Archive - Jun 2010
This August, Connecticut voters will go to the polls to select the Democratic and Republican nominees for Governor. Already the press releases are flying. Some are valuable, illustrating the strengths and ideas of various candidates. Some are simply annoying whining. To help make sense of this and to encourage candidates to show their strengths and help build a stronger Connecticut, I am instituting the Connecticut Gubernatorial Whine Index.
Last year, I established the CTNewsWire. It is a Google Group that politicians, candidates, advocacy organizations and government agencies can send press releases to in an effort to reach bloggers, citizen journalists, and other interested parties. So far, the press releases are predominantly from Democrats, with both of the Democratic Gubernatorial candidates sending their press releases.
To calculate the index, I read the press release and assign a whininess score. When a candidate lays out a position on an important issue, they get five points. When they make a comment that positively reflects their character by highlighting an endorsement, expressing concern about a recent development in the state, and so on, they get three points. Updates about coming events also score a point.
On the other hand, they lose points for whining about their opponent. If the whine has merit, they may only lose a single point. Typical whines lose three points, and when the candidates start behaving like spoiled kids in the back seat, they lose five points.
I went back to June 20th as the current start of the index. Over time, I intend to add any new press releases and perhaps dig back through older press releases.
For the current scores, I’ve looked at seven press releases from the Lamont campaign. Two are whiny, and the current Whine Index for the Lamont campaign is 3. The Malloy campaign has issued fifteen press releases covered by the Whine Index. Four of them are whiny. For a total score, the Malloy campaign currently stands at 9 on the Whine Index.
The Malloy campaign has issued about twice as many press releases as the Lamont campaign and about the same percentage of them are whiny. Let us hope that both campaigns focus a little bit more on the strengths of their candidates and how they can make Connecticut a better place, instead of wasting time whining about their opponents.
It was a cold January day on a remote highway in Idaho. A young man stopped to help other travelers who were trapped in an overturned truck. As the man was working to rescue them, another car skidded off the road and struck him at highway speed. That man was Lee Penn Sky.
On that grey day, Lee almost lost his life and nearly lost his leg; what he did lose was his fear. Until this day, Lee had been a prolific songwriter but never stepped from behind the shelter of a band into the spotlight himself. The risk of stepping into the spotlight seemed to pale in comparison to nearly losing his life.
I’m always skeptical when I read stuff like this. It feels too much like someone is trying to sell me something useless. I wonder about the parts of the story untold. I think, “Yeah, right, but what about the rest of us?” We all have our hurdles; our accidents on the road to Damascus.
Yet, since I was going to listen to his submission to the Orient Lodge Music Review via Sonicbids, I figured I should try to give him a fair hearing. It didn’t take me long to change my opinion. His music is really about all of us.
It’s been about two months since I first listened to his music. I put it near the top of my list, but there have been some other really good musicians fighting for recognition as well, so it is only today that I am getting around to this review.
Perhaps it is all timing and now is the time to write the review. Over the last week or so, one of my mother’s best friends died. A cousin died. Our dog died. Yeah, it’s been one of those weeks. At the memorial for my mother’s friend, some of us talked about all that is going on in the world. The BP oil slick, global warming, and conservative activists judges on the Supreme Court more interested in rewriting over a century of jurisprudence to protect large corporations, shield them from accountability and give them greater say in our electoral process.
Yeah, people were in a kind of down mood at the memorial. I tried to be upbeat, to recognize the power of individuals, reaching out in compassion to those around them, sending out ripples of hope. I spoke of nature’s power to heal and my recollection of run down parts of cities where nature has retaken the land.
Maybe it’s just a little bit like some guy getting hit by a car on a cold snowy Day in January as he tries to help out some people, and instead of getting bitter, stepping into the spotlight to sing his bitter sweet songs of hope in downtrodden situations.
It’s been a rough week, for me, for people on the Gulf Coast, for the widow of one of the men who died at the Kleen Energy explosion in Connecticut as she testified at a hearing calling for more protection for workers. In spite of it, I cling to the sort of hope that you hear in Lee Penn Sky’s music.
It is already hot, sticky and hazy at quarter of nine in the morning as I drive Fiona to camp. The town recreation director is sitting at the entrance to the camp dressed up in a silly outfit to welcome the young campers. “Oh yeah, I forgot about that,” exclaims Fiona.
I drive the old black car through the slalom of small cones to get to the drop off point. As we approach, Fiona shouts out, “Oh, I see two of my friends”. The green is covered with counselors wearing their Woodbridge Recreation Department T-shirts.
I pull the car to a stop and Fiona says, “I think I’m a mermaid this year”. Yup. Her group this year is called the mermaids. A counselor approaches the car and Fiona rolls down the window greeting the counselor saying, “I missed you so much”. The counselor checks what grade Fiona is going into and they are gone.
No longer are there tears of departure, fears of how much she will miss mommy or me, or other protestations. Nope. She is out of the car without so much as a ‘bye’, or ‘thanks for the ride’.
And so, summer camp begins.
(Cross-posted at the Woodbridge Citizen.)
It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I discovered the works of Virginia Woolf. A few years later, I had the good fortune to hear Angelica Bell Garnett talk at the Metropolitan Museum in New York about her childhood in the Bloomsbury Circle. There was something that resonated with me about her talk. I couldn’t put my finger on it and chocked it up to my fascination with their group.
Yesterday, it became clearer to me. I grew up in a similar circle. No, the Lull’s, Hynes’, Kelly’s, Lamont’s, Johanson’s, Seeley’s, Hatton’s and others were not famous painters, poets, philosophers and novelists the way the Bell’s, Woolf’s, Forester’s and others were, yet there was a lot in common.
Yesterday, remnants of the sewing circle gathered to remember a recently deceased matron of the group, Evelyn Lull. My childhood perceptions of the group are perhaps even less clear than Angelica’s perception of the group she grew up in, so these are my own recollections which may, or may not, relate all that closely to the facts of The Sewing Circle.
In the early sixties, my family and other families moved to Williamstown, MA. The men were engineers, coming to work at Sprague Electric. Sprague was a large capacitor manufacture that made components for industry, the military and NASA. The families of these men became a close knit group, The Sewing Circle. I don’t know how much The Sewing Circle was families whose patriarchs were engineers at Sprague, how much it was of mothers that knew each other from the parent teacher association, friends from church, from Scouting, or other circles. I know that my closest friends of my childhood came from this circle, and I went to school, scouting and church with these friends.
We would gather on summer evenings at one families’ house or another. Mothers would take care of the children of other mothers in the circle. Every so often, the mothers would gather for ‘Sewing Circle’. I remember these days fondly, not so much because of the prospect of being left home with older siblings or a babysitter, but because my mother would bake something special for the ‘Sewing Circle’ and bake an extra goodie for us as well. Tea rings were my favorite.
A couple years ago, Bill Seeley died. Bill was one of the fathers in this circle that had left Sprague to teach in local schools or colleges. Other’s had done the same thing, and these families seemed to survive the best. My father, Evelyn Lull’s husband, and others, stayed at Sprague until things got much worse.
It was America in the late sixties and early seventies. The country was at war. There was turmoil at home. Arts, feminism and pacifism were themes reshaping our society. Friendships were torn by this. Sprague was hit by a strike. Many families were torn apart, especially those of the men that stayed at Sprague.
I don’t know whatever happened between Roger and Evelyn Lull. As best as I can tell, Roger ended up with mental health problems, lost his job at Sprague and got a divorce. We kept going over to the Lull’s house out in the hopper. It was an old farm house by a creek, another one of those idyllic settings where we chased fireflies in the early summer evenings after having played in the hayloft, swum in the stream or jumped on an outdoors trampoline.
Evelyn, like my mother, and many of the other mothers in the sewing circle participated in the fine arts. Besides the fiber arts of knitting and crochet at The Sewing Circle gatherings, they painted, sculpted, and found other ways of expressing themselves artistically. As their families fell apart, they stuck together and supported one another. Evelyn was a special source of strength to many.
At the memorial, Evelyn’s brother-in-law, Mack, spoke of her as an important link in a long line of strong women. In the eighteen hundreds, Ida Stapleton sought to enter divinity school. Her husband was a missionary in Turkey, and she wanted to serve as well. She was denied so she became a medical doctor. Robert and Ida served in Ezroom Turkey during the Armenian genocide. Mack spoke about the strong woman that Ida’s daughter became, and then about Ida’s granddaughter Evelyn.
There were other stories told at the memorial. Stories about eating freshly caught fish for breakfast, alongside blueberry pancakes. People talked about what a great cook Evelyn was, a job she ended up doing professionally at Williams College after her divorce. There were stories about how Evelyn always spoke to everyone as an equal and how this had strongly struck so many children who had always felt talked down to by others. People talked about being taught to paint by Evelyn.
Vanessa Bell’s daughter, Angelica Bell Garnett was born on Christmas Day towards the end of World War I. Evelyn Lull’s daughter, Daphne was also born on Christmas Day, during the cold war. She is now an artist living in Italy. I don’t know if she read E. M. Forster’s Italian novels, but in my mind it is yet another parallel between The Bloomsbury Circle and The Sewing Circle.
Evelyn’s son Cliff now lives in a bucolic setting that echoes my childhood memories out in the hopper. There is a creek on the property that has been dammed up for swimming, a garden, and a house that has received a lot of work.
I also wonder how much I have passed on from Evelyn and The Sewing Circle to my children. The sense of talking to children as peers instead of down to them is something I always carried with me. I’ve taken flack from others for this, but I believe my children have grown up more expressive and better off for this.
At the memorial, a person commented that they always wanted to have their memorial service before they died. They were such interesting times and powerful chances to reconnect with one another. There is something to this. Too often, I’ve been to funerals where people talk about how they haven’t seen one another since the last funeral and they should get together in happier times. At one point, when Fiona was younger, we headed off to a family reunion, and when we explained this to her, she asked, “Who died?”
We need more chances to remember what is important about our families and social circles. We need reunions and celebrations and birthdays and anniversaries. We need the arts to remind us of beauty and things that matter.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.
Rest In Peace, Evelyn Lull.