Thursday, November 21, 2013

JFK Assassination 50 Years Later -- My Memories of that Horrific Day

I have been depressed for about a week. Very unlike me. Then I figured it out.

I have been trying to "shove" the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination out of my mind with every ounce of my being ... but it keeps resurrecting itself like a bad nightmare that just won't go away.

It won't go away. It never has. I don't see how it ever will.

Thirteen years ago November 22nd began to have a happier association, when my grand niece Casey was born. Since then I have always been able to superscribe this one great joy over one of my childhood's greatest sorrows--but this year I can't because everywhere I look, online and off, JFK's life and death looms large. As it should. It happened fifty years ago tomorrow. In less than an hour's time, a nation changed.  

I was twelve when President Kennedy was killed. I was sick at home on the couch in Cle Elum when a news flash came on: President Kennedy has been hit by a bullet or bullets in Dallas, Texas. 

I was only half-listening to the TV when it happened. But for the next four days I was glued to the TV--we all were.

When Walter Cronkite came on a half hour or so after the news bulletin to report that our President had died, and took his glasses off, trying not to cry, I went into a kind of unbelieving shock. What?  Good guys don't die; they always survive gun shot wounds, no matter how grave. I'd grown up on westerns. 

For the next few days we tried to "do" Thanksgiving at my Aunt Marie's home in Seattle even as corteges and flag-draped coffins and a little boy named John-John and a little girl named Caroline said goodbye to their daddy, even as Jackie and Bobby  Kennedy did their best to "keep it together" despite their very personal losses.

I wrote a journal back then, trying to make sense of it all, trying to find some kind of 'happy ending' for this unbelievably sad story. Bobby Kennedy would marry Jackie, I decided. Then Mom told me that Bobby was married and had his own family and children. I didn't understand, then, why he couldn't have two families. I could tell he loved them.

I watched for five years as Uncle Bobby helped raise and inform Caroline and John Jr. alongside his own boisterous brood. Then, on June 5, 1968, Caroline and John Jr and ten (soon to be eleven) other Kennedy children lost Bobby to another assassin's bullet as he ran for President to pick up the torch his brother had carried before him. 

This was too much for me. This wasn't fair. This wasn't right. This was inhuman. This was ungodly. 

So... I've been trying to "keep it all together" all month, to move on, to say 'that was then and this is now'. 

Casey sees all this as ancient history, I'm sure. But I was just a year younger than she is now when this "history" happened to my heart, soul and brain-- and I have never been the same--for better and for worse.

The story still shocks and saddens me. I still (almost desperately) imagine a better outcome--I imagine the Kennedy brothers surviving their assassination attempts and a different trajectory altogether from the one our nation entered following those dark days. No Watergate. No Iran-Contra. No trickle down voodoo economics. 

When will I wake from this nightmare to find that so much of the past 50 years has been a bad dream, that most politicians haven't misbehaved (in the public interest and arena) as it appears they have (most of the time) since 1968?

I imagine a nation that cares about all of its citizens, not just the 1%.

I imagine we all do. 

What can we do about it?

We can vote to bring compassion, justice, fairness, and equanimity back into the political space. Statesmen used to serve us. Have they all been silenced or murdered?

No. Thankfully, no. So it isn't to late. It's just almost too late.

If we don't vote for the changes we still need, we'll keep getting the shaft we've been getting.

Don't give up. Don't ever give up. 

"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."  JFK

"Some men see things as they are and say 'Why?' I dream things that never were and say 'Why Not?'" RFK

"The dream shall never die." EMK

Three rich men who could easily have afforded to sit on their rear ends their entire lives and done nothing. Instead, they gave their all.  
And we are better for it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

'Life Without Family' Website Goes Live--and I'm a Featured Writer in Its Inaugural Presentation. Check it out!

Here's an article I wrote (for pay!) for a new website for people who are living a "Life Without Family". Enjoy--and if you have a story to contribute that fits the LWF theme, please get in touch with the owner: she is welcoming well-crafted pieces (you don't have to be a stellar wordsmith to contribute, though) and pays up to one hundred pounds per piece (whatever that translates to in dollars...)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Humane Officer Days at Animal Protection Institute

The first requester, Lisa Twining Taylor, has asked me to talk about my time as a Humane Officer in California. There isn't much to tell, but here goes. (In fact, the above photo captures the first of only two times that I ever wore the uniform--thank God! I felt like a hippo in a tutu in it.)

I started at API as a Field Representative for the Pacific Northwest. When I moved from Eatonville to Sacramento in 1981 I became a Field Services Director nationwide, flying all over the country for various animal welfare-related causes. Neither of these positions required a uniform.

Then, along about 1982 or so, I was given an additional position: Executive Director of Humane Educator's Council, the law-enforcement branch of API. That's when things got interesting (as in the old Chinese curse, 'May you live in interesting times'). 

The powers that be at API decided that I needed to take an Arrest, Search and Seizure course, which was the last thing I wanted to do. ("Damn it, Jim, I'm an educator, not an enforcer!") But I obliged them, anyway. 

There were plenty of people at API with law enforcement backgrounds and some of our Humane Officers wanted to go undercover and visit dog and cock-fighting operations in various counties well-known for these illegal practices. So I had to know about the proper protocol for arrest, search and seizure, although I knew darn sure that I was never going to be one of these underground activists. (Most illegal animal-fighting enterprises are also heavily into drug and prostitution activities, too, which carry far-heavier fines and jail sentences, and any undercover officer who was outed was likely to be murdered before they ever got back to report what they discovered.)

Needless to say, as Executive Director I was the one responsible for sending officers into the field, and I was a miserable wreck about the responsibility. I didn't want to send undercover officers to possible early graves, so I back-pedaled all the time. I said no and no and no; I don't ever recall saying yes to any undercover activities at all.  I had no intention of being answerable should someone come back in a body bag. That isn't what I'd signed up for when I agreed to work for API, a humane education organization. 

Needless to say, the law enforcement folks willing to take the risks probably considered me chickenshit but I just couldn't see how to square the possibility that an officer I sent out undercover might not come back; not with my belief in humaneness and humanity: I consider a live humane educator a helluva lot more effective than a dead martyr...

So I never sent anyone out undercover. The guys who wanted to do that ended up serving another animal welfare organization whose Executive Director didn't mind taking the risk and that worked out just fine.

So...yes.. this photo captures one moment in time: the day I had my photo taken as a State of California Humane Officer. And I wore the uniform to the Arrest, Search and Seizure class. Those are the only two times I ever wore it.  

I love animals. I love people. 'Nuf said? 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Amazing What Treasures You Find When You Open Old Scrapbooks...

It's late, so I'll just upload a few of the treasures I found as I went through my photo albums and scrapbooks earlier this evening. 

Every one of these images has a story worth telling as do the ones I haven't uploaded yet. 

Which one(s) do you want to hear about first? 

Let me know and I'll tell the stories in the order requests are received! 

Mom and Kris playing on Laramie Street, Warner Bros, 1995

Autographed Jerry Lewis Photo 1965

DeForest Kelley and Kris Seattle Convention about 1995

Deaken kissing Kris about 1992

Kris in Rollerblading Garb

Kris is Humane Officer Garb
(Yes, I really was a Humane Officer for a time)

Deaken and Kris,  about 1989
Deaken about1982

Kris with tiger cub. Gentle Jungle 1977 or '78

Kris with Natasha at Shambala about 1991

Kris at Gentle Jungle 1977 or '78

Kris with lion at Gentle Jungle 1977 or '78

Kris with Sneakers Serval 1977 or 1978

Kris with Linda Lavin at Actors and Others for Animals Benefit about 1991

Kris with Cindy Marshall at Actors and Others for Animals Benefit about 1991

                          Kris with Earl Holliman at Actors and Others for Animals Benefit about 1991

Kris with Ed Asner and Mike Farrell at Actors and Others for Animals Benefit about 1991

Newspaper article re animal sanctuary I volunteered at (no longer in existence) about 1978

Demetrius Bobcat about 1978

about 1978

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Have Panda and Penguin Pummeled Your Page Rank? Blame Whoever Wrote Your Copy or SEO-enabled Your Site!

A lot of SEO companies are scrambling right now to wipe the egg off their faces and pacify now-irate former customers.  I know why. It should never have happened, but this is why it happened.

Back in the day,  when the Internet was new and the powers-that-be in cyberspace didn't know how to build a serviceable Dewey Decimal System (of sorts) to help visitors quickly find the information they were looking for online, they came up with SEO--search engine optimization. SEO-based searches worked well for a while, right up until unscrupulous web content producers (clueless copywriters and hired hacks) began to behave badly, stuffing SEO keywords and phrases into their copy with total disregard as to whether they were providing anything else of value. As long as the keywords boosted their sites to near the top, they felt their jobs were done. So what if the rest of the information on the site was crap? It wasn't their job to write helpful, seeker-friendly copy, was it? They'd been hired to boost rankings, to get seen topside on Google and other search engine sites, not to get visitors to stay and play.

The result? You remember, I'm sure. When you'd go looking (for example) for a "Tacoma copywriter"  the first several pages of returns were all about, "Learn to be a copywriter," "What does a copywriter do?" "copy writing defined", etc. 

What you'd get were ads and definitions, not a single name for a Tacoma copywriter. It was frustrating as hell.

Back then, you got that result because a bunch of people calling themselves internet writing gurus figured out how SEO worked and started stuffing SEO-friendly keywords and phrases into the copy they wrote to divert seekers to their employers' websites, even though the sites were rarely allied with what you were looking for. So you'd find yourself scrolling down the page, often page after page, until finally--maybe!--you'd find an actual Tacoma copywriter with a name, website and phone number. Hallelujah! But it took for-freaking-ever!

Google developed the Panda and  Penguin algorithms (and most recently as of this writing, Hummingbird) to weed out the black hat operators who were/are abusing their filing system. Google's goal, always, is to point seekers to the sites that are most likely to satisfy their needs. Google isn't in business to mislead and frustrate its users; it's in business to stay in business and, to do that, it needs to help weed out the cheaters.

So a lot of SEO firms and copywriters (and, sadly, their clients/victims) that are adversely affected by algorithm changes more or less "have it coming to them". They "cheated" their way to the head of the class under the old system and they've been caught red-handed.

Good copywriters have never had to worry all that much about algorithm changes. Good copy is "sticky"; that is, it's helpful--when people find it, they stay and play, stay and read, stay and buy. In a nutshell, they find what they're looking for. 

This is why, in a world filled with self-proclaimed and unregulated SEO companies and copywriters, it's always good to seek proof that the company, entrepreneur or writer you're thinking about hiring has a clean record, pre-Panda and Penguin and post-Panda and Penguin. Ask to see the sites their work appears on and ask how long they've been there. If their sites are still high and dry, toward the top of search rankings after each of the algorithm changes, you can feel pretty secure that they're doing things the right way and serving you well. They're making sure that the sites they build and the copy they write for you will be enjoyed and used by the people who are looking for what you do.  

If they can't produce proof of their SEO acumen pre- and post- algorithm changes, maybe they don't have any. And that should be a red flag to you.

Another thing. Some SEO companies have you pay a lot of money for monthly "services" to make sure you continue to rank well. Just a word to the wise: a well-written website doesn't require monthly monitoring. It will stay put. 

So don't let anyone charge you outrageous monthly "monitoring" fees under the guise that your rank can plummet if they aren't watching. It won't--not if the visitors to your site keep coming back for more and pointing their network of friends, family and business associates to you. Keep it active, keep it relevant, keep it helpful, and your page rank will take care of itself.

If any of these blog posts give you a grin or anything else of value please tweet them! Thank you!