Friday, June 27, 2008

Heading South

Heading to Mexico for a while. Will return July 7.

Playa Del Carmen. Yucatan. Mayan Riviera. Snorkeling.

Why not take some time and check out the blogs listed over to the right?

Hot Links For YOU.

Or check out the subject categories, pick a subject and dive deep.

Enjoy your Independence.

Great times ahead.

See you in a week.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

America's Next Chapter

You have to wonder why Gary Hart was never president:

THE novelties of race and gender have largely distracted the nation from the more profound aspect of the 2008 presidential election: This campaign presents the potential for a new cycle of American history.
The idea that American politics moves in cycles is usually associated with the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., but it has an even longer currency. Ralph Waldo Emerson noted the political oscillations between the party of memory and the party of hope, the party of conservatism and the party of innovation. Henry Adams believed that “a period of about 12 years measured the beat of the pendulum” during the era of the founders. Schlesinger, borrowing from his historian father, estimated that the swings between eras of public action and those of private interest were nearer to 30 years.
What matters more than the length of the cycles is that these swings, between what Schlesinger called periods of reform and periods of consolidation, clearly occur. If we somewhat arbitrarily fix the age of Franklin D. Roosevelt as 1932 to 1968 and the era of Ronald Reagan as 1968 to 2008, a new cycle of American political history — a cycle of reform — is due.
The Republican coalition — composed of the religious right on social issues, the radical tax cutters or “supply-siders” on economic issues, and the neoconservatives on foreign policy — has produced only superficial religiosity, a failed war and record deficits. Traditional conservatives, who are dedicated to resistance to government intrusion into private lives, fiscal discipline and caution on military interventions, have yet to re-emerge, and may not. The character of the next Republican Party will result from an intraparty debate that has yet to begin and might occupy a decade or more.
Democrats, meanwhile, have yet to produce a coherent ideological framework to replace the New Deal, despite an eight-year experiment in “triangulation” and an undefined “centrism.” Once elected, Barack Obama would have a rare opportunity to define a new Democratic Party. He could preside over the beginning of a new political cycle that, if relevant to the times, would dominate American politics for three or four decades to come.
Senator Obama has two choices. He can focus on winning the election to the exclusion of all else and, like Robert Redford in “The Candidate,” ask, “What do we do now?” after it is over. Or he can use his campaign as a platform for designing a new political cycle and achieve a mandate for starting it.
Noting the power of “custom and fear,” and “of orthodoxy and of complacency,” Schlesinger believed that “the subversion of old ideas by the changing environment” would give a new leader the best chance to create a new cycle of reform and innovation.
No individual can entirely determine the architecture of a historical cycle. But much of the next one will be defined by how we grapple with a host of new realities, ones that reach beyond jihadist terrorism. They include globalized markets; the expansion of the information revolution into places like China; the emergence of new world powers including India and China; climate deterioration; failing states; the changing nature of war; mass migrations; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; viral pandemics; and many more.
Senator Obama’s attempt to introduce the next American cycle should include, at minimum, three elements. National security requires a new, expanded, post-cold-war definition. America must transition from a consumer economy to a producing one. And the moral obligations of our stewardship of the planet must become paramount.
These themes and the policies that flow from them, if made the centerpiece of the 2008 election (perhaps along with alternatives that others might suggest), could produce the mandate required to begin a new historical cycle. This post-New Deal, post-Morning in America era would be more in tune with the current century and its realities than the continued political circling that confuses most Americans, who repeatedly and overwhelmingly report that they know America is adrift.
They are right. And they are right because they instinctively realize that old politics, old parties and old policies are increasingly irrelevant to our lives, to our revolutionary times and to our country’s future. The next cycle of American history is as yet unframed, awaiting a national leader who can define a new role for government at home and a new role for America in the world of the 21st century.

Gary Hart is a former Democratic senator from Colorado. This Op-Ed was published in The New York Times, June 25, 2008.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It Really is a Singular Sensation

A Chorus Line, 1975. A Chorus Line, 2008.

It holds.

The Ahmanson. Through July 6.

As the treasurer and eventual president of the theatre goers club in high school, of course we saw A Chorus Line. Suburban kids on a school bus go to town. That’s when Times Square still had Nathan’s and whores.

A true whore quote from one whore to another while getting a load of me,
“That kid ain’t even old enough to have a hard on and he’s already smoking cigarettes.”

I listened to the cast album for most of high school. I really did believe that everything was probably more beautiful at the ballet. Or at least I understood wanting to leave your life to be somewhere more interesting.

The show at the Ahmanson is very close to the original, with all the original choreography. Not easy stuff. There are so many choreographed mistakes, since it is the staging of an audition. I remember the actors in the original production being more desperate. These Ahmanson actors did not have as great a need. Also, for whatever insane time reason, all the songs were sped up. This was irritating. There was no reason to speed up the songs. The play did not feel so much 1975 as it felt 2008, but maybe that’s just how things go. The movie, Hair, was really Hair-1979.

A Chorus Line is powerful. It is universal. It speaks to anyone who passionately loves something and just really wants to be a part of it. The music by Marvin Hamlisch is intricate and intelligent. What I Did for Love is the simplest song.

The grueling audition (competition) grating against the humanism (communalism) is really at the heart of all societal trouble, especially in the West. A Chorus Line has lasted all these years because of its combination of great music, spare yet huge choreography and the appealing 1970’s awareness of the “me” in the “we”.

These days, it just seems downright hokey to hear someone talk about their life story. But the 70's paved the way for people to open up to "Tell it like it is." This telling ultimately advanced all of society. A Chorus Line is part of that social line-up. I grew nostalgic for a time when you could talk about strong feelings and ideas and people would not even think to respond uncomfortably, "Tell me how you really feel," or "Too Much Information."

We are back to all competition and people hiding in their positions. Of course, the next wave of progress is soon upon us.

Tuesday night and the place was packed. Worth the trip. Completely enjoyable. Sharp, well done stuff.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More Fucking Oil

It just makes no sense. Finally, the no contest bids are in and the usual players are getting the oil contracts in Iraq (though just to service, not to own).

Bushy Boy got what he wanted: all that fresh goop in the hands of the West.

But economically speaking, passing over all the dead Iraqis, dead Americans and billions of dollars, it still would have made more sense to spend that money on developing other ways to run engines. But is that true?

All that oil is just sitting there. Maybe it is cheaper to have a war and then just get the oil, hopefully on the cheap. Surely, as the supply increases, the price will come down.

A huge underground lake of oil is still cheaper to go after than the slim possibility of developing a positive energy flow hydrogen fuel tank. Or is that because I, like most people, just don’t have the facts?

The new energy must have three characteristics:

It must be plentiful
It must create zero emissions at all phases of production and use
It must give off more energy than it takes to create it.

The obvious choice seems to be hydrogen fuel created by solar energy.

No messy corn. No filthy coal. No greasy wars.

The civilized world moves forward by looking forward. Come on.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cancer Cuts

Our dog, Louise, has a slow growing tumor attached to her heart. She is in the last year of her life, living comfortably on blood pressure medication, diuretics, cough suppressant and narcotics. It’s pet hospice.

It has been very hot this early summer and her hair has grown very long. Usually, she goes to the groomer. When I made an appointment today, I was informed I needed to bring in proof of all recent vaccinations. The groomer listed five of them, including rabies. This dying dog is not going to get revaccinated for anything.

I pulled out a scissor and some old buzz razor and I did it myself. Adam helped by holding Louise. Then I gave her a bath. It looks just like what Petco used to do. Except, of course, there are some terrible baldish hack marks where I cut too close. So now cancer dog has a bit of that cancer look. It’s appropriate. Might be her last haircut. Her last sad haircut.

When my grandmother was in the last few months of her life dying of cancer, she was living with us. Pretty unruly, definitely cranky and with a big mouth, my mother decided the only place to take her for her final birthday was something where it wouldn’t be much trouble, especially for the other diners. We went to the main street of our town, Lafayette Avenue, and had dinner at the Cathay Too, a Chinese restaurant. Not a great place, but new enough so it still felt exotic for our suburban town. It was a little festive in there with a yellow and red Chinese thing going on and certainly bright with full pane windows to the sidewalk. But it smelled like a mop. I felt sad knowing that my grandmother’s last birthday dinner was at such a non-romantic hole. I particularly remember we were not far from the service area. Plenty of water glasses, pitchers, food coming from the back. We ate, my grandmother was loud, we left.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Largo Saturday Night

When Karen Kilgariff, one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, asked me to get involved in her act at Largo, playing songs we would make up, I had to say yes.

Saturday night. Doors open at 8:30. Show starts at 9. It’s the new Largo at the old Coronet at 366 N. La Cienega. The little room. No reservation necessary.

There’s no food or drink so do all that before, after, sneak some in.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Oh What M. Night! or There's Something in the Air

Okay, it's half my fault. Adam (who I could call my Recognized-by-the-State-of-California-Spouse, now, if we were to get married, but who remains my Domestic Partner) and I went to see M. Night Shamalamadingdong's The Happening.

We just wanted to see a big ol' movie.

It was simply terrible.

I am about to divulge everything. So, if you plan to see the movie and do not want the surprise destroyed, then click away from here.

Okay, so people kill themselves. First, they kind of freeze. Then, they find the most expedient way to die. Guns, a large lawnmower, jumping off high buildings, more guns. Turns out, the plants are doing it. Apparently, (and all the knowledge in this movie comes at you from news reporters on television screens), plants, in distress, will send out signals to other plants and together they will release toxins to kill invaders once they feel threatened enough.

The trees and grass of the Northeast can't take people another minute, what with the destruction of their habitat (though, someone should have told M. Night that the Northeast is actually healthier, forest-wise, than the rest of the lower forty-eight, especially New England).

So, the survivalist plants emit a toxin that makes people kill themselves.

The lead actors, poor things, had to say such ridiculous lines in such ridiculous places for such ridiculous reasons, you just have to wonder what was the exact day during the filming that they threw up their hands and said, "Fuck it, I made a mistake signing up for this crap. Let's just finish up, collect the fee, and get the hell out of here."

Betty Buckley as the crazed shut-in who kills herself by banging her head into her own wall and windows was quite a sight.

I haven't been to a movie at a movie theatre in months. It was enjoyable to be in a great theatre, looking at the wooded scenery of Pennsylvania, watching Mark Wahlberg be all middle class and dull. I actually enjoyed it in a perverse way.

But truly--
You have to wonder why the studio let this director have a dime to make anything at all.
Why didn't they read that script and simply say, "There is no way on earth."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Comes a Time

I think the media is handling the gay marriage surge with great discretion.

At least the Los Angeles Times.

Respectful coverage. And done. No big deal.

The less the gay marriage issue is in the news, the better chance it has of catching on.

No more need to write about it. Let it happen. Take over. Like kudzu. But the good kudzu. And it’s there.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Moderation Please

The push and pull, I’m exhausted.

There is no doubt, a large amount of capital, pooled, is useful. Big things can be done with mounds of money.

So why try for density in only one area?

We, on the left, push it toward government.

Those, on the right, push it toward business.

We all know the government wastes.

And big business steals.

Waste and theft. There we are.

So, why not spread it around? Then there are many places to go to get the big lumps of capital for big things.

There will be waste. There will be theft. Sure.

But spread it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Wedding Cake with a Saw in It

Congratulations to all the men and men and women and women who will be married today at 5:01PM.

Though Massachusetts has already been doing this for years, it’s a smallish state. It doesn’t get huger than California. Big equal times ahead.

But wait. Did you know there are laws in Delaware and Wisconsin that if a gay couple gets married out of state, they can be held on criminal charges once they return? Apparently true. The law in Wisconsin permits authorities to punish offenders with a fine of up to $10,000 and nine months imprisonment for marrying that special someone.

Yes, if Steven and Dave from Milwaukee go to California and get married and then return to work the next day, the police can haul them off to prison. The good people of Wisconsin voted for it. These are the people you share a military with.

When the crops have all failed from warming, flooding and pestilence, and the civil war breaks out over who deserves the last few grains of wheat, I say let this wretched union be torn asunder to become at least three or four countries.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Kern County

Nasty County.

It accounts for one-tenth of United States oil production.

I have been to Kernville, the little town that is the center of white water rafting. There was a meanness to the place. It had that bullying feeling.

It is no surprise that the county seat, Bakersfield, will not perform any weddings of any kind at the court house. They will allow marriage papers to be submitted, but they will not officiate.

Ugly place.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Marriage Laws Map


In the Los Angeles Times, yesterday, was a poorly printed map of where Gay Marriage stands in every state.

It reminds me of the maps of the Civil War with Missouri in something very bold to signify the Missouri Compromise. (Thank goodness California eventually entered the union as a free state. It set the tone for the west coast.)

The Civil War will never end.

I wish I could look at this map and see something more innocuous, "This reminds me of the corn, wheat, steer and oil distribution maps of my youth."

But it does not.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It's a Wedding Storm

People are planning on getting married all over the place. The courthouse, of course, in fields, at the ocean’s edge and even next to the tar pits, my favorite.

There are so many other great places to get married in Los Angeles. On line at Pinks Hot Dogs? The Farmer’s Market. Up at the Griffith Observatory could be stellar. Maybe a moving ceremony along the 101, driving from downtown LA to Hollywood.

I am looking forward to all these gay couples being wed. Then, I am looking forward to the law suits against the federal government for not transferring survivor rights to spouses in the military and for social security benefits.

Until the law suits, I hope married gay couples start jointly filing their federal income tax returns. Less paper.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Please Fill in the Blank

Sure, Barak Obama is Smart and Handsome, but John McCain is _________ .

Monday, June 09, 2008

Mrs. Ashwood

When I was five years old, we moved. My parents made it sound very exciting. They bought a house near my father’s sister in New City, New York, twenty miles from Peekskill, NY where we were leaving, on the other side of the Hudson River. The day we arrived, everything in a huge moving truck, my parents were told by the bank that the builder of the house was involved in some shady deal and they would not fund our mortgage. We could not close and we became officially homeless.

We moved into the Ashley Motor Court in Nanuet for a few weeks until my parents found us a nice bungalow to rent in an apple orchard on Route 45 in Spring Valley. The Maggots, truly their name, were an old Orthodox Jewish couple renting out rooms in out buildings and in their home to people like us and also at the time, to a couple of swinging British girls in their early twenties who flirted with my brother and I. They rented in the big barn. My brother and I slept on cots in the Maggots’ kitchen. I started kindergarten at Summit Park Elementary school. Six weeks later, my parents bought a real house in Spring Valley, with nine rooms and a stream in the back yard where I finished kindergarten at Oakwood.

Before I began first grade, Bluefield Elementary School was built. It was during the period when people were fleeing New York City and moving to the suburbs so there was a need. The hallways of Bluefield were painted in bright orange, red and yellow shapes, many of them isosceles triangles. This was Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan country, and all was liberal, progressive, and who knows what else! That summer, just before the school opened, there was an article in the local newspaper about something truly exciting about to take place. Two black teachers were hired to teach in this practically all white school district. One was Mrs. Brown, the music teacher (an amazing favorite who would throw her wig on the piano when she got angry). The other one was Mrs. Ashwood (let’s call her that). I had never seen black people, really. Maybe when we drove through Yonkers to visit my grandparents or on television. But not real ones.

Mrs. Ashwood taught first grade. I was assigned to her class. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. Because the newspaper made such a fuss about it, I assumed that black people were inferior and that I was getting a really bad deal. I could not imagine what it would be like. Since teachers, at that age, are kind of like mother substitutes, I felt like I lost some sort of lottery and I would never be able to get close to this new kind of woman, an unwhite person. For God’s sake, I could barely make her face out in the poorly lit newspaper photo.

Mrs. Ashwood turned out to be exceptional, warm, a great teacher and I became her pet. She had an enormous afro. We had spelling bees called the lollipop house—if you got to the top of the stairs spelling words correctly on the blackboard, you’d get a lollipop. I still have the report cards showing her curly handwriting. She was bright and interested, pretty and lovely. When the girls in reading group were all laughing at me, and it turned out it was because of my dimples, she stood up and told those girls that my dimples were cute. Like most boys with their first grade teachers, I had a little crush on her.

There was a dark side to the whole thing. A kid in my class, let’s call him Larry Morton, had behavioral problems. He acted out. My guess is he had A.D.D. and his parents just thought he needed lots of discipline. The lore goes, they signed some sort of piece of paper that said Mrs. Ashwood could beat or hit Larry if he got unruly. And she did. At first, she did not. But as the year wore on and he wore on her nerves, she would pinch, him, pull his hair, grab him hard, and one time she even threw him into a metal garbage can. That particular day, we all just sat there, stone silent, knowing she had gone just too far but no one said anything, I don’t think, and she did not get in trouble. But after that day, she never hit him again. So I assume something went down and she was told to stop.

I didn’t think her beating up Larry was anything that strange. In fact, it was no different than what the Italian mothers up and down my street were doing to their children when they got out of hand. Seemed to me that Black people were just like any other people.

A few decades later, we are about to elect an African American president. He went to Harvard and he keeps very trim. I have known many people who have gone to Harvard who have remained thin. Again, no difference.

We’ve come a long way. Should work out well.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Stop Children, What's that Sound?

It took forty years, but maybe we’re getting there?

These are exciting times.

For What It’s Worth.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

My Middle Finger

Check out Noel Alumit’s My Finger Project to which I contributed.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

We All Know It

If he doesn’t take her as his vice, he will be pummeled with forklifts and estrogen patches.

Come on Barry, we all know you’re stalling, grandstanding even.

Go ahead, take a couple of days. But we know what you have to do.

We’ve known it for months.

This is so exciting, I think I’ll make a George Bush Pudding Effigy and eat the whole thing in one sitting.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Bringing in New Sheaves

Now that Obama has fully quit his church, who is going to have him? It will be very interesting to see how he is pursued, by clergy. What choice will he make? Will he join another church that is primarily comprised of African American churchgoers? Does he do it in Washington D.C.? This is going to be a political move that will be watched, of course. It will be hard to accept any choice he makes. No matter where he goes, one will wonder how calculated it is. When it comes to Christ, one must not be too calculating.

I hope he joins a Unitarian church, the most liberal of the bunch. You can be an atheist yet still be a Unitarian. But I bet he does something much more hard core.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Rock Garden

With a Rock Garden--- you get to have small plants with lots of rocks. Rocks don’t need much water.

And one can use broken concrete for the rocks.

There is a lot of concrete around.

It’s time we took our garbage, our building garbage, and built it into gardens.

Inspired by a trip to the Botanical Gardens up in the Bronx, and always loving rock gardens, I fully re-endorse rock gardens.