Sunday, December 16, 2012


This clip is from a previous mass killing, or the one before that (there are so many; too many) but Moyers' comments still apply.

 "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Yes, that's the Second Amendment.  The right to form militias for the common defense is the key here. This has been argued till people are blue in the face, but it really wasn't until the Gun Control Act of 1968, and the Hatch Commission, that it became popularized as the individual, personal right to carry a gun around. What became known as the "individual rights" argument was promoted and pushed by the conservative movement and spearheaded by the NRA, and this decade its clear a conservative judiciary takes these arguments seriously. Regardless of interpretation, all would agree that when the words were written two centuries ago there weren't any automatic assault rifles. Needless to say, these rights are not immutable--they are the word of God, after all, but man--and are intended to serve us but can be looked at over historical time if need be.

Here is a valuable footnote. In 2008, an amicus was submitted to the US Supreme Court and signed by 15 eminent professors of early American history, and it concluded:

 "Historians are often asked what the Founders would think about various aspects of contemporary life. Such questions can be tricky to answer. But as historians of the Revolutionary era we are confident at least of this: that the authors of the Second Amendment would be flabbergasted to learn that in endorsing the republican principle of a well-regulated militia, they were also precluding restrictions on such potentially dangerous property as firearms, which governments had always regulated when there was 'real danger of public injury from individuals.'”

Saturday, December 15, 2012


The latest communique from the Ministry of Information makes it abundantly clear that while we have the fascists on the run, we need to stick together and fight the good fight during the Blitz.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Dave Brubeck (December 6, 1920 – December 5, 2012) was a piano player best known for "Take Five," a composition written by his longtime collaborator and sax player Paul Desmond. Brubeck was famous for his cool West Coast sound but could also play crazy, and he loved experimenting with unusual time signatures ("Blue Rondo à la Turk," for example, is played in 9/8). He will be missed by jazz fans everywhere.


Monday, December 3, 2012


Bruce Springsteen rocks Christmas. Over the years, he's performed some amazing Christmas songs with a lot of heart and soul, and the E Street Band helps him kick up some powerful Christmas spirit. Christmas goes beyond religion, of course, but Bruce attended the St. Rose of Lima Catholic school in Freehold where the nuns instilled some old school religion. His old man was Dutch and Irish, but he was raised--in his words--"as a good Italian boy from Jersey" by his dear mom, Adele Ann Zerilli, and her Italian-American sisters. His grandpa was born in Vico Equense, a city near Naples, where good children are visited by La Befana instead of Santa. At any rate, Bruce holds the holiday dear and brings the same exuberance and excitement to his holiday carols as he would to any of his own life-changing, soul-shaking rock and roll songs.

The first time I saw Springsteen perform live, back in 1978 on the "Darkness" tour, he played a wrenching set and then, toward the end, he performed "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" with sax player Clarence Clemons dressed in a Santa suit. The place went crazy. In spite of the somberness of the tour, and that darkness at edge of town, there was Christmas magic in the air.

Now you may not have the Christmas spirit, or you might not celebrate it, but I offer no apologies for these kick-ass performances. Sorry, Scrooge.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


We just put two pecan pies in the oven in preparation for the family Thanksgiving, and boy did they look delicious--even raw.  Thanksgiving is a time to offer thanks, but more important it's time to put work and politics and diets aside and come together for mountains of food, turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, fresh and canned cranberries, and homemade pies--pumpkin and pecan with whipped cream.  Thanksgiving is a time for expandable attire.  When I was a kid the holiday began with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV.  Dad was born and raised in New York, and he'd attended the parade as a child, so this informed our viewing of the broadcast.  This parade was real, in other words, because Dad had actually been there, in the crowd as the high school bands passed by, and the drum and bugle corps, baton twirlers, cheerleaders, clowns, cowgirls on horseback, elaborate floats and finally Santa Claus, a month early, ready to begin his stay in the famous department store on 34th street. My favorites, though, were the balloons.  Massive and dreamlike, surreal as any Dali paintings, these towering inflatable cartoon creatures floated through midtown Manhattan into our holiday nightmares: Donald Duck and Underdog and Spiderman, some ten stories high, fighting the wind and the occasional smart aleck kid with a BB gun.  I sat transfixed Thanksgiving morning, chin on the heel of my hand, as Mom prepared for the great feast in the kitchen.  Dad would be making his famous plum sauce, and preparing for the theatrical roll of turkey carver, but he might sit on the couch with me and watch for a while as the parade went by.  Later, I learned that these dream balloons were blown up at four in the morning, in the streets around the American Museum of Natural History, and then pulled through the parade by workers holding guy lines.  Genius!  This old film was taken in November of 1941, a different time.  Maybe my Dad was in the crowd.  Watch the balloons and you can understand how they could fill any child's head with awe and magic.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


In this clip from Bill Moyer's conversation this week with author Naomi Klein, she talks about how she became a radical. The child of two Vietnam War resisters, she grew up in Canada and jokes she "stayed for the health care."

Monday, November 12, 2012


The Republicans are licking their wounds and trying to figure out what to do next time to win over women and minorities. Here's a clue. How about not confusing "Americans" with White Anglo-Saxon Males? How about stopping all the rape jokes and apologies and start caring about the issues facing women, not the least of which is ass-backward smirking yobbos like you? How about losing the concept of skin color privilege and learning to stop portraying people "who don't look like us" (minorities?) as the fifty percent (or 47%) who want something for nothing?  Minority moochers?  How about supporting a fare tax code, and not always siding with the super-rich, the CEOs, the politically-connected lobbyists, the captains of industry and the corporate elite?  How about opening the door to moderates, liberals (God forbid!) and people who believe in education and science, including environmental science--and not just ignorant fundamentalists, shock-talk pundits and angry Tea Party types bitching and moaning about the loss of White Power? How about distancing yourself from your hate-mongering supporters like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Donald Trump?  

Of course, you can always remain out of touch ideologues on the wrong side of progress.  You can always go back to Mordor and breed bigger and tougher Orcs, but you won't bully your way into the heart of America because you don't know what America is. Read a history book and realize that America isn't just white and male and conservative--America is a wide-ranging collection of races, ethnicities, genders, sexual preferences, religions, philosophies, income levels and classes. Get to know your neighbors and stop crying over the loss of white domination. America is all of us, so stop freaking out and let's start working together. In this clip, John Leguizamo talks politics and takes on the self-pitying pundits of the Grand Old Party.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Hooray for Obama's re-election! After many nerve-racking months we went down to the wire and scored. Mitt didn't concede until very late, and then Obama gave a rousing 2AM victory speech in which he thanked everyone, including Romney. I don't have to be so gracious: the fear and lies of Mitt and his class war on progress were routed by a huge diverse coalition. The GOP and their Tea Party full-speed-backwards movement was rejected. The right wing ideologues are understandably bitter.  Donald Trump said the election was a "Total Sham And A Travesty," and suggested "Revolution Is Necessary." Thanks, Donald, but we just had one.  Sorry you missed it.  Here in Washington state, we went blue for Obama, approved the rights of gays to marry, and legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


 Please watch this video and vote against this idiot. The Republicans seems to be proudly anti-science and anti-environment, and they think global warming is a joke. This shortsighted view is more than simple ignorance; it's self-serving propaganda that works against environmental regulations and safeguards that protect all of us while justifying their greedy plundering of the planet for profit.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


This photograph taken during the civil rights movement by Bruce Davidson reminds me that many people struggled, organized and even died for the right to vote in this country. It reminds me that some of the same obstacles exist today, and that some reactionaries still want to silence people--not just African American voters--by making voting less accessible scrambling voting districts, and trying t o scare off voters-not to mention sewing apathy and confusion and a "What does it matter?" attitude. This photograph reminds me that even if the system is rigged in favor of the rich and powerful and politically connected (and it is) people can fight City Hall, and they can change even the most entrenched institutions. This picture reminds me of more than the Freedom Riders who risked jail, beatings and murder while registering disenfranchised voters throughout the South, but also the present-day activists who fight for positive social change and work to protect our civil liberties and the wide range of voices regardless of money, class, gender and sexual orientation. This photograph reminds me that Rage Against the Machine isn't just a clever name for a band. This photograph reminds me that even the most powerful person in the top 1%, who enjoys better health care and other luxuries, and who enjoys an unfair advantage influencing elections buying campaign ads and giving "donations" that amount to bribes, only gets one vote, and I can match that. This picture reminds me to vote.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


You have to see this anti-science, anti-environmental, Republican political advertisement to believe it. Kristi Noem, Republican, attacks her opponent for his belief in global warming, his travels abroad, his masters degrees and his love of corn dogs. Yup, corn dogs. I happen to like corn dogs. That alone would turn me against this dimwitted GOP hick. Maybe I'm just a "damn liberal" but I find his resume quite impressive and her smalltown, uneducated provincialism appalling.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


A rousing speech by President Barack Obama is given the cartoon treatment by a "Simpsons" animator.  Sometimes a cartoon is all you need.  Hopefully, this audio/visual aide will break through to the slim margin of voters who--against all odds--are still "undecided."  It's less than two weeks till the election, folks.  Do your homework. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Hunter Thompson and liberal Democrat George McGovern on the campaign trail.

"This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes... understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon. McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose... Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?"
- Hunter Thompson

 Let's hope the election doesn't end up like this, with Obama playing liberal Democrat McGovern and conservative Romney playing shifty Republican Nixon. There are parallels I'd rather ignore.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Our good old friend Scott passed away this morning after battling Stage-4 prostate cancer.  He was the subject of a New York Times article this weekend (LINK).  Scott was brave throughout this battle--and brave allowing Nicholas Kristof to write about his case within a story in favor of "Obamacare."  Allready apologists for insurance companies and Mitt Romney have take a few potshots in the comment sections, remaining anonymous for the most part.  Unlike Scott.

We visited him yesterday around five PM.  He seemed exhausted but managed to smile.  The blueberries on his bedside table sparked a conversation about the proliferation of berries where we grew up in Oregon, and how there were so plentiful you had to cut them down like weeds.  That's him above, in a picture I took near Pacific City on the Oregon Coast.  We first met in the early eighties, when he was home for summer from Harvard. We became housemates in a funky three story dwelling in NW Portland, back when NW Portland was cool.  As fellow Oregonians, we'd seen our share of rain, and this day in the hospital we stared at it from his 12th floor window.  Nurses came and went.  One ran a test.  His temperature was 99 degrees.  We stayed a while longer, and I helped him role to his side.  In his weakened state he couldn't turn or lift his leg or move his pillow.  The Times article had come out earlier in the day, and there must have been some sense of finality in telling his story for the record.  We spoke about it briefly.  He said he had everything he needed.  Wendy noticed he looked tired, and we said next time we'd call before we visited.  We said we'd see him soon.  He was nearly asleep when we left. 

That was yesterday.  Scott died this morning.  Wendy called around noon to tell me the news.  Our mutual friend Cheryl, another housemate in the NW Portland dwelling, had sent an email with the stunning message. As well as being an old friend of Scott's, she works as a nurse practitioner and throughout his illness she's been at his side running interference, driving him to clinics and interpreting the medical language of the docs.  "I am so sad to give you the completely shocking and unpredicted news that Scott has died - this morning, at about 9:30.  It was after a very abrupt septic crisis that caused his breathing to fail last night and lead to bleeding into his lungs...Scott was on a respirator for about 12 hours."  He left us this morning, and he will be remembered in many different ways by different people--as a thoughtful reader, a feisty debater, an Oregon farmboy, a Harvard graduate, a fan of Dylan and Neil Young, a beachcomber and a killer poker player.  We'll miss you, Scott.  Rest in peace, brother.

MORE OF THE STORY (added October 21):

After the initial story about Scott in the New York Times (A Possibly Fatal Mistake, October 14) there was such a flurry of responses, many very heartless and negative, writer Nicholas Kristof felt it was necessary to write a follow-up piece (Scott's Story and the Election, NYT October 17th).  There was also a story on National Public Radio, "Times" Health Care Op-Ed Gets Unexpected Reponse, October 18th. 

As for me, the end of Scott's story was far from the public eye.  Thursday night there was a moving memorial for Scott in Seattle, where stories were shared by friends and family, fellow poker players and co-workers. There were some tears but also laughter, and a wall full of pictures taken throughout his life.  There were shots of Scott as a baby, as a grade schooler with a paper route, beside his student ID cards from Silverton High School and Harvard.  There were a few shots from the old Hoyt Street house where we met, when we were all much younger and had longer hair and not a clue what the future would bring.  

On Friday there was another memorial in his hometown of Silverton, Oregon, held in a small funeral parlor with rose-colored wallpaper. There was an open casket, and flowers--including a wreath sent by his poker buddies with a fanned-out straight flush in spades. I was fortunate to attend both memorials and ever more fortunate to count Scott as a good friend. His hometown was in full golden autumn that day, and the sky cleared long enough to say our goodbyes at his graveside and share hugs and a shot of whiskey from a flask. Then we got back in our cars and it started raining again.


 Come on lady, grow a brain. An unidentified woman outside the Veep debate calls President Obama a communist.  Chris Matthews asks her to explain and of course she can't. No big surprise. She's parroting the word from some shock radio show or some backyard barbecue of other C-minus students. Her unimaginative reb-baiting is a holdover from the Red Scare paranoia of the Cold War years when it was actually attached to something real, however misunderstood.  We doubt this old scold means Obama is a follower of Marx and Lenin, a supporter of proletariat revolution, a believer in the working class controlling the means of production, or a practitioner of dialectical materialism. She's just dumb. She flings words like a monkey flings poop.  Mighty armies of ignoramuses seem to have eluded our educational system. They never learned that words have specific meanings, and that they actually refer to a specific person, place or thing.  Intellectual concepts such as communism and capitalism require a certain fine tuning that is lacking in this Tea Party dolt. She should stick with "dog" and "cat."  Chris Matthews gives the old crank a chance to explain, but she snaps at him, too. Maybe he's some kind of Stalinist himself, or a Trotskyite.

Of course, this lady is just hurling insults. She has no idea what she's talking about. She's probably been spoonfed her crackpot conservatism from Tea Party pundits but we can't help make fun of her. It's like Biden laughing at Ryan. It's impossible to keep a straight face with some of the beady-eyed bullshit that passes for politics. It would all be a good joke if these idiots weren't vying for control of the most powerful nation on earth.

Abbie Hoffman once said Hitler would never have risen to power if he';d been captured back in 1937, brought to Trafalgar Square, and been publicly pantsed. Nobody would have been able to take him seriously again. Of course, we're not comparing these emotional right-wingers to Hitler--they're not that ambitious--just saying sometimes a sensible person should laugh uproariously when confronted with such stupidity. Perhaps we've been too kind, which seems to be a liberal trait, and one not likely to be reciprocated if the tables were turned. We're in the age of self-esteem, after all, when even the person who fails the test gets a gold star, but that does no one any good.

 Extra credit: "Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry based upon a materialist interpretation of historical development, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis of class-relations within society and their application in the analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. In the mid-to-late 19th century, the intellectual development of Marxism was pioneered by two German philosophers, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels."

Friday, October 12, 2012


 I'll never forget the Columbus Day Storm. The winds were howling and two massive Douglas Fir trees in front of our house snapped like pipestems and crosscrossed our front door. Another smaller tree hit the house. Mom and I and my baby sister Bekki, who was just a couple months old, huddled in the kitchen as branches flew and crashed against the house. Dad drove home from work in Tigard, and had to dodge fallen trees and live electrical wires that were snapping in the road. We lost power--everyone did, I think--and I remember we went to my grandma's house. I've never heard winds like that. They were whistling. We cooked meals in the fireplace for a week. In the aftermath, roaming crews were cutting wood and collecting gasoline for generators--even the radio station was on special power and we listened for updates on our battery radio. 

According to the Wiki, "The Columbus Day Storm of 1962 (also known as the Big Blow, and originally as Typhoon Freda) was an extratropical cyclone that struck the Pacific Northwest coast of the United States on October 12, 1962. The storm ranks among the most intense to strike the region since at least 1948, likely since the January 9, 1880 'Great Gale' and snowstorm. The storm is a contender for the title of most powerful extratropical cyclone recorded in the U.S. in the 20th century; with respect to wind velocity, it is unmatched by the March 1993 'Storm of the Century' and the '1991 Halloween Nor’easter' ('The Perfect Storm'). The system brought strong winds to the Pacific Northwest and southwest Canada, and was linked to 46 fatalities in the northwest and Northern California resulting from heavy rains and mudslides."

I was just a little kid at the time but the storm made a deep and lasting impression on me. It's the closest I've ever felt to the apocalypse so popular in TV and movies these days. Systems collapsed. Schools and businesses were suspended. People had to think on their feet and make new plans. Some were helpful neighbors and others lost it in panic. I'll never forget coming home from first grade on the bus, and how it was such a blustery day. I held a picture I'd colored about Christopher Columbus and the wind kept trying to tear it from my hands. Mom called from the back door as I crossed the field to the house. Hurry, hurry, a storm is coming!

Sunday, October 7, 2012


This spirited political debate last night between comedian Jon Stewart and FOX pundit Bill O'Reilly descended into silliness at times but proved more substantial than the last official debate. Stewart won--and I say that not just because he's on my side (I'll admit Romney won the last one) but because Stewart had the facts at hand, while Bill O'Reilly constantly fudged the numbers, resorted to tired conservative talking points and even confused Egypt with Syria. Humor was key, of course, but while Bill used it to mask his confusion, Stewart gleefully zen-jabbed holes in this stuffed shirt blowhard's "philosophy," attacking the FOX pundit's basically selfish, outdated conservative views on health care, foreign policy, and "toughness." At one point, when O'Reilly said his ideal president would be Clint Eastwood, Stewart said "Why don't we ask him" and addressed his empty chair. Not exactly comedy gold, but this late in the political season, after a war of attrition and rehearsed "zingers," it was nice to laugh. In case you missed it, or were frustrated by crashed servers that blocked the broadcast, here's the debate in its entirety.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


So Romney won the debate--not on facts, of course, which were misleading at best and mostly wrong, but on the telegenic qualities of seeming comfortable, aggressive, and filled with coached and drilled "zingers." Obama missed opportunities and some easy softball pitches: the 47%, say, or Bain Capital, or the Swiss bank accounts and tax-dodging. Dude doesn't just practice all day--he has a job, after all, and a tough one--but I wish he had come out swinging to knock out the bully. Is this part of some strategy? Or was Barack just flat on his feet, stunned by not having debated in four years? Are his thoughts TOO complex to reduce in that format? Has he lost conviction? Obama was a perfect gentleman, when I wanted a bare-knuckled counter-puncher. Expectations were such that anything less than outright victory for Obama would be seen as defeat, and Mittens didn't look half bad (if you hadn't followed any of the campaign for the past year, that is, and haven't read a thing and just tuned in last night with zero knowledge of anything, that is). Let Mittens have his bump.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


The Scribe was an underground weekly newspaper in Portland in the Seventies. Production offices were in the Centenary Willbur Church, a swayback structure honeycombed with “Movement” offices, environmental groups, a cafe and a theater troupe. No, Portland didn't just become weird lately, with Portlandia and its recent discovery by fixed-gear hipsters--PDX was always weird. Let's say the city always allowed a certain freedom for subcultures and outsiders. The Scribe reflected an uneasy alliance of writers and art screwballs, cartoonists and musicians, Drop-outs and Reedies, drifters and outlanders, isolatos and politicos, feminists, hippies and punks. Every Thursday night was Production Night, an all-night affair that stank of waxers and X-acto knifes, typesetting machines, beer, weed and bulk-bin fig newtons from the now-defunct Corno's. Back then, newspapers were built by hand--no computer-designed layot--just cutting and pasting on massive wooden tables. I was a writer and cartoonist for the rag, but like everyone else I pitched in on Production Night, grinding away until the paper was “put to bed” in the morning. Long before Willamette Week and corporate "alternative weeklies," we put out a real alternative to the Snoregonion, an irreverent eye-popping issue every week jammed with provocation, underground comics, poetry, a bar and tavern guide, movie listings and reviews of jazz, rock and this new thing called punk. You could be as creative as you liked, as long as you were willing to do the work. The editors were friendly--we were on a mission, after all--and there were great parties. Sure, the rugs were kind of stinky and we often got lost down rabbit-holes of consensus decision making, but it was worth it. I drew cartoons, wrote stories and assigned myself interviews with Patti Smith, the Ramones and Muddy Waters. It was great. I came across this picture in an old trunk and had to laugh. Good times.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


 In case you missed this hilarious recap of Mitt Romney going down in flames, enjoy. In spite of the side-splitting humor, this is an excellent summary of the insanity of the Romney-Ryan-FoxNews campaign going off the rails. It goes to show you, even with all those millions and a major news channel at his disposal, Mittens is having a hell of a time. Even dumb folks seem to be wising up. Of course, the trouble with "dumb" is that there is always "dumber," and those folks will vote for Romney no matter what. Still, it's a train wreck of epic proportions. I just got my voter pamphlet in the mail and I can't wait to vote against this turkey.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Victor Hugo wrote the book but he probably never imagined Les Miserables would sweep the world like revolutionary wildfire. He certainly never envisioned a musical based on his book about poverty and revolution variously translated from the French as The Miserable, The Wretched, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims--this was not your typical musical fare--or the massive ticket sales fired by Les Miz Mania, or the mountains of merch: T-shirts and key-chains and totebags emblazoned with the likeness of the long-suffering waif, Cosette.  Now Tom Hooper, the award-winning director behind "The King's Speech," is making a movie musical version of "Les Miserables" in case you didn't get swept up in Les Miserables the first time through (too mainstream and low brow for your sophisticated tastes?) or didn't read the Hugo book.  (So what's your problem?  Heart made of stone?)  Maybe a musical won't turn you into a revolutionary firebrand, but it's nice to see some radical heroes storming the power structure in this day and age of corporate servitude and brazen insensitivity for the poor (Mitt Romney, anyone?), when open contempt for the 99% (or more recently, the 47%) is casual and tossed off like breadcrumbs.  If you're used to musicals about giant singing Cats, or Lion Kings, you may experience some culture shock being slammed headfirst into hard time Bagne prison in Toulon in 1815, or the sewers of Paris, but don't worry, you'll be climbing the barricades by the end of the first act.  This star-studded call to arms stars Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried, and unlike standard musicals the stars will sing live on camera, so we'll get a risky raw feel more appropriate to the material than the usual slick sound sung in the studio and tacked on after the fact.  Skip the T-shirt and take the message home. 

Friday, September 14, 2012


Dylan is back and here is the controversial video from the new signal, Duquesne Whistle. It plays like an old time tune and then kicks into Western swing and you can feel that train rolling through Carbondale and on through the great American landscape. The video starts like a Chaplin silent film (the things we do for love!) and slips into Martin Scorsese territory by the final verse. The record is Tempest, which also happens to be the name of Shakespeare's last play. Maybe that doesn't mean anything, but these songs are freighted with finality and death is over every shoulder.

I've been listening to this record for the past couple weeks and it's a rollicking, greasy, jukebox playlist from Old Weird America--there's blood on these tracks--and a high body count that probably startles some of the more genteel salonistes who write record reviews. This is a raucous bloody album with powerful writing and singing--and no, he doesn't sound like he did in 1962, or 1972. His voice is a raw, savage instrument played beautifully, fitting the material as the ship rocks and the ballast shifts and deaths pile up: gunshots, knife wounds and drowning. This is his best album since another great sanguine outting, Blood on the Tracks. Two thumbs up.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Everyone knows Fox News is a biased news network just this side of Goebbels' Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, a high dollar public relations firm serving the right wing lunatic under the guise of news coverage. As such, nobody expects Fox News to present a "fair and balanced" view of the political conventions, and they did not disappoint their viewers, the consistently most misinformed news watchers, according to several polls.  Whether the Fox anchors were nit-picking Democratic use of "details" or rhapsodizing about an old man arguing with an empty chair, they were working hard to present their bias and keep their viewers misinformed, elevating double standards to new levels. Thank God (take note: I mentioned God) Jon Stewart is here to take them to task. They don't like Jon, and not just because he's a smart-aleck liberal New York Jew, which would drive those stuffed shirts crazy in the best of circumstances, but because he calls them on their bullshit.  Over and over.  He needles them with wit and intelligence and a big dollop of attitude.  He rubs it in their faces.  Here he breaks it down once again.  Thanks, Jon.

Friday, September 7, 2012


TIM O'BRIEN, National Book Award-winning author of "Going After Cacciato" and "The Things They Carried," wrestles with truth in all his fiction, and in this particular case examines truth in a war story:

In a true war story, if there's a moral at all, it's like the thread that makes the cloth. You can't tease it out. You can't extract the meaning without unraveling the deeper meaning. And in the end, really, there's nothing much to say about a true war story, except maybe "Oh." True war stories do not generalize. They do not indulge in abstraction or analysis.

For example: War is hell. As a moral declaration the old truism seems perfectly true, and yet because it abstracts, because it generalizes, I can't believe it with my stomach. Nothing turns inside.

It comes down to gut instinct. A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe.


The conventions are over.  The camera crews have unplugged and moved on.  The delegates have paid their bar tabs and boarded planes for home and state campaigns, canvassing, phone calls.  The great halls are empty as custodians vacuum up the party hats, broken signs, love notes, campaign promises and all that red, white and blue confetti.  America slouches toward November. 

The DNC ended on a high note.  The Democrats had a clean sweep with powerhouse speeches from Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, President Obama and a roster of others--substantive speeches about something--and what did the RNC have?  An old actor talking to a chair?  Nobody can remember a thing Romney said.  Bill Clinton, the previous Democratic president broke it down:  "The Republican argument against the president's re-election was pretty simple: `We left him a total mess, he hasn't finished cleaning it up yet, so fire him and put us back in.'"

On the other hand, the Republicans didn't even invite their last president to the convention.  That's right.  George W. Bush stayed home, persona non grata in his own party, as if his smirky face might remind people of his disastrous policies that got us into this mess.  The Republicans want too continue those policies, of course, but they want to pretend they're brand new.  Good luck, boys.  Anyone paying attention recognizes the GOP is just selling the same old bad wine in a new bottle. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


What's wrong with our beloved all-American colored sugar water? This is what happens when American-based multinationals occupy foreign countries. "I'd like to buy the world a Coke," the old commercial jingle, takes on a sinister cast when you look into the oppressive labor practices at Coke plants around the world.  Outsourcing jobs hurts us AND them, and an unregulated open season on workers results.  This is the logical outcome of unbridled capitalism and corporations that value profits over people. 

Watch this powerful documentary, which is available in video stores and on Netflix Instant Streaming.  Watch it and change your habits.  For more information on the campaign to stop Killer Coke, click HERE.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Romney too busy for Vietnam? As the son of a wealthy Republican governor, Romney received no less than four draft deferments to keep him out of Vietnam. Later, he became very hawkish about the war, even claiming that he longed to go but couldn't. More Mitt bullshit. Here's the real story behind the satire circulating, from the Associated Press:

"Romney's recollection of his Vietnam-era decisions has evolved in the decades since, particularly as his presidential ambitions became clear. He said in 2007 - his first White House bid under way - that he had 'longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam.' But his actions, Selective Service records and previous statements show little interest in joining a conflict that ultimately claimed more than 58,000 American lives. Still, he repeatedly cites his commitment to public service and the nation's military while campaigning for president. 'Greatness in a people, I believe, is measured by the extent to which they will give themselves to something bigger than themselves,' Romney said in San Diego last week to a Memorial Day crowd of thousands, flush with military veterans of all ages. He did not address his own Vietnam history that day. And his campaign has refused to comment publicly on the subject over the past week."

 For the rest of the story, follow this LINK.


You may never be Sicilian, but this recipe may help you do hard time with some style. No, it's not the latest Gordon Ramsey series. This delicious scene is from Martin Scorsese's celebrated crime film, Goodfellas. Cotswold House Hotel head chef Dave Watts has put together a recipe that approximates the one we see in the movie. He's about as Sicilian as Gordon Ramsey and he'll never be a made man but the dude can cook, and we respect him for that. We discovered this recipe at Slashfilm, an irreverent film site worth checking out.

The meal serves four hungry convicts well.  Preparation is 20 – 30 minutes.  Cooking time: 2 hrs 30 - 3hrs 30, longer if you have time.  (One other thing, the measurements are in the metric system which will be no problem if you're English or if you've ever dealt drugs.  Remember, 1 Ounce = 28.3495231 Grams). 

 6 onions peeled and finely diced
75g Cotswold gold rapeseed oil or olive oil
A teaspoon of salt
300g minced beef
300g minced pork shoulder
300g diced English rose veal flank
30g Cotswold gold rapeseed oil or olive oil
250g beef or brown chicken stock
10 cloves garlic peeled 100ml white wine
150g tomato puree
750g ripe vine tomatoes (chopped) or equivalent weight of quality chopped tinned tomatoes
A pinch of salt
Good grind of black pepper

For the actual recipe please check out Shortlist, who commissioned the interpretation, and try your hand at some tasty food. Link HERE.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Right-wing Republicans are consistently anti-intellectual, anti-science and anti-women--so this idiotic superstition about rape comes as no surprise. It serves a purpose. The very notion of "legitimate rape" (what a dead giveaway) should tip us off that Akin and his gang are once again trivializing suffering and blaming victims. This is the GOP stock in trade. In this case, in their tiny minds, sex is bad and women are trying to get away with it without proper punishment, using abortion as birth control--and this nifty superstition allows these right-wing bible-thumpers to oppose abortion in ALL cases, even after rape, since "legitimate" rape rarely results in pregnancy. Once again, according to asshats like Akin, wanton harlots cannot be trusted; they're using rape--which apparently isn't so bad--as an excuse to have abortions, to jump from bed to bed without consequences and flagrantly violate the simple, inflexible rules of a wrathful God handed down during the Bronze Age, as well as the laws of his poor, God-fearing, sexually repressed Republican followers.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Moments ago, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, a philosophy graduate, Maria Alekhina, 24, a charity worker and environmental activist and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, a computer programming graduate, members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, were found guilty of hooliganism in a Moscow courtroom. Their crime? Criticizing President Vladimir Putin.  Each band member received two years in prison. The judge has said they are sane and should be punished in accordance with the law.  Shouts of "Shame!" filled the courtroom as the verdict was handed down. 

From the Guardian: "MOSCOW — A judge found three members of the provocative punk band Pussy Riot guilty of hooliganism on Friday, in a case that has drawn widespread international condemnation as an emblem of Russia's intolerance of dissent. "The judge said the three band members "committed hooliganism driven by religious hatred" and offended religious believers. The three were arrested in March after a guerrilla performance in Moscow's main cathedral calling for the Virgin Mary to protect Russia against Vladimir Putin, who was elected to a new term as Russia's president two weeks later."

"Nobody can take away my inner freedom. It lives in the word, it will go on living thanks to openness [glasnost], when this will be read and heard by thousands of people. This freedom goes on living with every person who is not indifferent, who hears us in this country. With everyone who found shards of the trial in themselves, like in previous times they found them in Franz Kafka and Guy Debord. I believe that I have honesty and openness, I thirst for the truth; and these things will make all of us just a little bit more free. We will see this yet."

- from their closing statements; entire text, translated to English, located HERE

For more news about the trial, check out BBC Europe's coverage HERE.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


 Next month, my dad will be celebrating his 80th birthday with my mom amid the high-octane thrills and glitter of Las Vegas. The smart money says they'll have a great time, as they have for the past fifty-seven years. Wish 'em luck! And wish Dad a happy a month!  Maybe some of that luck will rub off on the gaming tables or slot machines. 

As for luck, it's hard to beat Archie Karas. Archie (born Anargyros Karabourniotis in 1950) is a Greek-American gambler famous for hitting Vegas with just fifty bucks and parlaying it into forty million.  That's the largest and longest documented winning streak in history. The guy was golden. And just so you don't get the wrong take home lesson, Archie also lost it all.  As my grandpa, a gambler in his own right, used to say, "Don't gamble if you're going to cry about it."  My grandma, who never gave him the last word if she could help it, would add, "Easy come, easy go."

So how do you make a million in a Vegas casino? Easy. Start with two million.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I'm writing about World War II, and I did some digging about cigarettes in the 1940s. What would someone be smoking during the war?  It depends which year. "Lucky Strike Green Has Gone to War!" was heard over the radio when the military needed green dyes and pigments for the war effort (titanium was in the green, and bronze was in the gold dyes) so the Luckies pack evolved to the more familar white-and-red pack.

While the folks on the home front made do with off-brands like Rameses or Pacayunes, more popular brands were included in GI C-rations. 

According to "The Cigarette Camps," a website about army camps in the La Havre area during the war, the cigarette connection continued after the Liberation:

"Once France had been liberated, the U.S. Army established a series of camps just outside of the harbor city of Le Havre. Each was named after a popular American cigarette of the period, primarily for security reasons: Lucky Strike, Old Gold, Philip Morris, Twenty Grand, and Chesterfield, among others. In 1944-45, the camps were essentially depots for new arrivals bound for the front lines bordering the West Wall (the "Siegfried Line"). These replacements were desperately needed to bring the American divisions being bloodied in places like the Hürtgen Forest, the Saar, and, later, the Bulge. After V-E day, they were transformed into way stations for men returning home. Like the cigarettes they were named after, they were a pleasant diversion from war no matter how short-lived, though the men who spent time there going in either direction certainly cursed them at the time."


Sunday, August 12, 2012


Mitt Romney has picked his perfect match for running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan. No surprises here: Ryan is another wealthy, white, privileged male with political connections, another smiling clueless heartland bland Anglo-Saxon in an expensive suit with a pile of money in the bank.  Ryan is a Romney clone ever further to the right, but who knows? Maybe this one will be able to distract a sufficient number of Americans with short attention spans and no sense of history.  Maybe this one will reveal his tax returns.

But who is Paul Ryan? This video says more about him than any detailed rundown of his far-right political record, any in-depth analysis of his economic plan favoring the rich, any string of tales that exhibit his consistent insensitivity to issues facing the jobless, the poor, the middle class and non-Republicans. In this video, Ryan jokes as Tom Nielsen, a 71-year old retired plumber, questions his plan to gut Social Security and Medicare and is wrestled to the ground. Ryan gets some laughs from his grim mob of supporters as Nielsen is knocked down, handcuffed and arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest. His real crime? Questioning his congressman during Ryan's only public appearance scheduled during the August recess. So much for democracy.

Friday, July 27, 2012


Wow...David Mitchell's amazing book Cloud Atlas turned into a movie???? With a cast that includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving and more? Yup. This extended trailer for the Wachowski Brothers' take on the enigmatic book has already hit the web.

The Wachowski Brothers, best known for The Matrix, could certainly ruin this complex book the New Yorker describes as "six interlocked and rotating novellas, each completely different from its neighbor: the journal of an American notary, travelling by boat from Australia to America in the eighteen-fifties; the letters of a young bisexual English composer, sent in the nineteen-thirties to a college friend; a slice of nineteen-seventies paranoid political thriller, in which a young California journalist takes on a sinister energy corporation." Yup, there are plenty of ways to screw this up. Overemphasis on the dystopian sci-fi elements, which the W Bros have shown a weakness for in the past, could outshine the more lyrical elements and ruin the balance, and one of Mitchell's amazing tricks was keeping these interwoven tales in balance and displaying them within one another, stories within stories like a Russian nesting doll. Can these sci-fi boys pull it off? Will they reduce the complexity of the book's structure--and how could they not, given just two hours? I'll be sitting up front, geeking out with my Junior Mints and Diet Coke and raised eyebrow, happy I'd read the book (and by all means, read the book) but hoping to be surprised, mind-boggled, challenged, or at the very least entertained.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012


One of presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign advisers blundered into political quicksand by explaining to The Daily Telegraph that President Obama doesn't fully understand the "Anglo-Saxon heritage" of the United States. “We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage,” the adviser said, “and [Romney] feels that the special relationship is special. The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.” Coming on the eve of Romney's trip to England, the  could be seen as mere political pandering if not for the nasty undertone of the remarks (and there were more) which raised charges of racial and ethnic insensitivity.

Ignoring the fact that the USA and the UK are now more multicultural than ever, and that the US was multicultural from its inception, these advisers' ill-advised attempts at cozying up to the Brits backfired, sending candidate Romney backpedaling faster than a juggling unicyclist in the Cirque de Soleil. Mitt denied everything, of course, but one gets the distinct impression that had these remarks not raised eyebrows he might have been content presenting this racially narrow view of an homogenized nation, an exclusive country club of a country that not only skips the contributions of so many (that, at the core, is the American experiment; something a presidential candidate should know) but also manages to skip the importance of forging alliances with other (non-Anglo-Saxon) countries. More insidious than these blindspots, was the fact that these advisers also managed to play the race card, since--needless to say--Obama is obviously not of Anglo-Saxon heritage.

 “Obama is a Left-winger," continued another adviser, apparently acting out the script of Dumb and Dumber. "He’s very comfortable with American decline and the traditional alliances don’t mean as much to him. He wouldn’t like singing [the patriotic British anthem] ‘Land of Hope and Glory.’"

 One might argue that Mitt Romney didn't deliberately intend to present such cultural insensitivity, and that his monochromatic view of the country, and the world, merely reflect HIS view from the elite country club vantage point of the ultra-wealthy from which he hails, a world where WASPS are exceedingly well-represented, but that's no excuse. The man is running for president, after all, and that means president of all of us, not just a single social class or racial group, skin color, or tax bracket.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Woody Guthrie, songwriter, guitar player, union organizer, rail rider, troublemaker, was born a hundred years ago today, on July 14th, 1912.  Riding the rails in the Great Depression, Woody earned the nickname "The Dust Bowl Troubadour," and is most famous for writing "This Land is Your Land."  For his trouble, Woody made plenty of good friends, helped many good causes, and was beaten, jailed and blacklisted by crooked cops, company goons and right wing politicians.  Woody often performed with a guitar that displayed the slogan, This Machine Kills Fascists.  He died from Huntington's Disease, and was visited often in his New Jersey hospital by a very young and infatuated Bob Dylan, who knew every Woody song by heart.

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez perform Woody Guthrie's Deportees, Fort Collins, Colorado, May 23, 1976. 

Perhaps it's fitting that today is also Bastille Day, In France, Le quatorze juillet (the fourteenth of July) celebrates the 1789 storming of the Bastille, a fortress-prison known for holding political prisoners critical of the monarchy, and a symbol of the absolute and arbitrary power of Louis the 16th's Ancient Regime.

Today is a good day to celebrate rebels.

 "This Land is Your Land" -- including the words they left out of your school book--performed by Bruce Springsteen, with his friends Arcade Fire, Joe Ely, Tom Morello, Alejandro Escovedo and Eric Burdon. Live at SXSW, March 15, 2012.

Friday, July 13, 2012


Across the street, in the highly exclusive country club golf course that costs a fortune to play, two well-appointed golfers just strolled past with a driverless robotic caddy close behind carrying their clubs. A few minutes later, the gods--being playful if nothing else--launched a terrific thunderstorm. Now rain is falling on the golf course, the neighborhood, upon the rich and poor alike.

Thunder!  A thunderstorm is a good excuse to play this tune from a dark B-movie (what the French would discover as "art," and call a film noir) "Thunder Road," starring Robert Mitchum as Lucas Doolin, a bootlegger's son who ran his daddy's whiskey in a hopped-up 1951 Ford 2-door hot rod with a custom tank in the back for moonshine.  Being a film noir, Doolin was doomed from the start, but he followed his own code--even though it put him at odds with society.  The final chase scene is classic. 

Along with acting, Mitchum produced the 1958 film, co-wrote its screenplay, and some say even directed much of it himself.  He also co-wrote the theme song, "The Ballad of Thunder Road," which he sings here in all its doomed glory.  

 He left the road at 90; that’s all there is to say.
The devil got the moonshine and the mountain boy that day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Mitt Romney addressed the annual NAACP convention Wednesday and was met with loud, sustained boos when he promised to repeal President Obama’s health care reform law. Romney seemed stunned by the reaction.  Evidently he's used to getting cheered on that line.  Shortly after the stumble, Romney sucked up to the crowd.  “If you want a president who will make things better in the African American community, you are looking at him,” Romney said. The line was met with some applause and some more boos. “Take a look!” Romney said.  Oh, they did. 

Monday, July 9, 2012


"How can FOX News lie time and again and still call itself a news agency?" Thom Hartmann takes us on a very informative trip through the legal history of a corporation allowed to lie, with legal protection, since people lie, and corporations enjoy all the rights of people, and have "ever since that 1886 Supreme Court case of Southern Pacific Railroad versus Santa Clara County when a rogue court reporter named JC Bancroft Davis slipped corporate personhood into the legal record."  Did somebody get hit with the stupid stick?  Is this any way to run a fare and equitable society?  Of course not, but the courts have ruled time and again that corporations have all the rights of actual people--so while actual people have watched their civil liberties whittle away in this era of Homeland Security, they can rest assured their rights are alive and well--serving fat and happy corporations.  To paraphrase Will Rogers, It looks like common sense ain't too common around here.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Watch The Independent Woman on PBS. See more from America in Primetime.

We thoroughly enjoyed "America in Primetime," a four part documentary exploring various aspects of television from its inception to the current age.  The PBS series examines portrayals of several key archetypes over the years: The Man of the House; The Independent Woman; The Misfit; The Crusader.  TV reflects (and sometimes challenges) the values of society, and the case is made with a great collection of interviews and clips from "I Love Lucy" to "The Wire," "Father Knows Best" to "Mad Men," "Leave it to Beaver" to "Breaking Bad."  Watch these clips, and watch the entire series on Netlfix.

Watch The Crusader on PBS. See more from America in Primetime.

Friday, June 29, 2012


In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled favorably on the Affordable Care Act.  Once again, CNN and FOX News got it wrong, and Comedy Central got it right. Paul Krugman had this to say in the New York Times. "In short, unless you belong to that tiny class of wealthy Americans who are insulated and isolated from the realities of most people’s lives, the winners from that Supreme Court decision are your friends, your relatives, the people you work with — and, very likely, you. For almost all of us stand to benefit from making America a kinder and more decent society."

Predictably, right wing conservatives are furious.  This is "socialism," they bray from their bully pulpits.  This is one more step toward Stalinism cooked up by a smooth-talking mixed-race Harvard lawyer (otherwise known as President Obama) who is a closet Muslim and hasn't embraced Jay-sus (except for the parts about helping the poor and the sick, which are conveniently ignored if not actually omitted from the Conservative Bible).  Pundits and their toadies are in an uproar.  Rush Limbaugh has even threatened to move to Costa Rica--which would be a win-win situation.  (Do they have Oxycontin in Costa Rica?)  Robotic Romney sees an opening and proposes Romneycare, which promises no change whatsoever.  You can hardly blame him.  The system works fine for Mitt. 

Once again, conservatives are on the wrong side of history.  This is typical.  These heel-draggers balked at the New Deal, Social Security and Medicaid (not to mention fluoridation and the abolition of slavery) until they finally shut up and cashed their benefit checks.  Did they learn a lesson?  Hardly.  These simpletons have short attention spans and little knowledge of history (learning is a liberal plot, after all) so they want everything to stay the same.  They fear change, which underlies all their other fears: fear they will be "forced" to have health care coverage, fear the poor and minorities will fill the emergency room, fear some poor old lady might get a pair of teeth she can't afford and they will have to pay for it, fear they will lose their chosen doctor who prescribes Oxycontin (well, Rush does, anyway).  But what about cost?   Who will pay for all this?  Is this simply a new tax, as Chief Justice Roberts, the surprising swing voter, suggested?

 "Put it this way," Krugman said, "the budget office’s estimate of the cost over the next decade of Obamacare’s 'coverage provisions' — basically, the subsidies needed to make insurance affordable for all — is about only a third of the cost of the tax cuts, overwhelmingly favoring the wealthy, that Mitt Romney is proposing over the same period. True, Mr. Romney says that he would offset that cost, but he has failed to provide any plausible explanation of how he’d do that. The Affordable Care Act, by contrast, is fully paid for, with an explicit combination of tax increases and spending cuts elsewhere."

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Someone posted a picture of the Four Rivers fountain on Facebook and I've been on a Bernini jag all morning. "Genius" is such an overused word (not to mention "awesome") but here it applies. Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598 – 1680) was not only the leading sculptor of his day but also an architect, a painter, a playwright, and a stage designer. His sculpture is magnificent, and photography doesn't capture its beauty so you must visit Rome and see it in all its glorious dimensions. It will inspire you, excite you and convince you what a lazy slacker you are. Rather, what slackers we all our. Our age pales in comparison. No offense, anybody.  Study these dynamic and sensual details of his work--and remember they're carved from marble.  Bravo, Bernini!

  The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa in the Cornaro Chapel of the Santa Maria della Vittoria, in Rome, is a sculptural masterpiece of the High Roman Baroque. The white marble sculpture still alarms critics with its breathtaking depiction of Saint Teresa's religious ecstasy, noting the obvious sensuousness of the work and suggesting it was more orgasmic than divine.  Like many masterpieces, this sculpture graces a rather modest church, and as it happened to be only a few blocks from our hotel warranted a trip to visit.  Up close, it is unbelievable, and whatever his intentions Bernini has captured the heat and passion of life in this cold white marble. 

 The flesh is supple and giving as it surrenders to the hands gripping the body.  In our strangely schizophrenic age, where we profess religious beliefs yet use sex to sell deodorant and beer on television on a regular basis, where we're supposedly so morally upright yet find the most mind-numbing pornography just a few keystrokes away, just another consumer service, few images of our sneakily eroticized world can capture the thrill and desire and abandon in Bernini's work.  He reveled in the body and sensuous forms--in church, no less--and somehow snuck it past the censors.    

Thursday, June 21, 2012


"Over the course of the past few decades, the power of concentrated money has subverted professions, destroyed small investors, wrecked the regulatory state, corrupted legislators en masse, and repeatedly put the economy through the wringer. Now it has come for our democracy itself."

Thomas Frank is a political writer, journalist and columnist for Harper's Magazine, as well as author of the bestseller "What's the Matter with Kansas?" and more recently "Pity the Billionaire," in which he asks how Tea Partiers and their allies make heroes of the rich and mighty who laugh all the way to the bank while ruining the nation. His stinging analyses of our current situation would probably anger such right wing reactionaries if only they were able to read multisyllabic words and entertain complex thoughts. Fortunately, talk radio is more their speed.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Dad's an amazing man, still, and back then before Brooklyn's brownstones were remodeled for single family dwellings and before poor neighborhoods had been gentrified beyond recognition by yuppies and hipsters with trust funds, he was just a scruffy kid in short pants running in the mean streets of Brooklyn, New York.  No he didn't have a pony.  In this picture, someone must have spent some change to get a picture taken with a pony. This is before he passed through the blackboard jungle of Manual Training High School, before he joined the Navy during the Korean War and was stationed in Hawaii, before he met Mom in San Francisco and got married, before he had kids, before he worked days and went to night school, before he became a teacher, before grad school and eventually earning his doctorate, before he retired...This was his short pants days.  Happy father's day, Dad.  Love ya. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Wisdom from Pulitzer-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Thanks to A1 Concepts, bad pizza will soon be available to you at the push of a button in airports, malls, supermarkets and gas stations. Already popular in Europe, according to promotional materials, this vending machine makes a pizza from scratch, untouched by human hands, in two and a half minutes. Of course, bad pizza has always been widely available so we're not holding our breath. The resulting product looks like a giant Saltine cracker smeared with ketchup, and probably tastes about the same. Technically, this may be a pizza (or "Peezer," as the British announcer says) but we prefer something handmade and delicious pulled on a peel from a hot brick oven. We'd rather wait a few minutes.

Instead of vending machine pizza, we'd rather have the white clam pizza from Frank Pepe in New Haven,  delicious coal-oven pizza from Lombardi's in Manhattan, a square pie from Di Fara's in Brooklyn, anything from John's on Bleecker, or even a common, by-the-slice, working-man-on-the-run pizza from any NYC pizzeria with Ray in the title, such as "Ray's Original Pizza", "Famous Ray's Pizza" and "World-Famous Original Ray's Pizza."  On the West Coast, give us a delicious fennel salami pizza from Delancey in Seattle, or something from the fabled Apizza Scholls in Portland (which always seems to be closed) or my mom's perfect Calabrese anchovy pizza.  If you want real pizza, skip the vending machines. 


Tuesday, June 12, 2012


 In the summer of 1964 our family drove a white Ford Custom from Oregon to New York to visit relatives and attend the New York World's Fair. My cousins drove in another car beside us. To this grade school boy, the country was vast and spacious and full of weird bugs. We drove on endless highways, through vistas I'd only seen in cowboy movies, wheatfields and cornfields and farmland where giant trucks hauled produce. Freight trains rolled through the heartland. The car radio played "Rag Doll" and "Under the Boardwalk" and songs from the latest pop sensation from England, The Beatles. We drove all day and stayed in a secession of motels at night, where my Dad and my Uncle Randy would unwind with a bottle of Four Roses and smoke cigarettes until late. We stopped in Indiana, to visit my uncle's family, and all the kids had heavy southern accents and said the N-word regularly and we ate chicken and white cake for dessert. On to New York. I'd been too young to remember when I'd lived there before, but now I was wide-eyed and amazed by the skyscrapers and the crowds. We stayed in Brooklyn with the New York cousins. We ate baked ziti for dinner, and talked about the trip across America while my cousin Gerard mocked his brother Joey. I'd never seen such insolence. At night there were fireflies outside and we played on the street with the corner boys, including Little Anthony and Big Anthony. We talked about the scariest movies we'd seen. Meanwhile, my Oregon cousins stayed in a hotel in midtown Manhattan right next to the Empire State Building and were too terrified to leave until we rescued them. Dad, New York born and raised, showed them the ropes. We all went to Coney Island, ate frankfurters at Nathan's, and walked around gawking. No, I didn't get to go on the Parachute Jump. It was a broiling hot summer, and the World's Fair was jammed. I begged my parents to buy me a Beatle wig. They wisely refused. We took turns pushing my little sister Bekki around in a stroller shaped like a car. It was impossible to believe the stream of people from all over the world, every race and religion, soldiers and sailors and screaming kids and exhausted parents. We floated past Michelangelo's Le Pieta on a conveyor belt and took this ride through the future in the General Motors Pavilion (shown below). That's what I did on my summer vacation.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I read all the Ray Bradbury I could get my hands one summer in Corvallis when my dad was working on his master's degree at OSU. I rode my bike around town a lot that summer, exploring this new world we'd moved into for the season, a fish out of water on a college campus, and I found Ray Bradbury in the library. I didn't just read, of course. This was the summer between my fifth and six grade, and normally I would have been playing baseball on our school team where I'd carved out my niche playing terribly in the outfield (how did they survive without me?) so this season off I played catch with Kolakoswki, another kid in the apartment complex whose father was also working at Oregon State.  Kolakowski was a good guy, and we cracked a lot of jokes and played catch.  I drew pictures, mostly monsters and superheroes.  Across the hall, a college student named Jim was exactly what I imagined a college guy should be: he had a motorcycle and a great stereo component system, and he let me listen to music on his headphones--great stereo headphones with a long cord--and he had cool albums: The Doors, Blue Cheer, The Beatles.  I borrowed his bike once without telling him--I have no idea why, maybe mine had a flat--but my dad found out and screamed holy hell and made me march right back up to Jim and apologize. Lesson learned.  That summer, I acted in a play, a serious adult play in a theatre-in-the-round, with lines to memorize and rigorous, nerve-wracking practices and performances in front of a paying audience.  After the run of the play, the cast party was held outdoors on a beautiful sunny day in the country, and it was full of Frisbees and dogs and beautiful "older women" in their teens, and "Classical Gas" played non-stop.  That summer, I rode my bike a lot. I covered serious ground, exploring the campus trails and even out to the country, out King Street, if I remember correctly. Sometimes I explored the city, a small college town, and on one such trip I discovered the city library on Monroe (funny how the names of streets come back years later). That's where I met Ray Bradbury. I grabbed some of his books and headed for the park to begin one of my first great reading experiences. Kids these days read Harry Potter, but I had science fiction collections of short stories, and Ray wrote some of the best. I sprawled out under a giant live oak and as the band played in a gazebo covered with Old Glory bunting. Corvallis was that kind of small town. The band played John Phillip Sousa marches (I played in out school band, so I recognized some of the tunes) and families ate picnics on the lawn and college kids strode past in the sunshine, carrying books to class. I read my books. Time passed and it was getting late, and I threw the books in my bag and rode back to the apartments for dinner. Mom and dad would be waiting. Little sister Bekki would be bawling. I would ride up and lock my bike and head inside where Jose Feliciano might be playing "Light My Fire" on the stereo. Mom and Dad quizzed me at the table about where I'd been and what I'd seen, but it was only a formality, and I said "nothing" and "nowhere" and "riding my bike" and that usually halted the interrogation.  I wasn't lying exactly, but I could hardly say I'd been exploring the canals of Mars all afternoon, or escaping drowsy lions on the veldt, or visiting the illustrated man or watching a weird carnival pitching tents on the edge of town.  So we said grace and started dinner, and I passed the mashed potatoes and gravy with a special knowledge that things were not what they seemed.  Not by a long shot.  When summer finally ended we packed our things and I said goodbye to Kolakowski and Jim the college guy and we loaded the white Ford Custom and headed back to our own town, where I started sixth grade.  Back at school everyone looked exactly the same as when I'd left but I'd changed and nobody could tell.