Being middle age and gay and feeling invisible

In the Times’ Booming column, gay men talk about aging out of a community that prizes youth and beauty. Steve Petrow, the author of “Steven Petrows Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners, (Workman, 2011), offers advice.

Q. Dear Civil Behavior: Your comment in a recent column about gays at midlife finding themselves “suddenly invisible — aged out by the young, restless and beautiful” resonated loudly with me. At 59 I am single and almost friendless. I live in Philadelphia, which has a reasonably sized gay community, yet I feel like an outsider. Many of my friends died two decades ago and my contemporaries have started retiring to Florida. I would like to go out dancing sometimes, but I don’t feel comfortable going to bars anymore. The Internet seems full of people looking to do drugs. I remember the distaste we all once had for “old people,” but I’m tired of staying home on weekends. Do you have any advice? —Stephen W., Philadelphia

A. Dear Stephen: Believe me, I understand “the middle ages” can be difficult for anyone, gay or straight. After all, wasn’t it Phyllis Diller who cracked: “Maybe it’s true that life begins at 50 … but everything else starts to wear out, fall out or spread out.” The ability to laugh — and laugh at ourselves — is key to our happiness.

Still, there are some unusual and disproportionate challenges to aging within the gay community that your experiences highlight. “Many L.G.B.T. older people experience high rates of social isolation,” says Michael Adams, executive director of Services and Advocacy for G.L.B.T. Elders, an organization dedicated to helping older members of our community. “We’re twice as likely to be single and to live alone, and three to four times as likely to be childless. And many of us are estranged from our families of origin, and so are only half as likely as our heterosexual counterparts to have close relatives to lean on for help.” Adding salt to these wounds, a 2004 study, “Old, Gay, and Alone?” reported that 44 percent of older gay men “feel disconnected from or even unwelcomed by younger generations of L.G.B.T. people.”

To read the rest, click here.


A cop buys a homeless barefoot man a pair of boots. You, yes you, can make a difference every day


Photo by Jennifer Foster

    I so touched by this story and photo of a 25-year-old cop using his own money to buy a pair of boots for a homeless man and then stooping to help him put them on. We rush by every day, forgetting that we can personally do something to help.

Photo of Officer Giving Boots to Barefoot Man Warms Hearts Online

Published: November 28, 2012

On a cold November night in Times Square, Officer Lawrence DePrimo was working a counterterrorism post when he encountered an older, barefooted homeless man. The officer disappeared for a moment, then returned with a new pair of boots, and knelt to help the man put them on….

Officer DePrimo, 25, who joined the department in 2010 and lives with his parents on Long Island, was shocked at the attention. He was not warned before the photo went online; the department had not learned which officer was in the picture until hours later.

The officer, normally assigned to the Sixth Precinct in the West Village, readily recalled the encounter. “It was freezing out and you could see the blisters on the man’s feet,” he said in an interview. “I had two pairs of socks and I was still cold.” They started talking; he found out the man’s shoe size: 12.

As the man walked slowly down Seventh Avenue on his heels, Officer DePrimo went into a Skechers shoe store at about 9:30 p.m. “We were just kind of shocked,” said Jose Cano, 28, a manager working at the store that night. “Most of us are New Yorkers and we just kind of pass by that kind of thing. Especially in this neighborhood.”

Mr. Cano volunteered to give the officer his employee discount to bring down the regular $100 price of the all-weather boots to a little more than $75. The officer has kept the receipt in his vest since then, he said, “to remind me that sometimes people have it worse.”


MoMA beats out Met for landmark artwork “Canyon” — thanks for a stuffed eagle

Part 2 of the tax feud between the IRS and the Sonnabend family over Robert Rauschenberg’s famous combine “Canyon” has finally come to a close, as I wrote in this Times story.

As those in the museum world know though, this round went to MoMA, but the next could easily go to the Met.

MoMA Gains Treasure That Met Also Coveted

Published: November 28, 2012 73 Comments

When Glenn D. Lowry arrived 17 years ago as director of the Museum of Modern Art, he and the curator Kirk Varnedoe sat down and wrote out a list of the 10 works they most wanted. “Canyon,” a landmark of 20th-century art by Robert Rauschenberg, was at the top, Mr. Lowry recalled.

Now that wish has come true. “Canyon” is to go on display on Wednesday at the Modern after being captured in a contest with its uptown sister, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it had resided on and off since 2005. Its owners agreed to donate the work as part of a $41 million settlement with the Internal Revenue Service.

MoMA made a concerted effort to woo the work’s owners, the children of the New York art dealer Ileana Sonnabend, who died in 2007. Mr. Lowry said it agreed to add their mother’s name to the Founders Wall in the lobby of the museum (which was established in 1929, when Ms. Sonnabend was 15), and to devote an entire show to “Canyon” and Ms. Sonnabend, an important figure who helped introduce and nurture modernist artists.

Though the Met also offered a spot on its lobby wall and an exhibition, the Sonnabend family’s lawyer, Ralph Lerner, said in the end the children thought “Canyon” — a mixed-media collage from 1959 known as a “combine” — would have a higher profile and greater context at MoMA, which already has a rich collection of these combines.

Here’s the reason for the tax dispute:

The presence of a bald eagle — a bird protected by federal laws — means that the work cannot be legally sold or traded. So when the Sonnabend children, Nina Sundell and Antonio Homem, inherited “Canyon,” five years ago, their appraisers valued it at zero. The I.R.S., however, insisted this masterwork was worth $65 million. It demanded they pay estate taxes of $29.2 million plus another $11.7 million in penalties.

As part of the settlement, the I.R.S. dropped the tax assessment; in exchange, the family was required to donate “Canyon” to a museum where it would be publicly exhibited and claim no tax deduction, Mr. Lerner said.


Rocco gets ready to give up the NEA for Miami

Rocco Landesman, the former Broadway producer and racehorse owner who has led the National Endowment for the Arts since 2009, announced Tuesday that he was stepping down as chairman at the end of the year.

In his statement, Mr. Landesman said, “The time has come for me to become a cliché: I turned 65, am going to retire and cannot wait to spend more time in Miami Beach.”

Read the story here.


Romney’s disingenuous low-road explanation of why he lost, citing Obama “gifts”

Any notion that Mitt Romney might put aside petty partisan interests in the national interest were dispelled when he started blaming the failure of his presidential campaign on “gifts” President Obama bestowed on Democratic constituencies. According to Romney, gifts do not include tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans or corporate subsidies, only things like health care, for people who can’t otherwise afford it.

Mitt Romney on Wednesday attributed his defeat in part to what he called big policy “gifts” that the president had bestowed on loyal Democratic constituencies, including young voters, African-Americans and Hispanics…

The president’s health care plan, he said, was also a useful tool in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers: 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics.

“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge,” Mr. Romney said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

As Ashley Parker points out in the New York Times, though,

Nationwide, Mr. Obama won a slightly smaller share of 18- to 29-year-old voters than he did in 2008, according to exit polls, though he increased his share in battleground states like Florida, Ohio and Virginia. Exit polls showed little appreciable difference between Mr. Obama’s performance among black voters nationwide and in many swing states in this election and in 2008. Among Hispanic voters nationwide, Mr. Obama won a greater share in 2012 than in 2008, but perhaps more important, he succeeded in increasing the share of Hispanic voters among the total voting population in key states, including Colorado and Nevada, exit polls showed.

Besides, the ones who are happiest about people 26 and under being insured are their parents.

The “gifts” line is apparently a Republican talking point that is being repeated by Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and other conservative pundits.

Maureen Dowd cuts through the gossip and gets to the heart of the Petraeus, Kelley, Broadwell scandal

Maureen Dowd homes in on the real scandal in the  Petraeus affair: 

“The scandal is a good reminder that, although John McCain and Sarah Palin urge total trust and blank checks for the generals, these guys are human beings working under extremely stressful circumstances, and their judgments are not beyond reproach.

Petraeus’s Icarus flight began when he set himself above President Obama.

Accustomed to being a demigod, expert at polishing his own celebrity and swaying public opinion, Petraeus did not accept the new president’s desire to head for the nearest exit ramp on Afghanistan in 2009. The general began lobbying for a surge in private sessions with reporters and undercutting the president, who was trying to make a searingly hard call.

Petraeus rolled the younger commander in chief into going ahead with a bound-to-fail surge in Afghanistan, just as, half a century earlier, the C.I.A. had rolled Jack Kennedy into going ahead with the bound-to-fail Bay of Pigs scheme. Both missions defied logic, but the untested presidents put aside their own doubts and instincts, caving to experience.

Once in Afghanistan, Petraeus welcomed prominent conservative hawks from Washington think tanks. As Greg Jaffe wrote in The Washington Post, they were “given permanent office space at his headquarters and access to military aircraft to tour the battlefield. They provided advice to field commanders that sometimes conflicted with orders the commanders were getting from their immediate bosses.”

So many more American kids and Afghanistan civilians were killed and maimed in a war that went on too long. That’s the real scandal.”


Why aren’t children’s IQ scores rising as quickly as their parents?

     In the special Education Life supplement from the Sunday New York Times, I write about how IQ scores have risen throughout the last century by as much as 30 points. The social scientist James Flynn has done a lot of the most interesting research. This summer, for example, he discovered that women’s IQ scores had surpassed men’s, possibly a result of the more demanding roles women have assumed as they juggle family and jobs, and their increased access to higher education.

This article examines why children’s IQ scores have not risen as quickly as their parents.

     WHEN the social scientist James R. Flynn started analyzing more than 50 years’ worth of I.Q. scores, he noticed something peculiar. On tests that assessed vocabulary used in everyday life, adults showed enormous gains — nearly 18 points. That made sense. Many more people attend college and work in professions now than in 1950. But when he examined children’s scores, he was surprised by how far behind they lagged. Usually facility with words trickles down; children hear and absorb parents’ expanded vocabulary and discussions. But that hadn’t happened. Children’s I.Q. showed only a 4.4 percent gain.

“I.Q. gains over time pose interesting questions about American society,” Mr. Flynn said, speaking from his home in Otago, New Zealand, “and this is one of the most interesting.”

Flynn posits a generation gap that is reinforced by a distinct teenage subculture.

    Mr. Flynn has a theory: that since the 1950s, when adolescence began to emerge as a distinct culture, generations of teenagers increasingly segregated themselves from the adult world. “Who would have thought that child and teenage subcultures would have become so powerful and inward looking as to keep them from being socialized” into the linguistic mainstream, Mr. Flynn said. “Even younger children seem somehow more culturally distant from their parents.” He notes that children read and write less, and thanks to texting are more accustomed to spelling phonetically.

       I’m not so sure. After all, the gap between parents and teens was much more pronounced in the 1960s and early ’70s during the height of the counterculture. I think we really don’t know just how new technology like the Internet and texting is affecting learning and the brain. In any case, there is good news:

       The differences in I.Q.’s disappeared once children reached adulthood and entered the working world. The gap’s rate of increase also began to slow in 1995.



Worrisome studies about how technology is changing the way students learn

Two new studies that Matt Richtel reports on in the The New York Times find that teachers have noticed a change in children’s attention span as well as a decline in the depth and analytical skills of even their best students, which they blame on growing use of video, phones and television screens. The studies note that these are the subjective views of teachers …but this parent — subjective or not — agrees.

“There is a widespread belief among teachers that students’ constant use of digital technology is hampering their attention spans and ability to persevere in the face of challenging tasks, according to two surveys of teachers being released on Thursday.

The researchers note that their findings represent the subjective views of teachers and should not be seen as definitive proof that widespread use of computers, phones and video games affects students’ capability to focus.

Even so, the researchers who performed the studies, as well as scholars who study technology’s impact on behavior and the brain, say the studies are significant because of the vantage points of teachers, who spend hours a day observing students….

One was conducted by the Pew Internet Project, a division of the Pew Research Center that focuses on technology-related research. The other comes from Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco that advises parents on media use by children. It was conducted by Vicky Rideout, a researcher who has previously shown that media use among children and teenagers ages 8 to 18 has grown so fast that they on average spend twice as much time with screens each year as they spend in school.

Teachers who were not involved in the surveys echoed their findings in interviews, saying they felt they had to work harder to capture and hold students’ attention.

The authors of the study were reluctant to characterize the findings as good or bad.

        “What we’re labeling as ‘distraction,’ some see as a failure of adults to see how these kids process information,” Ms. Purcell said. “They’re not saying distraction is good but that the label of ‘distraction’ is a judgment of this generation.”

Just because it is the judgment of a previous generation doesn’t make it wrong.

Retiring boomers: Are roommates in your future?

CBS News’ Moneywatch reports that a recent survey conducted by the PulteGroup, a national homebuilder, shows many baby boomers expect either their adult children or aging parents to move in with them, according to.

Most don’t view this a financial problem. (It doesn’t get into how they might bear up psychologically.) At the same time, they think they will either remodel or expand their homes to accommodate the change.

Is this an example of baby boomers not being realistic about the money they will need for their own retirement? Moneywatch thinks so.



Lawyers claim the Knoedler art gallery made big profits on fakes

The lastest story in the saga of the 165-year-old Knoedler gallery, which closed last year after accusations that the gallery was trafficking in multi-million dollar forgeries.

Lawsuits Claim Knoedler Made Huge Profits on Fakes


Published: October 21, 2012

For more than a dozen years the Upper East Side gallery Knoedler & Company was “substantially dependent” on profits it made from selling a mysterious collection of artwork that is at the center of a federal forgery investigation, former clients of this former gallery have charged in court papers.

Glafira Rosales, the little-known dealer at the center at the center of the FBI investigation, has said the bulk of the newly discovered masterworks came from an old family friend, an anonymous collector whom she has steadfastly refused to name. Files at Knoedler about him were labeled “Secret Santa.”

According to Ms. Freedman’s lawyers Ms. Rosales at one point told Ms. Freedman to stop pressing for more information about the unnamed collector, saying, “Don’t kill the goose that’s laying the golden egg.”

Read the whole story here.