Tuesday, February 27, 2007


You don’t have to be well rested to get things done.

Push on.

The LA Times, North Korea, Snark and Precious French Babies

The LA Times is slowly pushing to the right. This is interesting.

Since the Chicago Tribune took over our little hometown paper here in Southern California, things are getting quite gray.

Specifically, the editorials and the slants of many stories seem to be pro-business. For the most part, I am pro-business. I think it is better for people to work than to just sit around all day thinking about ways to clobber a neighbor over the head for their lamb chops. However, I would never be black-and-white minded enough to ever believe that all work is worth doing or even existing in society.

But what scares me more than our newspaper turning away from the good of the common man to the good of the profit seekers, is the situation in North Korea. Can it be that the stubborn posturing of our right wing government is what made that wretched little country give up its nuclear ambitions? Or was it simply something China made happen?

I don’t know. But I am willing to give our bullying government a little credit for this North Korea thing. I mean, it is a pretty great day when some nutty dictator puts down the plutonium in the name of reducing tension. Of course, a deal was struck and everyone has to pay to make this happen. But still, this is a great thing.

I believe in standing firm. I wish we had simply stood firm with Hussein in Iraq. Maybe he would still be dictator today and Iraq would exist as a stable country.

But back to my reading pleasure. The Los Angeles Times blows. It used to be kooky and snarky and funny. And decidedly leftist. It sneered at power. It chided vanity. It loved the cheap bungalows in far flung burbs, the odd Saturday afternoons at flea markets, the tiny movies and funky bands. It did not take itself too seriously yet held onto strong humanist principles---and in turn won mountains of Pulitzer prizes.



I don’t want to dump my local paper. I love reading about local government regulations. I love reading our fluffy calendar section which is nothing more than a peek into the boudoirs of movie stars. And I love the little map on the back page of the California section. If I see nothing but green circles, it means the air quality is fine and I won’t have sinus trouble. If I see yellow circles hovering near downtown, I know I have to be careful.

But frankly, I might just have to bail on that LA fish-wrap and start getting the New York Times. Sure, I can read the New York Times online---but I hate reading newspapers online.

This LA paper has me upset. It’s hard to stomach right-minded people coming into my home every single day.

Speaking of the right, did you know that France passed a law this week that keeps adoption not-an-option for gay couples for the “good of the child”?

Oddly enough, if you are gay and single you can adopt. But not if you are gay and hooked up. Freaky France.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Judgment Days

My nephew has a very funky haircut. Joan Jett meets Liza gone awry. He does it himself. It’s very long in the front, brushed forward and flattened against his face with a certain Goth aesthetic? Or is it Emo? Some sort of hairy something that this old man does not have prior experience with.

It’s very dramatic. Add to this: it has stripes of orange in it. It is cut shorter at the crown of the head in a layer above the long hair so there’s this mini Dr. Zeuss thing going on. The whole do, besides the stripes, is dyed jet black and ironed flat.

Add to this the tight pants, the studded belt, funky shoes, underwear hanging out the back and being quite tall, this guy, at seventeen, cuts quite a visual swath in the world.

While we were in Paris, we went to many restaurants and no one blinked. But one place where we had dinner was in full light with tight tables. We sat at a banquette. On one side next to us was a German couple. The woman of the duo looked at my nephew and a look of disgust came over her face. She quickly turned away. On the other side of us was a French businessman who was eating alone. His look toward my nephew was truly hateful with disdain, a Gallic disapproval that was fleeting yet forceful.

And there I was, the old guy guardian and all I could think was, “I can’t believe my nephew goes out in the world with that hair. Doesn’t he feel the negativity that comes at him?”

And then, quickly, I realized it was my discomfort I was concerned about. Why in the world should I care what people think about anyone, at all? I made the transition over a period of two or three minutes. I actively pursued this acceptance.

I switched fully. I felt proud that my nephew could sit there, in his hair, and just be what he wanted to be while others were unhappy about it. And that made me feel free. And isn’t that the trick? To feel free here?

The French businessman froze his gaze forward for the rest of the night. The German woman started to ask us about our desserts. Apparently, chocolate mousse trumps Bay City Roller Head meets ostrich.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Go to Paris

I took my nephew to Paris because he is turning seventeen in two weeks. I went to Europe for the first time at sixteen (Paris) and then again at seventeen (Italy). Those experiences were invaluable in expanding my world view. And, the food was good and everything was so pretty.

Still is.

My sharp, droll nephew proved to be great company. He is easy going about food (does not have to have three normal meals each day) and he can walk for miles on end without complaint. I also had two old friends who were in Paris, friends from my childhood trip, and we spent a little time with them, too, which broke things up and rounded out the experience. But mostly, it was Daniel and I pounding the streets of Paris.

I recommend going to Paris in February. We had cool, spring weather. We were able to walk at length without having to fight any heat. And though there were certainly tourists, it was not thronged.

This is the thing about Paris. Sure, it's a cliché, but it truly IS the most beautiful city. I have not been to Tokyo or Winnipeg. But I do think Paris would still hold this title in my mind even if I had seen those cities.

The French take great care of everything. There is money in the budget for maintenance. They continue to expand an already huge public transportation system. There were fewer cars there than twenty years ago. The air was extremely fresh and clean. The exhibition rooms at the Louvre have expanded. Brasserie Bofinger still serves up an amazing dish of choucroute garni. Street crepes (simple--with just sucre) are as tasty and easy as they ever were. The architecture: sublime.
Our hotel rooms were in the Fifth with a view to Notre Dame. The French seemed more friendly than I remember from any other trip. People there seem very relaxed and happy. My nephew was amazed at how happy old people were. He said he'd never met a happy old person in the U.S.

You get this sense in France that everything is catalogued, measured and cared for. You also get this sense in France of a certain cultural and politcal oppression.
Is the physical beauty and the moment-to-moment happiness worth having to endure the controlling culture? I'd say yes. Go see for yourself.

From the Pompidou

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Charles De Gaulle Ahoy

The blog will return February 22. Stay tuned for Paris stories.

Have a lovely weekend and a bountiful week.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What's All This Monkey Business on the Web?

A long day of traveling--followed by a lovely evening with my friends Megan and Martha in Queens--and safely sitting in my apartment with the winter wind howling outside, I bring to you this clip.

I was reading about how kids these days put EVERYTHING online. Naked pictures of themselves. Complete journals of their every action. I have been a daily diarist since February 16, 1973, so I do understand the compulsion to get it all in writing. (And now in images)--

But must we see everything? Is there no mystery left at all?

Paris 2007

Demain, je depart pour New York. Vendredi, j m’en vais a Paris avec mon neveu pour lui montre une piece du monde plus vivant que l’etat de New Jersey.

On va visiter La cathedrale de Notre Dame, La Tour Eiffel, Le Musee D’Orsay et Le Louvre. Eh, bien sur, nous mangerons commes cochons.

Aussi, la musique—nous entendrons la musique. En plus, on va faire des courses pour acheter les chemises, chaussures, etc.

Et les amies seront la. Deux.

A bientot.

Peut-etre je bloggerai pendant que j’y suis.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Pear Blossoms


For my friends who do not live in California I give you this picture. We are about a month late this year. It was so cold in January that the jasmin and the pear tree held off.

So we're having January in February. It's so fresh. The back page of the local section of the Los Angeles Times shows the air quality level: green dots all the way inland to San Bernadino!

It's perfect early spring with all the joy that goes with it: clean air, flowers budding, cloudy skies, cool happiness.

Have a lovely day.
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Monday, February 12, 2007

The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others is just plain smart and good and up for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Okay, the movie is slow. But you just have to sit back and let East Germany of 1984 take you over. I loved how the streets were almost empty (in the middle of East Berlin).

The director, Florian Henckel Von Dommersmarck, creates a spare and terrifying world where creative human beings are controlled by monster bullies. It’s claustrophobic. The worst dream you’ve ever had about being held down by others. The set design by Silke Buhr is all finished wood paneling and brownish curtains. East Berlin in 1984 looked much like 1962. I love the design. It’s easy on the system. But its neutrality adds to the paranoia.

The three main actors, Sebastian Koch as the playwright who turns against the communist party, Martina Gedeck as the pill-popping actress who is of weak yet beautiful character, and Ulrich Muhe as the Stasi Captain who has a turn of the soul, all give lovely, clear performances that are wonderfully, humanly layered. And the supporting characters, wonderful and interesting all.

About halfway through, I felt a certain disappointment, like, “When is this thing going to get moving?”
And then it did. And it was rough.

Can you imagine not being able to say and do what you want? The movie eventually jumps to 1989 when the wall falls. This is very interesting, too. No need to give away any plot at all. The ride is subtle and harrowing. Humanity triumphs. But not completely.

I visited East Berlin in 1983. It was quite odd. It felt like one was under constant surveillance. It was colorless as there were no signs, no advertisements. And the design of curtains, furniture lighting was definitely from an earlier time. Strange suffocating place.

How did it ever happen?

Can you imagine if Bush is right and we do have to take out the fundamentalist, warring Muslims because of their hatred of freedom? Imagine? Can you?

The Lives of Others

Friday, February 09, 2007


I suffer from a certain mild autism. I can listen to the same song over again for three hours while I am writing...even longer.

My favorite television station is The Weather Channel.

And next week I’m going to Paris. I’ve lived there. I’ve been there many times. I’m only going for four nights. I know the city very well. Yet I cannot stop reading guide books.

And I love the metro map.

Could it be that I am procrastinating finishing my television pilot?

Paradigm, big Hollywood agency, has graciously taken me on as a writer and they are working closely with me as I write an original television pilot for them to sell or to use as a sample to get me working on an existing television show. This means I get a lot of notes. And as soon as I say “no” to the notes, the game is over. So, as I want to be in the game---because I’m old and this is my biggest prospect—I keep saying “yes.”

I’m sucking it up. And actually, I think the script does get better with their notes. I mean-why the hell not?

But I take off a lot of time while writing to look at guide books. And web sites.

And the map. The beautiful, lovely, you got it---Paris Metro Map.

Paris Metro

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hedge Hogs

All this talk about hedge funds and corruption. Quelle surprise.

Does one enter into a Wall Street Career because of generosity and an compelling altruism?

Look—the regulators don’t quite regulate because they are having lunch with the regulatees. Would you snip the wings of your pals?

A tiny percentage of people in this country make out like bandits. Fine. Given. Let them have it. It takes a certain kind of personality to keep the market brisk.

My only thing: Would it be so much to ask, while you are skimming as much cash as possible off the top, would it be so much to ask to make sure that the rest of society at least has health coverage and passable public education? That’s all.

It’s a grabby zoo out there. Rise up, you half awake people, and claim what is yours: a life that is worth living with clean air and decent health care. After that, let the pigs rout for truffles. And we can all look at them and laugh at their vanity---but only if we are healthy and safe and educated.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

February 10 & 11, 1979: Atlantic City

In 1979, I was in the All Eastern Choir in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was comprised of the best singers from the All-State choirs from many Eastern States. Oddly enough, Adam, my-recognized-by-the-State-of-California-Domestic-Partner, was also in the choir. I was from New York. He was from Delaware. I don’t remember meeting him. But then again, what chance did I have? The following two entries are from the two major rehearsal days that we had, Saturday and Sunday. It should be well noted that I had a terrible cold all week long according to earlier entries thus causing my lack of enthusiasm.

February 10, 1979:

Today was a good day. We fucken rehearsed all day. I didn’t go to one rehearsal. I’m exhausted. Tonight girls got caught in all the boy’s rooms, what a panic. Goodnight.

February 11, 1979:

We ate out for breakfast, went to rehearsal. Today was real good, we rehearsed. I didn’t go to one rehearsal and watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We went to the exhibits in Convention Hall, walked the Boardwalk. Tonight we just joked around. Goodnight.

The summer of 1978, I was in choir school up in Fredonia, New York and made friends with other choir geeks from all over New York State. Two of my friends, John and Jeff, roomed with me in Atlantic City. We did such brilliant things. We poured baby powder on the floor in front of the threshold of the adjoining door to our neighbor and then turned on a blow dryer to blow the powder into the next room.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Limiting Factor

Back in the day, I was a Biology major. College. I was required to take eight courses of Biology including two labs. Since I was also pre-med, I had to take two Physics, two inorganic and two organic Chemistries and two Calculus classes. True. Though I did love science in high school, in college, it was another matter. A bit much.

However, what I did love about science and what I still love about it is the way rational thinking is built upon itself to conclusions that you can count on. Every step has to be solid, and if it is, then you can know where things are headed. Also, you can count it, graph it, write it down. Very enjoyable, in a way, in a world that is so topsy-turvy.

One beautiful concept was very simple and also very visible when conducting experiments: limiting factors. The concept of limiting factors is simple. If you run out of a reagent but still have more of something else, well then, the reagent is the limiting factor. You are reagent shy so your reaction slows down to a homeostasis that gives you a reading of, “all done”.

Another limiting factor can be the build up of waste. If you have a load of bacteria in a dish and the bacteria have access to lots of food (say glucose)---and the glucose is in such abundance that no matter how much the bacteria ingest, there’s plenty more glucose to be had, the bacteria will continue to multiply. Eventually one or two limiting factors take over. One is, you can end up with so many bacteria that they start to crowd each other out and so no more bacteria can arise. But usually before that happens, you have the limiting factor of waste. The waste products of the bacteria start getting in the way of the ingestion and the respiration and breakdown of the glucose. Waste, in the face of great abundance, becomes the limiting factor. And the bacteria must slow down their reproductive efforts. In fact, they just do.

You see where I’m going.

We’re the bacteria. The earth is the Petri dish. What will happen naturally, in our carbon-dioxide wasted earth, is we’ll slow down on reproduction because we are suffering from the limiting factor of great waste. It will be interesting to see how this waste actually physically slows down our reproduction.

Seems to me we cannot control ourselves—being driven just like bacteria are driven—by the force of acquisition. But then nature steps in. Fascinating, really.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Are Locusts Next?

Part of the joy of doing construction is the never ending visitation of filthy insect beasts.

Our walls are completely closed. Yet today, while doing some fine spackling of the window molding, I turned around to see a monstrous water bug on the floor. Okay--it was a cockroach. You know---those huge ones that love water. They come in on dry days. I don't like them very much. Killed that fucker.

Then later on, after dinner, I came home and there was a spider the size of Tuscaloosa on the drywall right next to the left side of the window. It was chocolate brown and had two big eyes that were almost comical. It seemed to me they weren't eyes, actually, but some modified structures to make the spider look more beastly to would-be predators. Or maybe they were eyes. Who knows! Usually I just let spiders live. We get them in the house. The little tan ones. The pointy, striped black ones. Whatever. But this thing was so googly-eyed and so big and so nasty---I killed that fucker, too.

Then, I walked the dog and I came home and to the right side of the window there was a cricket. We almost never get crickets. And I thought, "Well, it's just a cricket." But then I had an immediate recall of a story my friend Bradford told me the other night about how his entire side yard is always swarming with crickets and how it's real noisy and like something out of a horror movie. I don't want this happening to us. One less cricket to breed---I killed that fucker and flushed him good.

Of the three beasts that I annihilated, the one that spooged the most juice was the cricket. You think it would have been the roach...but those big hard shelled roaches seem to retain their water in their carapace after the death crunch. The cricket just splattered into a puddle. The spider was, for sure, the creepiest. I made sure I had a big wad of toilet paper to pick up his dead ass. I didn't want any spider poison to touch my skin.

Friday, February 02, 2007

February 2, 1974

Another boring day has gone by. Daddy shaved his moustache off. He looks a little weird. Welp Goodnight.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Random List

1. I still can’t seem to cut my hair.

2. Global Warming is finally a bi-partisan problem. Fucking Republicans.

3. Congratulations to Megan who bought an ENORMOUS house in North Adams.

4. I’m middle aged—and I like it.

5. The walls in my kitchen are all finally closed up. It’s a joy to behold. Cabinets aren’t far behind! (Like having children, if you knew how painful remodeling a kitchen was, you’d probably never do it.)

6. I’m taking my nephew to Paris for a few days on February 16. Because at sixteen years old, everyone should go to Paris.

7. I am writing hours every day. It’s fun. And it does seem like I’m getting somewhere.

8. I just love spackling.

9. I need to play music, live. For fun. I will more often.

10. I would happily lose fifteen pounds.