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.