2016 Year-end Review – Theme: Devastating Losses & Memories to Savor

Every year, I write end of the year review. However, this year has been for me, a year of devastating loss, and it has been hard to write the review of 2016.  Well now into 2017, I have finally decided to write year-end review of 2016.  As we bid sad adieu, let me first say, thank you Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden and team for leaving an awesome legacy to serve as our guide going forward.

The deepest of my personal loss is that of my mother who left this world and went on to explore newer shores, on December 30, 2016.  My mother was my rock, my inspiration, my greatest champion and I miss her so very deeply.  Prior to that I also grieved deeply at the election loss of Hillary Clinton (you may contest my counting her as a personal loss and I accept if you mourn with me). I also lost my love, my jelly bean as I called her, my daughter Neesha who colored my life with many gorgeous hues from the time she was born.  She is gone to study at U Penn and I am proud of her accomplishments.  My son Neil continues to work at Cisco and is thankfully living closer to me. As I write this on the eve of historical impending change hanging in the air, I am however also grieving with many of my friends, the loss of an incredible team of talented, bright, compassionate, good hearted people at the helm of our country. Not just our nation but many in the world will miss Mr. Obama, Mrs. Obama, Mr. Biden and the entire team.  Adieu and good luck.

The year was indeed sprinkled with many beautiful events, situations, and deep ties that left indelible marks and created a tapestry of beautiful memories.  I spent beautiful 15 days with my mamma in India and just a week after my return, she peacefully passed away.  During my stay, my spunky, adventuresome mamma was in the best of spirits and loved our twice daily outings. Every morning I gave her oil head massage and a bath and then took her in the wheelchair for an hour in the neighborhood. Every afternoon, we went for a car ride and every evening I brought hers and her sister’s favorite ice cream. I will treasure those wonderful memories.  Our nation will cherish the legacy of President Obama, now leaving White House with very high approval in the country and in the world.

Hillary Clinton nearly shattered the glass ceiling, and from the grief and determination is emerging a pantsuit nation of women warriors, committed to preserving her legacy and her memory with the power of action, in favor of respect, unity, and diversity.

In addition to several road trips and other vacations, I also had a wonderful theater filled vacation in Ashland.  My trip to Morocco http://bit.ly/1SXk80T, walking in the markets, sipping mint tea, riding the camel, and holding little goats will be one of the most memorable vacations.  Later in the year, after I visited mom, I enjoyed a vacation with my cousins and their children at Pondicherry and Trivendrum in Kerala, India.

Other bitter-sweet events of 2016 include thawing in US-Cuba relationship and Chicago Cubs overcoming their World Series curse.  In an effort to root out black market corruption and terrorism financed by black money, India took an unprecedented, bold step of demonetization, wiping out nearly 80% of its currency in circulation, giving the citizens only days to exchange the money in their possession. Indians and the world will closely watch its long term impact. Let’s end on an uplifting note – the fact that women of color made history on election night in the US, as the highest number got elected from their respective states. Certainly, all signs point to the coming year being marked by optimism, activism, dynamism, liberalism, and humanism at the grass roots level.

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Crimes of the Heart – Play Review

Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart, set in MaGrath family kitchen, is a story of sisterhood.  Anyone who has lived with sisters would agree that sisterly bonding is strong, it’s sweet, it’s sorrowful, it is sassy, it’s surreal, it’s serene. The play that just opened at Mountain View Center for Performing Arts, takes the audience on the complex journey of sisterhood.

Part of the literary genre known as “Southern Gothic”, the play won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play.  Mix of tragedy and dark comedy, the play is set in 1950s, in a small town in Mississippi.  The youngest sister Babe (Lizzie O’Hara) is out on bail, after briefly being jailed for shooting her husband (who is injured in the stomach but survived the shooting).  Middle sister, Meg (Sarah Moser) is just out of the psychiatric facility and has arrived at older sister Lenny’s (Therese Plaehn) home to gather in support of Babe through her court trial.

High Res L-R: Meg (Sarah Moser), gets a reaction from her sisters Lenny (Therese Plaehn) and Babe  (Lizzie O'Hara) in Crimes of the Heart, presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Jan. 11 - Feb. 4, 2017 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Photo credit: Kevin BerneIt is obvious that all three sisters are having a bad day, perhaps a bad life. Babe is entangled in an abusive relationship, Meg joyfully embraces life only to be challenged at every turn, and Lenny celebrates her 30th birthday alone in the kitchen, trying to blow out her candle on a cookie, making wish after another wish.  The sisters are brutal towards each other one minute and supportive and encouraging, the next.  It all comes together to create a touching tapestry of sisterhood, family, and deep ties that provoke great sorrow and also provide strength when strength is needed to get through life’s biggest challenges.  

High Res L-R: Sisters Lenny (Therese Plaehn), Babe (Lizzie O'Hara),  and Meg (Sarah Moser) share a moment in Crimes of the Heart, presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Jan. 11 - Feb. 4, 2017  at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Photo credit: Kevin BerneBeautifully directed by Giovanna Sardelli, special mention also goes to Stage Manager, Ashley Taylor Frampton and Assistant Stage Manager, Emily Anderson Wolf, for fabulous stage design.  Major kudos to TheatreWorks’ artistic director, Robert Kelley for bringing a bold and honest story, told from a female perspective, as he says, “in a year that has already focused on America’s women in so many unexpected ways”.  As a million women are set to march in the nation’s capital, and so many more all over the country, in a show of solidarity and strength that emerged from spontaneous rallying cry via social media, to repudiate sexist, racist, misogynystic and divisive rhetoric that has colored current political and social climate in the country, this play focusing on women’s passion, insight, frustration, and bonding, is very timely.  It is also telling how a bunch of loony sisters can overcome and prevail when they bring their passions and bond together, over some sugary desserts :).

“Crimes of the Heart” will be playing in Mountain View till February 5, 2017 and tickets can be purchased at www.theatreworks.org .


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Calendar Girls: Play Review

Image result for calendar girls, city lightsBased on a feel-good true story, “Calendar Girls” is adapted by Tim Firth from his original screenplay, for Nigel Cole’s 2003 British film, by the same name.  The play focuses on six women and their resolve to make a difference in the world, with meaningful contribution.  Members in a women’s club, these six women, Chris (Anne Younan), Annie (Deb Anderson), Cora (Caitlin L. Papp), Jessie (Ruth E. Stein), Celia (Karen DeHart), Ruth (Mary Lou Torre) often spar with the club queen bee Marie (Patricia Tyler) about how their club could be a more meaningful group.  Opportunity presents itself when Annie’s husband, John (Ken Boswell) passes away and in memory of John, the women decide to raise funds for a new couch in the waiting room of the local hospital.

They imagined that ordinary, run of the mill calendars with flowers and landmarks would not sell easily.  Chris and Annie came up with a unique idea (something they had jokingly discussed earlier in John’s presence). They decided to do a calendar with pictures of their group of mature women doing traditional Women’s Institute activities like knitting and baking, with a little twist. The women would pose in nude as they do these activities, with discreetly placed props to cover specific body parts with little exposure but more of a titillating suggestion.

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The women were not prepared for the notoriety and eventually international fame the calendar brought them. It took a toll on their friendships and personal lives. Sometimes they lashed out at each other and at other times in their frustration they lost sight of the fact that they had far exceeded their set goal.  While they had imagined raising a few hundred pounds for the couch, they ended up raising nearly 3 million pounds that enabled building of an entirely new hospital wing.

Eventually, these classy women found their footing and solace in their friendship. They recognized that “out of John’s tragic death came something very special; and acknowledged that “everything we do is born out of love for him”. Clearly their little act stood as a symbol of something much bigger than they had imagined. It was sexiness combined with spunk, mixed with a dose of sass that set them free and enabled them to create a work of art, in favor of a worthy cause, and the world took notice and found inspiration.

While the story is played on world stage, Director, Jeffrey Bracco, Scenic Designer, Ron Gasparinetti and Stage Manager, Kimberly Scofield did a fabulous job in bringing the world to the women, on stage. Calendar Girls will be playing at City Lights Theater in San Jose, CA till December 18, 2016 and tickets are available at www.cltc.org .


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The Night Alive: Play Review

The Night Alive, written by Conor McPherson and directed by Tony Kelly, is a kind of nativity story focusing on compassion and kindness although the beginning seems like it’s anything but that. The play starts by providing a glimpse into the slice of anguished lives of a few lost souls and faint but clear glimmers of hope appear by the end.

Image result for night alive, san joseTommy (Randall King) rents a room in his uncle Maurice’s (Julian Lopez-Morillas) old Edwardian house in Dublin. Uncle Maurice lives upstairs and though critical of Tommy, he also loves him.  Tommy’s friend, Doc (Lawrence Radecker) is Tommy’s little sidekick who also frequently sleeps in the room and helps Tommy with odd jobs.  They scrape by from day to day work and live amidst junk-filled squalor of the room. As the play begins, one night Tommy rescues a young prostitute, Aimee (Allison F. Rich) and bring her home to get her cleaned up. Aimee has no place to go and she ends up staying, for that night and another and another.

Tommy has been estranged from his wife and kids and does not have anything significant to look forward to in life. But a sort of friendship develops between Tommy and Aimee and it brings a little sunshine into his otherwise dark life.  Friendship also sprouts between Aimee and other men. Doc is a little slow and at first he is not quite approving of the loss of his sleeping place and of his friend’s attention. Uncle Maurice is also somewhat disapproving at first. Deadpan humor while all these lost souls are trying to find their bearings in a situation of change and chaos is often heart-breaking but things start to get resolved and just as there is emergence of hope for a kinder gentler life, the story takes a turn.

Image result for night alive, san joseAimee’s ex-boyfriend Kenneth (Jonathan Rhys Williams) comes looking for her and completely disrupts their lives. Is that not how life often unfolds for people with lower means and resources, and keeps them imprisoned in a vicious circle where while they continue to live, life in a true sense seems to emerge every now and then but continues to stay out of their reach?  For this group, as life unfolds in the moment, as they live without dreams, goals and a future, their little attempts at humor seem like attempts to grab fleeting happiness, whenever they can. Doc once brings a book titled “How to survive life-threatening situations”, and reads from it. As the audience laughs at totally non-helpful suggestions outlined in the book, a question lingers, how does one survive life that has nothing to offer?

If however, the ending is good, rest does not matter. Play ends ambiguously, albeit at a place where a little hint of hope, a faint flash of faith emerges.  Sometimes love and kindness may just be enough to open a future of possibilities.

The Night Alive is playing at www.thestage.org in San Jose till December 11, 2016.

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Legacy of Trump – racism & do I even want to understand?

You are wrong Michael Moore. Trump’s campaign was entirely run on racism. (No voters are not racist just like Ms. Elliot’s kids were not racist – see more on that below in paragraph 4). True that many of these same people who voted for Donald Trump had also voted for Barack Obama with the middle name Hussein.  However, Barack Hussein Obama did not simply run his campaign on the rhetoric of divisiveness; in fact, unification was a strong theme in his campaign.  Whereas Trump sought to divide.  He pitted groups against groups; #BlackLivesMatter against #BlueLivesMatter, Latinos against Whites with supremacist bents and so on. But then he went on to divide people from the group they belonged to, identified with, and took pride in. He sowed seeds of division within communities and families, where bi-racial families who had unity are now fighting based on people’s voting preference and invoking racism. Affluent and middle class blacks were pitted against blacks living in “imagined” ghetto communities.  Immigrants who find cultural similarity and likability with each other were pitted against each other based on legal versus illegal status. Whites were pitted against one another on gender lines. Even I read an articulate essay about a muslim woman who voted for Trump for a number of reasons but her emphasis seemed to be on his labeling of Islamic terrorists as opposed to Obama who had not labeled acts of terror as Islamic acts of terror.  Goldstar families who stand together no matter what, united by heart soaking grief of sacrifice that is linked to their love of the nation, felt divided and compelled to take sides, as Trump engaged in an ongoing war of words with the Khan family. Heck, I even know an undocumented immigrant who goes around badmouthing Hillary and talking up Trump (not quite sure why but I’m sure he wants to disassociate part of his identity that has been made to feel like “rapist and murderer”. (Honest to God this is a true story).

Image result for divisivenessPeople hate politicians, because ALL politicians create divisions. Political campaigns are run based on divisiveness not just in the US but in every democratic country.  Yes, #BarackObama, #RichardNixon #HillaryClinton #GoergeBush everyone did that and pretty much all politicians do that. That is how they differentiate themselves from their opponents and energize their base.  But normally, they are ALSO held accountable and are compelled to study issues and TIE THEIR RHETORIC WITH POLICY CONSIDERATIONS, and have to downplay their rhetoric of divisiveness. Understandably, people abhor this two-facedness of politicians. It was Donald Trump’s cunning to wage a war against “political correctness” because then he could speak without restraint and people just slurped up his rhetoric of racial hatered and bigotry, because they liked his honesty. He engaged in name calling of his opponents and the names stuck. Despite him not revealing his taxes, his ties with Russia, his concerns regarding health records, he called Hillary “crooked” and it stuck because labels stick without much effort; whereas going to Hillary’s website and understanding issues takes study and effort.

Trump’s supporters are NOT inherently racist people, certainly not a vast majority of them. Perhaps many of those who bought the birther lie and have stuck with him since, may be inherently racist. But many other Americans were invited to participate in the race based and other divisions. And everyone of us is racist at some times or another and depending on circumstances, we are likely to buy into it.  People are always looking to make meaning out of their circumstances, life’s twists and turns and calamities. People look for answers and explanation and Trump provided a powerful, emotion laden context. He tapped into the vulnerabilities of people and stuck the deepest chord based on his divisive rhetoric and coupled it with eliminating the need to share policy details, with simple slogans like “what have you got to lose”?. Yes, people are jobless and in pain, yes people are dying of opioid addiction more than ever before, and yes, we have crime in the US. But none of those issues alone could have driven people to vote for Trump in large numbers, because he gave no details to deal with any of the problems facing the country. What drove people was that he played to and invoked the hate towards others and he talked to them over and over, relentlessly. He fought his campaign alone, and like a Messiah his voice invoking the hate kept reverberating in people’s minds until they walked into the voting booth.

As a diversity and inclusion trainer, one of the most fascinating thing I learned very early in my professional life as a trainer was how easy it is to divide people based on groupism, even artificially introduced groupism.  In 1968, in a highly publicized exercise, a third grade teacher Jane Elliott tried to teach her class about race and discrimination through a two day “blue eyes/ brown eyes” exercise. (something that would not be allowed today).  Students with blue eyes were given preferential treatment on the first day; they received positive reinforcement, were made to feel superior, and this process was reversed the next day. The results were profound and when she repeated exercise in subsequent years, during one year, PBS went in and filmed the actual impact, in a well known documentary, “A Class Divided”. In just two days Elliot managed to sow deep seeds of hate based on completely artificially introduced divide. The group that was favored performed better in class, were quick to answer questions and the kids in the other group were hesitant and doubtful of their answers and performed poorly. What was also striking was that many of these kids who were friends for their entire young lives, started hating each other, were mean to the other group and the kids from discriminated group walked through the day with downcast eyes, feeling like s&^%*, feeling as if they had nothing more to lose. Ms. Elliot’s tearing down the divide and bringing the class together was just as impressive.

The lesson is that if seeds of hate and divide can be sown in a span of mere two days then consider how deep the hate is that was sown over a year ago and nurtured through Trump’s divisive campaign? And we don’t have Ms. Elliott to bring the country together. The only lesson is that if race based divisiveness gets to rear its ugly head and seems like a mild threat, it must still be quoshed immediately. It is hard to push this beanie down when massive groups of people are called to buy into it, as we know from history. Bernie could not have contained this monster. What is fueled by hate cannot be contained by logic and no policy discussions or understanding coal miners or ads focusing on jobs could have contained divisiveness fueled by hate and emotion.

So Mr. Moore you are wrong to say that it was not racism and hate that more significantly than any other characteristic or consideration played a role in outcome of #Election2016.  It is also hate and racism that people are rallying against in post election protests. It is not the win of the Republican party, the undoing of progressive agenda that may happen, nor the anger against hard to accept Electoral College imposition in an era where each citizen has access to information and must have equal weightage; instead it is against Donald Trump’s rhetoric of hate and division that brought the country to this stage, his basket of deplorable behaviors that now becomes our baggage for next several years, that is fueling the frustration.

Image result for safety pinAnd it is deep frustration. Part of me feels, now what do I care? I should just sit back and relax and enjoy the lower taxes; it’s not my problem any more. And part of me feels like I should walk about wearing those ridiculous safety pins. But for who am I an ally? For that Latino who is undocumented and went around talking up Trump and badmouthing Hillary; or that Hindu who voted for Trump because she hates Pakistan (strange where people connect the dots when hate enters the picture); or that Muslim who voted for Trump and may be attacked by a white supremacist; or for that white man who mostly enjoys many of society’s privileges (without knowing or intending to take an unfair advantage) and on this night is attacked simply for being gay? Why does it now fall on me? Is my safety pin even strong enough to withstand the power of chainsaw that literally cut our ties with each other and broke the humanity that bound us? Perhaps we felt anger towards one group or another at different times in the past, but we did not voice it; we thought before we spoke, and our political correctness allowed us to have polite discussions to understand one another. How do we understand one another now, and do I even want to understand what hate towards whom compelled you to vote for Trump?

In our dark moments, let us remember that more than 50% of voters did not vote for Trump. Remember that all #TrumpVoters are NOT inherently racist people; that Trump may also not be as racist as he is an opportunist. (In my language there’s a saying “a wise enemy is better than a foolish or evil friend” and he is narcissistic evil opportunist but too late for that wisdom now).. He played the most insidious racist/sexist campaign to his advantage, but his policies may not reflect that; he will likely look for personal gains and we must watch closely. #TrumpVoters with inclusive bent joined by #RegretVotingTrump and #RegretNotVoting groups have awakened and want to fight racism and be there for each other; are trying to don safety pins, take the anti-racism message to the streets, and trying to keep the voice of humanity alive. Please get on twitter, a low cost medium to spread awareness AND only tweet true & fact checked news. Retweet important news from @RealDonaldTrump so we’re never taken unawares; so we create a vast network focused on keeping issues and inclusion in forefront so that history will never be repeated.  I love this beautiful, diverse and welcoming country where (paraphrasing Churchill) we always strove for goodness, sometimes only after and perhaps because we exhausted the alternatives. But even so, after veering away, we know how to find our way back to goodness.


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Dems, we should accept #TrumpRule with Resolve, not Resignation

There is a lot of talk on Facebook on acceptance and reconciliation, after Trump’s victory, after Hillary’s gracious speech imploring people to give him a chance and after Trump and Obama’s nice photo op. On the other hand, there are protesters refusing to accept and are marching on the streets of most major cities for days. Hence I decided to share my thoughts.

Reconciliation with Trumpers, yes sure – we need to heal and come together, in time.  But no, do not speak to me of reconciliation and giving this man a chance. Let us not forget that people gave him chance after chance after chance and he kept lowering the bar and that is how he got to the world’s top bully spot. No, I am also not speaking of not accepting #TrumpRule. But it is ok to peacefully protest; to protest against his crass and crude racist and sexist remarks about almost every group of Americans. I am sure African Americans and Latinos and Muslims etc. feel the same way about remarks against the groups they belong to as I feel about his name calling, fat shaming, and sexabusing of women.

The crass and crude talk by Trump has been beyond all reasonableness. If he is a role model then what does he inspire? I am not willing to keep lowering the bar in order to accommodate the crudeness demonstrated by Trump towards 50%+ of population, women — and I hope other members of other groups speak up in their own way at their own appropriate time, as they have been. I feel that I must stand up for women and not allow such crude man who has talked of women in such crude terms to earn my respect. I can’t understand how any woman can. And I can’t understand how any man who respects his women, can.

Trump’s basket of deplorable behaviors is now our baggage for next several years.  If past is any prelude to what may come, belief and trust in him will only lower the bar further, now for the office of the Presidency.  While we endure #TrumpRule, we must never forget his deplorable words and behaviors that brought the country to its present stage. While we endure #TrumpRule, he must never get our respect. I am not wishing him to fail or our country to fail. But remember, a President never governs by himself.  Let us hope reasonable “ELECTED” Republicans will play a role and will show wisdom and enable the country to move ahead, in these difficult times. But meanwhile, do not speak to me of reconciliation with Trump or his coterie of gutless men (who are not elected officials) with idiotic chants of locking up political opponents.

Image result for resolveSo yes, we accept #TrumpRule. But we do not accept it with any kind of belief that this man will be different and be worthy of earning our respect, in the office of Presidency. We also do not accept it with resignation that now he won so we just accept and give up striving to be better. We accept #TrumpRule as a fact of life for the next several years. We accept it with clarity that during this time we need to watch each other’s backs, to look out for safety of those among us who may be more vulnerable, because the groups they belong to were directly threatened by him. We accept him while keeping a spotlight on who he is and what he represents and what stage he brought the country to, so we don’t allow him or anyone like him to repeat history.  We accept with the knowledge that if we rise up to it, if we volunteer, be there for each other, stand #StrongerTogether than we will emerge better and more worthy of our next leader.  

We accept #TrumpRule my friends, with resolve, not resignation; and certainly not gullibility that brought us here today…..

PS: Good discussion on @maddow @MSNBC – her guest shares we have a tendency to think we’d be ok even though everything that’s preceded indicates that it’s not so even though he has already started flaunting traditions – http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show
Russia applauded & congratulated Trump & has come out and confirmed that Russia was in contact w. Trump campaign throughout the entire campaign. Now he is getting intelligence briefings, including intelligence on any American spies in Russia. Whole intelligence operations in all countries center around stealing information.  I pray our spies remain safe. http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show
And a day earlier, Elizabeth Warren @Warrenolizer on Maddow said we will need to stay connected so that we’re ready to mobilize should a time come.


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“Sully” – Movie Review

The movie, Sully is centered around the incident that came to be known as “Miracle on the Hudson”, where Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) with his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) is forced to make an emergency landing in New York’s Hudson River and manages to do it skillfully, saving every single passenger on board.

Within minutes after takeoff, US Airways Flight 1549 had a head to head collision with a flock of Canadian geese and the airplane lost all power. Under tremendous pressure to save lives of all on board the airplane which was now quickly losing altitude, Sully decided to land in the vast expanse of the icy Hudson, something that had never been successfully done before.  Prior to the decision, he quickly considered a return to LaGuardia or the closer Teterboro airport in New Jersey and decided that both those possibilities were more risky with a real chance of losing lives on board and on ground, if the airplane would not make it. Landing in the river would make it possible for rescue workers, choppers, and ferryboats to come to their quick rescue.
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Clearly the miraculous landing was celebrated in the media and Sully was hailed as a hero. But privately, behind the scenes, Sully’s actions were coming under scrutiny by the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB began to grill Sully and his co-pilot relentlessly. At first, Sully was certain but over time, the double guessing began to take its toll and he had moments of doubt that he shared with his wife Lorrie (Laura Linney).  

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Sully is a modest man with years of flying experience under his belt and he does not shy away from the attention, neither does he crave it.
Tom Hanks does a tremendous justice in his character as Sully, playing it with just the right touch of subtlety and show of confidence. Special kudos to Louisa Abel, Makeup department head, for excellent job on the makeup where Hanks comes as close to looking like Sully as he possibly could.  This is a beautiful movie that restores our faith in the power of human decision making which supersedes technology, although that may be true only when a person is equipped with experience to carefully (and albeit quickly) consider various alternative scenarios and pick the one that may be just right to avert the disaster.  On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 4.7 .



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Then they came after us….

Obama was not born in US, they said
They wanted birth certificate and proof
But there was no proof that satisfied
This topic President Obama abandoned
joked, ducked, deflected, ignored and laughed
But there was no trending hashtag
POTUS fought his battle alone
Even as the country’s business he handled

Rosie O’Donnell rudely insulted
Bill Maher was sued
Machado fat shamed
Judge’s ability questioned
Khans arrogantly maligned

We were silent and they got bolder
Not just individuals were picked
Latinos were rapists, muslims to be deported
Central Park 5 were not to be believed
Law and order, stop and frisk to be instituted
Oil to be stolen, Wall to be built
Forget leadership and let countries nuke each other out

In lies, hate was wrapped
In fear, bigotry neatly packaged
He and his surrogates conspired
Party of honest Abe gave them platform
Alt right carried him to term

Flush with cash
Smug with support
His ego bloated beyond bounds
He truly believed he was the chosen one

And that is when it happened
That is when they came after us
Stories of countless women insulted and groped
Victimized, shamed and violated
Left alone to pick up pieces of their lives
This time in a pot of fear, his lies we couldn’t bury
Women were scorned and hell hath no fury
More he victim-shamed us, more we spoke
His lewd banter sounded more like a confession
We weren’t about to reward him with White House mansion

But we had long been silent, we’d given him a long rope
He needed to be contained long long ago
We needed to stand by our black brethren
Support Latinos and Muslims, not just Lutheran
Now we need our brothers, husbands and sons
To support and stand by us

When women became target of hate
Polls tell a sad story
We were forsaken by our men
Disruption, hate and mayhem
Would have a field day
If only men were to vote today
Their campaign of divisiveness
Have literally pitted families against families

For a while, the patriarchs expressed outrage
Then accepted his apology with “grace”
First they were as aghast as us
They tried to distance themselves from him
Thought their outrage might rein in the monster
Then they protected him, negated, dithered
Unendorsed, supported, loved and hated
Until it hurt and they ran out of words

Image result for ugly monster with orange hairNow this monster, his surrogates and alt-right
Are likely to swallow the patriarchs and spit’em out
Minimizers are getting minimized
Diminisheres diminished
Conservative values are up for a toss-up
Everyone and every value is a target
Ryan now, next may be Newt
The party that gave him platform
Surrogates that brought him to term
Can’t rein him in, couldn’t contain
Everything up for grabs in this hell storm
Diminishing circle with Carson, Giuliani, Pence
Will have plenty of time for penance
Throwing out all decent values, they yet stand by their man
Protecting their jobs, to hell with the nation

The monster that tapped on our feelings of vulnerability
On fear, terror and our longing for security
He mocked disability
He and alt-right shaming us with vulgarity
Now we fear the loss of humanity
In our homes, society, community

They came after us
They’re coming after you
Engulfing each one
Soon it’ll be a party of one

One! Who could’ve been silenced
Hushed long ago, his lies exposed
One! Who grew into an avalanche
Creating his support base from fringes of alt-right
‘Cause we let him, with our silence.
Then they came after us!

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“We are proud to present” – Play Review

Colonialism and racism are intertwined with notions of superiority, subjugation and reducing people to less than; sometimes driving them to extinction. Doing justice to even one of these two connected and complex, heart rending topics, in a short performance, is a massive challenge. But focusing on both, in one theatrical performance?

img_20161012_223048146.jpg“We are proud to present” written by Jackie Sibblies Drury, currently playing at San Jose Stage, presented in association with the African-American Shakespeare Company, does just that.  Art and life merge as White Man (Coleton Schmitto), Black Man (Edward Ewell), Another White Man (Brandon Leland), Another Black Man (Ae Jay Mitchell), White Woman (Lyndsy Kall), and Black Woman (Oluchi Nwokocha) encounter their own personal prejudices, while rehearsing for their roles for a performance focusing on 20th century genocide in a little known place in Africa.

History is most frequently written by those in charge and there exists little documentation about the episode that occurred between the years 1904 and 1907, in modern-day Namibia, then a part of German South-West Africa.  The performers are trying to bring the episode to life, based on few letters. Dubbed one of the first genocides of the 20th century, this was a campaign of racial extermination and collective punishment undertaken by the German Empire. When the Herero rebelled, they were driven out into the desert, where most died of starvation. Then the Nama people rebelled and faced a similar fate. Between 24,000 and 100,000 Herero (about 80% of Herero) and 10,000 Nama died during those few short years. After defeat, thousands of Herero and Nama were imprisoned in concentration camps, where the majority died of disease, starvation, exhaustion, and abuse.  

However, those looking for a deeper focus on the genocide episode will be disappointed. From the starting point of colonization and discussion on how to bring the episode to life on stage, art and life merges and the play morphs into impact of race in the current time. Given less documentation of the events surrounding the episode and thus given less structure, there is much discussion of where to put the focus and who should play which role. Tensions begin to mount and conflicts appear as their personal biases makes it a fully subjective experience. It is when one unravels the strands of history, that one finds that history is intimately linked with the present. And to those who experience life on different terms, peeking into history is often a stronger, more emotional experience.

On a little sidebar note, in the currently heated election 2016 season, candidate Donald Trump’s transgressions, reminded many women of their own encounters of sexual minimizing, leading to big gender gap in recent polls. For some women, events as far back as 30 years or more into their life, seemingly felt like they happened yesterday.

Directed by L. Peter Callender, the play gives a deep insight into the layered conversation that exists about race and subjective and deep feelings people have in society. Bitter and vehemently fought election campaigns this year, have often focused “bigly” on race and bigotry.  The play will make you uncomfortable but also take you on a journey of self-reflection. Tickets can be purchased at www.thestage.org .

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You must think of the company you keep #Election 2016

After all the arguments are done, and when I have asked if none of the things that Trump has said or done bothers them enough to not give their vote to Trump in #Election2016, then I have heard from some people still planning to vote for Donald Trump that they feel all right because nearly 50% of the country feels that way too.  Aside from the fact that it is the lamest argument in a democracy where the responsibility falls individually on each one of us, and historically people have given away their lives and livelihood for the privilege to vote and not be led through a herd mentality, even then, you must also think about which 50% you want to be with.

Image result for election 2016Atlantic Monthly a relatively new anti-slavery magazine, three years after it was found in 1860, endorsed Lincoln, a Republican, for President, and then after 104 years, in 1964, they made another endorsement for LBJ for President (out of horror of the opponent Barry Goldwater and his cavalier attitude towards nuclear weapons and civil rights). For the third time in its history, the magazine endorsed Hillary Clinton and unendorsed Trump.

USA Today has never taken a position on a presidential election in its 34 year history as a newspaper that you often get at your door in most hotel chains. In its first ever endorsement, it urged readers to vote for any candidate not named Donald Trump. Since its start in 1890, Arizona Republic has only endorsed Republican party candidates and never ever endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president. Saying that “this year is different”, for the first time, it endorsed Hillary Clinton, over Trump.

You have heard it all.  From media outlets to newspaper publications to journalists to business leaders to billionaires, to political leaders (including eminent Republicans) have given their endorsements to Hillary Clinton.  As far as I know, only Ted Cruz, one Silicon Valley business leader, and one apparently little known magazine has endorsed Trump.

Image result for basket of candiesYes Hillary Clinton’s word choice was very poor in calling some of Trump supporters as “basket of deplorables” but really — think about it…………… ALL of Trump’s words and actions have hovered on utterly trashy and deplorable.  Now do you want to stand with him and his basket of deplorable behaviors, simply because nearly 50% will do it?  Just imagine this basket filled with skittles where each candy stands for Trump’s “deplorable” behavior like sexism, lewdness, sexual harassment, racism, mocking physical disability, fat & age shaming women, insulting gold star veteran family, and the basket is now overflowing.

If it was any other Republican candidate, then I would fight vehemently against them but also BUT I would understand why you’d want that person as your first choice.  I would understand that we differ in values.  While I would fight to uphold my values, I would also understand that you are fighting to uphold your values. But you must ask, does Trump reflect your values; your character as a person? He has never stood firm on any issue, so which of your values he reflects? For instance, if you care for immigration reform then do you seriously believe that a man who has flip flopped his entire way through the campaign and advanced the most bogus, impractical, unenforceble solution of an expensive, physical wall, reflects what you stand for? If you believe in law and order then what specific solution he has proposed and stuck with it, besides rhetoric? If you believe in his toughness and his leadership in the world then what strategy proves his skill other than him saying “he’ll take a walk from negotiation” and praising thugs like Putin?

I am going to turn around his rhetoric of “what do you have to lose” and ask you, what do you have to lose in NOT VOTING FOR TRUMP? You are afraid Hillary will appoint liberal judges? Well then what? If you are against LGBT and afraid that they will get a right to marry then I understand your fear. But wouldn’t a small part of you say, well how bad would it be? In any case, the nation is moving towards that and after Barbara and Jenny moved in next door, you’ve realized that they are great neighbors and what they do in their bedroom does not affect you in any way?  

What have you got to lose in not voting for Trump? Even someone Trump had mentioned and might have nominated for Supreme Court judgeship, has now requested Donald Trump to step down. I am trying to say that I understand your fear because I would fear that my values will not be upheld with a conservative leadership. But shouldn’t it be more important to us all that a leader is wise and mature, cares for the country, behaves with some minimum decorum and propriety and has some experience in leading the nation?

If you would not leave your young daughter in a room alone with #DonaldTrump, is he the man you’d want to lead our country? If you are a woman or respect women then do you want a man to lead us who has called us worst imaginable names, fat shamed us, age shamed us, engaged in sexual harassment using his position as a lever, claimed to have sexually overpowered (assault) women (just because he can), and objectified us by referring to us as our genitals with words like c*&^ and p&%$^. Haven’t each of us women experienced at least some of that in real life and want our leader to move us forward, not backward in time? If your brother, sister or friend struggles on a daily basis with physical challenges, do you want a man who mocks handicapped people to lead our nation? We all owe a deep debt of gratitude to our veterans and do you want to send our sons and daughters to war, under the leadership of a man who has ridiculed a gold star family, flip flopped on his being pro and anti war?

In fact, even if you are vehemently against illegal immigration and are ignoring all deportations done by Obama administration, EVEN THEN, I AM SURE YOU ARE NOT A RACIST, because I refuse to believe there are 50% racists in this greatest and most diverse nation in the world. Would you want a man to lead our country who has branded an entire group (with the exception of some), with a broad brush and called them murderers and rapists?  In your heart do you believe that even all illegal immigrants are murderers and rapists? You know it is wrong and you know that someone who stereotypes so many groups of people in most “deplorable” terms, will do that some day to you, to your group, to the group that you love or belong to.

I ask you millennials: you may be somewhat unfazed by what he dubs are his “locker room banter” comments; you are young and you may have heard it all; but think again. It is as if your grand father talks like that and speaks of grabbing your girlfriend. And you must know, Donald Trump doesn’t care for your future. One wonders if he even cares for his own children, discussing his own daughter’s breasts and ass in a public forum. Donald Trump is no Bernie Sanders. Imagine your parent discussing your body in a public forum. Think of how many of you could have gone to college without raking up loans, if he paid nearly a billion dollars of his share of taxes. Girl friends, if his latest, most demeaning comments on women bother you then as woman to woman, I implore you to not give this man your vote. 

Don’t fact check, don’t listen to what you hear from the media that you don’t trust. But at least listen to Donald Trump’s own words and let your conscience guide you in doing the right thing. Pay close attention and listen to him speak in the debate. All of you are bothered, very much concerned, annoyed and have agonized about all he has said and more. I am reaching out and asking you, “what do you have to lose” if you don’t give your vote to Trump? Let the chips fall where they may.  Put a small crack in that number – “nearly 50% of the country voting for him” and it will crumble faster than you can blink an eye. 

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