New Year’s Resolution #3: Write

1 03 2019

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
— Henry David Thoreau

This particular post also covers two other resolutions: to tap into community (#2), and to move more (#4, to come).

I am a member of a Natural Muse writers group run by my friend Cheryl Leutjen. Unfortunately over the past two years, I have not been very active—if you’ve followed this blog for any stretch of time, I don’t have to reiterate why.

The goal of the group is very John Muirish: we find places in nature to inspire us so we will write! Great idea, but not always doable for me as they meet during the week.

Fridays are my off day, so I have flex in my day to include such excursions. Dependent upon Cheryl’s writing and speaking schedule, she on occasion has Friday sessions; so I jumped on the opportunity to not only connect with my friend, but get my body moving in a different way, and enjoy the gorgeous post-rain weather.

The first Friday Natural Muse excursion was to Amir’s Garden on February 3rd. It was just a few days after some incredible rains, so the views were spectacular. You could see all the way to Downtown L.A. from one direction, and all the way to Century City and the Westside from the other.

After two years of letting writing fall to the wayside, I decided 2019 was the year to get serious, even if it is just blog posts. Sometimes the nature of my life is a cliffhanger, and people seem to respond to personal experiences; so may as well share while strengthening my writing muscles.

Amir’s Garden is a picnic area off the hiking trails in Griffith Park, cultivated over 40 years ago by Amir Dialameh. In the early 1970s, Amir was inspired to landscape the garden after a brush fire burned a solid portion of the hills. Amir often hiked in the hills along the Mineral Wells trail by the Los Angeles Zoo. He wanted to bring beauty to the now barren landscape, so he hauled plants, pick axe, and shovel up the trail, and began cultivating a garden. Amir worked as a wine salesman in the evening, so he had the days for this labor of love—and it definitely was. He cleared tree stumps, built a retaining wall with discarded fencing, terraced slopes, and built stairs to a created a picnic area with benches.

With little help from the city (what else is new?) Amir planted drought tolerant plants that provided shade, such as pine and jacaranda trees. He also planted trees and shrubs that provided vibrant color such as roses, geraniums, and yucca. Some of the trees that Amir hauled up the trail over 30 years ago are now sixty feet tall.

As knowledge of his endeavors grew, Amir received donations of plants, maintenance items, and irrigation equipment; but he never took money, and never asked for help. People just wanted to be a part of maintaining the garden that he created. In the late 1970s, volunteers began to come and help Amir further cultivate and maintain the grounds, and so it is to this day. Amir Dialameh died in 2003, leaving behind the legacy of a beautiful space for our inspiration and enjoyment.

His story and dedication speaks to an unwavering commitment, and the ability to create beauty from ashes. When it comes to my writing and other creative areas it often feels like that is all I do. So many times I thought I was on a trajectory to success, only to see it go down in flames. Brush fires in the 1990s again destroyed parts of Griffith Park and Amir’s Garden, but Amir rebuilt and continued on. His labor of love is a fine example of perseverance and belief in one’s vision. I have had the vision of being a successful, published, and working writer since I was 10 years old. That’s 42 years of my life dedicated to honing my craft, with fits and starts in between. Maybe one day after I am long gone, someone will be able to enjoy the legacy I hope to leave behind. I just have to keep building it.

Today, we had another Friday Natural Muse at Arlington Gardens in Pasadena. It was just me and Cheryl this time, and the day could not have been more different: Cool and overcast, with steely skies that signaled we have some rain coming our way.

The story behind this natural landscape could not be more different. Arlington Gardens was started two years after Amir Dialameh’s, by philanthropists Betty and Charles McKenney, and designer, Mayita Dinos. Their goal was to create a public, water-wise garden that celebrates Southern California’s Mediterranean climate. The garden demonstrates how beautiful and practical a well-planned, water-conserving and climate-appropriate garden can be.

Fourteen years later, the park is maintained by the city of Pasadena and the Department of Public Works. No labor of love, and definitely less inspirational, but still a beautiful spot to get some fresh air, physical movement, and get the creative juices flowing. Both Cheryl and I were in awe of the number of butterflies and hummingbirds that populated the garden, and flitted from tree to shrub with abandon. We also were amazed that Bamboo actually flowered—who knew?!

Like the other resolutions, I am making small, but consistent steps. Three months of regular blog posts is better than nothing, and I am in the throes of outlining a new narrative non-fiction book. Like Amir and his garden, I am rebuilding my writing life one tree and plant at a time.

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The Girl writes at Habibi Life for the Month of Love

5 02 2018

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Happy February!

SO honored to be a part of the month of self-love celebration at Habibi Life.

The beautiful Shahada Evans: entrepreneur, fellow Yoga instructor, and creative force,  has a delicious skin care product line and an awesome website to support it and the community that loves them some Habibi (me included).

In this month of February, typically dubbed the LOVE month, Shahada asked me to be one of the people to write for the blog about self love and self care, and I was totally down!

Give it a read, and check out the Habibi line while you’re there: Self Care vs. #selfcare.





The Little Writing Engine that Could…

1 02 2018

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“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” — Neil Gaiman

Words of wisdom from a writer I greatly admire.

Amazingly enough, I’ve been doing just that: putting one word, then another word, then a paragraph, then an entire piece. So my resolution to write has so far been flowing like water.

In case you’re not cognizant of my latest writings, I thought I’d talk about what I’ve been up to…

My latest features at Communities Digital News focus on what I do best: commenting on the union of popular culture and politics. It’s Oscar season, and the movie The Post is up for Best Picture, probably due to the film’s tortured attempt to connect the Republican administration of 1972 to the Republican administration of 2017. Read my review of the film and my take on this comparison at The Post: Katharine Graham’s feminist manifesto fails as propaganda.

The March for Life and The Women’s March occurred during the same weekend. One is a pro-life civil rights event that has spanned 45 years, the other a two-year old progressive-leaning affair that masquerades as a women’s right manifesto, but appears to merely be a rant against the current Republican administration. Seems to be a common theme. I compare and contrast them at The March for Life vs. the Women’s March: Which will stand the test of time?

The best reflection of one’s skill and worth as a writer is when you are invited to write by people you admire. In the short space of 2018, I have had two invitations to do just that! An up and coming millennial entrepreneur asked me to write a press release for a project that involves the marriage of clothing, art, and hip hop music, that was launched the week of the Grammys.

The beautiful CEO of Habibi Bath and Body has asked me to contribute to her LOVE SERIES throughout the month of February. I am working on sharing tips on self-care, and how to truly nourish and appreciate the skin that you are in!

Stay tuned for those links in a future post.





2018: New Year, New Soul

7 01 2018

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“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton is one of my favorite Christian theologians/thinkers. Like C.S. Lewis, he is less highbrow, and more akin to Christianity in work clothes. As intellectual as people say that I am, I relate to hands-on and sweat of the brow as much as I relate to the theoretical. But I digress…

I never share the resolutions that I make, but feel the need to put down them down online. Who knows, it may do wonders to make me more accountable:

  1. Read more books, and actually finish them. Like most of my friends, I have stacks of books waiting to be read. I started three books before 2017 (that is how pathetic I am), but never finished them. I need to complete them and track my completion of books. I used to read a book a week—it would be a good challenge to get back to that. Here are the books I need to complete: 1. Washington Spies by Alexander Rose. 2. Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace. 3. The Curse of Conservatism by Coleman G. Luck.
  2. Meditate more. It does wonders, but I need to set a consistent rhythm. Some changes are afoot in my schedule that will help that, so no more excuses.
  3. Up the home and studio practice. It was really abysmal in 2017. No excuses—I feel so much better when I practice at home, and I need to connect with my own studios and other studios in a greater way.
  4.  Write again. This dried up considerably in 2016, and died a slow death in 2017. The question is, how to feebly pick up the pen again? This blog post, and another article on my Communities Digital News page are a feeble beginning. Which leads me to…
  5. Ditch the perfectionism. I think Voltaire said it best: “Perfect is the enemy of good.” I can create the perfect project, article, meal, etc. but because I only have the materials to achieve “good”, I ditch the entire thing. Time to stop that; if I am not paralyzed by perfection, it will go a long way to my getting words on the page.
  6. Find ways to increase the voice: musically in particular, vocationally in general. Maybe unburying and dusting off the piano? Right now it is surrounded by boxes (long story for another blog post). Maybe taking another Kahmelson & Kahmelson class? Actually signing up for those songwriting expos I get invited to? The possibilities are endless, but I need to take action on just one.




In My Orbit: the legacy of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

16 08 2013
Over 200,00 marchers met on the Mall that day in 1963--are we honoring and living up to the legacy? Some are, others not so much (Wikimedia/USIA)

Over 200,00 marchers met on the Mall that day in 1963–are we honoring and living up to the legacy? Some are, others not so much (Wikimedia/USIA)

The Girl has been bouncing around her universe and the country, so the Blog has been a bit neglected. Sorry about that, and I plan to do better, even if it means shorter posts.

We are approaching the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. These types of milestones always get me reflective, as well as watching PBS and other documentaries like an obsessed person. My Washington Times Communities column does a bit of reflecting on what the legacy of this pivotal Civil Rights march means, and gives props to Don Lemon of CNN, and writer Danielle Belton for their perspectives. Give it a read.

Who I don’t give props to is Oprah Winfrey, and Russell Simmons. Oprah’s naked efforts at self-promotion with pegging a clerk’s supposed refusal to let her see a $39,000 purse as racism jumped the shark. Then to pretend she didn’t want to mention the name of the shop so as not to draw negative attention to them? You are frickin’ Oprah–the mere mention of it from your lips already did this. I am so glad that the shop owner and the clerk challenged her racism gripe. The whole brouhaha served its purpose, to promote her latest project, “The Butler”. I’ll wait for Redbox or DirectTV thank you very much. Way to go, Oprah: not only are you an entitled baby, but a poor example of honoring the legacy.

Russell Simmons ups the ante on Oprah by allowing a “Harriet Tubman sex video” on his All Def Digital YouTube site. Also an entitled baby, on top of being ridiculous and misogynistic, Simmons ultimately had the video taken down because his “buddies” at the NAACP asked him. Real big of you…

Simmons non-apology:

“‘I’m a very liberal person with thick skin,” wrote Simmons. “My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of actors said in the video, that 162 years later, there’s still tremendous injustice. And with Harriet Tubman outwitting the slave master? I thought it was politically correct. Silly me. I can now understand why so many people are upset. I have taken down the video. Lastly, I would never condone violence against women in any form, and for all of those I offended, I am sincerely sorry.'”

Pathetic.

But the NAACP takes the cake. A rodeo clown at the Missouri State Fair chose to don an Obama mask and mock the President. In poor taste? Probably. A hate crime? Doubtful. Rodeo clowns have done the same thing to former Presidents George H.W., Clinton, and George W. so was it hate speech when they did it to them? Michelle Malkin takes it one step further by reminding us of the truly hateful speech and imagery directed at President George W. Bush during his eight years. So please, NAACP, cry me a river…

It took a Texas senator to call this group on the carpet for its inconsistency on what issues they choose to become outraged about:

“’A rodeo clown is really a nominal thing and it hurt no one,’ Stockman told FoxNews.com. ‘They didn’t speak out when George Bush was being portrayed as a murderer. To become relevant again, they need to become more of an honest broker and not have contrived anger.’

Stockman said the NAACP would better serve its constituents by focusing on ways to decrease unemployment among the black community. He also noted that the national civil rights group was silent after a July incident on a Florida bus where three black teens beat a fellow white student.”

Ouch. That must have stung.

 





The Los Angeles Mayor’s Race, aka the Real Candidates of L.A. City (Part 1)

6 05 2013

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The Girl is less than thrilled over this Los Angeles Mayor’s race for obvious reasons: Kevin James did not make the runoff. He was the only Conservative running for the office, and whatever Conservative/Republican base we have left in Los Angeles decided not to show up at the polls. The apathy in this town is thicker than the smog.

So we are stuck with Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti, Liberal vs. Liberal City Council retreads, trying to out spend each other, and inspire the voting base to actually get out to the polls on May 21. Good luck with that….

My latest Washington Times Communities article talks about the overabundance of charisma that the departing Mayor Smilin’ Tony exuded–with little else besides that–and the lack of that same charisma exhibited from either of the two candidates:

“Villaraigosa clearly represents where we have come: the reality televisionization of politics. Substance no longer matters—give us drama, bigger-than-life personalities, and some good fights. Rome may be burning, but if you look good, and spin a good yarn while it happens, who cares? As this is the town that creates all those illusions in the first place, it should come as no surprise that L.A. is the poster child of the celebrity Mayor.”

Read the rest here.

Speaking of drama, Wendy Greuel appears to have a penchant for it. My man Kevin has already endorsed Eric Garcetti, in part because Garcetti is not completely bought and paid for by the city unions, like the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. LADWP has already poured millions into Greuel’s campaign, and will probably continue to do so up until the day of the election.

What’s that phrase? Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned ? Apparently Wendy’s fury is now directed at Mr. Kevin James.

A recent direct-mail campaign targeted at the African-American and Latino communities highlights, “Garcetti’s endorsement from white Republican Kevin James, who finished third in the March 5 primary.”

“‘He’s an Obama hater!'” the mailer says, highlighting some of James’ more intemperate remarks about the president. ‘Say no to Eric Garcetti! He sold us out to win Republican votes!'”

Beware the power of technology, Wendy. The Kevin James for Mayor website has posted the text messages between Wendy and Kevin, not too long after the primary election results. From my read, Wendy is practically chasing down Kevin for his endorsement. Of course, when she did not get it, suddenly Kevin is an evil monster who is racist, white (shock!), and right-wing.

It seems that Wendy knows how to go on the attack, but aside from being a woman, doesn’t rate at doing much else. Mayor Sam has documented well on his blog Ms. Greuel’s attacks against those she considers opponents, bombastic overreach during her years of “public service” , and constant grandstanding. I recommend giving it a read before you make a decision on who you will vote for on May 21.

And take a gander at this video posted by NearChaosBlog, basically confirming what we all fear: the woman has neither the ethics or experience to manage a city; she’s simply a rubber-stamped union toady, who wants to ride into office playing the female card. Joy.

Next week, Candidate Garcetti comes under the microscope.





In My Orbit…

11 01 2011

Digital Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What’s in my Orbit is what is rocking a lot of people’s worlds: the tragic shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and nineteen others in Arizona.  The current count is six dead, and others critically injured. Rep. Giffords, who was shot point-blank in the head, is in critical condition.

But the craziness of the act is compounded by the insanity of liberals and progressives who quickly lined up to blame “right-wing” hate speech, and their laundry list of conservatives they despise: Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Sharron Angle, Rush Limbaugh, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

What I don’t understand is why every crazy act in the past year that has resulted in people being held hostage or killed (save the Fort Hood Massacre) has its causation in supposed “right-wing” speech?  From James J. Lee, the Discovery Channel nut job, to Joseph Stack, who crashed his plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, to this terrible tragedy; the knee-jerk reaction is to blame conservatives and the right for people’s psychological distresses. In each of these cases it was shown that political ideology had little to do with their twisted decision-making. These were simply deeply disturbed people in need of psychiatric care.

Mother Jones pulls the covers off of the knee-jerk meme with an interview with a long-time friend of the alleged killer, Jared Lee Loughner:  Exclusive: Loughner Friend Explains Alleged Gunman’s Grudge Against Gifford.  The friend’s description of Loughner and his behavior sounds more paranoid schizophrenic, than right-wing zealot.

Reason.com‘s Nicholas Gillespie says it well in The Giffords Shooting, The Instant Politicization of Everything & Why Americans Increasing Hate Dems & Reps, skewering both sides of the aisle for using an appalling tragedy for political gamesmanship.

“Readers of this site know I’m no Sarah Palin fan, but to accuse her of complicity in the murderous spree of a clearly insane person is one of the main reasons that partisan political parties are losing market share. I had myself tweeted that blaming Palin for Jared Loughner’s mass killing would be like blaming J.D. Salinger for Mark David Chapman shooting John Lennon (and as Jesse Walker pointed out, in Chapman’s case, at least we could be sure Chapman had read Salinger). Given Loughner’s fixation on grammar and the supposed lack of literacy evinced by most Americans, maybe William Safire and S.I. Hayakawa should be held responsible.”

He continues:

“The problem isn’t with the current moment’s rhetoric, it’s with the goddamn politicization of every goddamn thing not even for a higher purpose or broader fight but for the cheapest moment-by-moment partisan advantage. Whether on the left or on the right, there’s a totalist mentality that everything can and should be explained first and foremost as to whether it helps or hurt the party of choice.”

I do give credit where credit is due, and leftist Salon writer Steve Kornacki also shows some reasoned perspective in Let’s Not Make this Something it Isn’t.

“At best, the connection between Palin’s behavior and Saturday’s tragedy is abstract. If anything, the shooting reinforces a point that James Fallows has made: The motives of political assassins rarely have anything to do with mainstream political debate and rhetoric.”

That is the tale that appears to be unfolding; all the other crap is inherently baseless, and only serves to stir up more mess, when what is most needed is an atmosphere where people can grieve and pray for the Rep. Giffords, the victim’s and their families.








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