COACHING THE PRESIDENT

I was interested in a news blurb that said that James Lipton, host of the Actor’s Studio interview show and teacher of actors, was going to be working with Governor Romney. Lipton will be working with Mr. Romney on his bearing (too stiff), his smile and some other things.
I got to thinking that all Presidents probably had coaches. I will bet the President Obama has a coach. Have you ever seen him in front of certain audiences when he starts to drop the g’s at the end of verbs- goin’, thinkin’, bringin’, and many others. Someone must have coached him not to be so professorial in front of the hoi poloi. It is even more in evidence when he speaks to an audience of African Americans.
I am sure that this goes back a long while. George Washington’s coach probably said this, “Look George, the first election was just a walkover. Now this second time you have some competition. Let’s do something about those wooden teeth. People are starting to call you Woody Woodpecker when you begin to talk. Let me show you how to talk without clacking those teeth. It goes something like this. . .”
“Listen Abe, the average height in these United States is 5 feet 5 inches for men. Remember the debates with that midget Douglas; you almost got your ass whipped. You have got to start minimizing your 6 ft. 4 inch frame. You can kind of keep bending yourself in a humble way. People like that kind of humility. You can also grow some hair on your face, so that you look kind of homey. Your ramrod tall posture is no good. You will look like Goliath to anyone’s David.”
“Teddy, Teddy, Teddy, you got into the Presidency by accident. No one wanted you, so they stuck you in the V.P.’s job. Who knew McKinley would be shot? Now everyone knows that you are a cowboy. The San Juan Hill thing is long gone. Now you have to look determined. I suggest that you practice gritting your teeth every time you appear in public and say something like, “Bully.” That will show that you have resolve and that you can make decisions.”
“Frank, there is nothing we can do about this polio thing. We have got to control the surroundings every time you appear in public and in those newsreels. I suggest that your braces have the ability to stand you up straight behind podiums and have the ability to fold when you want them to. You can probably appear pretty calm and relaxed if you have meetings by smoking that cigarette in the holder and smile while doing it. We can also have some fireside chats on the radio and photograph you sitting in an old comfy chair.”
“Jack, this Nixon guy is tough as nails and smart. He may look like a used car salesman, but he is very brainy and pulls no punches. We have to have something that sets you apart from him. You both had service records, although you were a hero. However, there is very little to separate you in your speaking. I suggest that you adopt a real Boston accent. The rest of the country will be interested in someone who speaks that way. Say words like Cuber, Haaved, Caah, and things like that and change the cadence and emphasize different words.”
“Billy, you have got to keep your dick in your pants. There are so many women out there that you have diddled, that they could fill up the pages in Playboy. See if you can get your sex at home and not in some foreign place. We know you are a smart guy, but we have to make you a bit more down home. Bush is a patrician and you are a guy who can drawl and eat grits. Those Southern states will eat that up. Jut mosey on into this Presidency.”
“Dubya, you are a smart guy. No one who has gone through Yale can be a dope. So, we have to do something to give you another image. We will want you to be someone that the common folk can have a beer with. Start with mispronouncing words like “nukeler” and such. Be seen going fishing, flash that grin when you go hunting and try and affect a Texas accent. If you do not know the answer to certain questions, just smirk. That will make people believe that the question is dumb or irrelevant.”
Depending who the coach is in the future presidential races; we may come up with a method actor as President.

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LOW TESTOSTERONE

The advertising gods have now decided that men are at fault in the area of sexual activity. For many moons, the onus has been on women to spice up a couple’s life with such products as Masingale’s douche, sweet smelling unguents, boob jobs, plastic surgery, hair products, all sorts of makeup that makes one look younger and clothing that make men sit up ( literally) and take notice.
Even the dirty films and videos were meant to have women work to arouse men. Some of the Kama Sutra pages were trotted out to make women into pretzels. Men just had to lay back on their couches, beds and hammocks and watch women jack up their estrogen production (see GNC even today) and enjoy the fruits of their partner’s skills.
Somehow over the past few years, the male of the species has come under strict scrutiny. The industry created a disease called E.D. and advertised it to death. There are so many products and so many facets to this disease and 4 out of 5 mean must have it. So, we begin with Viagra and its clones and then move onto various holistic medications and finally to clinics that can cure you in one day. Getting an erection was so simple at one time and now it is a trauma suffered by so many mean. I wonder if the problem is environmental or genetic.
The next male problem is commonly known as “small cox.” This is a virulent bug that infects those with Johnson’s that are apparently undersized. You could get a complex from such a thing. All kinds of old wives tales are presented as truth (proven by many studies). The internet is rife with cures for this problem. I can only imagine the pain involved in curing this malady. To quote a Lewis Black joke, “went on the internet and saw an ad for increasing the size of my penis. It said click here. So, I clicked and clicked and clicked and nothing happened.”
The newest gas is the low testosterone ruse. If you are not being successful with women, you must have low testosterone. My first act would be to go to my doctor and get it tested. Most men do not do that. They are bombarded with the low testosterone ads that they sign up immediately for Grandma’s Wonder Cure for increasing testosterone.
If you are not the person you were in your twenties, then there must be something wrong with you that can be cured by our manner of increasing your testosterone. You know, I feel just that way. I do not feel the same way I did in my 20’s. I wonder if it could be because I am 73.

ASCENT FROM WUSSDOM

Sometime last November, Joe Bard, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (henceforth called PARSS) called me. He said that there was so much work to do about vouchers and charter schools that he wanted to have me come back and lobby on PARSS’ behalf. I asked if there was any money involved and he told me there wasn’t. I quickly agreed.
Joe has been at the forefront of telling me for 30 years that I give away my services too freely. Here was a chance for him to help me with that and he did not. Eventually, he told the PARSS board to give me 400 bucks a month and expenses. I was overjoyed.
I had not been lobbying since the year 2000. Since that time both the house and senate in Pennsylvania have pretty much turned over by 75%. It was not that I did not know some of the new people, but I had not bothered them on behalf of PARSS for almost twelve years.
My initial foray into my lobbying mode had me meeting the new members of the rural house members from rural areas. They are pretty much all R’s (a new way to refer to the political parties R’s and D’s). There are a few D’s but few and far between.
I began my nudging sometime in December and found some very disquieting things. During the cave days, the Democrats were the party of many opinions, fractures and caucuses. They appeared to always be disorganized and only at the most difficult of votes, did they vote as one party. The R’s on the other hand were always in step with their leadership. This is true even on the federal level. My first encounter with a legislator was very strange. He is close to being a Tea Party graduate. He is also very young, about twenty six or seven. He once worked for the leadership of the R’s and seemed to be pretty unhappy with what was going on.
He asked me a million questions. My plain answer to all of them was to ask those questions in his Republican Caucus. That was the trend with more of the rural R’s. They knew of me and PARSS and understood that we always advocated for rural education. We were not high paid lobbyists for either the suburbs or the cities.
Things came to a resounding climax in December of 2011. The Governor (the former Attorney General) had been pushing his version of a charter bill that would have made it easy for charter schools to start because it removed all local control over the creation and review of the charter school. He also wanted to have a voucher bill passed as soon as possible.
These two bills came down to a particular caucus meeting of the R’s. The meeting did not go well for the Governor. The guv had called a number of rural R’s and kind of threatened them with competition in the primaries. He no longer had the WAMs (walking around money) that governors had before him. In fact, as it happened, only one rural R was primaried out, as well as a number of Democrats.
The strange thing is that the D’s that lost and almost lost, had their opponents funded by essentially the same people who funded the losses and near losses on the R’s side. In a curious turn of events, the Speaker of the House, an R, was almost defeated. He lost in his home county and won in a neighboring county (by 340 votes).
Joe and I decided that we would attempt to see each and every rural R. As we began our travail, we encountered some interesting things. A group of moderate R’s had collected enough folks to begin a charter school bill that I am sure the Governor will not sign. Its aim is to present accountability and transparency in charter school operations.
As we speak, the charter schools double dip in retirement funding. The whole of special education is really screwed up for charter and cyber schools and is plainly making these profiteers a boatload of dough.
The overwhelming number of rural R’s understands that is what’s occurring. The more folks we visit, the more we hear how the Republicans in the House will not stand for it. There is even a rural R, who has begun a suit on school funding. He believes that his area, in the Poconos, has been screwed for at least twenty years. This is not the old way of doing things for the Republicans. They have always toed the line and gone along with the leadership and the Governor. Maybe they are now ascending from Wussdom, as they find that they have been taken advantage

MY FRIENDS ARE CROAKING

It just dawned on me that my age cohort friends are sometimes slowly and then rapidly disappearing from my life. I will no longer be able to travel a bit to have dinner with them, nor speak to them on the phone and catch up. They leave me with a hole in my existence that was once plugged by their voices and presence.
Just this week, I went to two funerals. One of my friends from Kutztown, Gordon, passed away from a cancer that he had been battling for a number of years. He was a drinking buddy, a school board member, a Vice President of an asphalt company and a girl’s basketball coach for the past 20 years. He even monitored the lunchroom in the middle school for ten years.
He was not someone who you might describe as beloved. He was someone who needed to get the last word, and often did. He was an inveterate volunteer and the father of three women. Gordon was a great basketball player in his youth. He was my friend for 40 years
Gene was my friend for twenty years. He welcomed us when we moved here in Harrisburg in 1992. He was a raucous guy, motor head, post office chief and the sinew of our synagogue. Gene took care of everything. He sang in the choir, mopped the floor, ordered the supplies, and was the treasurer and many other things. His most important job was working with the Rabbi at the high holy days.
Eleven years ago he had a stroke which confined him to a wheelchair in his house. In my frequent visits, we would tell each other jokes and laugh at the current political scene. As the years went by, he deteriorated both physically and mentally, till his systems gave out this past Wednesday.
I am not usually afraid of death. Last year, when I had my heart operation, I did not consider what might occur if thing would go wrong. I do, however, understand, that my departed friends, who are a part of me and my life have shuffled off my understanding of life.
I am not so anxious to go to a “better place.” Not sure I believe in that. I do like this place because it has my family; my children and grandchildren and the rest of the friend’s corps. I find that getting to know younger people gives me hope for the future.
It is quite frequently that we meet with our scholars from our two programs that we ran to eleven years. We are going to see one of them graduate from Yale Divinity School next week. They have become our friends of a new generation.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AGAIN

A Russian TV series in 2012, a Belarusian movie in the 1970’s, the return of Holmes on British TV; and on public television, makes me wonder how come? I looked up the list of actors who have played the part and it is well over 50 in films, TV. and in the theater. Leonard Nimoy, and the Shakespeare Theater folks did in the 1990’s, William Gillette (great 19th century actor in the 1890’s on stage), Peter O’Toole, Robert Downey, Charlton Heston, Raymond Massey, John Barrymore, John Cleese (for fun), Roger Moore, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and many others.
Why such interest in a late 19th century set of stories by a doctor? When Doyle killed off Holmes and his arch nemesis, Moriarty in the 1890’s over Reichenbach Falls, a clamor arose in Britain and elsewhere to resurrect the master sleuth and his companion Dr. Watson.
I have always thought that Dr. Watson was us. He was pretty smart ( he was a doctor). However, he could not follow Holmes’ logic. In any portrayal of Watson, even the newest one on PBS with Benedict Cumberbatch, he still is in awe of Holmes and follows him around.
For over 100 years, we have looked at Holmes as someone who is a real superman. He is however human at all times. He has magnificent character flaws, no social skills, kind of asexual, a dope fiend, a lack of respect for those without his intellect, a snobbish view of some segments of society. Yet he is bed with the lowest of the low and they help him during many cases. This is something that is a base contradiction in his character. There are others.
He does not seem to have compassion for others, yet he goes out of his way to help people in a jam. He puts himself in harm’s way many times to get to the solution of someone’s problems. Is this just a symptom of his never ending need to figure out puzzles, or something else?
Why has he endured in peoples’ minds for so long? Yes, he is a superman of a kind, but more than that, he projects fallibility along with his unending perfection. He has fears and he has uncertainties. He is a struggling soul like some of us, but he projects his life upon us in fiction. Benedict Cumberbatch does a superb job as the modern Holmes, with an I phone and computer. Yet, he is still the same.
The newest iteration will be on this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. on PBS.