Goodbye Studs

6 11 2008


Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel

Last Friday Pulitzer-prize winning oral historian Studs Terkel passed on at the age of 96. I discovered Studs while watching the April 4, 2006 episode of The Daily Show where he appeared to promote his newest book. So drawn was I to his feisty and spirited discussion with Jon Stewart that I looked him up. 


I was fascinated by his knack for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary no matter whether he was interviewing the waitress in the local diner or an acclaimed celebrity personality. Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Eat, Pray, Love, speaks about spirituality and and the Buddhist notion that God exists in you AS you. Studs, in his own endearing style, had a way of connecting with the deity in the every day person, exposing the goodness, honoring it, and celebrating it.

Reading his oral histories, or in my case listening to the audiobook edition, is an exercise in optimism and hope that bolsters even the most depressed mood. Studs’ average “Joes” (yes, Joe the Plumber, Bob the Builder, Jane the Hair Stylist, etc) each contribute something good or accomplish an honorable goal, somewhere along the way despite their own hardships or failings. I remember finishing his books and smiling with renewed faith that life’s struggles, though they may challenge us, are not in vain, and that each of us has something constructive and positive to give.

You can read more about Studs in the NY Times obituary and this article “He Gave Voice to Many, Among Them Himself” written as a tribute to him a few days after his death. 

And you can see the video of the appearance on The Daily Show that led down this path of discovery.

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Photos from Korea

11 08 2008
Mermaids of Jeju Island, South Korea 


Mermaids of Jeju Island, South Korea


After 10 hours of sorting and uploading, the bulk of my photos from my trip to Seoul are up on my smugmug page. I didn’t have time to edit much or add a lot of description, but you can get a view of our experience. The coolest photos, in my opinion, are the ones I snatched of the women who dive for fish and shellfish without scuba equipment. They are known as Haenyeo or Mermaids of Jeju. They train themselves to dive up to 20 meters below the surface without the use of any breathing apparatus. 

Sadly, they are an aging lot. I believe the average age of the remaining Haenyeo is 60+ years. Not enough young women are interested in taking up the dangerous profession. It takes guts to fend off sharks and subject your body to such demanding activity. 

The ladies I encountered on the way back to my hotel were a lively wizened crew. They chatted spiritedly among themselves as a photographer was setting up his gear. Although I couldn’t understand the language, I could tell they are a closely knit community. The tone and pace of their repartee reminded me of the Ya-Ya Sisters.

P.S. The reason these photos are so special to me is that I don’t believe the Haenyeo are a normal part of the tourist experience. I got up at 5:15 am one morning hoping to catch the sunrise on Jungmun beach near the Lotte Hotel. I was 20 minutes too late for that but right on time for the divers.

Love, Love, LOVED King Lear

16 07 2008

I just saw a spectacular performance of King Lear at the Shakespeare Theatre of NJ. Does it get better than Daniel Davis’ masterful interpretation of the foolish, mad, tragic king? WOW! It’s as if he transforms and transports himself literally and physically into character. Although I’m no expert, I have seen more than my share of Shakespearean acting that I’ve thought was good or at least good enough to give myself over to the moment and enjoy the presentation. But this performance was mind blowingly great. Daniel Davis’s Lear makes Denzel Washington’s Caesar look like high school…he really was THAT good!

It takes guts to put yourself out there on stage like that…my kind of actor!

OMG I Can’t Believe It

13 06 2008

Tim Russert

Just when you start to relax, something happens to remind you of the fragility of life. I just arrived home from a business trip in Dallas to news that Tim Russert suffered but did not survive a severe heart attack. He was a mere 58 years old.  

Of course, I didn’t know Tim Russert apart from his TV persona. I’m not sure I even “liked” that persona…he seemed something of a bulldog on Meet the Press. But as someone who is a fan of lively debate, I certainly appreciate and admire his guts. And, certainly, Tim Russert seemed to be one of the few journalists who remained unafraid to ask the “tough” questions. As someone who wonders whatever happened to investigative political reporting in the past 8 years, I truly admire that. I think his absense will leave a gaping void.

Too Cute for Words

24 03 2008

Here are my favorite nieces singing Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf in Spanish. Muy bien, excellente, ninas!

Melonie Marano Is The Best Choice

1 11 2007

I don’t often jump into the political fray, but if you live in Somerset County, NJ, take note now. Melonie Marano is running for county freeholder, and I’m recommending that you vote for her on November 6.

I’ve known Melonie since 2004 when I became actively involved with the Green Brook Education Foundation. Those years I led the foundation board were far from easy. We faced a seemingly uphill battle to force the synapses in the wizened brains of long time township residents to connect in new ways and to take a fresh look at how to raise money for our schools.

Fundraising for even the noblest cause is never a cakewalk, at least not in the beginning.  Establishing credibility for a new organization, educating the population on a new concept, garnering involvment for new activities, using only the meager resources of a few diehard, but already overloaded volunteers, takes guts, a thick skin and a boat-load of energy, even if the money raised in the process has an immediate and visible impact on the local community with little-to-no overhead. 

 Melonie, however, responded with her characteristic generosity of spirit and unwavering support. She was ever present at golf outings, galas, 5K runs, performing arts productions, pitching in as needed in whatever capacity was needed. But most importantly, Melonie grasped the significance of the foundation’s cause and became an advocate, a cheerleader, and a friend.

I’ve since stood side-by-side with Mel and her family as we manhandled the stuffing into pierogies at the St. Nicholas Church, observing how her affable demeanor and reassuring smile just naturally bring people together. I’ve watched her fight her own uphill battle as the lone Democrat on the Green Brook township committee, daring to buck the status quo to champion change and reform. 

More than any other elected township official, Melonie has fostered a sense of real community in our town. Through her unflagging efforts she revived the Cultural, Heritage and Historic Preservation Committee, led us in a celebration of our humble past, secured an historic house for our future, and reminded us to stand tall and take pride in the place that our kids will call their hometown.

No matter your political leanings, make your choice for Melonie Marano, the candidate who is most apt and best suited to fill the role of freeholder for our county, the candidate whose every action effects change, the candidate who cares most about you.

Read more about what Melonie has to say here.

Blast from the Past

29 10 2007

I was having an IM conversation tonight with a friend of comparable years of “life experience.” I mentioned Galveston in the conversation which segued to Glenn Campbell who sang the song about Galveston which somehow strangely segued to Leavin’ on a Jet Plane. We pondered for a moment about who sang that song. As our memories failed us, I googled it. That sequed us to John Denver who wrote the song which then segued me to YouTube to see some footage. That segued me way, way back to my childhood crush who looked like a short-haired version of John Denver.

I fell “in love” on the first day of kindergarten with my underwear showing (hey, at least I was wearing underwear and not pulling a “Britney”!) as I almost crawled onto the school bus. It had stopped over a little water gully by the front walkway. The gap between the cement stoop and the first step was such a “great divide” to my little legs that my skirt slid up as I stretched my legs into a near split to bridge it.

Somehow, I’ve always remembered that moment, the first time ever I boarded the school bus. He was already in the front seat shy and reserved sitting next to “Kimmy Kim Kurls” who was so eager to meet new friends that she moved to the top of the steps to greet me.

We journeyed through 13 years of school together often sitting side-by-side because his last name began with C and mine with D. We were study buddies, lab partners, and afterschool club mates. But, sadly, we never dated….sigh. I guess neither one of us had the guts to ask…at least I know I didn’t. And you know what I say…no guts, no glory!

And now for your nostalgic enjoyment, here are a few Leavin’ on a Jet Plane videos.  There are videos of John Denver singing solo, but I think he’s cutest on this one.

 And this one’s just cute…