ABC, Diane Sawyer & Bruce Jenner’s Genitals

I don’t care about Bruce Jenner’s genitals. I don’t care if they’re male or female, intersex or no sex at all. It’s his biz, not mine.

I do care about the emotional torture people experience when they have questions about their gender identity or sexuality, especially if they are fragile adolescents, struggling to “fit in.” For that reason, I was hopeful that the Bruce Jenner interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC-TV would be a true public service and soothe some kid struggling between suicide and self-acceptance.

I hoped his tears were real, not the rehearsed ones of a reality-show retread. I wanted his words to be sincere when he said he wasn’t profiting from his soul-searching announcement. I almost deferred to Diane Sawyer’s journalistic integrity to sniff out sincerity, and not serve as a shill for a new sur-reality show starring Jenner’s genitalia. But alas, we were all scammed by the man whose glistening grin once graced a box of Wheaties. As for Diane, well…she once worked for Richard Nixon, the master of the national emotional con game.

The Hollywood Reporter’s story which ran on the same day of the heavily promoted ABC-TV Jenner/Sawyer interview, detailed that Bruce had already inked an agreement with E! Entertainment TV to do an 8-part “docu-series” about his transgender journey. Somehow, Loose with the Truth Bruce forgot to mention that tiny detail in his two hour heart-to-heart with Diane. Somehow, Sawyer forgot to bring it up as she looked into his crocodile-teary eyes. Maybe she didn’t know; maybe Jenner’s new reality-show deal—being produced by the same two producers who keep shoveling us “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,”–wasn’t signed until after the show was taped. Or maybe, just maybe, the bigger deal for ABC was to air the interview—which was a ratings romp over all other programs in that timeslot —by agreeing not to mention that Bruce and E! had a contract in hand as a condition of Jenner not jumping with his interview to a competing network.   Surely, Comcast, the owner of BOTH E! and NBC, had to know it’s Entertainment Network had been negotiating a new deal for yet another reality show featuring a Kardashian castoff. Network deals are not done overnight, and Comcast is the type of tightly run company where every deal is carefully scrutinized by its corporate lawyers.

For Jenner, it was like winning a Triathalon . He had a contract in hand with E! to pay him handsomely. His sex-change would be handled as a “docu-series”—a serious reality show; AND he took into his confidence, and his clothes closet, the credible former ABC Nightly News Anchor Diane Sawyer to serve as such a sympathetic salesperson. How could the slippery scheme be dismissed as just another extended series of Kardashian classlessness, if it were so subtly sewn into Diane Sawyer’s sophisticated hemline?

ABC got the botox injection of ratings it mainlines, Comcast/NBC/Universal got two hours of free Superbowl-style hype for an upcoming E! reality series starring Jenner’s genitals, and Jenner got….. an Olympic-sized Gold Cup overflowing with money, Diane Sawyer’s sugary sympathy, and a grateful nation of voyeurs turning our lonely eyes to him, once again.

Will this All-American hero/heroine donate a sizeable portion of his “Jenscam” (or “Genscam”) proceeds to counseling & healthcare services for transgender youth around the world? Will he use his new fame and fortune to fund anti-violence campaigns against the LGBT community, or at least to educate his fellow Republicans about sex, sexuality, gender and equality?

Will ABC devote part of the network’s financial windfall from the Jenner interview to do an 8-part “docu-series” on the lives of transgendered youth?

Will Diane Sawyer be fired—a la Brian Williams—for being duped, and missing the story of Jenner’s pre-existing contract with E! to bare all?

Don’t touch that touch screen…







Conversations with my Buddha…

Mortal  you are special ….

Buddha:  I am nobody.   I am not even my mind.

Mortal: that is how I am feeling today….

Buddha: It is only natural!

Mortal: Is it? Why?

Buddha: ” the reflection of the moon on the surface of the lake, who dares to say it isn’t there; who can say it is there?”   We are all influenced by one or more ways of life, or philosophers, but who can’t say it isn’t our mind; who can say it is thinking, without a thinker?

Mortal: And is the mind ever completely clear of interpretation?

Buddha: that is when one enjoys the fullest state of bliss.

Mortal: And, if that is not enough?

Buddha: Unsatisfactoriness is one of the truths of our lives.  However you spend it, is up to you.

Mortal: Spend life, moments of bliss or the truth of being unsatisfied?

Buddha: The middle path, Mortal, the middle path!

Mortal: And what if the middle path is not fulfilling enough?

Buddha: Extreme suffering arises.

Mortal: With no alleviation?

Buddha: If you tighten the 6 strings of a guitar just right, the guitar shall produce sweet sound; if too tight all strings get broken; too loose, no sound produced.

Mortal: Yes, but that equates human feeling with mechanistic adjustment, not allowing for emotional variation….

Buddha: There are two ways of looking at one’s emotion: objectively and subjectively.  The object does not know the subject who has emotion for the object.  The subject only sees the thing based on his own experiences and the object’s.  The variation of feelings is delusion of the mind.

Mortal: That is, If you accept the premise that all feeling is controlled by the mind…

Buddha: Except the 5 senses of the body

Mortal: Taste, touch, sound, smell, sight–all elements of sensual arousal…Independent of mind?

Buddha: Thought. Thoughts come from the mind; if I am not my mind, then I am nobody.  When I am nobody, I am not the self, then I am non-self, then I am just a part of nature.  Like the tree selflessly producing oxygen and fruit to nurture all beings. Then it dies.

Mortal: And aren’t your physical traits all part of nature? Isn’t sensuality part of nature?

Buddha:   Everything completes the universe, and that is all.  To think that Humans are more important or intelligent than other animals is just a delusion of the Human mind. Are we the best protector of the earth, because we have better ‘feelings’ or sense of our surroundings? Obviously not.

Mortal: That assumes animals don’t feel love or loyalty, which is counter to recent research in dogs, cats, even whales…

Buddha: Everything completes the universe, and that is all.

Mortal: I agree that all complete the universe, but I’m not sure that ends the discussion…

Buddha: Only  selflessness can produce pure love, kindness, and compassion.

Mortal: And what is pure?

Buddha: When a ‘gift’ is a gift not a suggestion of a better gift in exchange.

Mortal: Yes, that I know clearly & intuitively.

Buddha: How many people can do that? Very few, among numberless beings.

Mortal: I agree. I want to go to a peaceful place of completeness. Yet, we each define that place differently. For me, it includes all those gifts you mentioned, plus creative, intellectual, soulful & sensual fulfillment. Perhaps, my standards for happiness are too high….

Buddha: Why?

Mortal:   Because it is achieved so fleetingly….

Buddha: All that is part of nature. We are it. We are creating it.  We are programmed to produce intellectual thought.

Mortal: Do we create nature? Does nature create us?   Is nature responsible for what we do or do not do? Or, are we?

Buddha: Look at a flower. Isn’t it brilliant?

Mortal:   Yes. Flowers are evidence of nature’s perfection…But, how much of what we do is ego driven? Selfish?

Buddha: Neither

Mortal: The ego & the self play no part?

Buddha: They play the part of increased suffering. Unnatural; it is worse than death, which is natural.

Mortal: So no creation by man is natural? Unless it includes suffering?  Can humans create anything without ego?

Buddha: Selfishly eating too much of anything intensifies the affects of drought.

Mortal: I’m talking about creating, not destroying. Isn’t childbirth BOTH a natural & an egoistic act?

Buddha: To complete the universe. The desire to sex is natural.

Mortal: Yes. And to breed is natural.

Buddha: Baby is the result

Mortal: Baby is not always the result of human sex

Buddha: Yes.   The desire to have baby is natural.

Mortal: So sex & procreation can BOTH be natural AND separate…Can someone choose to be childless? Is that “unnatural?”

Buddha:  Childless is natural too. One can’t have baby in many ways.

Mortal: How can both be natural, if one completes the universe?

Buddha: Ah, you agree that rocks complete the universe?

Mortal: Yes.

Buddha: Exactly. All has a mission

Mortal: You are enlightening.    A true joy to chat with.  You have helped to lift me today. I am grateful for your wonderful ability to not feel threatened by questions…

Buddha: You are only tending to nature.

Mortal: Well, you are quite remarkable…

Buddha: It is nature that is remarkable. I am nothing.

Mortal: Yes, she is too; but you are much more than nothing to me… you live your practice…

Buddha: Practice is the only way of living. Enjoy your day one breath at a time. That is all we have. And every breath of air you take is brand new.




“Hil & Julian Up in the White House”… A New Campaign Song.


( New lyrics by Steve Villano, with generous assistance from Paul Simon, and sung to the tune of “Me & Julio Down By the Schoolyard.”)


Mama Sonoma rolled out of bed

And she ran to the polling station.

When White Papa found out, he began to shout,

And started the investigation.


“It’s against the law; against natural law,

What the Mama saw, was against natural law.”


Mama ran down, campaigned around town,

Every time the name gets mentioned.

White Papa said “NO,” not a Castro,

I want to stick him in the house of detention.


We’ll we’re on our way, and we all know where we’re goin.’

We’re on our way—we’re takin’ our time, but we all know where—

Goodbye to Crazies, the Deans of Cojones,

See, it’s Hil and Julian up in the White House..

See , it’s Hil and Julian up in the White House.


In a couple of days they’ll try to take me away,

But the Tweets got my story leaked.

And when the radical Right tried to snuff out my life,

We was trending with all social news geeks.


Well we’re on our way, and we all know where we’re goin’.

We’re on our way—we’re takin’ our time, but we all know where—

See, it’s Hil & Julian up in the White House;

See, it’s Hil & Julian up in the White House.


Goodbye to Crazies, the Deans of Cojones,

See, it’s Hil and Julian up in the White House.

See, it’s Hil and Julian up in the White House.

See , it’s Hil and Julian up in the White House.


(Dedicated to “Mama Sonoma,” Mara Levy Kahn, whose wonderful full-of-life, full-of-love photo inspired this rendition.”




Jack & Jill, During Droughts

(A poetic parable, inspired by my granddaughters, ages almost 6 and 3 ½.)


Jack & Jill came home from school,

With empty pails for water;

Buckets for the bath & shower,

To catch runaway drops like we oughta.


The showers went on, the pails went in

And each one filled right to the brim.

“Now, careful! Don’t spill,” said Jack to Jill.

And gently, gingerly they went down the hill.


When they arrived, the plants were alive,

Leaves stretching up towards the sky, where rain

Once came, bye and bye,

Until the sky…just…went…dry.


Month after month, no rainfall fell

Making the ground feel hotter than… Well,

Hotter than it’s ever been,

Drier than anyone had ever seen.


Tomatoes shriveled on the vine,

And grapes just died before their time.

No sauce for the pizza,

No wine for the palate—

Just getting through the day

Felt like being hit by a mallet.


Lawns went dry; golf courses fizzled.

All for lack of a gentle drizzle.

“We’ve got to save enough to drink,” the Gov’nor said,

“Or we shall sink.”


So farms cut back, and frackers turned blue.

Cars went dirty, and sidewalks did too,

Just being sidewalks,

Like most sidewalks do.


Sprinklers didn’t sprink,

And people didn’t even THINK

Of filling up pools,

Or being greedy fools.


The grown ups had failed,

To fill up their pails,

Or save enough water,

For sons and daughters.


So Jack and Jill, came down the hill,

Joined by classmates by the mill…

Each kid had a pail, filled with melted hail

And each plant they saw, sipped carefully through a straw.


The plants began to cheer,

“Hooray, the future’s here!”

At last, the humans have found the cure:

It’s caring for each other, simple and pure.


So while awful dolts fought over puddles and piddles,

Sensible solutions came from those who were little.

They learned about sharing and caring in school,

And new cooperation was very, very cool.


Bucket by bucket our water grew,

One million pails, now there are two.

Keep ‘em coming , Jill, Jack & Janet;

You’ll be the heroes to save our planet!
















Unplug Your Headphones; Talk to Your Neighbor

 Is living in a community good for your health?

It’s a question which has gained currency again as an epidemic of loneliness and tiny, isolated living quarters sweeps the nation, fueled by social media’s illusion of connection and the high cost of housing, and manifested in a growing number of stress-related diseases. Numerous medical studies have underscored the benefits of long-term relationships in nurturing the health of both partners, but the most comprehensive of all the “healthy communities” studies dates back some 50 years.

The study, entitled “The Roseto Effect,: A 50-Year Comparison of Mortality Rates” and written up in the American Journal of Public Health in August, 1992, is a longitudinal look at how a closely knit, caring community experienced a documented, decades-long reduced rate of heart disease and other stress related illnesses. It is meticulously measured medical proof of the health benefits of living in a thriving , connected and caring community over a generation.

Roseto, Pennsylvania, settled by Italian immigrants from Southern Italy in 1882, started as a closely knit community which emphasized family cohesion and intergenerational support. The study, conducted by a team headed by Dr. Stewart Wolf, the Chairman of Medicine at the University of Oklahoma, and affirmed by major universities and medical journals in the United States and abroad, demonstrated conclusively that a socially cohesive community, where elders were revered and people were nurtured by others, recorded heart & stress related diseases far below the national average and the averages of neighboring towns, without such connection among community members.

Roseto became a “living laboratory” for social cohesion and a model for healthy communities, demonstrating that neighborliness was good BOTH for the body politic AND the human body. In an updated report on the Roseto Effect out of the University of Chicago entitled “The Power of the Clan: 1935-1984”, the clear finding was that “mutual respect and cooperation contributed to the health and welfare of the community and its inhabitants.”

Like a goal of the Bay Area’s pioneering affordable/sustainable community developer Thriving Communities (, the culture of cooperation prevailed in Roseto, “ and radiated a kind of joyous team spirit as they celebrated festivals and family landmarks” together. “People are nourished by other people,” Dr. Wolf found. In short, the studies found, people are good for other people’s health, especially when living in a caring, family-like community.

Wolf’s medical conclusions went even further: “The characteristics of a tight knight community are better predictors of healthy hearts than low levels of serum cholestoral or tobacco use,” he wrote. “We looked at the social structure of healthy communities and found that they are characterized by stability and predictability. We also found that there were higher stress-related illnesses in isolated people; that the sense of being supported, reduced stress.”

In 1999, the same year the Napa Valley based company Healthy Buildings USA was formed (, the British Medical Journal reinforced Dr. Wolf’s cornerstone conclusions about the value of community and socialization upon good health by finding that “ people who perceive themselves as socially isolated, are two to five times at greater risk for premature death for all causes.” The British Journal went on to report that “social and productive pursuits are equivalent to and independent of the merits of exercise.” Imagine that: living in community—a real, thriving community populated by real human beings, not a virtual on-line community—is at least as good for your health as exercise! So, unplug your headphones, and talk to your neighbor.

Is living in a thriving, nurturing community good for your health? The evidence is clear, long established and well-documented: thriving, socially cohesive and caring communities are medically proven to work for people’s well-being. When you add to that formula a community with a high level of concern over environmental sustainability, respect for nature, careful water use, affordability, respect for fundamental human dignity and compassion for your neighbors, the results may well re-define the “American Dream” for new generations.