I went to see Boyhood last night with a friend. The movie follows the life of a family through twelve years, and we watch the two children growing up. The movie especially tuned into Mason’s, the young boy’s, story as he ages from six years old to eighteen. In case you don’t know, the children acually grow up on-screen, and Patricia Arquette, the mother, and Ethan Hawke, the father, play their roles year in and year out for twelve years, aging onscreen along with the children.

In many ways, this family portrays the typical American family in that it includes divorce (three for Arquette’s Olivia), the striving to make something out of your lost life (Olivia goes back to college and becomes a university professor), surrendering to conformity (Hawke’s Mason Sr. finally settles down with wife number two and buys a conservative mini-van), and the plight of the free-thinking child (Ellar Coltranes’ Mason), when adults-in-general try to suppress his creativity.

Even though the story belongs to Mason, I found Arquette’s Olivia to be the most interesting character. She is fascinating to watch as she goes through life looking for meaning and never really finding it. She portrays a most elegant boredom, the plight of someone who never really wakes up even though they try and try.

Olivia does many things right. She goes back to school. She receives an MA. She gets the job of her dreams. She becomes a good teacher. She raises children who turn out to be good human beings. Yet she fails in her personal life in regard to finding men who may give her the substance that she searches for.

It is easy to gloss over her first marriage as she was young and pregnant. Mason Sr. was and is a fun guy, full of spontaneity but not big on responsibility. He doesn’t see his kids for many years and she struggles to raise them. When he does come back into their lives, he adds levity to the situation, and does turn into a good dad, but he is not someone Olivia trusts to be there when she needs financial help.

Her second husband owns a big brick home and is financially stable. He takes her to Paris on their honeymoon and he seems like a good guy. At first. But then we witness his critical nature and his alcoholism zooms out of control, leading her to leave him.

Her third husband seems more promising. Younger than Olivia, he is a student in one of her classes, an ex-serviceman who has served his country. He is someone with a sense of moral integrity she finds so attractive. Yet parenting overwhelms him and he turns resentful and the distance between them widens. Exit husband number three.

Each man represents something that Olivia needs. Her first husband represents fun and goofiness and joy. Her second husband represents home and financial stability. Her third husband represents moral character and ethics. If only she could merge the three of them to make the perfect husband.

Olivia has never really lost herself in love. Her life has been about struggle. She is understated, and except for one scene in which we see her engaged in teaching her class, we rarely see her inner life firing up her passion.

Life is a series of doors Olivia must open and walk through while she hopes to find herself, yet ultimately they lead nowhere. We get the feeling that what she needed was a new set of doors, that the ones she opened were not meant for her.


Classic titles rewritten to apply to Ferguson…. #FergusonBooks

Here’s a few I’ve written:

A Comedy of Errors at the Ferguson Police Department…

Portrait of a City…

The Portrait of a Police Officer as a Young Man…

Dangerous Liaisons in Ferguson

Some of others:

White Pride and Prejudice

The Great Gassing

Crime and Lack of Punishment

The Catcher in the Lie

Tanks for the Memories

One Hundred Years of Platitudes

The Devil Wears Blue

Darren Wilson: the person I’d least like to be today…

Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who fatally shot unarmed teenager Mike Brown, gets my vote for the person I’d least like to be today. I would not want to be hated by so many people, and in so many parts of the world. I would not want to be in hiding in fear of my life. I would not want to have to deal with the fact that I killed someone, and in such a brutal way, and that my actions have created so much misery for Mike Brown’s family, and that my actions could not be rewound, and that I could not get another chance to play it out differently.

Speaking of the police…

The police are going to have to do a lot of PR work to clean up their image. We constantly see them videotaped or photographed while beating up and murdering people, black people that is, Hispanic people, dark people, and white people too. Sometimes I think they must check off a box marked Racist or Hates Teenagers or Have a Bad Anger Problem in order to get the job. A friend and I were talking about police brutality the other day and bandying about ideas of how to fix this problem. Here’s what I came up with:

You have to make white cops, and cops in general, get it. By getting it I mean that they have to care about the people they serve. They need to go into people’s homes and have dinner with them, talk to them, get to know them. In order to protect a community you have to know that community and you have to have a stake in it.

Before I retired from teaching, there was a physics teacher at the school where I taught, and each Tuesday night he went to the home of a different student and had dinner with their family. He did this every year. This way he got to know the student on a casual basis, he got to see behind the scenes, so that when the student had problems he could put a face to the person he was talking to when he called the student’s home, he knew what the parent or caregiver looked like, he had met them, broken bread with them.

I believe that every Tuesday, or Wednesday, or whatever, the police should have breakfast or lunch or dinner with the people they serve. I believe they should have monthly barbecues with the community, things like that where they mingle and talk. The more involvement between the police and those they serve – in good ways – the better. In places like Ferguson, Missouri, where all but three people on the police force are black, and where the whites live in a different community, one with more money, one with more priviledge, this is a set-up for bad things to come. There has to be a dialogue between people, between white cops and black residents, because otherwise there’s no chance to work on racism. We’ve all got it. We just need to fix it. And it’s a lot harder to be racist against somebody you kind of like.

Look, I know this is simplistic. I know the answer is much bigger than this. I know a lot more measures need to be taken. This is a complex problem and it calls for al kinds of action. But this could greatly help…

Okay. So there you have it. My solution to police brutality in under five hundred words…

Sexy Pants

I am 67 years old so I guess I’m a senior citizen. Normally, people don’t pay that much attention to me on the street. Often, when I’m in stores, teenagers walk straight into me because at 67 I’m not on their radar. Other people don’t see me either – not a whole lot of eye contact goes on in public. I am invisible in the way that we are all invisible to each other. Men rarely glance at me, no matter how young or old they are. All of this is not true, however, when I wear a certain pair of tights, the black ones with the big roses wandering all over them. I call them my sexy pants. When I wear these pants, everything changes.

They’re just tights like the rest of the tights I wear, only these have magical powers. They attract attention like crazy. Whenever I wear these tights in public I give off pheromones. Suddenly people who would never notice me notice me.

Take yesterday, for example. It was a nice day out, which is rare in the San Francisco neighborhood where I live, and I decided to get a lot of my errands done. I walked all the way to the library, which took at least half an hour, and this is where the first two incidents occurred. Browsing around, I picked a few books off the shelves, and when a middle-aged man was blocking my way, I said a polite Excuse me. “Oh, of course,” he said with more enthusiasm than what one would expect, and I immediately thought Pants. It’s the pants… A few minutes later, when I sat down to look over the books I’d chosen as possible reads, an elderly man walked over to talk to me, feeling the need to show me the David Baldacci novel he was planning on reading. He had this big smile on his face, this boyish look on his face, like he was falling in love.

It continued. All the way from the young bus driver who broke into a smile when I got on the bus, to the gentleman who got up and chivalrously offered me his seat even though there were several vacant ones, to the male customer at Walgreen’s who wanted my opinion on which dish detergent he should buy. Believe me, none of this ever happens to me when I wear different pants.

On my way home I was walking down the block when a strange thing happened. I looked up to see a young woman advancing down the street toward me. She was maybe twenty-five or thirty and had a large, open face and a ready smile, and she was wearing a pair of black tights very similar to mine. Similar except that instead of roses hers had some crazy design on them. As we passed each other we both glanced at each other’s pants.

“Hey, I like your tights,” she said. I smiled, telling her that I had been about to say the same thing to her.

Columbia Student Carries her Mattress around Campus for Rape Awareness


“On the first day of her sophomore year of college, Emma Sulkowicz was raped in her dorm room bed. The Columbia University senior says the perpetrator was a fellow student. He still is — and has been since he allegedly assaulted Sulkowicz and two other female students. As Sulkowicz reported in Time earlier this year, all three cases against her offender were dismissed. So, she’s not taking it anymore.

After joining a federal complaint in April over Columbia’s mishandling of rape cases and speaking out about the school’s failure to address her assault, Sulkowicz is now embarking on yet another effort — an artistic one — to make change on campus. For her senior thesis project, the visual arts major will perform what she is calling “an endurance art piece,” in which she will carry around a standard twin-size dorm room mattress with her everywhere she goes, until her rapist is removed from school.”

          It’s so tiring hearing about rape in the news and how much energy and time women devote to trying to keep from getting raped (ie… I’m thinking of the new anti-rape nail polish that once put in your drink is supposed to change colors if a roofie is present) to getting raped to what we do after being raped (ie… the above scenario in where a Colombia University student will drag a mattress around with her on campus to her classes.) It’s not easy by any means being female in this society.

          The question that arises in my mind is what we could be doing for ourselves instead if the prospect and burden of rape were lifted. Just like I ask myself what young black males could be doing for themselves if the prospect and burden of police brutality was lifted. If that stress wasn’t present. If we just went about our day. And night. Not worrying about lurking possibilities.

          Maybe we could concentrate better. Maybe we could laugh more. Maybe we could, who knows, feel a whole lot less stress and our happiness quotient would rise. Maybe we could trust people, not be in a world where violence was a given threat against us.

          I know how hard it is for me just to carry my purse and a bag of groceries around. Add to that a single dorm mattress and I think I’d get tired pretty quickly. I know the point of this exercise is to engage others to help you by offering to carry the mattress for you, to help you with your burden, to symbolically help you with the load, but how nice it would be to go to your first day of the semester and be thinking about your courses, and if something dire had happened to you, to be able to trust the university to take you seriously and be there to protect you and other women. Not to have to dream up some way to get their attention and to make your point.