Thursday, September 29, 2005

John Lennon -- Woman

I think I'm going to talk about artists and albums for a while.

Double Fantasy was the first album I ever bought. And it was the only album I ever returned for a refund.

I was 15, and it was early 1981, and John was dead. I knew John had been a Beatle, but that was it. I didn't know most Beatle songs. My mom loved "Something" and she had the single. So I knew that song, and the B side, "Come Together," but I don't remember knowing other Beatles. I was just not clued into music that wasn't on Top Forty.

I had heard "Starting Over" and "Woman" on the radio, and I really liked them. So I went to our local K-Mart and bought the album. I took it home, and I was horrified. What the heck was this Yoko Ono DOING? I had bought an album that was half great songs and half screaming! I was terrified! I put the record back in its sleeve and back into the cover and I went right back to K-Mart to return the album. The manager said I could exchange it. But I didn't know any other music, certainly none I wanted to buy. At that moment, the only other thing I wanted to buy was Beatles stuff, and they didn't have any. After looking around for a while I asked the manager to please give me a refund because there wasn't anything else I wanted. He acquiesed, and I went home.

I ended up not buying any Beatles music for many years, because those of you old enough will remember that the radio stations at that time ended up having Beatles-on-the-brain and had weekends where they played every single Beatles album. So I taped almost all the albums off the radio. For almost two years after that, I pretty much only listened to Beatles and new wave stuff on KROQ. It was late 1982 before I bought another album.

I felt really bad that I hated Yoko's "songs," too. I wanted to like her music. I didn't know anything about her at the time, except that she was John's wife, and he loved her very much. I could tell that from the cover. And I look kind of like John Lennon from the side when I am kissing my woman.

A tangential Beatles-related thing --- I and my brother and sister exist because my mom picked up my dad from across a crowded club in Germany by mouthing the words to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" while looking suggestively at him and gesturing. It worked. I exist because of the Beatles. No wonder they are the musical yardstick by which I measure everything else.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

David Bowie -- Looking for Water

David Bowie is the coolest. I've been thinking that for 23 years.

I didn't like Let's Dance when it came out. And I didn't know any older Bowie. I was a senior in high school and taking community college classes at the same time. I took an archeology class that involved doing excavation out in the desert. So one weekend, we're sitting around a campfire with kangaroo rats lurking in the shadows, and one older student is singing and accompanying himself on guitar. Blah, blah, whatever. Then he sings "Space Oddity." I'd never heard the song before in my life. It was amazing!

I bought the Changes One compilation immediately thereafter. I then gave my friend Russ Changes One as a gift. He loved Space Oddity so much he made a 90 minute cassette tape of just Space Oddity over and over again, and he listened to that tape for weeks. Anyway. So it's been Bowie ever since.

There's no other performer I like as much. When he comes out with new stuff, I buy it right away. Ten years or so ago, when Outside came out, I and a small caravan of Bowie fans drove from record shop to record shop in my town on the day the album was released until we found a shop that had it in stock. I'm not always able to be at the record store the day the albums come out, but usually it's within a couple days. Then I play it to death.

I have dreams about David Bowie from time to time. Usually he's staying as a houseguest and we get to hang out.

David Bowie is also the one performer I can think of where I actually have an aversion to seeing him in concert. I've never gone to see him perform, and I don't think I ever will. I HATE his live renditions of his songs. It's unfair of me, but there you go.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Joe Strummer -- Minstrel Boy

Earlier today I posted a great entry. Wow, it was awesome. It tied in novelist Anchee Min's experience of America (where she can be more Chinese than she was in China) with the farcical "anti-war" marches of this weekend and bemoaned the Left's loss of vision and embrace of isolationism, and how it reflected the Left's failure to believe in its own ideas anymore (with the exeption of Christopher Hitchens). Finally, it argued that true advocates for Palestinian rights in the West Bank and Gaza do not belong to groups like Peace Now, because Peace is not possible now. Peace will only be possible when Palestinians have civil rights and an effective and corruption-free government, and that anyone who cares about Palestinians can NOT support peace now, because there is not an infrastructure and an effective government in place to allow for peace.

And then something Bad happened and I lost the whole post. But trust me. Woo! It was a great one.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Shearwater -- The Ice Covered Everything

It's Shabbat again already. I think I got a few important things done this week. Maybe next week I'll try for a few more.

If I was a single-minded person, I'd stay focused on waste and corruption in Washington. Because if enough people get mad about it, maybe things will change.

But with a daughter who is becoming a teenager, I am worried about women and body image, and so my focus is on the Kate Moss debacle. Not because I care about Kate Moss or fashion models, but because I am angry at the nasty hypocrisy of the media and fashion industry. Moss has been using all sorts of drugs for years, and now she is tossed out on her ear because she was caught snorting on film? There are two facts that are clear:



(Sure, we have "plus size" models. Recently, there was an uproar over Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty and its "real" models. The company's ads feature attractive women with attractive bodies of different shapes and sizes. Sure, Dove is selling stuff, but the message is a good one -- beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. But this very message was drowned out by negative comments, because our perception of beauty has become so skewed and narrow that the average American apparently thinks that the average American -- themselves! -- is just unappealing and unattractive, and that beauty is a rare quality possessed only by fashion models and certain movie actresses.

Anyone with half a brain knows that for models to stay unnaturally thin, they must be doing unnatural things. The phrase "heroin chic" MEANS something, people. The fashion and music industries are fueled by legal and illegal stimulants and depressives of all kinds, and no one cares as long as the results are good. Our culture accepts and endorses drug use, as long as you hold it together.

LA's Stew (the best damn singer/songwriter in America, dangit) says in the last line of "Re-hab,"

When she got out of re-hab for the twenty-second time
her new take on life was very deep and empty
she traded mainline for online then she took up web design
now she's paid in full and blows the horn of plenty
once she said "hey listen baby I ain't gonna lie
there just ain't nothing I like more than getting high"
and funny how the maniacs who took the time to sob
seem to not mind a junkie with a well paying job--

Or as David Lee Roth and many other people have said "I used to have a drug problem, but now I make enough money." Because no one has a drug problem unless one has to get a fix and is reduced to prostitution or theft to get the money.

Or as Cher says in the great 90s film Clueless "It is one thing to spark up a dubie and get laced at parties, but it is quite another to be fried all day." Because it's OK to USE drugs, just not ABUSE drugs.

And how do you know the difference? Well, it's all how you carry yourself. It's a matter of poise and class. A model ought to do everything with style, with her body and hair and clothes just so. Kate Moss committed the worst crime possible. She was caught doing something properly kept private and discreet, sure -- this IS a great crime in America (and the reason Clinton was impeached). But worse than that, Kate Moss the fashion model, someone who must have poise and style and grace at all times, was caught in the most tacky poses possible, snorting with no sense of panache or style. She made cocaine and its users seem crass, dirty, and pathetic. And this, my friends, not the fact that she uses, it what the fashion companies could not stand.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Jam -- Start!

So. Russ Feingold for President, anybody? I am not a Democrat and so can't vote in the primaries, but I wanted to toss that out there. After hearing him in the Roberts hearings and reading why he voted to confirm Roberts, I am impressed by how he operates from a position of principle.

At least, can we all agree that it's Obama as the VP? We could all save some time and just fill that position right away. We could have bumper stickers, _______/Obama 2008!

I have no idea why I am thinking so politically lately. Oh, yeah. Eric at That's why. I try to stay away from politics because my candidates lose elections. Except for Clinton/Gore, I've never supported winners... I don't want to get my hopes up. But seriously. __________/Obama 2008!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Arcade Fire -- Wake Up

Usually the songs I happen to be listening to while typing these entries don't mesh well with the subject matter. But today, "Wake Up" fits rather well.

Someone like John McCain, who is really a mainstream Republican, comes off as a real maverick these days, what with his insistence that the government cannot spend oodles of money for Katrina without finding it somewhere. McCain thinks the place to look is in porkbarrelcrap like Alaska's infamous "bridge to nowhere," a $223 million dollar project to build a bridge as long as the Golden Gate Bridge to connect an island of 50 with the town of Ketchikan, which only has 8,000 people. They already have a ferry that leaves every fifteen minutes and takes five minutes to cross. This is a pathetic abuse of power by AK representative Don Young, and you can read all about it in this USAToday piece.

And, of course, the real story here is not that Don Young is evil. Don Young is just playing the game by the rules. And Democrats play it just as hard as Republicans. And they play it all to the detriment of the country. No one really voted for that porkbarrel, or any of the other billions of dollars in our budget going to fund bizarre projects like this that help a few contractors get rich and screw everyone else in the country. These items get passed into law via "earmarks" in huge massive bills so large that NOT ONE OF THE REPRESENTATIVES WHO VOTES FOR THE BILL EVER READS IT. The system, my friends, is broken. We need billions for Katrina damage and we have no easy way to find the money. The president won't raise taxes on the rich, Congress won't do anything meaningful to reduce costs, and people like McCain who want to be fiscally responsible are far and few between.

I never know where I fit exactly politically -- I vacillate between libertarian and libertarian-socialist poles, I think. Optimally, I'd be living in a kibbutz 60 years ago, with workers in charge and long and involved discussions over everything. I know that the kibbutz movement is dying. I'm not sure if it's because it was an unworkable idea or that too few Israelis tried it. Anyway. I gotta work.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Tim Finn -- Subway Dreaming

Dave of Israellycool has a good bunch of information and obits on Simon Wiesenthal, who just died.... and as he reminds us -- one of the most important blessings is the one when we hear such news -- Baruch Dayan Ha-emet. Simon Wiesenthal is one of the few people I think we really KNOW made a difference, a real tzaddik. He made sure people never forgot the Holocaust and he made countries and individuals be accountable. I think today's "truth commissions" in places like South Africa are due to the way Wiesenthal insisted that the injustices of the past had to be dealt with and confronted. He made his whole life about seeking justice for the 11 million plus victims of the Nazis.

The Wiesenthal Center & Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles is a strong lasting testament to his work, and to his viewpoint on the Holocaust.

The LA Times has a great quote from Wiesenthal -- 'The great things in life are never done by normal people. They're done by crazy people.' May all of us find ourselves touched with at least a little craziness, so we can do great things.

Common -- It's Your World

Hey. Thunder and lightning last night and this morning, and a little rain. Very cool. I am a thunder and lightning fool. There are specific blessings for both, but I couldn't very well get out my siddur while driving to look up the blessings, and I haven't been very good at memorizing blessings I don't use all the time. Of course, now I have my siddur out and my blessings ready, nothing is happening outside. Well, the clouds are appropriately puffy and gray, it's misting, but no thunder or lightning.

The blessing for lightning is Baruch atah adonai elohenu melech ha'olam, oseh ma'aso bereshit." Blessed are you, Hashem our G-d, ruler of the Universe, who makes the work of creation.

Thunder is "Baruch atah adonai elohenu melech ha'olam, se'cocho ug'vurato maley olam." Blessed are you, Hashem our G-d, ruler of the Universe, for Her strength and power fill the universe.

If a rainbow comes out, I have that blessing ready, but I can't sound it out properly, let alone transliterate it here! Luckily, my building faces West, and any rainbows happening for the remainder of the day will be to the East...

I just ate banana bread for lunch. My girlfriend's daughter made it last night. Very good stuff. But I'm still hungry, and the only food I have beyond a single box of raisins is supposed to be part of my earthquake kit.

Speaking of which, now I have my earthquake supplies together, can we please have the earthquake, already? We have several earthquake faults lurking under downtown, and it's just a matter of time before we have The Big One, and I'd rather we had it now, thank you very much, because the next few years are going to be very busy for me with graduate school and my daughter being in high school and all that.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Kanye West -- Touch the Sky

The Shabbat Bride is almost here. You can hear the rustle of Her dress, smell the spices in her perfume.

You know, I am terrible about getting my butt to shul and I have all sorts of excuses for it. But Friday night I get a bit closer to doing what I am supposed to do with Shabbat. And I really love the language of Lecha Dodi, phrases like

Shake off the dust, arise, don your splendid clothes, my people...
Awaken, awaken, for your light has come, rise and be bright, awake, awake, utter a song, the glory of the Lord is upon you revealed...

because the "glory of the Lord" is basically being with your family and friends and really paying attention to them, eating your best food on your best china and enjoying each other's company. And even when the teenagers are set on going out, you can usually get them to wait until after the blessings and the candles and the dinner, and there really is something like the Shabbat bride with us, some tiny little imagining of the perfection of the world to come, whether it comes in this world or the next.

My daughter is with her mom this week, and I miss her -- she loves fire, and she loves to light the shabbat candles. So Shabbat Shalom to everyone.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

X - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts

The Roberts confirmation hearings are lots of fun. I loved constitutional law, so it's nice to be reminded of that class. More importantly, the Democrats are suffering for their huge failure to connect with American voters. Everyone knew, before the hearings started, that there was no reason for Roberts to give too much up in the way of substantive answers.

And why? Because Republicans don't need Democrats' votes, because Democrats are losing seats to Republicans, because Republicans are better at connecting with voters, because Republicans have a soul, a central organizing ideal, around which everything else flows. Voters see a Republican and they see someone who built a platform on a foundation of religion (even the low-taxes bit is religious in origin, from the 1800s economic darwinist movement thing popularized by Protestants).

Democrats are, on the other hand, a party currently consisting of people running around with planks and trying to build a platform without agreeing on the foundation and shape and building materials. Issues galore have the Democrats, but no discernable central theme or soul. And this is why Democrats are so frustrated today. Because John Roberts is, from what I can see, a good old fashioned conservative, someone whose highest allegiance is to a single ideal --the law, and they have no way to relate to that. Because the best they have is an allegiance to a bunch of positions -- gay marriage, affirmative action, wetlands protection. There is no central ideal at the core of their being.

That being said, my favorite bit from the hearings so far is the funny bit from Charles Schumer:

It's as if I asked you: What kind of movies do you like? Tell me two or three good movies. And you say, I like movies with good acting. I like movies with good directing. I like movies with good cinematography.
And I ask you, No, give me an example of a good movie. You don't name one. I say, Give me an example of a bad movie.
You won't name one. Then I ask you if you like
Casablanca, and you respond by saying, Lots of people like 'Casablanca.'
You tell me it's widely settled that Casablanca is one of the great movies.

Because it illustrates Schumer's frustration, appropriately illustrates the way Roberts won't be direct in his answers, and shows the important idea of movie preferences being Important. Our favorite movies are supposed to be windows into our souls, hints at our unique perspective and experience of the world. I'm not sure how true it is, but Roberts actually replied to Schumer by saying his favorite movies are Dr Zhivago and North by Northwest. So now thousands of movie buffs are probably trying to tease some hint at Roberts' inner life from these movies... since I never saw one and saw the other only once, I am useless in this regard.

But at the end of the day, it's obvious that Bush nominated someone who can do the job, and no one can argue with that. If the Democrats want to make nominees give them more answers and reassure them, and if Democrats want to have justices that suit their ideas, Democrats have to win more elections. And until they get a soul that burns as bright in their hearts as the Republican's soul burns in theirs, that isn't going to happen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Silver Scooter -- Terrorism Lover

First off, this song predates the Eleventh of September, 2001. Unfortunately, Silver Scooter broke up years ago.

Secondly, when are we going to start the Revolution? I just read a review of The Republican War on Science and I am itching to get started. Just when I decide that I'm being immature, and that a bloody revolution will cause more harm than good, I am reminded of just where our country is headed if drastic action is not taken. There will be no scientific advances in the US if Republicans stay in power, because there is an evil axis of fundamentalists and business working to undermine science. From global warming to secondhand smoke to evolution, Republicans are manufacturing "controversy" where none really exists. No longer content to attack the legitimacies of policies based on science, they are attacking the science itself.

Last year I prayed that the American people wake up soon, so we could vote the crazy idiots out of office, but we had huge numbers of scientists endorse Kerry and decry Bush's hostility towards science, and the American people showed they didn't care by voting for Bush anyway.

So if a slim majority of Americans are idiots, how can we change things? Well, only around a third of Americans supported the American Revolution. Another third were firmly in the English camp, and a third basically were too busy to care much. If we can get ten percent of Americans to really give a crap about the future of our country, we can leverage our numbers and convince those who we can convince to join our cause. And then we can try winning the 2008 elections. And if that doesn't work, we can find our course of action laid out in the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

A newspaper reporter said of Emma Goldman that he agreed with everything she said, and that her only problem was that she was 8000 years ahead of her time. For anarchy, perhaps, but I hope we don't have to wait that long for intelligent leadership.

At core, all this comes down to my faith -- or lack of faith -- in my American brothers and sisters. Maybe it's a lost cause, and my future lies in making aliyah, like Israelisms' Carol and Charley talked about today. Or maybe when I have been in Israel for a decade or so, I'll agitate for Revolution there, as well. But no Che posters, please.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Beethoven -- Symphony #7

An hour or so after I made my last blog entry and talked about being really conscious of how important it was to be prepared, Los Angeles lost power. It started in waves. At first, we lost SOME power -- the lights were out, but the computers and network were still working. Then all power was gone, except for the emergency lights, which were powered by our building's backup generator. We waited around for a few minutes, until the security folks told us that all of downtown was without power, and then we all walked down the ten flights of stairs and went home for the day. I got to my girlfriend's house, fixed all the clocks, and watched the newscasters say the silliest things while the helicopter cameras filmed backed-up traffic at non-functioning intersections.

Within a couple hours, everyone had power back, but it was rather eerie before we knew the cause of the blackout. Another reminder for me to work on my emergency/earthquake supplies.

I love that a single person mistakenly cutting a cable caused millions of people to lose power on their own. It's great to know that one person really can make a difference in America.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Common - Love Is...

That Assam the American guy and his taped threat against Los Angeles have gotten everyone in my little group a bit more aware of our need to have supplies at our desks, either for earthquake or terrorism or flood or fire. It's always a bit disconcerting to have helicopters buzzing about nearby, a little more so now, as conversation often turns to idle speculation of how terrorists would attack which targets in LA (Hollywood studios? Financial District hi-rises? Dodger Stadium?) and how they'd do it (planes? poisoning water supply? truck bombs? subway bombs?).

But enough serious stuff-- I have mostly ignored hiphop or have been turned off by it, especially the vapid materialist tilt everything has taken--the Benz and Courvoisier and Rolex and Marc Jacobs, rims and woodgrain, blah blah blah. The narrative seems to be that one day, kids get ahold of a Barneys catalog, and then realize that their lives won't be complete until they are wearing $10,000 in clothing and accessories. In need of $10,000 quick, they naturally turn to selling drugs and pimping in order to get the stuff. And now, they have the bling. And we get to hear about it and see it, and it's all the worst of American consumerism. There's no soul.

Of course, this is totally unfair, because there's more to hiphop than what you see on MTV. I listen to dozens of new CDs a year and rarely do any of them get more than college radio airplay, and I would never judge the state of indie rock based on MTV or the local rock station, but I've done it with hiphop.

Then this weekend, I decided to give Kanye West a listen, honestly because of his "George Bush doesn't care about black people" fame, and I liked a lot of the songs.

And then I listened to Common's Be album. The whole CD is cohesively built around the idea of be-ing, loving the life you are living, and the intro starts out with a little litany of social and political problems and then

Waiting for the Lord to rise
I look into my daughter's eyes
And realize that I'ma learn through her
The Messiah might even return through her
If I'ma do it, I gotta change the world through her

which is, of course (except for the whole Messiah returning thing) just what every father has to feel at some point or another, and I knew that this was someone I could listen to. It's a great CD. So there's probably this whole niche of hiphop, or particular songs on CDs I'd like, and I think I'll listen to more.

Back to work!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

King Crimson -- Exiles

So, it's a nice day. I worked, of all things, doing important stuff I haven't been able to focus on recently, and caught up on my This American Life listening.

Every time I drive to my g/f's house I drive by the ocean, and there's a particular mood that I often get into. This poem is one attempt to try and capture it....

McClure Tunnel

When PCH becomes the 10
the road curves away from the ocean
from South to East.
It’s like going from your bicep to your forearm
and the McClure tunnel is where your elbow is.
Some people honk in the tunnel
but I generally pray
for good traffic on the freeway ahead.

And somedays I get it. Just the other day
I was blessed. I did 80 the whole way.
The other drivers and I
filled with gratitude
grinned at each other
basking in the goodness
God had bestowed on us.
It was grace. We knew we deserved gridlock
but God gave us mostly empty lanes.

Today we got what we deserved.
We slouched down in our seats
feeling God’s condemnation in each stalled car
and accident blocking our way.

But it’s OK. We’ll do better, be nicer, work harder.
We’ll redeem ourselves, return to God.
And when I go home, it’s like a sign of good things
as I move from westbound 10 though the tunnel
to northbound PCH with the ocean sparkling
to the left with joggers and skaters on the boardwalk
and surfers in the water and it’s all golden.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Arcade Fire -- No Cars Go

I had avoided playing The Arcade Fire for my daughter. She's in her hiphop and R&B thing right now, and I don't want to make her listen to my stuff all the time. It's not that I never do -- there are certain songs I have to share with her, and which she loves, like ELO's "Mr Blue Sky," T Rex's "Cosmic Dancer," and The Polyphonic Spree's "Soldier Girl." But I have been keeping The Arcade Fire to myself. I'm afraid, if I were to play Funeral for her and she hated it, I'd be really guilty, like my playing it for her deprived her of discovering them and liking them -- perhaps she'd have liked them if only I'd let her find them on her own later, in her own time. So I have resisted the urge to do a "Listen to this!!" and make her listen.

However, last weekend, we were in the car at night, and I had my iPod on shuffle, and "No Cars Go" came on. And she was sitting in the backseat and I could see in the rearview that her head was bobbing to the music. So tonight, I showed her the "Power Out" and "Rebellion" videos, and I played her "Tunnels" and "Laika." And while "Laika" was playing I played imaginary drumsticks all over the place like Richard Parry does, just to give her an idea of the energy when they played live, and then proceeded to play imaginary drumsticks all over her head and shoulders, and then I lifted her out of her chair and made her pogo dance with me until she pulled away in protestation, "Dad! Why do you get to jump?!" (Because I am always reminding her, when she jumps or runs indoors, that we live upstairs and must be considerate of our downstairs neighbors.) To which I replied, grinning and bouncing up and down and waving my hands in the air in a way that must have made me look even goofier than usual, "It's OK! It's The Arcade Fire!" And in that moment, as I jumped around the room, half in my apartment and half back at the concert, that sentence made perfect sense.

And later on, when she came to me with her written wishlist of songs she wants me to put on her iPod, it read

Weezer - Beverly Hills
Mariah Carey - Shake it Off & We Belong Together
Aqualung - Brighter than Sunshine
All American Rejects - Dirty Little Secret
Missy Elliot - Lose Control
Fall Out Boy - Sugar We're Going Down
PapaRoach - Scars
The Killers - Mr Brightside
Destiny's Child - Girl

and then she said, "Oh. And those two songs you played me." Which was confusing, because I had played about eight for her.

"Which two songs?"

"The HEY one."

"No Cars Go?"

"Yeah. And the one with the video."

"With the funeral?"

"Yeah. With the guy and the drum."

"Rebellion. OK."

Hah! This feels like Good Parenting to me.

Sufjan Stevens - Casimir Pulaski Day

It's almost Shabbat! It's a nice and cool overcast day. It's like Fall is getting ready to move into the neighborhood. She found a nice house and her offer was accepted, and now she's checking out the neighborhood and finding the nearest cleaners and Chinese restaurant while she waits for escrow to close.

I feel terrible complaining about things that are totally my fault, but I have terrible acid today. And I have known it for days, and while I have eaten some good food for it, I have also eaten terrible food for it, like pineapple and stuff that's hard to digest, and all the time I have known I SHOULD be eating ONLY mild stuff like a kitchari of lentils and rice. This weekend I promise myself I'll eat well. No wine for me, no chocolate, no tomatoes... just boring food that I can handle, so my body calms down. Right now it's a total acid trip thing in my tummy, man. And this is emblematic of my problem staying on task and living consciously.

I also feel terrible complaining about things that are annoyances related to fancy gadgets that most people can't afford, but I can't help it. My car isn't going to be repaired for a few more weeks. I've been in a rental car that doesn't have a cassette player, so I can't use the cassette adapter to listen to my iPod in my car. So I bought an iTrip. And while it may work perfectly in rural America, where there are a few stations, in LA it's impossible to find an empty band on which I can broadcast my iPod to my stereo. Also, this rental car has a sucky antenna, I think. So listening to my iPod in the car is basically a mild form of torture.

This morning I was listening to the new Israelisms podcast. And I was on 87.9. And all of a sudden, I started getting interference from a Spanish-language evangelical broadcast. It only happens in certain areas, but I couldn't hear what Charley and Carol were saying. I figured, "Well, the antenna is in the back of the car, maybe if I put the iPod in the back the signal will get to the antenna better." So I put the iPod on the backseat, and that worked ok until the iPod slid into a different position and then it was all about Dios this and Christo that in the middle of Carol and Charley again. So then I reached back and got the iPod and paused it. Then I noodled around with the radio to find some empty air. I changed the frequency the iTrip broadcasted on, started up the podcast again... all while driving in stop-and-go traffic. You'd think that being rear-ended less than a month ago would make me a careful driver? Forget it! I had to fix this darn thing and listen to the podcast. I can't wait for my car to be fixed so I can go back to hassle-free iPod listening.

Look at my problems. Static and interference and acid tummy... thank God. Perhaps I have a very weak neshama, so God can't trust me with real problems, but thank God I have such problems.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Randy Newman -- Baltimore

OK. If there was any doubt that Bush is a "war president" and most assuredly not a "disaster president" we now have his most assured move post-Katrina: A Day of Prayer. When I heard him talk about us being a nation that prays, at first I thought he was saying "We are a nation that preys" and it made a lot more sense. I don't think we need to be reminded to pray. And I don't think we need Clinton and Bush Sr to remind us to donate money. We need the differnt parts of our government to function as a government. But it's awfully hard for the goverments that make up the most powerful country in history to act like it, because our elected officials are mostly idiots who are more afraid of appearing to look "socialist" than they are of thousands of dead American men, women, and little children. We live in a country where "government" is a dirty word, and we are told that corporations can do everything governments can do better, cheaper. And then comes Katrina to show us that perhaps we need government and infrastructure and a measure of central planning and control after all. But the concept is foreign to everyone in Bush's administration.

I love how Cheney is impressed by the recovery effort. You know, I don't give a crap what else happens--- on this one test alone we fail utterly in our claims to be a great nation -- the literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dead bodies left unclaimed and disrespected. We are a country that spends millions of dollars each year to send archeologists into Vietnam, Cambodia, and other places in an effort to locate and retrieve the bodies of MIA pilots and soldiers missing for over forty years. Here we have the bodies right there, right now. But we do not have the planning and the will to honor those who died with proper respect.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

David Bowie -- 5:15 - Angels Have Gone

Great weekend! Woke up each day in a warm, dry bed, with my woman snug beside me and my daughter down the hall in her bed, safe and warm, and hot running water. Today my daughter is at work with me, and tomorrow she starts 7th grade.

Besides that, we ate some nice meals out and saw a great movie from a few years ago, Intacto.

The problems of action vs restraint and acceptance runs through everything in our lives. It's the central crisis for everyone (and especially for addicts, which is why The Serenity Prayer is so important). This is stuff that I think of all the time, and which is central to the idea of chance and luck, explored in this movie.

In the world of Intacto, some people are luckier than others, and part of this luck is their ability to touch other (unluckier) people and steal their luck. The lucky people don't know how it works, and need to have things explained to them. This character Federico seeks out survivors of car and plane crashes and other such things and teaches them how the luck thing works, for his own ends, of course. At the beginning of the movie we see a disloyal Federico get "de-lucked" by "The Jew" Samuel Berg (a wonderful Max Von Sydow), who started his lucky streak when he survived the Holocaust and is now known as "The King of Luck." People who are lucky engage in gambling contests to see who is luckiest, with the winner of these contests eventually coming to Berg's casino, where they try to defeat him. So Federico takes our plane-crash survivor Tomas and grooms him to take on Berg, in the hopes that he will defeat Berg. Very interesting take on luck and chance and fate.

And it is a good movie to see in connection with The Pianist because that movie also deals with survival in the Holocaust came down to chance.

Intacto also works as a movie for me because it deals with the crisis faced by the world and especially by Jews after the Holocaust in a tangential way. The Holocaust is referenced, but in the words of Samuel Berg, and even then, there is no reference to death. He and other people are in a room. Every day, someone's number is called and they leave the room. We can assume they have something terrible happen to them when they leave, but we are not given details. All we know is that he is the lucky person whose number is not called. In this way, we are able to contemplate the central crisis of the Holocaust without having brutal and sadistic torture and murder re-enacted.

We are dealing with this quandary of two seemingly incompatible ideas: a universe made by and of G-d, where everything is purpose, shot through with meaning because it IS g-d, every particle, although we may not discern G-d working through our lives, versus a universe ruled by chance, where our actions, our very lives, are nothing more than the result of a series of random collisions stretching back to the first random fractions of a second after the Big Bang. How to reconcile the two?

Rabbi Barry Shafier (in one of his Schmuz lectures available as a podcast)tells a story from Talmud of a particular really saintly guy who, when really sick from a lifetime of hunger and deprivation, had a vision where he talked to G-d. The tzaddik asked G-d if he'd finally be able to have enough to eat and drink. G-d basically responded "What do you want me to do? Do you want me to turn back the world to the beginning and let everything happen again, just in case this time, things shake out a bit differently so when you are born, you end up being better off and have a life where you have enough to eat and good health?" (And I have heard another Talmud story with a similar idea. Someone wants to be rich. G-d says "sure. Show me which person I should make poor so you can be rich.")

Friday, September 02, 2005

Mike Oldfield -- Hergest Ridge

"This is what happens when there's a natural disaster of this scope," [the first lady] said. "The poorer people are usually in the neighborhoods that are the lowest or the most exposed or the most vulnerable. Their housing is the most vulnerable to natural disaster. And that is just always what happens."

And we know WHY it happens. Because those in this country with the means to change things, to make housing safe for poor people, to deal in good faith with the people in our country who work the hardest, do nothing. They shrug their shoulders. They accept that rich people are rich, poor people are poor. Or they go further and declare that the rich are blessed by God, and the poor deserve their poverty. We can't let these people run our country any more. God, please help our country wake up.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

David Bowie - Soul Love

New Orleans is starting to get to me.

Everyone with a rudimentary amount of interest in current affairs has known for years that New Orleans was going to end up in this situation eventually. Newspapers reported the danger. State and federal governments developed plans. Money was earmarked to work on solutions, and that money was diverted other places. Everyone knew that hundreds of thousands of people in the area would not have the financial wherewithal or the physical ablity to evacuate, and that they would need help. And yet, when New Orleans was hit, the worst case scenario unfolded. The head of FEMA blamed the people who didn't evacuate for their own plight. People who survived the hurricane are dying in the refugee camps. And this is just New Orleans. We have hundreds of thousands of other people in other states suffering as well. And as the weeks and months unfold, we may see terrible diseases and problems we don't even imagine now.

Many cities in America are waiting in line for their own disasters. Here in LA, we have several disasters that threaten us -- earthquake on top of the lis, obviously. If nothing else, this disaster shows us that we can't count on the government to help us after these disasters. Experts tell us we'll be on our own for a week or more after a major quake in Los Angeles. And we can see how this is playing out in New Orleans. I have a little earthquake kit in my car, but I don't have the supplies I'd need to live for days. I don't have anything at work in case I am at work when the earthquake hits.

I am not going to run out and get a gun, but for the first time, I see a real utility in having a firearm. When we get our major quake in LA, we will definitely have roving bands of armored gangs roaming the streets. And of course, they'll respect superior firepower, and that's it... oh, this is too depressing. The only fantasy I can spin to numb the intensity of despair over this disaster is LA's future disaster...