Judith's Java
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Jan 22, 2015 -- 12:25am

A recent 60 Minutes feature inspired this blog. It was the story of a current Broadway show featuring songs that had been popular among African-Americans in the 1940s-1960s. The characters also told their personal stories, and the piece concluded with the seniors joyfully teaching young black singers how to sing the older music. 

That piece touched a nerve. “Why can’t something like that Broadway show happen here?” I wondered. Senior citizens came out of a world we’ve lost. Only some vintage styles are left of the world that shaped me as an adult. Today’s culture focuses on the youth, the ones who shape the trends; the models in ads. Seniors are an invisible demographic. Surveys of the over 65 crowd on their views of culture, style and politics are rare.

Yet some local talented and motivated seniors have indeed been giving similar performances for years. Cases in point: North suburban residents Sally Jablo and Shelle’ Malina, both over 70 have retired, yet they continue serving their communities.

Malina professionally planned events, among other executive duties. Today she often chairs and plans events for Chicago and north suburban Hadassah. Malina also sings in the Skokie Community Chorus as a 1st soprano. Members of that chorus include children as well as senior citizens. The eldest singer is over 90. The older singers often mentor the younger members.

Jablo sang musical leads in community and professional theater. As a teen, Jablo ushered at the Lyric Opera. She recounts the time that the late Maria Callas invited all the ushers backstage after the performance. Jablo recalls fondly that Mme. Callas thanked them for their work. Jablo’s still singing. She’s a member of Still Acting Up, an acting and musical group of senior citizens sponsored by the Skokie Park District.

I’m lucky to know these women. They’ve found ways to continue giving to their communities. Its high time more seniors entered the limelight. They have a lifetime of experiences to share. And oh do we need their experiences.

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Jan 08, 2015 -- 9:36pm

On January 7th, two terrorists entered the conference room of Charlie Hebdo magazine and murdered 10 members of Charlie’s editorial staff and two police officers at point blank range. Suspects Cherif and Said Kouachi hated Charlie because it satirized Mohammed. When caught they’ll face France’s wrath.

The press figures mightily into French history. French pamphleteers spread the idea of “liberte, egalite, fraternite” during the French Revolution. Three French journalists refused to allow King Charles X to shut down their press in July, 1830, which touched off the revolution that drove the Bourbon kings out of France. In 1898, French journalist, Emile Zola accused the French military of railroading Alfred Dreyfus into life at Devil’s Island on a trumped-up treason charge. Zola’s writings led to Alfred Dreyfus’ exoneration.

Terrorists hate the press’ freedom. The attempt, apparently by North Korea, to suppress the Interview’s release is yet another side of the same terrorist coin.  What does this have to do with us? The events that occurred in Paris could happen here. We’re used to strong editorials and don’t usually worry about someone disagreeing to the point of murder. But since 9/11, the impossible has become all-too-possible. Journalists now must weigh the impact of their words.

The best journalists write according to the dictates of their consciences; they’re essential to a free society. Satire and well-worded editorials often make people think, then question and act, resulting in a free society. Terrorists cannot stand freedom; the Kouachi brothers and their ilk have twisted Islam into a set oppressive laws. A free society spurns, then ignores this type of religious fanaticism. Terror alone brought the Kouachi’s into the spotlight.

Scratch a terrorist and you’ll find a coward and a bully. The Kouachi’s have nothing to offer other than violence and mayhem…and they will pay.

Stephane (“Charb”) Charbonnier, Charlie’s editor said he would rather die standing up than on his knees. Alas, he got his wish, but his courage lives on. Vive la France.

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Dec 31, 2014 -- 9:41pm

The Chicago Bears’ season ended with almost twice the losses as wins, which resulted in the Bears coming in dead last in their division. So it was no surprise that the Bear’s owners fired Head Coach Mark Trestman, Offensive Coach Aaron Kromer, and General Manager Phil Emery. By March, said owners no doubt will announce their new head coach, offensive coach and general manager, whereupon they will promise that the Bad News Bears will morph into the Super Bowl champion Bears. I hope so; so does my Java. Who knows, maybe there’ll be a halo effect, and the Cubs will win the 2015 World Series.

Enough. Back to reality. Sport teams’ owners expect their team to win. If their team loses repeatedly, the coach, manager and the worst players are fired, released or traded. Perform or you’re history. But what would happen if the rest of Cook County was held to the same standard—succeed or lose your job?

Picture it.  Streets & Sanitation promises to patch all the potholes by May 15th, but May 15th comes and goes and pot-holes abound like the daffodils. By July 1st there’s new management which launches a patch-up campaign to be completed by September 1st—or else.

Illinois has adopted the Core Curriculum. Teachers will be required to have their classes and their schools materially improve on tests or the whole staff will be fired; if lucky, they may be allowed to reapply for their jobs. This is already occurring in Chicago’s most troubled schools. What if it were standard operating procedure?

What if the cops were expected to catch the crooks 95% of the time; the judges to rule with minimal reversals; elected officials to achieve their promises? What if poor performance meant firing—election or not? It would mean more responsibility in the workplace.

But it would also mean more responsibility on citizens to vote and to care. Here’s to a more responsible 2015.

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Dec 24, 2014 -- 5:22pm

Hanukkah has ended; Christmas is here—and New Year’s is only a week away. A time to stop griping, pointing out the problems, bemoaning our “peerless” leaders. Rather a time to start hoping for a better 2015.  And wow, do we need it! So my Java and I wish the following:

We wish our judges the wisdom of King Solomon and the courage of King David. Deciding life and death matters and who deserves the money requires mountains of both. Please remember that when you don your robes and take the gavel, you assume formidable powers. Your Honors, please always be in awe of the power you wield.

We wish our police compassion and the zeal to do justice. There’ve always been nutty laws. But compassion, fairness and kindness lie at the heart of serving and protecting. Officers, we wish you all of these.

We wish our elected officials—anyone who has the title The Honorable before their name—humility. You’re public servants, not masters. The people who elected you gave you the power to make and administer laws that foster good communities and to spend their tax-money wisely. Use that power humbly; use it well.

To everyone, we wish you good health, good food, a warm home in winter and a cool one in summer. We wish you meaningful work with a salary that pays you well for your job well done. Most importantly, we wish you love and the ability to love.

My Java and I also wish you the joy of appreciating beauty. Rainbows are beautiful; so too is diversity, Humankind’s rainbow. The more we can appreciate each other, no matter how different our race, background or religion, the more beautiful and peaceful our world will become.

We wish you freedom from fear. Fear lies at the heart of prejudice and turns into hate and genocidal madness if not faced. It’s time for fear, as baseball great Jim Pearsall said, to “strike out.”

May 2015 bring you joy!

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Dec 17, 2014 -- 11:00pm

On January 12th Bruce Rauner will become the next Governor of Illinois. That’s less than a month away…yet the Governor-Elect is still an unknown entity. There are many more questions than answers. Best to ask the questions now than to be caught unawares on January 13th.

Question One: Rauner has spoken of improving education. He’s also said he’ll cut state taxes.  But if taxes are cut, how will we generate the revenue needed to pay for better quality education? Will teachers take homemade jam in lieu of cash? Who will pay for additional textbooks and computers? What happens to art and music courses?  Maybe the Governor-Elect Rauner plans to pay for each of these out of his pocket.

Question Two: the State is hemorrhaging red ink, thanks to previous Governors and Legislators who raided state pension funds to balance budgets. Now the pension fund reserves are sorely depleted. The plan to pay new state workers reduced pensions was declared unconstitutional because the state’s constitution forbids pension discrimination. How is Governor Rauner going to suggest replenishing pension funds?

 Question Three: According to the Illinois Constitution, the Governor as chief executive makes sure Illinois runs smoothly. He doesn’t make laws; the legislature legislates. Other than the Amendatory Veto, how does Governor Rauner plan to pass his programs into law? He’s Republican; the Legislature’s Democratic. Given the venom between parties, how will Rauner negotiate with the Democratic legislature?

Question Four: Speaking of politics…Speaker of the House and Democratic Party Chair Michael Madigan is arguably the most powerful pol in Illinois; one rep. likened him to the “Great Oz.” Will Oz relinquish his power to the new Governor Rauner? Will Governor Rauner happily walk behind Oz’ train? Neither option seems probable. Will ‘Round One’ commence on January 13th?

My Java and I worry that these questions are only the beginning. Battles on any or all of these will produce strife, and hamstring state efforts to make Illinois work…And by February our signs may read, “Welcome to Illinois: state of Chaos.”

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Dec 11, 2014 -- 10:09pm

 ‘Tis 2 weeks before Christmas and all through Chi-City,