Archive for the ‘Gemini Jive’ Category


GEMINI JIVE: “Annals of History: Begging Your Pardon?”

January 30, 2009

me-maskMaralyn Lois Polak • Operation Itch Contributing Writer header
©2009 ML Polak
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In the final fatal moments of his lethal Presidency, claiming he was acting to preserve his place in history as well as his legacy as a Compassionate Conservative, Bush-Wah pardoned a rough and ready gang of what his livid critics characterized as “some of the worst evildoers who ever existed in life as well as literature, on the planet, or on the page”– 1,549 past, present, and future villains in all, recipients of executive clemency.

 Among the beneficiaries of GWB’s last-minute legalistic largesse, to say nothing of his reanimating the dead and revitalizing the (sometimes) barely living, were Lizzie Borden, Adolf Hitler, Dr. No, Josef Stalin, Goldfinger, Adolf Eichmann, “Papa Doc” Duvalier, Atilla the Hun, Sherman Adams AND his Vicuna Coat, Raskolnikov, Mussolini, Shylock, the Unabomber, Iago, Lavrentiy P. Beria, Margaret Thatcher, Leopold and Loeb, Falstaff, Cruella De Ville, the Iceman, Carlos the Jackal, Tony Blair, Al Capone, Lyndon Johnson, Jack the Ripper, Norman Bates, and yes, even Saddam Hussein and The Joker. But never Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, or anyone else who really deserves to be pardoned like most of those currently imprisoned for crimes they did not commit, you can bank on that. 

 And yet, revealing a surprising depth and breadth of insight long obscured by his image as a generic booze-coke-and-pretzel-loving-upside-down-children’s-book-reading-911 plot-machinations-country-hijacking-good-ole-boy, GWB’s solid, sophisticated deconstructive Shakespearean analysis of heroes and villains is worthy of a Lifetime Chair in Criminal Psychology at Harvard, let alone the last gasps of the Ultimate Lamer, er, Lame Duck:


“While a Hero represents ‘the perfect man,’ I don’t know any, except maybe my brothers and my father. Sure, Shylock’s an outsider not only because he’s actually Jewish and the rest of the town’s Christian, but also because he has a different value system. Like me, in Washington, only in reverse. Shylock makes it clear he enjoys his role as an outsider when he tells Bassanio. ‘I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you’ (I.3.33-35). In Shakespeare’s play, Shylock’s both victim and villain. Like, he’s a decider and a people person, like me. See, he gets betrayed by his only daughter when she elopes with a Christian and loots his house of all the gold and jewels. Although he’s angry about the loss of his prize material possessions, he’s devastated when he learns his daughter also sold a memento which was very important to him, you know, a sentimental thing. This shows Shylock’s definitely not just motivated merely by financial gain. Let’s face it, he could have been an ordinary Texas oilman, who ran a baseball team, and somehow, through an accident of fate, or family connections, or the right folks pulling the strings of the election machines, became President instead.”

 However, Bush 43’s misplaced generosity with this deluded avalanche of pardons, exceeding even Bill Clinton’s megalomaniacal excesses, seems to have spurred a seriously contentious fissure in his own family, with his wife Laura tearfully calling a global press-conference at 3 AM on the eve of the Inauguration. “My fellow Americans, and our overseas friends, I’m here to tell you I’m creeped out,” she admits. “I know my George has a big heart. I know he secretly roots for the bad guys, I mean, underdogs. But the notion of all those freed miscreants roaming the defenseless streets of our afflicted nation, well, I swear I’ll never sleep again, so help me, Lord. And I don’t know how my dear sweet husband, who had his own two darling daughters to protect until they managed a flimsy pretext to escape his clutches, I mean, leave home, could ever do that to Obama’s little girls, exposing those adorable darlings to all that potential danger of a pent-up Norman Bates suddenly let loose. As for me, I’m afraid to take a shower ever again. Oh, George!”
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‘O’ Is for Ox: Inaugural Predictions for the Chinese New Year

January 22, 2009

me-maskMaralyn Lois Polak • Operation Itch Contributing Writer header
©2009 ML Polak
see all posts by MLP


You gotta believe, minus the tragic parts, the cosmos is one gargantuan comedy. Consider, despite a burgeoning global financial slump, the Chinese New Year of 2009 arrives Monday, January 26 — the Year of the Ox, symbolizing, yes, calm, hard work and risk-aversion. Strangely enough, outgoing 2008 was, according to the same Chinese calendar, the Year of the Rat: charming and clever, yet cunning and selfish! Right! As in Bush and Cheney, perhaps?

Just as you might suspect, the Year of the Earth Ox promises “stability and dependability,” writes Stephanie Dempsey on Tarot. com.  “Oxen place great emphasis on authority and tradition. Therefore, 2009 will lay an especially heavy burden on world leaders. Government officials, CEOs and community organizers will be expected to correct society’s ills. If they slack off, they’ll be thrown by the wayside. Substance is always favored over style in the Year of the Ox.”

 We’ll see, won’t we.

The Ox, or the Buffalo sign of the Chinese Zodiac, generally represents prosperity through fortitude and hard work, but it can seem like forever. Previous Ox years were 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997. And, according to Wickipedia, the USA’s new President Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961, which makes him a Leo in conventional astrology. But in the Chinese calendar, he’s an Ox, which considerably ups the ante. “People born in the Year of the Ox,” according to San Francisco’s Chinese Cultural Center, “are patient, speak little, and inspire confidence in others. They tend, however, to be eccentric, and bigoted, and they anger easily. They have fierce tempers and although they speak little, when they do they are quite eloquent. Ox people are mentally and physically alert. Generally easy-going, they can be remarkably stubborn. They hate to fail or be opposed.”

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GEMINI JIVE • “Calamity Jane Rides Again?”

January 14, 2009

me-maskMaralyn Lois Polak • Operation Itch Contributing Writer header
©2009 ML Polak
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 You would never know the world’s blessed with a “new, improved” branch of mental heath called POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY, would you? I mean, gauging recent cringe-and-flinch-inducing calamity-oriented-type headlines, emails, events, situations we all are far too familiar with lately.

Suddenly the Bad-News Bears are everywhere! Harbingers of Hopelessness! I mean, even lawyers, let alone Buddhists, agree life is pain and suffering — therefore, you pop a few thousand doses of Big Pharma’s Anti-Depressants — and then you die, right?

Well, enough of those Nattering Nabobs of Negativism of yore! Never before have we so desperately needed a cognitive tool such as PP to lead us out of the Morass of Pessimism, 21st century successor to the Slough of Despond. Positive Psychology’s nothing all that new, really. New Whines in Old Bottles, or Old Whines in New Bottles. But it does strive for the Sunny side!!

Call it what you will, Positive Psychology’s been around for eons, maybe even since Cave-Man days– long before French motivational maven Émile Coué postulated in the last century, “Every Day in Every Way I Feel Better and Better.” Coué maintained curing our troubles requires a change in our unconscious thoughts, which could be accomplished through activation of the imagination. Although he claimed he was not primarily a healer but one who taught others to heal themselves, he maintained he could achieve physical changes through autosuggestion.

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GEMINI JIVE • “Book People”

January 7, 2009

me-maskMaralyn Lois PolakOperation Itch Contributing Writer header
©2009 ML Polak
see all posts by MLP

 The other week I walked into a cozy and inviting second-hand bookstore called the Last Word near the Penn campus in West Philadelphia while waiting for a movie to start around the corner. That’s how it is these days for books — no longer the main event, now relegated to the sidelines. And I’m what passes for a Book Person. I buy books from, whenever possible, independent bookstores rather than chains. I read books cover to cover, savoring each word. I write books. Sometimes they even get published.

 The salesclerk, a pleasant 40-ish woman, and I begin chatting. We share our mutual loathing of those new-fangled wireless electronic book–reader-thingees like Kindle  — think iPods for books– retailing for $359. You can even order them pre-loaded with hundreds of book titles. I compare them to vibrators — you might think you’re getting sex, but it’s sure not human!

 But oh, the mindless blather touting this devilish device! “Manhattan’s Algonquin Hotel has a long tradition of nurturing the literary-minded — Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, even Harpo Marx hung out there in its heyday. Keeping up with the times, the folks running the Algonquin today apparently still have literature on their minds, and are offering Amazon’s Kindle pre-loaded with a book of their choice for guests of the hotel during their stay…” burbles the website Switched-dot-com.

 We both agree battery-powered books seem a crime against nature. 
“People like the feel of real books, the smell of books,” the salesclerk declares fervently. “They like to touch them. They like to carry books with them wherever they go. Books are already portable. You can read them anywhere. Books are, in their way, comforting.”

 Certainly books are the low-tech solution to the reading process. Here’s hoping actual books — and public gathering-places to read them like libraries — never go out of style. If only Philly’s Mayor could have been there to participate in our conversation, maybe he’d have second thoughts about his misguided –and potentially dangerous — threat to shut 11 neighborhood library branches to eliminate some red ink in the city’s way-out-of-whack budget.

Doesn’t the Mayor know books are magical? Isn’t he aware books can change lives, young and old, forever? Doesn’t he realize books are a passport to the Imagination Unlimited?

And, instead of privatizing some of the city’s libraries in poor neighborhoods, as he may now do, why not simply eliminate 10-year real estate tax abatements extended to rich, powerful corporate interests instead.

 Here’s a city with one of the highest murder rates in America, yet so short-sighted as to even consider closing nearly a dozen libraries, which function as cultural community centers. Boy, how dumb — and bogus — can you be? Libraries are incredibly important to people of all ages. They can be safe, quiet places to do homework after school. They can be places to use computers, thus helping conquer the Digital Divide for impoverished families. They can be places to do research, seek intellectual enrichment, attend lectures, movies, workshops, or even socialize. Think about it. And then rescind the order to shutter those libraries.
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GEMINI JIVE • Ready! Aim! Shaddup! Happy New Year! Splat!”

December 31, 2008

me-mask1Maralyn Lois Polak • Operation Itch Contributing Writer ©2008 ML Polak header

Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis, believed guns were phallic symbols. What did he know? Well, think about it: guns have three main parts — the barrel, the handle, the trigger –just like most, um, male sex-organs.

 The first woman I ever met who packed heat was a Philadelphia District Attorney whose nickname was “Tough Cookie”. Although she was not exactly your frilly-excessively feminine type, her gun was diminutive, and, if my memory serves me, encrusted with gleaming mother-of-pearl. I guess she was entitled, due to the vulnerability of her position– being in a field where unhappy customers could strike back at her any time.

 Be that as it may, the Friday after Christmas, I decide to treat myself to a first-run movie, instead of waiting for it to come out on NetFlix. My choice is “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” 13 minutes short of three hours, so I’d definitely get my money’s worth. This mesmerizing movie, adapted from the 1921 short story of the same name by literary icon F. Scott Fitzgerald, is being touted as a dramatic tour-de-force for Brad Pitt, who gets to play a human being whose thoroughly unconventional life is lived completely in reverse — he’s born old and spends the rest of the story “growing down” and eventually dying, as an infant, in his beloved Cate Blanchette’s arms. 

 Fortunately I had a few remaining transit tokens, so I quickly hopped a bus across down, arriving in time to get a bargain-priced afternoon ticket. The movie was a compelling meditation on chance vs. destiny, the perplexes of parenthood, the sometimes conflicting allure of adventure vs. domesticity, and the persistence of love despite the ravages of time and memory. Especially, it reminded me at its core of “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” how our love for a particular person can become embedded in our very cells, bypassing what we think we “know” to endure forever. Read the rest of this entry ?


GEMINI JIVE • The Homeland Security Grinch Who Stole ChanKwanChrisSolMas?

December 23, 2008

me-mask1Maralyn Lois Polak • Operation Itch Contributing Writer • header
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My late parents were married on Christmas Eve, so that might have made me the Baby Jesus — but I’m not. Instead, as an adult-onset orphan, I get to reconstitute my own family. I can actually pick who I prefer to spend holidays with. Which means dear friends near and far, many of them scattered to the Four Winds.

 You must have seen recent headlines like this one from Metro, the global newspaper: “FINALLY A GOOD EXCUSE TO AVOID YOUR CRAZY FAMILY; ECONOMIC WOES CUTTING HOLIDAY TRAVELING DOWN TO SIZE.”


 To me, traveling’s easy– staying home’s hard. Typically, the exotic and unfamiliar trump the mundane and routine. You have to work really hard at tolerating everyday reality. I mean, without consuming tons of booze or pills or chocolate.

 Community really helps. So do, um, cats.

 So I’m walking across center city Philadelphia on a pleasant recent Saturday evening, headed for a dear friend’s party. I’m feeling mellow, in the village-y part of downtown away from the commercial bustle of skyscrapers and office buildings. It’s true, Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods. I’m admiring block after block of historic, seasonally-decorated red-brick row-houses. They do have their charm.

 Suddenly, as I enter a nearby neighborhood of shops and cafes known as Antiques Row, I begin noticing how nearly every street corner, not just mine, has been inexplicably ruined by unfinished excavations, piles of dirt and chunks of broken concrete obstructing sidewalks, huge holes dug up and blocked off with those annoying oversized ugly orange-and-white plastic traffic markers big as barrels — looking like they’ve bred overnight and multiplied exponentially, harbingers of an alien civilization — completely destroying the village-y feel.

 Maybe I need to get out more.

Little do I know. When I arrive at my destination , a celebration of the Solstice at the home of the congenial litterateur “Freemantle McGonigle,” not his real name, his guests are abuzz about huge, refrigerator-sized brown metal monoliths being installed all over center city — apparently at the behest of, yes, Homeland Security.
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GEMINI JIVE • The Robe: A Holiday Parable of Excess and Ecstasy

December 17, 2008


me-mask1Maralyn Lois PolakOperation Itch Contributor    
 (c)MLPolak 2008   See all GEMINI JIVE
People get nuts around this time of year trying to use gift-giving to make up for having an unhappy or unfortunate childhood, so shopping often becomes an exercise in personal pathology rather than an expression of generosity.  You think NOW they will really really love you if you get them this PERFECT gift. Sure, I’ve actually done that myself, but I’m better now, aren’t I,  Dr. Briggs? 


We all must know someone like this: an underemployed woman let’s call “Lydia,” not her real name,  scrambling and struggling to pay her bills for basic necessities like food and rent, who actually starts her compulsive holiday gift shopping in July and spends way beyond her means for present after present for long-suffering friends who inevitably will then watch her periodically crash and burn since she still doesn’t have enough to eat.

 Lydia, Lydia.

 As for me, I’ve passed through indiscriminately purchasing presents for the masses and gone way beyond worrying if Re-Gifting’s all that tacky. What currently concerns me is the process of UNGIFTING– unloading leftover gifts from the formerly fabulous OLD BOYFRIEND COLLECTION after I can no longer stand to have the items under my roof.
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GEMINI JIVE • The Hurry-Up-and-Bail-Me-Out-or-Else Blues

December 10, 2008

me-maskMaralyn Lois Polak   • Operation Itch Contributor        © 2008 ML Polak

I don’t know about you, but, like our formerly great nation, lately I’ve been experiencing a few horrific money problems of my own, too. Following the reported example of our president-elect, I’ve even developed a persistent facial twitch. Yes, I’m definitely concerned. Not only that, my stress level has escalated exponentially into overwhelm — every time the mailman comes, I get hives.

So I’ve been thinking. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if we could ALL get a Federal Bailout? Financial forgiveness for every American? I don’t mean just those Big-Butt Corporations or Fat-Cat Car-Makers. Bleep them! Where do you draw the line? I mean us, the everyday long-suffering citizens of this country. The workers and peasants! We’re the ones who need it. If not, all this fiscal-rescue stuff stinks. Heck, that’s not Socialism — it’s Favoritism– which is definitely Un-American!
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