Monday, December 22, 2008

A Wish

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Please return in the new year for much more commentary and some new forms of expression, like maybe a singing squid.

May 2009 leave 2008 way behind.

And after the correction is corrected (swiftly, I might add), may you find yourself completely flush with the joys of all that you have ever wanted to do, to see, to give. And then some.

And please, recycle.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Alma Mater: Suckered

It should be well noted that P.T. Barnum was a large donor of my college. In fact, I majored in Biology, taking most of my classes in Barnum Hall. "There's a sucker born every minute."

And now this:

December 19, 2008

Dear Friends:

I have promised to keep you informed when the economic news of these extraordinary times has special significance for Tufts. The news this past week has been dominated by a financial scandal of unprecedented scale and scope. I am sorry to report that Tufts is one of a growing number of victims of the crimes allegedly committed by Bernard Madoff.

In 2005, the university’s Investment Committee authorized an investment with Ascot Partners, which in turn invested the entire sum with Madoff Securities. We have written off the value of this investment, which totaled $20 million, or slightly less than 2 percent of our endowment. This write-off will not significantly affect our operations. We will cooperate with any investigations of this fraud and will work to recoup as much of our investment as possible.

It is personally painful for me to communicate this information to you. We deeply appreciate the trust and confidence that each donor places in the university. We also have an obligation to our students and faculty to manage these resources wisely for their benefit. You have my word that we will look closely at our experience in this case so that we can strengthen our investment process for the future.

I will continue to keep you informed as we work our way through these difficult times. For now, I send all the members of the Tufts community my very best wishes for the holiday season ahead.


Lawrence S. Bacow

Friday, December 19, 2008

Epiteth for the Loss of a Beloved Pet

They say

Time heals everything.

But for some things, it simply kills.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


What is so strange is the quiet.

I imagine widows must feel this way.

It’s just so quiet. No sound of dog nails running across the floor.

No dog door sliding up and down.

No sound of a dog tongue lapping up water.

It rained very hard today. Rain is a natural muffler, something I usually welcome.

But not today.

I would like to have heard trucks, coyotes, car stereos, anything.

But just rain and silent floors. Silence.

Maybe the silence will bring something great. Maybe focusing NOT on a dying dog for nine months will bring great enjoyment.

But for now—it’s just quiet. Quiet.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Dying Dog Show: The End

Sweetness Dog-Sonified

The obituary for our dog, Louise, by Adam.

We put our beloved dog Louise down today at 1:15 PM. She had gotten so sick and swollen with cancer and edema that she had a hard time getting comfortable, and her tumors were slowly choking her. It was time. Louise came to us as if by magic one night shortly after 9/11. She just followed Don home from a walk. She was covered with fleas and mange and scabs and she hardly had any hair -- she needed rescuing as much as we needed comforting. She quickly blossomed, and stayed with us all the way through the wretched Bush administration. She didn't let go until she knew we were safe again. Even though she was only given two to six months back in March, she held on. Louise had an amazing combination of sweetness and intrepidness. She greeted everyone who came to our house with love and excitement, and she was happy to snuggle up next to anyone who wanted her to (and even some who didn't). But she was also fearless, running freely when allowed and sidling up to dogs three times her size on her nightly walks. She was sturdy. But most of all, she was always right there. At our feet and by our sides throughout the day and night, finding comfort in our company and making sure we were okay. Our hearts are broken, but our dear Louise will always have a place in them. And we take comfort in the knowledge that her suffering is over. Thank you all so much for all your kind words and thoughts and help during these trying past nine months. Goodbye angel, we will never, ever forget you.


A note from me, Don: It was pretty rough. The heaving grief, the holding onto her dead body and wailing how much I loved her, the whole thing. It was huge.

Then, I went home and cleaned the house for five hours. Seemed important to get really busy.

And, truthfully, the last week of her life she was letting it all rip all over the place, so the rugs needed to go. The floors needed some serious work.

You know--the pain was huge, but I'm kind of in this mild state of wonder. I loved her so much, I just imagine I won't ever stop feeling that way.

What an amazing dog. My sweet little girl. My sweetest little doggy. That I loved more clearly than anything I have ever loved before.
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Monday, December 15, 2008

Downwardly Mobile

We have had a clear sign of downward mobility in our household:

The reintroduction of a laminate Ikea bookcase.

This is the clearest sign of the economy in recession. When you’re over forty and Ikea marches back into your house from the garage storage, well, something is up.

Last night, standing in a beautifully renovated kitchen in conjunction with a complete house remodel in Silverlake with old friends, most of them well established in their careers, it was noted by one party guest, “You know, my salary hasn’t changed at all. It’s just from reading everything I get so scared, I’ve been making soup and eating it all week and brown bagging it for lunch.”

For the most part, like the party talker, we have not felt the crunch too greatly, though in this house we have never had anything but freelance careers. Maybe that makes us even more ready for wacky economic times. We are certainly pliable.

But yesterday, having spent a couple of days getting our little guest house ready for a little renovation so we can rent it out for maybe a little year, we needed to bring some books back into the house. Which meant a bookcase. Usually, we’d drive down Venice Boulevard or poke around antique stores to try to find something nice. But we didn’t consider those options. We grabbed the old laminate instead…leftover from our apartment days in Santa Monica.

It’s not beautiful. But it is highly functional.

When the revolution happens, it will most likely appear Swedish.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Dying Dog Show: Freedom

There has been such an outpouring of sympathy in response to the sadness over the demise of my pooch and for that I am grateful. Thank you.

All the crying is good. No need to ever fear getting really emotional. Resisting it is more painful than experiencing it. And at the end of the flood? You just feel more relaxed.

And for that I am grateful, too.

Monday or Tuesday.

The house will be reorganized around not having a dog. Gates will disappear. As will bowls on the floor.

More time spent traveling--

--with the memory of Louise, the greatest little girl dog who ever stayed in a motel at the Spokane airport.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Dying Dog Show: Going Going

Though it is almost impossible to believe, my dog must die.
She was diagnosed with a big heart tumor March 7. If you do a search in the blog for Dying Dog Show, it covers the dog tracks.

I am at the point where I am keeping the dog alive more for me than for the dog. I was talking to my mother about it on the phone today while driving and she said, “I put both you and your sister on the health directive because I figured your sister would hang onto us ‘till the very end but you’d be more ready to pull the plug.”

She said it with full confidence as if to say, “Come on, son, we all know you’re a cold blooded killer. That’s why we picked you. We’re going to need you to not go soft when the time comes.”

My mother thinks I would have no problem killing her, so this dog, in her mind, should be a breeze.

But it isn’t. You know how many things I’ve written while she was just one chair away? Sometimes, I’d put her in a folding chair right next to me, on a cushion. She always wanted to be right next to me. You could sleep with her with her head right on your shoulder all night long. She was the most affectionate mammal west of Philly.

Now, though, she doesn’t want to be near anyone. She is bloated and wretched. And when she moves she chokes and coughs on her tumor.

Look, it’s over. It’s over. It’s over.

And all we do is cry.

Execution is slated for Tuesday. So if anyone wants to see her one last time, just let me know.

Detroit: Just Read It

Friends, it is 3:38 AM, I've been crying about my dying dog all day, so I bring you this heavy hitter, the great opinionator, Thomas L. Friedman, from the New York Times:

While Detroit Slept


Published: December 9, 2008

As I think about our bailing out Detroit, I can’t help but reflect on what, in my view, is the most important rule of business in today’s integrated and digitized global market, where knowledge and innovation tools are so widely distributed. It’s this: Whatever can be done, will be done. The only question is will it be done by you or to you. Just don’t think it won’t be done. If you have an idea in Detroit or Tennessee, promise me that you’ll pursue it, because someone in Denmark or Tel Aviv will do so a second later.

Why do I bring this up? Because someone in the mobility business in Denmark and Tel Aviv is already developing a real-world alternative to Detroit’s business model. I don’t know if this alternative to gasoline-powered cars will work, but I do know that it can be done — and Detroit isn’t doing it. And therefore it will be done, and eventually, I bet, it will be done profitably.

And when it is, our bailout of Detroit will be remembered as the equivalent of pouring billions of dollars of taxpayer money into the mail-order-catalogue business on the eve of the birth of eBay. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into the CD music business on the eve of the birth of the iPod and iTunes. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into a book-store chain on the eve of the birth of and the Kindle. It will be remembered as pouring billions of dollars into improving typewriters on the eve of the birth of the PC and the Internet.

What business model am I talking about? It is Shai Agassi’s electric car network company, called Better Place. Just last week, the company, based in Palo Alto, Calif., announced a partnership with the state of Hawaii to road test its business plan there after already inking similar deals with Israel, Australia, the San Francisco Bay area and, yes, Denmark.

The Better Place electric car charging system involves generating electrons from as much renewable energy — such as wind and solar — as possible and then feeding those clean electrons into a national electric car charging infrastructure. This consists of electricity charging spots with plug-in outlets — the first pilots were opened in Israel this week — plus battery-exchange stations all over the respective country. The whole system is then coordinated by a service control center that integrates and does the billing.

Under the Better Place model, consumers can either buy or lease an electric car from the French automaker Renault or Japanese companies like Nissan (General Motors snubbed Agassi) and then buy miles on their electric car batteries from Better Place the way you now buy an Apple cellphone and the minutes from AT&T. That way Better Place, or any car company that partners with it, benefits from each mile you drive. G.M. sells cars. Better Place is selling mobility miles.

The first Renault and Nissan electric cars are scheduled to hit Denmark and Israel in 2011, when the whole system should be up and running. On Tuesday, Japan’s Ministry of Environment invited Better Place to join the first government-led electric car project along with Honda, Mitsubishi and Subaru. Better Place was the only foreign company invited to participate, working with Japan’s leading auto companies, to build a battery swap station for electric cars in Yokohama, the Detroit of Japan.

What I find exciting about Better Place is that it is building a car company off the new industrial platform of the 21st century, not the one from the 20th — the exact same way that Steve Jobs did to overturn the music business. What did Apple understand first? One, that today’s technology platform would allow anyone with a computer to record music. Two, that the Internet and MP3 players would allow anyone to transfer music in digital form to anyone else. You wouldn’t need CDs or record companies anymore. Apple simply took all those innovations and integrated them into a single music-generating, purchasing and listening system that completely disrupted the music business.

What Agassi, the founder of Better Place, is saying is that there is a new way to generate mobility, not just music, using the same platform. It just takes the right kind of auto battery — the iPod in this story — and the right kind of national plug-in network — the iTunes store — to make the business model work for electric cars at six cents a mile. The average American is paying today around 12 cents a mile for gasoline transportation, which also adds to global warming and strengthens petro-dictators.

Do not expect this innovation to come out of Detroit. Remember, in 1908, the Ford Model-T got better mileage — 25 miles per gallon — than many Ford, G.M. and Chrysler models made in 2008. But don’t be surprised when it comes out of somewhere else. It can be done. It will be done. If we miss the chance to win the race for Car 2.0 because we keep mindlessly bailing out Car 1.0, there will be no one to blame more than Detroit’s new shareholders: we the taxpayers.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

December 9, 1974

This morning I put up another Santa Clause + tomorrow I’m putting Christmas lights on the trees outside. Can you imagine how yellow this book is going to be when I read it years later. It is 1974 and I predict I will read it in 1992.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Purifying Wind

Though it seems a bit sad, it isn’t. It’s a purifying wind.

Sell that Cuisinart you never use.

Rent that room that sits fallow.

Clean out your closets.

Cancel your subscription to _______.

Chuck your friends that are not so great.

Netflix? There’s always Hulu.

The maid? You can clean your own damn house.

Get lean. Get tough. And answer that hard dream: Who am I? What am I? What do I really need?

You can do it.

Friday, December 05, 2008

I've Been Koobfaced

Don't let it happen to you. When that message comes from Facebook that says someone saw you in some video, perhaps dancing...if you open it, you're in for a world of trouble. Big ol Trojan--loaded up with malware.

Do a Koobface Search. Nighty night.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Christmas is Coming

I am making my yearly Christmas plug: DON’T GO SHOPPING!

Of course, this year it will be easier to resist than most.

Instead, think about this: Go around your house and gather up everything you don’t need. In our house it’s the Cuisinart Food Processor and old eyeglasses. Take these things—the old pants, the Palm Pilot, the unopened packages of underwear and the hula-hoops and sell them on EBay, give them away, donate them to a homeless shelter, or send them into space.

The best thing you can do for yourself this Christmas season is to CLEAR IT ALL OUT, because in 2009 you are going to be asked to be yourself in the clearest way possible. Best not to have too much around. You don’t need to be stumbling.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I'm Really Different (Now) !

I’m Really Different (Now)!
A Musical Performance Piece, with comedy by Karen Kilgariff and Music by Don Cummings. And a guest.

Tuesday, December 9 @ 9PM.

The Little Room at the New Largo

366 N. La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles 90048

No Reservations taken. Sixty Seats. Come on.

Ten bucks.


“Karen is so funny. The music is great. I’m coming back.”

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Fireside Chat March 12, 1933

By the afternoon of March 3, 1933, scarcely a bank in the country was open to do business. 4,000 commercial banks failed that year.

Things are not as bad. The media could possibly calm down with the hype.

I love the accent. No one speaks like this any longer. My Aunt Rose tried to speak like she was from Park Avenue but the Newark honk was always marring the effect.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Milk is a Natural

MILK, as a movie was not so fabulous. Sean Penn as an actor is always fabulous.

Problem is, with most biopics, the structure is such that it reads this happened then that happened, then this happened, then that. Not unlike the diaries I have kept since 1973. Lord!

Again, Sean Penn? Will be nominated for an Oscar, surely. The other actors: Emile Hirsch, Josh Bolin and James Franco, wonderful, all.

The period was when I was in high school. Big curly hair and big ugly glasses were the rage. And the movie brought those out in full force. Lovely. Made me nostalgic.

There is so much to admire in Harvey Milk. He was a true humanitarian, a believer in the cause of human rights and a deft politician.

Feels like this is an important movie to see, what with Prop 8 and all. I just wish it was a little more interesting than a laundry list. Okay, it is more interesting than a laundry list.

You just want to get your socks knocked off. But you don’t.