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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mary J Marcus


Mary J. Marcus is a novelist, former journalist and teacher living in Denver, Colorado.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bury my heart on an English train

Whoever is tired of the trains of England is tired of life. 

I believe in this twist on a famous quote for several reasons.  I was an English lit. major.  I'm a longtime devotee of Masterpiece Classics, and also an incurable romantic.  

These days, when English trains are more utilitarian than picturesque and no longer belch steam, they still enchant.  One can even experience a 'brief encounter' as I did on a recent trip.  A gentleman saw my forgotten coat and raced after me as I was about to exit.  "You dropped your coat, luv!" he said to me and a low, husky, Downton Abbey accented voice.  Romantics like to be addressed as 'luv'. 

Brits seem to unleash their famous stiff upper lips when they travel by train.  I was on a Salisbury to London run, quietly listening to a book on my MP3 player, when a pretty 20-something actually started a conversation with me.  Usually I'm the initiator.  She told me all about her life in the West End and gave good advice on the theater venues in the district.  The British do chat, even to Americans. 

Talk about adventure.  I was traveling from Glasgow to York when a conductor came on the intercom and apologetically announced that all passengers must get off at the next village.  "Regrettably," he informed us, "there's a fire on the line ahead and also a canister of petrol.  So very sorry for the inconvenience."

The announcement sank in.  A fire...petro... an incident of hooliganism???  Or, as we Yanks would say, an act of terrorism???  I felt like a character in an Agatha Christie novel. 

"What do we do?" I asked some locals sitting nearby. 

"To be honest, we don't know either--luv," someone said. 

"Bet this kind of thing never happens in Colorado," commented another local.

We all disembarked in a small town somewhere in northern England.

Without a plan of action, I asked if I could hang with the locals and they cheerily agreed.  We strolled around the village train station--three Brits and one disoriented American tourist.  Finally, someone got the bright idea to take a bus to the next village.  That's what we did, and eventually we were rerouted to York.  My instant friends were a jolly bunch, and I enjoyed the heck out of that trip.

Anything can happen on a train in England.  And, don't get me started on what can befall a hapless tourist on the London tube. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

21st Century Feminism

Earlier feminists have fought the hard battles against exclusion, against second class status and against common stereotypes.  What is oppressing women today can be encapsulated in the expression: "Give me a reason not to ...."  As in, give me a reason not to hire her, award her, recognize her, etc. 

In 2008, director Kathryn Bigelow's film The Hurt Locker received an Academy Award. Bigelow's ex-husband, James Cameron, a director who was also nominated that year, predicted early on that she would win because she had "such a great personal story."  He apparently couldn't face the fact that her movie was just better than his.  Ms. Bigelow's film Zero Dark Thirty is not expected to win this year due to the controversy over CIA methods.  In other words, there's a reason not to award her film.

Before the home mortgage bubble burst in 2008, a number of well-known women saw it coming and raised an alarm.  The women--Maria Cantwell in Congress, Mary Shapiro at the SEC, FDIC chawoman Sheila Bair and others--tried to stop the train wreck.  But, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who had the authority to address the looming crisis, declined to try to curb the 'froth' in the market.

Men in power simply do not listen to Cassandras or reward them for their foresight.  Remember Sherron Watkins of Enron, FBI agent Coleen Rowdey, and World.Com's Cynthia Cooper?  These three women were named Time Person(s) of the Year in 2002 for trying to stop their respective train wrecks.

In a recent issue of Forbes magazine, which is hardly a feminist tract, an editorial urged the appointment of Sheila Bair as Secretary of the Treasury.  Who did President Obama pick?  He picked Jack Lew, one of those risk-taking cowboys from Citibank who helped create the banking sector disaster and the subsequent worldwide recession.

The president also failed to name Elizabeth Warren to head of the Consumer Protection Agency, despite a clamor for her appointment.  The Republicans in the Senate would give her such a hard time in the confirmation process, don't you know.  He had a reason not to

Ditto Susan Rice.  Benghazi gave him a reason not to.

Here is some interesting news from an obscure sociological study.  Thomas W. Malone, who is director of the Center for Collective Intelligence at MIT's Sloan School of Management, spearheads research in the area of group decision making. Researchers are trying to measure the intelligence of groups using the same techniques as those employed to assess individual intelligence. 

Recently on, +Malone reported on a study showing that groups including women are more intelligent.  Looking for factors that predict the intelligence of the group, the researchers discovered a significant factor correlated to group intelligence is the percentage of women included.  Malone says, "This seems to be a linear trend, more women are correlated with a more intelligent group...up to all women in the group."

Malone calls this finding "intriguing" and says it "has implications for the way we create groups in the real world."  Ya think?

Consider how much group decision-making occurs in a democratic state! Sisters, let's get the word out about this and start joining groups before someone finds a reason not to include us.