in New York City, in 2007, as Yeshiva University’s student vocal group.

Toronto’s Two Aprils (2016)


April is the month of surprises and changes; it is much like October but it moves in the opposite direction. It sits between the past and the future, carrying with it both memories and hope. “Hope springs eternal,” the British poet Alexander Pope said, and such is April. The two photos tell the story, the poetic story of the two Aprils, it being the fourth month of our solar calendar.

April 6th at 11 a.m. Temperature: –1°C (31°F); Direction: North. Snow is falling, and April is shaping up as a month with greater snow accumulation than December. 
Photo Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

April 18th at 7:30 a.m. Temperature: 9°C (48°F); Direction: North. The forecast is sunny and a high of 24°C.(75°F). Tree buds are clearly visible.
Photo Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

Happy Passover (Pesach) to all who are celebrating this eight-day Jewish festival of freedom. The first seder begins tonight after sundown, which coincides with the 15th of Nisan in the Jewish calendar. And remember that if you are in the midst of overeating, you can take comfort in the words of the immortal song, Dayenu.