Politics At the Academy Awards In Los Angeles

Politics at the Academy Awards In Los Angeles

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.” Winston S. Churchill

First part written on Saturday

I do usually cringe when celebrities use award shows to promote their political views. Trump is all Americans talk about these days anyway so I don’t think we will get though the Academy Awards without him. The Trump supporters will be disgusted by the out of touch Hollywood elitists who are trying to tell the normal people what to do. The liberals will say the overpaid celebrities are making it worse. The ceremony takes place in California and Hilary won easily here so we pretty much know how they feel. I think a few will be brilliant and most won’t. Something political will happen with best Foreign Film.  I liked Salesman the best  so I’m hoping for a win. It would be cool if Moonlight won.  Jimmy Kimmel is a given for political commentary, though he will probably tone it down for the event.  I hope it doesn’t turn into and the best anti Trump moment is. I think the speeches will be more about inclusion and diversity. Some of us are still PC.

To be continued tomorrow


Well, I was pleasantly surprised. The show was a bit more stripped down and low-key than usual. It was going along smoothly and predictably. Everyone I wanted was winning. Jimmy Kimmel was the Greek chorus. A lot of it was expected  but he had a few really funny lines. In his praise of Meryl Streep for  her many overrated and underwhelming performances (Trump tweet), he asked if she was wearing an Ivanka? He told  all the people who worked for CNN and anyone with the word Times in their job – even Medieval to leave the room.

Viola’s speech was better than even I thought it would be. August Wilson would have been proud. Salesman won which it should have. The most powerful political statement of the evening  was read for the film’s director Asghar Farhadi who did not come in protest of the travel ban. All the “immigrants’ (I know because they said they were immigrants – I wasn’t judging)  expressed their disapproval and solidarity.

 Hollywood did what it does best at the Oscars. Hollywood celebrated its own with beautiful dresses, humor, reverence and appreciation. The attention was focused on the people in the room and the magic and healing of movies. Candy was flying everywhere. 

The reality is that I’ve always been a fan of the simple thank you at award shows. It was a simple thank you kind of night.

And then Oscar history was made. Presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway accidentally announced the wrong winner for best picture. I was worried when they came on. Warren always seems dazed to me and they are both way too vain to wear their glasses onstage. I was expecting some uncomfortable banter about that.  After La La Land’s producers made their thank you speeches, they were told it was a mistake and Moonlight had won. “This is not a joke.” and I quote.  Everyone was as dazed and confused as Warren (who apparently had been handed the wrong envelope).  It was a perfect Hollywood Ending with a twist.

Fly safe,


Staying Sane In An Insane World

“The most insane things can become normal if you have them around you long enough. A mind can’t seem to hold anything too crazy for too long without finding a way to make it seem normal.” Deb Caletti

You can get used to anything. You think you can’t but you can. When I came home from New Zealand I had horrible anxiety every time I turned on the TV. There was another Presidential order that was always badly rolled out and more protests. There is way too much bad news bombarding us twenty-four hours a day.

A few weeks later, I just feel numb. I am becoming desensitized. Things were said today  that went almost unnoticed. A month ago they would have been front page news. What is going on in America is wrong and it takes all my sanity to get through the day. In the midst of all this I am trying to live a conscious life of kindness and intelligence. Just because America is going insane does not mean that I have to follow.

The cause of these external events have been a long time in the making. They did not just happen. There are no simple answers. Finding a scapegoat to blame sounds very fascist to me. It’s the Muslims. It’s the Feminists. It’s the Immigrants. It’s the Jews. It’s the NRA.  It’s the Whites. It’s the Blacks. It’s ISIS. It’s the Environmentalists. It’s the Left. It’s the RIght. It is so convenient to have someone to blame – especially when said in a confident, authoritative voice. It’s becoming really hard to separate the real threats from the manufactured ones.

Here are some real threats. There are 117 suicides in the U.S. each day compared to 43 murders. There are 129 deaths from accidental drug overdoses. Ninety six  people a day die  in automobile accidents (27 of whom aren’t wearing seat belts)There are 1,315 deaths each day due to smoking, and 890 related to obesity, and all the other preventable deaths from strokes, heart attacks and liver disease.

I need meditation and yoga in my life now.  I can’t exhale this out. Beaches and travel help. I allow a short time period to watch the news and take days off. It looks to me like all this fear mongering is illogical. We are the biggest threat to ourselves.

Fly safe,


When Bad Weather Happens To Good Travelers

When Bad Weather Happens To Good Travelers

“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.”  Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

I’m a planner. When I plan a trip, I research the weather and I try to travel when the weather in that country is great.  I have always had good weather luck. The bad weather usually clears up before I arrive or begins after I leave. Until now. I just returned from a road trip through New Zealand. It is really the best way to see New Zealand. Whether you are staying in  a different hotel every night, camping or driving a motor home, as long as you can drive on the opposite side of the road, it’s the way to go. (Tongariro National Park)


The first half of the trip was great. (Hawkes Bay)


It was unseasonably cold for a New Zealand summer but sunny and beautiful.(Marlborough)


 We had the ten-hour drive detour because of the damage from the Kaikoura earthquake  (me after ten hours in Methven) .


I’m not a great passenger or driver so road trip were not words in my vocabulary. 


Music helped. Prepare your playlists beforehand. Stretching and peeing every time you have a rest stop is useful. Your body will thank you later.  Bring food, snacks and water with you. I’m always prepared to be the lifesaver in a threatening situation.  Work out your anger before you sit in a van for two to four weeks. You don’t want it stuck in your head. If being a whiner is your normal state, try to get it under control. The thing about being in a van for ten hours is that  you are doing something, but you aren’t really doing anything. (Canterbury)


The great part of road trips is that every day is different. Tomorrow brings new landscapes, new towns, new attractions, and new hotel rooms.  (Lake Tecapo)


We drove the next day for several hours  to Mount Cook. I was looking forward to taking a helicopter to the top of that glacier. I was ready. I had my glacier hiking gear which I lugged from Los Angeles. The next morning it was raining, windy, and very foggy.


It was not the kind of rain that was going to clear up in an hour.  It was animals lining up in pairs rain.  This was only the beginning. It rained for the next several days. There was snow on the mountains in summer. Activities were canceled. We kept driving.


New Zealand  is all about outdoor adrenalin rush activities. There aren’t a lot of museums on the road and if  there are any, they are closed.  It is not fun driving for hours looking at nothing but rain and fog. There aren’t a lot of photographic pit stops. Having ice-cream blended with fresh fruit  served by a cute guy  was the highlight of the day. (Cromwell- the fruit bowl of New Zealand)


Life’s trials will test you and shape you. When I got to Queenstown after two wet days of driving, I was riding up a mountain in a gondola with a Swiss mother and daughter. I was cold, wet and depressed. The last thing that I wanted to be doing was still sitting. They were smiling.” Why are you smiling?,” I asked. ”We are on holidays. We are having fun. We are happy.”

They were right. Optimism is a choice. It was funny, laughing about the road food, weather and the fact that everything was closed most of the time. Those are the travel stories. I got off the gondola. The view of Queenstown is magical and the rain gives it an other worldly middle earth quality. It took my breath away.


At the top of the mountain, far away from the US  was a Jelly Belly store. For those of you who don’t know me, Jelly Bellys are my favorite candy. I never leave the country without them but they quickly run out. It was one of those stores with individual flavors that you can mix and match. I took it as a sign from God to get my act together. They were right. I was on holiday – just different from what I planned.  I carefully picked thirteen flavors (They were in packages). The girl told me that if I picked seven more it would be almost the same price (which was high for Jelly Bellys). I can’t resist a deal but I also knew I would make myself sick.  I saw two little boys  and told them it was their lucky day and to choose seven packets of Jelly Bellies. They ran into the store. Their grandparents followed and I explained why I did it. They laughed and the whole family started telling me things they loved to do there when it was raining.


I walked back from the gondola to the hotel in the rain. It was Queenstown, full of young adventure seeking people and everything was open late. I found myself in front of Fergburger –  a Queenstown hamburger institution and got in the queue. I forgot for a minute how lucky I was to be in New Zealand and about to have the famous Fergburger.  Rain will do that to you if you let it.


Fly   safe,


Driving To Rotorua, New Zealand

Driving To Rotorua, New Zealand

“There came a time, he realized, when the strangeness of everything made it increasingly difficult to realize the strangeness of anything. “James Hilton, Lost Horizon

In theory, a road trip sounds very appealing. A road trip through New Zealand sounds really cool. Since I get carsick, I don’t have much road trip experience.  I was willing to give it a go to see New Zealand.

An hour and a half out of Auckland is the Karangahake Gorge. It is a great place to go walking and I wish I had spent more time there. There are hard walks, bush walks, easy walks, abandoned mines, railroad tunnels (bring a torch because they are dark and long), river walks and waterfalls. It is a hike (or tramp as they say in New Zealand) through history and nature at its best.


You start by crossing a big swing bridge. It is always fun crossing a big swing bridge.


In 1885 it was a prosperous goldmine. By 1920, the gold had run out and there are remnants of the machinery and buildings of a century ago.


There are mining tunnels that you can explore built into the mountain but you should bring better light than just the torch on your iPhone. We found the train tunnel.


It was dark, wet and the ground is uneven. I found it mildly frightening because you can’t see a way out.


At first, it was adventurous using my iPhone torch to hike but it went on for a little too long for me.  I decided to retrace my steps and go walk by the river and find the waterfalls instead.


We continue on to Rotorua. When early missionaries to the shores of Rotorua stumbled upon the great sprays of water that shoot into the air and the pools of bubbling, boiling mud, they must have thought they were getting a glimpse at the fires of hell itself – a view undoubtedly reinforced by what seems like the stench of rotten eggs that fills the region.


Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland. There is a strong Maori presence in Rotorua. They saw themselves as the guardians of these lands.

We go directly to the Hot Spring Pools which are located in Manupirua Bay on Lake Rotoiti. It is only accessible by boat.


The boat is beautiful and completely refurbished  with an expert crew of women. The captain was pregnant. http://www.purecruise.co.nz


There are different mineral-rich outdoor pools to soak in. These are fed by a natural spring and vary in heat temperature. They are just meters from the very cold lake edge. It is good to jump in a cold lake to get the sulfur off and close your pores.


The next morning I opted for a mud bath and massage. How could you not go to a spa called Hell’s Gate? Hell’s Gate is the only Maori owned geothermal park in New Zealand. The English name came from the playwright George Bernard Shaw who visited in the early nineteen hundreds. He said that he was sure this must be the gateway to hell that his colleagues said he would pass through as long as he remained an atheist. The Maori kept the name. http://www.hellsgate.co.nz/


It is owned by the Ngati Rangiteaorere tribe of Maori who have lived on this special site for over 700 years. It is on a volcanic plateau.


You start with a walk through the mud pools, erupting geysers and hot springs.


The signs tell the Maori myths and stories of those pools.


It takes about forty-five minutes to do the walk.


I was kind of in awe of the special landscape.


I went on to the mud bath where I was given a container of mud to cover myself with. (sorry no photos)


After twenty minutes, you rinse off in cold water and go into the sulfur pools, followed by a massage. Yes, your pores will exude sulfur for the next twenty-four hours from the mud but your skin will be very smooth and the area smells of rotten eggs anyway so no one will notice. It was the best mud bath experience I have ever had and highly recommend it.


Volcanic activity over thousands of years created large craters that filled with water to form the  lakes throughout the Rotorua region. They are steeped in Maori history.  (Lake Tikitapu- Blue Lake)


The geothermal theme park of Wai-O-Tapu is about 20 minutes’ drive south of Rotorua,. It is a Maori word and means sacred waters.


Walking routes around the park take you past bubbling mud, sulphur waterfalls, exploding geysers, giant fern trees, steaming vents and lakes in neon oranges, yellows and greens.


They are given their color by mineral deposits.


The  lagoons fizz with steam and orange ,gold and green fluorescent bubbles.


The park takes on a surreal, dream like quality. I shoot too many photos to remember the strange beauty of it all.


Fly safe,

Kiwi, Kiwi and Kiwi

Kiwi, Kiwi and Kiwi

“If it would not look too much like showing off, I would tell the reader where New Zealand is.”  Mark Twain

The definition of Kiwi in an English dictionary  (yes, I still look it up in a book)  is 1-a flightless bird;  2 – fruit originally known as Chinese gooseberry and 3-a New Zealander.

Female kiwi birds lay one of the largest eggs in relation to their body size of any bird in the world. A kiwi egg takes up about 20% of the female bird’s body, and weighs about 16 oz. As the result of such a sizable egg, there is a higher percentage of yolk in kiwi eggs, which enables the kiwi babies to hatch fully feathered, healthy, and well on their way to independence. We got to see one after it was hatched in an incubator but no photos.


Kiwi birds are among the few species that tend to live as monogamous couples, and often mate for life. Kiwi relationships have been known to last over 20 years – more than most Hollywood marriages. They are nocturnal, territorial, have great memories and razor-sharp claws that can do some damage.


A good sense of smell is a rare attribute for a bird, but kiwis have highly developed olfactory senses. They are the only birds with nostrils at the end of their beaks,


It’s common knowledge that kiwis are flightless, but their lack of wingspan isn’t without cause. Before humans arrived in New Zealand thousands of years ago, there were really no terrestrial predators endangering the kiwi population, so most flightless birds were relatively safe foraging and nesting on the ground.


A fruit seed  from China was planted in New Zealand. Since then, the Bay Of Plenty has become the kiwifruit capital of the world, exporting gold and green kiwifruit to over 70 countries, creating a billion-dollar business for New Zealand. We had a tour of  a Kiwi country farm.


The most popular species of kiwifruit is appropriately called fuzzy kiwifruit, but there is also golden kiwi with a smoother bronze skin. The golden kiwi is actually sweeter and more aromatic in flavor.


Although kiwis have been native to China for centuries, practically no one in North America knew what they were until 60 years ago. They were first introduced to the U.S. in 1962 and called kiwi fruit by an American importer.  They caught  on quickly.  Most of the world’s kiwis are grown in Italy, New Zealand and Chile. You can eat the fuzz if you want.


If a kiwi does not yield a bit to finger pressure, allow it to ripe by storing it at room temperature away from the sun.Kiwi ripening can be hastened by putting it in a paper bag with a banana, apple or pear. (Here I am once again eating kiwi fruit- clearly that is all I did.)


Kiwi also refers to a New Zealander. 


It has something to do with the first World War. The Royal New Zealand Air Force had a kiwi bird symbol and New Zealander is a lot to say.  They take pride in referring to themselves as an odd-looking bird most have never seen in the wild. It is a link to their past when they began to be something separate from the British. 


Kiwis have a relationship with their land that is physical and spiritual.


The Maoris have always had it and the  whites (pakehas) have developed it.


Kiwis are easy-going and find humor in most situations.


It’s a dry humor similar to Brits and Australians and often used to diffuse conflict and serious situations.


They love to tell a really good lie when asked stupid questions. (who doesn’t?)


When people take themselves too seriously they like to “take the mickey out of them” but they are also are the first to make fun of themselves.


These tourist  questions and New Zealand answers were posted on the New Zealand tourism website.

Q: Will I be able to see kiwi birds in the street? A: Depends how much you’ve been drinking.

Q: I want to walk from Auckland to Wellington can I follow the railroad tracks? A: Sure, it’s only 660 kms, take lots of water.

Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in NZ? Can you send me a list of them in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown? A: What did your last slave die of?

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in NZ?A: Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Auckland. Come naked.

Q: Can I wear high heels in NZ? A: You are a British politician, right?

Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in NZ ? A: Only at Christmas.

Fly safe,



Wait, It’s Because They Are Muslim?

 “The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?” George Orwell, 1984

The events of September Eleventh 2001 changed the world and the world view of the Muslim religion.The attacks brought more attention to the small population of Arab -American communities than they could have ever dreamed. Americans were scared and were turning their fear and hatred on anyone who resembled the attackers.

The following summer my daughter was invited to participate in a summer dance program in San Francisco. She was too young to stay in the dorm so I had to go with her. The dance studio was located in the not yet gentrified Mission district of San Francisco. It was mostly homeless people. Taxis did not go in that area and I couldn’t have her wait for the bus there alone. My driving skills did not include San Francisco hills and tight parking spots. I had to find a driver who would work for a reasonable amount of money  to help me. It was before Uber and before everything was on the internet. My cousin in San Francisco found us a driver. She told me that he was a religious Muslim. I consider myself a non prejudiced person but I had to stop and think about it in that new fearful post 9/11 world. I’m not proud of that moment. I spoke to him and he seemed fine. But would I have given him the job at that time if I had any other option? I don’t know.

Nine months after 9/11 Naji came into our lives. He was the first religious Arab Muslim person in the US that I knew. I went with him on the first day to take her. He was kind and courteous. He came from Tunisia and was planning on sending his children back to school there the following year. Naji went to the mosque five times a day. He had other clients and it often interfered with his work. Post 9/11 news put the fear of mosques in America – either because they were being attacked or as a breeding ground for terrorists. One day,  Naji called to say that he was at the mosque and could he send Mohammed to pick up my daughter? “Who is Mohammed?” I ask. “He is my friend from the mosque.” Hmmm.  Once I said yes, there were often friends from the mosque picking up my daughter. He always let me know first. They were all respectful and kind. One Sunday my daughter went out with her older dance friends and they left her at a nearby bus stop to go home. Naji drove by (San Francisco is not that big)  and told her to get in the car and drove her to the apartment. He said  to her “Call me when you need a lift. You shouldn’t be out here by yourself.“

I learned about Tunisia and where the best restaurants for Tunisian food in San Francisco were. The food is spicy and good. There was a thick chick pea soup, a tajine that seemed more like a frittata, kefta ( lamb meatballs), cous cous and  tomato pepper salad. From the other drivers, I learned about all the different, delicious Middle Eastern food. 

 We had one bad day. We needed to go  to Sonoma and Naji drove us. I’m not sure how it started. We were talking about the similarities between kosher and halal and suddenly he began to try to convince us to convert to Islam. He got kind of frenetic and it was a bit scary for a moment but it never came up again when I said no.  He and his friends took care of my daughter for two summers. I always felt safe knowing that they were there. I found out  from our other regular driver Mohammed (when Naji was busy) that one year before, Naji’s wife had been crossing the street with their baby girl and they were hit by a car. She was badly hurt and their baby died. With great tragedy, you need greater faith to get through it. Five times a day was probably not enough.

I alway found it such strange timing that while the world was learning a new word -Islamophobia, I was learning and meeting the most Muslims I had ever met. It seemed like something that everyone who was fearful should have been doing because fear and ignorance go hand in hand. 

Today, I am very afraid of fundamentalists of every religion. I am fearful of what will happen to my country which was founded on religious freedom. I am worried about my Muslim friends and afraid that other races and religions will follow. I am fearful of this unprecedented chaos in these first ten days.  I am afraid that a lot more things than buildings are being brought down now.

Fly safe,