|1 week ago|
|June 05, 2010|
After 12 long years in Los Angeles, I've headed 'south' to beauty, wonderfully warm people, and peace. I've a background in PR, Marketing, and Sales--sort of a jack-of-all-trades, master of....well, that's to come. After 'retiring' from an international airline, I've been writing a couple books and dallying with some serious meditation. Daily! I'm single and have a 31-year-old son I adore.
My current work includes freelance writing for an SEO company, as well as working on personal projects. Also, after completing a co-authored memoir with a Holocaust survivor and finishing editing and graphics on a second book, an inspirational manuscript, I'm now looking to gain representation in advance of publication.
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Where is Gandhi? Where is Mandela?
"NO SNOWFLAKE IN AN AVALANCHE EVER FEELS RESPONSIBLE."
-- Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
So, Dan Weisman is Mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore. That about sums it up for many, I suspect, on both the left and right in this country. Truth be told, I’ve been there myself although after a time, it leaves me with a sour taste in my throat, all bile and venom. Still, it usually gets some energetic attention and as night follows day, when applied properly, anger can often serve as a catalyst for constructive change.
Steve Jobs was right, of course, when he told Rupert Murdock that he was behind the times, suggesting that instead of an axis of ‘left or right’ (an outdated paradigm, to be sure), we have been operating on a ‘constructive or destructive axis. Trouble is, too few people see that and instead cling to old perceptions, further fueling their own abrogation for meaningful resolutions towards positive change.
I watched Alan Simpson, Erskine Bowles and Warren Buffet in an interview recently where they discussed the economy—about how perilously close it/we are to heading off the cliff unless substantial and dramatic changes are made, not the least of which is honesty, not positional posturing. Cities are filing bankruptcy, over a 1,400 U.S. citizens have revoked their citizenship to avoid taxes, and banking schemes and fraud continue to be the news of the day.
Then I read another article about Paul Krugman getting in a tiff with someone from CNN. We really don’t have time for this finger pointing and pettiness, although it may be unavoidable if we have reached a point of no return and truly have to hit bottom before Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again, if in fact at all. The media is a mess, certainly biased, nearly all outlets, the government seems to be inert, incapable of constructive anything, and the economy, while suffering from a slim recovery, still staggers under the weight of powerful insiders controlling the gears.
So what’s a person to do? Well, leadership seems to be the siren call, at least in part, for what we need. So say both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’. For my money, the likes of Ghandi and Mandela serve as powerful examples, although there are others. Yet, part of what is called for is leadership from many other institutions such as the media, commerce, industry and most importantly, US.
That’s US not U.S. although it’s where we live and what this is all about. Who of us has the courage to go inside and take account for our own participation in this messy mess; the mess of our own participation in neglect, personal self-interest, of turning our backs on the greatest democratic experiment in human history? We are they. They are us, even the ones we can’t see. We are our leaders, even the hidden string-pullers. I don’t say this to blame any of us for in no way am I exempt. Instead, we need to be honest, truly, and take both individual and collective responsibility. A problem shared is a problem transcended, though not immediately and not all in like kind; each according to his ability, each according to his means.
If everyone examines their own head, heart, conscience and sense of duty – as opposed to self-interest – individual and collective responsibility to and for each other, things can be changed. There clearly is corruption, lies being told and manipulation of power, a government broke (financially and functionally), a society becoming unhinged. In a way, it is beginning to feel no different than I imagine the cover-up of Sandusky by Penn State officials turning a blind eye must have felt, because what was valued more than anything else was winning no matter the cost to others, no matter the pain.
America cannot afford the politics of destruction, socially, economically, or politically; that is unless it has to ‘hit bottom’ before it can be reconstructed into something greater. The clash of humanities’ levels, while certainly evolutionary, can also be dangerous, not that the sky is falling or anything. There are, however, so very many warning signs.
Just like Sandusky, Penn State, HSBC Bank, LIBOR, exclusionary new voting laws, astronomical debt, too much American off-shore money, complicity by both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ playing destructive games for what? To win? To win what? A football game of an unregulated Wall Street? Smaller government where police and firefighters are paid minimum wage? As Ghandi so wisely said, Be The Change. This will involve different actions for different people, depending on various skills and capabilities yet change we must, constructively not destructively.
Either that or we will all have to meet each other on the way down, or worse, at the cliff’s bottom.
Recently, a friend passed on an article that had appeared in the New York Times Sunday Book Review section titled, “Like the Video? I Wrote the Book”. In it, author Tim Kreider lamented the loss of writing itself, what he thought had been the most difficult part until, of course, it came to promoting it. Marketing books is not what it used to be. I know. I used to do it in the ‘olden days’, pre-internet, for celebrities and first-time authors alike, when marketing the book was also about marketing the personal presence of the author themselves and conducted so very differently.
Of course times have changed and with it, my career, for some time ago I left marketing and promotions to be a writer myself, a decades-long hunger I finally decided to satisfy. Enter the internet enter the excruciating not-yet-complete paradigm shift in the publishing industry right along with me quietly developing my craft, writing for hire and writing two books, one of which now has been published as an eBook.
Initially, when reading Kreider’s article I was painfully in touch with my frustration of promoting my own book, though that mood didn’t last long. Instead, in very short order, I was transported back to the writing process itself. Working with Bennet Mermel, sitting with him for hours over the course of year, was a life changing event in a number of ways. Writing the manuscript titled “The Man Confused by God” was profound. To this day, I miss the process and even though I speak and sometimes visit Bennet, I still miss him – the ‘him’ that was generously available during his revelation of self.
Though I still write many things, they are different; not ‘less than’, just different. In any case, the thing about writing is that there are unique times when a kind of union occurs, sometimes with self, or a higher self; sometimes with another and in the case of “The Man Confused By God” it was with Bennet. For I have come to believe that even though his story is remarkable, miraculous even, a higher purpose was served. The intimate connection of enjoining with his pain, sorrow, courage and joy as conveyed through the details of a life transcend the life itself. Writing him did that for me.
There were times when sitting on the opposing sofa as he chattered away, no matter whether what he told me was funny or horrific I felt this union, no distance separating us, two becoming one. The story that came from his lips was the story of universal suffering expressed through his specific life yet handed off to me, as if it were a baton in a relay race for overcoming it. Equally astonishing, there were times when nothing was said, where he would be unable to tell things like they happened and still I received his message, wordlessly. It was in his face, specially the eyes; those portals of a soul.
Other times back home, I felt his presence whether writing or pondering our weighty sessions. It was an ineffable quality, a ‘lost in translation’ kind of thing that non-writers can’t really know but can see it’s affects if writers have done their job effectively. It felt like an etheric Bennet had come to help me translate him. What’s more, the sense of oneness was profound when this occurred. Without a doubt, the writing of Bennet is actually a book within a book because another story was being created in the process of my writing his original story. It made me gasp and to this very day, still does.
I was very fortunate indeed to learn from another author, Kathleen Gleeson, who wrote two memoirs for/with Janusz Bardach (see “Man Is Wolf To Man” and “Surviving Freedom”). In one conversation with Kate I struggled to describe my writing process, some of it technical, much of personal. She told me that when she and Janusz were working together she experienced similar things, telling me she felt that the process reaches a depth of intimacy that is unknown in other kinds of friendships or relationships, ultimately indescribable.
Whether Bennet felt any of this, I am not sure though I have always sensed that he did. It would not be the kind of thing he would address, articulate or acknowledge to another. And if he had some awareness of it, I believe he has been well served by it. It is not required that he acknowledge to me.
So marketing a book, selling it, while I wish like crazy we could sell a zillion copies, is a pale, pale thing in comparison. Physicists would tell me these are simply different M fields, with different energy patterns, different rules creating a different coalescence. While I understand that intellectually, I am in agreement with Kreider in his reverence for the writing process itself, its satisfaction in a different realm altogether. Still, I wish to earn a living from the writing craft, the business of it notwithstanding. So, on I trudge, dabbling in the M field of shameless self-promotion in an era and paradigm no longer comfortable for me. It is the writing I live for, that easy and transcendent union.
Rosalie Cushman and Bennet Mermel are authors of his life story “The Man Confused by God” available on Amazon and B&N as a wireless download eBook.
My wife and I have so much fun when we travel and find anything... like stray cats and squirrels. Eric Roberts
Recently, I had the great good fortune to stay at Hotel Maya in Long Beach, for several days while up in the greater Los Angeles area. The experience instantly became an unexpected combination of exotic getaway, urban voyeurism and comfort. I use the word ‘experience’ because Hotel Maya is far more than a room, far greater than the sum of its parts. Similar to the soothing quality that high quality ‘comfort food’ evokes, the place felt like an unusual combination of luxury and home – with all the comfort and quirks that implies.
While Hotel Maya is a Doubletree property (Hilton Hotels family), it has little-to-none of that regimented, predictable, institutionalized feel of a ‘chain’. Instead, as a separately branded hotel, the Maya and Latin influence and motif is felt nearly everywhere I roamed – from the colors, to the art, to an array of events they host, offering educational opportunities and a sense of cultural adventure without ever having to get a passport or board a plane.
As a boutique property (my favorite size), Hotel Maya has 194 guest rooms spread across 4 buildings, plus the main facility that offers meeting rooms, the Fuego restaurant and a hookah lounge. The front door to the lobby is made of gorgeous wood, is oversized and designed to swing open from either side. As soon as I walked in, my feet were instantly stimulated by river rock imbedded into the flooring, flanked by reclaimed barn board and vibrant colored and clear glass on the walls. The entire feel of the place was stimulating with color and texture and sported a fun eclecticism that was unpredictable, displaying gigantic carved wooden benches and tables and loads of art on the walls.
The staff was warm, inviting, accommodating. What’s more, the place exuded a decidedly unfussy feel while being personally hospitable, the kind of behavior you might get from neighbors you love and respect. Once I got to my room, my smitten-ness quickly became complete. I melted into the room which was luxuriously large and overlooked the water, specifically the Harborlight Yacht Club, which Hotel Maya owns. This view was set against the larger bay and backdrop of the Long Beach cityscape. It was mesmerizing, watching about 20 pelicans resting on the dock. Then, a surprise; I was transfixed as one pelican plunged into the water for his dinner.
Now, I happen to love the water. Living in coastal California near San Diego we are easily spoiled with all that is offered here. Yet, there was, is, something about Hotel Maya’s location, its proximity within feet, mere feet, of the bay that is compelling, intimate and even in San Diego, that closeness is not often accomplished. It is actually one of the few properties in all of southern California situated so close to the water’s edge. It all felt so available to me and not just visually, mind you. It was uniquely accessible by stepping out my patio door.
I also loved how the hotel was removed from the casual but frenetic pulse of downtown Long Beach yet easily accessible as well. In fact, my first night I walked along the bike path that snakes for miles on either side of the water’s edge, over the Queen Mary Bridge to Shoreline Village, the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Pike area of town. Along the way I met a couple from England tromping back from the same direction I was headed. They had come in advance of a cruise (yes, Hotel Maya is ‘next door’ to cruise line moorings and the Queen Mary) and out for their own stroll. They were delightful and delighted with what they had found here.
In a conversation later on, I was to learn from General Manager, Kristi Allen, that Hotel Maya has a significant number of international travelers, some coming for cruise connections or possibly just to enjoy "The Mayan Mystique". Indeed, I was to run into another gentleman from the UK later on. Allen additionally indicated that the average guest stays at the hotel are comprised of weekend getaways, and their largest drawing areas are from Los Angeles and San Diego counties, along with robust numbers from Phoenix, Arizona! In fact, one regular couple comes down monthly for a getaway stay – from Beverly Hills! Monthly!
The Maya’s growth since rebranding two years ago to the Maya theme has swollen by an astonishing 36% year over year. That’s in a recession! Allen describes “The Mayan Mystique” as having a lot to do with that. During my stay, I attended a workshop (free) about the Mayan calendar. There was an interesting assortment of guests and locals in attendance. The Mayan culture is one of the oldest and most sophisticated, developing a written language and mathematical system, along with stunning art and architecture, from 2000 BC to 250 AD. Because the Mayan calendar is said to ‘end’ in 2012, the hotel is hosting a plethora of events and activities tagged “The Year to Go Mayan”, with a grand prize trip to Yucatan, Mexico at its culmination.
There are other things I could tell you about the place; things like witnessing a wedding with the hotel’s waterfall as backdrop, eating one of the best pieces of Salmon I’ve ever had in my life, and sitting in the floating cabanas after a good soak in the hot tub. I could also tell you about the fully retractable glass walls that dramatically open up several meeting rooms and the Fuego Restaurant to facilitate even greater atmospheric immersion overlooking the bay. There is also a ton of things to do in Long Beach if interested. For my part, I just wanted to relax, stop time even, no matter whose calendar is destined to end. Hotel Maya did all that for me and more. It was, is, in a word, a comfort place.
For additional information on Hotel Maya, please visit www.hotelmayalongbeach.com.
“I don’t feel old. I don’t feel anything till noon. That’s when it’s time for my nap.” Bob Hope
And so it was that a crowd of relatives and friends celebrated Bennet Mermel’s 90th birthday recently, complete with sunshine, fabulous food and a shocked face as we all yelled SURPRISE when he walked through the door. They say it’s not wise to startle old men yet, in Bennet’s case, it’s so very clear he can take it. After all, you don’t survive multiple concentration camps and death marches without building a thick layer of skin.
As Bennet made his way through the throng of people wishing him “Happy Birthday”, shaking hands and extending hugs, it was quickly obvious how affected he was by all this attention, as well as those responding back, like the boomerang that love symbiotically is. When working on his memoir, he once told me “what you give out comes back to you”, a karmic law if there ever was one. And of course that morning an infectious load of it was on display, the room pulsing out its unmistakable beat.
Writing Bennet’s life story has been one of my life’s greatest privileges; one that afforded a particular view through the lens of one man’s experience. While so much of Bennet’s life was shaped by his endurance through concentration camps, he has never been defined or confined by them. Instead, what has always struck me is his uncanny ability to recover his own sense of self, a changed man from the experience, to be sure, yet one who preserved both dignity and decency, surmounting many obstacles even in the years initially following his release.
After creating an astonishing life of successes – as an opera singer, an early pioneer in LA’s garment district, a father and world traveler – Bennet certainly has earned his afternoon naps, though I defy you to find many 90-year-olds who still walk a treadmill, do Sudoku and crossword puzzles with as much vigor as he. Upon starting his short speech after we sang “Happy Birthday” and he blew out his candles, he joked and said, “I can’t see very well, I can’t hear much, etc., and while we all laughed at his litany of complaints, in an abrupt turn, he broke down sobbing. This was not on account of his physical losses, mind you. Rather, it sprang instantly from the place where both gratitude and sorrow reside.
I know he knows how blessed he’s been throughout his life. While Bennet has sustained images of horror, both actual and re-lived, he has gained insight and sensitivity from the depths of his head and heart, mining and polishing a hard-won maturity with honor and wit. Though innocent by his own admission, he’s also nobody’s fool.
My son once described Bennet as “every man, a universal man,” and that remains so obvious to me. This does not diminish Bennet’s very personal experience during the Holocaust. Instead, it expands it, amplifies it even. Through this one man I’ve witnessed every man’s suffering, watched every man cry out; heard each gasp as it forms the collective. Miraculously, I’ve correspondingly witnessed every man’s courage, every man’s fortitude, every man’s triumph, all through the one man that is Bennet Mermel.
As Bennet sobbed out his reverence for helping save his brother’s life, he also wept out his regret for not being able to save his friend’s. How many of us have ever had to confront the depths of these things so personally, so specifically. In an uncanny way, it strikes me that Bennet has done this not just for himself, but for each of us as well. In a stroke, it seems he offers this gift of his example, this consideration, this wonderment, quite possibly without his own awareness, yet extending it just the same.
Without a doubt, when the physicists describe entanglement theory, I have a keen sense of which they speak for I, we, cannot help but be affected by acknowledging Bennet’s exclamation. It is the great and glorious web of life that connects us one to another, invisible in its sourcing, yet so evident in its affects.
And what does Bennet do after the sobs cease? Flanked by his children on either side of him, he recovers. He begins cracking jokes, thanking people, reclaiming himself from sorrow, transcending it to light, as always, shining it on the joy that resides in front of him. As always, he insists on living-ness, the forward progression of himself and his connection with those he loves. It is all palpable and real, acknowledged in silence by everyone in the room, as we listen to what he has to say by his very transcendence.
At the end of the day, Bennet, indeed each one of us, will not be outdone by tragedy unless choosing to do so. For his part, Bennet decided decades ago to follow life and hope, remaining an unwitting example and inspiration for all to see.
Rosalie Cushman Explores 'Warwick's Books - A Local Gem'
Loaded with programs, including authors, publisher representatives, along with a commensurate plethora of books, Warwick’s Books of La Jolla tickles the avid reader’s fancy. I recently attended a delightful panel discussion of three local authors’ self-professed “path to publishing”. While there are as many stories about how any author got started, there remain core strategies that can accomplish the persistent writer’s goal to publication, whichever path he or she chooses. The industry has been shifting, of course, as the advent and ever-burgeoning presence of self and eBook publishing continues to bloom (some say ‘explode’).
The authors at Warwick’s on March 20 included Caitlin Rother, author and co-author of eight books, including Poisoned Love, Margaret Dilloway, author of How to be an American Housewife and Marjorie Hart, author of Summer at Tiffany. All of these women had interesting stories of their writing histories and paths to publication. The audience was filled with would-be, aspiring and/or semi-accomplished writers, all (including my humble little self) eager to gobble up potential advice.
It is a sobering prospect, this writing business; even more sobering trying to sell a piece of fiction or non-fiction, particularly in light of the current paradigm shift in the publishing world. It is just such a publishing paradigm shift that also includes a decade (or more) of massive advances given to ‘celebrity’ authors’ which swamp the industry, elbowing the little guys/gals increasingly off to the sidelines (or ditches). Case in point; in her early days Margaret Dilloway described ‘selling’ the manuscript Bluetooth for Dummies, only to have it cancelled. (The publisher didn’t think it would sell!!) To add insult to injury, her agent then dropped her. If an author cannot demonstrate immediate ROI for an agent or publisher, the uphill climb is made that much more difficult.
Still, like the independent bookstore the event was set in, all three women offered promise and hope in the form of meaningful suggestions, albeit conventional. Even with less accounting for the industry shift, they were still long on practical strategies for certain promotional activities and agent-snagging techniques. The aspect I liked most about their program was the setting – an independent bookstore. Warwick’s demonstrates they can not only have their cake but eat it too, in the age of internet superiority and B & N type domination. Warwick’s offers an inviting environment, exceedingly helpful staff and is bullish in creating events that bring in a crowd.
Personally, I cast no aspersions or throw no stones on the value of the mega stores or internet outlets since I imbibe in both the purchasing and publishing fronts (see Amazon and B & N for The Man Confused by God by Bennet Mermel and Rosalie Cushman). I believe there is room for multiple sales models in the book world, as well as in the publishing arena. In fact, I’m even looking forward to the day when books are delivered via a trans-dermal book patch, making reading massively faster while saving so much space in the process.
Please visit www.warwicks.indiebound.com for information on upcoming programs and reading suggestions.
Rosalie Cushman: Predicting The Past - Reflections of 2011...
I couldn’t help but laugh at Dan Weisman’s latest posting about his “occupation” of the Crosby Estate. Then, of course, I cried. Several times this past year I’ve recalled a statement made by one of my Boston University professor’s claiming, “You will turn out to be much like your parents; more than you can even believe now”. I thought he was nuts! This was in the early 70’s, on the heels of Kent State, demonstrations against the Viet Nam War, post-MLK and Robert Kennedy assassinations and all that upheaval that signified some pretty dramatic shifts in American Society.
Or so we thought.
Being a political junkie, with occasional episodes of recovery at best, I’ve been following many events and discussions throughout the year, much of which has focused either on the economy and/or the Republican primary process, along with changes in the world at large. I have sustained shock and disbelief often, followed by lurching uncontrollably between disgust, shame, excitement, and boredom. At one point, I actually heard Howard Fineman of Huffington Post say we boomers are “greedy and selfish”, even owning the description like a grownup for himself, not proudly, mind you, just maturely. This was in the context of the early days of the Occupy Wall Street movement which, of course, has morphed into a new phase.
Fineman’s depiction and acknowledgement of ‘our boomer generation’ behavior, of course, is accurate in many ways, though not all. I liked his honesty but also chafed at the mirror he held up to some of what we have certainly done to ourselves as a society. I like it in part because of the exposure of the whole ‘victim-perpetrator- theme being played out in America today. He suggests it will only serve us when we own up to our own role in it; own up to our own participation in choosing one or the other to identify with. It is what grown-ups need to be about, after all; ownership and accountability. The 1% and the 99%, each, have much to learn from the other, not the least of which is to look the other squarely in the face while taking responsibility for their own participation. This naturally includes my own game-playing as well. No one is off the hook; no one exempt.
When I think back to the early stirrings of the Arab Spring, I am reminded of parallels within all societies that undergo upheaval and change. Sometimes that change is consequent to economic conditions. Sometimes that change is due to political repression. Sometimes it is due to rapid industrialization/modernization, and sometimes it is due to wild disparity between classes of people. In today’s globalization, there is something new operating that adds enormous benefit but incredible tension to the mix as well: technology. Yes, it’s been discussed re the power of Twitter, Facebook, rapid internet communications and cell/video phones that can expose events differently from how change was represented in the past.
I’ve heard NYT columnist Tom Friedman discuss his recent examination of where we are as a nation, the crossroads we find ourselves in, in his recent book, “That Used to Be Us”. Our dilemma is not hopeless, he says. However, reasonable solutions are time-sensitive and all the desire in the world to ignore or minimize the crossroads we huddle in right now while national and global events accelerate past us ensures failure, albeit at a snail’s pace. Yes, we can fail slowly, and may be doing just that, while others race by us.
Remarkably, I’ve met and known two emigrants; one Czech, who survived WWII and the Holocaust; the other a Chinese-Korean who survived the Korean War as a child. In each case, their fierce determination to adapt has been startling. It sounds like such an obvious conclusion to draw yet we’d be well advised to pay closer attention to not just why others have come to America but how and what they’ve done to change themselves as part of the process of adaptation. Often, their changes have been subtle but equally often, profound.
Yes, they survived. Yes, they learned strategies on overcoming starvation, poverty and displacement. But hidden in their very survival is their astonishing adaptation to new circumstances, a new set of events including people, language, cultures and economies. What’s more, each man can be an example as an individual to the group as a whole. For it is where we find America – indeed, the world – in currently. Context is everything. These two men know this even without articulating it. They know it in their heart and in their gut. Context requires innovation and new thought on many levels.
America has yet to fully understand our new context internally, let alone, globally, or at least many Americans have yet to do that. Friedman understands that all too well. Fineman and many others do too. The passing of Steve Jobs even, has cast a light on this very fact also, though more obliquely. At the end of the day/year we cannot ‘tweak’ our way out of this contextual paradigm shift by modifying old ideas just enough to avoid risk. The risk for us is in not taking greater risk itself. Not for the mere sake of it, but for the necessity of thinking differently because our context has changed.
Economist Paul Krugman suggested early on that the initial capital infusion was too small. He was so very right, as other economists have now corroborated. Elizabeth Warren, run out of Washington by Wall Street’s elite because she ‘risked’ exposing some of their practices, will likely return but from a different vantage point as an elected official, and legitimately so. Finally, what the 1% knows that the 99% hasn’t caught onto is that if the ‘light’ of video/phones, FB, Twitter etc. ever exposed their back room manipulations in any massive way like distorted pictures of street protests do, the jig would be up for them. I give you Enron. Believe me, there’s more Enron behavior operating in the shadows, some of it legal, though hardly ethical (and certainly not practical). We just cannot see it all; only some of the disastrous ‘results’.
But all of this discussion is not to blame anyone. Instead, it is to hold all of us accountable: the 1% and the 99%. I happen to like Capitalism. There are many fine and integrous companies in America. I also like government. (I never saw a tax cut put out a fire!!) What I don’t like is greed, bloat and excess on either side. None of those qualities will ever serve us. Blame will never serve us. Accountability will serve us though, and must. Any ‘position’ one takes always operates within a context and America’s context has changed. We all need to see that, truly see that, and mature individually and behave as a nation accordingly. If we don’t, we will shrivel and shrink from the promise that heretofore has propelled America forward.
CONSIDER THE ECONOMY AGAIN!
It is becoming exhausting, listening to all the political positions about what to do with the economy now that it seems hell-bent on doing some serious damage.
A couple months ago I shared a few simple thoughts on innovation, mostly from a business perspective. I’d like to add something at this stage that could incorporate both (yes, I know I’m suggesting some sort of cooperation here) the public and private sectors, innocent that I am!
A million years ago, after graduating from college my first job out of the chute was to administer one of the early Workfare programs in the nation for a county in Iowa. At its core, it required anyone on Welfare (that was not disabled) to work to continue receiving their checks. The goal was to gradually transition them into the workplace, with the government paying their salary while the person ‘worked’ at a ‘for-profit business’. After some period of time, the recipient would be hired by the business, thereby getting the individual off Welfare. While not everyone placed was permanently hired, many people were.
Well, why not do something like that now? Why not take all the people that are currently on unemployment and require them to work to keep getting unemployment? They would be placed in a business environment for say, six months with the government continuing their ‘paycheck’ – which is an unemployment check, while the business paid for insurance, say, or got a modest tax credit in some way for ‘hiring’ an unemployed person. After six months, or less if mutually agreed upon, the business then would hire the person for a regular salary, and said business would get a tax credit (let’s pretend it’s a big fat tax credit), and person X is off unemployment.
The jig would be that the business had to keep the new employee (who has already been time-tested, by the way) on their payroll for say, twelve months to get the big fat tax credit. And keep in mind they've already 'tested the person's ability and gotten a 'free employee' for six months!! Everybody wins. Doesn’t everybody win?? If there is some rule or legislation that needs to be changed to accommodate this, for crying out loud, let’s just do it. I mean, how hard can this be?
It is staggering, staggering, all of the “yes we can’t’s” going around on both sides!! I, for one, am bone tired of the nah, nah, nah’s and I know I’m not alone in this. While there is lots of blame to go around for our current economic quagmire, it is time we stop screeching and start raising some creative thought; generate some new/old ideas to try. So what if they fail. What on earth do we think is happening right now?
And some ideas will succeed. My guess is there are other innovative ideas wedding the public and private sectors, not to mention drawing on some traditional ideas that did work in the late 30’s and 40’s for both the private industry and in the government sector. If we don’t do something pretty quick, the ‘have’s and the have-not’s’ will all morph into ‘have-not’s’ because no one will be left to buy what the current ‘have’s’ even produce!
There are lots of 'infastructure' ideas being bandied about and WPA style projects, too, that could be tied to a 'work requirement' to receive unemployment compensation. I'm sure there are other robust ideas floating around out there, some of which need not increase a deficit dramatically, and can also stimulate businesses to hire people at a 'reduced' cost, at least for a time.
The cacophony of nay-sayers need not drown out promising solutions. After all, as Roosevelt so wisely said, "we have nothing to fear but fear itself". And fear will bankrupt America for sure.
Rosalie Cushman Considers: The Incomparable Grand Del Mar...
There is an ineffable quality about the 249-room Grand Del Mar resort. Still, like the painter straining to convey the essence of a beautiful woman, I take a stab at describing one of the most remarkable resorts in the San Diego area. I’ve been fortunate, indeed, to spend some time with both Warren Sheets, Designer for The Grand Del Mar’s exquisite interiors, and Tom Voss, President of the Manchester Grand Resorts Group and have come away from both encounters even more awed by The Grand Del Mar’s creation.
But let’s go back. About eight months ago a friend asked me for lunch at one of the resort’s restaurants. I arrived alone and upon walking into the lobby, my heart stopped. Well, maybe not stopped but certainly it skipped a beat. Struck by no ordinary beauty, I was instantly immersed into a Mediterranean cascade of art. An avalanche! I felt transported to Tuscany, an immediate and profound mood of old-world excellence and beauty that felt voluptuous, reverent, inviting, and comforting. Yes, comforting. It was impossible for me to not be affected. A staff person asked if I needed any assistance, and upon my telling her “no, I was just meeting a friend for lunch,” the woman discretely stepped back, leaving me to bask in the beauty.
Now let’s go forward. Upon meeting first Warren Sheets then conversing with Tom Voss I have come to learn many facts about The Grand Del Mar, some of them captivating and all of them, impressive. In addition, while walking with Warren through the hotel one day I learned of his amazing artistic eye, fusing 16th and 17th century design with the contemporary world. Possessing an enormous talent, Warren’s genius resides in his need to express himself thereby expanding beauty into what, more beauty. He knows very well how to take an empty space, create a vision, storyboard it out, and translate that vision into an interior that establishes an effect.
For example, the columns standing in the lobby are made from cubic stone imported from Verona craftsman, an Italian family who has been artisans for over 300 years. The carpet Warren selected incorporates his own medallion design that is also threaded throughout the hotel in various locations; on wall coverings, parchment lamps, even grille work. In stunning Italian tradition, his chosen frescos fix the visitor’s eye on floors, walls, and ceilings. Warren told me he was “very passionate about designing this place – I couldn’t do it any other way”. Essentially, he has incorporated the most massive amount of beauty I’ve ever seen in this kind of facility, without it being a museum. Yet it does not feel formal or fussy; quite the opposite, actually. Remarkably, the five-star, five-diamond resort is not just beautiful, it is so very comforting.
Age-old wisdom claims that beauty is therapeutic, healing at its core; that it offers a respite from the grist of ordinary life. Beauty speaks its own language and at its best, connects us mere mortals to both a primordial yet celestial level. There seems to be an avalanche of this connectedness in the design at The Grand Del Mar and that is the very thing that creates its’ uniquely comforting quality. And if that sounds odd, just go there and you will know of which I speak.
Later, when chatting with Tom Voss, President of The Grand Del Mar, time and again he spoke of feedback from guests who repeat, “It is so beautiful here”, a theme that reverberates like an echo in a canyon, right along with the guests who return for subsequent stays. When guests are asked ‘what they’d like to see changed’, Tom indicates their most frequent answer is “not a thing!” He also told me they frequently hear guests who, coming to the resort for the first time say, “your website doesn’t do it justice”. Well, the grace of a place is not subject to translation through electrons always and while a picture can be worth a thousand words, being there can be worth a million.
In addition to its beauty, I was to learn that The Grand Del Mar has an excellent Tom Fazio designed golf course, an elegant Spa, the renowned Addison Restaurant, along with Amaya and M Club dining rooms (my lunch was phenomenal, by the way). The Grand Del Mar now sports a new Equestrian Center, not to mention the fabulous pools. The resort is situated beside the 4,100 acre Los Penasquitos Preserve with three and a half miles of hiking trails complete with a naturalist on staff. And while it is easily accessible to numerous San Diego activities, from the Zoo to the Del Mar Race Track to Sea World or the beach, it is the beauty of the place and retreat-like quality guests come for and return to.
“It is completely in nature,” Tom Voss tells me. “It is so beautiful,” the guest comment cards thrum over and over again. In a turn, Tom says “so many guests don’t ever even leave the grounds,” he confides, almost perplexed. It seems that between the art-inspired interiors, conscientious and caring staff, fabulous food at a person’s fingertips, why would they? The place is intoxicating. For my part, I could so easily set up camp in the Great Room just off the lobby, very near the library, living out the rest of my life there!
It is all so very beautiful.
For additional information on The Grand Del Mar, visit www.granddelmar.com. Warren Sheets current projects include two home designs in Rancho Santa Fe. For additional information on Warren, please visit www.warrensheetsdesign.com.
Rosalie Cushman Considers: Politics, The Economy, And Evolution...
So I have had a number of conversations with friends recently about the state of America’s affairs. Mostly, it’s focused on political ramifications like ‘will the Republicans take back the Whitehouse; will Obama survive”, that sort of thing. It is clear that at its roots, however, the discussion most of us nattering about is driven by economics; our own pocketbooks, bank accounts, portfolios, or job security, with the macro political and global financial worlds being the drama from which it springs.
Now I’m no economist but it does seem to me that the globalization of economies is evolutionary in nature and, as a consequence of ‘natural selection’, is unavoidable though not without obvious and potent risks. Much like the game of chess, the dilemma comes in recognizing where one is positioned, what is the new and burgeoning context now operating and how does one maneuver at either micro or macro levels within the evolutionary process so that the ‘survival of the fittest’ doesn’t kill off the individual household, let alone a nation.
It is uncanny that as a writer I have some interesting and diverse clients, from the Galapagos Islands to sheltering corporations in Mexico, with other topics thrown in the mix. In the rarefied air of the Rancho Santa Fe community and its larger San Diego backdrop a couple of thoughts have surfaced. And while they may be insufficient or unoriginal, they seem to be compelling nuggets of truth.
First, without recognizing we’re in yet another paradigm shift, we are at risk of losing the innovative edge that has been our historical legacy as a country and an economy. Yes, yes, the debate rages on about outsourcing, not to mention the ‘raising taxes and/or bailout’ issues. The list continues with ‘should there be draconian budget cuts, how do we manage massive debt, the privatization of education, social security’ etc. Then there’s the real need and possible partial remedy of yet more government spending if we renovate and beef up infrastructures in America like roads, bridges and high speed rail.
These are legitimate and important discussions to have but they beg the question of more pressing innovation all too often in nearly every single category. Innovation can occur at every level of course and must, yet it is often viewed in isolation or increments, all too often leaving decision-makers defaulting to old strategies that have failed. It also is far more difficult to envision turning a very large ship around and therefore frightening. Yet, this process is necessarily part of the equation and difficult as it is, we’d better get serious about stepping up to the ‘innovation nation’ plate. Failing to do so, we operate at our peril.
Yet, some innovative examples have been making news lately as evidenced in Walmart, Target, and other mega stores who will be downsizing some of their space, building smaller ‘mom and pop’ type stores. They’ve clearly got some of the idea I’m talking about. And of course, why stop there. How about Walmart pop-up stores in empty storefront spaces? Or how about undertaking more creative and unusual co-branding opportunities? The Panera chain is an additional example of yet another innovative idea. They have opened up several restaurants recently where customers pay what they feel the food is worth. They have become hugely popular and are profitable with the potential of greater growth to come.
It’s not to say all ideas will pay off but true innovation is always about experimentation and what do some of these companies have to lose if they’re already struggling? Or even for businesses not struggling, by having a new vision they can create new job opportunities grafting differing financial models that could be duplicated by others.
The tanking of Greece’s economy with Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Italy right behind them serve as a cautionary tale for all economies of the world, including the US. Does it really make sense to borrow more money to pay a debt on what you’ve already borrowed? It’s not just about a socialist or capitalism regime. It’s not as simple as buying ‘made in America’ even. It’s about recognizing the inter-related and evolutionary process of the global economic system that has changed whereby all economic players, from China, to Mexico, to the EU, to the barbershop down the street must benefit not only themselves, but everyone by innovation – on every level.
We can’t afford to think in old ways when innovation is as critical as it is today. More importantly, the only way we get to ‘equity’ with third world countries becoming 2nd and 1st world industries is by facilitating each other’s growth. Wages in America have been shrinking. Conversely, wages in places like China and Mexico will have to slowly rise. It’s a fundamental principle to have a balanced economic ‘world organism’. Anything less is unhealthy and in the long term, won’t survive.
The second thought worming its way through my skull is this: viciously blaming either side for all the organic change that is part of economic, political, human, institutional, or governmental life has got to stop. First of all, it’s really boring, counterproductive, and juvenile. Second, moralistic finger wagging and blame just keeps us stuck. It’s not to say some ‘bad apples’ shouldn’t be held accountable for faulty decisions. They should, and rightfully so. Yet, Enron is such an exquisite example of accountability with ‘the smartest men in the room’ ultimately doing themselves in by their own greedy implosion. They systematically fell on their own sword and at the end of the day, if someone like Goldman Sachs can’t function without more bailouts ‘nature’ should and will take care of it one way or the other.
Could catastrophe trickle down to individuals if this were to happen? Of course. Do we have a responsibility to help those who are lest able to help themselves? Absolutely. However, discerning that responsibility at every level is critical and vitriolic tut-tutting just clouds the issue when it’s instead essential to identify and implement more mature error corrections. It is a nasty and pointless business, blame. All it does is keep us victimizing ourselves.
So while I’m concerned about the global economy, America’s financial woes and, of course, my own, I am hopeful and optimistic as well. Nature takes care of itself, at every level and in all realms. The evolutionary process is not confined to reptiles and plants and mammals. One of the greater challenges for humankind is getting out of the way of our own egoic mental notion of controlling it all, or thinking we can use old practices in new paradigms. We need to use our intellect, operate less emotionally with conscious participation and stewardship instead. Serious governmental, technological, service and manufacturing innovation is the vanguard of that process.
Rosalie Cushman Considers: Bees Know Best at Oceanside's Prince of Peace Abbey
BEES KNOW BEST
So I went to the Monastery recently to get away from it all. I’ve done this before, having visited several around the United States over the last 20 years. My recent visit happens to have been in our own backyard, so to speak – Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside. For me, the peacefulness and mysticism experienced while visiting these places seems so natural, as in part of nature. It seems so obvious that humankind is meant to respond to our own rhythms and that of our surroundings without dramatically messing up the planet, instead enjoying both bounty and beauty that is plentiful.
During my stay I ate well (too well!), slept well, meditated well, walked well, along with enjoying some interesting conversations with both brothers and visitors alike. One of the monks, Brother Blaise Heuke, is a beekeeper, and has harvested honey for nearly 40 years, with a 10 year lapse in production. At its height, Brother Blaise was extracting 100 gallons of honey a week, which is substantial. He told me that “a few years ago his bees began to die off, leaving me nothing. The honey flow stopped and the bees all died,” he said chagrinned.
Initially Brother Blaise was perplexed but was determined to get to the bottom of the problem. This took some time while he initiated many adjustments to the hives he had built and tinkered with the placement of them. Originally, the hives were situated behind workshops at the rear of the Abbey’s property on the crest of the hill. In time he began to connect bee demise with the presence of four cell phone towers that had been built on the Monastery grounds near Camp Pendleton and became suspicious.
At first “I gave no notice to the towers since there could be other things that cause bees to die, such as bug spray,” he continued. But after giving it more thought “I decided to move my bees to a different location. I used my cell phone to help locate a ‘safe spot’”. The ‘safe spot’ consisted of no cell phone reception, of course, and he moved his hives away from the electromagnetic fields of the towers. Over time the bees “came back” and so did the honey.
Now Queen Bees are incredibly prolific. One Queen Bee will lay approximately 2000 eggs a day. Drone (seasonal male) bees and 20,000 to 40,000 Worker bees turn that into enormous amounts of honey in the comb cells. The Workers collect nectar from flowers, return to the hive, work together and regurgitate the nectar into the cells and ‘whallah’ – honey is produced. Actually, there are a few more steps than this but you’ve got the picture.
Electromagnetic fields are another story. They are also part of nature. However, not all ‘parts of nature’ are supposed to co-exist in the same neighborhood of massive electromagnetic ‘loads’, as it were. Since Brother Blaise’s insightful experimenting more than a decade ago, numerous studies have been conducted around the globe as others began to notice a problem. The bee population in the US and the UK has decreased by nearly half in the last 30 years, proportionally coinciding with the increase in cell phone usage. Scientists have discovered that bees actually become disoriented when ‘under the influence of cellular transmission’. The frequency confuses them causing them to leave the hive. Essentially, their own internal ‘radar’ is tampered with by the electromagnetic fields of cell phone usage, sort of like a natural ‘jamming’ that occurs.
Does Brother Blaise advocate getting rid of cell phones and towers? No. What he does suggest is that mankind needs to be more mindful of the nature that instructs us and accommodate it. We are stewards of all life and all is intricately related. After all, it has been known for centuries that besides the delicious honey they produce, bees play an essential role in our eco system by pollinating our agriculture, fueling the very food we humans depend on for survival.
After earlier watching some honey he extracted from the cones, filtered through a centrifuge, Brother Blaise sent me home with some honey. It is astonishingly fresh, sweet, uncontaminated and pure. The Abbey’s gift shop sells it to the public. Brother Blaise also sells his ‘used wax’ to Del Mar’s beeswax candle company, sometimes for hundreds of dollars. So besides a much needed respite for a few days, I learned about honey production, electromagnetic interference that is deleterious to bees in the form of cell phones and towers, and about wisdom gained from the simplest sources.
For additional information on bees, visit http://inhabitat.com/its-official-cell-phones-are-killing-bees/ . Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside is located high on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, 650 Benet Hill Rd, Oceanside, CA 92058. Brother Blaise Heuke has lived there since 1959. The bees preceded his arrival; he is their most ardent advocate and care-taker. In his own words: “I can speak out against them (the cell towers) since I won’t lose my job and I have no money invested” –one way or another.