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.   

Monday, June 4, 2012


This is from Shmootzi's birthday party at the Cafe Racer.