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December 2002

Bruce Taylor's
Annual Christmas Tree Trimming Party

Sunday, December 15, 2002
4p[m - 9pm
At Kafka's Kastle (Bruce's Condo)

For directions, please call Bob Olson


Previous Issues

January 2000
February 2000
March 2000
April 2000
May 2000
June 2000
July 2000
August 2000
September 2000
October 2000
November 2000
December 2000
January 2001
February 2001
March 2001
April 2001
May 2001
June 2001
July 2001
August 2001
September 2001
October 2001
November 2001
December 2001
January 2002
February 2002
March 2002
April 2002
May 2002
June 2002
July 2002
August 2002
September 2002
October 2002
November 2002

For technical support for these newsletters, please e-mail: techhelp@pantarbe.com, Attn: FOKUS Tech Support

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We Hope To See You At Our Next Celebration

December FOKUS Sharing

Sunday, December 8, 2002
4pm - 9pm
Home of Carl and Lida Sloan

For directions, please call Bob Olson

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Art Sharing
Sunday, November 2, 2002

Heidi Mosbarger read her essay “Farang” relating an experience from her childhood in Thailand. Jennifer Diamond showed her very detailed miniature “Witch’s Cottage” dollhouse with a contest to “guess how many animals it contained”. Bruce Taylor read the story “Corporate Esteem”. Georgine Kopelia read a couple of her poems that she has translated from her native language, Greek. Katie Dolan shared two short poems. Lida Sloan played “Spirit in the House” on the piano. Bob Olson read two of his essays that he has combined into this issue’s Times Change People and People Change Times. Karen Stein shared her current adventures. (The IRS has become more reasonable with her.) Carl Sloan gave a tour of his current facilities for photography with colored lights. Mike Monroe read “Jimmy Lee”, a chapter from his novel in progress Hexodus. Pippin Sardo, Roberta Gregory and Duane Dolan enjoyed and applauded the efforts of others.

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Other Stuff

Pippin Sardo will be performing with Maria Morca’s flamenco group 5:30 pm, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2002, in the Center House at the Seattle Center. Her class will perform Manuel deFalla’s “Danza de Fuego” from Amor Brujo. Public much welcomed and it is free.

Bruce Taylor would like to invite FOKUS folks to his annual tree-trimming party, Sunday, December 15, 2002, starting at around 4:00 pm. As always, this is a Yule-tide pot-luck, and please bring any ideas for making ornaments, or just come to help place them on the tree.

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Bruce Taylor includes the following letter:

Actor Sean Penn paid to have this letter printed in The Washington Post, October 19, 2002, page C3...

“An Open Letter to the President of the United States of America

Mr. Bush:

Good morning sir. Like you, I am a father and an American. Like you, I consider myself a patriot. Like you, I was horrified by the events of this past year, concerned for my family and my country. However, I do not believe in a simplistic and inflammatory view of good and evil. I believe this is a big world full of men, women, and children who struggle to eat, to love, to work, to protect their families, their beliefs, and their dreams. My father, like yours, was decorated for service in World War II. He raised me with a deep belief in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as they should apply to all Americans who would sacrifice to maintain them and to all human beings as a matter of principle.

Many of your actions to date and those proposed seem to violate every defining principle of this country over which you preside: intolerance of debate ("with us or against us"), marginalization of your critics, the promoting of fear through unsubstantiated rhetoric, manipulation of a quick comfort media, and the position of your administration's deconstruction of civil liberties all contradict the very core of the patriotism you claim. You lead, it seems, through a blood-lined sense of entitlement. Take a close look at your most vehement media supporters. See the fear in their eyes as their loud voices of support ring out with that historically disastrous undercurrent of rage and panic masked as "straight tough talk." How far have we come from understanding what it is to kill one man, one woman, or one child, much less the "collateral damage" of many hundreds of thousands. Your use of the words, "this is a new kind of war" is often accompanied by an odd smile. It concerns me that what you are asking of us is to abandon all previous lessons of history in favor of following you blindly into the future. It worries me because with all your best intentions, an enormous economic surplus has been squandered. Your administration has virtually dismissed the most fundamental environmental concerns and therefore, by implication, one gets the message that, as you seem to be willing to sacrifice the children of the world, would you also be willing to sacrifice ours. I know this cannot be your aim so, I beg you Mr. President, listen to Gershwin, read chapters of Stegner, of Saroyan, the speeches of Martin Luther King. Remind yourself of America. Remember the Iraqi children, our children, and your own.

There can be no justification for the actions of Al Qaeda. Nor acceptance of the criminal viciousness of the tyrant, Saddam Hussein. Yet, that bombing is answered by bombing, mutilation by mutilation, killing by killing, is a pattern that only a great country like ours can stop. However, principles cannot be recklessly or greedily abandoned in the guise of preserving them.

Avoiding war while accomplishing national security is no simple task. But you will recall that we Americans had a little missile problem down in Cuba once. Mr. Kennedy's restraint (and that of the nuclear submarine captain, Arkhipov) is to be aspired to. Weapons of mass destruction are clearly a threat to the entire world in any hands. But as Americans, we must ask ourselves, since the potential for Mr. Hussein to possess them threatens not only our country, (and in fact, his technology to launch is likely not yet at that high a level of sophistication) therefore, many in his own region would have the greatest cause for concern. Why then, is the United States, as led by your administration, in the small minority of the world nations predisposed toward a preemptive military assault on Iraq?

Simply put, sir, let us re-introduce inspection teams, inhibiting offensive capability. We buy time, maintain our principles here and abroad and demand of ourselves the ingenuity to be the strongest diplomatic muscle on the planet, perhaps in the history of the planet. The answers will come. You are a man of faith, but your saber is rattling the faith of many Americans in you.

I do understand what a tremendously daunting task it must be to stand in your shoes at this moment. As a father of two young children who will live their lives in the world as it will be affected by critical choices today, I have no choice but to believe that you can ultimately stand as a great president. History has offered you such a destiny. So again, sir, I beg you, help save America before yours is a legacy of shame and horror. Don't destroy our children's future. We will support you. You must support us, your fellow Americans, and indeed, mankind.

Defend us from fundamentalism abroad but don't turn a blind eye to the fundamentalism of a diminished citizenry through loss of civil liberties, of dangerously heightened presidential autonomy through acts of Congress, and of this country's mistaken and pervasive belief that its "manifest destiny" is to police the world.

We know that Americans are frightened and angry. However, sacrificing American soldiers or innocent civilians in an unprecedented preemptive attack on a separate sovereign nation, may well prove itself a most temporary medicine. On the other hand, should you mine and have faith in the best of this country to support your leadership in representing a strong, thoughtful, and educated United States, you may well triumph for the long haul.

Lead us there, Mr. President, and we will stand with you.


Sean Penn

San Francisco, California”

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Bruce Taylor writes:

I seem to be living in denial about just how bad things can get. I saw this column in The New York Times Op-Ed section, Thursday, November 14, 2002. It reads in part, (and I urge you all to read the entire text):


If the Homeland Security Act is not amended before passage, here is what will happen to you:
Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend -- all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as ‘a virtual, centralized grand database’.

To this computerized dossier on your private life from commercial sources, add every piece of information that government has about you -- passport application, driver's license and bridge toll records, judicial and divorce records, complaints from nosy neighbors to the FBI, your lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance, and you have the supersnoop's dream: a ‘Total Information Awareness’ about every U.S. citizen.

This is not some far-out Orwellian scenario. It is what will happen to your personal freedom in the next few weeks if John Poindexter gets the unprecedented power he seeks."

There's more, plus the tidbit that he's already been given $200 million "to create computer dossiers on 300 million Americans.” Phone # for Senator Maria Cantwell: 206 220-6400; for Senator Patty Murray: 206-553-5545; and for Representative Jim McDermott: 206-553-7170.

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A true story by Judy Smith:
When I Was Going Bald, Part #2

Editor’s note: When I Was Going Bald, Part #1 was printed in the October issue of the FOKUS Newsletter. This continues the story about her hair loss due to chemotherapy.

My Say Goodbye to What’s Left of the Rest of My Hair party was an impromptu affair, but fairly well attended. It was held on my mother’s deck. She put up a couple of Indian parasols she’d gotten and draped fabric between them for me to sit under.

I emailed my friends that they could bring hats and scarves to lend me although I wasn’t sure how much I would use them. (I liked the idea of hiding behind hats and scarves even less than I liked the idea of going bald.) A few thoughtfully lent me some; a few even went out of their way to buy me new beautiful hats and scarves as gifts.

Margaret, an eighty-year-old family friend, brought gin and tonics. A few days before I’d also checked out the henna tattoo concept and found a henna artist who had done about two dozen heads. She was going to drop by as well and show photos. She recommended getting the tattoo the next day to let any soap or shaving cream residue wear off my head.

After we ate and drank a little I was ready. I felt sort of as if I was going to the executioner’s chair. Ida was dressed in red and black and I was dressed in white. She didn’t want to shave my head too close because I had little pimples on my head. “I don’t want to draw any blood,” she said. “No, please don’t draw any blood,” I said. Everybody sat pretty silent as one side went. My five and half year old daughter had a front row seat, and she did not look well. She was not happy about me losing my hair although she was excited that we were having a party. She would not look me in the eye. Later that night she threw up. She reminded me of the sensitive guard in Monster’s Ball.

Mom went and brought out a full-length mirror. She kept holding it at an angle where I could not see myself. I had to lean to the side to get a view. It was a mean shock to see half my hair gone. Definitely too late to change my mind. I started to cry. Mom cried.

“Here’s the Mohawk now,” Ida said. I didn’t bother looking.

Then even that was gone. Ida brushed her hand over the tiny bristle of hair on the top of my head. It tickled.

Once my head was shaved, I felt okay. I still felt like myself. My friends said I looked good, but then they were my friends. Kree the henna artist stopped by and we looked at henna head tattoos. I’d get one the next night.

I wore one of my new black paisley scarves to work the next day. My head was too white and blotchy too go bare. Kree thought the henna dye would help to heal the irritation on my scalp. Turns out she was right.

As I walked to work I thought, I would be okay with going bald if my head didn’t look quite so awful. I also reasoned that the only people who are going to say something are men and they’re only half the population. And of them it’s only the really stupid and mean spirited, and they’re only a small percent, and who cares about them anyway.

Kree and another henna artist Lisa were at a Greek restaurant drumming up clients. Lisa ended up doing my head. It took her about two hours to get the henna design down through the peach fuzz that was there. The black paste was dramatic. I wished the design could stay black but it would flake off and leave a reddish orange stain for a temporary tattoo. She had done a botanical design with lilies because “they come from the earth, grow through the water and live in the air.” I remember trying to pick a water lily once. It was astonishingly strong and unbudgeable. I had to sleep with one of Erika’s knit caps on my head to keep the paste warm and darken the dye. I also had to keep the paste on for 24 hours or as long as I could.

The next day I walked to work with the black paste design still on my head. I hadn’t gone but two blocks from my house when I ran into a couple; the woman said, “I like your hair do; and when you get tired of it you can just let your hair grow back, right?”

“Right,” I said.

Closer to work a guy caught up with me. He just had to ask me about my head, he said. “What do you want that to say about you?” he asked. Good question, I thought.

At lunch, I went down by the lake, and a woman there asked me, “Do you always shave your head or did you just do it for the henna tattoo?”

“You always shave your head,” my friend Kassie said when I told her the story.

But the true test would be when I went contra dancing: would a bald woman with a tattoo on her head still be asked to dance? I put on my favorite dress and dangly earrings and walked up to the front door of the contra dance. A guy was standing there. “Nice henna tattoo,” he said, “Wanna dance?”

It is written in some versions of the Bible (1 Corinthians 11.7) that women are not to have shorn hair. For some reason that is never made quite clear it is an abomination. They’re not supposed to have short hair either. I told this to my friend Patricia. “All the more reason to shave your head,” she said.

I did some searching on the Internet on bald women and read a compelling story about a woman who had suddenly developed Alopecia, the disease where you lose all your hair, which is not uncommon either. This woman wrote about hiding the loss of her hair for three years first under awkward hairstyles and then under uncomfortable wigs. Finally her sweet husband took her aside and said this will make you feel better, and he shaved her head for her. She was in shock but she adjusted to it and just let herself go bald.

Now what kind of a god would inflict Alopecia on women and then tell them they can’t have shorn hair? I much preferred the Buddhist philosophy of there being no gender in the spiritual world.

There was other good stuff about bald women on the Internet. There was a “Bald is Beautiful on Women” page with pictures of everyday women, actresses, models, singers and musicians who are bald. There was an empowering site called the “Maya-Projeckt” that featured photos and statements on women who chose to go bald. There were sad sites on Alopecia and the struggles girls and women had with it. And there were the usual sexualized sites featuring bald women and bald pussy.

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Bruce Taylor's Editorial: KAFKA'S UNCLE REDUX

Hoo-boy. Back in l99l, when I wrote KAFKA'S UNCLE, it was a dystopia, albeit a funny one, absolutely outrageous; reducto ad absurdum; parts of it were published in various venues and it sits now on an editor's desk. It is about a character named Anslenot, wandering through a busted, blasted, toxic world created by George Bush Senior and his henchmen. Anslenot's (which translates as "Not Ansle"--if not Ansle, who is he?) best friend/tormentor is a huge tarantula and a red-haired girl, forever barraging Anslenot with l2-step self-help information which, of course, he never understands. The world he and his friends wander through is environmentally destroyed, the advertising propaganda never ceases, and no one ever can figure out who is at war with whom. It's a funny l984, a take off on Kafka (and is actually based on his classic and whacko story, "The Bucket Rider"), and I had immense fun writing it. Those in my on-going l6-year-old critique group, (The Landis Review after Marie Landis Edwards, a great friend, superb writer and just plain wonderful human being, who died in 2000), loved it. Little did I know that it looks like I have on my hands something extraordinarily "politically incorrect", and at the same time uncannily prophetic, that really needs to be published in its entirety because of it's timeliness. However, it’s going to make an awful lot of people of ultra-right persuasion very unhappy, which means that basically, it's kinda dangerous. And that's good. Because a society that is not challenged by its citizens and /or a society that prohibits such challenges, is a society not worth preserving -- for it has already died -- a long, long time before.

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An editorial essay by Bob Olson:
Times Change People and People Change Times

When I was a kid in 1936 I walked the three miles to school in rain, shine, snow or sleet. The crowing roosters woke me at dawn and I was still rubbing my tired eyes as I trod to the hen house to collect the morning eggs. Mom fried eggs with bacon and made buttered toast for breakfast. I cut the oranges and squeezed out the juice. Dad poured the glasses of orange juice and milk. After breakfast, Mom bundled me in warm clothes before I joined my friends on the long walk to school.

When my daughter Trilla was a kid in 1962 she woke up my wife Seiko and me about dawn at 6AM. Trilla was dressed for school and had the Pop-Tarts in the toaster while Seiko brewed the coffee for my breakfast. Coffee cup in hand I rushed out the door when the weekly driver for my car-pool honked at 6:30. (Seiko and Trilla were still drinking their orange juice and milk.) Seiko worked part-time and Trilla stayed at our neighbor’s home when school was over until her mom came home. I was involved in after-school activities and seldom came home before 6 or 7 in the evening; however, I did find the time to help coach Trilla’s softball team on the weekends.

Before my son Don was laid off from Boeing, my grandson Brett had to wake up with his parents at 3:30 AM. After cold cereal, milk and orange juice for breakfast, his dad drove to a Park and Ride to catch his car-pool van for a day-shift job at Boeing in Everett (starting at 5:00 AM.) By this time his mother had driven Brett to her parents’ home so that he could get another nap before catching his school bus at 7. Then, she drove to her work, which started at 6. If neither of his parents were working over-time, Brett’s family would eat an early supper together. However his dad was expected to put in over-time hours one or two days a week and work every other weekend, making it impossible for him to continue to coach Brett’s soccer team as he did before he became a Boeing machinist.

We floundered and we prospered until the 1990’s became a decade of eccentric economic growth. More Americans became millionaires than ever before in history. The stock market was a hot air balloon inflating corporations and small businesses.

But, even then, many apples were not golden. Rotten businessmen fattened their greed and hard working Americans were not rewarded. In Bill Moyers March 2000 TV Special, Surviving the Good Times, he describes the plight of many. Moyers visits two Milwaukee families throughout the prosperous 1990’s – one black family and one white family. These two fathers lost their high paying manufacturing jobs in 1991.

Both families suffered more downs than ups - losing their bank savings, their retirement, and even their homes. Their debt multiplied and they had a hard time paying medical bills. By the end of the decade, the white family had partially restored their financial security, but under such stress that the love they shared in 1991 dissolved. They grew apart. The black family failed to recover their losses, however, in adversity, they became closer to one another. Their children, (now adults) developed values and a positive work ethic in spite of hardship. By 2000 both families only survived, but had definitely not prospered.

That was in 2000, during America’s Good Times. Today “Good Times “ have become “Bad Times”. Certainly, times change people and selfish people have changed the workplace. Now, with stock prices plummeting, and many hard-working Americans facing unemployment, business leaders need to change their style. Workers must be valued over profits. Long-term prosperity must replace short-term profit. America will realize security through the industry of working men and women. A secure workforce stabilizes our society, and rebuilds prosperity. How can America maintain its world leadership paying for a global “War on Terror” if most Americans are underemployed? Only profitably employed workers buy products and pay taxes. Overlooking this, some of the mistakes American businesses have made include:

The example of Bill Yeats who won the award as “best sales manager” for his large sports clothing manufacturer in 1994, and he was forced into retirement shortly thereafter. Bill had just turned 42, worked for the company for twenty years, and was looking forward to his next twenty and a healthy retirement. The company felt paying Bill for his years of experience was too expensive. They thought his forced departure saved money. Bill lost both his salary and job benefits. Suddenly, his future was insecure. Other companies could not offer him a comparable salary with benefits. The best employment Bill could find was as a part-time clothing salesman in a shopping mall without health insurance.

Robert Elliot was a computer analyst. At thirty-nine he was one of the older generation analysts for his company. His life was rewarding. Robert was married, lived in an affluent neighborhood and had three children. The success in his life came a step at a time from high school, through college and into his profession, as he worked fifteen years for the same company. He looked forward to an early retirement at fifty, not the retirement package forced upon him at thirty-nine. Finding another position seemed impossible. Who wanted a thirty-nine year old computer analyst? He could not keep up his mortgage payments and lost his house. About the same time his wife left him. Despondent, Robert Elliot shot himself. At his funeral his wife cried, “Why Robert? Why Robert? He always worked so hard.” Times Change People and People Change Times, cont.

It has become a common business practice to lay off people before their tenth year so they will not qualify for a vested interest in retirement.

The well-intentioned 1980’s concept of “trickle-down” prosperity was based upon providing favored government funding to big companies and corporations. Then, corporate prosperity would pull us out of recession and build up our economy. From the 1940’s through the 1970’s management and labor were dependent upon each other. Business thrived as corporations rewarded workers with good jobs and benefits. Then, prosperity did trickle-down from company executives to all their workers. The “trickle down” theory of the ‘80s did not work that way.

Since the 1980’s business administrators have become different people. They gain by inflating stock value through downsizing, cutting workers salaries and benefits, or moving a work force to third world countries. These businessmen abhor the benevolent leadership of the Great Depression that spawned the growth of our economy. That was a time fostering cooperation and support for the working man. Nowadays, most wealth is clustered with the fortunate few CEOs and friends who have provided for themselves.

The Me First attitude of the 1980s has infected us all. It infected my insensitivity in 1998 when a despondent lady of thirty-five or so came to my door selling candy from a box (like the inner-city kids do) for the pittance of a profit she might make. I turned her down. Later, looking out my front window, I saw this lady sitting on the curb with her head in her arms and weeping. I realized this poor young woman, working at a thankless kids’ job, had run out of opportunities. Was she attempting to recover from drug abuse, or unemployable because of mental illness? I did not know, and it seems I did not care. Instead of walking to the curb where she cried and offering help or encouragement I did nothing. I hate my selfish indifference rejecting her misfortune.

Have we become infected in a society controlled by selfishness? This seems true with business leaders when managers seek short-term personal gain at the expense of workers. They even cheat stockholders through secret “laddered” investments and insider trading?

Drug dealers and income tax evaders have their property confiscated to pay their debts. Most of the wealth in our country is concentrated with millionaire business tycoons. When they become convicted corporate thieves we need to confiscate their vast wealth and property and return this to their employees and stockholders.

As times and people have changed today, corporate mismanagement has gutted the American Spirit. Men and women continue to lose their jobs and dreams of prosperity. Our economy is dependent upon working men and women who have been economically abused and will no longer invest. The demise of the American Spirit is especially visible in the antics of teen-agers that have lost a work ethic and become motivated by the, dangerous, predatory behavior seen on MTV and the movie Jackass. For them careless, chaotic, destruction has replaced common sense.

Certainly, times have changed. Sadly, greed has prospered. Can our leaders restore us to the patriotic American Spirit that won World War II? Can we realize Fair Times for the average American? I hope so. I fear the alternative.