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John Updike: I Miss The Gentleman of Letters

November 30th, 2011 by Michael Tabor

The first thing I used to do when I entered a bookstore was immediately go to the fiction/literature section and look under ‘U’ to see if the prolific Renaissance – man, John Updike, had written a new book. The reality is I could have found something new written by John Updike anywhere in the store.  Mr. Updike had such wide interests and was such a cultured, erudite intellectual (he wrote about golf, art criticism, book reviews, history, and much more) that perhaps I could have found a book he had recently published anywhere in the store, e.g., a new release located under art criticism; he had written two superb books on this topic called “Just looking” and followed it with “Still Looking.”
The humble John Updike characterized himself as “a freelance writer who writes on occasion about books, bringing to the task a rusty liberal-arts education, an average citizen’s spotty knowledge of contemporary issues and a fiction writer’s childish willingness to immerse himself in make-believe.’’ The aforementioned description of himself is modest indeed when you consider that the New Yorker magazine and many of his contemporary peers such as Saul Bellow and Phillip Roth viewed John Updike as not only one of the greatest novelists of the late twentieth century but also one of the pre-eminent critics of his day.
I am a regular reader of “The New Yorker” magazine and I sometimes forget that I’ll never see a new book review, piece of short fiction, or another essay on contemporary life written by the great John Updike. He lived until the age of 76 and it has been almost 3 years since his death on January 27, 2009. He churned out polished masterpieces like clockwork, averaging a book a year and that’s not including the hundreds of stories, poems, and reviews published in “The New Yorker” and “The New York Review of Books.”
Mr. Updike loved every aspect of life – living it, examining it under a microscope, and finally recording it with laser beam precision via pen and paper. The New York Times wrote shortly after he died that, “John Updike was obsessed with turning every thought into words, every observation into prose which was a testament to his love of writing, but also to his apparent drive to preserve everything, notable or not, in print.’ And how ever so true was this statement; John seemed to be interested in everything and his mind was a bottomless repository for knowledge. Updike was also a voracious reader (as all writers are) and not unlike the recently deceased Steve Jobs was quoted very often. He said that “love was wry, jokey, casual, and even weary but nonetheless ecstatic. ” He was also quoted as saying, “I glimpse the ordinary life and by merely observing and writing about it, I attempt to turn the mundane into inexhaustible and kaleidoscopic glory. ”
John Updike won every writing award under the sun (exactly 30) including two Pulitzer Prizes from the Rabbit series: “Rabbit is Rich” and “Rabbit at Rest.” There were five Rabbit novels beginning with “Rabbit, Run” published in 1960 and ending with “Rabbit Remembered” released in 2001. I have read all five of the novels and I have stated in one of my earlier blogs on literature that the “Rabbit” series ranks among  my favorite works of all time. In the end John Updike left us with 28 novels, 15 short story collections, 10 books on poetry, 13 books of nonfiction, essays, and criticism and 100s of magazine pieces on art criticism, literary criticism, and even children’s books and still, just like the Rabbit series, I wanted more- just one more. RIP John Updike, March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009.

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NBA Reaches A New Labor Deal: 1. Good News is it May Set Precedent For Future Dynasties 2. Bad News is Players and Owners Still Make Too Much $$ – Part 1

November 27th, 2011 by Michael Tabor
It has been a five-month ordeal that has culminated in some form of agreement; it’s a deal which will bring professional basketball back beginning on December 25 (yes Christmas Day) of this year. The NBA plans on nationally televising three games so we can lie on the couch all day and into the evening, drink beer, bet on the games, and maybe sneak in a nap or two while pretending to watch all 3 games this Christmas.
The NBA season will be shortened from 82 to 66 regular season games, which in my opinion is more than enough since unlike baseball, and very much like hockey, the post-season is interminable. All the papers, the internet, and other news sources have declared that the owners have come out on top in the negotiations and are clearly the big winners over the players. What makes the deal so attractive to the owners is the fact that the NBA is already a $4 billion dollar a year industry and now with this agreement, the owners have slashed player salaries by 300 million dollars. Included in the plan are new restrictions on contracts and team payrolls. What this means in plain English is the owners will have gained 3 billion dollars over the life of the 10-year agreement.  BUT – don’t feel sorry for the players, they will have their millions of dollars – they will earn more $$ than 99% of any of us hard-working middle class folks. What the news neglected to mention is the the consumer or fan. I was utterly shocked and appalled that there was no mention of the obscene cost to see a basketball game. Sure one can buy a ticket and get into Madison Square Garden to see the Knicks play for a little less than $100 but you will literally be seated in the last row. Believe me, you’re better off watching the game on TV; watching a basketball game is only good if you have front row seats (not unlike boxing or MMA) and unless you’re willing to pay $2,000 – $3,000 you can forget it. (Tomorrow I will blog about what we fans, the average American citizen, can do to strike back against the spoiled overly privileged athletes and the unspeakably filthy rich owners.Incidentally basketball is not the only sport that overcharges. Football tickets cost hundreds of dollars and even baseball tickets are alarmingly high-priced. )
Also as part of the agreement, the league will allow the best teams (& invariably the richest teams – I know there are exceptions but…) to keep their superstars and even acquire new talent. This is actually good for everyone: fans, players and owners. Everyone wants parity and the league to afford an opportunity for a small market team to make it to the “Big Dance.” However, fans love dynasties! When sports fans talk sports they always reminisce about the great sports dynasties, no matter what sport it is, e.g. the Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan from 1989 – 1998, the Los Angeles Lakers with Kobe and Shaq from 1999 – 2004, and in baseball, love ‘em or hate ‘em, the New York Yankees from 1996 – 2003, etc. (In another blog[s] I will write at length on the topic of sports dynasties).
So yes, the NBA was smart in being ever so mindful of the fans love for dynasties. The problem with football now, is the fact that there is just too much parity. When a football team becomes great, ultimately it must be broken up because as logic follows the stars demand more money and the team is unable to keep every key player because the franchise will go over the salary cap. How many super bowls do you think the Dallas Cowboys would have won in the 1990’s if there were no salary cap? Dallas went on to win 3 Super Bowls with Aikman, Irvin, and Smith but as we all know, football is a team sport and though the Cowboys were able to keep the three aforementioned superstars, they lost most of their unsung heroes. My guess is that if the Dallas Cowboys were not burdened by a salary cap, they may very well have won the big game every year in the ‘90s. (I know the Patriots won 3 Super Bowls with the cap, which makes their success all the more remarkable). So who knows, maybe this bit of wisdom about dynasties may migrate from the NBA to the NFL.
So whaDaYaThink ? What do you Think ? Do you side more with the players or with the owners? I personally stand by the fans and I think both the athletes and the owners ought to be ashamed of themselves; making obscene amounts of money in this dreadful economy. The headlines ought to have read something akin to “Players and Owners Reach Deal: Owners Will Make More Money Than Ever and the Players Will Still Make Tens of Millions of $$; The Cost Will Be Passed On to The Fans As Usual” It’s time for the fans to strike back and boycott most spectator sports (not all, i.e. MMA fighters literally risk life and limb for a fraction of what A-Rod makes). I know this is and always has been an issue of supply and demand , however, with the pinch of this economy and the shrinking middle class, it seems as though only celebrities and the affluent can see the games in person See you tomorrow.
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Jane

November 26th, 2011 by Magdalena Tabor

I am Jane.

Lost on the moors.

Heath and heather

My bed.

My sustinence.

My bread.

Thirsting for the rock

That pools the rain.

The wind as blameless

As I am Jane.

 

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The Gentle Art of Raking Leaves

November 23rd, 2011 by Magdalena Tabor

In the past weeks and days an overall whirr is heard. At first I thought someone was taking a last swipe at mowing the lawn until I glimpsed the source of this distinctive sound. The dreaded Leaf Blower! I cannot abide the thing. It’s noisy, wasteful (to the conservation minded) and a great annoyance to neighboring households that have just completed their own clean-up which, by the way, used the same contraption to blow their leaves to your side of the property line. Tit for tat? Or just plain lazy?
What ever happened to the good old fashioned rake? Most people hate the very idea of exerting all that energy but just think of the workout you’re getting! I opt to handle the fall clean-up myself (declining the offer of my lawn service how ever tempting) and always wait until the huge Oak tree out front has finished undressing. By then it’s hoped that enough windy days will have passed to clear most of the debris to the four corners of the earth (or the four corners of my neighbor’s yard who happens to use a leaf blower). When the stubborn piles refuse to go and I can bear the unsightliness no longer, I will choose The Perfect Windless Day. This has thus far proven ineffective year after year, for no sooner than the first neat little pile is made, the wind will rear its ugly head and scatter them every which way. I swear softly to myself at first but the profanity becomes ever more audible and creative with each passing gust. I then begin to work up a sweat, removing the outer layer of clothing and hang it on a nearby trellis (or simply throw it on the ground, whichever is handier). I begin again – raking, piling, bending, scooping, hefting bag after bag to the garage door where I count the fruits of my labor with utter satisfaction. Why, I repeatedly ask myself, don’t people rake anymore??? Why, just look at what I’ve accomplished!
My clothes become a magnet for every leaf particle of Oak, Japanese Maple, Bartlett Pear and whatever else the woods across the way will toss at me. And toss it will. However, remember, I am a modern (or not so modern) day pioneer, stubborn and resourceful, sticking to her guns in the face of adversity. And when I’m through, by now fatigued beyond fatigue, and the last leaf is left on the lawn (okay, you win), I count the accumulated bags – 8 (count `em) 8 bags in all! With a sigh of contentment (or is it relief?) and in a groan of defeat (for the back portion of the property awaits renewed enthusiasm) I stumble bleary-eyed into the house.
The aches and stiffness (what is wrong with me?) experienced the day after is a rude reminder of my exercise in tackling nature’s offerings. And I’m only too happy to do it. Why? Because I’m still young enough, fit enough, and able-bodied. I AM WOMAN! Anyone hear a tarzan yell? Or was that Carol Burnett? Yes, the gentle art of raking leaves, if a lost one, is a gentle nudge toward time unstoppable. Happy Fall!
So……………..whadayathink? What’s your take on fall clean-up? Or do you even bother?

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Happy Hour! Massachusetts Considering Bringing Back Excessive Drinking

November 16th, 2011 by Michael Tabor

The title of this blog at first glance doesn’t seem right and quite frankly sounds outrageous, but after giving this considerable thought I think it’s most apropos and fitting that I chose to write this heading. It means exactly what it states. The State Senate passed an amendment to bring back “happy hour” which the former Governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, painstakingly worked some 27 years ago to put a ban on; the name happy hour and the practice of offering free drinks or discounts only encourages people to drink excessively within a short period of time.
A letter written to The Boston Globe reads as follows: “This will give badly needed employment to people in many sectors of our economy, including emergency room staffs, funeral home employees, grave diggers, and monument makers.” This is obviously an inflammatory response and I wouldn’t personally make such a provocative statement, but one cannot deny that happy hour promotes binge drinking and can ultimately lead to the aforementioned.
Some advocates of happy hour maintain that casinos give away free drinks as standard operation and wonder why bars and other such establishments ought to be denied the right to do the same. I think the answer to this is obvious: people patronizing a casino are there to gamble and are not looking to just get intoxicated; furthermore, a casino provides an overnight place to stay and one is not inclined to get drunk and immediately get into his or her car.
The only people I can ever imagine being upset about a no “happy hour” law are bar owners and heavy drinkers. College students who don’t have much spending money may also be heard complaining about these laws. According to the New York Times, a 23 year old graduate student from Cambridge was quoted as saying, ‘I’m a grad student; I can’t afford a bunch of drinks at a price of $5.50 a beer.” My response to someone who says this is – good! The fact that young college students are doing much of the heavy drinking makes the lifting of the ban all the more disturbing. Everyone ought to know that more than three drinks within an hour would put you over the legal driving limit especially for a woman who may be smaller.
This is a no-brainer; keep the ban on happy hour and let us crack down hard on drunken driving. So WhadaYaThink ? What do you Think? I was a college student once and I loved happy hour. However, I also used to drink too much; and I know for a fact that I drank more when the drinks were free or discounted. To save money, I would drink as much as I possibly could within that hour or two. This just is just common sense.

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Soul Effigy

November 14th, 2011 by Magdalena Tabor
Saint Cecilia
Give me words.
A language
As yet unheard.
Winged seraph
Or wingless bird.
Soul effigy
Undeterred.

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Michael Jackson Trial: Doctor is Guilty of Reckless Criminal Negligence

November 12th, 2011 by Michael Tabor

This is a terribly tragic story; disregard the fact that Michael Jackson was arguably the most famous and dubiously notorious pop star in history. A man, a human being needlessly died at the hands of Dr. Conrad Murray who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and acting with reckless criminal negligence.
It has been more than two years now since Michael Jackson has died at the age of just 50 and the world will never see the eccentric man perform his trademark ‘moon walk’ ever again. Despite charges and accusations of pedophilia, Jackson still maintained a huge following worldwide. There were actually thousands of those fans outside the courthouse awaiting justice to once and for all be served.
Dr. Conrad Murray spent almost every night with Jackson administering powerful sedatives to ensure that the very troubled and drug addled star could get some peace and finally get to sleep. Testimony showed that Jackson would beg Dr. Murray for the tranquilizers and if the sedatives were not enough to allow him to sleep, the Dr. would stupidly and criminally give him propofol , a surgical anesthetic which as fate would have it, ultimately kill him. Only a “witch doctor” or quack would give his patient surgical anesthesia for sleep, which is why it took the jury only a day and a half to digest the 22 days of testimony from 50 witnesses to render the correct verdict of guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Murray faces up to 4 years of prison time and obviously, he will be stripped of his license to practice medicine.  I don’t think 4 years is nearly enough, after all he’ll probably get out early for good behavior or some other inane reason and write a book (which I’m sure would be a best seller) and be financially set for life. Meanwhile, a man is dead at the age of 50 because of this Doctor.
I’m sure Dr. Conrad Murray would have been fired and replaced with another crooked and unscrupulous physician had he refused to give Jackson the potent drugs. An anonymous person from an AA meeting once said if you’re an addict and you are rich and famous it’s virtually impossible to remain sober. A high profile celebrity can always find a personal doctor who will abandon his or her Hippocratic Oath for $150,000 a month, which was what Dr. Conrad Murray was paid.
So WhaDaYaThink ? What do you Think? The prosecution described Dr. Murray as a money-hungry physician with no scruples and who treated Michael Jackson as a pharmaceutical experiment.  The defense stated that according to Murray, Jackson said “Just make me sleep, it doesn’t matter what happens.”

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Last Leaf

November 10th, 2011 by Magdalena Tabor

Bare branches.

Emptiness.

In full view of

Loneliness.

The sky wrestles

With unrest

And a last leaf skips in a dance.

 

I’m hollow.

Aren’t you?

I’m so full of

Solitude.

So restless

And unimpressed

As a last leaf skips in a dance.

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Herman Cain Must Address the Sexual Harassment Accusations

November 7th, 2011 by Michael Tabor
I’m sorry Mr. Cain but it’s time for you to come clean and clear the air about all these recent sexual harassment accusations.
What has probably been going on since men and women have been working together, it surprised me to discover that the term “sexual harassment” did not even exist until 1976.It is no longer, nor ought it be acceptable for women to have to work for a male boss who makes sexual innuendo. Ever since the Clarence Thomas – Anita Hill hearings held back in 1991, not just blatant sexual harassment (groping) but even mere sexual overtures are a “NO – NO” in the workplace. I agree with the aforementioned whole-heartedly and it just isn’t fair for a woman to have to feel prodigiously uncomfortable or dread going to work because her employer has lustful feelings toward her and exhibits it.  A male boss can literally destroy a woman’s professional career.
Obviously, any woman (a spurned, disgruntled, or an agenda-ridden employee) can make accusations, but it seems more than a little suspicious that at least three women have now come forward. What are you hiding from Mr. Cain? Furthermore, why did you give them severance pay and force them to sign confidentiality agreements? There is something rotten in Denmark Mr. Cain and it’s incumbent upon you to let the American public know. It’s your duty and responsibility to be forthright, after all you are a candidate for the most important job in the world.
If he is indeed innocent, then why is he being so evasive about the accusations? He has issued nothing but contradictory statements; instead of answering questions, all he has done is point fingers and accuse the Perry or Romney campaigns of leaking the information.
So WhaDaYaThink ? What do you think? Do you think Herman Cain is guilty of sexual harassment? I read in the New York Times today that what made Herman Cain so appealing to many conservatives is that he has a kind of a folksy and straight-talking way about him. He certainly isn’t being candid and plainspoken now. Or, maybe the American public doesn’t care about his ethical behavior; perhaps all we want is someone to pull us out of this economic mess of ours. After all Bill Clinton had sex with an intern but the economy was good.

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For Emily (based on S.I.T.A.C)

November 6th, 2011 by Magdalena Tabor

Deep lies the Connemara marble,

Vessel for goddess or vessel for God.

Drink of the potion for self preservation,

Language of poets. Land of Nod.

 

Blessed by the saints in the heavens above them,

Oh, to taste of the sacraments vows!

Chalices chip and charter the journey,

Searching the soul  in a sea of hows.

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